I mentioned in my last post that we had to address a stopped up and overflowing gutter. It had started backing up the water onto the roof and going under the tiles, causing a leek in the living room. This gave it a sense of urgency, even though I had placed plastic bags and pans to catch the drips.
Now, if you live in a normal house, unblocking a gutter is a trivial thing. But, if you live in the centro storico of an ancient Italian village it becomes more problematic. The gutter is on the top of the house, of course. It is high above, on the edge of an ancient tile roof which is four floors above a tiny street. It is a very long pipe. I have no idea why they needed to make those bends which can easily clog up.
The thing is Italians deal with this stuff everyday. To us, it seems daunting. To them it is all in a days work. First, it was necessary to figure out what sort of company does this. And then learn a whole new and unfamiliar vocabulary. We found four companies who advertise they clean gutters. We reached out and three returned our calls. One said he had a job in Umbertide and he could come right away and look at our job.
Fabio and his sidekick decided they could go up a ladder from our terrace and then cross two roofs to get to the spot. But they first had to don harnesses and secure ropes to protect themselves from falling.
About an hour later they were finished. Long story short they have unclogged the pipe for the most part. They said it was full of pigeon poop and dead pigeon parts. Disgusting. They said the leak should not happen anymore. The long pipe down to the street is still clogged…with pigeon poop they said. They will return to open the long pipe down at the bottom and unclog it from the bottom up.
Another learning experience. Now we wait for a nice hard rain to see if it actually fixed. we hope so!
Saturday morning our normal kilometer zero market was in full swing. Luther was up at 2:30 AM and said the crowds were still out, mostly young people and most in costumes. We went to Montone for lunch with friends, which was nice, although it was a rainy day. We went to Erba Luna. First time in a few years. Still good.
Back in Umbertide, the activities got started again at around 4 PM. The militia were out and making themselves heard! Shooting off their rifles, marching about, and charging across the piazza. I got this good action shot, even catching the fire coming out of the gun.
More soldier shots. The women seem to follow the soldiers. When they fell into formation and marched out, the women fell in right behind them. Camp followers? Wives? Not sure.
In the first picture here are a couple of the Briganti. In the next photo I liked the young man dressed in gray. Just random shots.
Amidst all of this hubbub there were three…THREE…weddings! Maybe bad timing. Maybe a memorable time? Depends I guess. I didn’t get pictures of them all. Just this one.
In the evening, I closed all the front windows to shut out the noise, and stayed away from all the action for most of the evening. During the night I checked whenever I got up. This picture is a little blurry, sorry, it is of the crowd at 1:30am. It looked like a mosh pit! The music and the loudspeaker talking stopped at 3am. The crowds slowly dispersed.
~~~~~~~ Sunday, domenica, dawned gray and socked in with fog. I looked out to see what mischief the Briganti had gotten up to after the crowds left. I decided to go down early and get some pictures before the day began. I have to hand it to the cleaning crews who come out as soon as things clear out, in the wee hours of three, four or five. Two street sweeper trucks and the big trash trucks. All the trash and mess is cleaned up and ready for a new day of festivities. First the town, quiet in the early morning after the parties.
The Briganti have erected their flag since they were the victors overnight. And I see they gave themselves 5,552 points on the scoreboard.
I took a tour of what the Briganti left for us. This group used to be very risqué, always doing something a little over the top crude. We have a new mayor. Maybe he told them to tone it down. The last two years it has been tame. Today I see they have set up a Briganti Pronto Soccorso for the casualties (emergency room). Typically there was a line of folks waiting to get in for treatment.
I noticed, after I had dropped the trash off that I brought down…a little multi-tasking…that there was a car show starting up. I was a bit early, not a lot of cars had arrived yet, but I took pictures of the ones who had come. These are for you Matt 🙂. The first one is my favorite. I even went over, told him I was an American, and that I remembered that car! Bella machina!
The one below, is for Luther. Since we have a Porsche.
