Monthly Archives: September 2014

Touring with friends

Yesterday we went to Assisi and Montefalco. It was a beautiful day. Not too hot or cool. We walked through town – very crowded! We tried to tour St. Francis’ church but we forgot it was Sunday so they were having Mass. We did go down to see St Francis’ tomb where there were plenty of the faithful paying their respects.


We passed by a house adorned with beautiful decorative wrought iron. I believe it’s owner was the artisan as I could hear sounds of works in the back. They were so ornate and lovely I took some pictures. The one is a fat man. The others are dragons or griffons.




Next we went to Montefalco. It is the heart of the Sagrantino wine region. Very beautiful, scenic and with many grapes, very green. We had reservations at L’Alchimista. It is a wonderful restaurant right on the main square with outside tables where we sat. The lunch was wonderful. We had what is called Kilometer zero specialties. There is a town called Trevi where they grow the “black celery” or sedano nero. It is VERY local and is only available for a short time. They had several specials using it. I had the soup. Kaye had a stuffed celery. It was filled with pork and served in a tomato sauce. We all seemed in the mood for a secondi so we mostly had beef filet. Mine was served with sauteed radicchio and gorgonzola. Luther had it with rosemary and olive oil. Here is the square from our table:


Today we got a late start. That was OK as I was going with the flow. We had planned to go to Montepulciano to one of our favorite restaurants, La Grotta.


We thought we’d have time to stroll the town but that was not the case so we headed straight for the restaurant. We toured the famous Chiesa di San Biagio. It is a beautiful church just across from the restaurant.


We dined outside on the beautiful patio.


Here are some of the dishes we had:

First course for me. Crostini with a liver spread and Vin Santo sauce.


Luther’s Tuscan salad called Panzanella featuring stale bread.


Luther’s rack of lamb.


Kaye’s house-made tagliatelle with white truffles. (she LOVED it)


Jeff’s marscapone dessert with coffee gelato.


All in all a lovely, long lunch. We headed straight back as it is kind of a long drive. Now all are resting.

House renovation update. We went over where I took couple of pictures of the rubble in the hallway after the relocated the stairway to the attic. The place is a wreck! We have an appointment tomorrow at 5:30 to meet up with Manuele to discuss a few things.



Cake looks good!

Here is the finished torta. It is a recipe that I had saved. I wanted something we could have for breakfast and a snack. I only have metric measuring stuff here so had to convert all the amounts. Also the temperature for the oven which is in centigrade. Praise the lord for the internet which makes it very simple. I hope it tastes good! it looks close to what the recipe picture looked like. The sugar here is less granulated or finer so the topping looks a bit different.


Here is the picture from the recipe.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 11.39.02 AM

First guests!

First, we ran into Manuele yesterday and he told us things were moving along and they were 60% finished. He said it should be done in 2 or 3 weeks. He also talked to Pedini about the kitchen and they will deliver between October 20 and 22. Then we can move in! And BUY stuff!

So today we are having our first guests. Kaye and Jeff from Woolongong Australia. We have stocked the frig and I am going out to the Saturday market in a minute to grab a few last things. Then I am going to attempt to make an apple cake! This will be my first try at baking anything here. Gathering the ingredients was not easy. Baking powder was a challenge but I found some. Also vanilla which I found in imitation powder form (ugh). Vanilla is something they just don’t have here. I need to find vanilla beans (which I read they DO have) and make my own extract. I think I may have some in my shipment but I don’t want to uncover the door to the living room (where it is all stowed now) with all the mess over there.

I’ll take a picture of the cake and post it later whether it comes out — or not. After that my posts may be a bit sporadic. I’ll post some pictures of us touring with Kaye and Jeff.

Progress continues

It has been two days since I last went over to our house. There have been trucks coming in the early morning to pick up debris. It is the only time that they can come and not disrupt businesses etc.

They have finished pulling up all the old tiles in the kitchen, leaving the concrete that the tiles were attached to. In some places it is gone so you can see old linoleum under that! They filled in the trenches where the new pipes run in both the kitchen and the new pantry. They insulated and covered the walls in the pantry. They closed off the door between two of the bedrooms. So I am pretty happy with the progress. Looks like they may start tiling both the terrace and the kitchen/pantry soon. Here are some pictures.

Closed off door between rooms.


Pantry with new walls and filled in trench.



Kitchen floor.


Attic. Mostly cleaned out.


We also went on a fun drive to a winery (boo we were a little late to taste the wines) and then to Bevagna (we had been here before but it’s a cute town in the wine area) for lunch at Ottavius. It was good if very slow service. I had an interesting pasta with pistacchio and basil sauce. It was good.


