Category Archives: Covid

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.

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.

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. 🌈

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. 🙂💕

Be careful everyone. It is not looking good in the United States. 😢. 🌈

Home, and enjoying summer weather!

What lovely, hot weather we are having. It is in the 33-34C range or around 93F. I went out yesterday morning and enjoyed a coffee with a friend at Bar Mary. I’d call her a new friend except we’ve known “about” one another but never had a face to face chiacchierare (chat). Her name is Elizabeth. She wrote a book called Sustenance which I really enjoyed. She just managed to return to Umbria from San Francisco where she has been trapped for months due to Covid. What an ordeal. 22 hour flight with two changes! Only because she has a Permesso di Soggiorno and a medical reason was she able to return. And then she had to quarantine for two weeks. She is just freed. She said she would never leave Italy again! She used her quarantina to plant her garden, which is going gangbusters already, she reported. Anyway, it was lovely to get to know her and I’m sure we will meet again soon.

I went out to the Saturday local market today. Pretty day, a bit cooler with a nice breeze. The early summer produce is abundant now. I got beans, fennel bulbs, zucchini and zucchini blossoms, and lots of tomatoes which I “hope” will be good since it is coming onto the best time for them. I also took a few pictures 🙂

Bar Mary is always busy on market days.
Cafe Centrale too.
There is always this man with his Prosciutto. He cuts it so thin it’s almost transparent.
One of the streets in Centro.

A friend posted these two graphs from Worldometer. Excellent way to see the differences. Pretty scary.

So, there is danger out there, everyone be careful. Safe Fourth of July to you all. I miss that here! 💥 🧨

Our first trip since Lockdown

Sunday, June 28
It was a birthday celebration. The plan was simple. We were driving on our first road trip from our house in Umbria to a hotel on the Mediterranean coast to a town called Castiglione della Pescaia. It would not be a long drive, only 2-3 hours.

We drove the Angelo Giallo for the first time since lockdown. We had taken it to the dealer for it’s annual servicing and it had a coolant leak. So we were all set. We left at 1:30 and drove from our house to Siena on the decent four lane road and then went south and slightly west to our destination. A pretty and interesting route.

We arrived at about 5pm, just after our friends Susan and Gary. It was Susan’s birthday trip and Luthers birthday is July 5 so kind of a piggyback. Hotel L’Andana is a few kilometers from the coast. From certain parts of the property you can see the sea. It is over 500 acres of land. They have hundreds of olive trees, all regimented and perfectly shaved. They look like they have all had the exact same flat-top haircut.

This is the driveway and gate. It was 900 meters long.
Maremmana cattle. Amazing horns. Nearly went extinct. Mussolini drained the swamps where they were adapted to live and work.
Our room. Great AC!

The next two are pictures of the property.

We rested and changed for dinner at the hotel. They have two restaurants, only one of which was open. The more casual of the two. Nice spot outdoors. Lots of spacing between tables. Everyone wore a mask. Unfortunately for me my main course was inedible. Grilled octopus on mashed potatoes. The octopus was a Goodyear retread tire. Almost impossible to chew. I rarely have an experience like this, and never in Italy. So I sent it back and got chicken. Susan and Gary got the Branzino cooked in a pouch which they loved. So, it was a mixed result. I might also mention, this restaurant was EXPENSIVE. 

Monday, Susan’s birthday. And today was to be her day. Beautiful sunny weather but would be hot. We had breakfast outside under the trees. Near our dinner spot from last night. They’ve got loads of help here, so service was great. Not always experienced, but always someone there. I had scrambled eggs. There was a big buffet but they had to serve us. Buffets aren’t allowed since Covid. Luther had smoked salmon. There were croissants and bread and butter, yogurt, freshly squeezed OJ. Eggs, any way. Just fine.

Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.
Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.

