Category Archives: Friends

Domenica pranzo with friends

On our ride south today to lunch with friends. Brilliant sunshine.

We met up with friends in a town called Bastia Umbra. Completely overlooked by everyone but we are told there are a lot of monied folks living there. I assume it was bombed during the war since much of it was new. But the old outline of the wall was still there. And some of the old gates remained. Inside was a clothing market along the streets. The second picture below is marking the border of one of the Rioni, or neighborhoods. Most towns have a number of neighborhoods and people living within them are fiercely loyal.

Our friend Doug found the restaurant we went to. It was just outside the old perimeter, called Perl d’Oro. Unpretentious outside but pretty inside. Good service. Delicious seafood.

Here are pictures of our food. Captions under photos.

This was called Gamberi tempura. Not like any tempura I have had. But very delicious.
Luther and I chose the red snapper. It was under potatoes and roasted tomatoes.
Jen got the Branzino in a salt crust.
Afterward they brought scoops of Gelato di Mele (apples) with pistachios. Very refreshing.
Finally we shared this chocolate dessert. Mmmm.

Originally we wanted to visit a huge fair on the fairgrounds there which was all kinds of vintage things, clothes, furniture etc. We didn’t allow enough time to make the entry fee worth it but I will go again in the future allowing more time…once I am in the buying mode for our new house. 😁

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 🌈

Celebratory lunch at Calagrana

What a day. It has turned sharply colder. Today was the day we celebrated with our buyers, Christie and Jane, and our former realtor Jim and his wife Jill. Jim was our original realtor in 2014. He knows the system and we just give him power of attorney and he handles the rest. So easy. We all went to Calagrana. The day was incredible the sky brilliant blue and the slanting autumnal sun made everything starkly clear.

Calagrana on it’s hillside.
View from in front Calagrana.

There was a new addition to the Calagrana family. Here is Tallula. She is 50 years old and is entirely original. She has only 60,000 kilometers on the clock. An original Fiat Centocinque.

Here is the group with Ely in the foreground.

It was a lovely afternoon. Lively conversation and great food. When we got back to Umbertide, the Castagne man had his fire going and the chestnuts were a-roasting. I love this! Every autumn this man and his family come and roast their chestnuts just next to the Piazza. This farmer is one of my favorites and comes to both of our weekly markets. He has the best tomatoes of anyone…but now is not tomato season…it is castagne season!!

So good. Sweet. I ate well today…Ho mangiato bene oggi! And it was lovely to spend our day with friends.

Moving companies – traslochi

The electrician did come to install our lights on Friday, right on time. He came with the father, and owner of Sideform, the company that we dealt with to buy all our lights back when we had the house renovated. I think the older man just wanted to make sure all was well and the electrician knew what he needed to do. He installed the two lighting fixtures. I don’t think I will ever get used to how little these tradespeople charge. I am so used to paying through the nose in the US. I was prepared to pay this guy €80-100 euro. I asked him what we owed. He answered €30.

On Monday we had luck finding pellets for the stufa. It was where we used to buy pellets a couple years ago. The price of pellets has gone up 300% since last year. What cost €5 for a 15 kilo bag now costs €14. We were just glad to find some.

We are having the usual November rains now and I am happy to report the gutters are still draining well and consequently no drips inside. That fix cost more than I would have thought but it was very involved and dangerous too so we were glad to pay it. Especially since Fabio and Mario were so very responsive.

We now have an appointment with a Trasloco company in Perugia. They are coming Monday to give us an estimate for our move. They have the trucks and the equipment we will probably need to get out of this apartment, to include trucks with elevator cranes which go to the upstairs windows and move things out that way. Some of our furniture will not go down the stairs. This company is Traslocchi Zucconi. I am sure this will be quite the show for the old gent card players at Bar Mary when the Americani move house.

This morning I had a fun outing with our buyers to a furniture store. Mostly old furniture or repurposed old wood made into new furniture. The place is a huge jumble. It is really too much to take in. The eye bops from here to there and just cannot register everything.

