I don’t know if I mentioned my ”pond” which I am building? I had an itty bitty pond back in our home in Virginia, here is a picture.
It is in shade but the itty bitty pond is just under the rocks and there is a trickle of water you can see in the sun.
So, I am going to try to recreate my small water feature here. I have already dug the hole and lined it and filled it with water. Now I need to do the prettifying of the outside edges with rocks. And then I have a pump for a small trickle of water over the rocks. So now you know my plan.
Today I went out for my first foray to find rocks. I had remembered a loose shale hillside on a road to friends of ours house so decided to go and find it. I did find it, and I found a good amount of rocks. Not enough for the project but a start.
This particular road is incredibly beautiful. But so many are here. This road runs through the mountains to our east between here and Gubbio. These mountains were the home of the partisani during WWII. The road runs right along the top of the ridge-line with views both ways. Never tire of it. Here are some pictures.
The last picture is of one of the beautiful Chianina cattle. A gentle, docile beast who was integrale to Italian life for centuries. For pulling the plow, for giving milk, for birthing calves, and for meat.
So back to the rock gathering, here is the shale hillside I remembered.
Here are some pictures of the wildflowers growing on the slope. So pretty!
In my last post I forgot to mention a funny thing. There had really been quite a downpour as we were eating with our friends in Calagrana, so when we left, during a lull in the storm, everything was soaked and dripping. We drove down the strada bianca what the IItalians call the unpaved roads – white roads) slowly. Lots of potholes and puddles. Then we saw them, toads crawling across the road, then small frogs leaping and hopping across. It’s been so dry here that I am sure they were all rejoicing in the new water. It’s their breeding season and they need the water to breed. Let the orgy begin!
Speaking of rain, night before last we had some of the heaviest rain we’ve ever seen. It was like the heavens opened and buckets of water came down. When we have heavy rain here, this new house has a nearly flat roof and, BOY, is it loud! It roars. In the morning all the plants survived. All looks as though nothing happened. Yay! ~~~~~~ House news. We met again with Irma, our architect. She brought a plumber with her so he could look at the caldaia issue. His idea is to move it onto the outside wall just next to the window in the kitchen. This would be ideal in my mind. I don’t like them in spaces that are used, like a kitchen, anyway. They aren’t the prettiest appliance and take up space. In our previous house it was in the attic and reachable by a pull down stairway. Optimal solution IMO. Now I guess we wait. I hope Irma will give us some drawings to look at soon. We still have to wait until fall to get the work done. And I would still like to get a refrigerator for up there. She needs to let me know the dimensions.
Most exciting of all! At long last our Deruta table has been finished. It’s been about two months. This is a game changer for the terrazzo. A table and chairs is a big step to livability. Here are highlights of the delivery (those slabs of stone are HEAVY) and of the table in its new forever home. Note, there are hummingbirds, and butterflies!
Now to order some cushions for the chairs. I’m thinking yellow! It was that or blue but I couldn’t find this cerulean blue anywhere. The table and chairs make the top floor much more livable and inviting. And soon, it will be even more inviting since we just heard the sofa we ordered will be delivered next week. Things are shaping up.
It’s a little cool today for sitting outside…but soon! Ciao a tutti!
We had a great time with our latest guests who only stayed two nights. Sadly. We began by picking them up in Arezzo where they had spent one night. There are two parking lots near the Duomo. One is free, the other is paid. The free lot is always full. The pay lot is always empty. We parked in the pay parking lot and took the escalators to the Centro. In the parking lot was this beautiful plant. It had long trailing arms loaded with buds just about to pop.
We had arranged to meet our friends at the Bar Duomo, which was near their hotel. It has been years since we saw them but we recognized them right away. We decided to have a caffè before leaving. I loved the artistry of my caffè macchiato. Looks just like my cat Rocky!
It was a beautiful day so we decided to stop in Città di Castello because it was on the way. We walked around and stopped for some refreshments. Then headed for Umbertide. Before going home we visited the Montecorona church. One of my favorite places on earth.
We arrived and checked into our apartment 🙂 …well, they checked in, we live here! We had a light lunch of prosciutto e melone, cheese olives, breadsticks, crackers and bread. During our lunch we were serenaded by a thunderstorm. Perfect timing. After lunch, and after the rain, we walked into town and we showed them around.
That evening we had meant to dine at C’era una Volta, near us but they were full due to a political meeting. Our mayoral election is coming up this weekend. So we had to form a Plan B. We decided to go up to Montone for dinner, which we did. We picked Erba Luna. We were the only patrons. Dinner was very good. Our friends had the antipasto plate with local meats and cheeses. Some had lamb chops for secondi. Very good.
