Category Archives: Italian life

Umbertide is back!

Eurocup. Italy versus Turkey. Back in the olden days. Before Covid. We had exciting gatherings in front of Bar Mary to watch sporting events. Mostly soccer, or football as they call it here. Since Covid things have been different, but tonight! Tonight! There’s a huge crowd outside. Bar Mary, as of old, has set up a big TV and the chairs are all pulled up to watch the game. Cheering erupts at intervals. I can hear it well up here. See the fun…

Makes me happy.

Winery visit — La Palerna

Today my friend Elizabeth Wholey arranged a wine tasting and lunch for us. It was a pretty day and we took off north — way north. To the very top of Umbria. It meets up with Tuscany and to the east Le Marche. Three regions. This winery is not in a wine region. It is in an unlikely location. And they are focusing on the Pinot Noir — Pinot Nero — wine grape. Also an unlikely choice. The winery is called La Palerna. It is at an altitude of 650 meters. High above the upper Tiber valley. Owned by Luigi Merendelli and his wife Paola. They own a large packaging company called Vimer. Here is the view from the winery.

We were greeted by Rosanna. She has worked for the Vimer industries and the family in different capacities for a long time. She is Swedish born but was raised in Luxembourg. She married and moved to the Upper Tiber Valley with her husband who is from here. Now she is in charge of sales and marketing of the Palerna winery.

We toured the property with the permission of Paola to include their beautiful grounds.

Rosanna took us around the property. We saw some of the vines and also the orto, or vegetable garden.

Orto, well fenced in to protect from the animals
Sangiovese leaf.
Pinot Noir leaf
Vine, Pinot Noir, has red stems
Sangiovese has green stems. See the baby grapes?

Next we toured inside the winery. These are the methode champenoise bottles. They are turned a quarter turn every week and slightly tipped higher. It encourages the sediment to slide into the neck where it can be popped out before corking.

Rosanna provided us with a lovely antipasti to complement the wines we tasted. They are very proud of their Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. Nudo di Palerna. 100% Pinot Noir.

She sources her food locally. We had a big platter of toasted bread drizzled with their oil.

We had the Mozzarella di Bufala from la Fattoria Montelupo. I buy mozarella often. I am a huge fan of the cheese made from the milk of the water buffalo. It is famed from down south in Campania. I’ve had it a number of times and am always blown away by the rich creaminess. It is NOTHING like common mozzarella. Well, I am here to tell you this is the real deal. Made from the milk of water buffaloes just north of us. The fat in both the olive oil and the cheese is cut by the sparkling wine which is why it’s paired. A marriage not to be beat!

Next we tried their Rosatto. Or Rose to us. Made from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese grapes.

She paired this one with meats. Salami and cured ham or proscuitto. Also from a local producer – Azienda Agricola Pigolotti. Along with a plate of bruschetta with pomodori…tomatoes.

Next we had. This was an everyday quaffing wine. Only €8.00. This is a normal price for decent but not fancy wine. We had this one with two local cheeses. Both pecorino.

Then, the prized Pinot Nero. This is not a normal grape here. We have only seen it at one other place near Orvieto. Sr. Merendelli fell in love with the French Pinot Noir and decided to dedicate much of his vineyard to this grape.

And finally Cospaia1441. It is made from Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It is nice with a lot of fruit and boldness. But the best part is where it got it’s name. It seems the border between Tuscany and the Papal State of Umbria was not fixed. There was constant fighting. So, finally, in 1441 the two agreed the small river running from the Marche down to the Tiber river would be the border. The north would be owned by Tuscany and the south would remain a Papal state. Due to a technical error, they seemed to not mention an island in the river. So it was neither Tuscany, nor Umbria, but a free and independent republic for almost 400 years! The label has a floating island on it held up by balloons. The motto of the land was “perpetua et firma libertas” — “firm and perpetual liberty”.

Here are Rosanna and my friend Elizabeth.

An excellent excursion. Other than a bit of haze it was a beautiful day. Let it be the first of many more!

Information of little import…

I say “information of little import..” but actually, if anyone comes to Italy to live, or even to rent an apartment and stay awhile, it could be useful. Just another quirk of Italian packaging.

As in most places, you can buy already made hamburger patties in the store here. I don’t usually because I prefer to make my own. But our favorite butcher, Etrusco, has the best beef and the burgers are juicy not dry, so I do buy some when I’m there. Luther is a real burger hound! They come individually wrapped in a packaged like this…

Looks good right? (Sorry to my vegetarian friends!) comes out of the package ready to slap on the grill. Not so fast. When we first moved here I learned this lesson. Watch and learn.

