Author Archives: Nancy Hampton

New kitchen comes next week!

This week, other than getting the pre-op testing for my intervento next Thursday, has been all about the new kitchen. I have visited the falegname (cabinetmaker) twice. First to double check the color they painted the cabinets, and today I viewed my absolutely spettacolo isola (island). The cabinets are painted a very light sage color. The island, the shelves behind the counter and the wine rack will be wood.

The island is enormous. It is not wide because of the room we had, but it is long. It will be a beautiful piece of furniture. Here is a picture of the working side. The side that faces the cabinets on the wall. There are two deep drawers. One has an inside smaller drawer for cutlery and tools. There is a big space for trash cans because we have many due to recycling. And a smaller side cabinet with shelves.

This next one is the front side facing out into the room. It will have shelves for books and things.

This is the interior drawer for cutlery and tools. You pull the big drawer out and the smaller drawer is spring loaded to pop out inside.

Picking the color for the wood was really hard. I liked the lighter color, but thought the darker one was better for the whole kitchen and the room. I hope it looks ok!

Nicoletti is the name of the faligname. They are very busy. Known all over Europe they make cabinets and furniture for people in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK among others. The quality can’t be beat. Every single piece is fully hand made. I was told they cannot fill the positions they have open for craftsmen. They advertise all over Europe. They offer competitive salaries and don’t even require experience. They will train the new people in the trade. Seems, with the high unemployment here this would be a very attractive deal. But they still can’t fill the spots. This is a shot of the big working area. I watched them cutting the wood for the island on Tuesday with that big table saw. Cool.

A la prossima!

Pasquetta – little Easter !

We are home in time for the Easter festivities. We have the misfortune to have a cyclone that is carrying Saharan dust high into the atmosphere and the sky is a murky mess. Cars and surfaces are coated with sand. The weak sun tries but it’s too much for it. This dust is spreading all over Europe even up into Germany.


Today was Pasquetta. It is traditional that the Italians make a picnic and enjoy the outdoors. It was horrible and murky to start with. You couldn’t see any distance really. Then we had a good steady rain all afternoon. It washed all the murk away! We enjoyed a fine lunch at Calagrana with good friends. Four courses plus a cocktail and snack. Many dishes had spring veggies like sweet fresh peas and fava beans. Delicious. This photo is after the storm but it doesn’t do justice to the brilliant red we had.

I went to the Otorino last week (ENT doctor) for a private consult. I have a bad infection, no doubt. He gave me antibiotics and nose spray and scheduled the operation. He is at a private hospital. Private hospitals are required to take some public patients so we checked availability and it would be September (!) before I could go in on the public system. So Luther and I opted to pay for it. TBH it isn’t that expensive. €2,500 all tolled. Includes one overnight and the operation and follow up if needed. I am pretty miserable and would love to feel better after over six months of this. I will report on the experience.

Ciao! 🌸🌸🌸

We’re home

We had an uneventful trip home. I hate those overnight flights. I did get a couple hours of sleep. Below is all that we did and accomplished on this trip. Oddly, everything I planned worked out perfect. I am not used to that! This would never happen in Italy.

Happily we had wonderful house cat sitters. Leah Wiedemar is an accomplished artist. She painted a lot of small paintings while here. You can look her up online and Facebook to see them. She surprised us with an oil painting of our boyz, Simba and Rocky. It’s amazing!

The first thing that was new on this trip, and I wasn’t sure how it would workout, was the new-to-us hotel in Fiumicino. The ISA Residence. I mentioned it before in my first post. It was cheap at €60 a night. Big, clean and no frills room. The parking was the big draw for us. We drove there and they parked our car in an underground garage for the 12 days we were gone. We paid €5 a day minus a small discount and we had a private driver to and from the airport for only €29. The drivers were super punctual and a pleasure. I highly recommend this place for people who live in Italy and want to leave a car.

