Monthly Archives: July 2014


It was a good weekend. We went to the market on Saturday morning. I like the Saturday one better than the big Wednesday one. That evening we had reservations to attend a concert at the Civitelli Ranieri by Jamaaladeen Tacuma one of the fellows. He is probably around our age and grew up in Philadelphia. He is a bassist. He had 3 other musicians backing him up, or playing with him. The first number was one of those jazz pieces that I just detest. I was dreading the rest of the show. But after that one I liked each one better than the last. It was a great show. Susan and Gary went with us.

On Sunday we went to Spoleto accompanied by Susan and Gary to see the furniture I mentioned. We drove down and followed Betty’s perfect directions to the parking garage. We phoned them and Betty and Bob walked down to meet us and lead us to their house. They live right in the centro storico. Lovely area. Spoleto is a beautiful city. probably about 40,000 people so not too big, not too small. I had thought of moving there but couldn’t really find anyone or any real estate while searching.

Bob and Betty have lived in Spoleto for five years. They rent an apartment. They also lived in the Sudan, Croatia and Serbia before moving there. They have decided to return to the US, somewhere in California.

The furniture was really pretty. Bob is an engineer and designed much of the furniture we saw. It was built to fit their space so making it work in ours would be difficult. I did like the bedroom sets and the chairs in the living room. There were many small appliances and things we could use. I am still thinking about whether to buy anything. The only issue is getting it to Umbertide.

After we left Bob and Betty we went up to the Piazza Mercato. It was the big Jazz festival called 2 Mondi in town so it was decorated nicely. Below are bells strung on blue ribbons. They are sister cities with Charleston SC and they each do a Jazz festival every year.


I was looking for Osteria del Matto supposed to be just off this Piazza. It is a pretty vine covered place. They were booked but let us go down into the cellar where there was a table set up for 6 people. It turned out to be a great place to sit. It was quieter than the room above. Here we are just before lunch began.



I had been told it was a quirky place and it lived up to it’s reputation. I also heard that Mamma is in the kitchen and they feed you what Mamma makes. It was remarkable. They brought a plate of each of 10 course. You served yourself so I could do portion control. Everything was great. Here is what we had.

Bruschetta with tomato
Bruschetta with anchovies w/greens
Fried ricotta
Pork with mustard sauce
fried zucchini blossoms
tomato porcini pasta
sweet ricotta with fruit

The service was pretty unique as well. We had a woman and a man who came with the food and wine. I believe that the man is Matto who is the son of Mamma. He was pretty amusing.

The total bill was 25 euro per person including 2 and a half liters of red house wine. We were there about four hours but the time flew. The conversation was fun.

Back we went to Umbertide. I will go back to Spoleto and probably visit Osteria del Matto again too.

Last night was the world cup. The Piazza was packed. We saw Jim (our real estate agent) for the first time since he had returned from Croatia. It was a fun weekend.

Slow Friday

Today was kind of a slow day. We drove back down to the big Coop that Susan and Gary took us to in the mall and I took my time going through the store. It has a much bigger selection than the Umbertide one and kind of reminds me of the Wegman type store in Virginia. It was probably that big. Here’s a picture of the mall.


And here are the whole proscuiti in the store.


I found some products I wanted to try like cinghale ragu in a jar. Also found chicken broth which none of the stores in Umbertide had.

We came back home and I asked Luther to drive into the fields outside of town so I could take some pictures of the girasoli or sunflowers. They are in massive fields and in full bloom right now. Here are some pictures.



After we schlepped all that stuff up to the apartment we went across the river to Pizzeria Pomarancio. It has such a pretty back deck overlooking the town and the river and on a pretty day like today it is really nice to eat out there. Here are some pictures. The top is the town from the terrace. The bottom one is one of the fishermen. They are having a big tournament right now and there are tons of fishermen with all their spectacular (and I’m sure expensive) gear.



Printer, lunch & haircut

A couple of days of catching up to do here. Yesterday Susan and I took a nice long walk along the Tiber river. The weather had turned and it was fresh and cool. It was a fun walk and the time flew by.

Yesterday was also market day so we bought some fresh vegetables, wonderful aged pecorino cheese, some mortadella and salami, beautiful melons, and some more wine and one artisanal beer.

