Category Archives: Friends

Trip report. Naples and Positano

Here’s a trip report. The trip was short but the report has plenty of pictures. If you are not interested, as always, just skip!

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We took the train to Rome. It was a FrecciaBianca. One of the high speed trains but the slowest of the three kinds. We booked first class. There weren’t many people in our car. The seats were staggered anyway so no one sits near anyone else. We all were wearing masks. This was the longest stretch that I will have worn a mask non-stop. I put it on at 9:15am and it will come off around 3pm. (Except for eating)
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Then we boarded the FrecciaRossa to Napoli. This is the fastest train. We got up to 298 kph. We can get from Umbria to Naples in just over three hours, including a change of trains. We were in the business class car called “Area Silenzio” the silence area. Nice in there. Big cushy seats. Only one other passenger. Took just over an hour to get to Napoli from Roma. Before we boarded they passed out little bags with: a mask, gloves, antiseptic wipes, a cover for your seat back, water, cups and napkins, nice.

FrecciaRossa
Our speed.
party pack! Masks, wipes, gloves, etc.
I booked the Area Silenzio. It is so tranquil.

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I brought a picnic. Egg salad sandwiches with tomatoes, and peanut butter cookies courtesy of my friend Jen (yum – thanks Jen). And a bottle of white wine. Livin’ large on the FrecciaRossa.
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We had, for the first time, hired private transport from the Naples train station, to Positano – two hour drive.

Cliffs of the Amalfi coast.
COVID portrait. Our driver insisted.

The other two times we’ve visited, Luther drove rental cars. This time, our driver was waiting for us and he drove us expertly to our destination. All we had to do was walk down the hill to our hotel. It was pleasurable experience. If we ever again have guests who manage to come, we will do this again.

Our hotel is called Palazzo Murat. Our first visit to Positano was in 1994 when we lived in Germany. This is the hotel we stayed in then. So, kind of for old times sake, I chose this one again. It is much more luxurious than before. Might be the best place in town. They have a pretty patio bar. Our room has views of the sea and the duomo. There is also a large garden beneath our window. 

Across from us.
Breakfast terrace from our balcony.

The entire building is wrapped by a bougainvillea that is more than a century old. It’s main trunk is as big as a tree. For a plant enthusiast it is incredible. Along the balconies, and above the walkways there is a Genus Bignonia. There are also a banana plant, and tropical plants. My friend Doug would love it. There is even an entire trellised lemon, orange and tangerine grove. To one side there is the restaurant’s garden full of beautiful ripe tomatoes, and herbs and salad greens used by the chefs. All of this in the center of Positano. 

Vegetable garden.
Pool
Centennial bougainvillea

I was intrigued by the history of the Palazzo. It is 17th century and was the summer home of the King of Napoli. He was the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1808 he visited Positano and fell in love with the house. He spent summers with his lovers away from the politics in Napoli. 

Now the house is the home of the Attanasio family. Several generations have lived here and made the hospitality of the hotel their careers. Each member of the family looks after a specific department. 
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After we arrived we rested and showered and met our friends Gary and Bill for drinks in the pretty bar as the sun set behind the cliffs. They had taken the boat from Salerno, where they live. I met Gary, virtually, a few years ago through my blog. We had met in person in Rome for lunch back in December, what seems worlds away now. I was happy to try an interesting drink so Gary and I tried a Bellini. Peach juice (fresh) in Prosecco. One of us tried the Fresh Breeze, a cucumber based drink. And one got a white wine.

Bellini.
Fresh breeze.

After drinks we wandered down to the beach. Gary and Bill had already made reservations for us at Chez Black. This restaurant has been there since 1949. We even ate there in 1994. The food was good. And the servers were nice. We started early. By the time we left the place was packed. That had been a surprise. Positano is positively packed with tourists. Mostly young people. They have mandatory masks inside but not on the street. I admit to not feeling comfortable with this.

Octopus carpaccio. Oh my. So good.
Spaghetti al mare…seafood pasta. Also very good.
Luther had the grilled fish plate.

After dinner we sat in the patio bar where Luther could smoke his cigar. Pretty at night.

Cigar man
The beautiful patio at night.

