Monthly Archives: June 2023

R.I.P. Qui

Sadly I must report the loss of our fish, Qui. I found her/him floating in the “pond” this morning. He was fine yesterday. The cause of death is not known. Sad to loose him/her. We are trying to decide whether to get another. Qua and Quo are doing fine.
We had friends over for dinner last night. We are still working our way into entertaining upstairs here with no kitchen. I decided three salads would be nice since it was hot outside. I did all the hot cooking, rice, toasting pine nuts and coconut etc early in the day. Then later I assembled what could be done ahead of time. The last minute stuff was just before our guests arrived and I took all the salads up on my cart on the elevator to the 3rd floor. It all worked out perfect. Our guests have sold their home here and are leaving for a new life in Florence. The are ever thoughtful and brought a beautiful, shade loving plant for us. We will miss them 😢

Tonight we had a nice mozzarella di bufala with the amazing new tomatoes.

Ciao for now!

I knew it would be an adventure!

Boy, was I right. I picked up Ariela at the bus stop in Umbertide. I had volunteered to drive her as she is exploring fairly rural parts of Umbria and she doesn’t drive. She is a Doctoral Student at John’s Hopkins whose expertise is Medieval religious art. It was already 2:30 so we were off to a late start. Our destination was Mercatello sul Metauro in the Marche region. Umbria abuts this region. I have been through this area once a long time ago on the way back from Udine.

There were two possible routes. The first mistake was trusting Google maps. Google maps said it takes an hour. The shorter, faster route is the one we took. We headed up into the mountains. The road was very small. This was not the one I remembered from before. Eventually we made a left turn onto a strada bianca (white road) which is unpaved. Well, no turning back now so off we went. I asked Ariela how far we were from Mercatello…15 kilometers (!). The going was slow because the road had ruts from the rains. We saw not one single structure on this entire road. I must say the scenery was spectacular. High, rugged mountains with huge bare cliff-faces and deep gorges. I kept praying we wouldn’t get a flat. When we finally turned onto asphalt, I practically knelt and kissed the tarmac.

We entered the little town of Mercatello – population about 1,000. It was mostly churches. There was a cute little bar near where we parked. The town was beautiful.

Ariela had made an appointment with Don Fabio the Priest at the Chiesa di Santa Maria. It is a small church, there is a painting there that the building was built to house. It was built in the 1400s. The reason Ariela wanted to come was a crucifix with movable limbs and covered in skin. It was made in the 1500s. She wanted to see it. I was intrigued. She said it was one of very few examples in Italy. There are many articulated crucifixes but few are covered in skin.

I tried to research it and found it difficult to find a lot of information. The purpose of these articulated Christs is that they are used in recreations of Jesus’ life on holy days and the Christ manikin stands in as the real Jesus. They are still used today. The crucifixion is realized with the statue of Jesus with the articulated arms. I even read this bit online.

…the hair on the statue of Jesus is laid down by girls after their first menstruation. The images are treated as living people and create the fusion of the statues with the characters in flesh and blood; this fusion between reality and the appearance of being real makes humans and statues protagonists of the scenes in which one and the other, indiscriminately, seem to belong to the same mystical dimension…

So the people worshiping in the procession actually believe this IS Jesus. This seems to happen more in the southern parts of Italy. Although we have processions in Umbertide it isn’t to this degree. Anyway, I took some pictures. First the church.

Don Fabio is seated on the left.
Our first view of the figure. He is kept in a niche behind the altar, behind a long painting that covers it and behind glass behind that.
The figure is just under two meters long or around 6 feet. It is disturbingly lifelike.

The covering on the figure is very flexible. It is said to be human skin that was tanned and that is came from a Turk. The man who was showing us the figure picked up and bent the limbs so we could see. One other interesting fact, no one knows what is inside of the figure. How it is constructed etc.

Ariela was thrilled. She lives and breathes this stuff. It is her life. She will be writing her thesis on this. I had to pry her out of there. 😁 We returned on the good road. It was just as I remembered. Well paved and extremely curvy. It goes through the very high mountains between Le Marche and Umbria.

