Monthly Archives: June 2021

Catch up

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. We have been doing a few things. Mostly mundane. We had a Calagrana lunch last week with two couples. Then we had a lovely invitation from Vera and family to their mountain house. It is three kilometers up a winding mostly gravel and dirt road. They are at the very end. So beautiful up there. It was just us and the family. A simple barbecue but so nice. Le regazze!

Some of the food.

The week was full of chores. We have to replace some of our zanzariere. Zanzara is the word for mosquito. Say it out loud. Doesn’t it make you think of the zzzzzzz noise a mosquito makes beside your ear? Two of the screens are ripped and several no longer hook down as they should. They said they’d come next week. And yet again we are trying to get our Tessere Sanitaria renewed. But we needed an appointment so we go next week.

Finally today we had a little fun. We met up with a friend who is buying a house here. He has been stuck in the US because of the travel restrictions but he finally got here this week to see his house. And we had lunch at Nonna Gelsa, a nearby restaurant. Ravioli with pistachio pesto.

Tomorrow I start packing for our little getaway. Leaving on Sunday. First trip since our lockdown from last fall. We are going to Sestri Levante on the Mediterranean. North of the Cinque Terre and south of Genoa. It is to celebrate our anniversary. I will do a trip report, of course!

Ciao! 🌈

Umbertide is back!

Eurocup. Italy versus Turkey. Back in the olden days. Before Covid. We had exciting gatherings in front of Bar Mary to watch sporting events. Mostly soccer, or football as they call it here. Since Covid things have been different, but tonight! Tonight! There’s a huge crowd outside. Bar Mary, as of old, has set up a big TV and the chairs are all pulled up to watch the game. Cheering erupts at intervals. I can hear it well up here. See the fun…

Makes me happy.

Winery visit — La Palerna

Today my friend Elizabeth Wholey arranged a wine tasting and lunch for us. It was a pretty day and we took off north — way north. To the very top of Umbria. It meets up with Tuscany and to the east Le Marche. Three regions. This winery is not in a wine region. It is in an unlikely location. And they are focusing on the Pinot Noir — Pinot Nero — wine grape. Also an unlikely choice. The winery is called La Palerna. It is at an altitude of 650 meters. High above the upper Tiber valley. Owned by Luigi Merendelli and his wife Paola. They own a large packaging company called Vimer. Here is the view from the winery.

We were greeted by Rosanna. She has worked for the Vimer industries and the family in different capacities for a long time. She is Swedish born but was raised in Luxembourg. She married and moved to the Upper Tiber Valley with her husband who is from here. Now she is in charge of sales and marketing of the Palerna winery.

We toured the property with the permission of Paola to include their beautiful grounds.

Rosanna took us around the property. We saw some of the vines and also the orto, or vegetable garden.

Orto, well fenced in to protect from the animals
Sangiovese leaf.
Pinot Noir leaf
Vine, Pinot Noir, has red stems
Sangiovese has green stems. See the baby grapes?

Next we toured inside the winery. These are the methode champenoise bottles. They are turned a quarter turn every week and slightly tipped higher. It encourages the sediment to slide into the neck where it can be popped out before corking.

Rosanna provided us with a lovely antipasti to complement the wines we tasted. They are very proud of their Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. Nudo di Palerna. 100% Pinot Noir.

She sources her food locally. We had a big platter of toasted bread drizzled with their oil.

We had the Mozzarella di Bufala from la Fattoria Montelupo. I buy mozarella often. I am a huge fan of the cheese made from the milk of the water buffalo. It is famed from down south in Campania. I’ve had it a number of times and am always blown away by the rich creaminess. It is NOTHING like common mozzarella. Well, I am here to tell you this is the real deal. Made from the milk of water buffaloes just north of us. The fat in both the olive oil and the cheese is cut by the sparkling wine which is why it’s paired. A marriage not to be beat!

Next we tried their Rosatto. Or Rose to us. Made from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese grapes.

She paired this one with meats. Salami and cured ham or proscuitto. Also from a local producer – Azienda Agricola Pigolotti. Along with a plate of bruschetta with pomodori…tomatoes.

Next we had. This was an everyday quaffing wine. Only €8.00. This is a normal price for decent but not fancy wine. We had this one with two local cheeses. Both pecorino.

Then, the prized Pinot Nero. This is not a normal grape here. We have only seen it at one other place near Orvieto. Sr. Merendelli fell in love with the French Pinot Noir and decided to dedicate much of his vineyard to this grape.