The next day, their only full day here, was going to be a perfect day! They had lucked out on the first part of the trip and had really nice weather the whole time. They had chosen Gubbio for our target to tour. Before we visited, the night before, we viewed videos of the Festa dei Ceri which is the biggest festival they have (always May 15) and it is famous. I knew the city would be madly preparing for the event. Being very hard to describe I will try a bit here and then I will post a good video of it. Ceri is the word for candles. The fest starts in their main square and it is literally packed. The town has three Guilds left over from the medieval times. They compete in this fest, to carry three heavy (700 lb) tall wooden structures (Ceri) up the mountain, and it is steep and a long way. The Ceri start out as prone, parallel to the ground. On a command the teams tip the heavy things up so they become vertical. Then they must circle the flagpole in the center of the square three times before going up the mountain with the Ceri. They are mounted on long poles and eight or ten strong youths are carrying them. As they tire, they get replaced with fresh men for the long run ahead. It is worth it to watch this video and then I have a very sweet video to share after you’ve seen how the whole fest works. I won’t ever go. It is too crowded and quite frightening to be in the crowd.
I just took this one picture of where the rotation happens and the crowds gather and the Ceri begin their run up the mountain. The entire city was decked out in its finery. The neighborhood flags were everywhere.
This was precious. In the Piazza was a class of little kids. Dressed in their pink or blue smocks. The teachers (or some volunteer!) had made miniature versions of the Ceri. The kids split into neighborhoods and guilds. They gave the signal and round and round they went with their miniature Ceri while all the other kids cheered them on. Someday, they will be grown up and will participate in the Festa! Traditions. Passed along over the centuries.
The Duomo stained glass and nave.
Our next stop was a wine tasting and lunch at our local winery, Vineria del Carmine. They have a good chef and you can just have a small appetizer, which we normally get. This time, since it was lunch we decided the wine tasting with the light lunch would be good. First we were served freshly made bread sticks along with two dips. Very delicious. They also served bread, their olive oil, and truffle salt. Our guests had never tasted good, Umbrian olive oil (the best!). It’s hard to find in the US. I was proud to see they really appreciated it and said it was the best they’d ever had. Then they brought us a Sfromato di zucca gialla su letto di fonduta di parmigiano — which is a flan of yellow squash and truffles on a bed of parmesan cheese cream. At the same time they brought a cool soup of fennel and chive oil. To finish we had cheeses with truffle honey and meats. Along with the meal we tasted two whites, both Trebbiano, one 2019 and the other 2020 (Umbrian indigenous grape) and two rosés, one a Merlot and one a Sangiovesi, and three reds all blends of Merlot, Cabernet, and Sagrantino, in differing quantities. It was a leisurely lunch and I think we all had fun. The sommelier is a nice guy and we like him a lot. I only remembered to take one photo!
We left and I have to say, the countryside in this little valley is incredibly beautiful. Some pictures. The poppies are blooming everywhere now. My favorite.
Final dinner was at Calagrana, because, well, it is Calagrana! The weather had turned horrible. Much cooler and plenty of rain. So we ate in the cozy inside. I took one picture. My asparagus with a fried egg and parmesan cream topped by shaved truffles. So incredibly good.
Today, we delivered our guests to the Foligno train station to catch the Frecciabianca (fast train) to Rome. They brought the good weather with them, and gave us the bad weather when they left. We hope they come back soon. 😉
As I mentioned recently, today is May Day all across Europe. Equivalent to our Labor Day. Umbertide has always been reliably Communist since WWII so it’s no surprise that they take the day seriously with parades honoring the unions and workers.
Being in a new part of town we were surprised to hear horns honking, getting louder as they approached. Out on the balcony we watched a cavalcade of tractors and trucks, all with flags waving as their horns blared. Here are some pictures I snapped.
After the Tractors came the trucks. The Molini Popolari Reuniti is our local mill. Seems each area mills all their own wheat. They have fleets of trucks to transport the grain.
We could clearly see into each truck and tractor from the balcony. Almost every one had dads with all their kids who were having a great time. What’s not to like, riding with Dad in a tractor or big truck, honking the horn and waving flags?
There was a short break and then more music. This time it was people marching. Most with Union flags. Unions are strong here. If you’re interested here’s the video.
OK maybe it wasn’t the most exciting thing, our May Day parade, but it was a little out of the ordinary anyway. Happy Labor Day.
Since our last momentous news I thought I would update about our comings and goings and doings 🙂.