So that was my excellent adventure. It is amazing the treasures Italy has hidden away.

Shelves, sofa, things!

My cabinetmaker Paolo, works slowly. I’m not in a big hurry. It is a good thing I’m not because it has taken since February so far! He finally finished two of the three things I had asked him to make. I just went and looked and it doesn’t seem I took pictures of the supports for some shelves the sellers left sticking out of a wall when they removed, and took the shelves. These supports are iron and embedded into the building so they couldn’t easily be removed. They were also ugly. If I were the sellers and had shelves custom made to fit onto these supports I – Would. Not. Have. Taken. Them! But that’s just me. So, of necessity I needed to replace those shelves. They had to be thick because the supports actually insert into them. Paolo finished these shelves last week and installed them. I also replaced some other shelves the sellers took in a small space. It is a good place to store things. Kind of a pantry. One thing remains to be finished by Paolo, a custom built corner cupboard in the hall from the front door. He says he will be finished by next week with this piece.

I really don’t have enough “stuff” yet. I suppose over time they will fill up.
The space is narrow, but still works as a pantry.

A woman who lives just outside of Umbertide is downsizing at her house. She advertised some things and I bought a few. I can use the crocks and urns for flowers if I want, and they are pretty. I still need some decorative things especially for my bookshelves. I paid her a visit today. Their house has a spectacular view. They are up in the hills to the west of Umbertide. The view is of the entire city and also our big Monte Acuto and other big mountains to the east. I just learned the old name for the big mountain is Montaguto. Aguto is an archaic way to say acute just like Acuto. Here is their view. They lived here for 25 years and have now moved back to the US – Maryland. They return here twice a year. She says less stuff is better when they aren’t there all the time. Here is the view. Click for larger picture. You can see it better.

I bought a pretty group of hooks for coats with grapes. I didn’t get a picture. I still have to mount it. I also got two antique crocks (American). I had some back home. They are very useful as well as pretty. One of these will hold my utensils in my new kitchen, if ever I get one!

The others are purely decorative. She said they were Egyptian.

Finally, after many delays, we got our outside sofa. First I received an email saying delivery would be between such and such date and such and such date. A week in duration. Well that came and went. So I got a phone call. They would come Monday. Monday came and went. No sofa. Another call on Tuesday. They would come Wednesday. Sigh. Well, a guy did show up all by himself. I had paid for delivery a casa, and assembly. Riiiiggghhhttt. I asked him why there weren’t two people. He shrugged and said “it’’s Italia”. He said if he complained he wouldn’t have a job. Poor guy was so sweet. He was apologetic he couldn’t assemble it. But he did take it out of the huge box and brought it up piece by piece. Watdaya do? So we spent some of our anniversary and the day after assembling the sofa. Picture.

I like it a lot, which is good! And it will be nice to watch the sunset. It faces west. Speaking of anniversaries. June 21 is a special day. First, it is the Summer Solstice, happy holiday to all the Druids and Pagans out there! And for us, it is our wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to us! Finally for me, I retired 10 years ago on June 21. Never a better decision was made. 💕

I also had an excellent adventure yesterday but I will save that for a future post. Ciao for now!

Qui, Qua and Quo

I bet you’re wondering what this will be about. 😉 Those words are Latin. And they happen to be the Italian names for Huey, Dewey, and Louie — Donald Duck’s nephews. And now, they are the names of our new fish 🙂. Of course we don’t know if they are male or female but that doesn’t really matter. To me Qui, Qua, and Quo are not gender specific. At first they stayed hidden but this afternoon I went out and fed them and they came up to eat. I have always had a small “pond” with 2 or 3 fish. I had not gotten the fish yet and noticed the water of the unfinished “pond” had mosquito larvae. The LAST thing I wanted. Qui, Qua, and Quo already took care of those!

I finished the pond yesterday after gathering a ton more rocks out in the mountains. There is a quarry and at the entrance are lots of nice rocks. Then, I added my little fountain. It makes a pleasing noise.

