Category Archives: Italian Lessons

Language classes & i gatti

An Observation
Every Friday we each take an hour of one-on-one Italian. Our teacher, Marilena used to come to our house but now we Skype. Luther also takes a German class once a week. We lived for six years in Germany and he is fluent. He doesn’t want to lose it. I still speak some German but over time I’ve lost much of it.

On Friday at 9 am the computer does it’s Skype ring. I am in the Living room and can hear Luther and Marilena greet each other. A cheery “Ciao Luther” in sing-song Italian rings out. Luther responds in kind. They sound like they are so glad to see each other…happy…ready to chat for an hour. 🙂

On Thursday it is Frau Marien and a German Skype call. Luther answers, and I hear a dejected sounding “Hal-low”… in descending pitch. Luther responds in kind. Both sound distinctly unenthusiastic. She sounds resigned. Maybe she doesn’t like her job? But no, I think it is the vast difference in the two cultures and people. It explains why I chose Italy over a return to Germany. 😁
I Gatti
As you know, if you’ve been reading this during our year of Covid, we have to find ways to amuse ourselves during our extended lockdowns. We’ve been locked down this time since November. It is getting mighty old. Anyway, we have a big picture window in the living/dining area. Who put it there is not known. It is unlike anything I’ve seen here. I remember when we bought and first brought our Geometra to see the apartment, he said he would take that out for us. We were flabbergasted! To us, it was a huge selling point. The view is fantastic and ever changing.

Just behind us and outside the city walls is a copse of trees. And some houses, and the river. There is a feral colony of cats living there. They are even a “registered” feral colony, I am told. I don’t know what that means. The people nearby keep the cats well fed but of course, they get no health care, nor do they neuter them. The colony grows and then collapses with disease. It’s small right now because someone poisoned all the cats last January. Now we have two batches of adolescents living there again. We have named them all and amuse ourselves watching them. Here are six of them. We are only missing Blacky.

From left to right. Ginger, Domino, and Pinto.
Rusty. He is on a roof just outside the city wall, which is just behind us. You can see the city wall behind him.
Snowball. She is sitting atop a shed on a sunny — and popular with the cats — rooftop.
Domino. On the hunt.

Phrase — “i gatti sono qui!” — “the cats are here!” — eee gaht-tee so-no qwee.
All of Italy enters Zona Rossa tomorrow for the three day Easter weekend….Stay safe! 🌈


Today was our coldest day so far. It barely reached freezing. January is always our coldest month. And we normally have around five days of this kind of weather. Then it stays cold but normally above freezing. I don’t like January. It is too long, too dark and too cold. February is nice and short, and it begins to warm. By March we are into springtime.

We had a surprise snowfall this morning. It probably snowed for 3 or 4 hours at a good pace. It covered all the roofs and ground. The trees had snow on their branches. It was beautiful. We have enjoyed looking at it all day. Here are two pictures I took. The first one was today just after the snow stopped. The second is the hillside below the hill town of Montone a couple of days ago. It caught my eye because of the sun and clouds and the light on the olive groves.

Todays Italian phrase is “oggi ha nevicato“. In English it means “today it snowed“. Pronounced O-gee ah nev-ee-caht-oh.
Stay safe everyone. Big week coming up!

Real Estate in Italy

Real estate in Italy is a totally different animal than in the US. Reasons why:

  1. it is not a good investment. You will be very lucky to recoup your money from purchase and any renovations you do.
  2. you cannot be in a hurry to sell. We are told allow average of 3-5 years to sell here.
  3. Italians and Americans have very different ideas about houses/apartments. What should be in it. How much you should pay for what’s in it.
  4. Italians inherit property over centuries. They all have multiple houses. They do not have mortgages. They do not buy houses because they do not need to. They are house rich and cash poor.
  5. The market is stagnant. Or actually declining.

I tell you this because we have listed our house. Not because we aren’t happy here. It is my dream house. It is just the way I want it. But, being realistic, we are aging and a house on the fourth floor (American), third floor (European) is not optimal for aging in place. There is no possibility of an elevator.

