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 🌈
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. 🇮🇹