The Italian language never fails to surprise – and make me crazy. It makes me realize how descriptive English is. As in it has so many different and nuanced ways to use the language. Here, I have always been frustrated by the words hot and warm. In Italian if it is hot it is caldo, and if it is warm, it is caldo. Even worse the words niece, nephew and grandchild are ALL nipote. I just don’t get that! I wanted to say sibling today, so I looked it up. It was fratello. But , I said to myself, that’s the word for brother! So there is no distinction between brother and sibling. What about the girl siblings? ~~~~~~~~ Now is the season of the red spiders. They are on all flat surfaces by the thousands. They are very small. The sun really brings them out. If you wear socks on the terrace the soles become red with squished spiders. It is impossible not to mash them. This is an annual occurrence. It doesn’t last long. Thankfully!
~~~~~~~~ We just read that Italy will require all new construction, both public buildings and private homes, must include solar panels. I think this is such a good idea. It should be just part of the price of building. ~~~~~~~~ This is also the time of May snow (neve a maggio)! One tree here lets loose its fluffy seed puffs into the air. It is so thick in the air it is just like snow. We are lucky to have installed screens in most of our windows. Italians don’t normally have screens. Our big picture window in the living room has no screen. It tips in so we can let in fresh air. But now we cannot open it. It actually will build up until you are wading through heaps of it on your floors. Below is the river, which has a lot of the fluff build up.
On to one of my favorite foods…asparagus in any form. And now is the season when it is plentiful. Happy days!
I am much better now, after a good nights sleep. I went out to the Saturday market for foraging. It happened again. I was standing, awaiting my turn at a vendor with eggs in a big bowl. I watched as each person ahead of me bought the eggs. When I arrived, there were none. The man said to me ”niente frittata oggi”. No fritatta today. Oh well.
But I did get a bunch of asparagus. I cooked it so it was still crisp and I had it for lunch, with, yes, an egg.
So, I promised I would tell you what I bought myself in Verona. You may have guessed already 🙂 asparagi bianchi. White asparagus. Spargel! Here it is! I bought a smaller bunch when we were recently in Milano in a swanky grocery and I paid – gasp – €23 for it. This was a much larger bunch and only €13. Plus the more desirable thick spears.
As you may know, we lived in Germany for 6 years in the 1990s. Our little dorf was called Worfelden. It was situated in the middle of extensive white asparagus (spargel) fields. We moved there in January, not exactly the growing season, but as time when on we observed some very strange farming methods. The sandy soil was hilled up higher and higher until it stood about knee high, and very smooth. We finally got clued in to the Spargel grown there. It is labor intensive. Harvested by hand. They walked the mounds looking for cracks which indicates a spear breaking through. They cut it off down low in the mound and pull the spear out. Then they re-smooth the soil. The spear must never see sunlight or it will not be white.
Springtime is known as Spargel Zeit in Germany. The vegetable is almost holy, the most revered of all vegetables. There are entire menus built around Spargel. The normal way to cook it is to simmer in water and butter until tender. It must cook for longer than green and has a more earthy, less grassy flavor. It is served with new potatoes and sometimes ham or fish with hollandaise sauce. Here is a picture of a spargel field in the harvest season.
Anyway, maybe you understand my love of the vegetable a little more. I miss it.
Unlike green asparagus, the thicker the better as it must be pealed. The outer part is inedible. I have carried around my peeler especially made for white asparagus all these years.
You just hook it around the spear and go down the stalk and a thin layer is removed.
This was our dinner. It was good.
Buona domenica to all. Our weather is amazing right now but I hear a heat wave is headed our way(!)
This is another Trip Report so skip if you’re not interested!
Wednesday May 11 We decided to go to another city in Italy that we had never visited. Verona, city of lovers. Romeo and Juliet and all that…Shakespeare wrote plays based in Verona but he never visited.
We decided to drive mainly because it’s hard to reach by train. It would take six hours so we decided to drive. This presented its own set of problems because we wanted to be in the old city and parking is hard to find. I found a property with only 5 rooms but it had its own parking garage. It is an old Palazzo right in the Centro Storico.
The drive was about 4 hours. Almost all on superstrade – the big highways with tolls. That is, once we got out of Umbria 🙂 Boring drive. We drove north up the Tiber valley into Tuscany and to the head of the valley where the mountains start. The highway is a real feat of engineering. It is raised on pilings the whole way. Under it, or to the sides, runs the old Roman route, still used for local travel. The mountains are very rocky, old and eroded with barren cliffs. Lots of evidence of past seismic activity. I am sure it is still active. There are also Terme – or thermal spring towns along the way. Old Roman baths and spas are still in use. I wish I knew more about geology and rocks.
