Author Archives: Nancy Hampton

Busy Sunday

Busy day. We had a shopping trip to accomplish for friends, John and Libby – residents here with Permessi di Soggiorno so they are allowed to return from the US. They got trapped there by the Virus lockdown. They will have to quarantine for two weeks. This means no shopping, no going outside at all, complete isolation. They sent us a long detailed list. And if I was just returning to Umbria from being trapped in the US I’d be craving all the wonderful foods here. I can tell they are too, from their list.

I had already bought a bunch of beautiful produce for them from our local market Saturday. Sunday we went to the local Coop, our biggest and best market in Umbertide. It is a cooperative which you can join and get lots of discounts and they have a reliable level of quality for their store brands. I found out it is a hold out from the days when Communism was strong here.

Much to my dismay, the store was packed. This weekend is the first weekend in August, which is the BIG vacation month for all of Europe. Just about everyone there was foreign. British, German, Dutch…they were all wearing their masks, but the stores aren’t metering entry anymore so it felt a bit close. They were all buying stuff for their houses, or vacation rentals.

We finished the shopping and headed up to Montone. We were met by Calvert and Tom, who live just across from John and Libby. They let us in and we unpacked the stuff. They had also invited us to a summer lunch which we happily accepted and after the delivery we went to their nearby beautiful home.

We sat on their loggia. It is my favorite place in Montone. Although it is over 100F today it was comfortable. We had some interesting wines, thanks Tom! And lunch of cool things, thanks Calvert! We had a tomato, watermelon, cheese salad (many other things in there too) and then a cold gazpacho. With yummy bread. A few pictures. Is this not a beautiful space?

This is the view out across the valley from Montone, such a pretty hilltown.

Note the fireplace to the left! I’d love this!

Gazpacho. So yummy.

Thank you so much Calvert and Tom for this lovely lunch. It was so good we went home for naps! 💤 .

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Stay safe everyone. 🌈

Pronto soccorso (emergency room)

Today I visited the Pronto Soccorso for the first time. It is a weekend and I am unable to see my doctor. Yesterday we decided to give our two cats their yearly bath. Simba objected. And at one point he went totally nuts and while struggling with him he bit down on my thumb, right through it and for a moment I wondered how I was going to get him to let go. And it hurt! A lot!

I know a cat bite is one of the dirtiest bites you can get. I’ve also heard horror stories. I asked a friend of mine who used to work with animals and she said a veterinarian she knew lost her thumb due to a cat bite. That kind of lit a fire under me. I am never anxious to go to a doctor or a hospital, or worse, an emergency room. But we live in Umbertide. We have a hospital and we can even walk there. So we walked over to the Pronto Soccorso.

We rang the bell and explained why we were there. I had to fill out a form about how I was feeling today (Covid related) and they took my temperature. Then I got to go in. I had to go alone as they won’t let more than one at a time. I was pleased I understood everything they asked me and could answer all the questions. My Italian has improved quite a lot I’m happy to say.

The doctors were nice, interested because I am American. One even looked up Virginia on his phone and started listing the states all around Virginia. I showed them my Tessera Sanitaria, my health card enrolling me in the system here. They were surprised but I explained I live here and am in the health system.

There was no discussion about the cat bite. It seemed almost a given that one must get treated for a bite from a cat. They examined my thumb and redressed it. Then they gave me a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics and dressed my wound. I have to return in 6 weeks for a booster tetanus shot. The visit cost nothing. I do love the Italian health care system 💕.

Afterwards we walked back and I drove to a farmacia to get my prescription filled. All in all a painless (mostly 🙂) visit. I’m glad I broke down and went. I won’t be so reticent in the future.

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Yesterday and today I made pesto. The Basil is going wild. I harvested these two. They aren’t so pretty and bushy now. If you want to keep your basil producing you must cut it back as it starts to flower down to just above the juncture with two small leaves at the intersection of the stem. These small lives will grow into new, robust basil branches. I have regular basil and violeta.

Here is the jar of regular pesto I made.

This one is an experiment. Thai basil pesto. It has a dark color because of the purple leaves, and it has Thai flavors like fish sauce, sesame oil, etc. I haven’t eaten it yet. I will report back.