Today we had a nice, young Italian couple look at the apartment. Normally we get English and Americans looking. We have listed at two agencies, one British/international, and one Italian. The couple seemed to like it. It is interesting because all the Italians we know say an Italian would never buy this place. One, because it is too expensive. And two, because it is not to their taste.

I beg to differ on both points. First, we paid €20,000 more than we are asking (!) and we put another €65,000 into its renovation. So, perhaps we paid too much. But getting it with all the bells and whistles for only €230,000 is a deal. Second, we renovated and furnished it with all Italian finishes and products. Our kitchen is manufactured by Pedini — a well known Italian kitchen designer. Our furniture is all purchased here. It is Italian in every way. But maybe a bit more sophisticated Italian than many Umbrians are willing to embrace.

This all said, I am in no hurry to sell. I will be very, very sad to move away from here. And I am not sure where we will go. It all depends on what is available elsewhere when we sell. I have many new friends here in Umbria. A nice support system, and I would miss them. I am loathe to leave it. Except…and it’s a big except…Umbria is not what I call Stranieri (foreigner) friendly. We cannot get a Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to stay) for more than a year, commonly 2 years elsewhere. We are told we cannot apply for the EU Long Term Residence Permit, supposedly available to all foreigners after 5 years of Residency. Why? It is an arbitrary decision by this region. And no recourse that we know of. So, moving from here could facilitate these things for us. A real conundrum.

Of course, I don’t expect to sell anytime soon. So we aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Rest assured, I will continue to write on NancyGoes from whatever location we land in, in Bella Italia. In case you’re interested here is our listing.

So, you decided to move to Italy…

I just put up a page, accessible from the top navigation, with a summary of information about moving and living in Italy. It is called “So you’ve decided to move to Italy”. I will constantly update it with things I learn that I think will be useful. Go to the page here.

Storms! And a trip

They call this Mimosa and it is everywhere right now. I guess a very early bloomer. The leaves look like the mimosa I know from the states but the flowers DEFINATELY not. They are like little yellow puffballs.


We also visited an old church in a town called San Guistino. We had aimed to visit the castle there but it is open only on weekends. It purportedly has a gorgeous garden which would be better visited in the spring. We will return. Meanwhile I took a picture in the Church crypt. It was built in the 7th century and completely unlit except for candles.


I just finished reading a book called “The Consul” written by Walter Orebaugh. He was a diplomat in France in WWII and was captured by the Facists in Monaco and spent 2 years in Italy, first as a prisoner and then fighting with the Partisans in the mountains very near where we now live. He had a harrowing escape down the coast. The first house he mentioned in the book where the partisan group he was with were headquartered was called San Faustino. I googled and found that it is now a resort. I found it on a map and we went on an exciting trip trying to find it. We were on all sorts of roads. Mostly gravel through very mountainous terrain. We did in the end find it. The resort is closed for the winter but it is unmistakably the same house as there is a picture in the book and the bell tower is the same. I could easily imagine the Partisani in these remote, forbiding mountains. Here is a picture. We will have to go back in the summer.


On Thursday we headed out to class in Citta di Castello. We got almost to our exit and came to a stop on the superstrada. It was closed and everyone was detoured off. It was a stormy morning with really strong, gale force winds and rain or snow depending on where you were. We ended up only five minutes late but the roaring wind blew around the building. There was a lot of damage and a number of people killed and injured throughout central and northern italy. Hence the closing of the road.

