Category Archives: Cars

Beautiful Friday!

We had a free Friday for a change. Normally we have our Italian lessons but our teacher went on holiday to the beach. Where else? To Italians the beach is the only place to go in summer. I’m asked constantly by Italians in my town, “when are you going to the beach?” I usually say a date and they nod happily.

With our Friday freedom, we decided to go for a drive. From Umbertide we headed towards Montone and then took that road east towards Pietralunga. A nice town but we passed it by and headed into the big Apennine mountains. This is the spine of Italy. It runs all the way down the peninsula. They are a formidable border between the western parts of Italy and the Adriatic coast. Most of the roads through these mountains follow river valleys cut deeply into the earth. These roads are very old. They were used by the Umbras and the Romans for thousands of years. We didn’t stop along the way so I only got a couple car shots. Sorry.

Pianella

Our chosen end point, where we would turn south and head homeward was Cagli in the Marche region. Before today I didn’t know of it. It was just on the way. What a nice town it is. Walled and gated. Several churches and towers. Notable history since the sixth century. Once a woolen, silk and hide tanning city. Quite prosperous. But then the Papal state took it over and they had to adhere to the rules of Le Marche. They were told to grow cereals. But the soil was poor and the yield, low. So the town went into decline. Later they built a railroad from Fano to Fabriano to Rome. So the town again prospered. Then the Nazis destroyed the rail line. It took until nearly the present day for them to recover. They have and they have several very interesting sounding festivals annually. One is an international gathering of people celebrating charcuterie – the area is famous for it.

All together it was a couple hour drive and we have decided to go back to Cagli soon and this time stop and visit…and maybe lunch!

Once back home I started laundry. First the colors! Sorry, I just thought it was a pretty picture 🙂

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Let’s talk about Italy and what’s happening here. Almost all restrictions have been lifted. Only wearing of masks inside of buildings is still mandated. I note most people continue to wear them outside too. It has gotten to be uncomfortable to NOT have one on.

There are ominous rumblings however. Today I read that last week, for the first time in 10 weeks, the virus has increased – by 10% across Europe. Opening up wide so fast may be contributing to this…also the prevalence of the Delta variant. We must take into account the fact that 63% of Europeans are still waiting for their first dose. So the continent is not protected. I don’t know what this means for the future of travel here. Will they lockdown again? It is what makes travel in these times so difficult. One never knows what to expect or what new edict will come out, or when.

As of July 1st the EU has unveiled the “green pass”. It will allow travel across the regions. It is an app which has a QR code which has your vaccination, immunity or testing information. It will be mandatory for entry into sports venues, museums or to travel between countries. We still await our second shot so we don’t have one yet. We are scheduled to get the shots July 13. Then just two weeks wait for full immunity.

This all said, our region, Umbria, has very good numbers…and the daily new case numbers continue to drop. All good for us I guess.
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Buon fine settimana a tutti!

Where is May!!?

I’m getting tired of this cold wet weather. May is usually so reliably nice. But not this year. Last weekend up to Monday was nice. Then the cold damp came roaring back for the rest of the week.

Big news! Finally. After almost two weeks. We managed to get into our garage! Whoo hoo! Things always take longer that you expect here in Italia…one gets used to it… Now we can take the Angelo Giallo out for a spin. (Note to self…get a second door key)

We still aren’t doing very much interesting so I’ve not been writing too much lately. We did go out to nice dinner with friends at San Giorgio this week. It was fun and good to get to know our new friends. I had Bottoni…a pasta dish. Means buttons. 🙂 descriptive as are so many pasta names.

While I was waiting to pick up my Tikka masala on Takeaway Thursday. I took this pretty shot of the Lido – the park by the river. Once it actually had cabanas and people went there to go swimming, go dancing and sun bathe.

This is now….

This was then… so very different from now. Dancing and partying. You can find this same vibe today along Lago Trasimeno. In summertime it is disco dancing and partying non-stop. Lots of Italian tourists. Nowadays you will see women…I note there are none in these pictures except the dancers.

