Monthly Archives: March 2022

It was a near thing!

I think everyone reading this knows our apartment is for sale here in Umbria. [Listing] Not that this is new. We listed it about 3 years ago. Things move slowly here during normal times, but two years of this listing time has been severely Covid affected. We essentially lost two years of any possible activity. Now that things are loosening up and people are again out and about and traveling, we are seeing an uptick in interest. I feel certain we will sell this year.

So, anyway, last week we had some folks come look. British expats, they had just sold their big country house here where they had lived for 28 years. I could tell it was hard for them to have given it up. They wanted a smaller ”bolt-hole” as the Brits call it. A place where they could still return to their beloved Umbria, but without the upkeep. A place they could lock and leave. I could tell they really liked our casa. They wasted no time, we got an offer on Sunday. It was a bit low so we countered with what we thought was a reasonable price. Then silence. Finally I wrote the agent to enquire. Turns out, in the meantime, they had had second thoughts. They had wanted to replace their beloved Casa Anna. Buying our apartment would have been like getting married on the rebound. I totally get it. It was probably too soon.

At any rate, the possibility of it happening kind of lit a fire under us for a couple of days, contemplating where we would go – with some panic on my part, I don’t mind saying. The nice thing about the offer was the people were very flexible on the closing date. It would have given us the time we need to find someplace. Anyway, we did some looking during those two days and have a few possibilities. We will definitely start recon in earnest of places we might like to move.

Lunch with Archie yesterday at Calagrana to celebrate the birthday of a friend.

Trip report – short trip to Milano

If you don’t like Trip Reports you can skip this one.
WARNING: this post includes a LOT of food pictures 😁
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We left home Tuesday morning at 9:30 to catch a train from the Terontola/Cortona station. This is around a 30-40 minute drive from our house. It is on the main Rome Florence line and has free parking.

The local train from Terontola to Florence was 15 minutes late. Our transfer time in Florence from our train to the Frecciarossa to Milano was….15 minutes! 😳 We went as fast as possible. The train was a little late so we managed to get on. Whew. I adore the Frecciarossa trains. They reach speeds of 300 kph and have four classes of seats. We always go in the Area Silenzio. The quiet car. Business class. Super comfy seats.

We arrived in Milano and grabbed a taxi. All of the taxis we took here had very garrulous drivers. We got to our hotel, the Spadari al Duomo which is really nice. We stayed here on our one and only other visit to Milano. It is very close to the Duomo. Our room was nice with a balcony and a bathtub, which Luther loves. The only odd thing was our artwork in the room. A bit unsettling. Slug women. 😳

We immediately set out for a giro around the neighborhood. We found and visited the famous Galleria Vitoria Emanuele II. A shopping *mall* under high glass domes. Very fancy. I took a bunch of photos of the fancy wares…and some not-so-fancy wares.

The hat below. It looks like a hat I’d wear fishing. Prada. €460.00. Uh huh, right.

Surprisingly I didn’t buy anything. But Luther bought a book and some Cuban cigars. Afterwards, on the advice of one of the nice folks who read this journal and leave comments, we went to Aperol Terrazza. It is up on the 3rd floor and has outside space just next to the famous Duomo. They are known for the ubiquitous drink, the Aperol Spritz. I chose something different but we sat outside and it was a fun thing to do. They had nice heaters that keep people warm-ish.

View from the bar.

Walking through the enormous space in front of the Duomo we noticed some young men. I was taken by the outfit of one of them!

We returned to check out the shop next to our hotel. It is like a very, very upscale gourmet market. It has a big basement area with wines. Upstairs there is a produce area, candy area, all kinds of prepared foods, veggies, meats, seafoods, salads, the biggest cheese selection I’ve ever seen, bread and some cured meats.  Cool place where you can drop big bucks.

Back in our room and while waiting for dinner we ordered a bottle of wine and had a glass before we took a taxi to our restaurant which was chosen by Luther, the Ristorante Niko Romito in the Hotel Bulgari.

Just before we arrived we came to a gate. No one is getting in if they are not expected or a taxi. I realized this was a super high roller enclave. Then we went down a short street which dead ended into a botanical garden. The hotel was secluded and quiet. There was a circle in front of the hotel and all around they had crammed in cars. Parking is scarce in Milano and there aren’t many hotels which offer it. And let me tell you, these were not your everyday Chevy. There was a gorgeous Lamborghini next to a Bentley. And a very odd car which was a two seater with a huge whale tail and air scoops you could put a small child into. It was right hand drive with British plates.

