Monthly Archives: July 2023

How can it be so hard?

You’d think, living in Italy, it would be super easy to get a pizza to go, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. Tonight we were excited to order pizza to bring home from our favorite pizza place, Degusto. They have delicious pizza with puffy chewy crusts. We had perused their on-line menu and chosen our delicious pizzas. We called and they said they weren’t doing any take out tonight. 🙄 Ok then. We tried the next one we like, Pizzeria Planet. We called at 7:15. The earliest we could get a pizza was 9pm. Ok then. So we reluctantly gave up. It IS Friday night. And it IS almost August, high summer, high vacation time. I think next time we will try it in a Tuesday. This is the one I chose. 😢

Saturday, and as in all Saturdays I went to the market. The weather is being perfect since we got out of our heat spell. Temperatures in the high eighties and it goes down to 60s at night. No need for AC to sleep. I took it easy today. Stopped by to see my favorite grocer, Angelo, and then for a cappuccino at Bar Mary to say hi to my favorite barista, Irene. I got my favorite cappuccino senza schiuma. It’s coffee without a ton of frothed milk like a normal cappuccino. I sat outside and watched the world go by.

Here’s a recent sunset from the terrazzo. Quite pretty! Buon fino settimana a tutti!

Pranzo with our Italian Famiglia

The story of our Italian family is a long one. In a nutshell, it started as soon as we moved into our last apartment. The place was full of the dust of construction and everything needed cleaning. My friend Susan introduced me to Vera, who cleaned her house. A super interesting and intelligent woman from Bosnia originally and then Slovenia. To avoid an arranged marriage (Islamic parents) she fled to Italy and became a nanny. She met her future husband, married and had two beautiful girls. And she began her own business.

Vera cleaned for us and we engaged her to chat with us in Italian after cleaning. Time passing and we became good friends. Eventually we were adopted by Vera and family and we adopted them. We all love good food and relish the different cuisines. Not normal for Italians. So that’s the back-story.

Sunday Lunch was the first in months. I hadn’t seen Vera since February. Now that we have a table and furniture we asked them for Pranzo. I decided an American lunch was the best thing given the heat. The menu was chips and salsa to start, sweet and spicy. Pulled pork sandwiches with hot sauces and coleslaw, grilled hot dogs with the fixins. Potato salad. And for dessert, peach tiramisù.

It was so nice to see everyone again. I had missed them so much. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures. Graziano is very tall and has made some tall girls! And beautiful redheads.

Buon appetito!


My new, favorite Italian word is….telecomando. Somehow it makes me feel like the captain of a Starship. What power I have here in my hand! I won’t keep you waiting, it is the word for remote control. I guess I’d heard it before, but now I’ve got fans with telecomandi — I assume that’s the plural(?) — so I’m feeling mighty powerful 😁

It’s still hot but it will be slightly less for the weekend. Then it goes back up to 39. But happily, after that it is a more livable 32ish. My salad last night was a burrata tomato salad. Burrata is a cheese made from the byproducts from making mozzarella. To me it is richer than mozzarella. I served it with cold cannelloni beans.

My next salad project will be a Panzanella, probably for tomorrows dinner. It is a classic Tuscan salad which uses up stale bread. Frugal, those Tuscans. It is only good when the tomatoes are at their tip-top in high summer since they are the star ⭐️ in the dish.

I have invited our old friend Vera and her family for domenica Pranzo. We havn’t seen her since maybe February? Vera and I love to cook. I showed her how to make American style ribs and how to cook a whole turkey. I have made Mexican and Indian for them as well. The whole family are very adventurous eaters. This is not the norm for Umbrian Italians. Due to a lack of a convenient upstairs kitchen I’m doing an American style BBQ. We will start with Salsa and chips, one spicy, one mild. I can make pulled pork in the slow cooker ahead of time, which won’t heat up the house. I’ll grill hot dogs. I made homemade BBQ sauce (hard to find here), and then we will have some salads, coleslaw and potato, and finally, a new-to-me fresh peach tiramisù. I’ll try to take pictures. I hope it isn’t terribly hot upstairs. 🤞

Buon fine settimana a tutti.

Salad saga

Since it is too hot to cook much, we have been eating pretty much all salads, all the time. Last night it was an Insalata all Greco — Greek salad. Can’t go wrong with that. Night before last it was a salad of hard boiled egg, tuna, tomatoes, cucumbers and cannelloni beans drizzled with olive oil. Tonight it’s cold pasta with sautéed garlic shrimp, green pepper, new red onions, pickled zucchini and celery. I topped it with a little homemade ranch dressing with plenty of fresh herbs.

Tomorrow is market day. It is also the peak of the heat spell. So I plan to get up and get to the market bright and early before it gets too hot. Stai fresco!

