Monthly Archives: January 2021


Yesterday was a welcome sunny day. And not too cold. As usual, the Kilometer Zero market was here and instead of huddling under their tents to keep dry, they were sunny and happy like the weather. We ran a bunch of local errands and did some shopping. The nice man I visit normally had what looked like spring onions. I asked him what they were called and he said aglio fresco, or fresh garlic. It was young garlic before it grows into bulbs. He proceeded to tell us all about ways to use it. In a frittata or in a pasta. So I bought some.

I didn’t intend to use it in a frittata or in pasta. I thought it would be perfect in the dinner I had planned for last evening.

I had planned a dish using baccalà. It is the salt cod which you find throughout the world. It was first produced by the Vikings and allowed them to explore widely. They brought it to the Basques who were also renown seafarers and fishermen. Portugal calls it bacalhau. It eventually went to the New World where it became a huge industry in New England.

It is super popular here in Italy. It is found everywhere and is relatively inexpensive. The fish is dried until it is hard as a rock. It is one of Luther’s favorite things. I bought the cod from our fish truck which comes twice a week. It was already soaked and ready to use. I bought it dried once before and soaked it myself. Takes about three days and you change the water out at least twice a day. Much easier already soaked!

The dish is salt cod baked with cauliflower. It sounded interesting and cauliflower is plentiful now. The cod is cooked in cream with garlic and scallions until it can be flaked. In this case I used the young garlic greens. The garlic and scallions are mashed in the cream after it is cooked until thick. Then the cream and cod is mixed with cauliflower, pine nuts, currants and lemon zest and baked.

Here is the finished dish. It was yummy, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.

Italian sentence for today, “Forse andrò a fare una passeggiata” in English, “Perhaps I will go for a walk”. Pronounced for-say ahn-droh ah far-ay une-a pass-ahj-gee-ah-ta.
Stay safe everyone! Buona domenica!

New zoom lens

I just got a telephoto lens for my camera and I’ve been playing around with some photos from our house and terrace.

First one is of one of the feral cats behind our house. They love to sun themselves on a shed roof.

Second one is a close up of the sunny hillsides at the beginning of the Niccone valley. In my opinion, one of the prettiest valleys in Umbria.

Third one is the raging Tiber river. It was well up over the walking path on the right.

My favorite is of the nearby hill town Montone. The sun was setting and a few of the buildings were illuminated.

Tonight we are getting dinner delivered by Calagrana. They have started a weekly menu of regional dishes from around Italy. Tonight it is Piedmontese. Looking forward to it.

Our Italian sentence for today is “stasera non devo cucinare” in English, “I don’t have to cook tonight”. Pronounced Stah-sair-ah non day-voh cooch-in-are-ay. 🙂
Stay safe and warm at home! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Etruscans been here

I have been meaning to write about the purported Etruscan building up the river from us. The only mention I could find about it was in Wikipedia. “The nineteenth‑century archaeologist Mariano Guardabassi attributed this small building in the settlement of Lame, about 1 km from the center of the modern town, to the Etruscans although this is by no means certain.” I’ve been intrigued by the building since I first walked past it. Now seems like a good time to write a post about it, since not much is happening around here right now.

The earliest evidence of a culture that is definately Etruscan dates from about 900 BC. The people we call Etruscans called themselves Rasenna. The Romans called them Etrusci or Tusci. The Tivere (Tiber) river was the dividing line in ancient times, between the Rasenna/Etruscans to the west of the river and over to the Mediterranean, and the Umbras to the east. But there was an expansion in around 500 BC which crossed the river over to the foothills of the Apennine mountains. Our little building is on the east side of the river near the water.

Here is a picture of the Etruscan arch in Perugia. Perugia was originally settled by Etruscans and was one of their main cities. They have an amazing well, the arch, and a very good museum. I’m sure there’s more. The photo of the arch below is attributed to Wiki Media Commons.

