Managed to pay for the refrigerator today. Luther went back, repeatedly (three times) to get the bill to pay. Italy is the only place I’ve lived where you’ve got to chase them down to pay them. The thing is, we buy our appliances from a store here in town called Formica. Family run and they will get anything you want. Yes, you pay a bit more for it but they bring it, set it up and if there’s ever a problem make sure it gets fixed. Plus you support a local family and store. And yes, you’ve got to chase them down to pay them! But it’s all good.😁 ~~~~~~~ I had lunch with a new friend in Assisi today. What a cool location. The hotel, named Borgo Antichi Orti has indeed got an ancient vegetable garden. It sits beneath the basilica of St Francis. The lunch was nice and meeting my new friend for the first time was great.
On the way to lunch I got stopped in a random traffic stop. These are common. The Carabinieri hold out what everyone calls a “lolypop” looks like one, it is red and means pull over. They check the cars papers and your driving license. This was a first for me. Luther has been pulled over three times.
Here is where we ate lunch. The glass doors were the restaurant and looming above was the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi. Amazing.
Scorpion – first one I’ve seen in this apartment. Rocky was playing with it. Luckily they are not dangerous here. But still creepy. ~~~~~~~ Today was a rainy day, the first one since back in the spring. I like the occasional rainy day. I puttered about the kitchen, using up ingredients I bought to make random things. First, I parboiled and peeled some Roma tomatoes from the Saturday Mercato so I could make more of the delicious butter sauce.
Then I spent a looong time chopping 3 bell peppers, 4 cucumbers and 2 onions into tiny dice to make sweet pickle relish. You can’t buy that here so I’ve taken to making my own. Now I prefer it to store-bought. It is easy to make but there is a lot of chopping!
Last I roasted some of the recent tomatoes from my garden which, as is expected, aren’t as good a summer ones. When you roast them with olive oil and slivered garlic it makes a delicious sauce and resurrects a poor tomato. This was dinner tonight. Felt kind of Greek. I liked it but it isn’t a keeper.
The weather today must be one of the top ten days ever on this beautiful earth! Cool breezy, sunny, puffy clouds, crystal clear air. Simply amazing. View from terrace at Calagrana. Am I right? Is it not perfect?
We joined four friends from Canada. One old friend and three new ones. Our friend Karen comes every summer and rents in Tuscany but not terribly far from here. They were blown away by the beauty of the restaurant and it was perfect as always. I loved my starter. In fact four of us got this. It sounded so good. Grilled peaches on a tomato bed with prosciutto.
Next will be some of our pastas. One a tagliolini in a creamy sauce with truffles, the other Fishioni (a type of pasta) with sausage ragù, arugula and pecorino cheese. So good!
The dining terrazzo full of happy diners.
Great seeing friends and sharing a delicious meal. Buona domenica a tutti!
The story of our Italian family is a long one. In a nutshell, it started as soon as we moved into our last apartment. The place was full of the dust of construction and everything needed cleaning. My friend Susan introduced me to Vera, who cleaned her house. A super interesting and intelligent woman from Bosnia originally and then Slovenia. To avoid an arranged marriage (Islamic parents) she fled to Italy and became a nanny. She met her future husband, married and had two beautiful girls. And she began her own business.
Vera cleaned for us and we engaged her to chat with us in Italian after cleaning. Time passing and we became good friends. Eventually we were adopted by Vera and family and we adopted them. We all love good food and relish the different cuisines. Not normal for Italians. So that’s the back-story.
Sunday Lunch was the first in months. I hadn’t seen Vera since February. Now that we have a table and furniture we asked them for Pranzo. I decided an American lunch was the best thing given the heat. The menu was chips and salsa to start, sweet and spicy. Pulled pork sandwiches with hot sauces and coleslaw, grilled hot dogs with the fixins. Potato salad. And for dessert, peach tiramisù.
It was so nice to see everyone again. I had missed them so much. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures. Graziano is very tall and has made some tall girls! And beautiful redheads.
My new, favorite Italian word is….telecomando. Somehow it makes me feel like the captain of a Starship. What power I have here in my hand! I won’t keep you waiting, it is the word for remote control. I guess I’d heard it before, but now I’ve got fans with telecomandi — I assume that’s the plural(?) — so I’m feeling mighty powerful 😁
It’s still hot but it will be slightly less for the weekend. Then it goes back up to 39. But happily, after that it is a more livable 32ish. My salad last night was a burrata tomato salad. Burrata is a cheese made from the byproducts from making mozzarella. To me it is richer than mozzarella. I served it with cold cannelloni beans.
My next salad project will be a Panzanella, probably for tomorrows dinner. It is a classic Tuscan salad which uses up stale bread. Frugal, those Tuscans. It is only good when the tomatoes are at their tip-top in high summer since they are the star ⭐️ in the dish.