We all loved this table. It is a pasta making or patisserie making table. It has a marble top and then there is a wooden top that slides out and was used to make pasta. It even has a place to store the rolling pin! Sophia, one of the family members told us her mom has one like it. She said that every kitchen used to have one.

Christie and Jane love the idea of a drop leaf so they can put it to the side in the dining room and save space. We loved this one but it was defective from birth we were told. Not sturdy… very wobbly, but so pretty.

I wasn’t intending to buy anything, but I loved this table. Narrow but long and versatile so it will work in our upstairs space. Very nice bones and pretty wood. It is the center table in the picture. The one with the rounded ends. It is even pegged rather than nailed. They will keep it for me until we move. I will buy chairs there as well. I want mismatched ones. They had some nice woven seat ones I liked.

Jane and Christie bought a beautiful console to hold their TV in the living room. It is a new piece made from recycled old wood. I wish I had taken a picture. It will be perfect in that space. I love these junk shops. I have my eye on some of the blanket chests. They are seating in a bedroom and great for storage of, well, blankets! There is also a nice white wood room divider I like. It would be nice on the top floor of our new house to divide the area where we will put a sofa bed to make it more private. But it can be folded, or used elsewhere. It is in the picture above next to the wobbly table.

It is always fun to shop for a new house. I need to wait to buy a lot more since I need to be there to get a real feel for it. I am a nester so I must nest. And nest I will! Ciao a tutti!

It is accomplished

It is official. We are now squatters in our former home. Jane and Christie came over, we had wine and toasted their new ownership. They did some measuring. It is definitely bittersweet for me, but I am very happy friends of mine will be enjoying this sweet space. Later Luther and I popped the champagne he bought. We toasted to our new adventure yet to come. 🙂

Excellent lunch with friends

Today, Saturday, was a bit gray, dreary and chilly. I went out to the market to do some shopping where I bought quite a lot of stuff for soups and salads. I noted we have a new bread kiosk which I must try. But today I visited our local forno for bread.

My haul.

Our friends from Spello, who moved here in July, were coming up for lunch at C’era una Volta, a restaurant near our new apartment. The name means Once Upon a Time. But first an aperitivo in the Piazza was in order. We sat at a table and Jane happened by so we invited her to join us. Then Jim (our realtor) and four other Brits sat at the table next to us. Bar Mary is always the place to meet and greet.

We headed down to the restaurant. We pointed out our new apartment on the way. I actually love C’era una Volta. It is only one block from our new apartment so I anticipate it will become our go-to place. The people are so friendly. I think they are Sardinian. Mom, dad, and daughter. We got the names of Mom, Laura, and Dad, Giuseppe. Next time, daughter. The food is quite good. They have a menu but the specials are recited. It is a real language and memory test! Here are pictures of our food.

Our shared antipasto plate. Amazing variety.
Delicious, made in the house, pasta with zucca (winter squash/pumpkin), prosciutto, and funghi (mushrooms).

We had such a nice time catching up with Roselyne and Steve. They are renovating their apartment right in the historic center of Spello. Excellent location with three terraces, one of which is right over the main drag up the hill so they can see what is happening all the time. Much like our view of our Piazza. It is ALL good! We will see them again soon!

When I got home I snapped yet another photo from our terrace…our last Autumn here. I want to always remember this view.

A little later I looked up and was greeted with an amazing sunset! It doesn’t get any better!

Buona domenica a tutti! 🌈

What a productive week!

First I want to mention that we had a good hard rain Thursday night/Friday morning last week. First rain in weeks. I was up checking the gutters and all looked fine. Draining, no more waterfalls. And best of all, no leaks inside. Whew. Glad to have gotten that done thanks to Fabio and Mario. Excellent workers in a difficult situation.
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Our friends and buyers of our apartment, had a bit of a mishap. Jane fell off her bike hitting her chin and cheekbone on the ground and breaking her thumb. She and Christie walked over to the Pronto Soccorso (emergency room) where they gave her a temporary cast and made an appointment to visit an orthopedic doctor in Citta di Castello yesterday. Meanwhile, our signing of the Powers of Attorney was scheduled for Tuesday.

