Category Archives: garden

Busy week

Mundane things we got done this week. Some good, some not-so-good.
~~~~~~~~
I forgot to mention that we had a call from our Polizia Municipale on Saturday. They had a citation for us and had to deliver it. We said we were home so he came by to our house with it. (So weird that they do this.) Turns out we were on vacation on our cruise when this infraction occurred so that meant it was our house sitters. They did tell me they went to the Adriatic coast and that is where they got this speeding ticket. Luckily it wasn’t too much over the limit so no need to ask for their drivers license info so we can say who was driving. No points involved. We paid the fine and will wait to see if we get any more to decide whether we will bother with asking them to repay us. Sometimes it’s not worth it.
~~~~~~~~
Monday we spent 3 hours at the ginormous Perugia hospital waiting — and 15 minutes of that time was for procedures. Ugh. I’m getting an orthoscopia of my sinuses and had to do pre-op tests and an interview with the anesthetist because I will be asleep for the procedure. So that’s done. Now I wait to find out the date for the procedure. I just hope it’s not on Thanksgiving or just before since we are going to Thanksgiving lunch at Calagrana with friends. Here is the waiting room…tick…tick..tick. ⏰

~~~~~~~~
Tuesday I drove to Sansepolcro in nearby Tuscany for my, much needed, haircut. I love that little city. It’s in the upper Tiber Valley just like we are. They are right up at the end of the valley where the big mountains start. The town has just over 15,000 people so just slightly smaller than Umbertide. It was a gray day and I had a little time so walked a little into town from the gate and took a few pictures. None are very good. The town has all their Christmas lights up already.

V

I may be wrong but it seems like the people in Sansepolcro dress more stylishly than in Umbertide. I think I’m right though. Umbertide is a working class town for the most part and Umbrian to boot. Tuscany is, well, you know, Tuscany, so it is a little more posh. 😁
~~~~~~~
Wednesday brought a meeting with my architect, Irma. I think all the details are nailed down now. She and I will go to the Falegname (cabinet maker) Nicoletti here in town who will custom build our cabinets.  I will pick the color then. I’ve already chosen the countertop color and the color for the floor. Still must chose appliances, sink, faucet but that should be it. Today we decided to replace one narrow cabinet with a wine rack. The work won’t start until January which is pretty perfect actually. We will be here. We won’t have any guests. Hopefully it will be done before we go home to the US for the first time in four years in March.  Here’s the plan before. Today we decided on cabinets that lift up rather than open normally. And the narrow cabinet on the left will become a wine rack. 

~~~~~~~~~
Thursday, I worked in the gardens in the morning. I cleaned out and cut back the lavender and a big pink flowering plant that got huge, also the hostas and the ornamental grass I planted. There is still more to do but it’s better now. I also planted all the bulbs that my friend Jill gifted to me. Lots of flowers this spring! Won’t that be something to look forward to?

At a little after eleven I left to meet my bestie, Jen, in Passignano sul Trasimeno for lunch. It’s a pretty lakefront town. I think there are about 8,000 people and it is on the main train line. My friend lives in Foligno and doesn’t like to drive so this worked for us both and I love the lake. Here are some pictures from around town.

Along the lakefront promenade

Pretty park along lake

Along the lakefront promenade

Part of the old castle fortress above the town

Glad these aren’t my stairs

Somebody likes wine

Castle fortress built on a cliff

We ate at Trattoria Pescatore. This place, like most restaurants around the lake, specializes in lake fish. Some of it is regional and specialized like they catch and eat eels, usually made into stew. I’ve had it and it’s actually pretty good. The food is very good. I had risotto with zucca and scamorza. That’s risotto with puréed winter squash and the smoked cheese they make here. Very good and perfect for a one course meal – rich. Jen had the Tuscan soup. It was a bit chilly so the food was quite warming. Here is the restaurant interior, very snug and cozy, and my risotto.

In summer they have a pretty shady garden area. It’s right in the Centro Storico. This photo is the walkway outside covered in vines.

Lago Trasimeno is the fourth largest lake in Italy and the largest on the peninsula. In summer it’s very busy and all along the shores are camp grounds and discos which close in winter. Pretty tacky. In winter the area is quiet and tranquil.

Tomorrow, Friday concludes the week with my Italiano class. It was a productive week!

Lunch with a friend

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.

We’re havin’ a heat wave 🎶

Yup. Italy is one of the countries in Europe that’s getting slammed the next week or so. I was feeling especially sorry for the tourists in Rome and Florence. Man is it HOT! 🥵 They predict 40s starting Monday. 42C Wednesday — that’s 108F. Compound it with crowds of sweaty people and waiting in-line (no shade) to get into the sights it will be miserable.

It is natural for people to want to see the “Big Three” major sights (Rome, Florence and Venice) especially on their first trip to Italy, but I strongly advise against it in any hot and high season. Especially this year with an over abundance of tourists after Covid. So what if you’ve got to wear a jacket? It’s so much better than what is going on here now. I was talking to my Italian teacher yesterday and she got rather worked up about it all. She is adamant that Italy needs the tourist dollars, and it does, but why can it not be spread out into regions with less crowds and just as amazing things to see? Not to mention you’ll see the REAL Italy. These mega tourist destinations will be a very sad initiation to Italy. There are so many undiscovered places. Tuscany is always overrun. But Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo are all wonderfully uncrowded and all in the center, equally easy to reach. Go to the “Big Three” in winter, late fall, or early spring, and in summer the countryside and small towns.
~~~~~~
In our new apartment we are getting used to managing the temperatures. I open the windows at night when it is this hot at 10pm-ish. And leave them open all night. I’ve got fans in every room pulling the cooler night air in. I watch the morning temperature closely and shut all the windows and shutters when it hits 80 outside. It stays fairly cool inside. It doesn’t get above 80 when the temperatures outside are mid nineties. The fans help a lot. At night we decided to move upstairs to the sofa bed. There are two AC units up there but that’s a big room with no doors and open stairwell to the downstairs so it doesn’t get terribly cool. But better than downstairs. Also, a bonus, it’s very quiet in that area.