We left after breakfast and headed for the beach. Castiglione della Pescaia is the pretty town nearby. We drove through, turned towards the beach and ended at a dead end. Finally extricated ourselves and headed down the main highway that parallels the coast. We drove through a big park. It was a huge forest of umbrella pines. Quite amazing. Campgrounds were in and among the trees. At the end, I saw there was a town called Marina di Grosseto. I peered down the first road we came to and I saw umbrellas and a big parking area under the pines. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth we parked and walked to the beach. Tre Stelle, a little Bagno, or beach restaurant with its own umbrellas out front. We rented two, and four chairs and even finagled towels. The beach was beautiful. Maybe 40% full. Lots of empty chairs. And all the umbrellas were well spaced with at least six feet between them. Felt very safe. Nice breeze. Susan got her birthday wish to sit on the beach, go in the water. I did too but since I had no suit I got my pants good and wet but didn’t swim. The water was a perfect temperature.

Our beach.
Our beach.
Our beach.

After a few hours enjoying the beauty. We headed back to Castiglione della Pescaia. We had reservations at Bagno Tito. Right on the beach. We found a free on-street parking place and walked to the beach. Just 3 blocks. It was a really nice little beachy place. We sat under umbrellas on the beach. The food was good enough. Not great but fine. We had nice local wine. A nice breeze. What else could you wish for.

Lunch. Bagno Tito.
The view from our table, right on the beach.
Luther got Alici…fresh anchovies. Cracked pink pepper cornes perked it up.

We visited the local Coop grocery store where we bought food for a picnic in the room. Then, back to the hotel for showers and a nap. The picnic was fun. Nice conversation. Later, Luther and I sat outside while he smoked a cigar. I listened to the night noises. Owls maybe? Or small creatures? Horses neighing. Long soft sunset like we get during the longest days of summer. 

Tuesday — We met for breakfast at nine. More scrambled eggs with salmon. A good breakfast. We had to get out by ten because we had an appointment to taste Bolgheri wines an hour away, up the coast. A place called Fornacelle.  As always it was a wild goose chase to find it but we persevered and with the help of google maps finally found it. These wineries are all on the flat lowland between the beach and the bluff rising to the mountains. And the area is networked with little one lane roads. 

Our hostess, Sylvia, was a member of the family which owned the winery. A small operation. She showed us the cellaring room with the oak barrels. And an art installation along with art upstairs in a gallery. They use this on their labels. We finally settled on a pretty patio outside to taste. We had a 100% Vermentino Zizzolo white, a 100% Semillion white (aged in oak), a Rosso Zizzolo blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These two are named for a small fruit tree which produces an apple-like fruit. They had a tree next to the patio. Next we tried a Red made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. And finally a 100% Cabernet Franc called Erminia. This last one was a beautiful wine. My favorite. She brought crostade with their good oil. A very fun tasting which lasted longer than expected. We had a second appointment but couldn’t keep it and make our lunch reservation.

The cellar.
Zizzolo tree and fruit.

Next few are of the patio where we tasted the wine and some of the wine bottles we tried.

Off we went to Agriristoro La Cesarina. Another exciting adventure in tiny one lane roads, eventually going up the bluff to the top where the restaurant was situated. What a view. Small, casual, place. Obviously their home as we interrupted their lunch. The whole family was there. Turns out Nonna was the cook. Very traditional Tuscan cuisine. But all good. We had antipasto for all four of us plates of meats with melon, cheeses with figs and fig jam. Bruschette – red pepper and liver. All good. Then we had main courses. All the choices were very long cooked meats. A roast pork with carmelized onions. Roast cinghiale, roast beef. Everyone liked theirs. The wines were Bolgheri wines and good.

La Cesarina dining area.
La Cesarina dining area.
The view.
After lunch digestivo. Anise and something else I couldn’t place.

Driving home was another hoot. Up and down the mountains through the valleys. But we got home in time for Susan’s conference call.  
We again gathered for snacks. Watermelon, a little cheese was left and some mortadella.