We did manage to get the signing done, even with Jane’s right, and main, hand in a cast. It was somewhat amusing. The Notaio’s office is in a former Palazzo built in the 1600s. It is just next to an enormous green space which Jim told us it was once the main Piazza of Castello, and a formal garden. Now it is just an immense lawn. The office is just as I remember it. Grand but threadbare in a pleasing way. I took a couple photos.

Ceiling. Probably 20 feet high.
Ornate door into the room.
Cool fireplace, obviously unused.

So, Jim can now sign for Christy and Jane to close on the apartment. And he can close for us on our new place. That way we don’t need a translator. Saves a bit of money. The deal is not quite sealed…but a step closer.

Because we weren’t sure what they would do at the hospital in Castello I drove them up for the appointment. We went to the hospital and found the orthopedic department where Jane was seen pretty quickly. But she had to endure the pain of resetting her thumb…no anesthetic. The norm here. She said is was REALLY painful. Then they put on a cast and we went to get an X-ray to see how the set was. It took us 45 minutes to FIND the Radiology department. They are very short on signage. On the good side, we got our steps in. 🫤 We returned to the orthopedic docs who viewed the X-rays and told us to make an appointment to come back in a week. Making the appointment at the ASL (Azienda Salute Locale).

To give ourselves a reward for our ordeal…more for Jane than Christie and I, we decided to have lunch! We tried a new place called Grace. It opened in the space where Patrick’s Enoteca used to be. It is a bit of a sad story. Grace was the wife of the chef. She was a 28 year old American. She and her husband were involved in an accident in which she was killed. The restaurant was opened in her name.

We had a delicious lunch. They have half portions of almost everything, so we decided to do three half portions each. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures.

Zucchini carpaccio with walnuts.
My ravioli with black truffles
Jane and Christie got this zucca stuffed pasta. Zucca is the big orange winter squash they have here.
Inside – mmmm.
The zucca main course Jane had. She and Christie are vegetarians.
Being an equal opportunity eater I tried the venison. I eat a lot of vegetarian but like to try meats too.

This week we also got our guy to come to arrange to replace two window screens, the electrician is coming to replace two lights, and Luther had a hearing test today. I gotta say…I am OVERWHELMED at all the progress we are making! So un-Italian! 🙂💕 Ciao a tutti!

New week!

This will be a little newsy post. This and that. It has been hellishly hot. There is a heat dome over Europe and all countries are suffering. Since air conditioning is not the norm throughout Europe it is even worse than the US. We have two units, one in the living room, and one in our bedroom. In a normal summer, we use these units seldom. This year has been different. It is not a normal summer. We used the bedroom one only once so far. The living room tends to get hot in late afternoon, it has a big roof and the wall with the picture window faces west. So they both catch the full sun all day. The unit is small for the size of the room, but now I turn it on around 1 pm and it keeps the room comfortable. This means we mostly stay inside. We go out early for errands and exercise and then close up the shutters and encave ourselves for the day. I don’t cook a lot in this heat either. We eat a lot of vegetables and salads. If we have fish or meat, it is quickly sautéed. I sometimes prepare cooked things in the early morning which we eat later at room temperature. Caprese salads, gazpacho, and panzanella are my friends!