Today I got out early (for me) to the market. I bought a bounty of veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, arugula, cucumbers, potatoes, squash.

Believe it or not, between us we eat about 30 tomatoes a week.

Another thing I have to do is figure out how to make meals in this heat. Italian kitchens are usually tucked away from the main living areas. That’s good and bad. Our kitchen has a door to shut it completely off. Until today I thought that was stupid. I also have a very big hood that really pulls the heat out. So shutting the door, opening the windows and using the hood keeps it mostly cool and isolates the heat in that room. I still try to cook early, while it is cool, for dinner that night.

Today, when I came back, I roasted three tomatoes with garlic and I pressure cooked cannellini beans. Our dinner will be pasta, tossed with this sauce, beans, basil, pecorino cheese and bread crumbs. Served room temperature.

I also made pesto. I have four plants and they are all doing very well. I keep it producing by snipping the branches just before they bloom. I go down to the two itty bitty leaves below the big leaves. This allows those small leaves to grow and it doesn’t get rangy and ugly.

Remember my puny tomato plants. They are heirloom American tomatoes. A gift from my friend Joanne. Just look at them now! They look a bit messy. The basil is beside the olive tree. There are three tomatoes and a jalapeño plant. The tomatoes try to encroach on the pepper so I keep them tied up. I figure the tomatoes will ripen when we are on our cruise in August/September. My luck! My house-sitters will benefit.

I have a post half written about our upstairs kitchen reno. That is upcoming. Keep cool y’all! And Buon fine settimana! A la prossima!

It’s July alright.

The heat has finally hit. It could, and probably will, get hotter but this is hot enough for me! In July Umbertide is really jumping. Jumping as much as it ever will. All the people with holiday homes in the hills around here are back. And all the people who rent rooms, villas and apartments are here too. The bars, markets and restaurants are full. Supermarket parking lots have a plethora of license plates from all over Europe. On certain days it’s like grand central station when the weekly rentals change over and everyone new is buying groceries.

It’s really no wonder that so many people come. Although Umbria is not famous like our next door neighbor, Tuscany, it is just as beautiful. It is quieter with less tourists, an oasis of Italian food, wine and beauty. This picture was taken on a farm just outside the Umbertide city walls. The girasole, sunflowers, are a big crop here for their oil, but also a big part of our July landscape. 🌻

Posted on the Umbertide Facebook page. Photo by Pietro Migliorati.

Here are a few terrazzo pictures. First one is of our fish, Qua and Quo, who are increasingly more friendly because they know where the food comes from. The rest are garden pictures and the new rug. Captions below the pics. As always click for larger versions

Qua and Quo – at breakfast
Margarita. Italian for daisy.
Lavender
Dwarf Japanese maple
Tomatoes! Can’t wait!
Baby jalapeño
I swear the olive is twice it’s original size!
New rug and pillows. Finito!