1939 cabanas in the Lido
1934 Pommerigio festivo alla piattaforma
1934 when the Tiber was clean…It is not dirty now…but I suspect there was a time when it was…

Today, the Saturday Market. I picked up some coriander plants at the Books For Dogs/Libri per i Cani special plant sale. Then we met some good friends at Bar Mary for drinks. They just arrived home from the US this week. They have a home in Montone and are residents of Italy so can come here with no problem. We were interested to hear their experiences for their trip home. They said many people trying to travel without citizenship, residence or an acceptable, essential reason were turned away by the airline in the US.

This man, nicely dressed with his “man purse”, on his bicycle had a 3 liter container of vin sfuso from the wine booth. Looked like a nice rosato. You can just see it in his left hand. Wish I’d gotten a better view! It was classic!

Italiano phrase for today. “Ho messo in ordine tutti i libri” — in English — “I tidied up all the books”. Pronounced…oh mays-so in or-dee-nay toot-tea ee lee-brie.
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Get vaccinated everyone, if you can. Here in Italy it is slow…but in the US everyone now is eligible — so please, do it for the greater good…and thank you 🌈!

Catching up

We took a drive Monday up to Arezzo in Tuscany. We visited a big grocery there that we like. We drove the Porsche which hasn’t been driven since January. The trip takes around 40 minutes. It was nice to see new scenery for a change. And to stock the larder with food.

Over the weekend we were awakened at 5am by our resident Hoopoe. Our bedroom window was wide open and he perched on the clothes line just outside where he proceeded to sing his (loud) two note song which is the origin his name, they say. Oddly, just last week I opened a bottle of wine which had a glass stopper rather than a cork. I noticed something painted on it. It was a Hoopoe! It seems every time I turn around I’m reminded of this cool bird.

Saturday local market was cheerful. We still have mostly winter vegetables. But I saw asparagus today. Also, everyone has piles of fresh eggs. The chickens lay more eggs in the spring apparently.

Plant booth had some pretty plants but I was going to take a trip up the hill outside of town to the big greenhouse so I just admired his flowers.

I’m happy to see both of the bars are welcoming folks.

San Giorgio, the restaurant across the piazza from us. They are happily serving lunch and dinner again.

I went out to the nursery just outside of town. I bought petunias and a bunch of herbs. I still need the sweet alyssum I normally plant and couldn’t find. I guess it will become a quest! This is the view up to Civitella Ranieri, the castle that hosts fellows in the art world. They were empty last year so I hope all goes well this year. Isn’t the sky pretty and the winter wheat so green!!

Spur of the moment we decided to have lunch at Patrick’s Enoteca. I’ve missed it. The “clown” train passing on the tracks across from Patrick’s.

Lunch.

So that was my week. Oh, except I locked the key to the door of our garage inside the garage. So now we can’t get to the car! And we were going for a ride today. Oh well. We are trying to figure out how to get in! This was the very thing I reminded myself never, ever to do…and I did it 🙄
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Italiano phrase…”era un bellissimo sabato”. In English “it was a beautiful Saturday”. Pronounced — era une bell-ees-see-mo sah-bah-toe.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Smokey lentil stew with potatoes and leeks

My friend in Virginia sent a recipe for this stew that is from the NY Times. I am a big lentil fan and even though I make soups with lentils often I thought this one sounded a bit different.

And how! It was it different. The key ingredient is the smoked paprika. It adds a big smokey taste. I made it today for lunch and we both loved it. I will make it again as a dinner meal and add some sausage. It is a perfect winter-time stew.

I made quite a few changes to the Times recipe. First off, I simplified things. For instance they used three (!) pots to make it…I reduced that to two. I didn’t put the onion in with the cooking lentils but added it in with the leeks. I totally took out the saffron. It was such a small amount in a huge and highly spiced stew. You never could’ve tasted it and besides, it is an expensive ingredient. Waste. I sautéed the spices in with the leeks and in the oil to bring out their flavor. Anyway it was a hit with us! I put the recipe in the recipes in the top menu bar. Tap the title twice if it doesn’t come up with only one tap.