Well, the party’s over, it’s time to call it a day. My last Otto Cento from my ring-side seat. It’s been a good run. There are, and will be many ”lasts” for me. It is hard. But it is life, isn’t it? Time to move on. ~~~~~~~ So on a brighter note, we are off on a big Road Trip on Wednesday. Our house/cat sitters arrive tomorrow. We will pick them up at the train station in Terontola/Cortona. We are excited to meet them. We will try to show them all around our little town over the next couple of days and then we are off for places familiar from long ago. First stop Lago Maggiore in northern Italy, then an overnight in Interlaken Switzerland, next to the Alsace in France for 3 nights. Then south of Munich, then near Salzburg, then to Austria and finally an overnight in Slovenia and home. I will be doing a trip report in a couple of weeks.
I posted a picture of the Piazza before the festa began. Here is what it looked like on day one at ten PM. There was much speechifying and the unveiling of the statue of Garibaldi.
I peered down from my aerie watching the crowds, many in costume, surge down our little streets. Earlier in the day the Briganti, my favorites, stalked across the piazza to their lair. They are super flamboyant, wearing long black capes to the ground, hats, white shirts, black pants, boots, and black vests. They all carry rifles. They have a presence. I heard the gun shots that heralded their arrival. Their women-folk arrived with them, just as haughty as the men and all packing heat. What fun.
~~~~~~~~~~ Friday — A quick giro around town at around 10:30. It is PACKED. Every table at every restaurant is full. The streets are full, the Piazza is full. Here are some pictures.
Everyone is having a splendid time. Every restaurant and every table was full. There were lines waiting to get in everywhere. I am glad the festival is going so well. I admit, I felt very uncomfortable out in those crowds. If anything was a superspreader event, that was it. I probably should have worn a mask.
Stay tuned for my next post, probably on Sunday after the Briganti do their mischief.
I know at least a few people would like to see the last garden that I will ever have on Via Grilli. It was a really good year. The two basil plants have kept me busy making pesto. They have been so prolific I had a hard time keeping up! This is the first year I grew sweet peppers. They did very well. So did the habaneros.
I have enjoyed my little terrazza container garden over the years but I am looking forward to an expanded one in our new space next year. I am going to try square foot intensive gardening. I plan to buy some raised containers and see how that works. Two to start, then expand to four. Picture of the one I like. Easy on the back 🙂.
I know you’re all on the edges of your seats to see what’s happening at the Fratta dell’800 festa 😁. I think I should explain than Fratta was the name of Umbertide before it was changed to Umbertide. And even before that it was called Pitulum by the Romans. Since this is the festa ’800 or 1800s best to use the name from that time. Out our window all the preparations are done, including the cannon on the left, which they shoot off at random times to scare our cats and us to death! Events start tonight at six with the Opening Parade. It is a bit rainy so I hope this doesn’t impact the events tonight. [an aside…our new address will be on Via Fratta 🙂]
All small Italian towns have festivals – in the summer and fall primarily. Covid was very hard for everyone because all of these festivals have been canceled for two years. This year however it is Katie bar the door…the festivals are back!
Umbertide has it’s big four day festival in August or September each year. It is the celebration of the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 by the House of Savoy and later, integrating the Veneto and the Papal states in 1871. It was called the Risorgimento. Guiseppe Garibaldi was an Italian patriot and soldier of the Risorgimento. The history is very long and complicated and I am not trying to tell it all here, but basically our Otto Cento festival, which means 1800s, it a distillation of the events over many years in the nineteenth century into our four day festival. In the south the Briganti, or brigands in English, in the absence of police, became a force. They fought against the House of Savoy, which they saw as elite. Things were very different in the Mezzogiorno, or south if Italy, as they still are today, where the Briganti originated. It was very poor and the people with money ruled harshly.
Anyway, our four day festival has events centered around all of the different parts of the creation of the kingdom of Italy. We have our own band of Briganti who come to the fore on the Saturday before the end on Sunday when Garibaldi vanquishes them.
The festival itself has entertainment in keeping with the 1800s. Calliopes, stilt walkers, concerts, dancing. Many citizens dress in costumes from the 1800s. There are 15 or so pop-up restaurants all over town. Archery contests. We have a cannon in the Piazza which they seem to shoot off at random times. There are horses and pitched battles from our city walls.
For the last few days evidence of the preparations are everywhere. You can really feel the excitement in the air. I don’t remember it being quite this exciting in the years pre-Covid. I guess not having it made the citizens realize what it means to this town.