And finally Cospaia1441. It is made from Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It is nice with a lot of fruit and boldness. But the best part is where it got it’s name. It seems the border between Tuscany and the Papal State of Umbria was not fixed. There was constant fighting. So, finally, in 1441 the two agreed the small river running from the Marche down to the Tiber river would be the border. The north would be owned by Tuscany and the south would remain a Papal state. Due to a technical error, they seemed to not mention an island in the river. So it was neither Tuscany, nor Umbria, but a free and independent republic for almost 400 years! The label has a floating island on it held up by balloons. The motto of the land was “perpetua et firma libertas” — “firm and perpetual liberty”.

Here are Rosanna and my friend Elizabeth.

An excellent excursion. Other than a bit of haze it was a beautiful day. Let it be the first of many more!

Information of little import…

I say “information of little import..” but actually, if anyone comes to Italy to live, or even to rent an apartment and stay awhile, it could be useful. Just another quirk of Italian packaging.

As in most places, you can buy already made hamburger patties in the store here. I don’t usually because I prefer to make my own. But our favorite butcher, Etrusco, has the best beef and the burgers are juicy not dry, so I do buy some when I’m there. Luther is a real burger hound! They come individually wrapped in a packaged like this…

Looks good right? (Sorry to my vegetarian friends!) comes out of the package ready to slap on the grill. Not so fast. When we first moved here I learned this lesson. Watch and learn.

As you can see, there’s an invisible plastic sheet. Now, I can understand when you buy four patties in a stack you don’t want them to stick together so you’d do this. But this one is in an INDIVIDUAL plastic pack. There is NO NEED for plastic, and on BOTH sides! I learned my lesson by melting the plastic into the patty the first time. Live and learn! 😅😅
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Enjoy your week, and be sure to — “rimuovere la plastica prima della cottura!“ 😁

Tenuta Borgo Santa Cecelia

Today we had yet another excellent adventure. More correctly we had an excellent Pranzo. Luther had read in a column he subscribes to called Doctor Wine, about a albergo and restaurant that was highly rated and not very far from us. It is called Tenuta Borgo Santa Cecelia. No one I know has been there that I know of. It is not new. They said it was opened in 2014. Closed for a while because of the earthquakes and then got closed again by Covid. A rough road.

It is in a beautiful place. It took about 25 minutes by car to get there. It was in the middle of nowhere, but that nowhere was amazingly, stunningly Umbrian beauty at its best. You could see the Apennine Mountains in the distance. And all around, because we were way up on a ridge with 360 degree views, farms and forest. The Tenuta came into view. A group of honey colored buildings.

We were welcomed and seated on a pretty terrace. We proceeded to be wowed by the food. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder how a place that’s fairly remote gets their business. The place was perfectly and stylishly decorated. The lawn was manicured. It was elegant but without being stuffy. Comfortable and welcoming. And where did they get a chef so talented as this one to come out there? We did ask. He is from Gubbio. This restaurant is about halfway between Umbertide and Gubbio. He trained in the north and has cooked all over the North. But the owner of the Tenuta lured him home from Bologna. So. Let’s see what he could do! This first one is the view from our table.

This was the gift from the chef to start us off. Such a nice presentation. On the left are egg shells filled with a very creamy, very cheesy custard. The orange dots are “smoked butter”. It was great. The one on the right has two potato bread balls with a house cured slice of venison. Pleasantly tangy.

We ordered and the antipasti arrived. I just got shots of Luther and my dishes. He got what translated as tuna of rabbit. It was beautiful and the vegetables with it were the star, and Luther never raves about vegetables. Mine was puréed smoked cauliflower with a cream on top. Porcini mushrooms and cauliflower and crunchy brined almonds. I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever had. I should say, the veggies come from there, the game is wild from the property. They actual forage for some of the vegetables in the forest and fields around there.

We all chose a secondi. I ordered the venison, Gary and Luther got the lamb and Susan got the pigeon. All were superb but my venison was the star. It had a wild herb pesto with it and a foraged green.

Hungry yet? 😁 Our wine was about perfect. Lungarotti Rubesco can’t be beat.

The portions were perfect for us and we had room for dessert. They had four different ones. We got one of each and shared. Mine was honey, whipped cream and honey gelato. Luther had Mont Blanc which was pie-like. There was also a pear one, and a chocolate one.