Anyway, I digress. Inside the people were friendly. The restaurant was beautiful. And the service perfect. It was a very good dinner. One of the best I’ve had. Here are pictures of the dining room. The wine we had and the gifts from the chef. Lots of good breads and a good strong olive oil. Bread sticks and crackers. They brought a bowl of broth they were very proud of. The list of what went into it was long and interesting. The actual product tasted a lot like Swanson chicken broth…🙂 Sorry Niko! My antipasto was a raw shrimp dish under shaved citrusy lettuce. The sauce was sublime. Then a sea bass which also was wonderful. Finally I had the marscapone ice cream with sour cherries. Perfect ending. Pictures! (Captions at the bottom)

Interior from our table. Reminded me of a cruise ship.
The broth they seemed so proud of…and the breads
My shrimp…sooooo good.
Veal Milanese…Luther couldn’t resist
My sea bass. I also ordered turnip greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic as a side.
Gelato with sour cherries

Wednesday March 16
Today we had many plans and reservations for tours. We skipped breakfast and headed out for our appointment to see the Duomo. We had ordered an audio tour. Things did not go as planned. We went into the cathedral, which I must say was pretty darned magnificent. The columns supporting the roof and separating the nave were like looking through a forest of giant redwoods. They are each 50 yards tall. Half a football field! We realized we couldn’t get the audio tour inside and each had to go out to get it. The guard would only let one of us go at a time. I went first, managed to get the guide and return but then the *outside* guard didn’t want to let me back in. After a long argument he let me in. Then Luther got his and returned. By that time a funeral had begun and all the interesting parts of the Duomo were closed off. Bad luck. But we used the audio tour the best we could and explored inside and out.

Like a forest
On the way past the Duomo I loved this hopeful sign of spring in front of the glorious cathedral.

Afterward we headed to Santuario di San Bernardino alle Ossa, a church with an ossuary of hundreds of bones. Interesting to see. 

Then we circled back and tried to visit another church but it was closed. We bought some sandwiches for lunch because we wanted to save ourselves for dinner.

Along the way

At 3:45 we had reservations at Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Michelangelo’s Last Supper. We have all seen prints of the fresco of course, but to see it in person — it was pretty amazing.

On our way back I passed a store with beautiful jewelry. All hand made, one-of-a-kind pieces. I decided to buy a pendant. I love it!

My pendant.

Dinner at a Michelin one star Restaurant – IYO. The only one star Michelin Japanese restaurant in Italy. My choice and we decided to both go for the nine course “let them just feed us” menu. We really aren’t terribly savvy at Japanese food. Except Sushi.

OK, here come the food pictures…they are works of art really. I can remember the taste of every one of them when I look at these. I hope you enjoy looking at them if only for the artistry!

Oysters tempura in a bernaise sauce a bit of cooked celery and a tiny cup of gin.
Squid that was sliced to look like spaghetti twirled in a circle topped by a quail egg yoke topped with fish eggs in a fish sauce broth.
Sushi from scallops sea bass and other fish whose names I didn’t catch.
Tuna on rice with wasabi in a crisp seaweed wrap.
Crispy seaweed wrap topped with raw chopped fish with caramelized sugar underneath.
Stracciatella cheese on raw tuna
Linguini with fish eggs and baby clams. It had a very buttery taste.
An entire hen’s egg rolled in panko and fried. Served in a salty sauce. It came to the table in an enormous egg!
Hen’s egg after I broke it open. Amazing how good an egg can be!
Crispy pork belly.
Japanese BBQ beef (wow). My first time to have Kobe beef.
An airy ball of white — like eating air
Dessert

By this time I was stuffed even though the courses were small. We tried a bottle of Saki which was not much to my liking. It wasn’t very robust in flavor, rather kind of bland. I read that out of the three beverages – beer, wine, saki – it has the highest alcohol content. Odd.

It was an incredibly amazing dinner.  It was great to try new things.

Thursday March 17
I wonder if they celebrate St Pats today 🙂 🍀 It dawned gray and dreary today. A bit chilly. This hotel has an excellent breakfast. About anything you could wish for. We had ours and headed out to see two churches.

First was Chiesa di San Mauricio Al Monastero Maggiore known for its frescoes. It did not disappoint.