Luther at lunch.


Here are a couple of pics of the pretty town of Bavagna. It is a very old Roman town on the old Flamenia road I wrote about a while ago.

This was very cool because there was one ray of sunshine coming from a window in the church and it was falling right on the patron Saint San Francesco.






The work started as promised on Monday. We could hear them using power tools from down on the ground.

This morning (Tuesday) very early a truck came and they dumped a bunch of debris into it and it drove off. Then all day there was much noise of working. We could hear it from this apartment. The streets are narrow and the sound echos. They leave the windows wide open.

So with all of that noise I figured there would be molto progress. I went over and was kind of disappointed. But they are probably doing things in the attic that I can’t see. What I did notice was that all the kitchen tiles for the floor have been delivered. And there was a wall in the future guest room that was covered in a red plastic substance. Manuele was concerned that there was a crack running through it and it is a load bearing wall so he took off the plastic covering today (I hated it so was glad) and they covered it over with the stucco they use on the walls here. I assume the crack was not important or they wouldn’t have covered it over. Here are the two pictures. In the second one you can see at the bottom left on the wall in a little rectangle the color it used to be.

floor tiles in their boxes


Castello Monte Vibiano

Progress has stalled at the apartment. I keep going over and nothing has changed. SO this morning we went over to see Emanuele. He was outside and saw us coming. I think he knew we were coming to talk about the lack of progress. He assured us he had received all of the tiles for both the terrace and the interior. Also all the lighting. He said work would begin anew on Monday (day after tomorrow) and continue until it’s done. He “said” 10 – 15 days. We’ll see!

Day before yesterday I decided to unpack all of our clothes. I decided to put them in the closets or the chest of drawers so they should stay clean through the renovation work. It was good to get a few things new to wear.

Yesterday we went on an outing. We invited Susan and Gary to join us. We were going to visit a winery in the Gamboro Rossi wine book. Monte Vibiano is it’s name. We, of course, got really lost in the Umbrian hills. The GPS dumped us on a “white road”. Unpaved and in the middle of nowhere. We saw a man who we spoke to about the location and finally found it in the town of Morcella.

The write-up described it as totally ECO green. They put out no CO2. They give tours in custom made electric carts. The building is beautiful and the grounds manicured. They had just started the harvest. A friendly woman named Camilla came over and introduced herself as the sister of the CEO. Their grandfather had started the winery and they had moved it forward embracing the green concept. We tasted the wines and they were quite good. They have tours which include wine and appetizers. You need to make reservations well in advance. There are two per day.  Here are some pictures.

The crush.


The front of the property.


The tasting room.


Afterwards we went to lunch albeit not in the place we had reservations. It was OK. Since it was Friday they had a whole fish menu which we had. All in all a good time.

Unpacking UPakWeShip boxes

Well I got around to unpacking our boxes. Actually I just went through them checking for damage as I can’t really unpack until the work is done. There were many things broken. Some of them were my favorites. Oh well.



I did find some things we can use right now. For instance our cat tree!! The instant we brought it into the house the cats were ON IT! I am sure they remembered it and were happy to see it. Since then they play and sleep constantly on it. Happy days!

I also found the — da dum — bathroom scale. Oh joy! So I brought it over to the apartment and in due time I weighed myself. And… I have not gained weight! Hard to imagine but there it is. And it makes me happy.

Yesterday we met up with some people that my sister virtually introduced us to. They are from the Northern Virginia area and have purchased a place in Montepulciano in Tuscany. We have visited the town a couple of times on previous vacations here but only in passing and only to eat outside the walls. This time we went up into this hill town which is famous for the Vino Nobile de Montepulciano red wines. It took only about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there from our house.

Very pretty town. Lots of shops. We went early and toured the churches and some of the squares. One thing I noticed as well. The town is crawling with tourists. I heard more American voices than since we left the States. I would not want to live there.



Lunch was fun. The food good. The conversation flowed. We went to see their apartment which they had completely renovated. Very pretty. They are right on the wall and have a view that goes for miles all the way to and past Lago Trasimeno. They have both a terrace and a garden. Lucky them. They made the two basement cantine into two bedrooms and two baths. Upstairs is a big open plan kitchen, living area and dining room.

We said farewell for now. They plan to come for about 12 weeks a year. She is not yet retired. They leave for the States tomorrow. On the way home we stopped at the Poliziano winery. It is a beautiful property, but they all are gorgeous over there. We got a couple of cases of the MUCH more expensive wine that we have in Umbria. And in my opinion no better than ours I might add.



Soon it will be olive harvest time. I am looking forward to that.