We popped out of the mountains and we were in Emilia Romagna, said to be the best food in Italy. Home of Balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Parmesan cheese etc. It is flat, flat, flat and quite industrial but also has acres of fruit trees. Bologna is the biggest and best known city.
We got into the Veneto next, home of Venice. Passing through Padova/Padua and finally we arrived in Verona. By now the landscape had changed into hills and small mountains, Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy is just nearby. And there were grapevines as far as you could see. Valpolicella comes from here, Soave, Prosecco, and one more Lugana.
The city of Verona has a lot of not so pretty suburbs, normal for Italian towns. They do have a good number of parks and green spaces. The Adige river flows through the town and there are numerous bridges. Our GPS took us into the old town, lots of people everywhere, and narrow streets. We found the hotel with only one wrong turn.
Palazzo Monga is beautiful. We were met by Jakub. It is a boutique hotel so there is no front desk always manned by people. We had to give them an arrival time so we would be met. Jakub wore a nice black suit, white shirt, tie, and bright white tennis shoes. His hair, dark, his smile, welcoming and his stubbled chin, perfect. The suite is large with a living room with dining space, big bedroom, large bath and large dressing room. The room has the biggest chandelier in the universe. I can’t figure out how they clean that thing! The ceilings are probably 18-20 feet high. Quite the place. Jakub brought us welcoming Prosecco’s and we left it to him to stow the Giallo Angelo in the car park. We headed out for a walk and look-see. Pretty city. Great shopping. We stopped for a spritz. On our way home we found our restaurant for the first night, Trattoria Pompiere just a few blocks from our hotel.
After showers we headed to dinner which was really fun. The trattoria has been around a long time since the early 1900s. It is known for its meats and cheeses and traditional Veronese dishes. I was looking forward to the asparagus dishes. This is asparagus season and the region grows the famous white asparagus. I have loved what I call Spargel ever since we lived in Germany, many years ago. So I was over the moon with happiness. The white asparagus does not get south of the region.
My appetizer was white asparagus with ham wrapped hard boiled eggs. Quite yummy. And I ordered the Pappardelle with beans. Special to the region beans called Bala Rossa. Luther got the Pappardelle and then Stinco di Maiale. We had a bottle of really nice Valpolicella. I got a scoop of pistacchio gelato and Luther got a grappa, which they told us were on the house. A fun dinner.
Thursday May 12 We sprang for the breakfast this morning. It is ordered a la carte, delivered at the time you specify and you can order as much as you want for the price. Of course we ordered more than we could eat😁 so we have plenty left over for tomorrow. It will work out well.
We headed out for our walking tour of Verona. Luther was our tour guide. We started by going to Piazza Erbe. It was originally a Roman forum. The name erbe means herbs and it was known for various aromatic spices, herbs, coffees etc. imported from Venice where they had come from all over the world. There are many notable buildings and an impressive bell tower. The buildings span varied architecture, Romanesque, Neoclassical and Baroque. I will try to put in the captions below the pictures what they are (If I can remember!)
Behind Piazza Erba was Piazza dei Signori, or Lords Square. This square has a strong connection with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was the setting where Bartolomeo della Scala banished Romeo to exile. Just past this piazza was Arche Scaligeri and the Scaligeri Tombs. Very impressive. I loved the horse and rider atop the church.
Of course we had to see Juiliet’s balcony. It can be a madhouse full of tourists with long lines to get into the small piazza. We lucked out and it wasn’t too bad. Of course, it isn’t really Juliet’s balcony it was only addd in the 20th century for tourists, but thousands come every year to see it.
We walked on down to the main shopping street. along the way was this beautiful bougainvillea on a balcony.
On the shopping street I snapped this door handle on a dress shop.
Next we visited Piazza Bra. The biggest Piazza I’ve ever seen. It is home of the famous Arena di Verona. The arena still has opera and concerts of all types. It holds 15,000 about half of what it held during Roman times. I was a little disappointed that only one part of it is actually from the Roman era. We sat down for a glass of wine and for some good people watching. There were scads of school groups EVERYWHERE today. It is the season for field trips.