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Our one full day in Positano I wanted to do some shopping. We rose and took our time going down to breakfast around 9:30. I thoroughly enjoyed it. They brought a plate of pastries and jam. And we ordered OJ (fresh squeezed – no surprise being in the citrus capital of Italy) and cappuccini. Then we ordered a la carte the smoked salmon Insalata dressed with a mustard, honey vinegrette. Very yum and light. 

My delicious smoked salmon salad breakfast.

After breakfast we walked all over Positano. The shopping was not what I had hoped. Maybe when I get to Napoli. Or maybe not. I was looking for some interesting necklaces. Not expensive but kind of large with interesting colors and stones or shells or … But I found only one store with interesting things like that and they are an expensive store. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spring for that amount of money. Maybe tomorrow morning, before we leave I will go back. Or not…

Park bench pal.

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Dinner in the restaurant at our hotel with Gary and Bill. First drinks on the patio. Such a pretty place. We just had to walk down a set of steps to the restaurant. I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with the food. We had a bruschetta gift from the chef. I had tuna with a Bloody Mary sauce. It was not notable. The squash blossoms looked good. It was still an enjoyable dinner with good conversation and companions. 

Squash blossoms
Tuna bloody mary
Polpette aka meatballs
Bye Bye Positano.

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We breakfasted and left our pretty hotel to meet our driver Vincenzo. He whisked us straight to the Grand Hotel Excelsior.

Luther’s eggs.
My own personal frittata in a cute pan.
The Amalfi coastal drive from the van.
The Amalfi coastal drive from the van.

For this, our first trip to Naples, I chose the seafront. There is a row of big hotels. They sit directly across from the Castello Ovo. All around the castle are seafood restaurants. It is a quiet area compared to in the city center. Next time we come we decided it would be more fun to be in the city.

Our hotel is described as the Grand Dame of hotels. It was nice enough, if a little dated. Very large room with olive flocked wallpaper. High ceilings and a decent bath. Two big windows looked out on the sea. The room had a seal across the door indicating it had been sanitized. The hotel takes all the Covid precautions. The top floor is a roof terrace. Pretty flowers and trees around and among the tables. They serve breakfast here as well as drinks at night. The breakfasts were good.

Sidney the seagull was our assigned gull during our stay. Always on duty.

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The first night we decided to have dinner at La Scialuppa. Right beside the water. Outside tables. They took our temperature and then we had to fill out a form with our contact info – document number telephone etc. everywhere we went they took our temperature. Food was good enough. I had the Caprese salad and a pasta – big tubes with a pistachio cream sauce and prawns. Very rich. I was glad I had ordered the Caprese. And we could actually see the island of Capri where the Caprese is said to originate

Couple of guys entertaining us. They were fun and serenaded me with “that’s Amore”
Our hotel from our table. Hotel Excelsior is on the right.
Luther’s appetizer
My pasta.

We returned to the hotel and went up to the roof terrace for Luther to have a cigar and an after dinner drink. It was very pleasant.
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After a good breakfast of scrambled eggs fruit and toast we grabbed a cab and went to the Museo Archeologico. The cab ride was beyond exciting. The traffic in Naples is legendary and our taxi driver was expert.

We have two full days here and today was the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. We’ve wanted to visit here for years. They’ve got all the original Pompeii art, frescos, mosaics etc. Also Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and all the prehistoric societies in southern Italy. We toured for almost 3 hours.

The museum was really great. In it they have all the bits of Pompeii and Herculaneum that they removed. Entire walls from houses with their frescoes. Mosaics. All kinds of ceramics and pottery. There was an Egyptian section. A Roman section. An Etruscan section. A Greek section. Even a prehistoric exhibit. Lots of carved statuary. The focus is on the bottom of Italy. The heel and toe of the boot up to about Rome and also Sicily and the islands like Capri and Ischia. Excellent museum. We spent about 3 hours there.

Roman sculptures

They had a cute photo installation with some of the sculptures juxtaposed into photographs. Here are just two of them.

Decoration from a Pompeii villa
Portrait of a Roman intellectual woman.
Map of the early settlements at the base of the peninsula.
One of the beautiful floors. We had to wear shoe covers.
I don’t know why I liked this, but I did. Until he removes her helmet, he doesn’t realize he killed a beautiful woman warrior.
Greek drinking cup.