Getting through TSA, passport control and customs was a piece of cake on both ends. The flight to the U.S. arrived one hour early. The return was half an hour early. The flight crews were all super nice and accommodating but we were flying business class so it was expected. My food on my return was actually delicious – spicy chicken cooked in coconut milk with Udon noodles. It had a nice spicy kick. I was astounded. Here’s a picture.

I had a window pod on the way back so I had fun looking out the window. The first image is the Chesapeake bay bridge. We have driven over it many times. The other two the alps.

First view of Alps below
A little later

Our rental house in Old Town Alexandria was very comfy and well appointed. Also great location walkable to a ton of restaurants, breakfast places, the waterfront, etc. My sister and her husband stayed with us for three nights at the beginning. They also came to pick up a big piece of antique furniture I had brought back from Germany.


All the myriad plans for emptying the storage facility went perfectly. My very helpful nearby cousin helped me with getting rid of the big furniture. I only brought a rocking chair gifted to me by a now deceased old friend. Luther and I unpacked everything and then the shippers showed up and repacked everything. We shipped 16 boxes and the rocking chair. That happened Monday. I managed to give away the big display towers I had on Freecycle. We donated my Wedgewood China and other things to Goodwill and gave my Kitchenaid mixer to a friend, and finally the NOVAJunk people showed up on Friday on schedule to take all the left over trash. Voila. Many moving parts that all worked. 😳 If one thing had gone wrong I may not have succeeded.

Once we were finally done we had time to see family. We had dinner with Luther’s brother, Mike and his wife Anne one night. Then we had a great get together with all the rest of the family on Saturday. Mike & Anne, their daughter Rachel and husband Alex, and second child Dave and his wife Shira and their two children. I had not met my grand nephew and grand niece. We were missing Sarah, their youngest who lives in a far away land…California. We missed you Sarah!

Check out this other small painting gifted to me by our artist housesitter. The Saturday Umbertide market. I adore it!

Now we are back to the land of €4.00 pizza margheritas. Returning from the land of $19.00 pizza margheritas. Above, my homecoming gift! Beautiful flower that I was gifted by friends last year. It decided to bloom. 💕 Ciao everyone. Thanks for going along on this most productive, but tiring trip! Now to deal with the jet lag!

Impressions

We have made a lot of progress. The shipment has been picked up. We dropped off a goodwill donation and something a friend wanted and finished the grocery shopping yesterday morning. The trash left was grabbed by the Junk pickup people today. This is a photo of what we are shipping to Italy. 16 boxes and one rocking chair.

Looks like junk, I know, but it is MY junk!

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We have been here for ten days so far. We have shopped for food, interacted with lots of people, and eaten out several times. So far these are my impressions after being away for five years in no particular order.

Everything here is about speed and convenience. There is take out everywhere, or delivery services. Everything is fast and efficient. The groceries are full of already made food or dinner kits or ready to cook produce and marinated meats. The produce looks nice. The variety is pretty incredible. There is a much bigger emphasis on foods for people who have food intolerances. Whole aisles dedicated to them. The service is copious and friendly. The size of the stores is incredible. Italy is not about speed and convenience. Italy does have the Iper Mercati which are just about as big, and they also DO have prepared foods. Just not in the quantities as here. They do have some foods for people with intolerances but a LOT less and a lot smaller selection. The service in Italy is nearly nonexistent.

Going out to eat is eye-wateringly expensive. The servers are incredibly annoying. They are crazy cheerful and seem to want to be my best friend. At the beginning of every meal they seem to feel the need to recite the entire menu (like I can’t read) along with telling me their personal favorites (do I care?) trying to encourage me to buy many courses, and selling the expensive items. Wines are triple or quadruple the retail prices.

All prices are staggeringly high for everything. It is a stark difference between the U.S. and Italy. I do not notice a lot of inflation in Italy. Prices are very reasonable for food, wine, going out to eat.

The culture is much younger in the US.

Drug commercials! Argh!

