Category Archives: Eating

New kitchen – work begins!

Exciting times. I met with Irma, my architect, along with Alessandro and Donatello. Such pretty names for construction men. Donatello is the idraulica, plumber. He will move the pipes and gas. Alessandro will do the demolition. The work begins tomorrow. There is nothing much interesting in these pictures except to document what it looked like before the work started. First The Wall. This will be demolished.

The floors will be jackhammered up and removed. This was a conundrum for Irma. With two floors there already, how can we integrate a third? It had to kind of blend in color-wise, and also not clash with the patterns. It had to be plain. I hope what we finally settled on will look ok.

The place where the kitchen used to be which our sellers removed when they left. That is the caldaia on the left on the wall. A caldaia is a boiler. We have two. This one doesn’t work now. Most houses heat the radiators and the water with these. This means the wall is full of pipes. Water and gas for the heating system upstairs and the water. This makes demolition a bit harder. The pipes will have to be run under the floor and they will install a new caldaia outside.

Pipes.

I boxed up all our books and things and piled everything up on the two couches so they could be covered and sealed against the dust. This is just the one. The guys will roll up the carpet for me.

I don’t know how awful the noise will be yet. If it is too bad we may have to find a place to retreat to in the day time. More for the cats than us. We could always leave but they can’t unless we find a place for us all to go. Jackhammers are loud 😳.

The work will last about two months. The worst should be over in the beginning. They will completely seal the upper floor from the lower meaning to access it we will have to go out and up the elevator or stairs and then in the door upstairs. Not really all that hard. The washer and drier are up there and some plants outside which will need watering.
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I have only one key to the upstairs door. I went out last week to our Ferramenta – hardware store EmporioCasa. They made two keys. They didn’t work. Back this morning. I pointed out the difference in the two keys. He made two more which looked the same to me. They didn’t work 😡 So I went back right away because I need the keys tomorrow. Finally this time they work. Whew.

The Ferramenta is a cool little place, long and skinny with two floors the bottom of which is open to the top floor. Stuff is everywhere! You don’t really browse in here. You ask for what you want. I sometimes take a picture of it and show it to them, which helps. Although the place is a jumble, the father and son and helper know where EVERYTHING is. This is outside sign. The building is right behind the train station.

You really can get just about anything here. Zoom in on these. This first one I wanted to show all the baskets they have up on the ceiling, for hunting mushrooms and truffles.

Two more. They have things seasonally. Now you’ll find heaters and fireplace tools and grates. Also pellets for the stufe. In the olive harvest season, they have rakes, and beaters, nets and the big cans the mill puts the oil in as well as smaller tins for separating it into usable sizes.

We decided to go out for lunch on Sunday, Calagrana was having a Sunday Roast and all the fixings. This is a British tradition every Sunday at all the pubs. It had been a while since we had eaten out. My appetizer was an artichoke, beet and goat cheese insalata (really good). And we had the roast. Which was not beef but lamb and pork belly. Pictures.

Ely seated us at a table next to Americans who live here part time that we had never met. Dale and Mark from Dayton Ohio. They have a house near the Niccone valley. We had a very nice time getting acquainted. They apparently had just met friends of ours a few days before Joanne and Lynne in a cafe in Passignano. There are a lot more of us around here than we know!

So stay tuned for more regular posts about the kitchen renovation. Ciao!

Orecchiette con rapini

Last night I made probably my favorite dish. I could eat this for every pranzo and every cena. If you asked me what I want for my last meal, it would be le orecchiette con rapini 🙂. In the winter, which is when rapini grows, I snap some up to make this pasta whenever I see it. Yesterday I stopped in the Egyptian market next to us and saw some, nice and fresh. I won’t recap how it is made because I have written about it before, but here is the link orecchiette con rapini and a picture of our pasta last night. It is super easy to make.

We have a cold front coming but the last few days have been springlike. Yesterday started rainy, then turned sunny, then partly cloudy, and then, a thunderstorm rolled through. It made an amazing sunset after it passed. And during the storm I went up to the terrazzo and snapped a couple photos of the rainy, winter terrace. Then the sunset.

