Category Archives: everyday life in Umbria

More musings

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?
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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!

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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.
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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.

May in Umbria is interesting. 💕

Weddings are Back!

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.

A little fun on this Saturday. 😁

Carciofi in Umido

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. 😂
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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.

Local Roman artichokes.
Leaves separated for stuffing.
Stuffed with butter and garlic.
Smallest pot I have.

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!

Morning at the Mercato

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.

Bar Mary is always busy on Wednesday. People meet friends to catch up.

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.

This is agretti. Also called Monks beard. Grows abundantly in central Italy and is a delicacy.
These radishes are the sweetest I ever had. Sometimes they can be hot. These are not.
Local carciofi are just coming in season.

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.

Onion sets
Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, etc. etc.

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.

One Euro fifty for 2.2 pounds
Ten artichokes for €5.00

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.

Buona serata a tutti!

Officially declaring spring is here!

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!

https://fb.watch/cDwDrvf2wU/

Catching up…

It’s been a while…so to do some recap. We have been working on the Certificato d’abilita’ and I will report back once we have gotten it. I visited the Saturday mercado which was pretty sparse. The vendors who came had very limited produce because we are at the changing seasons. One vendor, who wasn’t there yesterday, had sweet radishes last week (I know, an oxymoron but it this case true ) and also local asparagus, so I was hoping for that. I was sorry he wasn’t there.. I settled for local potatoes, onions, lettuce and spring onions.

After my shopping we had a meet up with friends who live in Foligno. We hadn’t seen each other since pre-Covid…about four years. We met up at Ristorante UNE for lunch. I posted about this restaurant recently. It did not disappoint. Here are pictures of our lunch.

Gifts from the chef
Pancake stuffed with cheese and topped with grape jelly
Trumpet mushroom with white truffles and sour cream
Local artisanal beans with smoked eel from Trasimeno lake – amazing
Lamb with cauliflower two ways
Dessert – pain perdu with gelato.

Today I made a soup. It is cold and very windy outside. It feels like soup weather. Soon, it won’t be soup weather anymore. The soup is made from a legume native to central Italy, so it is not something a person can make elsewhere. The legume is Cicercchie. I posted about it previously. It must be soaked and rinsed for 24 hours because it has neurotoxins. They are not dangerous if not eaten everyday. If you visit Italy keep an eye out for some.They are delicious. Here is the previous post.

My soup today is super easy. Cook a chopped onion until soft. Add water or stock and soaked and drained (several times) Cicercchie legumes plus 3 peeled and cut into chunks potatoes, salt and a sprig of rosemary. Cook 1+ hours until the soup is thickened. Adjust salt, add plenty of ground pepper. Serve with parsley, good olive oil and cheese if desired. So good, and healthy too.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Long term Permesso – the saga continues

In Italy, there is a word they use often, ”Lo stress”. Yes, it means exactly what it sounds like – The Stress. Today, we are dealing with lo stress of dealing with the Italian bureaucracy once again.

If you’ve been reading this journal for a while you know of what I speak. For those who don’t know — a short recap. When you move to Italy, after you get your Visa, the first thing you need to do is apply for your Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay – PdS). It should be done within eight days of your arrival. I won’t go into details of how you get one but suffice it to say it takes time, several appointments, and money. In Umbria, one must apply to renew it every year before it expires. The process can take a year and then you begin again. The light at the end of the tunnel is the possibility, after five years continual residence, of getting the Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (ex carta di soggiorno) – elective residence. This is a permanent long term permit to stay. Need I say this is a coveted thing?

We will have lived here eight years in June. We are past due for this card. Covid interfered with us pursuing this. We tried last year but two documents were expired. So this year, we try again. Today was our appointment at the Questura. We expected to find out if we would be getting the Card. I bet, no matter how thorough you try to be when you apply, they will find something that you missed. Today, we found out the two things that we are missing.

