Category Archives: everyday life in Umbria

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch. It was not my normal soup….it was the wonderful goat cheese I bought Saturday. Very yummy, soft and spreadable. I had it with Hjortronsylt. It is a jam popular in Sweden, from a fruit I am not familiar with. It goes very well with cheeses. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a jar from my friend Ava. And I am here to say, it was wonderful. Thank you Ava!

We woke this Monday morning to the first freeze of the year. But it is bright and sunny so that’s cheerful anyway. We have a busy week ahead. Our list of chores has grown. Shopping, a visit to the Poste and the Tabacchi for bill paying, and picking up all the thanksgiving food, to include the turkey.

Stay Covid safe everyone! 😷 Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Risotto!

Tonight we had a big ole hunk of the zucca (squash) (picture of one of these a few blog posts ago). I roasted it and diced it and eventually added it to my simmering risotto. I don’t use a specific recipe but it’s quite simple. I sautéed a small onion in butter. After it was soft I added the rice and turned up the heat to toast it. Then I glugged in some white wine, maybe half a cup and cooked it until it was absorbed by the rice. Meanwhile I warmed my broth to hot. You can use any broth. Then I added the broth a cup at a time, simmering and stirring as it is absorbed and add more. Maybe halfway through I added the diced zucca and continued cooking, adding broth. Total time is around 25 minutes. The rice gets very creamy. At the end I add about half a cup of Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese. It will thicken the liquid in the rice. But the final product should be pretty soupy. Served in bowls with more cheese. Yummy.

Boring things. We all have to do them…

Like everyone on this earth, we all have errands to run to keep our lives ticking along on track. We are happy all the shops are still open and, although we have to stay in our Comune, we have everything we need here.

Our list for today was extensive. First stop. As everyone does, we are preparing for winter. We have a heated mattress pad for our bed. And we have a summer one. So that summer one went to the dry cleaner to be cleaned for next summer…SUMMER ☀️ which I see as a shining light ahead of us! Maybe a new beginning after this pandemic. Spero di si.

Second issue we had been dealing with. Our old printer had died and we ordered a new one from Amazon, after trying to find one locally. We got that on Friday and have semi-set it up. (Don’t get me going on how hard it was!) Of course, as these things go, I had JUST ordered new toner for our previous printer when it died. €80 worth. So I needed to return it. But, without a printer, I was unable to print the mailing labels to do so. So I waited. Today we took the toner to the DHL pickup location to return. Check.

Last week we also had to go to the ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – Local Health Unit) because our E01 had expired. Our Dottoressa had noticed when we visited her. This is the code that is used here to determine how much you must pay for prescriptions and some tests…according to your income. If it expires, you automatically pay the most. So we got that updated but we didn’t have all of the copies of our cards they needed (of COURSE they need copies!!). At home, we had no copier…so we waited and once we got the new printer – we made the copies and we took them there to drop off. Check.

A trip to the EuroSpin supermarket to order a turkey for thanksgiving was next. This part I liked best. This year I decided to do Thanksgiving dinner, even if it is just for us. Our friend Susan offered to make a pie and I think Gary is making a vegetable. No matter. I will take a pan of turkey, maybe dressing, gravy, and of course, mashed potatoes to them. We will eat alone, alas, but at least we will share the bounty with some friends.

After that we visited the Coop supermercato. I had not been since we went to Code Orange and they are again taking things seriously. We had our temperatures taken before we could go into the mall, of course masks are mandatory everywhere now, both inside and outside, and the spacing between people is being enforced. We bought a bunch of the staples we needed. And also some cat food for our friend who is in isolation. She feeds a mamma cat and her litter from this year and was running low on food. I dropped it by her house so she should be good for a while. She told me they are coming to her house to give her the Covid test rather than making her go to Citta di Castello. One of the few benefits of age 🙂.
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I took a walk Sunday evening. By the time I got back to the Centro the sun was just setting and the sky was pretty. Here are two pictures.

The Rocca, our fortress.
The entrance to the Centro Storico. We have a pedestrian bridge which crosses over from the road.

Stay safe all….andrà tutto bene 🌈

Tuscany is Code Red

It’s getting ramped up fast here. We are still Orange but just a few miles from here is Tuscany, and it is Code Red now. The highest. Pretty much a complete lockdown over there. The map below shows how fast Italy is raising the alarms.

Unfortunately I now know of a number of people in our area who’ve tested positive, or of people in self-isolation after being exposed. It is far worse for Umbria in this second wave that it was in the first.

It is Saturday. It’s cold and damp here. I am not even going outside to our Kilometer zero market. We have the stufa burning so it’s cozy inside. Here’s the foggy view from our terazza …No laundry will be drying today!

I had hoped to clean up some in my ortino. Take a look at my biggest producer. I’ve never had a pepper with so many before! These all ripened in the last 3 days. And these babies are HOT. I freeze them but now they are taking over all the space.