Interior
I really liked this one. Click to enlarge and see all the animals…even Unicorns!
Another Last Supper
I just loved this little detail

And next was Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. Rather austere. It was very old dating to Roman times and it was just next to the Roman city that Milan was back then. There are a lot of archeological relics that have been dug up in the area which are now in the Basilica.

We walked back to our hotel so I could change clothes for our lunch. Today, we decided to have lunch instead of dinner. We went to another Japanese place called Wicky’s. Also excellent food. We had two starters which we split – Sashimi and Mare Spicy. Raw seafood but the Spicy had a lot of different spices and herbs. The we split the Angus Spicy, and the Magica which is Sea bass.

Friday March 18
We bought a few things in Milan, it was hard not to! There are amazing amounts of luxury goods on offer every time you turn your head. Little shops that specialize in one or two things. Like the glove and sock shop. Or the sea sponges and back scrubbers shop. Tailors and shoemakers who will make anything to order — just for you. There were the most beautiful linens, sumptuous bedding. I saw a shop that only sold pajamas. For example of the style here…this is an upholstery and bespoke clothing shop. Isn’t this amazing?

When we checked out of our very nice hotel, the very friendly and enthusiastic front desk clerk asked the perennial and every popular “perché Umbertide?!” I cannot tell you how many people have asked us that since we moved here.

We took the Frecciarossa fast train to Florence. It arrived around 15 minutes late. Late enough that we missed our connection. Oh well. There is a train every hour so not terrible.

It was an excellent trip. The weather was not bad, it was just gray and chilly. I don’t think Milano gets alot of sun. We loved our hotel and the location, and we loved the food. The people were all very nice. I don’t think I will go back because there are many more places still to see. But it wouldn’t be because I didn’t enjoy my stay there.

Upcoming trip, Permesso di soggiorno lungo periodo

We are having beautiful weather. Yesterday, Luther and I went for a walk. It was the first day of warmish weather after a long cold spell. It seemed like everyone in town was out for the evening passeggiata. We chose the river walk. The Tiber river and Umbertide, behind its walls.

Today, we finally turned in our paperwork for the Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo – elective residence…second try. We will see if we’re missing anything this time. Last time 2 of our documents were expired. Our Questura appointments are April 14. Once, in the past this first appointment was six months out. That meant it took almost a year to get our new Permessi from application to receiving the card. By then we had to start the renewal process for the next one! We are glad that was a one time thing. We have no idea why. 75 pages of documentation…And €176 each in stamps and fees…EACH.

UPCOMING TRIP REPORT!!
Tomorrow we are going on our first trip since last summer. Long time. Short time and distance. We will take the train to Milano for three nights and explore the city.

Ciao for now!

Bambini per Ukraine

Today I had my weekly Italian lesson. I use my office computer in the room with the window into the piazza. I heard voices and cheers so I rose to look. A couple hundred kids outside. I took a picture. Not so good because it was shot through the screen. The children from the local elementary school all had Ukrainian flags. Warmed my ♥️. It was the first demonstration I have seen here in Umbertide.

Drivers license and buying a car

It seems I have confused some people with my post earlier today. I will endeavor to clarify.

To put it simply:

  1. Anyone (no matter citizenship) who comes to live in Italy full time becomes a resident. Anyone who becomes a resident must OBTAIN AN ITALIAN DRIVERS LICENSE.
  2. Anyone who only comes to italy to visit for vacations (no matter cotizenship) are not residents and do NOT HAVE TO GET AN ITALIAN DIVERS LICENSE.

In my previous post I mentioned my friends. They do NOT live here. So they do not need a drivers license from here. They just happen to be dual citizens. Italian citizens have rights here that non-citizens do not have. Only Italian citizens may buy and register a car here even if they are not residents and do not live here.

This confused the police. They assumed they lived here since they owned a car. So therein was the problem. They didn’t understand that my friends could buy a car and still not be residents…

To explain AIRE. If an Italian citizen moves out of Italy they must register with AIRE. In effect they tell their Comune they are leaving and they register their new, foreign, address. An American who obtains their Italian citizenship because they are of Italian heritage, they ALSO must register with AIRE. Even if they never lived here. Our friends live in Florida. They own a home here and visit it a few times a year. They are registered with AIRE. This allows them to go to the Comune here where they own a home and the Comune gives them a document allowing them to buy a car.

I hope this clarifies it. Please send any questions to nancy22314 at yahoo dot com. Sorry for the confusion.

Last weekend we … lunched!