Finished “pond” with fountain.

Here are other pictures of the flowers and plants. They are doing Ok. One or two seem to be struggling. I also have a “vegetable garden”. I was gifted by my friend Joanne with three tomato plants, heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds from the States. I hope they produce! One seems to be doing well, the other two maybe not so well. And I’ve got one jalapeño. Plus all the herbs.

Next to the pond, ferns, a hosta and ginger which is a ground cover. Also an impatien for a bit of color.
More ferns and a survivor hydrangea. Plus petunias.
Lavender, daisy, more ferns.
Vegetable garden.
Herb garden.

My little lemon tree is super happy here. I’m amazed at the number of baby lemons! I counted 25 but it is still blooming and I assume there will be more.

We are headed for a heat wave, our first this year. We will see how this house is in the heat. So far I’m closing it up by around noon. Closing the shutters keeps it dark and cool enough. Now is the time for more salads for dinner. We both like them. Last night we had a delicious Greek salad. I bought arugula at the kilometer 0 market which has a nice bite and fresh sweet tomatoes which offset that bitterness. Dressed with good olive oil, lemon juice from my tree, oregano and feta. Perfetto!

Buona domenica !

L’Arte del Caffè

By day it is a lovely bar just across the street. Quiet. Outside tables. Nice bariste. Since we live here now it’s nice to go there for a caffè or an aperitivo. Now that it is summer we are learning it has another side entirely. Like Doctor Jeckle and Mister Hyde. By night, it is party central. But thankfully, so far, not often. You might want to turn your sound down a tad. 😉

Blessedly it will end around midnight.
An addendum to my last post about the infiorata. Thanks to my friend Doug, who accompanied us, I have an update from my last post from Spello. He tells me that La Schelta (The Choice) my favorite, came in second. The crucifixion one with the extreme perspective came in first. To answer my own question, they use over 1.5 million flowers in the creations. Not sure if that includes artichokes, bay leaves etc.

Buon weekend a tutti!

Infiorata – Spello 2023

Sunday we finally managed to go to the Infiorata in Spello, a small hill town not far from Assisi. A religious ceremony – Corpus Domini – which is celebrated the ninth Sunday after Easter each year by many towns with flower carpets on the streets. But Spello goes all out for this religious holiday. It draws thousands of visitors each year, to see the flower carpets. All up and down the streets are amazing, religious themed, creations made out of mostly flower petals, but also other organic and plant material.

About one quarter of the population of 8,000 volunteers in some way to help make this event happen. It is a huge undertaking because there are busload after busload of people coming. And parking lots in fields for the thousands of cars. All of this must be managed and coordinated. Then there is the art itself. The people in the town spend weeks plucking petals from flowers and gathering wild flowers for the creations. It works essentially like the old paint by number paintings. The designers create the designs. I am sure this is another whole layer of work unseen by most which must take months to finalize for each creation. They use chalk to draw the designs on the pavement under tents erected to protect the workers and the flower petals from the elements. The workers work all night making the creations. All the bars and restaurants stay open all night. They are supposed to be finished by 8am but some were still working when we got there at 8:30.

This is an example of the tents that cover these while they are created. As you can see the framework is just being dismantled and the workers are still hard at it after an all-nighter.

I tried to get a picture of the design which was posted next to each creation so you can see what it would look like had I gotten overhead. Luther says next year we should have a drone! This is the design of the one above.

Some of the raw materials used in the creations. I wonder how many flowers they go through!

This board had the petals and the corresponding numbers. And they even included the name of the flower they came from. As I said, paint by the numbers!

I think there are 60-70 of these carpets and I did take a lot of pictures. I hope you enjoy them. There will be less to read…but more to see! I will caption them where needed.

The under 14 year olds had a few entries. I should mention that these are all judged and prizes (plaques) are awarded in different categories.