One item is a document from our Comune which attests to the fact that our house meets the standards for two people to live here. We had our Geometra do the assessment and we included this in the packet, apparently, they need this other form. We visited the Ufficio Technico where we found out what to bring to get this document. Fifteen minutes later we returned with said papers and the office was locked. We checked the hours. They were supposed to be open. Sigh. Happens all the time. We will try again tomorrow. Comically, I can look right into this office from my Living Room window!

The second item is a 2022 tax form certifying our income from 2021. We contacted our commercialista – she said the form does not exist until June. And that the 2021 form is in force. Sigh. I think we should just take the email we got and the form for last year back to the Questura. Luther says he will call them.

To be honest, I think this is not too bad. It looks like we will, eventually, have these two items. The only issue is when…and whether, in the meantime, those two time sensitive forms will expire — again. It is always something!
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Let’s talk about something more fun. I am a notoriously poor baker. But I threw caution to the wind and decided to make a quiche for dinner last night. First hurdle was making the crust. I tried a recipe I had and miracle of miracles, it came out perfect! Then I used another recipe for quiche I but substituted the vegetables, using some things I got at the market yesterday. I used leeks, mushrooms and broccoli rabe. It called for cheddar cheese but that’s very hard to come by around here. So I used the cheese most common here, pecorino fresca. I added an extra egg and a little more cream because the eggs here are not graded by size. No such thing as extra large eggs. These were fresh eggs from local chickens. Anyway, the quiche came out perfect and it tasted great. I served it with a green salad…a perfect dinner.

It was a near thing!

I think everyone reading this knows our apartment is for sale here in Umbria. [Listing] Not that this is new. We listed it about 3 years ago. Things move slowly here during normal times, but two years of this listing time has been severely Covid affected. We essentially lost two years of any possible activity. Now that things are loosening up and people are again out and about and traveling, we are seeing an uptick in interest. I feel certain we will sell this year.

So, anyway, last week we had some folks come look. British expats, they had just sold their big country house here where they had lived for 28 years. I could tell it was hard for them to have given it up. They wanted a smaller ”bolt-hole” as the Brits call it. A place where they could still return to their beloved Umbria, but without the upkeep. A place they could lock and leave. I could tell they really liked our casa. They wasted no time, we got an offer on Sunday. It was a bit low so we countered with what we thought was a reasonable price. Then silence. Finally I wrote the agent to enquire. Turns out, in the meantime, they had had second thoughts. They had wanted to replace their beloved Casa Anna. Buying our apartment would have been like getting married on the rebound. I totally get it. It was probably too soon.

At any rate, the possibility of it happening kind of lit a fire under us for a couple of days, contemplating where we would go – with some panic on my part, I don’t mind saying. The nice thing about the offer was the people were very flexible on the closing date. It would have given us the time we need to find someplace. Anyway, we did some looking during those two days and have a few possibilities. We will definitely start recon in earnest of places we might like to move.

Lunch with Archie yesterday at Calagrana to celebrate the birthday of a friend.

Upcoming trip, Permesso di soggiorno lungo periodo

We are having beautiful weather. Yesterday, Luther and I went for a walk. It was the first day of warmish weather after a long cold spell. It seemed like everyone in town was out for the evening passeggiata. We chose the river walk. The Tiber river and Umbertide, behind its walls.

Today, we finally turned in our paperwork for the Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo – elective residence…second try. We will see if we’re missing anything this time. Last time 2 of our documents were expired. Our Questura appointments are April 14. Once, in the past this first appointment was six months out. That meant it took almost a year to get our new Permessi from application to receiving the card. By then we had to start the renewal process for the next one! We are glad that was a one time thing. We have no idea why. 75 pages of documentation…And €176 each in stamps and fees…EACH.

UPCOMING TRIP REPORT!!
Tomorrow we are going on our first trip since last summer. Long time. Short time and distance. We will take the train to Milano for three nights and explore the city.

Ciao for now!