Here it is already Thursday. It’s been a very cold week. It would be nice if we could get some warmer weather. I didn’t write about our lunches out with friends last weekend. There were good things, and bad things but it was great to see friends.

Saturday we went to our nearby Restoro restaurant with friends who own a home here. The last time we were there was in the summer, when we had to fight off the aggressive chickens. This time we were treated to a show by the resident peacock. I prefer Mr. Peacock! I think he was showing off to his own reflection in the door. Gotta defend his territory from all intruders!

Photo credit – Bob Camastro

Our friend kindly brought Luther some cigars which he ordered and had sent to them. They also brought a roll of reed for my basketmaking. Thanks! Lunch was not terribly remarkable. But the company was great. My tagliatelle with bolognese ragu. Good.

On the way home, Bob was driving, they were pulled over for a routine traffic stop. Bob and Debbie are dual Italian/American citizens. This allowed them to buy and register a car. So when the cop sees the Libretto for the car is in his name but he doesn’t have an Italian drivers license, he upbraids him for driving illegally. He says, if you live here more than a year you must have your Italian Patente. We had even discussed this at lunch and I was unsure of how the law applied to them. Anyway, to keep the nice police person happy Luther drove back. Then Bob drove home.

For those who don’t know, if you are a resident of Italy, after one year you are required to get the Italian Patente. Since you cannot buy a car until you are resident, if you own a car this tells the police that you are a resident. There is no way around the rule to change your license to italian. If you are a US citizen there is no reciprocity. Some think they can just keep their International driving permit but that is merely a translation of your US permit so it is not legally a drivers license. The test is notoriously difficult and it is only given in Italian. Many people say it is the most difficult thing they had to do to live here. The page I created on this website explains the whole thing and gives links to the practice tests and to other peoples testimonials. Scroll down to the section on cars and driving.

But wait! There’s more! It turns out that our friends are a special case. They are dual citizens registered in A.I.R.E. (Anagrafe Italiani residenti all’estero). This allows them to buy a car without being residents. If you are not a dual citizen you cannot buy a car in Italy until you have become a resident. So they own a car, but are not residents. If you come here to LIVE full time, you will be a resident. If you are not a resident then you do not need to change your license to an Italian one. The police person didn’t know this. It is an unusual situation. So from now on, Bob and Debbie will carry the Decreto which says they can own the car but are not residents. They can show this to the cops if stopped again. Whew, what a relief!
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For our lunch on Sunday we met Steve. He and his wife bought an apartment in Spello and he is here to get things moving on the renovations they want done before they move here in June. He also was kind enough to bring us things we needed from the US. Cigars for Luther, what else? And vitamins for me. Not that I cant get them here but they are super expensive and sold just 30 pills at a time. I’m used to the mega bottles of hundreds of pills. Anyway, thanks to Steve, we are all set.

We decided to meet in Bevagna. Oddly, Spello, which in all other respects a nice town, has no decent lunch restaurants. Dinner, yes, but not lunch. So, Bevagna it was. The restaurant is Delizie del Borgo Bevagna. I loved this little place situated in a park just outside the walls. I also loved the people. They were all super friendly and nice service. But, sad to say, I didn’t like the food much. To start I chose the insalata di carciofi. Below is a picture. it was very thinly sliced raw artichokes, lightly dressed in oil and maybe vinegar. On a bed of lettuce with grated cheese. At first it was pretty good. Super hard workout for the jaws chewing. Crunchy. After maybe half of it, my mouth completely puckered up inside. It was not pleasant. I love artichokes any way, fried, boiled, raw, but I’ve never had so many raw at once. Cumulatively they are 😳 in the mouth!

The boys got the polpette but it was one, gigantic meatball. I think they liked it OK.

My primo was cappolletti in brodo. Cappolletti means little hats. A small stuffed pasta. It was good, if unremarkable. The best thing the lunch had going for it for me was that it was light. Luther got the steak. It looked not very appetizing, but it did taste good. I forgot what Steve got.

We loved the little cups they served the coffee in. Local ceramicist.