I rose a bit early and tried to sit outside but the humidity has risen and there are millions of gnats and tiny bugs. So I had to retreat. I did take a shot of the long morning shadows which I thought was pretty.

We breakfasted and got on the road. Home in 2 hours 10 minutes.

Impressions for our first trip. Restaurants were generally doing well with good distancing. Bagno Tito, the beach restaurant had no paper towels. That was bad because after you wash your hands you don’t want to touch handles etc. All other places had immaculate and fully equipped bathrooms. The hotel was very nice, clean and had great beds and linen. No worries there. The two beaches were sparsely populated and all umbrellas and chairs widely spaced. Unless in the great out of doors, everyone wears masks. So I’d give Italy an A.

During the trip we saw 2 German tags, 3 Swiss, 1 UK, 2 Monaco, 1 Lichtenstein, 1 Netherlands, and one Austrian. Every other tag was Italian, so Italians far out numbered everyone else, very few crossing the borders.

I see things aren’t going so well in the US. The EU decided not to let travelers from the US into Europe. The benchmark scientific metric used was new cases over the past two weeks per 100,000 people. The average among the 27 European Union countries was 16 in mid-June; in the United States, it was 107.
Please everyone, wear your masks when not in open countryside. It would slow the virus to a crawl and the economy could come back without drastic shutdowns. It’s really not hard…I hate the masks, but I wear them.🌈

Great numbers!

I read that there were just 224 cases and 24 deaths for the ENTIRE COUNTRY OF ITALY on Saturday! Amazing. And happy-making.💕

In the Guardian…
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control — modeled on the U.S. CDC — has given European countries a pat on the back last week.

“Decreasing trends in disease incidence are observed and sustained” in almost all EU countries, the European health agency’s latest threat assessment declared. While no one knows exactly which types of social distancing measures are best, or just how intense they need to be, the ECDC said, “such measures appear to have been associated, at least temporarily, with decreases in the number of newly reported cases.”

All good news for Europe. 👍

I busied myself this morning with repairing and washing our mask collection. The blue ones had horrible elastic which frayed and broke. I ordered new elastic on amazon and I finally received it. I replaced all the straps with the new elastic. And I replaced the shoestring ties I had on the ones I made a while ago. I also finally found some material from which I can make a few new masks. This I will attempt this afternoon 🙂

A sign of our times!

Beautiful sunset

Friday morning…such a pretty day. My poor flowers have been beaten about face by the relentless rain we’ve been having. During our lockdown, everyday was perfect. Dry and warm and sunny. Soon as they let us out, the heavens opened. I’m hoping things will dry out so the flowers can recover.

The weekend looks to be nice. Saturday, of course, is our local mercato. And Sunday is our anniversary. I remember last year which was our 50th. This year, it’s just us and I think we are having Pranzo at San Giorgio. 

Last night we had a beautiful sunset. Check it out!

This was an interesting comparison. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions…and don’t say it’s because of more testing… that is an overused convenient excuse.

I’m sorry for the loss of all the good work the US did by locking down. Of course there were some states that didn’t do that… I still really don’t  want anyone coming to Italy to ruin all the hard work we did. That includes the potential  U.K visitors. They also don’t have this under control. Two travelers from the U.K. to New Zealand tested positive there. And New Zealand was virus free.😢

I know the Italians really DO want the tourists back. Friends of ours in Florence said they went to a restaurant and the proprietor heard them speaking English. He got very excited to have American tourists back! Sorry, they had to tell him, they lived there. So the Italians want the Americans back…they’ve just got to get that pandemic thing under control.

Stay safe everyone! 🌈 

Umbria numbers

I am happy to report that the numbers in Umbria are holding very steady. Since I stopped posting the daily numbers three weeks ago, there have been 6 new infections, and 2 deaths.