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We’ve also gotten some much needed errands finished. Every January we have to renew our enrollment in the National Health. It involves obtaining a stamped and signed statement from the Social Security office in the American Embassy in Rome. I wrote in early December and received the statements. We had to call the health department for an appointment this year because of Covid, and that was on Monday at 9AM. Before we went though, I had to copy all of our cards and documents. That included our expired Tessere di Sanitaria, our Codice Fiscale, our Permessi di Soggiorno, our Carta d’Identita, our passports, make an extra copy of the social security statement, convert the amount to Euro and then compute the amount we owe for the year and print that out. Whew. At the appointment we met with Laura. Once our nemesis, she either has gotten used to us or she has mellowed. So she isn’t quite as scary as she used to be. She took all the papers and checked our calculations and sent us off to the Poste to pay for the coverage. There were about 8 people ahead of us in line where we all waited outside. Did I say it was frigid? Well, it was. Finally we got that done and returned to give Laura the receipt. She had everything done and we signed multiple times and – tada! We were finito. Of course they would only give it to us until April because we are STILL waiting for our new Permessi from the Questura. Seven months and counting. When we get it we visit Laura again and get the Tessere extended…to June. Which is when our NEW cards expire AGAIN and then in June I am sure we will have to go and get them extended to the end of the year…eyeroll. We pay for the whole year in January. They know we are getting our Permessi, so why not give us the card for the year? So much less work for us AND them!

Today, we took the VeeDub to the shop to get its oil changed and get its every other year inspection renewed. We will pick it up tomorrow. So the beginning of the year errands are sorting themselves out slowly.
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A friend asked me to include a sentence in Italian with pronunciation with my blogs. So I am starting that today. Here goes! “Abbiamo fatto le nostre commissioni!” It means “We have done our errands”. Pronounced abbey-yamo faht-toe lay noh-stray com-miss-see-oh-nee 🙂
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene! 🌈

Buona domenica!

Sunday in Umbertide. Hard to stop posting when it has become part of my life! But at least I don’t feel like I must, which takes the pressure off. 🙂

I went up to Calagrana to pick up the food I ordered. It is kind of gray but I’ve never seen so many motorcycles and bicycles out as I saw today! On my way I saw this cool little car. It was in perfect condition and I love it’s drop top.

Calagrana was all set up for its first lunch since the shut down. It looked beautiful. Ely was very nervous and hoped all the guests would abide by the rules.

When I got back to town they were having the mass. But it was outside. Excellent idea.

Hope everyone is staying safe. With the loosening of everything it feels dangerous to me. I am just waiting for the spike. 😢

Puppy rescue!

Yesterday was an exciting day. I helped a group of FaceBook people in the UmbriAliens group find someone to raise two little puppies that had been discarded. They were found in a plastic bag hung on a tree limb. There were six, so young their eyes are not open and they still have their umbilical stubs. There were six. Now there are two. Four died. People don’t neuter their dogs here and when there are resulting puppies their solution is to kill or discard them. The good news is that these two are now going to be hand raised by my friend Angela here in Umbertide. The person who had been caring for them (Sarah) drove them all the way from south of Rome to Umbertide. Several others involved came along to see the babies and watch them find their new temporary home. No one is sure of the breed but the think they may be pit bulls. Which is good news for them because pit bulls are rare in Italy which will make them adoptable. There is one boy, and one girl. Pictures from Sarah.

Other happenings in Umbertide recently included a vintage car show. I had no idea they were all outside in the Piazza until I happened to glance out. These weren’t all exotic types. Many were ordinary cars of their time. Here they are.

All lined up and driving out. I always wonder where they go. Maybe to another town?

I really am ready for the spring produce to start coming into season. This time of the year there is very little new growing  yet. I’m sure seedlings are being nurtured but they aren’t in our local market yet. Just the same old boring winter veggies. I love them but I’m ready for something new. I always visit the Saturday Kilometer Zero market – our local growers and producers. This time in hopes there might just be something new. Not yet…alas. But the sun was shining and everyone was in a good mood so I snapped a few photos. Still waiting for spring…

Curly kale. Green and purple.

Cabbage and leeks. The leeks are sweet. I poached some in butter the other day which were delicious.

Dried grains are always around. Ceci beans, Cannellini beans, lentils, etc.