I like the freeform spray of flowers in the yellow circle.
Close up of whole flowers being used in the above.
Design poster. Titled Vincent’s Love. The woman had striking eyes. Note the tic tac toe game with hearts – love wins out!
Entire creation
Detail of Vincent’s love.
Elephants, goats, birds.
Peace on earth. Goodwill towards men.

This next design, followed by the creation was my favorite. Entitled The Choice. I liked it for the design and especially the creative use of artichokes in the dragon detail.

Artichoke leaves as dragon scales.
Loved this one as well. The colors!
Some were simple
Liked the perspective on this one.
Chess board.
Another of my favorites. The materials, the monotone greens.
Follow the yellow brick road
Labyrinth- life of Jesus. Design.

The next four are another example of the use of different plant materials in the designs.

Elephant out of seed husks and sage leaves.
More husks and this time bay leaves. It smelled lovely.
Rosemary and capers. Capers grow wild all over Umbria.
Wild garlic flowers. Also grows everywhere.

We finally made it to the top!

The beautify that saves the world. Interesting perspective on the crucifix.

And now for a few pictures from around town. They not only do awards for the carpets they also judge the flowers that residents grow and decorate their windows, doors, balconies.

Loved her poppy dress.

The crowd. The streets of Spello are narrow. Add the carpets that you can’t walk on, and the 100,000 or so visitors and you’ve got…well…a mob scene. 😳 And it was very warm, nearly hot.

There was a holy Mass at 10am and then the procession began. This is where I wanted to cry. They walk right on and over the creations. Then the faithful who are following the holy procession do too. The beautiful carpets of flowers that took thousands and thousands of hours of work only live for a few hours. Then they are gone. But I remembered, it is not about the flowers or the art. It is about Corpus Domeni.

As you can see we had a birds eye view of the procession. Thanks to our friends Steve and Roselyne who invited us to their apartment to recover. They own this apartment right on the Main Street with a nice balcony so we got a good view.

I hope you enjoyed this photo essay of one of the iconic fests in Umbria.

Odds and ends…

Our friends gifted us a plant. Evidently he didn’t like the full sun he was in. We wrestled him up to the terrace. I had a perfect spot for him. Then we had some vino to celebrate.

We had to go out a buy a pot for him, and a smaller one for our mint. So we went to Pollice Verde. This means “green thumb” in Italian. It is a very quirky place with everything from pet foods, to plants, salt for the water softener, soil for planters, dog houses and chicken coops. When we were checking out we noticed a sign that said “buy the set! 5 chicks with 20 chili of food.” 🙂

I’ve been working on the terrazzo. I have managed to get the irrigation up and working. Good to know we can go away and the plants will get water. I’ve got the herbs all done. I have been buying and planting flowers, hostas, and I ordered ferns on-line. I even found water lilies for my “pond”. Here are a few pictures.

The new Gabbeh rug I ordered came. I love it.

I have been working with our architect on the kitchen designs. We are leaning toward an induction invisible cooktop. It is very cool. You can cook right on the countertop and then use that same space for other things. There is a possible September start. Yay! Here are pictures from the brochure. Captions below pictures.

See the faint squares on the countertop? It marks where the burners are.

Lunch on Lago Trasimeno yesterday with friends from the US. They come almost every year and stay near Cortona. Shirley used to be my boss eons ago. She always brings me things from my wishlist. Thanks Shirley! We always meet for lunch when they come. This time at Ristorante Rosso della Sera in San Feliciano. A long time favorite of ours. Yesterday was Republic day, a national holiday. Here are a couple of pictures. It was a perfect day for this.

From our table.
My trout.

Finally a not so fun thing. I have a toothache, and it also seems to affect my sinuses on one side so I suspect an infection. I finally made myself go to the dentist, because there is a lot of pain now. A surprise to me, dentists don’t have X-ray machines here. I’m so used to that in the US. He prescribed antibiotics and an X-ray at the hospital. I started the antibiotics but have to wait THREE WEEKS for an X-ray! Geesh.

Today is glorious too. Here is Monte Acuto from our terrazzo. And my haul from the Saturday kilometer zero market. Good food in our future!

Buon weekend a tutti!