We haven’t had a decent cup of coffee since we came. The rental house has only a drip coffee maker so the coffee tends to be very weak. Espresso is steamed as opposed to drip so there can be no real comparison. But here, even the espresso is wimpy.

The rental house was built in the 1800s and is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath right in Old Town. It even has parking! It is walkable to everything. This is not the norm for the US since most people live in the suburbs. We lived in Old town for 16 years and chose it for its walkability.

Forced air heat 😳. I had totally forgotten about this. The whirring of the fans all the time. Garbage disposal that grinds up food! And no recycling. All are differences from Italy.

Our rental car has automatic protections against car jacking. Hmmmm.

I have had some of my favorite things to eat while here. I had a crab cake sandwich (not great). I had a lobster roll (great). Seared scallops were also great. Luther and my sister had raw oysters. None of these are seen in our part of Italy. Seared scallops.

So a job well done by us. The unit is empty. My goal has been accomplished. Hooray! A big sigh of relief all around!

Off to the USA

To start off with we have house/cat sitters. They were picked up from one of the Perugia stations. Leah & John from Florida. We had a day to show them the ropes.

On Tuesday we left Umbertide for Fiumicino to a new hotel with parking. We said farewell to our house and cat sitters. I hope they have fun and good weather. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and mild temperatures for our drive to Fiumicino. It has been so long since we did this drive. On the way we stopped for panini at the Autogrill. They sure have it all over the rest stops in the U.S. Here is a pic of my panino.

We found the ISA Residence hotel. It sits in a nice, upscale neighborhood. It is new to us and we chose it because it had long term parking. We spent the night there and took the shuttle to the airport the next morning

We also had a good dinner at the seafood place called Altavela. We chose it because of the reviews and also because we could walk there. The people were super nice. We would go back if we ever stay at the ISA again. My spaghetti con vongole veraci.

We checked in on Wednesday morning at the United airlines counter for our trip. There sure are a lot of things you have to do to check in nowadays. We spent some time in the comfortable lounge for United airlines. Almost makes up for the service on board.

The flight was uneventful and arrived an hour early. We rented our car and drove through rush hour traffic to our rented house in our previous town, Old Town Alexandria, VA. We are not used to the traffic here. In my previous working life I did the drive we did yesterday every day to and from work. It was horrible but I listened to books to make it tolerable.

We went to the mega Wegmans in Alexandria for something for dinner and some wine (of course), then headed to our house. It is quite nice.

Thursday. First, a serious shopping trip for provisions. A few observations. There is a brand new Wegmans here in Old Town. An amazing store. So much is prepared foods, kits, dinners ready to heat, even veggies already sliced, baguettes whole but if you’re too lazy to cut into slices you can buy it sliced. It is all about convenience it seems. I guess I get it. People are busy.  They have regular stuff too. Paper products and things you need other than fancy food. They also have the coolest thing I’ve seen. Hard to describe but it’s a gadget that grabs your shopping cart and it goes down next to the escalator you’re on and at the bottom you just pick it up. Pretty amazing! Oh! And they bag your groceries for you!! …and you don’t have to weigh your produce like in Italy.

My sister arrived around lunchtime. We walked about 20 minutes down to the new waterfront development since we moved which I had heard about. Very changed from our time here. We had lunch on a pier. It was an amazing 77 degrees. Why not take advantage?

Friday we spent several hours sorting through the storage. There were several goals. One, find the art work. Two, find the shelves for the tall display stands so I could give them away. Three, find the china. Four, unpack the furniture which I was giving away. Five, find my Kitchenaid mixer which will be given away.

My cousin, Brack, who lives nearby was a lifesaver. He had a friend with an antique store and he took my library table and two chairs. Brack took a lap desk that belonged to my Dad. My sister took the painted, antique German shrank (wardrobe). So the only large thing left was the display towers.

We sorted through the boxes and found all the things we needed to find and made a big pile of trash. Turns out my two oriental carpets didn’t like being in storage for ten years and were completely ruined. Sad to say as they were fine pieces.