Buon weekend!

Doings on and around Christmas

I made a big ole batch of my chocolate chip pecan cookies which I make every year. I had a lot more places to take them this year. On Saturday I took them to Angelo, my old friend in Centro near our old apartment. And also to Irene at Bar Mary as I always have. I also took a box to Vera and her family. I just snuck into their building and left it near their door – they weren’t home. Luther and I took one box to each neighbor in our stairwell. We don’t do a lot of socializing with them, we just see them in passing. They are very nice and seemed to be happy to get them. The two little girls across from us made us a lovely thank you card which they hung near our door.

Hand made card from the little girls across the hall, Celeste and Chiara.

We were invited by friends to a Christmas open house on Friday and I took some cookies to them. They live out in the mountains between Umbertide, Pietralungo and Gubbio. Beautiful home and location. It was cozy and we really had a great time. Here is a picture we took on the way home. Amazing views as you run along a high spine of a mountain.

Winter can be beautiful!

Christmas Eve I heard a band playing outside! Who says nothing happens outside the Centro?!

Santa band

I picked up an 8.5 kilo Turkey, which is about 19 lbs on Christmas Eve from Calagrana. It came stuffed with aromatics and stuffing balls cooked on the side. Such a pretty day. Winter in Umbria is upon us. I took a picture.

Niccone valley, all buttoned up for winter.

Christmas Eve we were invited to friends house for dinner in Montone. We walked down to the small square to see the town tree. And a presepe (crèche) on the way back.

Montone tree in the one and only piazza.
Presepe contest in town. People put these nativities outside and townsfolk vote.

There were six for dinner, our Montone friends and an Australian couple who are part time Montone residents. An extra special evening. Delicious food and good conversation. We went outside their home to view their Presepe. I thought it was lovely and a bit spooky. I would vote for it!

When we got home that evening we found this in the hall. A little something for Babbo Natale and his reindeer.

I cooked the Turkey and made mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli and the dressing from Ely on Christmas. Very nice and now I don’t have to cook for a while! I see many turkey sandwiches in our future!

Pre-gravy
Finished gravy
Tacchino was delizioso!

Later we had the very special panettone we pre-order from the bakery in the Centro, pistacchio creme. Amazingly delicious.

Today is also a holiday here. We are taking it easy after our over indulgences of yesterday. Turkey sammiches for lunch! 🥪
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Alla prossima! Nancy 💕

I’m back!

Hi everyone! I guess I have some catching up to do. It has been a busy couple of weeks. I have had a spot of trouble with my website so I held off posting until I could do some cleanup and fix a few problems with the help of a friend (thanks Roger!)

We had a very cold snap which pretty much killed off the remaining plants on the terrace. I built the first fire in the upstairs fireplace and after about four hours it finally warmed up that floor which at present has no heat. I also grilled a whole branzino for our dinner so as not to waste the heat in any way.

Speaking of upstairs things are moving along with the kitchen. I met with Irma, our architect, and we have nailed down all the colors. We also went and met with Nicoletti who will make the cabinets, order the appliances and install everything once the preparation is done. The builder who will do the demolition came to see how we could move the heavy flooring upstairs and the countertops. I have insisted that the counters not have any seams. Both the kitchens I’ve put in here have had seams and this time I was determined they be in one piece. There are two and they will be heavy. So they will use an elevator truck to bring these things up.

We had a lovely pre-season lunch with three of our friends in Spello. We each brought something and it was great fun. We all get along well and the conversation flows. Here is one of the arches in Spello. It is a lovely hill town.

The Christmas tree was delivered to the piazza but this year I didn’t see it delivered as I have done in every other year. So I decided I would put up my own tree which at least brings some festiveness to our house.

We had some company for a couple nights and we did a bit of sightseeing. We picked them up in Foligno and we went so DiFilipo a bio winery near Bevagna. This is our first visit to them since pre-Covid. They have upped their game. They have many more wines now and they have created a nice outside space with tables and chairs — not that we could use it in this weather but they did build a nice fire for us to enjoy inside.