In typical Italian fashion I have not yet found a schedule of events published on line or anywhere else. You’ll be seeing a few more posts about the festa after it gets started. 🇮🇹
As most people know, energy costs have always been high in Italy because it buys most of it’s energy from other countries. Always has. They have promoted sustainable energy and give big supplements for solar and there are a lot of wind farms. This is a drop in the bucket but better than nothing.
Thinking about heating in August seems pretty weird, I know. But there have been a number of articles and posts in the expat websites about the shortages of solid fuel already being reported. Most of us heat with gas. As anyone probably knows, the Russians control the gas that Italy buys so this is also problematic. Costs have always been three or four or more times higher than the rest of Europe. Now it is even worse because of the Ukrainian war. Not to mention the uncertainty of even having gas.
Many here in Umbria supplement their heat using wood or pellets. A lot use those as their primary heat source. There are systems that use pellets in their central heating systems. We also supplement with pellets to warm our living room.
This year pellets have become very expensive. They have nearly doubled in price, from €5.50 a bag to €9.50 a bag. IF you can even find a supplier who actually HAS them. Our pellets came from Austria. Ukraine also produced a lot. Now, it seems, Austria, afraid of shortages itself, is not exporting as usual. So, our future winter has become uncertain. We plan to buy some pellets since we will be here until the first of the year. If we can find a source.
We have not looked into firewood. Since we are nearing our move, we won’t be buying any yet. In our new house, we will have a need for firewood. There is an outdoor BBQ which uses wood, an outdoor wood fired pizza oven, a fireplace in the family room and a wood stove will be in the living room. I guess we will find out about firewood later.
The newspapers are warning of real problems this winter. It is hard for us, since we are moving, to try to make alternative plans to augment gas heating if we don’t have it. We cannot stockpile anything. It looks like we may have to bundle up!
Today I want to showcase two new products being produced here in Umbertide. We had heard of one of them from friends, but still had not visited. The other we just learned of from our recent dinner guests. I decided to showcase them both here.
First the cheese shop. Caseificio which means dairy is painted on the building. The shop is Fattoria Palazzo Rosa – Famiglia Monni. It is on the small road that crosses the river to Montecorona and the Abbazia di Montecorona which is run by the monks of the Eremo di Montecorona. So it wasn’t surprising to have a monk drop in to buy some cheese while we were there. The Eremo is a hermitage with a number of working monks. They take care of the Abbazia. The Eremo is in top of the 700 meter high mountain behind the Abbazia.
The back room, which you can see through a glass window is chock full of cheeses being aged. We bought a Pecorino peperoncini and some butter. The butter was not made here but I love trying new butter. The cheese was piquante but not too spicy. They had cheeses from other areas as well such as a creamy Gorgonzola. One of my favorites. This was an excellent find.
Then we decided to visit the Pauselli pasta fattoria. Our friends Joseph and Paul brought us three boxes of the pasta last week as a hostess gift. So generous — a box of Gemelli, Penne Rigate, and Linguine Ruvide. It is all made from artisanal grains grown in the area.
We followed the directions they gave us and found the negozio, but it was closed. I checked the hours. They are open 5-7 Wednesday and Saturday.
We tried the Gemelli last night. The name means twins. and each piece of pasta is made up of two pieces. Hence the name. The pasta is slightly darker than usual wheat pasta because of the grain. it has a rough texture and this shape is good for catching sauce in it’s crevices. I served it with a tomato, red and green pepper, onion sausage sauce, with a little sour cream added in. It was delish.
I am happy to live in a place with so many people producing such excellent products. They are just very poor at marketing. I think they could benefit from coming to the Saturday market and maybe even opening a temporary storefront to test the waters. At any rate, we will support them by buying their products. I hope they thrive.
Yes, Luther calls Umbertide the Big City. It certainly is not a big city and here in Centro, it feels like a village. Today the Vespa club is having a “do”. I don’t know what exactly they are doing. It could be the end of a rally. Luther thinks it’s a concours, where they judge the best looking bike. Anyway, just after I took this picture they all mounted up and roared (heh heh) out of the Piazza.