Umbrian olive oil – the best!

Specialty of central Italy, Porchetta. Whole boned pig stuffed with herbs and roasted overnight for about 12 hours. Addictively good.

Umbria is the land of Pecorino cheese from sheeps milk. And ONLY Pecorino cheese. The good thing is they make it in many ways, from fresh and soft, semi-hard, aged, and flavored. It is good but sometimes I miss the variety.

And everyone is starting to think about planting spring flowers. So far I’m holding off.

Senore Honey was there with all his products. Honeys from different types of flowers. I bought chestnut honey and was very surprised at the strong flavor. Not sure I like it. He also has bees wax candles and other things.

 

So, you decided to move to Italy…

I just put up a page, accessible from the top navigation, with a summary of information about moving and living in Italy. It is called “So you’ve decided to move to Italy”. I will constantly update it with things I learn that I think will be useful. Go to the page here.

August trip down the shore…

We had two birthdays to celebrate back in June and July but found we were too busy to go anywhere. We wanted to go to Senigallia which is on the Adriatic coast. There is a wonderful seafood restaurant just perfect for a celebration. SO we decided to celebrate late and I made reservations for August 10th for an overnight.

I had not really been to this coast and was excited to go to the shore. We really needed more than a day though. We drove through the very rugged and magnificent Appenine mountains, the tallest of which run like a spine through Le Marche. There has been a road through there for thousands of years winding along the river that cut the gorge. Now there is another road which is under construction. They have to drill many tunnels. You can see them along the way, half completed. It took just about an hour and a half to get to our destination. Traffic was pretty light. I was not sure what to expect given that this is August and the sea is where everyone goes.

We arrived at the town and drove to our hotel which was the Terrazza Marconi. It was situated right on the beach in the best position. We checked in and went to their little seaside cafe for a light lunch. Each hotel has a little piece of the beach where they have restaurants, cafes and their umbrellas. It is free for guests. We were surprised at how uncrowded it was. They had just finished a week long feste so that may have had something to do with it. After lunch we walked along the promenade and watched all the people playing all sorts of games like volleyball, basketball, something like soccer played using heads, knees, chests to hit the ball over the net like volleyball (just no hands) and other games.

That evening we went to Madonnina del Pescatore. It is rated a one star by Michelin. Lovely place with minimalist decor. We opted for the 8 course tasting menu called Vicino alla Tradizione. Here is a run-down of our courses. No pictures. Thought it may be tacky. First (and not counted among the courses) was a parmesan cheese ice cream sandwich. It was a square of frozen parmesan ice cream between thin, cheesy crackers. Good but rich. The other courses were: A plate featuring anchovies; cold anchovy soup, and featured three other ways. Then thin sliced seared tuna with a mayonnaise. Next Octopus salad. Then salt cod salad with panzanella and balsamic vinegar. Then a very light lasagna filled with shrimp (we think). Then a sort of soup with shellfish. Finally dessert which was strawberries with a meringue top, coconut and lime. The final dessert was kind of precious. They brought little plastic maps of the world with the volcanic areas in red. They brought tiny chocolate balls with flavors for that part of the world. I can’t remember them all but the mexico one was with chili powder, Italy was with basil, Japan had wasabi in it. There were others. They brought out a gigantic cotton candy cake for the birthday people. We all pulled off chunks. It was a lovely dinner.

The following day we had breakfast on the 5th floor roof. What a wonderful view. The breakfast was spectacular. Here are pictures. The beach stops at a breakwater nearby. A couple of people  told me they must have hired Germans to do these umbrellas. It DOES seem somewhat non-Italian!
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This is the most famous sight, a beautiful pavilion.
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This is the view from the roof down the other direction which is the main part of the beach.
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We went out and sat on the chairs under the umbrellas for an hour or so before leaving. We all really liked the hotel although the rooms were VERY small. The lady at the desk said to contact them directly and they would give us a sea view room with balcony next time. So I will be sure to do that. There is an old city that we did not even begin to explore. It was established in the 4th century BC on the river Misa. A friend told us when we go back we should search out the digestivi that they are famous for in Sinigallia called Trinchetto. Sold in the tiny sweet shop on the main shopping street near the river gate.