As you can see, there’s an invisible plastic sheet. Now, I can understand when you buy four patties in a stack you don’t want them to stick together so you’d do this. But this one is in an INDIVIDUAL plastic pack. There is NO NEED for plastic, and on BOTH sides! I learned my lesson by melting the plastic into the patty the first time. Live and learn! 😅😅
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Enjoy your week, and be sure to — “rimuovere la plastica prima della cottura!“ 😁

Beautiful day for lunch outside!

Of course, outside is our only choice right now but that set to change next week I think. We had originally been going with another couple but turns out they got their vaccination appointments right at the time of our lunch so they had to cancel. It had been so long since we had been to l’Alchemista we decided to just change our reservation to two and still go.

A gorgeous day today too. Sunny and highs of 28C or 82F. Montefalco is a hill town about fifty minutes from us set in the famous Sagrantino wine region. It is also known for it’s high quality olive oil. Here are some pictures along the drive taken from the car so not the best. I have always thought this is the prettiest part of Umbria.

We reached the hill town and I took a picture from just outside the walls. The big, round mountain is Monte Subasio. The pilgrimage town of Assisi is on the left of the picture on the mountain side. The plain has the town of Cannara, famous for its onions. Back in Roman times it was a lake.

We were greeted like long lost friends and seated on the outside dining terrace. It is in the main square and has spread out to about double its previous size. It was so nice to see all the happy faces, not just of the diners but even the wait staff seemed happy. It has been a long dry spell of them so I’m sure they are pleased to be back.

We had their delicious olive oil, brilliant green, and their homemade bread while we chose our food. They brought us a gift from the chef which was delicious. A small scoop of cheese and cream whipped almost to a custard with a drop of blood red pepper jelly and a crispy fried piece of faro. Sorry, I got carried away and took a taste before I thought to photo it.

My meal started with La Stracciata, scrambled eggs with truffles. Light and tasty. Then I chose the hamburgher, as they spelled it. It was nothing like a regular hamburger. They described it as “gourmet, knife cut, beef hamburger on guacamole, carmelized red onions, crunchy bacon, and ‘Brancaleone’ cheese from Norcia”. It was very good. Pictures…

And to see the inside…

Excellent Montefalco Sagrantino.

It was a lovely lunch on a lovely day. And it was a real pleasure to do a little road trip out of our area.
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Enjoy your holiday everyone. Let’s hope the summer stays safe and we can all have some fun.

Best laid plans…

I just re-read my last post. Nothing worked as planned…no surprise!

First, the day we planned to go to the new Asian market happened to be the day the Giro d’Italia was in Perugia. Streets closed. Public transport closed. Traffic nightmares. So we decided against that trip for now!

Lunch Saturday also called off. The restaurant is fully booked both Saturday and Sunday. All the restaurants are very busy since they’ve been allowed to reopen. The main issue is the limited number of outside tables. Now we have to regroup. It looks like we will need to plan a little farther ahead.

Due to some great tips and recommendations from one of my blog readers (thanks Matt!), our trip for our anniversary has moved from our original destination up the coast to a town called Sestri Levante. It sits between Genoa and the Cinque Terre along the coast. We have been a couple of times to the Cinque Terre but never have we explored the coast north of there. The town of Portofino is just near Sestri and I’ve always wanted to see it. We also want to visit Rapallo and S. Margherta Ligure. I am told they are nice villages. And then, possibly we will take the train into Genoa. I want to have some downtime too. So we will see.

Buona serata a tutti!

Trip to the Questura

After the last couple days of confusion, I’ve decided to leave all the travel news alone for awhile. I’m sure everyone is capable of doing their own investigating.
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You all may recall, about a month ago we went to submit all the myriad documents we had gathered to apply for the Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (ex carta di soggiorno) – elective residence. Link to the post.

Today was our appointment at the Questura. I was prepared to be turned down. I even had rehearsed what I would say if they did. I have been through so many hoops here that I wasn’t nervous or worried at all. I actually like our Questura. I’ve only ever used the one in Citta di Castello. It’s a medium sized city north of us. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories of the Questure in the larger cities. They sound like Dante’s third ring of hell. Our police officers all are friendly and, after seven years they know us well. And there is seldom a crowd.