It matters not, we had fun and it was good conversation. I wish Steve all the luck with getting his house into shape. I look forward to visiting Roselyne and Steve once they get settled.
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Now I want to mention how I feel about this horrible war in Europe. Other than the fact that the price of gasoline and diesel in Italy is the equivalent of $10.00 a gallon. That doesn’t matter to me. It is nothing to what the Ukrainians are suffering. My heart is with them. We are watching the news every night on CNN. Horrible. A number of people have asked if we are worried here in Italy. Some of the young Italiani we know are quite scared. I am not really worried per se but I grew up in the Cold War. So this is not as frightening for me. I’m just so sorry that this nuclear sabre rattling has recommenced. I thought the world had dodged this bullet. That said, should Putin decide to use his nuclear arsenal it will be the end of Europa, and the US, too. It is just as easy for him to hit the US as here. I pray somehow we can figure out a way out of this. Maybe the sanctions will prove too much for the Russian people and they will rise up. After all, Putin, who says he is saving the Ukrainians, is actually destroying them. He says they are Russians…so why is he killing his own people?
Andrà tutto bene 🌈 Speriamo di si…😕

Marzo

We are now, finally, and happily, in March. The weather will be very changeable as it is most everywhere this month. This next week we will have -3C at night which is around 25F. The temperatures in the daytime rise to the 50s. If you find a sun-trap, like in front of Bar Mary you can sit outside for a caffe or vino quite comfortably.

This post will be another one based on the book ”The Tuscan Year” – I am doing one each month. I started in January for those new to this journal. Look for one each month.

  1. The first post, in January.
  2. The second post – February.

February/March is the time the ewes are birthing their lambs. About now the lambs are sufficiently weaned for their mothers to be milked. The milk will make the pecorino cheese. This is the most prevalent cheese in both Tuscany and Umbria. The book goes extensively into how the farm-women make their cheeses.

We can buy the cheeses just about everywhere. I prefer to get mine from the Saturday kilometer zero market. They are made right around here. There are two vendors who bring their cheeses.

The recipe I picked to show here is Frittata con Cacio. Cacio or caciotto are the names of pecorino in local dialect. [I just learned that since the book was written these words have come to have a new meaning. Now they are cows cheese. But I won’t change the title of the recipe.]

For two people you will need two tablespoons of olive oil, four slices of fresh pecorino cheese. (you can use gruyere or sharp cheddar too), four eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a heavy omelette pan, put in the cheese slices and cook on each side until they are slightly melted. Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Now raise the heat and pour the eggs on top of the cheese. Let the eggs set on the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to a very gentle flame and continue to cook untill eggs are cooked through. now, slide the frittata out onto a plate. Raise the heat under the pan until the oil becomes very hot, then smartly reverse the frittata uncooked side down back into the pan. Coraggio! it isn’t so difficult. The Cerottis eat fritatte as a super dish. This would also make a delicious small lunch with a fresh green salad and a bottle of Verdicchio.”

So, I tried to make this dish for Luther and I. Here we go!

First the, very minimal ingredients.

Then, I fried the cheese in olive oil and used a non-stick pan.

I added the eggs after flipping the cheese.

EPIC FAIL. When I had cooked the eggs I was supposed to *slide* the fritatta onto a plate. Uh-huh. The entire thing was stuck solid in the pan. In the end I scraped it together and finished cooking it. My suspicion is that I didn’t have low enough heat to cook the eggs.

It actually was a nice dinner. Very cheesy and eggy, with a crunchy bottom. It just was not a fritatta. We had gone out to lunch today so we didn’t want a heavy, big dinner. So all’s well that ends well!

If anyone tries this, let me know how it goes. If you’re successful do share what you did!

Interview with The Local

TheLocal.it is an English language electronic publication in Italy. There is a subscription but you can get up to 3 or 5 articles a month free, I forget which. I subscribe since the information they publish is well researched and keeps me up-to-date on all the Covid and other news.

They reached out to interview me about our move here and my thoughts since our move. How we got our Visas, what we were surprised by, how the move changed our lives.

Interestingly, she asked a couple of unexpected questions. The main one was, “what has changed in your life before and after your move?” After thinking a bit, I said it was a huge change for me, in every way. The first and most glaring change was going from life in a big city like Washington D.C. to life in a small Umbria town. I also stopped working after 45 years. I had an hour commute each way in the famously bad DC traffic. My final job was high stress and deadline oriented with much travel and a really bad boss who micromanaged my every move. I did love my job, if only i could be left alone to do it. In the end, I have my last boss, Tricia Long, to thank for making me retire. Thanks Trish! I had not thought retirement was possible until we consulted our financial advisor, who happily helped us set up our retirement. I went from high stress, go-go-go, crazy traffic, to, slow, bucolic, tranquil, no traffic, no job – almost overnight. But you know what…I love it!

The article, which will include some of my comments will come out in a couple of weeks and l will post a link.

Ciao for now!