We left the museum and headed down Via Toledo. It is one of the main drags in Naples. Very busy street. We were looking for a place to stop for refreshments and to rest our feet. We found a place in Piazza Dante. It didn’t have food though and we were hungry. We used the phone to find nearby restaurants and went to one called Cisterna. It was close. I ordered a wonderful ceviche with lime. Cool, light and refreshing. We were planning an outing later in the afternoon so took a taxi back to the hotel.

My ceviche.

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After resting we headed out to find the cigar store that Luther had heard of to see if he could buy some cigars. It was about a 15 minute walk but the sidewalks were very hard to walk on. Hard stones and uneven surfaces. And lots of traffic and crosswalks. Very chaotic. Not liking it. We found the store and Luther got his cigars. Then we headed to a wine bar he had found. We had a glass of wine and walked back to our chosen restaurant, 28 Posti Bistro con Gusto. I was sorry to see it was inside dining but the tables were far apart. After a temperature check and document filing as usual, we sat down and ordered. I had bruschetta with colorful tomatoes and peppers. And then a spaghetti con Vongole. Both tasty. We walked back to our hotel and I turned in. I was bushed after a very full day.

Thursday. Our other full day in Naples. The weather has been hot. And no rain. We left after breakfast. I had downloaded an app called GPSmyCity. You can pick any of eight or ten walking itineraries or custom make one. We took a taxi to the starting point at the Duomo of Napoli. The duomo is enormous. And very pretty. We started following the tour. It was nice. It told you where to go and then had nice write-ups of the sights. The second stop was the Naples Underground. I really was enjoying this neighborhood. Skinny streets, lots of shops. Lots of people shopping for their groceries at the individual food shops. One for fish, one for pasta, one for bread, one for fresh vegetables. Lots of life. This is where I’d like to stay next time.

Duomo.
One of the cool little streets near the Duomo.
Fish monger.

Then, there was this sign. Translates as — Top signs says, they are awarding degrees immediately. The second sign says they are hiring housekeepers who have the measurements of 90-60-90 with offers of food, accommodation, washing, rinsing, drying, ironing, massage and sex at will. Okay then….

We kept going, seeing Piazze, and churches, statues, and landmarks. The tour actually ended at our hotel. We decided to stop for lunch. We couldn’t find anything with outside tables. Eventually we found a cute trattoria. It didn’t have outside tables but it didn’t feel too cramped. They took our temperatures and we filled out the forms. They are required to keep the forms for two weeks. If anyone gets infected they can use them for contact tracing. I had Caprese insalata again. It is just so good because we are in the land of Mozzarella di Buffala. It is much creamier than what we got in the US or even in Umbria. We also noticed it is spelled Muzzarella here. From the dialect of Naples. Which is getting closer to the Muzzadell’ you’ll hear in NJ and NY Italian communities. After the Caprese I had another pasta with seafood dish. It had Pecorino cheese in it. It was sort of a cross between Caccio e Pepe Roman specialty and pasta with seafood. Strange. But good. 


Since we had a big lunch we decided to stop by the grocery on the way back and put together a picnic. We got ham, mortadella, and two cheeses. Along with a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. The end of a nice day.

The following morning we breakfasted and packed and checked out. We grabbed a taxi to the station and found our train was delayed 25 minutes. It meant we’d miss our connection. But we grabbed the next one so not terribly inconvenient. The downside was the train was a Regional and it was packed. Everyone put their bags and backpacks in the seat next to them, taking up 2 seats each. They had no seats marked restricted which would have helped with the distancing. But this meant that a family who got on couldn’t find seats. No one wanted to sit right next to, or across from anyone. Including me!
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Final thoughts. I always love Positano. Taking the private transport from the Naples station there was seamless, relaxing and painless. The town was packed on the Sunday afternoon when we arrived. I was surprised. Monday was not as bad. But still a lot of people. Masks are required indoors but not outside. The hotel Palazzo Murat is amazing. The food in Positano was not at all notable. Chez Black was the best.

Naples was as I expected. Busy chaotic Italian city in the south. Lots of horns honking. Millions of Vespas and motorcycles. Crazy drivers. But they did let you cross in the crosswalks. The neighborhood up near the Duomo was the most interesting. There are many places we didn’t see of course.  They don’t seem to use the word Ciao as often in Naples as they do further north. The food in Naples was not notable. Not bad but not great. We didn’t get any pizza. Maybe next time.

