We are home again, in Umbertide. While we were on vacation we missed our big annual fest Otto Cento. We used to live up above the piazza so we were in the midst of it all. Now we would have to walk into the Centro. Our new neighborhood has an annual street fair. Piazza Carlo Marx in front of our apartment is closed as well as surrounding streets and they built booths on one side and allowed trucks and tents to be erected on the other side. This is our first year here for this so we will see how it shakes out!
It was loud last night. They have bands for the three nights. It’s down the street but we could hear it just fine. The people fill the street, strolling and looking, seeing friends and chatting. Many strollers and children. Old people, young people. They have fun.
Today, Saturday, we went out to check it out. We had attended one of these Fiere a number of years ago and it was much the same as I remembered it. Most of the booths have clothing, shoes, purses, pots and pans, foods of all sorts, lots of sweet nuts and popcorn. I was amused at the one that sold only liquorice. There were also ones that sold big stuff like, wood stoves, pizza ovens, mattresses, vacuums, easy chairs, lawnmowers, backhoes. I could go on. All the regular stores along the way also get into the act with tents outside and merchandise for sale. Anyway, it was a nice day, we went in the morning before it got too hot and I took some pictures. There will be captions.
So, this is what our new neighborhood does for fun! It was fun to walk around and see what was happening.
Sunday we finally managed to go to the Infiorata in Spello, a small hill town not far from Assisi. A religious ceremony – Corpus Domini – which is celebrated the ninth Sunday after Easter each year by many towns with flower carpets on the streets. But Spello goes all out for this religious holiday. It draws thousands of visitors each year, to see the flower carpets. All up and down the streets are amazing, religious themed, creations made out of mostly flower petals, but also other organic and plant material.
About one quarter of the population of 8,000 volunteers in some way to help make this event happen. It is a huge undertaking because there are busload after busload of people coming. And parking lots in fields for the thousands of cars. All of this must be managed and coordinated. Then there is the art itself. The people in the town spend weeks plucking petals from flowers and gathering wild flowers for the creations. It works essentially like the old paint by number paintings. The designers create the designs. I am sure this is another whole layer of work unseen by most which must take months to finalize for each creation. They use chalk to draw the designs on the pavement under tents erected to protect the workers and the flower petals from the elements. The workers work all night making the creations. All the bars and restaurants stay open all night. They are supposed to be finished by 8am but some were still working when we got there at 8:30.
This is an example of the tents that cover these while they are created. As you can see the framework is just being dismantled and the workers are still hard at it after an all-nighter.
I tried to get a picture of the design which was posted next to each creation so you can see what it would look like had I gotten overhead. Luther says next year we should have a drone! This is the design of the one above.
Some of the raw materials used in the creations. I wonder how many flowers they go through!
This board had the petals and the corresponding numbers. And they even included the name of the flower they came from. As I said, paint by the numbers!
I think there are 60-70 of these carpets and I did take a lot of pictures. I hope you enjoy them. There will be less to read…but more to see! I will caption them where needed.
The under 14 year olds had a few entries. I should mention that these are all judged and prizes (plaques) are awarded in different categories.
This next design, followed by the creation was my favorite. Entitled The Choice. I liked it for the design and especially the creative use of artichokes in the dragon detail.
The next four are another example of the use of different plant materials in the designs.
We finally made it to the top!
And now for a few pictures from around town. They not only do awards for the carpets they also judge the flowers that residents grow and decorate their windows, doors, balconies.
The crowd. The streets of Spello are narrow. Add the carpets that you can’t walk on, and the 100,000 or so visitors and you’ve got…well…a mob scene. 😳 And it was very warm, nearly hot.
There was a holy Mass at 10am and then the procession began. This is where I wanted to cry. They walk right on and over the creations. Then the faithful who are following the holy procession do too. The beautiful carpets of flowers that took thousands and thousands of hours of work only live for a few hours. Then they are gone. But I remembered, it is not about the flowers or the art. It is about Corpus Domeni.
As you can see we had a birds eye view of the procession. Thanks to our friends Steve and Roselyne who invited us to their apartment to recover. They own this apartment right on the Main Street with a nice balcony so we got a good view.
I hope you enjoyed this photo essay of one of the iconic fests in Umbria.
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.
Today is New Year’s Eve. New Year is called Capodanno in Italian. Everyone is wishing each other buon anno and auguri. Today is Saturday so I got to go shopping for the beautiful produce I needed for our dinner today and tomorrow. I also wanted to get a pork shoulder. My eating plans for the weekend are in step with the traditions of two countries, Italy today, and the US tomorrow.