As of yesterday, June 15, we have entered Phase 3 here Italy. This means that; Cinemas and theaters will be allowed to re-open from June 15th. With a limit of 200 people. Amateur contact sports, including team sports, are allowed from June 25th. Nightclubs – either indoors or outdoors – will be authorized from July 14th.

But many of Italy’s regional authorities have brought in their own rules on reopenings which could be different from the national rules.

The decree confirms obligatory quarantine for visitors arriving in Italy will continue, except for those entering from the EU and members to the passport-free Schengen zone.

Social distancing and face mask requirements will be the same. You must wear them in enclosed public spaces. Schools will not open until September.
One thing that has gone by the wayside is any semblance of spontaneity when traveling. We are planning a road trip in two weeks. Normally, Luther and I would toss the suitcase in the car and off we’d go. We’d see a likely trattoria beside the road or a cute village where a nice place to eat is likely, and we would stop for lunch. No more. Now, I’ve got to know what time we will leave, so I can calculate where we will be at lunchtime. Then figure out what is nearby, find a restaurant, determine if they are open (many did not reopen) and then obtain a reservation, which are now mandatory. When en route, you can’t just stop if you see anything interesting along the way because it will impact your progress, perhaps making you miss your lunch! A sad thing. Alternative would be to pack a picnic 😁. Might be easier.

Market day. Today, I was in search of cheap cotton clothing to make masks from. I found out those house dresses the old Italian women wear are not cotton, but some sort of nylon material. Wouldn’t breath. BUT, I found the cutest pair of capri pants.😍 All cotton, nice waist with a really well made sleeving for the elastic. They have drawstrings. I brought them home and tried them on and they fit nicely. I love them so much I must go back next week to get more! Thing is there is no guarantee any will be left. They had lots of colors and patterns. Hope they still have them next week.

Otherwise, I did my errands. Dropped by the farmacia. And shopped and bought in Libri ai Cani. Books for Dogs. They have been doing well since re-opening. Good for the rescues they support. Of course I bought some produce. It looked very nice.

Pictures below are the non-food part of the market. It has been dispersed in a larger area so the tents are not too close. But the competition could be fierce for the bargains! This first table had nice things for €3 — anything on the table. 

Til next time…stay safe miei amici 🌈

Covid 19 – Phase 2.1 – Day 9

230,158 positives in Italy. Up JUST 0.1% – 32,877 total deaths since beginning of the outbreak.

There are 1,430 positive cases in Umbria. 75 total deaths. Same as yesterday.

1,654,683 cases in the US – 97,974 deaths.
martedì –  Today I am announcing that I will stop my daily posts. It was quite the marathon! I posted everyday for 83 days. I want to say, it was a huge benefit for me to write this account. It kept me busy, and grounded, and mostly upbeat. It made me very aware of what was happening around me and in our world. I have a foot in two countries and I care deeply about what is happening in both. To be able to keep a journal of sorts was a privilege, especially during the worst of the crisis here in Italy, an early epicenter. I wanted to give my friends in other countries, who were behind Italy in the curve of the disease, an insight into life under complete and very strict lockdown. It was an unprecedented event — 60 million people, locked down tight, but then, a global pandemic is an event that, thankfully doesn’t happen often.

I am extremely proud of what we, in Italy, have achieved. By hanging together we have flattened the curve and have controlled this virus as best as it can be controlled. We have had two stages of loosening and life is returning to, not normal, but a new normal. I feel this journal has run its course and done what I had hoped it would do. I appreciate all the comments and kind words from those who followed along on my journey.  It was super gratifying to me to know that you found it useful.

Stay tuned for future posts…just not every day! We all have to live with this pandemic for a long time. I hope things continue to improve for Italy, or at least stay steady. For the US, I am still very worried. I don’t feel the virus is under control whatsoever.  I urge everyone to use your judgement when going about your lives. You know what that means. 🌈
Someone asked me what is Feriano after I posted the photos yesterday. I should have explained that. It is the name of a property owned by friends of ours. It is high on a mountain with magnificent views. It has an ancient chapel as part of the house. The Church / house is named for the locality/crossroad, Feriano. Originally, the Church was called Chiesa di San Lorenzo di Feriano. Here are two more pictures.