This winery does not use any pesticides. It also doesn’t use any machinery in the vineyards. They use horses to plow and cut the grass between the vines. And they use geese to control the insects. Before going in we went to visit the animals.



We had reserved a tasting and they brought us goodies to enjoy along with 7 wines.

After the tasting we didn’t want lunch so we paid a short visit to Bevagna. They had a small Christmas market. This was L’Immacolata. The immaculate conception. It is a national holiday and the official beginning of the Christmas season. After we returned home we walked into town. It was very cold. We had a drink in Bar Mary and waited for them to light the tree. Right on time – there it was!

Next day was Saturday and we did have a tough time doing anything I had planned. We headed to Assisi. We got there around 10:30 and were turned away by the police as there was no parking left. I had to cancel our lunch reservation. So we decided to visit Perugia. Our guests had not been to either city. Well, we headed to the MiniMetro and found the big Saturday market was there. But we still went to the metro station where we found the place a mob scene. So we decided to just walk through the market and go over to Lago Trasimeno for a walk and lunch.

It was one of the prettiest days ever. Not as cold, in fact it got into the 60s, and it was crystal clear with bright blue skies. Perfect to visit the lake.

We chose Ristorante Il Molo. Known for creative food and a good wine selection. The food was quite creative for sure.

My starter of pasta in brodo with mushrooms
My secondo — fish filet fried crisp with cabbage and mayonnaise

These next are my table mates food and I cannot remember what they all were but everyone like theirs.

Here we are and we had a nice view.

Afterwards we went for a walk around the town. There were quite a few people there but not crowded. Just folks out enjoying a rare warmish sunny day.

Upcoming for us. We planned a trip to England. First one since before Covid. We are glad we got our boosters (first in two years) last week. We leave on Friday and will spend five nights in a National Trust Cottage in a town called Corfe Castle in Devon. We look forward to pub lunches, touring the towns within reach and maybe a walk on the cliffs for which the area is known. We hope there will be some Christmas merry olde England style too! Of course there will be a trip report. 🙂

Thanksgiving!

As I mentioned in the last post we were going to Calagrana. It was coolish but nice and sunny today. Good Thanksgiving weather! We drove Christie and Jane along with ourselves. At table was a great mix of people. There were fourteen of us. The restaurant had two other tables of two and one of four.

It turns out I knew some people either actually or virtually at all the tables. Two were people I was only Facebook friends with Joan and Giovani who I enjoyed meeting. They live in Deruta – the Ceramics town. And Cathy and Sal who we met a few years ago when they viewed our apartment. They ended up buying out in the country in the beautiful valley south of Gubbio. Then there was Tanya, Lisa, Nigel and Michael who are local friends.

At our table were six Italians, one British, and seven Americans. A great mix with me getting to use my Italian because I was near the Italian group. The Italians are all enthusiastic Thanksgiving fans. Especially Fabio 😁. We buy our olive oil from him.

The meal. Ely had made a lovely group of four finger foods. I know there was date wrapped in prosciutto, arancia, and two others I couldn’t identify. I am missing one in my picture because I ate one before remembering to take a picture 🫤

Then came a delicious risotto with zucca and Scamorza cheese. Smoky flavor. Albi is a Milanese and risotto is their special dish. The rice was al dente, it had a very, slight crunch in the mouth. Perfetto!

Then the feast. Turkey with all the trimmings. The bird was 18 kilos or about 40 pounds.

Sweet potatoes

The dessert was a ricotta tart with candied fruit and vanilla gelato. A treat because they don’t often have vanilla here.

Our friend Christie who was one of the couple who bought our previous house can really sing well and she gave us a song. The song was, Put Some Sugar in My Bowl. 🙂 Oh la la.