In Italy, the tradition is to eat lentils on New Years Eve. The legumes are coin-shaped. So they are supposed to bring you wealth. They traditionally eat Cotechino at the holidays too. This is a traditional product made of minced pork, fat, and rind with salt, spices and wine. Since pigs were generally slaughtered in December, this sausage became a symbol of the holidays, accompanied by lentils and mustard or mashed potatoes. Super easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients.
So. I prepared the Cotechino as the box instructed as well as lentils. I decided a salad was needed for a green — I had bought some nice greens from the market today. I also added an egg. Here are pictures.
This was our first Cotechino. It tasted a lot like corned beef. It was pretty good. I am not a big meat eater. The small Cotechino was perfect for the two of us. I would do this again!
Tomorrow I will be doing Hoppin John. Carolina gold rice, black eyed peas and pork shoulder. Homage to my southern roots. The more luck the better for the coming year.
I was offered the chance to buy turkey from our favorite restaurant Calagrana. Thanks to Ely and Alberto we had a lovely Christmas lunch here at home. It was nearly 60 degrees today not terribly christmassy. Enjoy your day everyone!
Today was a nice day. We got together with friends for a holiday lunch. Three friends, all of whom moved here since the beginning of the year. All near Spello. Roselyne and Steve live in Spello Centro Storico. An excellent apartment with great terraces which have country and mountain views and a front balcony above the main street going up the hill. Right in the action. Doug lives in a sweet house situated on Monte Subasio. I don’t know his elevation but it has views across the valley to die for. He is in the very beginning of renovations.
We chose to meet in Assisi. There is a nice restaurant there called Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erbe. It is just off of the main piazza which has the Assisi Comune. It also has the temple of Minerva and lots of cafes and shops. Today, it was empty. I don’t think I have seen Assisi as empty and quiet as today. The restaurant welcomed us. It wasn’t very busy. We have been going to this restaurant since a 2011 trip with my sister and her husband and another couple. It is still good. It is nice in summer as it has probably the only trees in Assisi. They have two menus, one Traditional and one Fusion. I love the fusion choices. Here are a few pictures. The first one is fried artichoke/carciofi in a cheesy sauce. Very delicious. It does look a bit phallic. Three of us got this.
It was a really nice get together. We won’t be doing much this Christmas. Nothing in fact. Which is kind of sad. But it is what it is. Happy Winter Solstice, here’s to longer days…if not warmer ones!
A very pretty, tall and stately tree. We walked through the little Christmas fair for the kids and also small booths selling things. The first picture is where Babbo Natale awaits visits from the children. He is inside La Rocca, our fortress.
Today we had a pizza lunch at Calagrana. Albi had fired up the wood oven. Delicious.
It was all delicious. The day was mild and I didn’t have to wear a coat. Our friends Jane and Christie are just here until next Tuesday. They return to the US and their adventures there until next spring when they will return and move into our apartment. Big adventures to come for us all.
They kept us waiting this year. But today was the day the town Christmas tree arrived! My last tree while living in Centro so I savored the experience. I got a much appreciated phone call from Paul who could see the tree from his apartment as it was maneuvered into the Piazza. They don’t truss trees here so they are very bushy. They needed a crew and cherry picker to keep the street lights from being sheared off the buildings. As a friend said this morning, The Italian ability to get things through tight spaces should be the envy of the world. And I have to agree. I had to wait…and so did everyone else…anticipation!
We had a very good meal with nine others at our table in Calagrana yesterday. They started doing a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixins a few years ago for all the Americans in the area and a sprinkling of British and Italians. Originally Susan and Gary had them cater a dinner for us since a big turkey here is too large for the normal Italian home oven. After a couple years of making the gargantuan Tom turkeys, Ely decided there might be interest in a dinner from others. And the rest is history!
The Tom Turkey which we feasted on yesterday was a whopping 17 kilograms, or 38 lbs. Here he is!
And my dinner. The turkey was amazingly moist and tender. Jane and Christie had brought two bags of real cranberries on my request. So we had real cranberry sauce — my old standby Zinfandel cranberry sauce. I have to use Primativo here which is a relative of Zinfandel.
Besides the turkey we had antipasti of tiny shrimp and a primi of ravioli with zucca puree (sweet winter squash). Very sweet with a surprise of what I thought was wasabi. It turns out it is Senape Essense. She got it at the pharmacy. It added a nice kick. Her little bottle had a skull and crossbones on it. 😄 If you’ve ever had hot Chinese mustard and eaten just a little too much on your eggroll you’ll know what I mean. I looked it up and I think I’ll order some, could be fun to experiment with!
Although I am a day late, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a great day! I am thankful for all I have. I wish for peace in the Ukraine and the USA. I also wish for global accord to combat climate change. 🕊 Today is the day Against Violence to Women. There is a little demonstration in the piazza. I also wish violence of all kinds would stop. Andrà tutto bene 🌈