Lunch with friends

Nowadays we are careful about getting together for just about anything. We have space on our terrazzo for only four to dine together. So I can only invite two at a time. Today was the second time since lockdown that we’ve had friends over for a meal. The weather couldn’t have been better. Sunny, breezy and the perfect temperature. I set our round table outside.

My menu was: Bruschetta with avocado, gazpacho with mozzarella, shrimp risotto, peach cobbler. Some pictures.

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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutti bene 🌈 And so it will. Ever hopeful.

Here and there…pandemic thoughts

In Europe the virus is making somewhat of a resurgence. France has become the new hot spot in Europe. As for Italy, we had 642 cases here yesterday, that is even with the numbers on May 23. It had gotten down to only 100 cases a day at one point. So, there is cause for concern. In my last post I made an error. The Italian officials have closed all of the Discotheques. The spread here, as in most other countries, is due to the young people flauting the rules, gathering in big groups, no social distancing, and no masks. The new cases everywhere are overwhelmingly among the young. But then, they bring it home to grandma and Mom and Dad who tend to get much sicker. I just heard we have 4 new cases in Umbertide. Kids who vacationed outside of Italy and brought it back.

In every country, people experience this pandemic in different ways, depending on what they do for a living, where they live, their race, etc. If they are poor and live in crowded conditions, must work, and have no health care, they have it much worse than someone who is say, a professional, perhaps a white collar worker allowed to work from home who still has insurance and income.

From a Washington Post article…
“Not everyone is experiencing the same level of stress, and everyone’s pandemic struggles differ. Any “essential” worker exposed to high-risk conditions day after day has more urgent concerns than someone merely stuck at home and missing out on summer barbecues.“

“No question, epidemic fatigue or pandemic fatigue is real. We are experiencing it,” Markel said. “But throughout human history, there have been terrible pandemics and contagious threats. Every civilization, every nation, has come through to the other side. And we will, too.”

I do know about epidemic fatigue. Just about everyone I know has it. Here in Italy we are a bit freer to do things, but everyone feels the threat of the virus, and has the fear of another lockdown. It kind of looms over us. The US hasn’t gotten there yet. They’ve got a ways to go but I see a downward trend so that’s a good thing. Still, that damn virus will loom over us all. Until we get a vaccine. But humans are pretty adaptive and resilient. Amazingly so. We will get through this…as long as we stay careful until then.

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Dinner out tonight. With new friends. We went to San Giorgio in the Piazza. It was nice to have a good amount of time to get to know each other better. Here are pictures of what I had to eat.

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I scored two big, fresh Porcini mushrooms yesterday at the market. They are destined to become tagliatelle funghi for dinner tonight. I adore these big meaty mushrooms. It is not possible to cultivate them, they must be gathered from the wild.

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Stay safe everyone. Now is not the time to let down our guard.🌈 Andrà tutto bene…

Busy Sunday

Busy day. We had a shopping trip to accomplish for friends, John and Libby – residents here with Permessi di Soggiorno so they are allowed to return from the US. They got trapped there by the Virus lockdown. They will have to quarantine for two weeks. This means no shopping, no going outside at all, complete isolation. They sent us a long detailed list. And if I was just returning to Umbria from being trapped in the US I’d be craving all the wonderful foods here. I can tell they are too, from their list.

I had already bought a bunch of beautiful produce for them from our local market Saturday. Sunday we went to the local Coop, our biggest and best market in Umbertide. It is a cooperative which you can join and get lots of discounts and they have a reliable level of quality for their store brands. I found out it is a hold out from the days when Communism was strong here.

Much to my dismay, the store was packed. This weekend is the first weekend in August, which is the BIG vacation month for all of Europe. Just about everyone there was foreign. British, German, Dutch…they were all wearing their masks, but the stores aren’t metering entry anymore so it felt a bit close. They were all buying stuff for their houses, or vacation rentals.

We finished the shopping and headed up to Montone. We were met by Calvert and Tom, who live just across from John and Libby. They let us in and we unpacked the stuff. They had also invited us to a summer lunch which we happily accepted and after the delivery we went to their nearby beautiful home.

We sat on their loggia. It is my favorite place in Montone. Although it is over 100F today it was comfortable. We had some interesting wines, thanks Tom! And lunch of cool things, thanks Calvert! We had a tomato, watermelon, cheese salad (many other things in there too) and then a cold gazpacho. With yummy bread. A few pictures. Is this not a beautiful space?

This is the view out across the valley from Montone, such a pretty hilltown.

