Buona domenica a tutti! It’s a pretty day here. And this is a holiday weekend. Tomorrow is Mayday. Equivalent to our Labor Day. There will be marching and protests across Europe. For us, we, spur of the moment decided to go out to lunch beside the big lake Trasimeno. No such luck, Sunday and a holiday weekend, everything was booked. So we are staying home. Fine by me, I can continue to work in the garden.
As for recent news, I was pretty psyched to have a meeting with my architect, Irma. She is a friend of friends and I had met her a few times at get togethers. She dropped by and like most people, was stunned at the apartment. It is very unexpected being in an ugly suburban building. She was quite enthusiastic about my idea of an open plan kitchen on the top floor. I’m happy she can see my vision. And for the first time I think it may be possible. 🙂 Of course, work can’t even begin until fall but it’s okay, I will figure out a way to cook outside. I mentioned I wanted to buy a refrigerator. She asked me to wait for her drawings. She said she will bring a plumber (idraulico) to look and see if the caldaia can be moved and the wall taken out. If so, we are off to the races!
In other news, I have gotten my herbs and planted them.
I also bought a few other plants. I am so completely out of my depth here. I don’t know anything about the plants. Their heights, and flowering times, and all that. I need to enlist my gardening friends, and find a good nursery. So far I have not found a good one. Piano, piano.
I noticed my little gifted olive tree is blooming! Will they become olives? Time will tell. If I can “harvest” the little tree, I will cure them. It will be a new experiment!
The lemon tree is also extremely happy. It is flowering and forming fruit all over the place. I will take a picture soon. Finally, I went to the hospital here in town for a procedure and I had to take a picture of the Madonna, who is always watching over us. I am sure you won’t see this in any US hospital…but here she is always there for us.
Since our last momentous news I thought I would update about our comings and goings and doings 🙂.
The day we got our PdS lungo periodo we had already planned a celebration of sorts with friends who live in or near Spello. It was a quiche potluck. The participants were Steve and Roselyne, our hosts, and our good friend Doug who is in the midst of a major renovation of his house on the mountainside nearby. We had three quiches. The celebration was of Steve’s passing of the written exam for his Italian drivers license – Patente. This is probably THE most difficult hurdle of all to moving and living in Italy. All in archaic Italian with “trick” questions. But he did it! First try! So a real cause to celebrate. And we also celebrated our long term PdS and Doug’s house getting a floor. That is also a BIG thing. Anyway, it was a very fun day. Steve and Roselyn’s apartment has two lovely terrazzi and a balcony overlooking the main street in Spello. After lunch we sat on their grande terrazzo. The rooftops of Spello spread out and the views of the mountains were lovely. A special place.
I did a lot of work on Sunday. I had been putting it off but the day was fine. I had ordered new, stick-on rugs for our stairway. The old ones were awful. Dirty and rough and the cats fur stuck to them.
I also shifted about ten bags if soil and transplanted my two herb plants. This is just one planter of five. They all need dirt to be added so it will be a slow process.
Below are the roses that managed to escape the “purge” by our sellers. I transplanted two which may or may not survive. It will be interesting to see what colors they are. The other bed has a rogue hydrangea on the right side. I will let it grow. This will also be my spring garden. I have some hyacinths to transplant and some tulip bulbs and the two primroses gifted to me by my friend Jill. I “think” there may be one more hyacinth coming up too, in a different bed.
I bought two pretty little side tables if ever we get an outside sofa! I plan to order a sofa soon. They are mosaic tiles on wrought iron stands.
I also obtained two amazing Thailandese cat statues from my friend Paul. They are heavy as all get out but I love them on the terrace. They are near the pizza oven.