We arrived at one pm and left at five thirty. A normal Italian pranzo with friends. I thank Susan and Gary for treating us to our meals. Luther and I provided the wine. I thank Ely and Albi and Ristorante Calagrana for the feast! And I am thankful for all the people I can call friends here. Makes me very happy.💕

On our way out, I paused to take this photo of the valley from the restaurant at dusk. The half moon had risen. It was lovely. I hope that all that celebrate it, had a nice Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving week

We are in Thanksgiving week. There are a few other things happening. We have done some doctor stuff. We got our flu shots Tuesday. But we want a Covid booster and our doctor said we need to go to the health department (CUP). Well I asked in the Facebook group for expats here called Umbrialiens and got some interesting insights. I got a link from a friend for online appointments and was surprised that none were nearby. Another friend north of us said the Upper Tiber Valley, where we are, has a shortage of vaccine. Only health care people and over 80 years old can get it. I guess that explains the lack of locations near us. I really don’t understand how our little area doesn’t have vaccines when the rest of our region does. 🤦🏻‍♀️. Mystifying. Anyway, we made an appointment in a town near the lake and will go in December. I know so many people with the virus. I really don’t want to get it, or if I do, I want it to be not terrible.
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I had a lovely coffee with a good friend, Elizabeth today. She is doing well and expecting a lot of guests in the upcoming months. She wrote a book a few years ago about the Upper Tiber Valley called Sustenance which is a wonderful chronicle of the artisanal producers in the valley.
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We had a lovely dinner with our friends Susan and Gary last night. We went to Grace, our nice neighborhood restaurant. Good food. Great to catch up. You may remember they were our first friends here and had the small apartment we stayed in during our first renovation. And another bigger place. They have sold both so they won’t be here often and we miss them a lot. We are simpatico is in all ways. Hard to meet people like this. We did plan a vacation together next year for October. Should be fun. To the Loire. We are compatible travel companions and always have fun together. 🥰 My most interesting dish from dinner was a red cabbage soup. I love the color!

I also met with my architect, Irma, at Nicoletti, the falegname (cabinet maker) who will be making our cabinets. It turned out to be productive but somewhat stressful. The decisions I was making I’ll have to live with for a long time. 😳 I was surprised to see the list of orders for custom made cabinets included the UK and France. It was cheaper for Nicoletti to make them and ship them than to have them made in their own country. I went into the factory part which was a beehive of activity. They can make ANYTHING exactly like you want. Pretty impressive. Anyway, now I’m in the queue. They will make them in January or February and install them in March. Hopefully the first two weeks of March since we will be in the US after that. I don’t really want my house-sitters to have to deal with it! I could always put them off until we return I hope!
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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We will go to Calagrana which will be making the traditional meal. The evolution of Thanksgiving at Calagrana is interesting. Ely being British and Alberto Italian didn’t know much about the feast. About 9 years ago our friends Susan and Gary wanted to have thanksgiving but they couldn’t cook the huge turkey at home. So Susan hired Ely to roast one for her, plus appetizers etc. Ely was up all night roasting the 35 pound bird and talking to her sister in Philadelphia who collaborated. We picked up the turkey and had the feast at Susan and Gary’s house. That was the same for the next year. Then we decided it was easier for us to go to Calagrana than to bring the bird from there to us. Ely and Albi invited us into their home since the restaurant was closed for the winter. That went for a few years. Then, Ely having become an enthusiastic Thanksgiving fan, decided to open the restaurant for the feast to anyone who reserved. So now that’s what we do. Tomorrow we are guests of Susan and Gary and we will be a table of ten I think.

I am thinking that next year, once I’ve got a kitchen, I’ll have a meal at our house maybe for our single friends who would enjoy coming together for the feast. And some of our other new friends. Since Susan and Gary now live in Florence and have sold here I’m not sure how often we will see them.

HAPPY THANKS GIVING. EVERYONE! There will be a post about our meal soon.