Note the fireplace to the left! I’d love this!

Gazpacho. So yummy.

Thank you so much Calvert and Tom for this lovely lunch. It was so good we went home for naps! 💤 .

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Stay safe everyone. 🌈

Grocery delivery to new friends

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a follower of this blog. She and her husband had purchased a vacation home here and would be arriving in late July. They are Italian/American dual citizens, which allows them to come. One of the few ways a person from the US can come here now.

Anyway, she wanted to understand what Quarantine really meant. Many people think it is like when we were all under lockdown here. When we could go out to the grocery or for an essential reason with a declarazione. But that’s not what it is. It means when you get to Italy, you take private transport (no train or bus), like a rental car, and drive directly to your house or hotel. Then you don’t leave for 2 weeks. And you can’t have anyone inside your house, like a workman, or friend.

Our new friends don’t have a way to get groceries or anything here so I volunteered to do grocery shopping for them. Turns out they could order on-line at the local Coop and we could pick up and deliver.

I didn’t want to arrive at their place with €300 worth of groceries and perishables unless I was sure I could find it. So, on my way back from the hairdressers I did some recon, and found their house. Interesting concept. An old farm complex that has been made into apartments. You’ll find these all over Italy. Especially Umbria and Tuscany. I took pictures of the view. The first one, if you look on the hill opposite, with the rows of cypresses, is Calagrana. Nice pool for the community.

This one is the opposite side of the valley with it’s pretty olive groves and the crops growing down below.

And this one is in a different direction. You can only see those high mountains when you are up high yourself.

We went out this evening after we got their key from Bar Mary where their Architect, Roberto, left it. All worked out fine. We got two grocery carts full of stuff and transported it in our car to their new place. We unpacked everything. It was cool that the Coop has color coded bags. One for refrigerated, one for freezer, and one for non-refrigerated. We stowed the cold stuff, put in the white wine. I for one, would be hankering for a vino when I arrived. But that’s me! 

We are getting a nice favor from them as well. Luther is out of Cigars and we asked them to bring some for us. Luther ordered and sent to them. Also a few wishes I had for a few items. Always nice. And since we can’t go get more we rely on the kindness of friends. 🙂💕
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Be careful everyone. It is not looking good in the United States. 😢. 🌈

Lovely weekend

We were fairly busy with fun things this weekend. It was one of the prettiest, weather wise, I’ve ever seen. I guess the temperatures were in the 80s. There was a beautiful breeze. The sky was brilliant blue with puffy clouds moving across, creating an ever changing vista. I don’t care what you were doing, the weather this weekend would make it better. Even chores! I was happy to be alive and free enough to visit friends in person. We ate outside at both places and tried to socially distance.

We were invited to pranzo at our friends Stuart and Jill. They are such nice folks. They live in a place that is a bit hard to reach. They don’t think they are remote at all, but to us city mice, it is! Once you get there it is a piece of heaven. Up high on a hill with views of the rugged mountains and a distant hill town. It was a ruin when they bought it but now it is an amazing home. If I were making a house, this would be it. The flower pictures in my blog were mostly from their garden. It is their favorite pastime. It must be a lot of work. We sat outside under the retracting tende di sole, in the shade, facing the view. We had tomato bruschetta and crispy garlic toasts as nibbles. Then we had bowls of a cool gazpacho soup. Next a roulade with cheese and veg inside and a small salad with home grown beans and potatoes. Dessert was an apricot tart with a cheese plate and watermelon. Very nice and perfect summer lunch. Thanks Jill and Stuart. My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture!
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Sunday we were invited to another lunch. This time on a different mountain overlooking Lago Trasimeno. It is the biggest lake on the peninsula of the “boot”. We were guests of Oley and Krystyna who live in Colorado. They also have a home in Puerto Rico. They had gotten trapped in Puerto Rico by the Virus and returned here only a month ago. They had to quarantine for two weeks. Also invited were Vera, Graziano, and their two girls.