Finally, today we had an appointment at the Anagrafe in our Comune to change our abode from Via Grilli to Via Fratta. Easy to do since they are both in the same Comune but nonetheless an experience. The people in our Comune couldn’t be nicer. Whenever we’ve had dealings there they are always super helpful. So we did all the paperwork. Went from office to office and got it all done. They are a bit old fashioned here. Everything is done on paper. Here are some pictures I snapped inside the Comune. It used to be a grand palazzo. A single family home. It is enormous. The grand room pictured below has the seal of Umbertide. It looks like a hanging but it is not. It is a fresco on plaster. It is where the official dealings of the Comune all happen.
On the wall in the office we were in they had this great photo of Umbertide Centro Storico.
Below is the second office we visited. The tax office — ufficio tributi. We only pay trash tax, no property tax, here since our apartment is our prima casa or primary home. But they need to know we moved. I was amused that all their records are on paper in all these file boxes. Wow.
Big stuff done. We still must visit the vigili or the local police and tell them we have moved. We’ll probably do that Friday or next week. Always makes me happy when we get things done!
Our weather has turned fine, finally! It’s low 70s and sunny. My big focus will be on the terrace as time goes by. Stay tuned for updates!
Well, folks, it finally happened. The loooong saga of obtaining our long term Permit to Stay, good for more than a year is at an end. If you’ve been reading this a while you’ll know how long we have been working towards getting this Permesso. This one is good for ten years. I’ll probably be dead by then.
A person is allowed to apply for this after five years of residency. We have been here almost nine years. The reason we are late in getting this was mainly due to Covid. We applied three years ago but we didn’t have all our paperwork. Then we applied again in March 2022. We were told we needed additional documents which we provided to them in July 2022. So today, ten months later we finally got the cards. We, of course we’re not sure it WOULD actually be a long term card. When Luther looked at the date (he got his card before me) he told me it expired 2032. I was stupidly happy.
It is finally the end of the annual rigamarol of renewing, paying, getting to see the Questura for fingerprints and then waiting months for the cards. Meanwhile our old cards were expired meaning we always had to worry about traveling on them. As of today we are finished with this. Such a relief. I wanted all my friends here to know the end of the story.
We have had visitors for the past few days so I haven’t been posting anything but I have many pictures. Let’s start with Pasquetta lunch. This is the Monday after Easter and everyone goes outside or has a big lunch with friends or family. We had been invited to a lunch to see old friends who were selling their house. It was a lovely fixed menu, all seafood. I took a couple of pictures. First one is the antipasto course. A salad of faro, cherry tomatoes, artichokes, calamari and shrimp. Delish. I missed the primi but got the secondi which was salmon Wellington. Quite nice and now I am being hounded to make it by Luther!
On Wednesday our friends arrived from Colorado. They have a great trip planned and started with three nights here with us. How nice. We had a dinner out together the first evening. They held up well after their overnight flight. They had requested Calagrana and it just so happened that Ely and Albi were doing a Milanese menu from Albi’s childhood and early years in culinary school. The menu was:
Consomme Marie Stuarda, a chicken Consomme garnished with peas, carrots, zucchini Orecchio di elefante with roasted vegetables ‘Ris e Lach’
The first course was a consommé which Albi learned in cooking school that takes hours and needs to be clarified until it is beautifully clear. The vegetables were raw but were cooked by the hot broth. The chop was pork cooked a La Milanese. I think the Milanese claim they invented it but it is truly a schnitzel and is everywhere in Germany and Austria. The last course, written in dialect, means rice and milk. It was a rice pudding, and it was delicious.
The next day we went to Cortona. Sadly it was a vile day, weather wise. Cold and rain. Cortona is a ridiculous place. Here it is, mid-April, and terrible weather and there was not a parking place to be found. We circled the walls, driving through each lot in turn. No dice. Packed. We turned around at the top and returned back through each in turn. Finally we found a spot that was more invention than spot. That is the Italian way. But as we walked away from the car we saw someone pull out. We all three stood in the spot while luther ran back and moved the car. We felt better having a legal spot since we were having lunch.
We walked up, up and finally got on a shopping street. My friend found the purse she was wanting. We walked around some but the cutting wind was freezing. We went into a bar and had coffee and wine and then walked to our restaurant with thunder rolling about the hills and the sky black and threatening.