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I have more to report as today was a busy day, but I will save it for tomorrow 🙂

It is still ungodly hot but supposed to break on Tuesday I think. Stay safe y’all. 🌈

Nice dinner and…US news 😢

Last night we went out to dinner! This is a rare occurrence. Instigated by Joseph and Paul. There were 6 of us, all the Americani in the Centro of Umbertide. We wanted to support a local restaurant, Appennino . It is just steps from our door. And we overlook their dining terrace from our own terrace. 

Laura, the proprietor, has been trapped in Cuba, of all places, since Lockdown. She has an apartment there. She only got back a few weeks ago. She has re-opened her restaurant. She says she has good business so far. The terrace out back is a wonderful place and being outside it is good for distancing. But she can’t find any Italiani to help. Weird to me. With all the unemployment and bad economy here, you’d think people would want the work. Right now it is just her, and her mom working. 

Anyway, we had a nice meal and great (and amusing) conversation. It was damn hot, even outside after sunset. We mostly had lite meals.  Most had a pasta for second courses except for one pizza. For apperitivi: two had a nice carpaccio. Two had buratta with guacamole, or pesto and prosciutto, and one got a beautiful shrimp tartar. 

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I figure you all know how I feel about how this damn virus has been handled in the US. And it gets worse.  People just want consistent and coherent leadership in times of crisis. When they get conflicting information it makes them anxious and suspicious. And they don’t know WHAT to believe. It seems like it should be simple…

This, from The NY Times…

Why is the U.S. enduring a far more severe virus outbreak than any other rich country?

There are multiple causes, but one of them is the size and strength of right-wing media organizations that frequently broadcast falsehoods. The result is confusion among many Americans about scientific facts that are widely accepted, across the political spectrum, in other countries.

Canada, Japan and much of Europe have no equivalent to Sinclair — whose local newscasts reach about 40 percent of Americans — or Fox News. Germany and France have widely read blogs that promote conspiracy theories. “But none of them have the reach and the funding of Fox or Sinclair,” Monika Pronczuk, a Times reporter based in Europe, told me.

Fox is particularly important, because it has also influenced President Trump’s response to the virus, which has been slower and less consistent than that of many other world leaders. “Trump repeatedly failed to act to tame the spread, even though that would have helped him politically,”The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has written.

And don’t get me going on the masks. It is the simplest way to get this virus under control. This is proven in multiple countries. Does the US want to get back to work? Do they want the economy to recover, jobs to return, kids to go to safely back to school, life to return to our new normal? Then. Wear. The. Damn. Mask. Period. It’s not hard.

I know many of you want to come visit Italy. And Italy wants Americans back in Italy. To enjoy la dolce vita with us. The beauty that is here. And I, for one, would like to travel to the US without worrying about catching the virus. Let’s go people! You have a job to do…just like we did here in Italy.
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Rant over. Sometimes I just have to. Sorry. Please stay safe miei amici…🌈

Heat spell

We are just entering our first, longest, and hottest spell of the year. Some people love it. I DO NOT. The house has to be “managed”. Close it all up by 10am. We don’t re-open until sunset. In the early morning sitting on the terrace with my coffee is very nice with the sweet, cool air. In the evenings we watch our Netflix movies and shows out on the terrace. Very pleasant. The good thing is it cools off at night so sleeping is not bad. If we had to, we have an AC in our bedroom, but normally we don’t need it.

Today we walked to the Poste to pay a bill for our friend that could only be paid there. We went early before it got too hot. We walked. On the way we saw a big cherry picker extended to the top of the bell tower in town. This is the one that rings our times all day, and rings for the Masses on other days, as well as at six PM each night. I guess someone noticed all the plants growing on the roof and in the gutters. Looks like the were spraying it to kill it off.

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🌈 andrà va bene! Now this saying is for those in the US.

Sunday dinner

I made a wonderful dinner tonight and I thought I’d share it. The recipe is called “string beans, pickled beans, tomatoes, and olives on Tonnato”. It is from the Six Seasons cookbook. It has started to get hot and we have at least two weeks coming up of very hot weather so salads are nice.