We were each called in to a window. We had all our receipts, documents, passports, old Permessi, and our photos. They said, you’re applying for the permesso lungo periodo? We said yes. Two of our documents had expired since we’d gotten them last year before Covid. So we weren’t getting the permit. They said they would give us another year of our Permesso and while waiting we can re-apply for the long term one. Even though we failed this time, the good news is, we CAN get this permit. We will not be turned down if we get the new documents. I’m pretty pumped about this. If we get it, then we won’t have to worry about having an expired Permesso and not being able to travel. And we will be able get our health coverage for the ENTIRE year instead of having to go back again and again to extend. It will be amazing…I shouldn’t get too sure though, it is, after all, Italy. Anything can happen. 😳
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The weather has turned nice. It’s finally warming up. We’ve had a very cold spring. I bought my pepper plants yesterday for this year. I am still missing some flowers but I will find them eventually.

This week we have a few excursions planned. We plan to visit a new (to us) Asian market tomorrow. We are very low on our Asian ingredients. As most of you know, we love ethnic foods which are a rare thing in Italy. So I cook meals myself. Since being locked down we couldn’t leave our Comune so we couldn’t shop in Perugia where there are a couple of stores.

Then on Saturday or Sunday we plan to meet friends for lunch in Montefalco at one of our all time favorite restaurants, L’Alchemista. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been.

We are also just starting the beginnings of plans for a few short trips here and there. A day trip to Rome to see the Torlonia Marbles. They are amazing. Here is a great link from BBC about the Marbles. And probably in June a trip for our anniversary to Via Reggio on the Mediterranean. Got our eye on a nice hotel and restaurant.

Stay tuned!
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Italian phrase for today…”La speranza non muore mai” literally “hope never dies” but equivalent to our saying “hope springs eternal”. Pronounced — Lah spare-an-zah non moo-or-ee my.

Stay safe…🌈

Catching up

We took a drive Monday up to Arezzo in Tuscany. We visited a big grocery there that we like. We drove the Porsche which hasn’t been driven since January. The trip takes around 40 minutes. It was nice to see new scenery for a change. And to stock the larder with food.

Over the weekend we were awakened at 5am by our resident Hoopoe. Our bedroom window was wide open and he perched on the clothes line just outside where he proceeded to sing his (loud) two note song which is the origin his name, they say. Oddly, just last week I opened a bottle of wine which had a glass stopper rather than a cork. I noticed something painted on it. It was a Hoopoe! It seems every time I turn around I’m reminded of this cool bird.

Saturday local market was cheerful. We still have mostly winter vegetables. But I saw asparagus today. Also, everyone has piles of fresh eggs. The chickens lay more eggs in the spring apparently.

Plant booth had some pretty plants but I was going to take a trip up the hill outside of town to the big greenhouse so I just admired his flowers.

I’m happy to see both of the bars are welcoming folks.

San Giorgio, the restaurant across the piazza from us. They are happily serving lunch and dinner again.

I went out to the nursery just outside of town. I bought petunias and a bunch of herbs. I still need the sweet alyssum I normally plant and couldn’t find. I guess it will become a quest! This is the view up to Civitella Ranieri, the castle that hosts fellows in the art world. They were empty last year so I hope all goes well this year. Isn’t the sky pretty and the winter wheat so green!!

Spur of the moment we decided to have lunch at Patrick’s Enoteca. I’ve missed it. The “clown” train passing on the tracks across from Patrick’s.

Lunch.

So that was my week. Oh, except I locked the key to the door of our garage inside the garage. So now we can’t get to the car! And we were going for a ride today. Oh well. We are trying to figure out how to get in! This was the very thing I reminded myself never, ever to do…and I did it 🙄
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Italiano phrase…”era un bellissimo sabato”. In English “it was a beautiful Saturday”. Pronounced — era une bell-ees-see-mo sah-bah-toe.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Umbrian Pecorino Cheese

So, I got that wrong. As of Monday, we can travel to any yellow region. Doesn’t have to abut. The only orange regions (off limits) are Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, and Val d’Osta. And poor old Sardinia. What did they do wrong? They were the only region to be Bianca, just a few weeks ago. Now, they are the only Red Zone. It’s just hard to understand how this virus works.