Now for the picture I took of the little building near Umbertide. I took a series of photos of this building last fall and I’m going to have them printed and framed. This one is of the front of the oddly shaped building. I think it has five sides. Maybe six. None are equal. And I think the only part that is Etruscan is the center and the arch. You can see the different stones. I guess it’s been repurposed over time. It sits on a farm. Anyway, I just love this building and wanted to share.

Italian sentences for today…”Oggi ho fatto commissioni. Sono andato a fare la spesa. Mi sono tagliato i capelli” in English “I ran errands today. I went grocery shopping. I got my hair cut”. Pronounced oh-gee oh fah-toe com-miss-see-oh-nee. So-no ahn-dah-toe ah fah-ray lah spey-sah. Me so-no tah-glee-ah-toe eee cap-ell-lee.
Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno

I wrote about some of the more obscure legumes we can get here in Umbria. One of them is Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno. The Blog post I wrote in December describes the attributes of this legume and explains the difficulty in cultivating it and hence it’s scarcity. Click the link to re-read the post.

I have just gotten around to using the Fagiolina. I researched recipes and decided to go simple and make a soup. It is really cold now. We woke up to a dusting of snow and it is supposed to go down to -3C tonight. Perfect soup weather. Especially a stick-to-your-ribs soup like this one.

I like the beans. They taste very much like black-eyed peas. Those have always had a flavor to me that was different than other beans. And these have that same flavor. Buon appetito!
We are still in lockdown Code Orange. Although, we have many freedoms, we cannot leave our own Comune. There are exceptions for very small Comune so they can go to an adjacent one for shopping etc. They are using twelve different statistics to determine your zone color. And they just added a Zona Bianca, white zone. This is what we all want to get to. More freedoms.

Quote translated from Corriere della Sera “But although the overall situation appears to be slightly improving in several regions, at the moment almost none are close to the values ​​to go white. It is necessary to have an Rt (rate of transmission) lower than 1 and the weekly incidence of cases must be below 50 per 100 thousand residents. The control that assigns the bands to which they belong, has already decided that no territory will become white next Friday, considering that the data being examined are those of the previous week (therefore January 18-24). Basilicata, which is the one with the least serious situation, had a weekly incidence of 60.58, close to the required 50, but still above. Sardinia is at 77.89, Tuscany 80.62 and Valle d’Aosta at 93.10. In the other regions the situation is quite different: Bolzano 578.19, Friuli 293.94, Trento 211.31, Umbria 200.22, Emilia 189.75, Marche 183.05, Sicily 180.46, Puglia 165.85, Veneto 152.9, Lazio 136.93, Liguria 124.46, Abruzzo 120.08, Campania 118, 47, Molise 113.21, Piedmont 112.87, Lombardy 110.41, Calabria 102.66.”

So as you can see, we are a ways away from getting out from under these restrictions.
Italian phrase for today. “Mi piace cucinare. Oggi ho cucinato la zuppa di fagioli.” Which means, “I love to cook. Today I made bean soup”. Pronounced…Me pee-ah-chay cooch-in-are-ay. Oh-gee oh cooch-in-ah-toe la zoopah dee fah-gee-oh-lee. 😋
Stay safe – Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Pici, fatta a mano

I bought a bunch of big fat pasta called Pici. It is the special shape common in Tuscany. Our special shape here in Umbria is Strangozzi. So I have to keep it a secret that I’ve gone rogue and am cooking the evil pasta Toscana. Just kidding! I bought it here so it must be OK.

Years ago, on my first trip to Tuscany, we were traveling with my sister and her husband and stopped in a village outside Montalcino. During dinner a nonna carried her small table over beside our table at dinner and began making pasta by hand. I didn’t know at the time that is was the special pasta Pici…fatta a mano…made by hand.

Pici alongside Strangozzi.

For dinner tonight we had pici con funghi misti. Very yummy.