We went out for a walkabout yesterday, we visited my sisters old apartment and our old home. We looked at all the new development and we decided to go to Hanks Oyster Bar in a new location near where we used to live. It was a pleasant lunch in their rooftop bar.

For dinner we hit nearby Vermillion last night. It was expensive but good enough. The prices are pretty eye watering for wine and the tips (which we are not used to) add so much to the cost of a meal. They need to get rid of the tipping culture. Delicious beets four ways. Very yummy.

I am going to sign off for now but will post more about the shipping etc soon.

Doings

Time to do an update on doings in Umbertide. Normal every day errands like grocery shopping can be more interesting here. This day I was shopping with a Monk, he had a jacket over his robes but still had his sandals plus a warm wool hat. I saw he was perusing the toilet paper…because even a Monk needs toilet paper I guess.

We also ordered another pallet of pellets for our stufa. While I was standing next to the checkout window I noticed this ad for poultry. You get 10 one day old chicks if you buy a 20 kg bag of feed.

Sunday, friends who have moved away were back and we were invited to join them for lunch at Calagrana. Of course we accepted and were so happy to be a part of the looooong table of about 20. I knew nearly everyone there so it was like a big family event. Much fun and good food.

All my gifted bulbs are coming up. I don’t know what these are but they are the earliest bloomers. Such a pretty deep purple. I cut back all the ferns and I could see the furry fiddleheads all curled up ready to grow. I weeded all my beds (Jill 😁). Those weeds just keep coming back but they look good now. And I added four bags of soil to the bed with the olive tree which had a lot of settling and I could see the olive tree roots. I hope it is happier now. I did all the final preparations for spring in the gardens. Brushing off my hands for a job well done!

I ordered some tomato seeds from a website with hundreds of heirloom varieties. And I bought some trays to start the seedlings. I haven’t ever tried this before. I always just bought plants. I wanted some different varieties and they just don’t have a lot of variety of types here. We shall see if this was a lesson in futility!

I have been very busy up on the terrace this week other than the gardens since we had a really nice day yesterday. Mostly we have had a lot of rain just about every day. After the construction, of which much took place outside, the surfaces were covered in cement dust.

Then I scrubbed all the pavers on the floor of the terrazzo. You could hardly see the color of them through the dust. I’m sure there is still dust there but they are much better. I also washed off all the chairs which were filthy and the table top and all counter surfaces and around the fireplace and oven. What a mess. And a lot of work. I still have another half of it to do but it may need to wait a bit.

The reason for the wait is an upcoming trip next week. What exotic place will we be visiting this time, you ask? Well it is the United States. Yep. We have not been back for five years. So it truly will be an “exotic” place. I think we may be in for culture shock.

It is not a “for fun” trip. We are finally going to empty our storage facility which has become quite expensive. Much work. It is important that I am successful but I’m feeling pretty good about it now.

My local cousin has a friend who will take my antiques. Sadly no one in our family wanted them and I don’t want to ship them. I have some new stuff which I will give away for free on the FreeCycle network. What I want to keep will be shipped over with an international shipper. They will help with inventory and valuation. A person can ship their own household goods over here duty free for one year. Obviously I am far beyond this time so I have to play customs duty of 34% of the value. It kind of stinks I have to do this with my own used stuff. I will need to look into every box and be sure I want to send. The cost of shipping plus duty makes me want to limit the amounts. Thing is, I left my favorite things there. I assumed I’d move back. It is the biggest mistake I made when we moved here to keep it in storage. Things I don’t want will be donated and finally I’ve got an appointment with NOVA Junk to come pick up all that is left.