I was out at the market this morning. Beautiful sunshine. Everyone is in a jubilant mood anticipating next week. I ran into many friends. Everyone is looking forward to aperitivo on the Piazza next week. Let’s hope for nice weather. 🤞 Also, we will be going out to lunch on Thursday and Sunday, next. Indescribably excited.
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Pecorino DOP
I was talking to an American friend who lives in the US recently. She talked about making something in which I had used Pecorino cheese. She said she would get a different type of cheese for her version.. This made me remember that Pecorino in the US is generally one type of cheese….Pecorino. That is definitely not the case in Umbria.

Today, I bought a few of the different types of pecorino cheese to showcase here in the blog. Umbria is known for Pecorino, and pretty much ONLY Pecorino. It is ewe’s milk cheese and is slightly sour. But this gives it a bit of depth in comparison to cows milk cheeses. It is also made in uncountable ways. What we lack in variety in the type of cheese, we gain in the many ways the cheeses are made, flavored and aged. I decided today to just concentrate on the non-flavored cheeses. But there are truffled varieties, varieties aged in hay, in ashes, with pepper, etc. Next time I’ll talk about those.

Pecorino is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses, and over the centuries there have been very few changes in the way it is made. Over the course of 2000 years, cheesemaking traditions and techniques have been handed down orally.

The methods used to curdle the milk, break the curd, press, drain, scald and salt the cheese vary, depending on the type of Pecorino being produced. The best Pecorino is made between May and June, using the milk from sheep grazing on spring pastures. Pecorino can be either mild or aged. The mild variety should be consumed shortly after it is made, while the second is aged in a cool, fresh cellar with low ventilation, so that it matures fully.

Pecorino fresco is good in salads, and is perfect with a toasted Umbrian bread topped with extra virgin olive oil. The aged and semi aged cheese also pair well with Umbrian cured meats, and they go well with honey, and of course, with Umbrian wines.

Here are the few types I bought. They go from Pecorino Fresca (fresh), to semi stagionato (semi soft), semi-dura (aged and hard), and dura (aged longer and it is very hard). I think the cheese monger thought I was nuts although I did explain to her I was writing a blog about Pecorino. She was happy to sell it to me. And now we have tons of cheese to eat! 😐

Fresca. You can see the liquid it releases. It’s good in salads and with toasted bruschetta.
Semistagionato. Good eating cheese, firm and soft.
Semi-dura. Semi hard. Aged 8 months
Dura and aged 18 months.
Aged 2 years. Good for eating and grating.

Italiano phrase, “Dopo pranzo è tempo di fare un pisolino” In English, “After lunch it’s time for a nap”. Dope-oh prahn-zo A tem-po dee fah-ray un piss-oh-lean-oh. I like the word pisolino 🙂
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Stay safe all! 🌈

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. 😁
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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.

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

Holy week

This is Holy Week. They have a special Mass every day of the week. The bells toll more often. I wonder if they will have the venerdì santo or Good Friday procession this year. Last year we were in total lockdown so they didn’t do it. I hope they can do it this year.

On Saturday, the sounds of a crowd drifted up to our windows. I looked out and the piazza was full of people! A little disconcerting after so long with nothing. We went on a errand and I was overwhelmed by the crowds around the Centro. I guess the weather got everyone out of the house. They were all masked and most were distancing. The two Bars are not open now after 6, and then, only for take-away due to us still being in an Orange zone. The days have gotten beautiful. I do miss my spritzes at Bar Mary on a warm evening. The weather will be great for Easter week!

For the three days of the Pasqua weekend, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, all of Italy is a Red Zone. Then after that, Umbria returns to Orange Zone for the rest of April. All will be reassessed on May 1. Maybe we will go Yellow Zone. I fervently hope so!

We hope April will bring much vaccine into Italy, to include the J&J vaccine. We still don’t know how it will work. Latest news is our GP will contact us and administer it. But we are going to try to register starting tomorrow on the website. We will try anything! Wish us luck.
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Here are some pictures of springtime in Umbria near Umbertide. First one is the copse of trees behind our house and near the river.

Along the walk I got pictures of the old and the new… first the old. Last of the winter garden. A sad few cabbages…

New garden. First the freshly tilled ground. Then the new peas. And last the artichokes.

Last we have a picture of a pretty lawn and a fruit grove. None of the pictures are that exciting but they all tell me the winter is past and it’s on to new things and, we hope, a new life after Covid…

Phrase – “domani è la mia lezione di italiano” — “tomorrow is my Italian class” doe-mah-nee eh lah mee-ah let-zee-owe-nee dee ee-tal-ee-ah-no.
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Stay safe everyone. Wear your masks, the virus is trying to make a comeback 🌈