Category Archives: Festivals and Sagras

It is here! Christmas 2022 begins.

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. I had to wait…and so did everyone else…anticipation!

Finally the tree is in the piazza. It looks to be a beauty!

The tree hung in mid air for a while.

Then they settled it into position.

Thanksgiving

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 🌈

Otto Cento 2022 — The finale

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.

Picture perfect Montone.

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.

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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.

Accidents at work
This guy is the last in line, I guess he’s been waiting awhile.

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.
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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.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Otto cento day one and two

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.

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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.

These are the militia of Garibaldi.
One of the costumes. Anyone can rent a costume. Or make one.
Just outside the piazza.
I loved all the little kids watching the show.
Piazza Forte Braccio.
Via Grilli. My street.
The Briganti restaurant.
Via Cibo
More costumes
Mangia!

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.

How does your garden grow…

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.

Sweet pepper on the right. Basil under it. Habanero center top. Foreground is the tarragon and just behind it the mint.
Lemon tree on left is chock full of lemons. Basil is next to it. Habanero just next to that . Oregano, thyme and parsley center.

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 🙂]

Buona festa!!

Otto Cento is back!

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.

Everyone is working to get ready
At the former gates into town they hang curtains.
Italian flags are everywhere! La Rocca in the background
La Rocca
House of Pleasure. Where the Ladies of the Night hang out.
One of the temporary restaurants
Another pop-up restaurant
Laundry…19th century style 🙂

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. 🇮🇹

Glorious sabato!

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.

Buona festa a tutti!!

Ferragosto

To get you in the mood, here are couple of beach scenes from a previous trip to Senigallia, a seaside town in the Marche on the Adriatic. This is what the seaside looks like here. Nearly all of the Adriatic beaches get the ”blue flag” designation because they are so pristine and clean.

Italy is pretty fanatical about the August vacation month which revolves around Ferragosto, August 15th — a one day holiday that somehow justifies the closing down of Italy for the whole month. I know a number of people who plan trips to Italy to look at houses only to find all the realtor offices closed. We learned early on that one should never plan to get anything done in August in Italy.

When we moved here, we arrived at the end of June. We were just beginning our renovations on our apartment. We rushed to get plans in place and pay a visit to the kitchen manufacturer before the end of July so we could place our order. It actually made no difference because, although we ”placed” our order, the factory still shut down August 1 for the month!

Most Italian families will be going on vacations of two to three weeks because their workplaces — both public and private — close. Even hospitals and clinics close or are on skeleton staffing. The whole country takes a break. It is unimaginable to foreign visitors.

Ferragosto is untouchable here. It centers around August 15, but the whole month is considered a holiday. If Italians don’t somehow celebrate Ferragosto, they are bereft. Even if they are broke, and renting an umbrella is expensive, they go. Italians may be having hard economic times. But as I have said before, Italians have extended families. Over the years properties are passed down and inherited. It seems all Italians either own, or they have the use of, multiple houses. Including beach houses. This makes a getaway affordable. Also, if they are short on cash, nonno and nonna are always happy to help out with funds. Families, after all, are everything here.

The actual day designated Ferragosto, August 15, is a time for big meals on the beach under umbrellas and canopies, with family and friends.

For some history — Ferragosto is an old custom. It goes back to the ancient Romans, to Emperor Augustus Octavian who made it a celebration in the first century. It is named after Augustus – Feriae Augusti, meaning ‘Augustus’ rest’. Of course the reasons for the holiday were different back then when they celebrated harvests and pagan gods of fertility and well-being. They decided to stretch the holiday to before and after the day so August is the month of vacation and celebration. Everyone joined in, no matter their class.

Of course, when Christianity came along, Ferragosto couldn’t be the pagan festival it once was, but like Christmas it was incorporated and became Assumption day.

Starting in a day or two, all the cities will empty out. When tourists come they will see the ubiquitous signs on the doors of bakeries, shops and restaurants…‘chiuso per ferie (closed for holiday). Rome will be empty. It will be populated by non-Italians and the few poor souls who keep the hotels open.

Ferragosto is something that will always be celebrated no matter how! Buon Ferragosto a tutti!
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Partially adapted from The Local.

Buona Festa della Republica! 🇮🇹

Today is Festa della Republica – Italian Independence Day. The day Italy voted the Monarchy out just after WWII. Big doings in town. Antique and cool cars and motorcycles near La Rocca.

I went down to the Piazza to meet my friend Elizabeth for a Caffè. Or rather, I should say i went to ”take a caffè” which is the Italian way to say it. It was pleasant, as it was still morning. Record heat for today through the weekend in Italy. It will be hitting 40C or 104F in the south. I snapped a few pictures. Our comune with flags. Not as spectacular as the fly over but still festive.

And our two Bars in the Piazza. Bar Mary and Café Centrale. Bar Mary has really upped their game this year, adding planter boxes with trellis’ to delineate their space and new black umbrellas. They intend to get two more umbrellas to complete the look. It is quite inviting now, I think.

Buona festa a tutti! 🇮🇹 🇮🇹

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!