I am bringing some really big suitcases. I will put some things into them like my paintings and art that I own (that will fit) and also all my Christmas ornaments. I will wrap well in bubble wrap and hope for the best! I also have silverware. I’m thinking of bringing that in my carry-on. I read the TSA webpage and it “should” be allowed but as we all know, the TSA agent makes the decisions. Makes me nervous. I will also, naturally, be doing a shopping trip for some things I use here. Stuff that is expensive or not of the quality I like, or just can’t be found here. OTC drugs, vitamins, aluminum foil, hominy, canned hot peppers, chili powder, chocolate chips, pecans. Not much really.

I will be pretty busy and a little stressed (ya think?) but I will feel much better when I am done. I have not made any plans for social things during this time because I don’t know my schedule. I am sorry I won’t be able to see my friends. We will see family who live nearby for a meal sometime.

I will be writing about my impressions of the U.S. I know I am in for sticker shock big time. But I am also very interested to see what things I notice, that make an impression with my new eyes. It should be interesting. Stay tuned! 📺

New kitchen – post 9

Today they pretty much finished the space which will now wait for the cabinets and appliances. There are some covers that need to be made to go over the electric and plumbing. But the walls and ceiling are done and have been painted. The floor is laid and grouted and the terrace has been rid of all the trash and built up detritus. There is still a ton of dust that needs to be cleaned up but I will do that a little at a time. I can finally access the upstairs internally again. I am pleased with it.

From the door to the stairwell.
From the stairs
From the terrazzo

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Over the weekend we had lunch to celebrate our friend Doug’s successful passing of the extremely difficult written driving test. I’ve spoken of this before. The test is in Italian, technical Italian, and draws 30 questions from over 7,000 possible questions. You can miss 3 and pass. All Americans, and Canadians (I think) must take this test within a year of becoming a resident in Italy. After a year it is illegal to drive on your US license. I’ve got lots of friends here and every one of them has passed despite not necessarily being fluent in Italian. It takes months of study, you must enroll in a driving school and really it is a matter of memorization. Anyway, it was a special day for Doug and five of us had lunch in Bevagna. It was sunny but chilly. First picture is of an early flowering tree in front of one of Bevagna’s gates.

Lunch was at le Delizie del Borgo which is situated just outside the walls of the city in a pretty park. Captions beneath the photos.

Steak with fennel and pomegranate
Passito – after lunch drink
Doug’s dessert. No idea what it was but it looked great!
They have cute coffee cups with hats! Keeps the coffee nice and hot.

Then, we lucked into (not) another parade past our house. I was just taking a nap and was roused by the pounding bass from enormous speakers. I have no idea what the occasion was but I took one photo.

You can’t say Umbertide is not a happenin’ place!

New kitchen – post 8

Here it is Friday already. We had a four day kitchen workweek. Thursday they didn’t come. They needed to let the plaster and concrete dry. We went up to check it out this afternoon after they left. It was a horrible weather day. Really high winds and torrential rains. I was surprised they worked because they cut the floor outside. The flooring is neutral and the color doesn’t clash with either of the other two floors it touches. I think that is the best we could do and it defines the space. The photos are darker because of the clouds outside.

From stairs
From the door into the upper floor from outside. Closest room is the office
From terrace.

So next steps are the grouting between the floor panels and painting the walls and ceiling. The carpenter comes Monday. I think he will be building the boxes to cover the plumbing for the caldaia and the electric breakers in the terrace side wall.
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Tomorrow we are going out for lunch! We are meeting our friends Steve and Roselyne and Doug in Bevagna. The occasion is to celebrate our friend Doug’s success in passing the written test for the Italian drivers license. It is the single hardest thing an American immigrant has to accomplish to live here. And he passed! Definitely a cause for celebration. Hoping the weather will be nicer tomorrow!

New kitchen – post 7

Today was the eighth day of work. The ceiling and walls were sanded and they put plaster on them so they actually look like walls now. They also leveled and smoothed the floor. They told me the new floor would be installed tomorrow or day after. That will make a big difference as well.

The electrician came back today as well because for some reason he only had one wire in the ceiling above the island when we need three – two for lights and one for the hood. So now they are there.

Stay tuned for the floor!