On Friday we had a planned trip to a town called Forli (accent on the i so emphasis on the last syllable). It was about 100 kilometers north near the Adriatic coast. Along the way we saw numerous trees down and the big highway signs either blown down or folded in half by the winds. I guess that was the reason for the closing. The reason for the trip was an art exhibit at the Musei San Domnico. [website] The museum was in a former convent and lovely in it’s own right. The show was the art of Giovanni Boldini. He was an artist during the Belle Epoche in the late 1800s and early 1900s which was a dynamic period. He started out in Florence Italy but eventually moved to Paris where it was all happening. He had money so was not a starving artist. He had epic skills and his works are captivating. He mostly did portraits of beautiful women in the most amazing dresses. All of the women were so beautiful! Hard to imagine. He is not well known but should be. I could stand looking at some of the pictures for hours. He painted in impressionistic and realistic regimens and conveyed the magnificence of the gowns the women wore with amazing brush-work. Minimalist but when you stood back the dresses shimmered with gold, sequins, lace and satin. Amazing!


After the show we went to lunch at Salumé which was recommended in our Slow Food book. It was on a nice Piazza not too far away. It was very small. In summer there would be outside tables. The wait staff and chef were very nice. Both very young and enthusiastic. We had a stuffed cuttlefish antipasti with a pea purée to start. Then assorted pastas. Mine had squid with big rigatoni type pasta. Luther got classic ragu. Susan and Gary got pork cheeks with roasted cauliflower in an unusual green, leaf shaped pasta from Liguria actually called Olive Leaves. Very yummy. The chef and waiter stayed and talked to us for quite a while. They are very proud of their place. And they should be. Not that most tourists will go to Forli but if you do, try Salumé.

After lunch we visited Eataly. It is a store that celebrates Italian Food and Wine with branches worldwide and it just opened a store in…Forli(!) in February. It is right on the main piazza. It is four floors of all Italian goods, mostly food. A lot of fun and we made a few purchases.

Forli is definitely not a tourist destination but it was actually much nicer than I had imagined. Very walkable, lots of trees so summer must be lovely there. It was heavily bombed in the war by the Germans. Some of the city was able to be restored. We stayed at the Hotel Michaelangelo which was nice enough. Walkable to most sights. If there is another good show at the gallery I would go back for sure.





Outing to Florence

Yesterday morning I woke early to the sound of construction. Not so unusual around here. They had backed a truck down Via Grilli to take out debris from a house being renovated. Sounds pretty ho hum but look at how tight the space was!


We had planned a day trip or gite fuori la porta in Italian which means a short trip outside the gates, to Florence to visit our friends Ron and Linda. We met them around 5 years ago before they moved from Virginia to Florence. They are very happy there and we planned to meet them for lunch. We had not yet used the train to go so we drove to Terontola to the train station and took the 9:30AM train which arrived at just before 11AM. Nice trip. We met Ron and Linda and had a bottle of Prosecco in a lovely piazza at an outside table in a glass enclosed area. The weather was spectacular, in the mid 60s F and bright sun. Here is the Duomo under renovation in anticipation of a papal visit later this year.


I had asked Linda to take us somewhere where I could buy ingredients (foreign) that I can’t get in Umbria. I have forgotten the store name but will get it from her. I got lots of things I couldn’t have gotten to include Thai and mexican things. Here is a picture of my haul.


We had lunch at one of their favorites Trattoria Porcospino (porcupine). We could sit outside. The proprietor knows Ron and Linda and is a big USA booster but a little strange in an OK kind of way. The food was good and so was the company.

We walked to Ron and Linda’s apartment. On the way at an outside vendor along the leather market I spotted a nice leather tote bag. I had been wanting to get one and lamented that I had not sent any over with our stuff. This was much more fun. I bargained and am happy with my purchase. It is periwinkle blue and reversible so it can be a pale beige. Nice soft leather and it included a blue purse. Here it is!


When we went to our Italian lesson this morning my teacher remarked it was a color for spring. So OK with me. Bring it on! Our lesson was good (I guess). It is sometimes frustrating but I am trying. We have moved from 9AM to 10-12AM on Thursdays. Much more civilized hour and when we are done we can lunch. We went just over the Tuscan border to La Pieve Vecchia in Monterchi. Pretty old building with a lunch menu for 12 Euro to include 4 courses. And they were really good! We decided to become regulars and go after all of our classes…for the next 20 weeks!