I have invited our old friend Vera and her family for domenica Pranzo. We havn’t seen her since maybe February? Vera and I love to cook. I showed her how to make American style ribs and how to cook a whole turkey. I have made Mexican and Indian for them as well. The whole family are very adventurous eaters. This is not the norm for Umbrian Italians. Due to a lack of a convenient upstairs kitchen I’m doing an American style BBQ. We will start with Salsa and chips, one spicy, one mild. I can make pulled pork in the slow cooker ahead of time, which won’t heat up the house. I’ll grill hot dogs. I made homemade BBQ sauce (hard to find here), and then we will have some salads, coleslaw and potato, and finally, a new-to-me fresh peach tiramisù. I’ll try to take pictures. I hope it isn’t terribly hot upstairs. 🤞
I decided to christen our terrace with all its new furniture with a small Fourth of July celebration. A few friends came and we had guacamole and salsa and chips for a pre-lunch nosh and then four salads for us to enjoy. Basmati coconut rice with shrimp, chickpea tomato artichoke and roasted pepper, smoked salmon avocado egg and greens, and sesame peanut noodles. It was fun. The weather was lovely, here we are minus Steve, our photographer!
Thanks for coming everyone and Happy Fourth of July!
Today I met up with friends at the Arezzo antique/flea market. A huge venue with a really diverse selection of things for every want and every taste. It is the first Sunday of every month and the Saturday prior. It was a beautiful day. The forecasts were for storms and rain. But we saw nary a drop. And the temperatures were perfect.
Arezzo is about a 50 minute drive from Umbertide. The city is in Tuscany and is said to be the most affluent in that region. It has a population of around 100,000. The city center is an amazingly beautiful city. Known as a city of gold and high fashion, it was home to artists and poets. It was originally Etruscan and later Roman.
The market itself sprawls throughout the city. I heard more American English being spoken than I have in years. I was reminded by one of my companions that this was, after all, Tuscany. The biggest magnet to American tourists. So close to Umbria with all its treasures. But I am ok with that. Let Tuscany keep the crowds! Here are pictures of the market. Luther asked for the book stall pictures. He didn’t come because he loses interest in these things rapidly.
We stopped for lunch at Cavour 42 Trattoria. It was a very pleasant place. The outside tables were in a pretty covered arcade. There was a cool breeze blowing through and it was quieter and calmer than most places in the market. I enjoyed my lunch but it wasn’t great. The company I had made it perfect. Doug brought Georgia, his dog, and there were lots of other dogs including a sweet pitty at the table opposite. We had a nice Rose from Chianti.
I didn’t buy anything. All three of us have new homes to furnish so it was fun. I did see some things I liked. I’ll go back again. Maybe I can get Luther to come next time! ~~~~~~~~ We have been blessed (?) with a mourning dove nest on our terrace. There are finally two chicks. They are looking like they are getting close to fledging. We try to not scare them.
Finally I have the funniest little teeny stunted hydrangea that came up from left over roots. It has bloomed. My hand in photo for reference to size. Plants are amazing.
Buon weekend, and happy Fourth of July to all! We have a group of Americans coming for lunch that day. It will be fun!
Sadly I must report the loss of our fish, Qui. I found her/him floating in the “pond” this morning. He was fine yesterday. The cause of death is not known. Sad to loose him/her. We are trying to decide whether to get another. Qua and Quo are doing fine. ~~~~~~~ We had friends over for dinner last night. We are still working our way into entertaining upstairs here with no kitchen. I decided three salads would be nice since it was hot outside. I did all the hot cooking, rice, toasting pine nuts and coconut etc early in the day. Then later I assembled what could be done ahead of time. The last minute stuff was just before our guests arrived and I took all the salads up on my cart on the elevator to the 3rd floor. It all worked out perfect. Our guests have sold their home here and are leaving for a new life in Florence. The are ever thoughtful and brought a beautiful, shade loving plant for us. We will miss them 😢
~~~~~~~ Tonight we had a nice mozzarella di bufala with the amazing new tomatoes.
Our friends gifted us a plant. Evidently he didn’t like the full sun he was in. We wrestled him up to the terrace. I had a perfect spot for him. Then we had some vino to celebrate.
We had to go out a buy a pot for him, and a smaller one for our mint. So we went to Pollice Verde. This means “green thumb” in Italian. It is a very quirky place with everything from pet foods, to plants, salt for the water softener, soil for planters, dog houses and chicken coops. When we were checking out we noticed a sign that said “buy the set! 5 chicks with 20 chili of food.” 🙂
I’ve been working on the terrazzo. I have managed to get the irrigation up and working. Good to know we can go away and the plants will get water. I’ve got the herbs all done. I have been buying and planting flowers, hostas, and I ordered ferns on-line. I even found water lilies for my “pond”. Here are a few pictures.