Next we crossed the Adige river, clear and fast moving and shallow. There were many what looked to be River Trout easily spotted. We used a medieval bridge called Ponte di Castelvecchio. Pedestrian and made of bricks. Once across we followed a pleasant walking path along the river. There were some very beautiful apartment buildings with pretty apartments with amazing river and old town views. Bet they’d set you back a bit. Crossing back over the river we were just near our hotel.
We went looking for a place for lunch, which was harder than I had anticipated but we found, on a small side street, Osteria “Le Vecete”. It was perfect. We sat outside and had a light lunch with wine. I had Spaghetti with pomodorini, buratta and basil. Luther had the octopus salad with olives, tomatoes and potatoes. Both were very good.
Dinner at L’Oste Scura. All seafood. We decided on trying three oysters on the half shell each. I had some misgivings about ordering them since the last three times I did I got sick. Then we had the mixed seafood crudo and I had Scallops and Luther had Amberjack. The place was lovely. We sat outside and it was warm and low-lit. The service was great.
After dinner we walked back to our street. We passed the below restaurant, super old fashioned looking but very cool. It was completely empty save for a lone waiter. We went to a small bar with tables outside so Luther could smoke a small cigar he bought. A fun evening.
Friday May 13 All good things sometimes come to a premature end. And they did for this trip. I did indeed get sick again during the night. I must have developed an allergy to Oysters. So sad as I did/do love them. They just don’t love me.
In the morning I didn’t feel I was up to sight seeing so we decided to head home early. I am very sorry not to finish our visit in Verona. We had planned to see the churches and then a Roman amphitheater with views of the town and then maybe the modern art museum. But we saw a lot and if you only have one day then our walking tour was perfect. ~~~~~~ I had to take photos of the coolest bidet I have ever seen. It was in our hotel bathroom. Such a good space saving idea. Bathrooms are required to have a bidet in Italy. In your home you must have at least one bidet, in one bathroom.
I did buy myself a souvenir yesterday but you all will have to wait until my next post to see what it is. 🙂
Before the Comune was closed for renovation, all the weddings happened right down below our house. I loved looking at the outfits and watching the festivities. Then it all ended as they closed the building. I missed them…but NOW! They are back. Today I took a few pictures of the wedding below. I love looking at the fashions. It took a little while to figure out who the bride was because she was wearing a denim jacket…Maybe she was cold…but forever after all her wedding photos will show her in her fashionable denim jacket. If you want to see other weddings, including our first same sex wedding, the bride who wore orange because she was a Vespa club member, and the one in the bright red stilettos put weddings in the search field on the right.
And now for the groom. Man-bun and beautifully tailored slim-cut suit. And the shoes! Yes, brilliant white tennis shoes…no socks. It is the fashion here. Tennis shoes, trainers and other casual shoes. Note the red high-tops in this picture below. The happy couple refused to face my direction…sorry!
I love this one. The little girls in their fancy outfits throwing rose petals at the groom.
I am happy to say…the double kiss is back! During Covid I was afraid it was gone forever.
Remember last market day? Last Wednesday? When I got shut out? Well, today was a new day! Asparagus was available in abundance. And I got some! I also got new garlic(!) and the first local strawberries.
One of the things I see most discussed among people who aspire to move to Italy, is Visas. I showcase the different types in my page So You’ve Decided to Move to Italy. The latest news is about Italy’s recent adoption of the Digital Nomad Visa. The final requirements aren’t ironed out but this is my updated write-up of what’s known now.
Digital Nomad: (DNV) At the end of March 2022 Italy passed a bill allowing Digital Nomad visas. This is for highly skilled professionals who will work in Italy for themselves or remotely for a non-Italian company. The Visa will be good for one year with the possibility of extending for one more. As of this writing the requirements have not been firmed up. What I read though, is that the individual consulates will have major discretionary powers, as to whether they issue or don’t issue a DNV. The applications will need to be completely bulletproof like those for the Elective Residency Visa. It may require the official recognition of one’s professional qualifications. An applicant may need to show an advanced degree, proof of operating in the field (probably for several years) for which they want to apply for the DNV, a tax return from their home country, and health insurance. It has already been announced that they will need to be completely tax compliant in Italy, so applicants are advised they should consult a tax expert in Italy, if they want to apply for this visa.
I will update this as I learn more. It seems many people think they can move anywhere with no real limitations. But people should ask themselves, would the US let just anyone in with no limitations or requirements? I think not. And it works the same for all countries. You need to get the proper permissions.