Gary called and said that he and Susan were going to the “Mall”. Susan had written about this mall in her blog and I was eager to know where it was. It is very much an American style mall anchored by a huge Coop food store and a really big Media One store with everything electronic and all appliances. In between were lots of smaller stores including a McDonalds Cafe. We were in the market for a printer which I was really missing. We got an HP. Susan got a new case for her IPhone. Hopefully bounce proof 🙂

It was lunch time just about and Susan and Gary never miss a chance for a good lunch. We went to an amazing old palazzo out in the country called Villa Taticchi in Ponte Pattoli between Umbertide and the mall. We had a glass of Prosecco in the garden and then had lunch inside. We had, to start, a fat spaghetti with an eggplant and tomato sauce and I think pistachios. Then a nice cold roast beef with arugula and shaved parmesan. Both were excellent.

We ate in last night and then went out into the piazza to enjoy some wine and Luther’s cigar. The last semi-final game in the World Cup was being played. It was between Argentina and Holland. There were two tables of Hollanders one even decked out with a headband with flags attached. Too bad, Holland lost. But it was a great game.

It rained overnight and got very cool. We decided to just hang out today but my main goal was to get my haircut. I was pretty terrified. I have seen some pretty bad hair cuts and I didn’t want to end up with one. I looked up all the possible words I would need and walked across the bridge to a shop just on the other side where Susan goes.

Well they were very, very nice and tolerant of my inability to speak Italian much. I took a picture of myself with a haircut that I liked and she did a very good job. Her name was Anna and she was the shop owner. I am SO relieved. Here is a selfie I took.


The only other news is that I have been emailing with an American woman, Elisabeth, who lives in Spoleto and she and her husband are returning to the States in the fall. I think it’s fate because I went on the Internations site which I very seldom go to and randomly was looking around and in the Marketplace section was an ad from them about selling their furniture. I got in touch and she sent a list and prices. We plan to go down on Sunday to take a look. Also, I am looking forward to seeing Spoleto again as I have only been once a number of years ago. Susan and Gary will join us.

More renovation decisions and a visit to Citta di Castello

Today we had another meeting with Emanuele. He has used our homework list and has really worked out all kinds of options. We discussed electrical issues. He recommends dividing the house into 3 zones with 2 kilowatts of power to each zone. Not being an electrician Luther later told me that in the US a townhouse like ours had 60 Kilowatts coming in!!! In Italy it is 10 times less! I guess because power is so expensive.

We talked about air conditioning the living room. We discussed the dining room window and wall. He thinks after the winter we may decide to add some insulation to that wall. Also the window is problematic. It is pretty and a big picture window but doesn’t swing open so it will be hard to clean. He recommended sliding glass door style window. I’ll think about that.

We talked about adding track lighting in all the rooms because that will allow us to not tear up the walls too much. He talked about tiling the kitchen floor and for continuity tiling the pantry and the patio with the same tiles.

Anyway we met for about an hour and a half and our next thing will be to go with him to the lighting store, the kitchen store, and the tile store. He gave us the bad news about the timing of the construction. Because in August all of Italy pretty much closes down even if we start in July it will be well through September and into October before we’ll be able to move into the house. Not happy but nothing I can do about it.

After our meetings Luther and I decided to go out to lunch and drove up to Citta di Castello which is 18 kilometers north of Umbertide. We got there around 11:30AM and the place was really jumping. It is about double the size of our town and the centro storico is mostly walled. It has lots of little streets and some very interesting architecture.

We had brought a list of places recommended for lunch. The first one was on it’s weekly day off. The next looked pretty closed up, maybe for good. The last one was open. It was called…Trattoria Lea.


It was OK but not notable. While we were eating lunch I asked Luther when do you think it would stop seeming like we are on vacation and begin to believe we were living here. It is very hard since we’ve traveled in Italy so many times and now – Well, we live here! But it has not sunk in yet.

Here are some places we passed by on our stroll around the city.

Nice statue in a niche.

Tall tower.

Pretty street.

Permesso di Soggiorno applied for!

A quiet Sunday. A picture of the Piazza on a Sunday afternoon. Very quiet.


Here are our boys on Neighborhood watch Italian style!


And a pretty balcony in the Piazza.


We did our construction homework from Emanuele today and went through the house carefully noting anything that we would want changed or fixed. I emailed that list off to him.

We also worked on the paperwork for our Permesso and got ready to make copies on Monday morning. Since we don’t have a printer/scanner/copier yet we went to the Tabacchi which is a shop that sells all sorts of useful things. They make copies, they sell tax stamps called Marca da Bolla, they sell train and bus tickets, lottery tickets and sundry other things depending on the shop. We had to make copies of all the documents that we took when we got our visa. Also had to make copies of EVERY page of our passports! We purchase our Marca da Bolla which is necessary for the Soggiorno.