We’re havin’ a heat wave 🎶

Yup. Italy is one of the countries in Europe that’s getting slammed the next week or so. I was feeling especially sorry for the tourists in Rome and Florence. Man is it HOT! 🥵 They predict 40s starting Monday. 42C Wednesday — that’s 108F. Compound it with crowds of sweaty people and waiting in-line (no shade) to get into the sights it will be miserable.

It is natural for people to want to see the “Big Three” major sights (Rome, Florence and Venice) especially on their first trip to Italy, but I strongly advise against it in any hot and high season. Especially this year with an over abundance of tourists after Covid. So what if you’ve got to wear a jacket? It’s so much better than what is going on here now. I was talking to my Italian teacher yesterday and she got rather worked up about it all. She is adamant that Italy needs the tourist dollars, and it does, but why can it not be spread out into regions with less crowds and just as amazing things to see? Not to mention you’ll see the REAL Italy. These mega tourist destinations will be a very sad initiation to Italy. There are so many undiscovered places. Tuscany is always overrun. But Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo are all wonderfully uncrowded and all in the center, equally easy to reach. Go to the “Big Three” in winter, late fall, or early spring, and in summer the countryside and small towns.
In our new apartment we are getting used to managing the temperatures. I open the windows at night when it is this hot at 10pm-ish. And leave them open all night. I’ve got fans in every room pulling the cooler night air in. I watch the morning temperature closely and shut all the windows and shutters when it hits 80 outside. It stays fairly cool inside. It doesn’t get above 80 when the temperatures outside are mid nineties. The fans help a lot. At night we decided to move upstairs to the sofa bed. There are two AC units up there but that’s a big room with no doors and open stairwell to the downstairs so it doesn’t get terribly cool. But better than downstairs. Also, a bonus, it’s very quiet in that area.

Today I got out early (for me) to the market. I bought a bounty of veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, arugula, cucumbers, potatoes, squash.

Believe it or not, between us we eat about 30 tomatoes a week.

Another thing I have to do is figure out how to make meals in this heat. Italian kitchens are usually tucked away from the main living areas. That’s good and bad. Our kitchen has a door to shut it completely off. Until today I thought that was stupid. I also have a very big hood that really pulls the heat out. So shutting the door, opening the windows and using the hood keeps it mostly cool and isolates the heat in that room. I still try to cook early, while it is cool, for dinner that night.

Today, when I came back, I roasted three tomatoes with garlic and I pressure cooked cannellini beans. Our dinner will be pasta, tossed with this sauce, beans, basil, pecorino cheese and bread crumbs. Served room temperature.

I also made pesto. I have four plants and they are all doing very well. I keep it producing by snipping the branches just before they bloom. I go down to the two itty bitty leaves below the big leaves. This allows those small leaves to grow and it doesn’t get rangy and ugly.

Remember my puny tomato plants. They are heirloom American tomatoes. A gift from my friend Joanne. Just look at them now! They look a bit messy. The basil is beside the olive tree. There are three tomatoes and a jalapeño plant. The tomatoes try to encroach on the pepper so I keep them tied up. I figure the tomatoes will ripen when we are on our cruise in August/September. My luck! My house-sitters will benefit.

I have a post half written about our upstairs kitchen reno. That is upcoming. Keep cool y’all! And Buon fine settimana! A la prossima!

Saturday market

We have entered the very hot days today. So I got off early to go to the market so I didn’t miss the good tomatoes. They sell out fast. There really is only one person who sells the kind of tomatoes I like. On the way I noted the Street Food festival that is on from Friday – Sunday. An annual event. Food trucks with interesting things . Wines. Micro brews. You load up and there are tables at which to sit. All in the shadow of La Rocca, our fortress.

But then, I heard the sound of a drum kit thrumming through the various drums. I spotted the band way up on a rooftop terrace. I was amazed. Those youngins will try anything! 😉

Into the market where, since I was early, the crowds weren’t very thick. I got my tomatoes, a whole lot of tomatoes! And some pretty green beans, onions and borlotti beans, first of the season. I visited various stands.

The lady at the above stand, also one of my favorites, knows me and that I have a blog so she gave me a flyer for an upcoming event. There is going to be a bi-lingual walking tour of Umbertide with a degustazione of foods at the end. It is all sponsored by Slow Food Alta Umbria and the Mercato della Terra di Umbertide. It’s July 22nd in case anyone reading this wants to go and happens to be here. I think a reservation is mandatory.

I bought mozzarella and eggs from my favorite cheese lady and I was finished. Except for one last chore.

