Category Archives: Festivals and Sagras

Tuesday – Day of the Republic

Today is a national Holiday — Festa della Repubblica. June 2nd. In 1946, it was the day Italians voted to abolish the monarchy, and the Republic of Italy was born. So it’s called Republic Day.

After an 85 year monarchy, which had for the most part been very popular with the people, a referendum resulted in the end.  All male members and future heirs of the ruling House of Savoy were deposed and exiled.

The monarchy had ruled since Italy’s Unification in 1861. Its final monarch, Umberto II only got to be king for a month, earning him the nickname ‘Re di Maggio’ or ‘the May King’.

Umberto had actually been acting as head of state since 1944; after Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime – to which the monarchy had been allied – collapsed, King Victor Emmanuel III transferred his powers to his only son in the hope it would give the monarchy a popularity boost. It didn’t work.

The constitution now forbids a monarchy. In 2002, The House of Savoy family formally renounced their claim to the throne so they could return from exile. Umberto refused the right to return to his homeland, dying in Geneva in 1983.

There you go! Your Italian history lesson for today 🙂
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Last night I made a new recipe from “Six Seasons” cookbook. It was a faro salad with salami, cheese, and fave.  I added new peas, arugula and basil to the mint called for. Lots of good Umbrian olive oil. Very yummy. Luther loved it. 

January 6 – Epifania

The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem when the Magi came bearing gifts for the Christ Child. This festival marks the end of the Christmas season.

We were invited to visit friends who live in Florence to see the Cavalcata dei Magi. Riders on horseback, knights, ladies, soldiers, peasants, drummers and flag throwers wind their way through the historical center of Florence. This Cavalcade has been celebrated since the 15th century. The costumes of beautiful silks and velvets are inspired by the famous fresco, “the Procession of the Magi” by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi.

It was a beautiful day. Cold and crisp. We walked to the Pitti Palace where the procession begins. We were there about 20 minutes early and got to stand right in the front but we had to defend our territory against many front row wantabes.

Of course I took a lot of pictures and these costumes are so amazing it was hard to narrow it down. So bear with me and scroll through, peruse as you like and try to picture this same parade happening 600 years ago!

First I will show the many banners that  represent the Contrade, or neighborhoods of Florence.

The bearers of the gifts.

The three kings.

The procession of lords and ladies in beautiful costumes!

This one intrigued me. This proud looking woman walked with her right hand extended and upraised as though being escorted by an invisible person. Why? Was she a proud widow? I don’t know.

Now come many soldiers, flag bearers and probably important men.

These are the Falconers with the amazing raptors!

Now the archers…

Peasants…

And finally a couple of pictures from the beautiful property where our hosts live. it is south of the Arno but easy walking distance to all the sights.  It must be 5 or more acres of lovely gardens. With a view of Florence from the top that is spectacular.

Buon Anno a tutti!


Cold and incredibly clear here now. Night temperatures are getting down in the mid-twenties Fahrenheit. Brrrr. My lemon tree is inside for the duration.

New Years Eve saw big celebrations and dancing into the wee hours in the piazza. I guess they had to dance to keep warm. Italians don’t really dance…they hop. Up and down, up and down. Really quite amusing to watch.

For New Years dinner we made a trek on New Years Eve to Bosco, a town south of us, to buy a good steak from Etrusco macellaio. They have the BEST beef. We always stock up while there. I built a fire and warmed myself waiting for it to get good and hot. Meanwhile I made Hoppin’ John for luck. I bring dried black-eyed peas from the US. Here in Italy the dish to serve is sausages and lentils. Lentils are shaped like coins and will make you rich in the new year.
Anyway you do it, Happy New Year to us all! Hoping for a transitional year ahead.

Christmas season begins…

Last night they lit our town Christmas tree. We went down and joined in the fun. It was mostly for the kids. Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) was in his hut, and there were lots of performances by the kids. We went to Bar Mary. It was very mild out so we sat at a table outside. We were joined by some friends who happened by. Then there was the count down – dieci, nove, otto, sette, sei, cinque, quattro, tre, due, uno!! And the tree was lit!

Here are pictures! First the unlighted tree. Then when it is lighted up.

Chestnuts roasting.

One of the vendors selling Christmas ornaments.

I call this “Cityscape” – projected lights on the buildings (I’m not sure I’d want to live there!)

And with the Rocca in the shot.

Our Collegiata, lit up for L’Imacolatta – with the moon and sparks.

And one of the many sconces of lights on the streets.

Enjoy the season! Buon Natale.

Santa Cecilia, patron Saint of musicians

Today is the feast of Santa Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. Every year, here in Umbertide, she is celebrated in the dark of night with the city band playing in the streets. I woke last night at 3:54am to the sound of music. I went to the window and a saw below, the musicians riding through our centro on the flat bed of a truck. I love this tradition. Here is her history.

St. Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs. Her feast day has been celebrated since about the fourth century. She was a noble lady of Rome who suffered martyrdom in about 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus.

According to the story, despite her vow of virginity, she was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians. When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia’s advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.

The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.

Cecilia was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus, and later transferred to the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. In 1599, her body was found still incorrupt, seeming to be asleep.
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These are the things that brought me here, keep me here, and endlessly entertain me. 💕

Taking advantage of a sunny day

We’ve had a lot of wet dreary weather. Not cold, just damp and gray. So, this weekend, Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be pretty and sunny with no rain. We said, “let’s do something!”

Tiber on our way to the garage.

Sunday was the festival of San Martino. One of my favorites. On the 11th of November, Italy celebrates San Martino, a soldier of the Roman Empire who became a Saint for his great humility and generosity.

The story goes that while he was riding at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers, he met a poor, freezing beggar, cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with him. That same night he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given to the poor man and thanking him for his compassionate gesture.

It is also said that at the moment he shared his cloak, the sun came out and that is why what in the U.S. is known as Indian summer, in Italy is called Estate di San Martino: a short period of time during the first weeks of November characterized by relatively good, warm weather.

Well, our weather was quite nice today so, in honor of San Martino we went wine tasting!

We visited Arnaldo Caprai winery. There were lots of people there maybe because hardly any wineries are open on Sundays. It was a nice operation.  Pretty tasting room, nice outside space. We did the standard tasting, grechetto white, montefaclco rosso, and sagrantino. We also asked to taste the Pinot nero and another Sagrantino. They brought us plates of bread with the new oil. And also they brought out plates of just roasted chestnuts. In honor of San Martino. We bought some wine and a bottle of the new oil.

Now for lunch. Five years ago, almost to the day, we had dined at Locanda Rovicciano We enjoyed it then so we decided to go back. It is an ancient building at the end of a dirt road. As you drive down the road you pass a number of houses that are surrounded by junk and the neighborhood looks really ugly. But once you pop out at the end it is quite pretty. It is also a B&B and there were several groups of Americans. How they found the place I’ll never know!

We had reserved and it’s good we did as the place was packed. I had the scrambled eggs with white truffles to start. Just outside of where we sat I could see a flock of white chickens. I knew where my eggs came from. They were brilliant yellow as are all the eggs here sourced locally. Happy chickens. The chef brought out two tiny white truffles and placed them on a tiny scale. They are sold by weight. He shaved one onto my eggs and recorded the grams. A yummy treat and not something you can get just anywhere. Luther had maccheroni with cheese and sausage. Real comfort food and a huge plateful.

Fried bread for munchies.

Luther’s maccherioni

My first bite.

Eggs with truffles

For secondi I had the pigeon cooked under a brick on the fire. Luther had the lamb. I had spinach and Luther had the roasted potatoes for our contorni. A nice meal.

Back in Umbertide the festival of San Martino was in full swing. There were booths with flea market type junk and booths with hand crafted things like woolen hats and scarves. There was a big tent with the new olive oil all sourced from just near here. And the fires were crackling with the chestnuts roasting. I bought a cone of them along with a bottle of Umbertide oil from Monte Acuto. The band was setting up on the stage. The Nowhere men. They played old rock and roll. All in all a nice fest and a nice day.

Fratta ‘800 2019

Another Ottocento has come and gone. As my loyal readers know, every late August, early September we have our annual festival called Ottocento, or Fratta ‘800. It celebrates the formation of the Italian republic in the 1800s. Garibaldi and his Red Shirts beat back the Briganti who had overtaken Umbria. In the four days of the festival there are reenactments and lots of gunfire and general mayhem, along with bands and dancers, stilt-walkers, duels, and executions. Always fun. Here are some pictures.

Saturday evening. Despite the rain the bands played on.

Curtained entrance to one of the Taverne.

They dedicated this statue to, Our Hero, Garibaldi!

Entry to the Briganti Taverna.

They played into the night. At 2AM I was up and the entire square was hopping up and down. What is it with Italians?! They simply hop up and down…I guess they can’t dance.

After.

The Briganti got up to some shenanigans of course. It took a lot of effort to finally find someone who could explain the meaning of the sign. Thanks Lisa! Literally it means “cows to pasture” I knew it had another meaning, probably more vulgar. Turns out Vacche also means Loose women. And Pasco could mean a male appendage. Then taken all together it means – The woman are out getting laid. Once I got the meaning I realized this was blocking the brothel. Made more sense then.

Belatedly, I found out the Briganti had set up larger than life-sized posters of themselves in drag. The facial hair made for some butt ugly women! Wish I’d gotten pictures.

The Briganti hoisted their banner in their lair this year.

The calm after the storm. Pretty Umbertide doorway.