We then went to the post office with all of our paperwork, 4 passport photos, copies of everything, and our Marca da Bolla. We had a bit of trouble figuring out which button to push to get our number in the waiting line but after reading closer it was clear that we needed the “P” line. There didn’t seem to be any lines servicing “P”s but we kept waiting and finally one came up. We probably had to wait at least an hour but we got everything done, got a receipt that we had applied, got an appointment at the Questura (police) for July 27 in Citta di Castello the next town north of us. We have to take copies of nearly everything to the police as well as our photos etc and get fingerprinted etc. It takes a few months to get the final Permesso.

Next step is to see if we can get our carta di identita or Identity card. The rule, we are told, is that you have to have your residency to buy a car or a TV set. And you can’t get that until you have your Permesso finished. SOME have said you can use the RECEIPT you receive from the post office and buy a car. I am not sure how to find out whether this is true. But we have our car rented for 3 months so have some time to figure it out.

So today was yet another hurdle managed. Baby steps. Things get done as they will. Tomorrow we visit Emanuele about getting our estimates for the construction work.

Meeting with our Geometra

This morning we had a meeting with Emanuelle and Antonio, his engineer. They first went up into the attic for him to check the roof. GREAT news, the roof is fine. That makes my day. Then they came down and did a lot of measuring on the patio and in the kitchen.

After Antonio left I worked with Emanuelle on the kitchen design. We came up with a very nice solution and I think I will be very happy with it. Now I need to go on the kitchen site and pick what cabinets I want. We also need to come up with a checklist of all the things we want done to include all outlets for lighting and plugs, etc.

This afternoon he will bring his electrician and plumber over to have a look at 4:30. Things are moving!

Today is Luther’s birthday. We had asked Susan and Gary to join us for lunch at an agriturismo called il Melograno about 30 minutes from here. The word means Pomegranate tree. They informed us that it was a prix fixe lunch which is fine but you know it would be multiple courses. It was good, if basic Umbrian food. To start we had a small plate of pearled faro in a donut shape. It was cool and lemony. Then an antipasti plate with so many things I can’t list them all. Some were french fries! rice ball, sweet cheese and nut ball, prosciutto, salami, small flat bread, tomato mozzarella in crunch cup with watercress, eggplant with roasted tomato – more that I can’t remember. Next was the primi or pasta course. It was ricotta stuffed ravioli with tomato sauce. Secondi was roasted pork tenderloin with salad and thin sliced sauteed potatoes. Tiramisu for dessert which only Gary had. It was good and tasty and very reasonable.

Sorry no pictures, forgot my camera!

A lovely dinner with our Geometra and his family

This was a last minute invitation that was communicated to us by Gary from Emmanuelle. His mother was making her famous cinghiale or wild boar. We were invited to join the famiglia. What fun we had!

They were such a nice family, so inclusive. There was Antoinette, the mother of Emmanuelle. Her husband, Lucio, Emanuelle and Barbara, his wife and their two boys who did not join us at the table. And of course Susan and Gary. We started with American hot dogs! they were on actual hot dog buns. They had cut the dogs in half long ways and then in half the other way. They had mustard and catsup too!. It was because it was July 4th and they knew we celebrated. They thought we would want turkey! Ha! I guess because of Thanksgiving they think all of our celebrations involve Turkey. Susan had told her no, just at Thanksgiving but for July 4th we had hotdogs and hamburgers. Hence the hot dogs! I got a nice flatbread with proscuitto. It was great. Then the main event, the cinghiale. It had been marinated and stewed until it fell apart. Lovely dish with a tomato base. Also there was a spinach and beet green vegetable dish. After that we had a nice green salad with cold green beans. Finally for dessert we had watermelon! It was perfect and light. There was much wine and the patriarch of the family brought out his home made sweet liquor. It was based on hawthorns (but I don’t know how – as far as I know hawthorns don’t have fruit) and it was very sweet, pretty potent, and very good. I had a small glass.

Well it was all just such fun. Susan and Gary said now WE are famiglia and all will be right with the world.

We walked over to the Piazza where the world cup was on and there were lots of people watching. Luther had his cigar with some grappa. Emmanuelle and Barbara came over to see their friends.

Trip to Perugia

Today we paid our electric bill and then went to Perugia to try to get our Codice Fiscale cards. We have the number that they gave us at the Embassy in DC but they also are supposed to give you little plastic cards which we did not get. Paying our bill was a new experience but turned out to be pretty easy. We just took it to our bank, wrote our account # on it and signed it and the bank paid it.

We took the Graffiti Train to Perugia.


We walked from the station to the official building. It was all downhill. We took a number and waited.


After about half an hour we got called. We went in to window 10. The lady there was very, very nice. We didn’t really have all we needed like copies of our passport etc. or the form filled out. She could have chucked us out but I think because Luther spoke to her in his best Italian she was charmed. Old guys speaking bad Italian are always charming! So she helped us out and we should get our cards in the mail.