Even after nearly eight years here we also have to continue our responsibility to update/renew our permissions to continue living here. As some of you know, we are working to get our permanent residence permit. We have two new, required documents to obtain that the Questura has asked for. The first one is the Certificato d’abilita’. We had already gotten our apartment assessed by our Geometra last year. We mistakenly thought this was what was needed for the long term permit, but it was not. Turns out the steps to get the certificato were many. First we had to buy a Marca da bollo at the Tabaccharia for €16.00. Then we had to make an appointment at the bank in the Piazza (not our bank) and pay a fee at the teller. Then the form had to be returned to the Comune this time to the Protocol office. They told us we had to get ANOTHER Marca da Bollo, then return to the very first guy who would issue the certificato. I am happy to say, last Friday, we got it! Who says things are hard to get done in Italy! 😁
We are now halfway there! We must wait until June so we can file our taxes for this year. Then we can provide the requested tax form. I sure hope after all this we get the cards! Piano, piano…
As a reward we treated ourselves to the seasons first Spritz!
Since today is the last day of April, I wanted to do a post showcasing a dish from the book “The Tuscan Year”. As you may recall, I have been doing an excerpt from the book each month. The month of April was dedicated to Easter. The traditions are strong. Easter Saturday is the traditional time to plant vegetables. Beans, peas, zucchini, carrots, onions, potatoes, parsley and basil.
When this book was written in the 1980s, the parish priest still visited households to bless the house and family during Holy Week. An ancient tradition. The house was cleaned, top to bottom and the Priest sprinkled holy water into each room. Later the Priest returned for a big lunch after visiting other houses. Blessing is apparently hard work!
The culinary traditions are also strong for the Easter Feast. The Primi, or pasta course is always the celebratory dish, Lasagna. Roasted lamb is always the Secondi. Artichokes, in abundance at this time, were prepared multiple ways as part of the antipasto. I decided to try to make the Carciofi in Umido, stewed artichokes. Lets hope this one has better results than my disastrous frittata in March. 😂 ~~~~~~
Recipe – Carciofi in Umido Four Roman artichokes 50 gr butter 2 cloves of garlic, minced 2 tablespoons minced parsley salt and pepper
Trim the artichokes of the stems and outer leaves. Enlarge the hole at the top, between the leaves. Dice the cold butter, mince garlic and parsley and mix together. Add salt. Place some of this mixture inside each artichoke. Put a very little olive oil and a spoon of water into a pan. Place the artichokes in, leaves facing down. They should fit tightly in the pan so they won’t fall over. cover with greaseproof paper and cover the pan tightly. Steam them gently. They are done when the stem end can easily be pierced with a knife. Serve with a little of the buttery garlic sauce which will have collected in the bottom of the pan.
Today, my lunch is stewed artichokes. They turned out delicious. Just right for a light lunch along with some of the Munster cheese from the French market.
Tomorrow is European Labor day. May Day. A holiday but since it is Sunday not a big thing. Buona domenica, and buona Festa dei Lavoratori!
Today is a beautiful, if cool day. We heard about a little French fest in Città di Castello, this is the next town north of us in the Tiber valley. Luther, myself and our friend Jen decided it would be a fun outing. Off we went in the brilliant sun and blue sky day.
Città di Castello is about twice the size of Umbertide. It has a complete ancient wall enclosing the old Centro Storico. It also has some beautiful towers and buildings.
We park in a free parking lot. It is just outside the walls. There is a crosswalk and a small door through the wall and then escalators up. It is not that far because Città is not a hill town. You come out in a lovely park just next to the Duomo. Then it’s a short walk to the main piazza. All the vendors are French. It was nice to hear French. We first came to a spice and tea vendor. These two are the ones I bought. They smell devine!
We walked. And looked. We were here on the first day of the fair and many stands were not finished setting up. On the good side, there were no crowds. I am sure tomorrow and Sunday will be very crowded. We also bought French soap, mustard from Dijon, and cherry preserves. I bought a new scarf, because a lady can’t have too many scarves!
Suddenly! There were cheeses! Beautiful French cheeses. We used to live in Germany very near France. The Alsace was our favorite place. Lo and behold there was Munster cheese. It must hold the prize for the stinkiest cheese. But it has a lovely mild taste. It has been many years since I had it. I bought half a round of it. and another very pretty cheese. Here’s a picture.
The next stand had a guy behind a plastic partition with multiple ovens and he was producing the most amazing things to eat. I bought a lovely baguette and a seeded bread to go with the cheeses. We bought lunch, I got a baguettino with goat cheese and almonds. Jen got the same. Luther got an individual quiche Lorraine. All very yummy.