Finally, a goodbye gift. A chocolate cookie with a dab of coffee cream, and a chip with a Campari reduction. That Campari had a real bite.

It was a very wonderful lunch. Our friends, Susan and Gary and Luther and I have always enjoyed a new restaurant to try. This one was especially liked because we are just getting to exercise our freedoms and it was such a surprise. A real FIND as we are fond of saying. We will go back. And it is a great place for us to bring guests, if ever we get them again!

Arrivederci and have a great Sunday!

Torlonia Marbles – Rome

Off to see the the Torlonia Marbles in Rome. They have been long buried from sight. They are amazing. Here is a great link from BBC about the Marbles.

We drove to Foligno and took the 9:20 Frecciabianca. Comfortable train, fast and with few stops we arrived by 11am. When we exited the Termini Stazione we first saw a vaccination clinic set up in front in the parking lot. I’ve heard Lazio, the Region that Rome is in, is doing very well with the vaccines. Most of the people waiting looked young.

We took a taxi for our 11:30 tour. I bought the tickets online. We’ve only been to Rome four or five times in our lives. This was a very different Rome. As so many have said, it’s empty. Our first trip there many years ago we foolishly drove. When we FINALLY got to our hotel the desk clerks asked “what made you think you could drive in Rome?!” We have avoided it ever since. But yesterday? The taxi zoomed freely down the wide and mostly empty streets. It was a breeze. I said to Luther “we could do this!”.

The taxi let us off at the bottom of Capitoline Hill. Now it is a series of museums but back in the Roman times it was where the Senate met. It’s up high with great views all around. On our way we passed a great viewing point for the Roman Forum. It was empty, save for a couple of families. Once up on top, it again was quiet. As Luther said, “you could hear a mouse dropping…” sorry 😊. We found the entrance and went into the exhibit. Do read the article I linked above to understand where these Marbles came from, how the man who collected them locked them away in a filthy space for years and years. See below picture I borrowed.

Now they shine brilliant, bright white. I found the faces of the statues so expressive. I did take a “few” pictures. So I’ll post some here. Hard to choose which to pick, so I put a lot in. They all come from Rome or Greece and are dated from around 200 BC to 300 AD. I will include text in the captioning under the pictures if I can remember anything.

Old man from Otricoli. Luni Marble.
Frieze detail.
Frieze detail.
Seaport. Greek marble.
This is a magnificent bowl. One piece of marble. Enormous. You can see Luther’s leg just stepping out for reference.
I love the detail of the basket.
Odysseus, escaped from a blind giant by hiding under a sheep. The giant was touching everything that was leaving. All he touched here was a sheep…so Odysseus got away.
Baby strangling a goose.
Guy lost his head…but his nose? I guess maybe they cut it off first. I’m sure there’s a story somewhere.
Statue of a resting goat. Amazing detail. Greek marble.
Of all the statues I’ve ever seen, this is the ONLY one with a ‘stash. Check it out!
Archer. Greek marble.
A satyr, the caption said. I thought they were goat-men, but apparently not always. There were two side by side. They were so relaxed.
I love this statue. Don’t remember what it was called.
Married couple.

We were hungry now and had reserved a table in a restaurant nearby. Ristorante Dulcis in Fundo. Took us a while to figure out how to get off the Capitoline hill and down to the normal streets. On the way we passed a great overlook of the Forum. Amazing. And with only a couple people in it.

Then this place was tucked away on a small, and quiet street. Nice outside space. Yesterday was the day restaurants can serve inside, but I prefer to be outside. As we sat down, I spied, with my little eye, another patron eating a plate of oysters on the half shell. I haven’t had them since my last trip home which was two years ago now. We got menus, in English. I hate English menus. So I asked for Italian ones. But the oysters were nowhere to be seen. The word for oysters is Ostriche. But when I asked they assured me I could get them. So I did! And then a plate of fat noodles with shrimp. Very good. Luther got the antipasto fruiti di mare. Seafood plate. And then a spaghetti with shrimp.

All in all the day in Rome was great fun. We returned on the 5:25 Frecciabianca and were back in Umbria by 7pm. One of the reasons we like it here is that both Rome and Florence are easy day trips. It’s good to visit the big city, but I want to live in a smaller town. For me, big cities are fun only in small doses.
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Today is Republic day which commemorates the end of the Monarchy in Italy. The people voted to do away with them. It’s a national holiday. Buona festa della repubblica! 🇮🇹