Monthly Archives: February 2015

Hot peppers! Found!

After our Italian class on Thursday I talked everyone into going to Arezzo to a food store I had been wanting to visit called Essalunga that I learned about in one of the groups I am member of called Italian Reflections Group. A great group of folks with all kinds of good information for Expats in Italy. Since we were already in Citta di Castello for our class it wasn’t too far away. Off we went. The store is just off the highway that goes past Arezzo and is huge and very modern and new looking with big wide aisles. We had fun looking at all the wares and sure enough they had a lot of things I have not found here like fresh hot peppers. We also found some lovely tuna steaks (ate them last night!), salmon filets and other unusual spices. Here are my peppers! I will freeze them until I need them.


After our shopping trip it was time for lunch. Arezzo is nice in that it has lots of parking lots one of which Susan and Gary told us about which always has spots and also has escalators up to the town. We had picked a possible restaurant called Ristorante Chiavi d’Oro. Golden keys restaurant. It was on Piazza San Francesco which was a straight walk across the centro. It is a lovely city with lots of shops, art galleries etc. I need to come back for more than lunch someday!

Our lunch was very good. There was a tiny menu with about 6 items in each category, antipasti, primi, secundi. Susan got the most scrumptious flan made of Gorgonzola and so light and airy. I got the salmon tartar. Here are pictures.



Susan and Gary had pastas and Luther and I got the rabbit. All were good. We agreed we would go back.

Today is a beautiful, very spring-like day. Probably about 60 degrees F. The sky is blue. We decided to go to Marsciano to buy outside chairs. There is a factory outlet for a store called EMU which sells all outside furniture. We bought 4 pretty metal chairs in a orangy-yellow color. I hope they look good with our table when it arrives.


We bought a nice steak at the store and I will grill it tonight since it is so nice out.

Ciao a tutti!

Odds and ends…

I wanted to catch up with a couple of things. First, I don’t think I ever showed a picture of the garage we rent. It is quite spacious and we even thought we could use it to store things like pellets for our stove as the space, even with the car inside, is big.


Last week when we went to Leroy and Merlin we purchased some items. It never ceases to amaze me that nearly everything I buy here is made in Italy. How they manage to hold onto industry here and we can’t do that in the US is puzzling to me. This is the box with the toilet paper holder and brush we bought for the guest bath.


We also talked to Jim, our realtor about our fireplace and terrace shade (two items from our list). He dropped by and took a look. He knows just about everyone so we figured he was a good source. Also Emanuele is a busy person lately and we thought we’d try to manage without him this time. Jim said what we wanted to do to the fireplace was definitely doable. He is supposed to get in touch after he talks to some folks.

Saturday morning dawned gray but the Kilometer Zero market is hanging in, even in the dead of winter.


We had planned to go with Joseph and Paul to visit a vineyard or two. We drove to Montifalco and first visited Adanti. We still had time before they all close for lunch so we visited Filippo not far away. We managed to fill the trunk of course.


We had decided not to lunch because Joseph and Paul needed to get back to Georgia, their little dog. I had planned to make dinner tonight anyway. I want to share a great recipe that I found for roast chicken. This is the best, and the easiest roast chicken I’ve ever found and I’ve been making it over and over. It is by Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. The trick is to make the chicken very dry so it crisps up. You also put it in the oven and do not mess with it. So easy. Best Roast Chicken. I do not use a rack. It is just as good in a pan with space around it. And here is a picture of mine. SO GOOD!!


And finally, on Sunday we went back to Calagranna for lunch. Alberto was in the hospital so Ely was cooking and had a big birthday party bunch of Brits coming but she said that is we just eat what she is making for them we can come. It turned out it was roast beef and yorkshire puddings with all the fixin’s as a main course. But for us the best part was the anitpasti. She made a bunch of wonderful little things. I couldn’t describe them all but here is a picture.


Sunny market day and…

Today is a sunny, cold Wednesday and the market is in full swing. I can never resist a picture of the brilliantly colorful produce. I plan to try a recipe for cuttlefish tonight so I’ll be visiting the fish people.


Since my last post I made a BIG list of things we need to get done. Here it is:

  1. Order screens for windows
  2. Go to Tiziano and order guest room furniture
  3. Go to Leroy and Merlin to get things for the guest bath
  4. Call TV guy about missing connections (AGAIN)
  5. Go to Deruta to order an outside table
  6. Pay TV tax
  7. Renew Permesso di Sogorni
  8. Take Permesso receipt to health department
  9. Call for Stranieri class
  10. Go to EMU to order outside chairs
  11. Go to initial doctor appointment
  12. Schedule MRI
  13. Look into fireplace doors
  14. Look into awning for terrace
  15. Buy pots for terrace
  16. Go to Essalunga in Arezzo

So far we’ve worked our way from 1 to 7. But those were pretty significant things.