The restaurant is Bocaccia, a very traditional Tuscan place, well rated. The owner was one of those that is very ebullient and kind of over the top. He was nice enough and we loved the vaulted dining room. We all liked the food very much. I chose the rabbit tenderloin marinated in lemon. It was served on a crisp salad of mache with carrot and cucumber. It would be particularly good in summer because it was served cold.
Then I had the pici, which is hand made very fat spaghetti type pasta with a tomato-y sauce. I liked, and wondered about, the very hot pepper in the middle.
Today, Friday, was cold and not raining anyway. We had decided to visit a nearby winery called, Vineria del Carmine. It is a beautiful property owned by a wealthy British couple named Sinclair. They had owned a home high above the valley and a large parcel was going to be sold. The vintner said the entire valley was going to be sold. The Sinclairs bought it to preserve their view and then decided to develop the existing vineyard. They are putting a TON of money into the place. They have six wines to taste. A trebbiano (white), two rosés, and three reds. All were very good. My least favorite are the rosés. That’s surprising since I am a big rosé fan.
We got the small tasting which came with freshly made breadsticks and two dips. One a mayonnaise onion and the other truffle cream. Both very nice. Then they brought fresh focaccia, warm from the oven. It was fun. The people are very friendly.
The property is pretty darn spectacular. The valley, brilliantly green with new wheat and budding trees. There were angry looking clouds above the hills which only enhanced the green.
We had lunch in Grace which is on the edge of the old part of Umbertide. It was really good. An excellent day was had by all.
It was a gray day but it didn’t rain as predicted. I had plans to visit the Saturday market which was buzzing with activity prior to Easter. There was a very rustic gentleman who was selling his asparagi del bosco, wild asparagus out of one of the booths I frequent, always a treat. I wish I had taken a picture of him! I bought two bunches. He had obviously foraged it in the hills, a big pastime here in the spring. It will be part of our Pasqua meal tomorrow. It is very different than “normal” cultivated asparagus.
I also met up with Jane one if the buyers of our house in Centro. We walked through the house and I answered all her questions. It is looking good with new paint and the floors polished.
Afterwards, I walked back home and we met Jane and Christie for lunch at C’era una Volta near our house. It was lovely and we were the only customers. Apparently lunch was so quiet because everyone will come tonight and tomorrow for Easter lunch. A very busy time for them. We had pasta with asparagi del bosco and fungi. Very yummy. We also had their amazing antipasto plate with dozens of great things, as always.
Tomorrow is Pasqua, Easter and a big deal here. Then Monday is Pasquetta or, little Easter, a holiday and traditionally a day when Italians take to the hills for walking and picnics, or to their favorite restaurants, or beaches. I think the weather will cooperate. Buona Pasqua a tutti! 🌺
We are in the midst of a cold snap. Highs in the 40s F. Lows 30F. Below freezing. Bad timing as all the fruit trees are flowering now. I hope it won’t damage the crop.
Our kind sellers of this apartment took away almost all of the plants but, kindly (not) left an enormous old, dead rosemary plant. I have been working to remove it so I can ready that bed for my herbs. I got four big bags of branches and still have the main plant to remove. Thanks Marcella and Walter! 😒
We went on an errand to check out outside furniture yesterday at the big box Leroy and Merlin store. They have a nice selection. We couldn’t really afford buying at the upscale emu outlet. We chose a nice set and will order it online. Afterwards we went to our favorite butcher. I love how they get super excited when you tell them what you’re making and ask for advice. I want to make sugo. It is the long cooking red sauce that every Italian loves. They chopped a big piece of super fatty beef for us. I like some fat but this might be a step too far! And they gifted us a marrow bone and two hamburger patties with a lot of fat. I’m also adding pancetta and sausage. It will be good, I promise you. It will take 4-5 hours so I will make it tomorrow. I will be saving it for our guests who arrive next week. Along the highway. The rapeseed is brilliantly yellow!