Covid 19 – Phase 2.1 – Day 8

229,858 positives in Italy. Up 0.2% – 32,785 total deaths since beginning of the outbreak.

There are 1,430 positive cases in Umbria. 75 total deaths.

1,643,499 cases in the US – 97,722 deaths.
Lunedì –  Memorial Day in the USA. It is a beautiful day here in Umbria. No clouds in sight. A bit cool but I like that. 
In honor of today, here is a picture of the Florence American Cemetery. Covering 70 acres on the outskirts of Florence, there are 4,401 military dead buried on the grounds. Most of them died in the fighting after the capture of Rome in June 1944. According to the Cemetery and Memorial’s website, those buried here make up an astonishing 39 percent of the fallen Fifth Army members originally buried between Rome and the Alps. In addition to the tombstones, visitors can also contemplate the 1,409 names inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing. Whenever a solider is recovered or identified, a bronze rosette is added to their name. I must add this to my list of “must visit” in Italy.

Last night I decided on a real American springtime dinner. I fried chicken (!) and I had some beautiful small new potatoes and our first spring peas. Simple and perfect. The potatoes had hardly any skin, it was so thin as to be non existent. Luther shelled the peas. I just made both the potatoes and the peas simply served with butter. I love spring with these super fresh local veggies .
From my “cousin” Tom and Carole’s beautiful Feriano.

Enjoy Memorial Day. Remembering today.🌈

Covid 29 – Phase 2.1 – Day 7

229,327 positives in Italy. Up 0.3% – 32,735 total deaths since beginning of the outbreak.

There are 1,430 positive cases in Umbria. 74 total deaths.

1,613,476 cases in the US – 96,662 deaths.
Domenica – pretty-ish day today. A little overcast. We will drive out to Calagrana In a few minutes to pick up our meals. 

While out and about yesterday it felt like old times. Only real difference is the masks. At least everyone wears them. And the one-at-a-time rule for stores and businesses. We are happy to see the businesses back. Last night the youngsters were partying like there was no tomorrow. Hope this doesn’t cause too big of a spike. 

As of June 3 Italy is open again to cross border travel from other EU countries. Not the US though. We, who are here, can travel freely within Italy. There is plenty to see that we haven’t yet seen.  I was talking to a friend who mentioned she hadn’t realized how much of her time was spent traveling, researching and planning travel, anticipating travel, etc. For myself, I am trying to make some day trip plans. But I am having trouble getting started. Why? This is my question…I don’t know. I just can’t seem to take that first step. Luther has a significant birthday in July I need to plan something for that. He wants to go to the beach town with 2 really good restaurants. Not sure I’m up for that yet.

We had our big trip planned for Germany end of July and first part of August. We had found pet/house sitters for this trip from Nova Scotia. They had taken a year off and were traveling Europe. A mix of Airbnbs, working holidays, house sitting etc. Started in Portugal. Then went to, and through Spain. Got locked down in the Dordogne in France. Finally just got loose. They are supposed to head to another part of France and then Italy. I don’t know whether our trip will happen so we will have to let them know as soon as we do. I’m sure they can find a place to stay in Italy cheaply. But they had also hinted they wouldn’t be coming anyway, so we will see.
As promised yesterday…photos…Here is Rocky. Studying the water…

Rocky. Toe in the water.

Finally, drinking the water.

The olives are amazing this year! This means a huge harvest may be coming this November. I will be ready to go the distance and help. Look at the flowers! Now, I’m told only 3 or 4 olives come from each cluster, but this still means a LOT of olives.

Poppies along the road to Calagrana. 🥰

Buona domenica a tutti! 🌈 Stay safe!