It was an excellent outing to enjoy this cool spring day. ~~~~~~~ Today, we also have an apartment viewing at 6 o’clock. We have been working very hard to not open the frig because inside lives the Munster cheese. And honestly, it can permeate the entire house with its pungent aroma in an instant! Could be off putting to potential buyers. 😁
Buono fine di settimana…much easier to say have a good weekend!
A lot of people who retire complain that they can’t keep track of what day it is. Here in Umbertide that is never a problem. Our two weekly markets bracket our week nicely, and give us anchor points on Wednesday and Saturday. The town is very quiet on Monday and Tuesday, but gets more lively from Wednesday onward. Today, being the big, main market, I decided to go out and do a little hunting and gathering. Exiting my front door I am steps from Bar Mary and the Mercato.
There are almost always these musicians playing. They always bring their dog. Today it was some blues and then traditional tunes. They are good, so I always contribute a euro or two.
Here are a few pictures of the produce where I bought my items. The young man is from Cannara, famous for its onions. He used to just have onions and some dried legumes. Now and then he would have another crop. Suddenly, he has everything.
Here are a few of the spring veggies growing around this area now. I’ll put captions under the photos.
I was so disappointed. When I got to this stand there was a bucket with a few handfuls of asparagus. I wanted some and this was the only place I had seen it. There were three ladies ahead of me. The first one bought around 8 spears. Still plenty left. The next one bought half of what was left. But what was still there was enough for me. So, one more lady. She got carrots, onions, lettuce, and was just about to pay, when she took the rest of the asparagi!! 😱 Sigh. Oh well. It is early in its season. I will go out earlier on Saturday. Anyway, I bought two bunches of radishes, four artichokes and some arugula.
Tis the season for planting gardens.
There are always two or three really big stands. They bring much of what they sell from down south, Sicily, Calabria. Sort of like Florida and California produce in winter what people north cannot yet grow. So we are seeing strawberries here now, but not local. Artichokes are here all winter from the south. Apples and oranges are just about done for the season. These stands sell things really cheap. Here are a couple examples.
I strolled back and took these final two pictures. One of the wall and all the plants that manage to dig roots between the stones. And of the old church tower with the four bells that ring for Mass, but also the hours of the day.
Next on my to-do list is buy the plants for my terrace. While we are still trying to sell our apartment I am still going to plant my flowers on the terrace. who knows how long things (like closing and us finding a new place) would take — and that is IF we sell it! Things move veeerrrryyy slowly here. Italian time…piano, piano.
Yesterday, we dumped the last bag of pellets we had bought this winter into our stufa. We declared it officially Spring! We went through around 80 sacks this year at €5.50 each. We know the amount because this year we had most of them delivered and hired people to carry them up to our apartment. The pellet stove keeps our living and dining room nice and warm all winter… and it saves on gas.
I bet most people don’t know that the Italian government regulates when you can start and must end using your heat. Umbria is in Zone E. This zone is second to the longest allowed time (meaning we are second to the coldest region). We are allowed to have the heat on 14 hours a day from October 15 to April 15. They also regulate the temperature. The warmest you can set the thermostat is 20C or 68F. This explains why such a large proportion of the population use wood or pellets as a supplemental (or primary) way to heat.
Just this week Italy announced that this year they will also regulate, and limit, the use of air conditioning, but only in businesses and schools. Italy imports 95% of its gas, and 40% of that comes from Russia. Italy says we will stop importing any gas from Russia within 18 months. Applause! We have two air conditioning units but very rarely use them. Perhaps on the hottest days of August we use it for around three or four hours in the living room since it gets the full afternoon and evening sun. Otherwise, it cools off very quickly in the evening so the windows are open to the night breezes.
We took a nice drive over the weekend. Down through the mountains. I got this castle photo in the town where we ate lunch, Capodacqua.
Yesterday was Liberation day, a big holiday here. 25 Aprile 1945, the end of WWII for the Italians. It’s complicated! In Umbertide is is even more complicated because the very same day but one year earlier in 1944, the Allies dropped 2 bombs on Umbertide while trying to destroy the Tiber river bridge. Seventy-eight citizens were killed and an entire block of houses destroyed and never rebuilt. So it is a bittersweet day here. Anyway, all over Italy one hears the Bella Ciao! song. Here is a still of of our marching band and all the citizens entering the Piazza. Photo borrowed from a video my neighbor Christie got.
Bella Ciao! By a local group – Nuova Brigata Pretolana. A rousing rendition!