The day we got our PdS lungo periodo we had already planned a celebration of sorts with friends who live in or near Spello. It was a quiche potluck. The participants were Steve and Roselyne, our hosts, and our good friend Doug who is in the midst of a major renovation of his house on the mountainside nearby. We had three quiches. The celebration was of Steve’s passing of the written exam for his Italian drivers license – Patente. This is probably THE most difficult hurdle of all to moving and living in Italy. All in archaic Italian with “trick” questions. But he did it! First try! So a real cause to celebrate. And we also celebrated our long term PdS and Doug’s house getting a floor. That is also a BIG thing. Anyway, it was a very fun day. Steve and Roselyn’s apartment has two lovely terrazzi and a balcony overlooking the main street in Spello. After lunch we sat on their grande terrazzo. The rooftops of Spello spread out and the views of the mountains were lovely. A special place.
I did a lot of work on Sunday. I had been putting it off but the day was fine. I had ordered new, stick-on rugs for our stairway. The old ones were awful. Dirty and rough and the cats fur stuck to them.
I also shifted about ten bags if soil and transplanted my two herb plants. This is just one planter of five. They all need dirt to be added so it will be a slow process.
Below are the roses that managed to escape the “purge” by our sellers. I transplanted two which may or may not survive. It will be interesting to see what colors they are. The other bed has a rogue hydrangea on the right side. I will let it grow. This will also be my spring garden. I have some hyacinths to transplant and some tulip bulbs and the two primroses gifted to me by my friend Jill. I “think” there may be one more hyacinth coming up too, in a different bed.
I bought two pretty little side tables if ever we get an outside sofa! I plan to order a sofa soon. They are mosaic tiles on wrought iron stands.
I also obtained two amazing Thailandese cat statues from my friend Paul. They are heavy as all get out but I love them on the terrace. They are near the pizza oven.
Finally, today we had an appointment at the Anagrafe in our Comune to change our abode from Via Grilli to Via Fratta. Easy to do since they are both in the same Comune but nonetheless an experience. The people in our Comune couldn’t be nicer. Whenever we’ve had dealings there they are always super helpful. So we did all the paperwork. Went from office to office and got it all done. They are a bit old fashioned here. Everything is done on paper. Here are some pictures I snapped inside the Comune. It used to be a grand palazzo. A single family home. It is enormous. The grand room pictured below has the seal of Umbertide. It looks like a hanging but it is not. It is a fresco on plaster. It is where the official dealings of the Comune all happen.
On the wall in the office we were in they had this great photo of Umbertide Centro Storico.
Below is the second office we visited. The tax office — ufficio tributi. We only pay trash tax, no property tax, here since our apartment is our prima casa or primary home. But they need to know we moved. I was amused that all their records are on paper in all these file boxes. Wow.
Big stuff done. We still must visit the vigili or the local police and tell them we have moved. We’ll probably do that Friday or next week. Always makes me happy when we get things done!
Our weather has turned fine, finally! It’s low 70s and sunny. My big focus will be on the terrace as time goes by. Stay tuned for updates!
It was a gray day but it didn’t rain as predicted. I had plans to visit the Saturday market which was buzzing with activity prior to Easter. There was a very rustic gentleman who was selling his asparagi del bosco, wild asparagus out of one of the booths I frequent, always a treat. I wish I had taken a picture of him! I bought two bunches. He had obviously foraged it in the hills, a big pastime here in the spring. It will be part of our Pasqua meal tomorrow. It is very different than “normal” cultivated asparagus.
I also met up with Jane one if the buyers of our house in Centro. We walked through the house and I answered all her questions. It is looking good with new paint and the floors polished.
Afterwards, I walked back home and we met Jane and Christie for lunch at C’era una Volta near our house. It was lovely and we were the only customers. Apparently lunch was so quiet because everyone will come tonight and tomorrow for Easter lunch. A very busy time for them. We had pasta with asparagi del bosco and fungi. Very yummy. We also had their amazing antipasto plate with dozens of great things, as always.
Tomorrow is Pasqua, Easter and a big deal here. Then Monday is Pasquetta or, little Easter, a holiday and traditionally a day when Italians take to the hills for walking and picnics, or to their favorite restaurants, or beaches. I think the weather will cooperate. Buona Pasqua a tutti! 🌺
This is the beginning of Holy week. We aren’t religious, nor were we raised Catholic. But we like the history, the traditions, and to watch the rituals. We asked our friend Angelo if there were any food traditions for Palm Sunday, and apparently there are not. We are still in the Lenten season so meat is still not eaten much, if you’re observant. An interesting aside, Angelo, who owns the Alimentari in our old building on the ground floor showed us, in his back storeroom, that the building was part of the original wall of Umbertide. His wall on the back is six feet thick. It was built in the 1300s. So our former home was part of this building.
Saturday we went to the market and did some errands. We saw friends and had a vino at Bar Mary, and we rescued my tarragon plant which had gotten left behind in the move. They were working up in our old apartment in anticipation of the arrival tomorrow of our buyers for a three month stay.