Stay Covid-safe everyone. Wear your mask! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Autumn market

Our weather has been perfect fall weather. We reach the upper 60s in the day. And it chills down to the 40s at night. We almost always wake to dense fog in the morning, which takes until around noon-ish to burn off. Rather dreary starts to our days. I should be used to it, but I’m not.

Town wall and buildings inside — in the fog.

Very suddenly, the fog miraculously begins to burn off and finally the sun shines brightly. Nothing like blue skies and sunshine to lighten the mood.

Despite the new Code Orange lockdown, we have the normal market outside. One of the two bars is closed. The other is doing carry out. Irene was bustling across the Piazza with trays of tiny cups of espresso. I hope this doesn’t hurt them too much. Bar Mary is less of a young people’s bar so it will keep doing the takeout. Cafe Centrale is the bar with the big nightlife which attracts many young people who don’t follow the rules and I’m sure they are one of the reasons our cases are up. I’m sorry for Diego, the owner though. He says he may go out of business. He can’t manage on just takeout, or only daytime traffic. It is too bad because he has poured a lot of money into that bar.

Anyway, we went out to do our shopping. Here are some photos.
In the autumn you will always find mounds of chestnuts. And sometimes one of the stands will have a roaster going. In the foreground is one of the weirdest vegetables I’ve ever seen. It is called Gobbi. Also known as cardoni and cardi in Italian. And cardoons in English. It is a lot of trouble to prepare and I only have done it once. Not worth the work.

These next ones are the winter squashes. The word for all squash is zucca. The second one is the gigantic zucca which they sell by the piece. They lop off however much you want.

And finally the cheese. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the cheese in Umbria is probably 95% pecorino. It is sheep’s cheese. There are a few small artisanal goat cheese places which I want to try someday. But mostly they make pecorino here, and in many styles but it is still pecorino…

Today, for the first time in my life, someone said cheerio to me. A British gentleman who lives in town. I knew OF him but we had never met. Today we were introduced to him in the market — Robin, and his dog Zorro — by Susan and Gary. He is going back to England soon. Driving. It is a long way. He goes up through Switzerland, then into Germany, France and the Low Countries of Netherlands and Belgium, and finally across the English channel. He said he’d take his time. He says the only finicky ones are the French. Susan asked how long they had been like that , he said probably for the last thousand years! I had to laugh. And then he said cheerio! So I will also sign off with a cheerful cheerio to you all — stay COVID safe and wear your masks! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

The fruits of our labor

We were given six liters of olio nuovo yesterday by our friends Joanne and Mark 🙂. It is a portion of the oil produced from our harvesting effort on Friday. They told us the yield was low but the quality is good.

Look how pretty this is! So green! We just had some bread dipped into the oil today. Bruschetta perhaps tomorrow. The flavor is wonderful. Grassy and peppery and slightly bitter. It will smooth out as it sits but I just love the new oil for its brashness. You can only get it like this one time a year so it is very special.

Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Chicken dinner

I have a go-to roast chicken recipe that I’ve been using, and sharing, for a few years. It is a Thomas Keller (of the French Laundry) recipe and so simple it is ridiculous. I made it last night for the bazillionth time. It is no-fail and always delicious. When you can get a plump chicken at the store for €3 or about $3.50 it is very economical. We can get two, plus, meals out of it and still have the bones left to make chicken stock for soup.
Here is what you do, and a few pics.

Put the chicken on the counter and pat it as dry as you can get it. The lack of liquids during cooking helps the skin crisp up perfectly. Let it sit on the counter for an hour or so to dry even more. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F or 250C. Put chicken in the pan (no oil in the pan) and salt it generously. I read someone say, “salt it like the road” 🙂. Put it in the oven for one hour. Do not baste it — do not open the oven. Resist the temptation. See, I told you it was easy. 🙂

After an hour remove and sprinkle with dried thyme.

I usually cook this ahead of time and just leave it sit until dinner. It’s good at room temperature or warm. Cut into quarters to serve. For a nice extra touch mix some mustard with some of the juice in the pan (use juice sparingly because it is very salty). Serve the mustard on the side with the chicken. Easy peasy!

I also saw a recipe from ItalianFoodForever.co posted on Facebook for roasted sweet onions with balsamic. It looked so good and since the oven was hot already I decided it would make a nice side. I always keep a rope of the sweet, red, Cannara onions on hand. I peeled and halved them. I used a small pan which could hold the onions snugly. In the pan I melted some butter, added a little olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar and mixed. Then I put the onions cut side down in the oil/butter and placed in the oven for 20 minutes. Flipped the onions and went another 15 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of the onions. They came out all sweet and carmelized and went well with the chicken. Mmmm!