Since I was snapping, I got a picture of the old dudes who play briscola (a card game), everyday. They are there all afternoon and right about 6:30 or 7:00 they head home to the wife or family. I always imagine the wife kicks them out every morning. As I have mentioned before, they take up table space, they never buy anything, AND they expect Bar Mary to provide the cards! It is tradition. It is repeated at Bars all across Italy every day. It is only at selected bars, maybe the oldest ones…As you can see the tables draw crowds of kibitzers. The games can get heated.
Meanwhile, during all this action at Bar Mary, over at Cafe Centrale, it is the quiet before the storm. One lone table of Spritz drinkers. This, being Saturday night, it is guaranteed to get busy soon. Cafe Centrale is party central.
Never a dull moment in the Big City! Buona domenica!
What a beautiful day. We are in a lull in our summer heat. We are totally enjoying it! Last night we had thunderstorms in the wee hours and nice rain. I woke to very cool temperatures — 61 F. And fog hanging in the valley. Refreshing. Here is a picture of the super moon rising over our Piazza.
Yesterday we took a trip down to Etrusco, our favorite butcher. We don’t get there often so we buy a lot when we go. We bought a beautiful Tomahawk steak, two fillet mignons, a flank and a skirt steak (I think? I am never sure), two tomahawk pork chops, sausages and hamburgers. He brought out big tubs of shrink-wrapped meat for us to see. For each piece of meat I bought, the butcher went to great lengths to tell me how to cook it. Mostly it involved holding the fatty edge on a hot griddle or pan and letting the fat sizzle and melt. Then cook one and a half minutes on each side in the rendered fat. He also was super proud of his lamb. I am excited to try it because he explained the lambs were two years old and castrato. This is a lot older than most “Lambs”. Perhaps it is the castrated part…I don’t know. He again told me how to cook it, even to giving me a big piece of fat to use. I know this butcher well. He only sources from local farms and knows that they were raised humanely, and treated well during their life. I prefer to buy meat like this. He wished a buon Ferragosto! Happy feasting.
The Saturday market was abuzz with activity. It’s high summer now and the produce is abundant. I probably got a little carried away. I bought a ton more of the wonderful tomatoes, green beans, baby zucchini, arugula (super bitter to go with the steak tonight), sweet new red onions, a pepper, friggatelli, eggplants and a melon. I visited Angelo to buy prosciutto crudo to go with the melon. A feast for a festa! This picture is only some of the bounty! I love our local market and am really happy I will still be able to walk to it from our new apartment. Not many towns have a market like this. I feel blessed.
I will take a picture of my dinner tonight if I remember. Here is a picture I took of my Rocky-cat helping me out while I am preparing dinner. I am constantly stepping over him or around him. He is very helpful!
Finally, an unbelievably beautiful sunset a couple of days ago.
I am sure some of you wine lovers will recognize the name Heitz. Back in the US we drank good California wine and Heitz was a well known producer. I read an article recently, published by Wine Spectator about the couple who had sold up in California and relocated here to Umbria…to make wine, of course! They purchased their property of about 50 acres… but only just over two of them were planted in vines.
Today Rollie and Sally Heitz were kind enough to allow us to visit them and try their first vintage. We tried four. Starting with a lovely Rose. I am a big Rose fan, especially in the summer. And it was the perfect summer wine! Crisp and dry.
Then we tried a Sangiovese, a Cabernet, and a Merlot. Sally provided a plate of tasty things to eat during the tasting. We very much enjoyed the wines. My favorites were the Rose and the Sangiovese, which was soft and round and lovely. They told Luther their production for the 2019 vintage (their first) was 12,000 bottles. Pretty good for just one hectare.
Our conversation was far ranging but centered around our mutual love of Umbria and our separate relocations from the US. And wine of course! I hope they come up to visit us in the far north when they can get away. Right now, understandably they are busy getting their new business on its way. We stopped to admire their view of Todi.
It was really broiling out. We tried to put the top down but it was just too hot. On the scenic route back home I snapped a couple photos. Near Bevagna and Montefalco.
Despite the intense heat the fishing contest on the Tiber in Umbertide went on as scheduled. These people were out in this heat for hours! At least they had their umbrellas.