I sat outside all day yesterday. There was a lovely breeze. I just need to get Pino, the electrician, back for some outlets and lighting outside. Oh and to fix the lights that don’t work.
~~~~~~
All y’all stay cool!

The Arezzo Antique and Flea Market

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.

Seats from an old cinema
Loved this carved stone chess set

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!

Shelves, sofa, things!

My cabinetmaker Paolo, works slowly. I’m not in a big hurry. It is a good thing I’m not because it has taken since February so far! He finally finished two of the three things I had asked him to make. I just went and looked and it doesn’t seem I took pictures of the supports for some shelves the sellers left sticking out of a wall when they removed, and took the shelves. These supports are iron and embedded into the building so they couldn’t easily be removed. They were also ugly. If I were the sellers and had shelves custom made to fit onto these supports I – Would. Not. Have. Taken. Them! But that’s just me. So, of necessity I needed to replace those shelves. They had to be thick because the supports actually insert into them. Paolo finished these shelves last week and installed them. I also replaced some other shelves the sellers took in a small space. It is a good place to store things. Kind of a pantry. One thing remains to be finished by Paolo, a custom built corner cupboard in the hall from the front door. He says he will be finished by next week with this piece.

I really don’t have enough “stuff” yet. I suppose over time they will fill up.
The space is narrow, but still works as a pantry.

A woman who lives just outside of Umbertide is downsizing at her house. She advertised some things and I bought a few. I can use the crocks and urns for flowers if I want, and they are pretty. I still need some decorative things especially for my bookshelves. I paid her a visit today. Their house has a spectacular view. They are up in the hills to the west of Umbertide. The view is of the entire city and also our big Monte Acuto and other big mountains to the east. I just learned the old name for the big mountain is Montaguto. Aguto is an archaic way to say acute just like Acuto. Here is their view. They lived here for 25 years and have now moved back to the US – Maryland. They return here twice a year. She says less stuff is better when they aren’t there all the time. Here is the view. Click for larger picture. You can see it better.

I bought a pretty group of hooks for coats with grapes. I didn’t get a picture. I still have to mount it. I also got two antique crocks (American). I had some back home. They are very useful as well as pretty. One of these will hold my utensils in my new kitchen, if ever I get one!

The others are purely decorative. She said they were Egyptian.

Finally, after many delays, we got our outside sofa. First I received an email saying delivery would be between such and such date and such and such date. A week in duration. Well that came and went. So I got a phone call. They would come Monday. Monday came and went. No sofa. Another call on Tuesday. They would come Wednesday. Sigh. Well, a guy did show up all by himself. I had paid for delivery a casa, and assembly. Riiiiggghhhttt. I asked him why there weren’t two people. He shrugged and said “it’’s Italia”. He said if he complained he wouldn’t have a job. Poor guy was so sweet. He was apologetic he couldn’t assemble it. But he did take it out of the huge box and brought it up piece by piece. Watdaya do? So we spent some of our anniversary and the day after assembling the sofa. Picture.

I like it a lot, which is good! And it will be nice to watch the sunset. It faces west. Speaking of anniversaries. June 21 is a special day. First, it is the Summer Solstice, happy holiday to all the Druids and Pagans out there! And for us, it is our wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to us! Finally for me, I retired 10 years ago on June 21. Never a better decision was made. 💕

I also had an excellent adventure yesterday but I will save that for a future post. Ciao for now!

Qui, Qua and Quo

I bet you’re wondering what this will be about. 😉 Those words are Latin. And they happen to be the Italian names for Huey, Dewey, and Louie — Donald Duck’s nephews. And now, they are the names of our new fish 🙂. Of course we don’t know if they are male or female but that doesn’t really matter. To me Qui, Qua, and Quo are not gender specific. At first they stayed hidden but this afternoon I went out and fed them and they came up to eat. I have always had a small “pond” with 2 or 3 fish. I had not gotten the fish yet and noticed the water of the unfinished “pond” had mosquito larvae. The LAST thing I wanted. Qui, Qua, and Quo already took care of those!

I finished the pond yesterday after gathering a ton more rocks out in the mountains. There is a quarry and at the entrance are lots of nice rocks. Then, I added my little fountain. It makes a pleasing noise.

Finished “pond” with fountain.