Busy week

Mundane things we got done this week. Some good, some not-so-good.
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I forgot to mention that we had a call from our Polizia Municipale on Saturday. They had a citation for us and had to deliver it. We said we were home so he came by to our house with it. (So weird that they do this.) Turns out we were on vacation on our cruise when this infraction occurred so that meant it was our house sitters. They did tell me they went to the Adriatic coast and that is where they got this speeding ticket. Luckily it wasn’t too much over the limit so no need to ask for their drivers license info so we can say who was driving. No points involved. We paid the fine and will wait to see if we get any more to decide whether we will bother with asking them to repay us. Sometimes it’s not worth it.
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Monday we spent 3 hours at the ginormous Perugia hospital waiting — and 15 minutes of that time was for procedures. Ugh. I’m getting an orthoscopia of my sinuses and had to do pre-op tests and an interview with the anesthetist because I will be asleep for the procedure. So that’s done. Now I wait to find out the date for the procedure. I just hope it’s not on Thanksgiving or just before since we are going to Thanksgiving lunch at Calagrana with friends. Here is the waiting room…tick…tick..tick. ⏰

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Tuesday I drove to Sansepolcro in nearby Tuscany for my, much needed, haircut. I love that little city. It’s in the upper Tiber Valley just like we are. They are right up at the end of the valley where the big mountains start. The town has just over 15,000 people so just slightly smaller than Umbertide. It was a gray day and I had a little time so walked a little into town from the gate and took a few pictures. None are very good. The town has all their Christmas lights up already.

V

I may be wrong but it seems like the people in Sansepolcro dress more stylishly than in Umbertide. I think I’m right though. Umbertide is a working class town for the most part and Umbrian to boot. Tuscany is, well, you know, Tuscany, so it is a little more posh. 😁
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Wednesday brought a meeting with my architect, Irma. I think all the details are nailed down now. She and I will go to the Falegname (cabinet maker) Nicoletti here in town who will custom build our cabinets.  I will pick the color then. I’ve already chosen the countertop color and the color for the floor. Still must chose appliances, sink, faucet but that should be it. Today we decided to replace one narrow cabinet with a wine rack. The work won’t start until January which is pretty perfect actually. We will be here. We won’t have any guests. Hopefully it will be done before we go home to the US for the first time in four years in March.  Here’s the plan before. Today we decided on cabinets that lift up rather than open normally. And the narrow cabinet on the left will become a wine rack. 

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Thursday, I worked in the gardens in the morning. I cleaned out and cut back the lavender and a big pink flowering plant that got huge, also the hostas and the ornamental grass I planted. There is still more to do but it’s better now. I also planted all the bulbs that my friend Jill gifted to me. Lots of flowers this spring! Won’t that be something to look forward to?

At a little after eleven I left to meet my bestie, Jen, in Passignano sul Trasimeno for lunch. It’s a pretty lakefront town. I think there are about 8,000 people and it is on the main train line. My friend lives in Foligno and doesn’t like to drive so this worked for us both and I love the lake. Here are some pictures from around town.

Along the lakefront promenade

Pretty park along lake

Along the lakefront promenade

Part of the old castle fortress above the town

Glad these aren’t my stairs

Somebody likes wine

Castle fortress built on a cliff

We ate at Trattoria Pescatore. This place, like most restaurants around the lake, specializes in lake fish. Some of it is regional and specialized like they catch and eat eels, usually made into stew. I’ve had it and it’s actually pretty good. The food is very good. I had risotto with zucca and scamorza. That’s risotto with puréed winter squash and the smoked cheese they make here. Very good and perfect for a one course meal – rich. Jen had the Tuscan soup. It was a bit chilly so the food was quite warming. Here is the restaurant interior, very snug and cozy, and my risotto.

In summer they have a pretty shady garden area. It’s right in the Centro Storico. This photo is the walkway outside covered in vines.

Lago Trasimeno is the fourth largest lake in Italy and the largest on the peninsula. In summer it’s very busy and all along the shores are camp grounds and discos which close in winter. Pretty tacky. In winter the area is quiet and tranquil.

Tomorrow, Friday concludes the week with my Italiano class. It was a productive week!

New soup recipe

I made a new soup which I adapted somewhat from a Washington Post recipe called Caccio e Pepe soup with chickpeas and kale. It was delicious. It was modeled after the pasta dish Caccio e Pepe which is one of the easiest pastas to make, just pasta, parmesan or pecorino cheese and black pepper. Comfort food. This soup was quite rich and very warming.

We also had a really fun, and filling(!) pizza night with Jane and Christie at Degusto. They have two types of crust. One is integrale or whole grain. Pictures of two.