I read the recipe a few weeks ago and made a jar of pickled beans. They’ve been curing in the refrigerator for a while and I thought they were ready. I added a few things, like endives for crunch, and a soft boiled egg. The description of the recipe said it had evolved from the Salade niçoise. The egg added a little more umph so it wasn’t “just a salad”. The tonnato sauce underneath the salad was great and you could get some with each forkful. It was quite filling. I’d make this one again.

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🌈 mask up everyone! 💕

Old lady carrello

I have a friend, who shall remain nameless 🙂, she calls these “old lady carts”.

I admit, the little old ladies here DO use these for their shopping. They don’t have cars so these are a big help to them. But…. I say defensively…. I have also seen younger people, and even (gasp) men with these. I decided to get one. The one above is mine. Sitting in front of our door. Deluxe model. You may note it has the high tech, coolio, triple wheel action, handy for curbs and stairs. Note to my anonymous friend (who lives in Perugia, a hill town 😳), you need one of these!! 💕

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The weather has turned gorgeous. Not at all hot. Brilliant blue sky with no clouds. It gets very cool at night. The Saturday market is going strong. I got my shopping done. The peppers on the left I harvested this morning from our own pepper plants. They are all spicy.

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Dinner tonight will be from a recipe from Italian Food Forever. It is called Summer Spaghetti. So easy, and so good in summer with the beautiful tomatoes. No cooking, so it doesn’t heat up your kitchen. You put it together and let it sit 4 or more hours. The flavors meld. You cook and toss the spaghetti into the sauce while it is hot, saving some sauce to put on top. A little pecorino cheese and it is summertime heaven. Mmmm. Nothing makes me happier!

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I have been watching the US news, as I’m sure we all are. It is so sad that if people would just wear that damn mask they could almost stop this Virus in its tracks! Please stay safe and wear your masks. 🌈 😷

Grocery delivery to new friends

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a follower of this blog. She and her husband had purchased a vacation home here and would be arriving in late July. They are Italian/American dual citizens, which allows them to come. One of the few ways a person from the US can come here now.

Anyway, she wanted to understand what Quarantine really meant. Many people think it is like when we were all under lockdown here. When we could go out to the grocery or for an essential reason with a declarazione. But that’s not what it is. It means when you get to Italy, you take private transport (no train or bus), like a rental car, and drive directly to your house or hotel. Then you don’t leave for 2 weeks. And you can’t have anyone inside your house, like a workman, or friend.

Our new friends don’t have a way to get groceries or anything here so I volunteered to do grocery shopping for them. Turns out they could order on-line at the local Coop and we could pick up and deliver.

I didn’t want to arrive at their place with €300 worth of groceries and perishables unless I was sure I could find it. So, on my way back from the hairdressers I did some recon, and found their house. Interesting concept. An old farm complex that has been made into apartments. You’ll find these all over Italy. Especially Umbria and Tuscany. I took pictures of the view. The first one, if you look on the hill opposite, with the rows of cypresses, is Calagrana. Nice pool for the community.

This one is the opposite side of the valley with it’s pretty olive groves and the crops growing down below.

And this one is in a different direction. You can only see those high mountains when you are up high yourself.

We went out this evening after we got their key from Bar Mary where their Architect, Roberto, left it. All worked out fine. We got two grocery carts full of stuff and transported it in our car to their new place. We unpacked everything. It was cool that the Coop has color coded bags. One for refrigerated, one for freezer, and one for non-refrigerated. We stowed the cold stuff, put in the white wine. I for one, would be hankering for a vino when I arrived. But that’s me! 

We are getting a nice favor from them as well. Luther is out of Cigars and we asked them to bring some for us. Luther ordered and sent to them. Also a few wishes I had for a few items. Always nice. And since we can’t go get more we rely on the kindness of friends. 🙂💕
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Be careful everyone. It is not looking good in the United States. 😢. 🌈

Trivial issues and tomato sandwiches

In the grand scheme of things, considering the really dire state of the human race on our earth, my small problems matter not a whit. It is true. And truly, if I never get Saran Wrap again but the Corona Virus is vanquished, I am more than fine with that.