On the way out of town we were amazed to see this car –>
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Blast from the past! I wonder how they afford to drive it. Must have gotten 12 miles to the gallon and a gallon of gas here is about $7.00! Ouch!

What transpired…

On the way out of the train station, I tripped and fell flat hitting my chin on the platform. Ouch! I did cut my chin which proceeded to bleed for several hours and my jaw and teeth were badly shaken, knees bruised. Just lovely!

Well when we got to the dealer the car was sitting right where we had parked it. They hadn’t done a thing. Long story short, the very rude service manager curtly told us they couldn’t even look at it for five days. So we left. The tire was holding air. We were nervous but what could we do? We drove five hours and made it OK. Not a very comfortable trip.

Luther got on the phone while I drove and lit some fires under the Italian Porsche roadside assistance people. Finally getting someone who said they could repatriate the car – I guess that means they’d tow it back. And give us a rental. But by then it was too late. Maybe they should have done that sooner. Oh well.

So now we are in Bled Slovenia, our last stop. It is a very beautiful place among pretty mountains with a lovely lake, island, 1,000 year old castle and small village. Our hotel is called Blec Hotel Garni. It is extremely alpine with lots of wood and flowers everywhere. We have a nice, big room with balcony. A little worn at the edges maybe but very comfortable. Here is our balcony and the view from it.
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We took a walk down into the village which is very small. There are a few restaurants and shops. Luther got a couple of bottles of room wine. We sat at an outside terrace beside the lake for a glass of wine and to enjoy the view. This is the village church.
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This is the island and lake. I am sure I’ll get better pictures tomorrow.
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We had a very nice dinner at the sister hotel called Pensione Blec. They have very fine dining on the lawn, weather permitting. It was very good. I had black risotto with octopus and a lamb confit. Luther had a cheese and meat plate and mixed grill.

I am OH so happy to see the backside of Hungary. I found the Hungarians less than friendly. If you asked me now I would say I will never return.

Today we plan a walk around the lake. It is about 6km. I should get some pretty pictures.

Calagrana has reopened!

Today is Sunday, clear and cold with pretty blue skies. Susan and Gary told us that Calagrana, one of our favorite restaurants has reopened after being closed for much of the winter. Alberto, the chef and co-owner with his wife Ely, had taken a catering gig in Wales to make some extra money since winter is so slow here. He’s back and cooking! So today we went for lunch.

There was one table there when we arrived and one table set for fourteen! We were urged to order before they showed up, which we did. Alberto out-did himself. One of the menu choices was little plates for antipasti. There were probably ten different things. Each coast 4.50 Euro. We each ordered two or three. Then most of us ordered the roast chicken. Here are pictures to make your mouth water.

Susan ordered polenta with roasted tomatoes and little cakes made from chickpeas with a dipping sauce.DSC03841

I had little roasted onions filled with onion and gorgonzola and goat cheese with sprouts on roasted beets. DSC03842

Luther had baked cod cakes, vitello tonato, and something he can’t remember but liked.DSC03843

Our roasted chickens.DSC03844

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While we were eating another guest informed us that we had a puncture in our tyre. That’s British for a flat. Something to look forward to. Here are the valentines day cupcakes Ely made. So pretty!
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We walked out and I snapped a picture of the stone guest house and views. This is an Agriturismo as well as a spectacular restaurant. It is a working farm as well. It has beautiful rooms and in summer is a dream! Go to their website to see more Calagrana. Susan and I agreed that the Niccone valley, where Calagrana is, is the prettiest valley in Italy. Even in the dead of winter.

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Now for the fun bit. Fixing the flat. New car to Gary. It, like most cars has no spare. It had the little kit that you squirt something in and then plug a pump into the cigarette lighter and pump it up. It worked well and wasn’t too hard. Fortunately we were in a beautiful place, in the warm sun, and not on a busy highway.

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When we got back home the Piazza was filled with little kids in costumes throwing confetti at each other. From upstairs I watched some of the events and plays for the kids I guess. Another puzzling Italian thing.

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