Yesterday was a big day. Since we had managed to open our recalcitrant second garage we could order pellets and wood. In this new house I guess these are the benefits. No way we could store this much in the old apartment and we have this basement garage storage area which has easy access to the elevator. Much easier for us to shift these things here.

So, that’s done and dusted! Of course there is the sinus issue still looming. The dentist had to remove an old crown (with difficulty) and tested the tooth which is viable so they say it can’t be the problem. So next is a pre-op testing regime and I guess I’ll find out about a date for the procedure. I don’t look forward to that but I will look forward to feeling better, for sure!

This weekend is the festival of San Martino. One of my favorites!

Medical stuff

I don’t think I posted about my recurrent sinus infection? I think not. I had an infection back in June. I started at the dentist because I thought the pain was from a tooth. She said I needed to see an Otorinolaringoiatra, or in plain terms a ENT doc. In June he gave me an antibiotic and it made it go away. It came back just before our cruise. It made that a bit difficult and when I came back I started to try to find treatment. I got more antibiotics and a prescription for a CT scan. The antibiotics didn’t work this time. I made an appointment at a diagnostic center in Città di Castello north of us. I got the CT scan (€120). Back to the doc yesterday. He wants yet ANOTHER scan. So tomorrow I go back for a different scan. Then he thinks I need an endoscopy of my nose. Ugh. But I feel really crummy. I want this fixed, if possible.

For those interested in how this works here, all this has been private pay until yesterday. The ENT doc charges €100 for a consult. Fine. That’s not bad. The scans are not expensive. But yesterday, the appointment when I returned with the scan was free. And the endoscopy will also be free under the Italian health system. The way Luther and I do it is pay for the first appointment then normally we get into the system so the treatment is free. This isn’t true for tests like an MRI, radiograph or CT scan. Those you do at a private diagnostic center. But they are cheap compared to US costs.
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One pet peeve I have is the ridiculous waste they have here for medicines. These, in the picture below, are for one month of blood pressure meds for me. I take 2 pills a day. Unlike in the US, where they come in a plastic bottle, here they come in bubble packs and boxes. This seems like an inordinate amount of waste. I don’t know why it is this way.

We had a nice lunch on the weekend. Here are a couple of pictures. First one is on the way. I tried to lighten it but if I did I lost that dramatic sky. So, it is what it is!

It was a nice lunch.

Olive harvest and Etrusco

We have a few loose ends to tie up. We had a nice lunch with new friends who own a house in Centro. I gave them a little help by accepting their Amazon deliveries before they came. We went to Vineria Carmine for lunch. It was a windy day and a little cool but we did sit outside. We also asked if we could see the kitchen since my architect was also the architect here. (There will be a posting soon about my kitchen) Here are a few pictures.


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Yesterday I “harvested” my olives from my little tree 😂 hahaha. I may cure them. There aren’t many, but it would be an exercise!

Speaking of the raccolta – harvest, we are awaiting news from friends who may allow us to help them harvest again this year. It has been very spotty here in Umbria. I know some who had none, but most had some. Our friend Fabio is in the middle of his harvest and says he has less olives but the quality is good. I will buy some oil from him.
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We had friends join us for Pranzo last week. This is how we manage to entertain on the terrace without a kitchen upstairs. We use my little cart and it goes up on the elevator. The next one is the table all set.

It is the weekend. I went to the Saturday market and then Luther and I went to Bosco, a town south of us, to buy beef and pork from our favorite butcher. Their meat is amazing. And they have cuts not seen in normal butchers here. I bought two tomahawk pork chops, one tomahawk steak, their primo hamburger patties, and filet steaks. All this was not all that unusual. We also got skirt steak and flank steak. Neither is found here and I do miss them. They also gave us a regalo, gift, of some interesting looking popsicles…just kidding…they are like pork (or maybe beef) cylinders on sticks to grill. THIS should be FUN!

Popsicles!
Etrusco burger!
Flank steak

Our weather is still fairly nice. We had storms come through yesterday and now it is cooler but not bad. Tomorrow should be fine, so let me wish you all a buona domenica!