Now it was time for lunch. We decided to walk back up to the top and get on the scala mobile (escalators that run underground through town). It was a hike. We found a restaurant that we had eaten at back in January. I had pasta with lemon and mint. Luther had a pizza.



So that was all the good part. Now for the not so good. I got us lost and we missed our train! I guess that wouldn’t have been so bad but for the fact that the next one was an hour and a half later. So we sat in the waiting room. The only good thing was there were some books in English. Sort of a trading library type thing. So I picked one up.



When we got back we found there was a flea market going on in town. It lasted long into the night with very loud music. They played the background music and the people in the group sang to it. Sort of like Karaoki.


Market day and lunch

Today marks the anniversary of our first week here!

Today is Wednesday which is the big market day here in Umbertide. It it HUGE. In front of our apartment in the Piazza is the food part of the market. There are maybe 6 or 7 vegetable and fruit vendors, probably 5 or 6 Porchetta (whole suckling pig that they slice for you) vendors, 2 fish dealers, 3 or 4 cheese vendors (some specialize in Mozzarella di Buffala others in fresh ricotta), two flower and plant dealers. Then the market sprawls around the castle complex and there were probably 30 clothing, shoe, household goods like sheets, dealers. It was amazing. Here are pictures of the castle (first) and one of the aisles in the clothing market.



I bought some vegetables and fruit and some little, tiny clams and calamari to make a spaghetti dish. Love those little clams. Everything was very crowded and you had to compete with a lot of people.

I ran into Michelle who I met at the Cuba Feste. She is the one taking care of the alpacas. She told me a funny story about the first morning she went out to tend them. The male had gotten in with the females. She has NO IDEA how but they were very calm after a busy night 🙂

We decided to go across the bridge to the wine shop we had visited a couple of days ago. They served lunch several days a week. They had 3 tables out front under umbrellas. The food was very good. We had some good bread with olive oil, and a couple of slices of proscuitto and cheese. Then we both had the tomato eggplant pasta. Perfectly al dente. The funny part was that both of the other tables were full of english speakers! One was all Brits. The other was a couple of American women who had been on a painting holiday in Tuscany and their friend Geoff who lives in Umbertide and is British and another man who is German. One of the women heard us speaking and came and sat right down with us and asked us where we were from. We had a nice conversation. Turns out she is from LA and the other woman lives just near the French Embassy in Georgetown in DC. Small world. I got contact info from her and Geoff. Geoff is a builder and real estate agent here. He is interested in having a website so I may have a little work from our encounter.

Another interesting day. It is warm with brilliant blue skies here right now.

An Evening at Civitella Ranieri

Our friend John sent us an email about a concert being held at Civitella Ranieri. It is a 15th century beautiful castle on top of a hill just outside of Umbertide. We decided to go last evening. Civitella Ranieri is a non-profit foundation (based in NYC) which hosts Fellows and guests who are musicians, writers or artists. Lucky Fellows! This place is magnificent and they cater to the artists every whim. The concerts are free and start with a reception with wine and snacks. Then the concerts starts around 6PM or so. They do it early because the artists go to dinner at the castle after the concert.

It was not what I expected at all. First off the castle was just amazing. Here are some pictures:




The room where the concert was held was one of the visiting artists studios. Each artist gets a private room and bathroom and a study or studio. Here is a picture during the performance:


There were 7 performances. They ranged from classic to extremely modern. The first one was a flutist. It involved a lot of percussive movements of the lips. Not my favorite. Next was a beautiful pair of songs played on the violin and sung by a mezzo-soprano. She had a beautiful voice full of passion. They were adapted from medieval French folk songs. I liked it. Then came a saxophone quartet. It was amazing and impossible to describe. Very modern but I liked it a lot. The next thing was a violinist. The piece was all harmonics. It was kind of “look what I can make my violin do”. It was interesting. It sounded like we were listening to the violin from a great distance. Sometimes it sounded like birds. Sometimes it reminded me of music from a film like The Exorcist. Then there was a flute and piano piece – modern too – the composer was sitting next to me. It was titled Ruin of the Cypress. Next was a pianist playing a very modern piece. Last was the mezzo-soprano and a pianist. The song was an ode to a sub-culture of Peruvian people who are oppressed. She sung it so plaintively! It made me cry.

It was a great evening and I look forward to going again soon.

Here are a couple more pictures. First is a flower in the garden and then a picture of the table set for the Fellows to eat dinner al fresco. Nice.



We returned to the apartment and a quick dinner. Here is the sunset from the apartment. So pretty!