Italian phrase. “stasera, ho cucinato la pasta” in English, “tonight, I cooked pasta”. Pronounced… sta-sera o cuch-in-atto la pahs-ta. 🙂
Say home. Wear your masks. Be careful. The vaccine is coming.💕


Today was our coldest day so far. It barely reached freezing. January is always our coldest month. And we normally have around five days of this kind of weather. Then it stays cold but normally above freezing. I don’t like January. It is too long, too dark and too cold. February is nice and short, and it begins to warm. By March we are into springtime.

We had a surprise snowfall this morning. It probably snowed for 3 or 4 hours at a good pace. It covered all the roofs and ground. The trees had snow on their branches. It was beautiful. We have enjoyed looking at it all day. Here are two pictures I took. The first one was today just after the snow stopped. The second is the hillside below the hill town of Montone a couple of days ago. It caught my eye because of the sun and clouds and the light on the olive groves.

Todays Italian phrase is “oggi ha nevicato“. In English it means “today it snowed“. Pronounced O-gee ah nev-ee-caht-oh.
Stay safe everyone. Big week coming up!

Smokey lentil stew with potatoes and leeks

My friend in Virginia sent a recipe for this stew that is from the NY Times. I am a big lentil fan and even though I make soups with lentils often I thought this one sounded a bit different.

And how! It was it different. The key ingredient is the smoked paprika. It adds a big smokey taste. I made it today for lunch and we both loved it. I will make it again as a dinner meal and add some sausage. It is a perfect winter-time stew.

I made quite a few changes to the Times recipe. First off, I simplified things. For instance they used three (!) pots to make it…I reduced that to two. I didn’t put the onion in with the cooking lentils but added it in with the leeks. I totally took out the saffron. It was such a small amount in a huge and highly spiced stew. You never could’ve tasted it and besides, it is an expensive ingredient. Waste. I sautéed the spices in with the leeks and in the oil to bring out their flavor. Anyway it was a hit with us! I put the recipe in the recipes in the top menu bar. Tap the title twice if it doesn’t come up with only one tap.

We’ve also gotten some much needed errands finished. Every January we have to renew our enrollment in the National Health. It involves obtaining a stamped and signed statement from the Social Security office in the American Embassy in Rome. I wrote in early December and received the statements. We had to call the health department for an appointment this year because of Covid, and that was on Monday at 9AM. Before we went though, I had to copy all of our cards and documents. That included our expired Tessere di Sanitaria, our Codice Fiscale, our Permessi di Soggiorno, our Carta d’Identita, our passports, make an extra copy of the social security statement, convert the amount to Euro and then compute the amount we owe for the year and print that out. Whew. At the appointment we met with Laura. Once our nemesis, she either has gotten used to us or she has mellowed. So she isn’t quite as scary as she used to be. She took all the papers and checked our calculations and sent us off to the Poste to pay for the coverage. There were about 8 people ahead of us in line where we all waited outside. Did I say it was frigid? Well, it was. Finally we got that done and returned to give Laura the receipt. She had everything done and we signed multiple times and – tada! We were finito. Of course they would only give it to us until April because we are STILL waiting for our new Permessi from the Questura. Seven months and counting. When we get it we visit Laura again and get the Tessere extended…to June. Which is when our NEW cards expire AGAIN and then in June I am sure we will have to go and get them extended to the end of the year…eyeroll. We pay for the whole year in January. They know we are getting our Permessi, so why not give us the card for the year? So much less work for us AND them!

Today, we took the VeeDub to the shop to get its oil changed and get its every other year inspection renewed. We will pick it up tomorrow. So the beginning of the year errands are sorting themselves out slowly.
A friend asked me to include a sentence in Italian with pronunciation with my blogs. So I am starting that today. Here goes! “Abbiamo fatto le nostre commissioni!” It means “We have done our errands”. Pronounced abbey-yamo faht-toe lay noh-stray com-miss-see-oh-nee 🙂
Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene! 🌈

I miss root vegetables

I never thought I would type those words. Not that I’m a huge fan but when you can’t have something, well… anyway we just don’t have root vegetables here. No beets, no turnips, no parsnips, no rutabaga, no celery root, no kohlrabi. Once in a blue moon I’ve seen them, and if I do see them, I snatch them up. I like these vegetables in wintertime. They are filling and earthy and warming.