We also got mutton chops for Pasqua Pranzo. Easter lunch. Just us two. I am interested to see if I like it. The sheep is castrato (makes it more tender) and about 3 years old. The butcher said it was much better than lamb. I will report back.
This is the beginning of Holy week. We aren’t religious, nor were we raised Catholic. But we like the history, the traditions, and to watch the rituals. We asked our friend Angelo if there were any food traditions for Palm Sunday, and apparently there are not. We are still in the Lenten season so meat is still not eaten much, if you’re observant. An interesting aside, Angelo, who owns the Alimentari in our old building on the ground floor showed us, in his back storeroom, that the building was part of the original wall of Umbertide. His wall on the back is six feet thick. It was built in the 1300s. So our former home was part of this building.
Saturday we went to the market and did some errands. We saw friends and had a vino at Bar Mary, and we rescued my tarragon plant which had gotten left behind in the move. They were working up in our old apartment in anticipation of the arrival tomorrow of our buyers for a three month stay.
We had also been invited to lunch with friends in Montone, a nearby hill town. It was a delicious meal and we feel very comfortable with them. The conversation flows easily. We had a plate of charcuterie to start and then a delicious half red pepper which was roasted and was filled lightly with savory things. Cheese, olives, anchovies and roasted again. Delicious. I plan to make this one in the future! Then we had a duck risotto to die for. It was like a delicious ragu of duck in the rice. I also want to make this one. After that a refreshing salad of mache and tangerine bits and for dessert, a rich olive oil chocolate cake. It was dense and moist. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect meal. Their house is just on the walls of this hilltown. I took this picture from their terrace. It is still just a little too cool to sit outside. So beautiful. Umbria is living up to its reputation as the “green heart” of Italy. When the trees leaf out it will be its greenest.
As we walked back to the car up the hill the bells in the church began to ring. This video is more about the bells than the video.
Here are a couple of pretty photos of springtime in Umbria on our way home. I never tire of it. Most of the vivid green is winter wheat. In two months it will be golden.
Last night I got to make the first dinner in our new kitchen. It is so wonderful to have a sink! But I am so used to walking down the hallway to the bathroom for the sink it is proving hard to break the habit!
Dinner was two Orate, or sea breams. They were from the grocery but they were some of the freshest I have ever had. I decided asian flavors would be yummy for a change. I roasted the fish after rubbing with oil, salt and pepper, slashing the flesh and sprinkling with sesame seeds. While roasting I cooked soy sauce, a little vinegar, sugar and water and slivered ginger and slivered cayenne in a small pan until ginger and pepper were soft. Then all I did was pour it on the fish and sprinkled with spring onions and cilantro. Delicious if I do say so myself. I also had the first spring peas and rice.
Does anyone remember Green Stamps? Back when I was little you got them at the grocery and you saved them and filled books with them to redeem items when you had enough.
We are members of the Coop grocery chain here. It it a co-op and members get some benefits. One is inexpensive products which change every couple of months. They give you bollettini, or little sticky stamps when you check out. Then you can buy a product with a number of stamps and a little cash. I’ve never done this until now when they are selling nice knives.
I got one yesterday. It is really nice! 16 bollettini and €4.90 got me a chefs knife! ~~~~~ Our next big project is a second kitchen upstairs. You may remember I talked to our Geometra who did our former work. But he would never reply to my emails or WhatsApps since that first meeting. I tried a second one who also would never reply. The situation here is that all these people are just so busy. And the workers who do the work as well.
So I decided to message with our friend Irma who is an architect and has done work for many people that I know. She seemed happy to help design a kitchen but she is also busy until autumn. Having no other choice I said I would wait. So that means our summer living upstairs will be a little different than we thought. Since the terrace has an oven and a sink and counters I figure we can make an outside kitchen. I also have our Weber grill. And there is an outside barbecue. It will be camping! I’ll get a 2 burner induction cooktop. And we will need to buy a refrigerator. We would need that anyway. Anyway, that’s the plan for now!