Today we had errands to do. We had to get cat food and groceries. We had been putting this off as long as we could. We normally go to the Coop in our town for major shopping. It is the biggest store in Umbertide. But it isn’t a super-store. Monday morning would normally be a good day to shop. But today! It was chock full of vacationers who arrived here and need to stock up their homes or vacation rentals with food. This usually happens right around now or in August. The two big months to travel. But I had never seen so many. It must be that pent up desire to travel this year after all the Covid lockdowns. I saw two Belgian cars, five UK cars, four Netherlands cars, one German, and one from France. Wow!
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All has not been chores. We were invited to lunch on Friday by good friends who live in the mountains between here and Gubbio. You might remember during my lock-down postings here Jill kept me cheerful by sending pictures of her beautiful gardens. Lunch was lovely as always. The food was yummy and the conversation ranged far and wide. We also met a new friend, Jane. The gardens and the views are beautiful.

On Saturday our friend Doug, who just arrived here to live full time, came up and I helped him fill out his packet and make copious copies of documents needed to apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno or Permit to Stay. A new resident here has just 8 days to fill out and apply for this permit. When a non-EU citizen moves to Italy they must first get a Visa to come here. A good analogy is the Visa is like the taxi that takes you to your house. The PdS is what allows you to LIVE in your house. So the Visa gets you into the country, the PdS allows you to live here. It must be renewed annually and it takes the place of the Visa which never needs to be renewed. Doug has now embarked on the merry-go-round which is Italian bureaucracy. 🙂
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House hunting — This coming Thursday we have an appointment to view three more houses. These are in Spoleto. I have high hopes for one of them. The other two depend more on the location than anything else. Watch for a house hunting post later this week!

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! 🇮🇹 🇮🇹

Spring’s bounty!

Just an addendum to my last post. My socks. 😁

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From time to time Luther sends me a recipe he likes. Truth be told, he sends me at least one a week. They come from the Italian newspaper or from the Dr. Wine site. He complains that I don’t make many of them. I admit, I don’t. Friday, I made a zuppa that he sent. Zuppa di legumi misti, mais, e orzo perlato. It is a mixture of dried beans, farro, lentils (your choice of the mix) with corn and orzo. This is another oddity. Orzo, in the US, is rice shaped pasta. Here, orzo is barley. Here’s a picture. (I added short pasta and potatoes)

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I love this time of year. Gone is the winter produce. Now we see ruby red radishes, piles of fava beans and new peas ready to sbucciare, my new word for today. As in to shell, or to peel. Luther will sbuccia all of them for me, and then I do the cooking part 🙂 There is asparagus in heaps, of course. Beautiful bitter greens like arugula, called rucola here. And lettuces. The baby zucchini are just coming in and the cucumbers. I impatiently await the tomatoes but they won’t be here until July, maybe late June.

Today I bought something interesting from one of our nice cheese mongers. She had in her case containers of Sardinian potato dumplings that she had prepared (she is from Sardinia). All I have to do is boil them and serve with a good tomato sauce with basil. I also bought a container of fresh ricotta.

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Lunch out Saturday! With friends. We decided on a restaurant in Montone, a nearby hill town. This restaurant has been there since we’ve lived here but in typical Italian fashion it was never open when we tried to go. I heard from friends that it is open now, under new management. It is called Taverna Del Verziere. One of the best features of this place is the views from the walls across the valley from their terazza. Spectacular and oh so pleasant on a summer day.

It is a family run place and they were all super welcoming. I was glad I had reserved since it was pretty packed. Their antipasto menu was interesting. We tried a couple new-to-us things. I had the papapomodoro with seasonal vegetables. A typical Umbrian recipe using stale bread soaked in tomato juices. The veggies were either roasted or pickled. Susan got the roasted purple carrot Hummus.

We both enjoyed them. Luther and Gary got the tagliata with lardo for their secondo. It is grilled steak sliced and they put a very thin piece of Lardo on top. Lardo is a speciality of northern Tuscany. Pork belly lard, the purest white, is packed with herbs into giant marble boxes and left to cure for eight months. Then it can be thinly sliced. When it is placed on hot meat, it melts and adds wonderful unctuous flavor.

Montone is a walled town with several gates through the walls. I love this one and the view.

Buona domenica a tutti!