We had also been invited to lunch with friends in Montone, a nearby hill town. It was a delicious meal and we feel very comfortable with them. The conversation flows easily. We had a plate of charcuterie to start and then a delicious half red pepper which was roasted and was filled lightly with savory things. Cheese, olives, anchovies and roasted again. Delicious. I plan to make this one in the future! Then we had a duck risotto to die for. It was like a delicious ragu of duck in the rice. I also want to make this one. After that a refreshing salad of mache and tangerine bits and for dessert, a rich olive oil chocolate cake. It was dense and moist. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect meal. Their house is just on the walls of this hilltown. I took this picture from their terrace. It is still just a little too cool to sit outside. So beautiful. Umbria is living up to its reputation as the “green heart” of Italy. When the trees leaf out it will be its greenest.
As we walked back to the car up the hill the bells in the church began to ring. This video is more about the bells than the video.
Here are a couple of pretty photos of springtime in Umbria on our way home. I never tire of it. Most of the vivid green is winter wheat. In two months it will be golden.
Last night I got to make the first dinner in our new kitchen. It is so wonderful to have a sink! But I am so used to walking down the hallway to the bathroom for the sink it is proving hard to break the habit!
Dinner was two Orate, or sea breams. They were from the grocery but they were some of the freshest I have ever had. I decided asian flavors would be yummy for a change. I roasted the fish after rubbing with oil, salt and pepper, slashing the flesh and sprinkling with sesame seeds. While roasting I cooked soy sauce, a little vinegar, sugar and water and slivered ginger and slivered cayenne in a small pan until ginger and pepper were soft. Then all I did was pour it on the fish and sprinkled with spring onions and cilantro. Delicious if I do say so myself. I also had the first spring peas and rice.
Does anyone remember Green Stamps? Back when I was little you got them at the grocery and you saved them and filled books with them to redeem items when you had enough.
We are members of the Coop grocery chain here. It it a co-op and members get some benefits. One is inexpensive products which change every couple of months. They give you bollettini, or little sticky stamps when you check out. Then you can buy a product with a number of stamps and a little cash. I’ve never done this until now when they are selling nice knives.
I got one yesterday. It is really nice! 16 bollettini and €4.90 got me a chefs knife! ~~~~~ Our next big project is a second kitchen upstairs. You may remember I talked to our Geometra who did our former work. But he would never reply to my emails or WhatsApps since that first meeting. I tried a second one who also would never reply. The situation here is that all these people are just so busy. And the workers who do the work as well.
So I decided to message with our friend Irma who is an architect and has done work for many people that I know. She seemed happy to help design a kitchen but she is also busy until autumn. Having no other choice I said I would wait. So that means our summer living upstairs will be a little different than we thought. Since the terrace has an oven and a sink and counters I figure we can make an outside kitchen. I also have our Weber grill. And there is an outside barbecue. It will be camping! I’ll get a 2 burner induction cooktop. And we will need to buy a refrigerator. We would need that anyway. Anyway, that’s the plan for now!
Today there was a little something special in the Piazza. There were several booths with local products sponsored by Slow Food. I love Slow Food for promoting the ancient products and the organic and locally grown things. There is a chapter in the Alta Valle del Tevere or the upper Tiber valley, where we are. They had a big booth of olive oil and there was a wine booth with tastings and a woman with dried legumes, local saffron and fresh eggs. It was fun walking over and watching all the action. Everyone was in a happy mood, the weather was cool but perfect. After a cup of cappuccino we walked back home. Here are a few pictures.
There are a number of shops in the Piazza as well. This window caught our eyes! The dress! And the pink suit! (Stylish shoes too) There was a lot of reflection in the glass but I had to get a photo.
Last night we met friends for aperitivo. My first spritz of the season!
What a beautiful day it was today. A real taste of spring. A friend came up to visit from Perugia. She brought me gifts of food and a pretty yellow beret. I will wear it jauntily 🙂. We also took a walk. Very close to our new house is the public swimming pool (indoor and outdoor) plus tennis courts, the soccer stadium and a beautiful park. We headed for the park, Parco Pineta Ranieri e Bosco “del Macchione”.
We messed around on the fitness trail. The park is a pine forest. It is up on a hill with good views across Umbertide. There are lots of picnic tables. The park was empty save for a couple of runners. Surprising on such a beautiful day. Here are a couple pictures of the flowers along the way.
The Asian magnolias are blooming now. Here is one on our street.
I had made yet another instant pot soup in the morning and just left it sit. It stayed hot so when we returned from our walk we had a couple of bowls for our lunch.
On another note, we think we might have found the source of the bad luck in our house. In the (non-existent) kitchen we found a horseshoe hanging above the entrance. It was only visible if you went inside and looked up. And it was hung like this…
Does that bother anyone other than me, Luther and my friend? Well it SHOULD. So we took it down. No wonder we’ve had bad juju. It will be re-hung…like this…