We had a lovely, very long lunch. Starting at 1:00 and we left at 6:30. They had magnums of Veuve Clicquot champagne to begin. We had chips with guacamole and salsa, Stuffed mushrooms, and a vegetable plate with two dips. We got to chatting about this last thing. Something so common in the US on every party table is totally unknown here in Italy. They are confounded by it. Next we had a fish dish in the Greek style. Then a plate of beautiful stuffed peppers. They were stuffed with ground pork and sausage and rice. The main course was beautiful steaks on the grill with potatoes and salad. Last, profiteroles and a Tokay slightly sweet dessert wine and grappa. We had several lovely red wines from Umbria and Tuscany. We sat outside under a rattan roof surrounded by roses on trellises and watched the clouds pass over the lake across the infinity pool . They have hundreds of lavenders planted and the scent was beautiful. Another little piece of heaven and we had a nice time. Thank you Oley and Krystyna.

This time I did take pictures. The first three are of the view across the lake. The last is the table.

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I’m watching the scary numbers in the US . The virus seems to be exploding! Please stay home and safe everyone 🌈.

July 5 — Luther’s birthday

Special day for Luther. We were invited to a BBQ up in the mountains. Our Italian friends who are our Italian famiglia invited us. It was a beautiful, breezy day. Not at all hot. We were nine people. The family of four, two young girls and their parents, who own the lovely property, and her father from Slovenia. Me and Luther, and another couple with a house in Umbria. They are Polish and live in Colorado and also in Puerto Rico.

The meal was wonderful. We started with a guacamole dip and a tomato salsa and chips. Wine flowed right from the start. I brought chocolate chip biscotti, the Poles brought a hunters stew. This property has a great pizza oven and BBQ in it’s own stone structure. We had grilled sausages, pork, beefsteaks. Also a very spicy eggplant dish which took me by surprise by its spice 😳 and also salad.

After a short time frozen vodka flowed as well as lemoncello. There was a cake for Luther to cut. My cookies and chocolate we brought rounded out the desserts.

View of had
View of the yard and oven.
Picnic Pavillion
Pizza oven.
The group
Outside dining
Vera and Luther
Dessert. Luthers cake, my biscotti, and a chocolate bell.
Birthday boy.
Me, Luther and Vera.

Home, and enjoying summer weather!

What lovely, hot weather we are having. It is in the 33-34C range or around 93F. I went out yesterday morning and enjoyed a coffee with a friend at Bar Mary. I’d call her a new friend except we’ve known “about” one another but never had a face to face chiacchierare (chat). Her name is Elizabeth. She wrote a book called Sustenance which I really enjoyed. She just managed to return to Umbria from San Francisco where she has been trapped for months due to Covid. What an ordeal. 22 hour flight with two changes! Only because she has a Permesso di Soggiorno and a medical reason was she able to return. And then she had to quarantine for two weeks. She is just freed. She said she would never leave Italy again! She used her quarantina to plant her garden, which is going gangbusters already, she reported. Anyway, it was lovely to get to know her and I’m sure we will meet again soon.

I went out to the Saturday local market today. Pretty day, a bit cooler with a nice breeze. The early summer produce is abundant now. I got beans, fennel bulbs, zucchini and zucchini blossoms, and lots of tomatoes which I “hope” will be good since it is coming onto the best time for them. I also took a few pictures 🙂

Bar Mary is always busy on market days.
Cafe Centrale too.
There is always this man with his Prosciutto. He cuts it so thin it’s almost transparent.
Market
One of the streets in Centro.

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A friend posted these two graphs from Worldometer. Excellent way to see the differences. Pretty scary.

So, there is danger out there, everyone be careful. Safe Fourth of July to you all. I miss that here! 💥 🧨

Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo – part 2

So yesterday we went to the polizia here in Umbertide to enquire about how to get the certificates we need. Sadly we have to go to Perugia. We have vague directions. Sigh.

Then we met with our avvocato. Sr. Rossi seems nice and speaks good English which helps some. He explained we should just apply on our own as normal and if we are turned down we will file in the Administrative Court Of Umbria (TAR UMBRIA) to contest the decision. It will cost around €1500 plus court costs and take around 1 1/2 years or so. Sigh.

On the bright side we managed to get our health care renewed. Always problematic as we must wait for the US Embassy to send our stamped social security statements before we can pay the fee to renew. All done. And we chose a new doctor. Dottoressa Lorenza Medici. Good name!
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To catch up with a few things from the last week or two…

Lunch at Calagrana with a bunch of friends. Picture of little Pelegrino, a twin whose mother rejected him. He is being bottle fed and is cute as can be.

And today is February 1! We got past the long cold month of January. Look what I saw on my trip to the grocery store!