The window screens needed to be ordered because before we know it, it will be warm and we’ll want to open windows. We don’t want the cats to fall to their deaths so screens are necessary. A window screen is called zanzariera in Italian after the word for mosquito or zanzara. I like that. And I like that the word zanzara kind of sounds like a mosquito does.

Getting ready for our first guests (MY SISTER!) so items 2 and 3 need to be done before April. We ordered a dresser, wardrobe and bedside tables from Signore Tiziano which should be here in a couple of weeks. And we got items for the guest bath.

We went to our favorite ceramic shop in Deruta Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio. We ordered a 100cm ceramic table-top and base. They should be ready to be delivered by the end of March.

We did pay our TV tax so we don’t get fined. And we did call the TV guy again. This is because they didn’t have cables to hook the speakers up to the TV when they delivered them way back in December. We’ve been trying ever since to get this finished. Frustrating.

We applied for our renewal for the Permessi. We went for two years this time. We have our appointment for March 3 at the Questura. We’ll see how long it takes this time.

The other items are not quite as pressing. We definately need an appointment to attend the Stranieri class in Perugia. It is a requirement to be able to stay in Italy so important. We need to do it before June. We also have to take the Permessi receipts to the Health dept before June when our insurance runs out. And we’ll need to get outside chairs before April. Doctor stuff can’t be put off for too long. Pots for the terrace need to be done before springtime planting. The fireplace and awning are less time sensitive. Essalunga is the last supermarket that I have on my list to visit to look for exotic things. The nearest one is in Arezzo – about an hour from here.

We also went over to Emanuele’s office and picked up our new carpet for the office. It was not an expensive carpet but it looks nice. Last item we have to buy now is a sofa bed for this room. The only thing is that we have to be SURE that whatever we buy can fit up the stairs into the apartment. Remember the table!!


Kitchen table

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about the kitchen table before now. I don’t remember when we bought it, probably back in December. I was concerned that it not be too big to overwhelm the kitchen. I also thought I had measured and that it should fit up the stairs. Well…

The delivery men brought the table back in December. And it would not fit. There is a curve in the stairs up to our front door. Just slight but enough to narrow the entrance so it could not fit up them. So we told them to leave it on the landing. And there it sat until now. Landing with table…


We had been asking Emanuele to help and he promised he would. I felt bad asking but I had no other choice except to maybe saw off the legs! So today, at long last, Jimmy, Emanuele’s right hand strong back came over. After coordinating with Josefina a neighbor who has the key to the apartment beneath us. Jimmy had a rope. And a plan which was not working until Josefina straightened him out. She has great spacial sense. And they got it moved into the room just below our terrace.



Jimmy secured the rope to the railing.

And he dropped it down and tied it to the table going through the window below.

It took two to pull it up over the railing.

Jimmy is proud!

And here it sits in my kitchen…at long last!


As God is my witness, I will never buy anything that will not fit up the stairs again! Or at least not without a plan to get it up with a crane or something!

Outing to Florence

Yesterday morning I woke early to the sound of construction. Not so unusual around here. They had backed a truck down Via Grilli to take out debris from a house being renovated. Sounds pretty ho hum but look at how tight the space was!


We had planned a day trip or gite fuori la porta in Italian which means a short trip outside the gates, to Florence to visit our friends Ron and Linda. We met them around 5 years ago before they moved from Virginia to Florence. They are very happy there and we planned to meet them for lunch. We had not yet used the train to go so we drove to Terontola to the train station and took the 9:30AM train which arrived at just before 11AM. Nice trip. We met Ron and Linda and had a bottle of Prosecco in a lovely piazza at an outside table in a glass enclosed area. The weather was spectacular, in the mid 60s F and bright sun. Here is the Duomo under renovation in anticipation of a papal visit later this year.


I had asked Linda to take us somewhere where I could buy ingredients (foreign) that I can’t get in Umbria. I have forgotten the store name but will get it from her. I got lots of things I couldn’t have gotten to include Thai and mexican things. Here is a picture of my haul.


We had lunch at one of their favorites Trattoria Porcospino (porcupine). We could sit outside. The proprietor knows Ron and Linda and is a big USA booster but a little strange in an OK kind of way. The food was good and so was the company.