The new Gabbeh rug I ordered came. I love it.
I have been working with our architect on the kitchen designs. We are leaning toward an induction invisible cooktop. It is very cool. You can cook right on the countertop and then use that same space for other things. There is a possible September start. Yay! Here are pictures from the brochure. Captions below pictures.
Lunch on Lago Trasimeno yesterday with friends from the US. They come almost every year and stay near Cortona. Shirley used to be my boss eons ago. She always brings me things from my wishlist. Thanks Shirley! We always meet for lunch when they come. This time at Ristorante Rosso della Sera in San Feliciano. A long time favorite of ours. Yesterday was Republic day, a national holiday. Here are a couple of pictures. It was a perfect day for this.
Finally a not so fun thing. I have a toothache, and it also seems to affect my sinuses on one side so I suspect an infection. I finally made myself go to the dentist, because there is a lot of pain now. A surprise to me, dentists don’t have X-ray machines here. I’m so used to that in the US. He prescribed antibiotics and an X-ray at the hospital. I started the antibiotics but have to wait THREE WEEKS for an X-ray! Geesh.
Today is glorious too. Here is Monte Acuto from our terrazzo. And my haul from the Saturday kilometer zero market. Good food in our future!
We had a great time with our latest guests who only stayed two nights. Sadly. We began by picking them up in Arezzo where they had spent one night. There are two parking lots near the Duomo. One is free, the other is paid. The free lot is always full. The pay lot is always empty. We parked in the pay parking lot and took the escalators to the Centro. In the parking lot was this beautiful plant. It had long trailing arms loaded with buds just about to pop.
We had arranged to meet our friends at the Bar Duomo, which was near their hotel. It has been years since we saw them but we recognized them right away. We decided to have a caffè before leaving. I loved the artistry of my caffè macchiato. Looks just like my cat Rocky!
It was a beautiful day so we decided to stop in Città di Castello because it was on the way. We walked around and stopped for some refreshments. Then headed for Umbertide. Before going home we visited the Montecorona church. One of my favorite places on earth.
We arrived and checked into our apartment 🙂 …well, they checked in, we live here! We had a light lunch of prosciutto e melone, cheese olives, breadsticks, crackers and bread. During our lunch we were serenaded by a thunderstorm. Perfect timing. After lunch, and after the rain, we walked into town and we showed them around.
That evening we had meant to dine at C’era una Volta, near us but they were full due to a political meeting. Our mayoral election is coming up this weekend. So we had to form a Plan B. We decided to go up to Montone for dinner, which we did. We picked Erba Luna. We were the only patrons. Dinner was very good. Our friends had the antipasto plate with local meats and cheeses. Some had lamb chops for secondi. Very good.
The next day, their only full day here, was going to be a perfect day! They had lucked out on the first part of the trip and had really nice weather the whole time. They had chosen Gubbio for our target to tour. Before we visited, the night before, we viewed videos of the Festa dei Ceri which is the biggest festival they have (always May 15) and it is famous. I knew the city would be madly preparing for the event. Being very hard to describe I will try a bit here and then I will post a good video of it. Ceri is the word for candles. The fest starts in their main square and it is literally packed. The town has three Guilds left over from the medieval times. They compete in this fest, to carry three heavy (700 lb) tall wooden structures (Ceri) up the mountain, and it is steep and a long way. The Ceri start out as prone, parallel to the ground. On a command the teams tip the heavy things up so they become vertical. Then they must circle the flagpole in the center of the square three times before going up the mountain with the Ceri. They are mounted on long poles and eight or ten strong youths are carrying them. As they tire, they get replaced with fresh men for the long run ahead. It is worth it to watch this video and then I have a very sweet video to share after you’ve seen how the whole fest works. I won’t ever go. It is too crowded and quite frightening to be in the crowd.
I just took this one picture of where the rotation happens and the crowds gather and the Ceri begin their run up the mountain. The entire city was decked out in its finery. The neighborhood flags were everywhere.
This was precious. In the Piazza was a class of little kids. Dressed in their pink or blue smocks. The teachers (or some volunteer!) had made miniature versions of the Ceri. The kids split into neighborhoods and guilds. They gave the signal and round and round they went with their miniature Ceri while all the other kids cheered them on. Someday, they will be grown up and will participate in the Festa! Traditions. Passed along over the centuries.
The Duomo stained glass and nave.