Doctors, and wineries, and la cena – Oh my!

Yesterday was a Very Busy day and I want to share it with you.

It started out pretty early. We had an appointment with my knee surgeon at the hospital for X-rays. It was the standard 45 day post op checkup. I’m happy to say I’m fit as a fiddle. I’m now cleared to walk normally up and down the steps, which I did with very little problem. I’m very happy!

It was a pretty day (mostly) with a lot of fall colors and watery blue skies. Not too cold. To go from our house to the hospital in the city of Perugia we can take the SuperStrada around the city (faster but busier), the road that goes through the middle of town (tiny one way streets) or the pretty 2 lane road through the mountains. So, on the way to the hospital Luther took us through the city. On the way home I chose the mountains.

The road goes by a winery and agriturismo we like so we stopped to buy some wine. They also raise pigs which become prosciutto. Here’s the big ole sow. The piglets had run inside. The pens are super clean, and have inside and outside parts.

We also stopped at a place we’ve been passing all the years we’ve been here. It is an enormous castle and a beautiful golf course. We were looking for the restaurant that was supposed to be there. We drove up to the castle which is shuttered. Word has been it was supposed to be an upscale hotel, they also advertise condos for sale. For a long time it was covered with scaffolding but it had been removed a year or so ago. Yet still it is not open. Somebody put a lot of money into this property with the 18 hole Trent Jones golf course.

Castle

Old olive groves surround the castle

The golf course. We don’t have many golf courses in Umbria, or Italy, for that matter. It had a number of people playing. The sign at the entrance says welcome in Italian, English, German, and…Russian. Tells you who they are hoping to attract.

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We had been invited to la cena (dinner) by our friend Vera. She is such a gem. Her suocera (mother-in-law) was having a big dinner for friends and family. No special occasion that I could discern. I was a little reticent but decided I need to mix more so we said we’d come. Vera said not to expect much. It was a down-home feast with the contadini (contadino means farmer) so local folks – working people, farmers.

I will tell about it in pictures 🙂 Here is Vera and her suocera.

The meal was going to be in the garage. As garages go, it was a nice one. Here is the cinghiale who watches over the scene.

I asked what the wires across the ceiling were for. I was told they were to hang the grapes that they dry to make Vin Santo. It is for personal consumption. The grapes are allowed to raisin to get sweet before they make it. They don’t make it every year so no grapes were hanging.

What garage do you know that has a crackling fire? It was for warmth but also for roasting chestnuts at the end of the meal.

Beside the fireplace inside sat Silvester, the ancient Tom Cat. He’s 13 years old and never been to the vet. Not castrated…Italian men don’t allow “cutting”… he didn’t want to be bothered or touched. When he moved it was the slowest I’ve ever seen a cat move. He must be hurting 🙁 But he did seem to be enjoying the fire’s warmth.

Just outside is their big forno (wood oven). And the outside fireplace. Both were roaring hot.

Here is the pork liver (I am fairly certain I’ve never had pork liver before) that had been cooked for both the crostini and the secondo, much to Luthers dismay. Not really, there was plenty of food and he tasted it. We were surprised Italians love liver so much!

The meal begins with crostini. One, liberally dosed with the new olive oil, the other, fegato (liver). Very, very rich!

Beginning the polenta. Two kinds of corn meal…Add to the boiling water,  bring to a boil again and continuing adding hot water,  “til it is right”, cook, stir.

Takes a LOT of stirring to make polenta

The polenta is pronounced ready.

To go on top, a luscious ragu. It had simmered for hours and hours in the biggest pot I’ve seen in a home kitchen! It was pork bits. All sorts with bones and all. Plus lots of sausage. By now the meat was off the bones. They scooped the meats out and put them on a separate plate.  Then they took the tomatoes, which the meat had simmered in and scooped it into a separate dish. Rich and mouthwatering.

To serve, the polenta goes in a plate, add meat and sausages, and top with rich tomato sauce.

Two long tables. All men at one, all women at the other – hah! (Kids were upstairs) Very typical. After a while Vera and I moved over to the men’s table. There is no rule or prohibition to sit together. But the men and women prefer to talk of men’s and women’s things so why sit together?

I had fun. It had been a long day and I was pretty tired so we had the dolce (dessert) and headed home before the chestnuts were roasted. A very traditional, home cooked meal that couldn’t be beat! And a unique experience.