Here are other pictures of the flowers and plants. They are doing Ok. One or two seem to be struggling. I also have a “vegetable garden”. I was gifted by my friend Joanne with three tomato plants, heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds from the States. I hope they produce! One seems to be doing well, the other two maybe not so well. And I’ve got one jalapeño. Plus all the herbs.

Next to the pond, ferns, a hosta and ginger which is a ground cover. Also an impatien for a bit of color.
More ferns and a survivor hydrangea. Plus petunias.
Lavender, daisy, more ferns.
Vegetable garden.
Herb garden.

My little lemon tree is super happy here. I’m amazed at the number of baby lemons! I counted 25 but it is still blooming and I assume there will be more.

We are headed for a heat wave, our first this year. We will see how this house is in the heat. So far I’m closing it up by around noon. Closing the shutters keeps it dark and cool enough. Now is the time for more salads for dinner. We both like them. Last night we had a delicious Greek salad. I bought arugula at the kilometer 0 market which has a nice bite and fresh sweet tomatoes which offset that bitterness. Dressed with good olive oil, lemon juice from my tree, oregano and feta. Perfetto!

Buona domenica !

Odds and ends…

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.

See the faint squares on the countertop? It marks where the burners are.

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.

From our table.
My trout.

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!

Buon weekend a tutti!

My “pond”

I don’t know if I mentioned my ”pond” which I am building? I had an itty bitty pond back in our home in Virginia, here is a picture.

It is in shade but the itty bitty pond is just under the rocks and there is a trickle of water you can see in the sun.

So, I am going to try to recreate my small water feature here. I have already dug the hole and lined it and filled it with water. Now I need to do the prettifying of the outside edges with rocks. And then I have a pump for a small trickle of water over the rocks. So now you know my plan.

Today I went out for my first foray to find rocks. I had remembered a loose shale hillside on a road to friends of ours house so decided to go and find it. I did find it, and I found a good amount of rocks. Not enough for the project but a start.

This particular road is incredibly beautiful. But so many are here. This road runs through the mountains to our east between here and Gubbio. These mountains were the home of the partisani during WWII. The road runs right along the top of the ridge-line with views both ways. Never tire of it. Here are some pictures.

The last picture is of one of the beautiful Chianina cattle. A gentle, docile beast who was integrale to Italian life for centuries. For pulling the plow, for giving milk, for birthing calves, and for meat.

So back to the rock gathering, here is the shale hillside I remembered.

Here are some pictures of the wildflowers growing on the slope. So pretty!

No pictures yet of my “pond”. But stay tuned!

Giardino

Buona domenica a tutti! It’s a pretty day here. And this is a holiday weekend. Tomorrow is Mayday. Equivalent to our Labor Day. There will be marching and protests across Europe. For us, we, spur of the moment decided to go out to lunch beside the big lake Trasimeno. No such luck, Sunday and a holiday weekend, everything was booked. So we are staying home. Fine by me, I can continue to work in the garden.

As for recent news, I was pretty psyched to have a meeting with my architect, Irma. She is a friend of friends and I had met her a few times at get togethers. She dropped by and like most people, was stunned at the apartment. It is very unexpected being in an ugly suburban building. She was quite enthusiastic about my idea of an open plan kitchen on the top floor. I’m happy she can see my vision. And for the first time I think it may be possible. 🙂 Of course, work can’t even begin until fall but it’s okay, I will figure out a way to cook outside. I mentioned I wanted to buy a refrigerator. She asked me to wait for her drawings. She said she will bring a plumber (idraulico) to look and see if the caldaia can be moved and the wall taken out. If so, we are off to the races!

In other news, I have gotten my herbs and planted them.

I also bought a few other plants. I am so completely out of my depth here. I don’t know anything about the plants. Their heights, and flowering times, and all that. I need to enlist my gardening friends, and find a good nursery. So far I have not found a good one. Piano, piano.

I noticed my little gifted olive tree is blooming! Will they become olives? Time will tell. If I can “harvest” the little tree, I will cure them. It will be a new experiment!

The lemon tree is also extremely happy. It is flowering and forming fruit all over the place. I will take a picture soon. Finally, I went to the hospital here in town for a procedure and I had to take a picture of the Madonna, who is always watching over us. I am sure you won’t see this in any US hospital…but here she is always there for us.

Enjoy your Sunday everyone!