Grand finale 800 festival

Well, I lived to tell the tale. The ear plugs worked pretty well. After the first night we wore them. The weather was cool and rainy for the first two days which I heard, cut back on attendance. They made up for it after that!

I noticed they worked through a few themes. The Brigands play a big part and they are “headquartered” behind our apartment. Saturday night was when the Brigands actually took over the town. During the night they changed all the street signs!! Adding comments of their own. They took down the Italian banner in the center of the piazza, replacing it with their own. They did the same to the flag on the castle. They transformed the piazza bringing in hay and small trees and erecting walls across the streets. They covered all the Italian bunting under the windows with pictures of the Brigands. I was up a couple times in the night at 3:15AM and 6:15AM and they were still partying. Here is the new banner with the “runway” up to it. (BTW – our borrowed apartment is the top two left windows in the white building)


Sunday morning we went outside to see the banner and saw there were two mannequins dressed as Brigands. They were obscene. I hope they are not too obscene for this blog! If you are a prude skip this one!

I had to do a double take on the mannequins!! and the door handle on the new door in the wall they erected (pun intended :-))



Here are a few other pictures I took on the final evening. This is the brothel near the Brigand taverna behind our apartment.


Here is the Taverna dei Briganti.


These next two are of a strolling group of musicians. They were serenading a little girl who is rapt.



Finally, here is the Briganti flag hoisted up the Castle.


The final night Garibaldi (with his red hair) rode his palomino horse into the Piazza and saved the town from the pope! I am guessing that Garibaldi was the leader of the Brigands so it went to it’s intended conclusion. I watched the end of the otto cento celebrations from our window. There were hundred of folks in the piazza. The mayor spoke. There have been bands and others who are obviously being thanked.

This whole thing is a lot of fun and gives lots of insights into the Italians. They all do all the work for the feste to help the town. But I also think they all love the tradition so the work is not so onerous. They wholeheartedly get into the costumes and enactments. We talked to Susan and Gary over lunch on Sunday about this. Susan said they have no word for self conscious. That explains a lot.

Speaking of lunch. We took a ride in Susan and Gary’s new car, an Audi Q3. Nice. I am sure Susan will blog about the purchase (Americans in Umbria) but they told us when he brought the car home everyone in the piazza where they live came out to congratulate him and shake his hand(!)

Lunch at da Cesare over by Corciano. It was a seafood place. The seafood was excellent. Here is my octopus appetizer.


I’ll blog about the shipment next. This has gotten a bit long!

UPakWeShip shipment arrived

The good news is that the UpakWeShip stuff arrived with no real issues in the piazza. They had off-loaded it into a tiny truck. The British truck driver called it a “clown truck”. When they pulled up there were 2 guys in the front seat and another stuffed in the back with our stuff. Ha! They had to make two trips and carried everything up for us.

The bad news is that the shipment looks to be in terrible shape. I haven’t gone through the boxes yet but they have all been opened by customs and retaped. Most have been squashed and are ripped with things poking through the cardboard. The first known casualty was our Multi-system BluRay player. We had intended to use it so brought it back to the apartment to set up. Here is what it looks like despite it being packed in the original manufacturers box.



Squashed literally FLAT! I did purchase insurance so will pursue that. I hadn’t intended to unpack things yet but if I am going to make a claim I’ll need to just to see what other damage there is.

Otto Cento

Well, it has started. We went out and checked out all of the town. People are all about, many dressed in 1800’s costume. I had it wrong. Although otto cento DOES mean 800 it also means the 1800s as in the century. Who knew!? Anyway, that’s why they dress in costumes from that century. There were all manner of costumes. From the serving wench, the whore, the tradesmen, the brigand, beautiful women obviously from high castes and their consorts in top hats and morning coats. Many of my pictures didn’t come out because it was dark and I tried not to flash in peoples faces.

They fired the cannons!




Ballerinas from the dance school.


Beautiful lady!


Handsome top-hat man.


Mary from Bar Mary!


One of the drinking and eating venues. As you can see they are quite elaborate.


We came back upstairs. The most rowdy group were the Brigands and the brothel people who – WHAT LUCK! – were situated right beneath our bedroom. They sang and drank and shot off guns until around 2AM. Needless to say we didn’t get a lot of sleep. AND we have that to look forward to for the next 3 nights!

SO first order of business today was… buy earplugs! Which we did. We’ll see if they help.

Today was the day our box was supposed to get delivered and it would have been a good day. Yesterday I got a call from the company saying the truck had a flat in Germany and was stuck there. He wouldn’t get here until tonight or tomorrow. I told her tonight is out of the question. And that tomorrow morning is our market. I am hoping I can persuade him to come after the market. We shall see!