We walked to Ron and Linda’s apartment. On the way at an outside vendor along the leather market I spotted a nice leather tote bag. I had been wanting to get one and lamented that I had not sent any over with our stuff. This was much more fun. I bargained and am happy with my purchase. It is periwinkle blue and reversible so it can be a pale beige. Nice soft leather and it included a blue purse. Here it is!


When we went to our Italian lesson this morning my teacher remarked it was a color for spring. So OK with me. Bring it on! Our lesson was good (I guess). It is sometimes frustrating but I am trying. We have moved from 9AM to 10-12AM on Thursdays. Much more civilized hour and when we are done we can lunch. We went just over the Tuscan border to La Pieve Vecchia in Monterchi. Pretty old building with a lunch menu for 12 Euro to include 4 courses. And they were really good! We decided to become regulars and go after all of our classes…for the next 20 weeks!

Calagrana has reopened!

Today is Sunday, clear and cold with pretty blue skies. Susan and Gary told us that Calagrana, one of our favorite restaurants has reopened after being closed for much of the winter. Alberto, the chef and co-owner with his wife Ely, had taken a catering gig in Wales to make some extra money since winter is so slow here. He’s back and cooking! So today we went for lunch.

There was one table there when we arrived and one table set for fourteen! We were urged to order before they showed up, which we did. Alberto out-did himself. One of the menu choices was little plates for antipasti. There were probably ten different things. Each coast 4.50 Euro. We each ordered two or three. Then most of us ordered the roast chicken. Here are pictures to make your mouth water.

Susan ordered polenta with roasted tomatoes and little cakes made from chickpeas with a dipping sauce.DSC03841

I had little roasted onions filled with onion and gorgonzola and goat cheese with sprouts on roasted beets. DSC03842

Luther had baked cod cakes, vitello tonato, and something he can’t remember but liked.DSC03843

Our roasted chickens.DSC03844


While we were eating another guest informed us that we had a puncture in our tyre. That’s British for a flat. Something to look forward to. Here are the valentines day cupcakes Ely made. So pretty!

We walked out and I snapped a picture of the stone guest house and views. This is an Agriturismo as well as a spectacular restaurant. It is a working farm as well. It has beautiful rooms and in summer is a dream! Go to their website to see more Calagrana. Susan and I agreed that the Niccone valley, where Calagrana is, is the prettiest valley in Italy. Even in the dead of winter.




Now for the fun bit. Fixing the flat. New car to Gary. It, like most cars has no spare. It had the little kit that you squirt something in and then plug a pump into the cigarette lighter and pump it up. It worked well and wasn’t too hard. Fortunately we were in a beautiful place, in the warm sun, and not on a busy highway.



When we got back home the Piazza was filled with little kids in costumes throwing confetti at each other. From upstairs I watched some of the events and plays for the kids I guess. Another puzzling Italian thing.



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Italian lessons

Today we started our Italian lessons together with Susan and Gary. Lingua Piu is the name of the school. It is in Citta di Castello which is not too far from here with relatively easy traffic and easy parking as it is in the top of a strip of stores.

Prior to this Susan and Gary went to a language school in Perugia. Perugia is not user friendly. It is big and congested and there is no parking. The classes were dead center of the hilltop town. In order to go they had to drive circuitously around the city, park in an outlying lot. Take the MiniMetro to the center and walk to the class. Then reverse. All together it took most of the day. We were trying to avoid that hence the school in Citta di Castello.

Gary and I are sort of at the same level and Susan and Luther are about the same as well. So we decided to pair up. They give Gary and I an hour class first and then Susan and Luther for an hour. I have mixed reactions to the lesson. It was essentially conversation. I guess that is OK but I was hoping for some more structure. I would benefit from some grammar book-type work so I learn the “Why” of it all and learn the proper grammar. Otherwise I have no idea why something is said the way it is said. I think the theory is that if you say it enough then you know what is right. Doesn’t really work for me. But I will give it a try. I am sure it can’t hurt.

Otherwise not a lot happening. It is gray and dreary with temperatures at night around freezing rising up to the 40s during the day. Tomorrow and Wednesday are supposed to be a little warmer with highs around 55 or so. I am getting quite used to Centigrade for weather temps. Something I never did when we lived in Germany.

We also made reservations for our first trip! It has been over 15 years since we visited England and there is a daily flight on RyanAir every day from Perugia to just north of London. We made air reservations and then I made reservations with the National Trust to rent a cottage on an estate in East Anglia for 5 nights. It is on the east coast and we have never been there. We will go in March. Paul, our friend across the Piazza is taking care of our boys. He is a retired veterinarian and I am sure he will take good care of them.