I needed to photo the hours of our local electric place. Turns out, when we finalize our bill at Via Grilli, they ended up owing us €1,030. Which they gave us a credit for. Um, no. We do not use them for electric anymore so a credit isn’t going to work. It should be interesting trying to get the money back.
We next helped out a friend who wants to buy a place here. We went to view two houses. Over near Lago Trasimeno. The first one had spectacular views through pretty arched windows. But it was very small. Just two small bedrooms, two baths, and an open plan living, dining, kitchen area. [edit] There is a swimming pool.

The second was a huge place down on the flats below and near the lake. The bare glimpse of the lake was visible through an upstairs bedroom window.

We parted ways with the real estate agent Valentina, who was very nice. Then, we managed to hit a big pothole and got a flat tire. Damn. It was hot and we were in the sun but we managed to get it changed and got home OK. Now to see about buying a new tire! It was nothing if not an eventful day.

Buona fine settimana a tutti!

It’s July alright.

The heat has finally hit. It could, and probably will, get hotter but this is hot enough for me! In July Umbertide is really jumping. Jumping as much as it ever will. All the people with holiday homes in the hills around here are back. And all the people who rent rooms, villas and apartments are here too. The bars, markets and restaurants are full. Supermarket parking lots have a plethora of license plates from all over Europe. On certain days it’s like grand central station when the weekly rentals change over and everyone new is buying groceries.

It’s really no wonder that so many people come. Although Umbria is not famous like our next door neighbor, Tuscany, it is just as beautiful. It is quieter with less tourists, an oasis of Italian food, wine and beauty. This picture was taken on a farm just outside the Umbertide city walls. The girasole, sunflowers, are a big crop here for their oil, but also a big part of our July landscape. 🌻

Posted on the Umbertide Facebook page. Photo by Pietro Migliorati.

Here are a few terrazzo pictures. First one is of our fish, Qua and Quo, who are increasingly more friendly because they know where the food comes from. The rest are garden pictures and the new rug. Captions below the pics. As always click for larger versions

Qua and Quo – at breakfast
Margarita. Italian for daisy.
Dwarf Japanese maple
Tomatoes! Can’t wait!
Baby jalapeño
I swear the olive is twice it’s original size!
New rug and pillows. Finito!

I sat outside all day yesterday. There was a lovely breeze. I just need to get Pino, the electrician, back for some outlets and lighting outside. Oh and to fix the lights that don’t work.
All y’all stay cool!

Happy 4th

I decided to christen our terrace with all its new furniture with a small Fourth of July celebration. A few friends came and we had guacamole and salsa and chips for a pre-lunch nosh and then four salads for us to enjoy. Basmati coconut rice with shrimp, chickpea tomato artichoke and roasted pepper, smoked salmon avocado egg and greens, and sesame peanut noodles. It was fun. The weather was lovely, here we are minus Steve, our photographer!

Thanks for coming everyone and Happy Fourth of July!

The Arezzo Antique and Flea Market

Today I met up with friends at the Arezzo antique/flea market. A huge venue with a really diverse selection of things for every want and every taste. It is the first Sunday of every month and the Saturday prior. It was a beautiful day. The forecasts were for storms and rain. But we saw nary a drop. And the temperatures were perfect.

Arezzo is about a 50 minute drive from Umbertide. The city is in Tuscany and is said to be the most affluent in that region. It has a population of around 100,000. The city center is an amazingly beautiful city. Known as a city of gold and high fashion, it was home to artists and poets. It was originally Etruscan and later Roman.

The market itself sprawls throughout the city. I heard more American English being spoken than I have in years. I was reminded by one of my companions that this was, after all, Tuscany. The biggest magnet to American tourists. So close to Umbria with all its treasures. But I am ok with that. Let Tuscany keep the crowds! Here are pictures of the market. Luther asked for the book stall pictures. He didn’t come because he loses interest in these things rapidly.

Seats from an old cinema
Loved this carved stone chess set

We stopped for lunch at Cavour 42 Trattoria. It was a very pleasant place. The outside tables were in a pretty covered arcade. There was a cool breeze blowing through and it was quieter and calmer than most places in the market. I enjoyed my lunch but it wasn’t great. The company I had made it perfect. Doug brought Georgia, his dog, and there were lots of other dogs including a sweet pitty at the table opposite. We had a nice Rose from Chianti.

I didn’t buy anything. All three of us have new homes to furnish so it was fun. I did see some things I liked. I’ll go back again. Maybe I can get Luther to come next time!
We have been blessed (?) with a mourning dove nest on our terrace. There are finally two chicks. They are looking like they are getting close to fledging. We try to not scare them.

Finally I have the funniest little teeny stunted hydrangea that came up from left over roots. It has bloomed. My hand in photo for reference to size. Plants are amazing.

Buon weekend, and happy Fourth of July to all! We have a group of Americans coming for lunch that day. It will be fun!