Our next stop was a wine tasting and lunch at our local winery, Vineria del Carmine. They have a good chef and you can just have a small appetizer, which we normally get. This time, since it was lunch we decided the wine tasting with the light lunch would be good. First we were served freshly made bread sticks along with two dips. Very delicious. They also served bread, their olive oil, and truffle salt. Our guests had never tasted good, Umbrian olive oil (the best!). It’s hard to find in the US. I was proud to see they really appreciated it and said it was the best they’d ever had. Then they brought us a Sfromato di zucca gialla su letto di fonduta di parmigiano — which is a flan of yellow squash and truffles on a bed of parmesan cheese cream. At the same time they brought a cool soup of fennel and chive oil. To finish we had cheeses with truffle honey and meats. Along with the meal we tasted two whites, both Trebbiano, one 2019 and the other 2020 (Umbrian indigenous grape) and two rosés, one a Merlot and one a Sangiovesi, and three reds all blends of Merlot, Cabernet, and Sagrantino, in differing quantities. It was a leisurely lunch and I think we all had fun. The sommelier is a nice guy and we like him a lot. I only remembered to take one photo!
We left and I have to say, the countryside in this little valley is incredibly beautiful. Some pictures. The poppies are blooming everywhere now. My favorite.
Final dinner was at Calagrana, because, well, it is Calagrana! The weather had turned horrible. Much cooler and plenty of rain. So we ate in the cozy inside. I took one picture. My asparagus with a fried egg and parmesan cream topped by shaved truffles. So incredibly good.
Today, we delivered our guests to the Foligno train station to catch the Frecciabianca (fast train) to Rome. They brought the good weather with them, and gave us the bad weather when they left. We hope they come back soon. 😉
Since our last momentous news I thought I would update about our comings and goings and doings 🙂.
The day we got our PdS lungo periodo we had already planned a celebration of sorts with friends who live in or near Spello. It was a quiche potluck. The participants were Steve and Roselyne, our hosts, and our good friend Doug who is in the midst of a major renovation of his house on the mountainside nearby. We had three quiches. The celebration was of Steve’s passing of the written exam for his Italian drivers license – Patente. This is probably THE most difficult hurdle of all to moving and living in Italy. All in archaic Italian with “trick” questions. But he did it! First try! So a real cause to celebrate. And we also celebrated our long term PdS and Doug’s house getting a floor. That is also a BIG thing. Anyway, it was a very fun day. Steve and Roselyn’s apartment has two lovely terrazzi and a balcony overlooking the main street in Spello. After lunch we sat on their grande terrazzo. The rooftops of Spello spread out and the views of the mountains were lovely. A special place.
I did a lot of work on Sunday. I had been putting it off but the day was fine. I had ordered new, stick-on rugs for our stairway. The old ones were awful. Dirty and rough and the cats fur stuck to them.
I also shifted about ten bags if soil and transplanted my two herb plants. This is just one planter of five. They all need dirt to be added so it will be a slow process.
Below are the roses that managed to escape the “purge” by our sellers. I transplanted two which may or may not survive. It will be interesting to see what colors they are. The other bed has a rogue hydrangea on the right side. I will let it grow. This will also be my spring garden. I have some hyacinths to transplant and some tulip bulbs and the two primroses gifted to me by my friend Jill. I “think” there may be one more hyacinth coming up too, in a different bed.
I bought two pretty little side tables if ever we get an outside sofa! I plan to order a sofa soon. They are mosaic tiles on wrought iron stands.
I also obtained two amazing Thailandese cat statues from my friend Paul. They are heavy as all get out but I love them on the terrace. They are near the pizza oven.
Finally, today we had an appointment at the Anagrafe in our Comune to change our abode from Via Grilli to Via Fratta. Easy to do since they are both in the same Comune but nonetheless an experience. The people in our Comune couldn’t be nicer. Whenever we’ve had dealings there they are always super helpful. So we did all the paperwork. Went from office to office and got it all done. They are a bit old fashioned here. Everything is done on paper. Here are some pictures I snapped inside the Comune. It used to be a grand palazzo. A single family home. It is enormous. The grand room pictured below has the seal of Umbertide. It looks like a hanging but it is not. It is a fresco on plaster. It is where the official dealings of the Comune all happen.
On the wall in the office we were in they had this great photo of Umbertide Centro Storico.
Below is the second office we visited. The tax office — ufficio tributi. We only pay trash tax, no property tax, here since our apartment is our prima casa or primary home. But they need to know we moved. I was amused that all their records are on paper in all these file boxes. Wow.
Big stuff done. We still must visit the vigili or the local police and tell them we have moved. We’ll probably do that Friday or next week. Always makes me happy when we get things done!
Our weather has turned fine, finally! It’s low 70s and sunny. My big focus will be on the terrace as time goes by. Stay tuned for updates!