My friend Elizabeth told me yesterday, when I was whining about this, “they are not Mediterranean. Why would you expect them here”? But as you know, my friend Vera brought me some turnips from her mother-in-law’s garden. So they DO grow here just fine.

I guess it is a matter of taste. And a matter of tradition. Italians are very, very traditional. If it was good enough for their nonno, it is good enough for them! It is why we don’t have any Thai, Indian, or Mexican restaurants to speak of here. At least in rural Italy. Italians don’t tend to embrace new tastes and flavors. In the big cities you will find more diverse foods.

Anyway, as I leafed through my Six Seasons cookbook to look at the last season in it, winter, I realized there were very few recipes I could actually make here. Oh well. It doesn’t matter. There are many other things to make.

I was out at the local market this morning and made a concerted effort to see if I had just overlooked them in the past. Sadly, there’s were none. There is an abundance of winter veggies here in the winter, so I won’t complain. I came home with full bags.

A friend sent a recipe for lentil, leek and potato soup. I need leeks and potatoes to make it. Oddly, there was a big run on leeks. I was waiting at one stand and the guy in front of me bought them all! tutti! Grrr. And there were a bunch too. Then I went to the next two stands and they said “finito”. Finally at the last stand were about 8 left. So I waited my turn. A guy came up and told his wife he would get the leeks…over my dead body!! Success. (I’m nice, so I left him half…)

Tonight I have a nice fire. It is really cold and snow is predicted this weekend. The fire warms the kitchen…I hardly ever have a fire without using it to cook. So today, at the butcher, we got a Bistecca Fiorentina. Or Steak Florentine. It is huge!! But it will be good…

The things we do to amuse ourselves! Stay safe and well everyone.

Italian – la lingua

I think it is important for those of us who choose to live here in Italy, to have the courtesy to try to speak the local language. In the big cities like Milan and Rome, more people do tend to speak English. As do people in the heavily touristed towns like Florence and Venice. But, even there, the tradesfolk who you will need to hire and interact with will not necessarily speak English. And, out in the rural countryside, you will find even less people who speak English. Nor do important people, like medical doctors speak fluent English and I’d say, when it comes to your health, mutual understanding is important.

I’ve been studying Italian for 7 years. I started before I moved from the US when I took an Italian 101 beginners class in Community College. It did give me a little base in the very basics of the language.

When we came to Italy I began language lessons, first, jointly with Susan and Gary and Luther. Susan and Luther are more advance so took a class together, and Gary and I, being of similar capabilities, had a class together. We did this for a couple of years before we decided to stop. Then we signed up with individual lessons with our teacher, Marilena out of Perugia. She came to our house and we each had a one-on-one class.

Time passed. A pandemic came. So our classes moved online. By now, I’ve gotten through pretty much all the grammar I could need. I still take tests on my own for practice, and we review them in my class, but most of the hour is practice in Italian speaking.

Today, I began a new, additional, conversational class with a friend who grew up here. She is English so speaks both Italian and English as a native. She is trapped here (by the virus) with little to do so this will keep her busy and give her a bit of money and it will, hopefully, help me with conversational Italian. Cannot hurt!

The topic of learning Italian comes up a lot on my blog, and on the different forums for expats I read. There are many opinions how to learn. In my heart, I know that I don’t do enough. I should be reading more in Italian. I should be watching TV more in Italian. I should be conversing with townsfolk in Italian. I actually can speak Italian fairly well. I just don’t have the confidence I need for real conversation. I also believe some people have more talent to learn languages than others…but that might be a cop out! So, comunique, today was just another added step to help me be more fluent. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t hard. Either that or I’m am supremely stupid!
Stay safe…andrà tutto bene 🌈