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I don’t need to tell you what day this is…but I will — it is ELECTION DAY! 🇺🇸 I stay away from politics on this blog for the most part. I don’t mind telling you, though, that I am on pins and needles here. The wait is unendurable. We, being 6 hours ahead of the East Coast, won’t really know much until Wednesday morning…so we will be up early in the wee hours watching. I love my country and I hope the election goes smoothly and without incident. I hope the aftermath is not violent. I am worried about that. I know a lot of people are. I saw pictures of the stores in the big cities boarding up like a hurricane was coming. How can this happen in the USA? How could violence be a part of our (once) free and fair elections? 💔
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Stay safe everyone…

Sadness

Umbertide after six during lockdown lite. Silent. Dark. Damp. The fog rolls in. Winter is nigh. Cold. Depressing. Winter. All our efforts were for naught. Sadly, the Covid cases in Italy rise exponentially. During our last lockdown it was the beginning of spring here. Each day grew longer, each day grew warmer. Things began to grow. It was so much easier to accept then. So much harder as we do the opposite. We head down that dark tunnel into winter.

Even in Umbria, we are now listed as one of the regions with the fastest growth. Umbertide, my small town, is showing 8-10 new cases a day. The hospital here is virtually shut down due to most of the staff testing positive for the virus. We fully expect a complete lockdown in the very near future. The numbers are out of control and drastic measures are necessary. So many have Covid fatigue. It is a worldwide phenomenon. I have it too. I am stoic about it. I can’t change it.

I also watch the disaster happening in the US. The daily new cases climbed above 100,000 yesterday for the first time. And yet, nothing is being done to slow it down. I read there were 30,000+ new cases and hundreds of deaths attributed to the maskless political rallies. It will grow and grow and spread and kill. I’m very sad for the US. At least, here there is an effort to slow things again. Sigh.

To bring things into focus for myself, I am trying to remember other times of troubles. I think of London during the Blitz. Years of bombing, sirens, taking shelter in the metro tunnels. Rationed food. Deprivation. Loss of life and loved ones. Their time of tribulation. Our time of tribulation is now. We must rise to it. It will pass.
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I am sorry for such a downer post. I AM feeling a little down. Let’s hang together and work to last through this thing. We will have a vaccine sometime. And always remember … Andrà tutto bene.🌈

Raccolta 2020

Raccolta means “harvesting”. Raccolto, means “harvest”. We participated in the olive raccolta, yesterday. It happens like clockwork every October and November here. We were invited by our friends Joanne and Mark who have 75 trees of varying age.

It is hard to overstate how important…how much a part of the yearly cycle, the olive harvest is to Umbrian life. For people who live here it is a way of life. It is something to look forward to, something that brings people together to work, and after a days work they join together in a meal. It is tradition.

Last week you may have read we visited our local hardware store. At this time of year it is chock full of all things raccolto. Hand rakes, long rakes, beaters (battery powered implements to shake the olives down), nets, crates, and all manner of containers to store it. Everyone is excited, getting ready for the new oil. It is a happy time, lord knows we need some happiness nowadays! The frantoio, or olive mill, is a happy place. It processes the olives 24/7 with the farmers and olive grove owners looking on lovingly as the “green gold” comes out of the spigot after the processing.

The new oil is unfiltered, so it is cloudy. But it is bright, brilliant green. Much greener than the olive oil most of us use daily. And it is only this way for a short time. It must be savored atop bruschetta or tagliatelle during the short time each year we have it. We put it on something mild flavored so the oil is the star! The qualities of Umbrian oil are a grassiness, and a peppery taste in the back of the throat. It has a very strong aroma. There is nothing mild or reticent about the oil from Umbria. It is a brash and in your face oil 😋. I love it completely. I really hope everyone who loves Italy can visit Umbria during the raccolto so they get a chance to experience the new oil. It is spettacolare. Most restaurants showcase it during meals at this time of year.

Yesterday dawned gray and foggy as it does for most of the winter here. We left at nine and drove to our friends house up in the mountains between us and Lago Trasimeno. They have restored an old abandoned farmhouse over many years. They are now retired here. Their property has an olive grove. It seems most properties have a grove if you’ve got any land at all. So in the fall, it is hard NOT to be invited to help in the raccolta. We really love it. Open air, good honest work among friends. In these Covid days it is nice to be safely among friends.

On the drive up the twisty road into the mountains we were first in dense fog. But the higher we got, the brighter it got. Until suddenly, we popped out above the clouds which created the fog below. Are these not spectacular pictures!?

We arrived and got to work. The fog had not yet burned off at this elevation so it was still quite cool. We worked until after two and then lunch was served. I was famished. Most people were pretty tired. Luther and I went back out and finished the tree we were working on and then headed home. Here are some action pictures and pictures of the views.

The fog was just below where we were working. Spooky looking!
Tina and Joanne hard at work.
Carol and Heather.
There was some autumn color across the valley.
One person is using the “beater” . The nets are spread under the tree to catch the fruit.
Just 3 of the 25 boxes that were picked.

The 25 boxes went to the frantoio last night. I haven’t heard how many kilos we got nor how many liters were produced. I will include this in a future post.

It was fun as always to get outside with friends and do some honest work. To be able to participate in an Umbrian ritual that’s been going on almost the same for thousands of years is part of the reason we love living here.
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