Last night I used the last of my Saran Wrap. I can manage with the Italian plastic wrap, but Saran is much, much better. During normal times I would be traveling home to the US once a year or so. And I always stock up on all the things I like from there (I bring an empty suitcase). Needless to say we won’t be going home anytime soon. And we won’t have any guests from the US anytime soon, so I will make do.
Dead soldier…


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Tomato sandwiches were a staple of my childhood lunches. My mother adored in-season tomatoes. She would have called them “home grown”. She would make a sandwich with Wonder bread, mayonnaise and thick slices of tomatoes with salt and pepper. That’s all. And I grew up eating these. Since “home grown” tomatoes are only around a couple of months I tend to eat them everyday here. How? You ask? Watch me work!

First, and don’t you people be shouting about this because it is in all the Supermarkets here, I buy a nice loaf of American Sandwich bread. Just like Wonder Bread 🙂.

Then, I slather on lots of mayonnaise…and not just ANY mayonnaise but the real thing! Hellman’s! Also available here at selected supermarkets.

We don’t have what Americans call Heirloom tomatoes in our markets, but what we have are outstanding!

The Romas on the left are destined for Gazpacho. The basil will be pesto! Mmmm I love summer.

So, using all these fine ingredients 🙂… I make my daily Tomato sandwich. Mmmmmm. Sorry…half eaten 😋

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I also got my haircut this morning. First time since lockdown. Whew. Nice to get it cut. I drive around 40 kilometers from Umbertide to Sansepolcro. Nice small city in Tuscany. I love Stefano, my hairdresser.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Lovely weekend

We were fairly busy with fun things this weekend. It was one of the prettiest, weather wise, I’ve ever seen. I guess the temperatures were in the 80s. There was a beautiful breeze. The sky was brilliant blue with puffy clouds moving across, creating an ever changing vista. I don’t care what you were doing, the weather this weekend would make it better. Even chores! I was happy to be alive and free enough to visit friends in person. We ate outside at both places and tried to socially distance.

We were invited to pranzo at our friends Stuart and Jill. They are such nice folks. They live in a place that is a bit hard to reach. They don’t think they are remote at all, but to us city mice, it is! Once you get there it is a piece of heaven. Up high on a hill with views of the rugged mountains and a distant hill town. It was a ruin when they bought it but now it is an amazing home. If I were making a house, this would be it. The flower pictures in my blog were mostly from their garden. It is their favorite pastime. It must be a lot of work. We sat outside under the retracting tende di sole, in the shade, facing the view. We had tomato bruschetta and crispy garlic toasts as nibbles. Then we had bowls of a cool gazpacho soup. Next a roulade with cheese and veg inside and a small salad with home grown beans and potatoes. Dessert was an apricot tart with a cheese plate and watermelon. Very nice and perfect summer lunch. Thanks Jill and Stuart. My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture!
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Sunday we were invited to another lunch. This time on a different mountain overlooking Lago Trasimeno. It is the biggest lake on the peninsula of the “boot”. We were guests of Oley and Krystyna who live in Colorado. They also have a home in Puerto Rico. They had gotten trapped in Puerto Rico by the Virus and returned here only a month ago. They had to quarantine for two weeks. Also invited were Vera, Graziano, and their two girls.

We had a lovely, very long lunch. Starting at 1:00 and we left at 6:30. They had magnums of Veuve Clicquot champagne to begin. We had chips with guacamole and salsa, Stuffed mushrooms, and a vegetable plate with two dips. We got to chatting about this last thing. Something so common in the US on every party table is totally unknown here in Italy. They are confounded by it. Next we had a fish dish in the Greek style. Then a plate of beautiful stuffed peppers. They were stuffed with ground pork and sausage and rice. The main course was beautiful steaks on the grill with potatoes and salad. Last, profiteroles and a Tokay slightly sweet dessert wine and grappa. We had several lovely red wines from Umbria and Tuscany. We sat outside under a rattan roof surrounded by roses on trellises and watched the clouds pass over the lake across the infinity pool . They have hundreds of lavenders planted and the scent was beautiful. Another little piece of heaven and we had a nice time. Thank you Oley and Krystyna.

This time I did take pictures. The first three are of the view across the lake. The last is the table.

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I’m watching the scary numbers in the US . The virus seems to be exploding! Please stay home and safe everyone 🌈.