Moon over Umbertide

Summer is in full swing. The town of Umbertide is jumping. Last weekend there was a function called Calice sotto la Rocca. It means glasses under the fortress. It was nice. You paid 20 Euro and got a glass. There were five booths, each had a locally produced wine and a course from a local restaurant. It started at 8PM but, as we expected, we were practically the first people there. In fact they hadn’t finished setting up yet. Very typical. I took a few pictures.

The booths. The wine awaits.

I’m always amused by the young Italian men. They are peacocks.

The moon rose from behind the Collegiata which is our church built in the 1400s

The Rocca. Our fortress.

Antipasto was a nice, cool seafood salad.

By 9PM the crowds had arrived. They played rock and roll from the 60s.

The other courses included a Porchetta on bread, then a potato gnocci with truffles, and an odd potatoes on bread for the Secondi. The dolce was a tiramisu in a cup from Tortecetera, our local cupcake shop.

Other happenings around town. We have just celebrated the re-opening of Cafe Centrale under new ownership. It is the second bar on our main piazza. Quite posh with furniture and french pastries. It is popular with the young 20 something crowd.

Saturday is a very happy day in the dog days of summer. The kilometer zero market is chock full of local produce and people come to one of the two bars for coffee or drinks. The happy hum of voices is clearly audible up at our house.

Today is Ferragosto. The 15th of August. Everyone goes on picnics, to the beach, or to a restaurant for a long Pranzo. The weather has broken temporarily from a really hot spell. It will be a good day for gli Italiani. Buona Festa!

Puppy rescue!

Yesterday was an exciting day. I helped a group of FaceBook people in the UmbriAliens group find someone to raise two little puppies that had been discarded. They were found in a plastic bag hung on a tree limb. There were six, so young their eyes are not open and they still have their umbilical stubs. There were six. Now there are two. Four died. People don’t neuter their dogs here and when there are resulting puppies their solution is to kill or discard them. The good news is that these two are now going to be hand raised by my friend Angela here in Umbertide. The person who had been caring for them (Sarah) drove them all the way from south of Rome to Umbertide. Several others involved came along to see the babies and watch them find their new temporary home. No one is sure of the breed but the think they may be pit bulls. Which is good news for them because pit bulls are rare in Italy which will make them adoptable. There is one boy, and one girl. Pictures from Sarah.

Other happenings in Umbertide recently included a vintage car show. I had no idea they were all outside in the Piazza until I happened to glance out. These weren’t all exotic types. Many were ordinary cars of their time. Here they are.

All lined up and driving out. I always wonder where they go. Maybe to another town?

I really am ready for the spring produce to start coming into season. This time of the year there is very little new growing  yet. I’m sure seedlings are being nurtured but they aren’t in our local market yet. Just the same old boring winter veggies. I love them but I’m ready for something new. I always visit the Saturday Kilometer Zero market – our local growers and producers. This time in hopes there might just be something new. Not yet…alas. But the sun was shining and everyone was in a good mood so I snapped a few photos. Still waiting for spring…

Curly kale. Green and purple.

Cabbage and leeks. The leeks are sweet. I poached some in butter the other day which were delicious.

Dried grains are always around. Ceci beans, Cannellini beans, lentils, etc.

Umbrian olive oil – the best!

Specialty of central Italy, Porchetta. Whole boned pig stuffed with herbs and roasted overnight for about 12 hours. Addictively good.

Umbria is the land of Pecorino cheese from sheeps milk. And ONLY Pecorino cheese. The good thing is they make it in many ways, from fresh and soft, semi-hard, aged, and flavored. It is good but sometimes I miss the variety.

And everyone is starting to think about planting spring flowers. So far I’m holding off.

Senore Honey was there with all his products. Honeys from different types of flowers. I bought chestnut honey and was very surprised at the strong flavor. Not sure I like it. He also has bees wax candles and other things.

 

L’Immacolata

Today is L’immacolata, a national holiday. The immaculate conception. Not being very sure about this day because I’m not Catholic I looked it up and discovered I was wrong about what it meant. Turns out it is the day that Mary was conceived to her mother. I had thought it was Jesus’ conception but was confused as it is only two weeks before his birthday.

Anyway, it is the day that ALLLL of Italy lights its Christmas trees. And St. Nicholas comes to the Piazza for the little kids. I actually managed to get pictures of the crowds outside before and after the tree was lit. And I heard the countdown and saw the tree lit for the first time. It is not my favorite tree so far, however. But as we all know from Charlie Browns tree that all trees are beautiful in their way.

We also visited Montone for lunch today. Tipico, our chosen restaurant was really crowded. Everyone was out for lunch on the holiday. A few pictures.

View from the walls. A beautiful, clear, and not too cold day.

Montone street dressed for Christmas. They are quite traditional there.

The Christmas tree. The Piazza was bright and the tree was not so the picture isn’t so good.

Tipico showcases two oils. One light and one stronger. The bread is always good there too.

Outside now, as I write this, the children are singing and the band is playing. There are little stands with things to sell. Happy Immaculata!