Category Archives: Italian life

One week from today

So, I’m happy to report things still are on schedule for The Move. We had our meeting with our sellers. It was good to get back into the apartment because it has been a very long time since we viewed it. They are obviously working on getting out. They had SO much stuff. I can’t imagine. And they told us their house is not ready so they are storing their things and renting a small apartment.

We had a lot of questions which we got answered, but there was one pressing issue in my mind…that the floor plan I had was not the most recent. In my pictures of the apartment there appeared to be a room that was formerly a terrace. So, with our friend Jim we went straight upstairs and saw that I was right, there is a big room that was formerly a terrace. Marcella, one of the selling couple said the work was all done legally and there was a new Catasto. So long story short, the work was done but the Geometra did not do the paperwork and register at the Comune. This also happened to us in our present apartment. We moved the kitchen, which is a major change that needed to be registered. We didn’t know at the time that it was needed, and that it was not done. We got it done and all was well. Today we heard it was an easy fix and they would have it finished before closing next week. It made for a stressful weekend of waiting. Here is the mystery room! I love the space and have no idea what I will do with it. I need to decide this week if I want our office things put up here. I am leaning towards yes.

Here are a few pictures of the bathrooms and some other spaces. I was pleased to see they were leaving some of the built in storage closets. Not all, but enough. And all the built in bookcases. They will look pretty empty because we don’t have a lot of physical books anymore. Nor a lot of decorative things. I am sure we can make it nice…

Main bathroom
Guest bathroom

This is the top floor. When I came up I smelled a lovely aroma. It was Marcella’s two lemon trees! See them in the photo above on the right? She keeps them inside in winter. They call it a lemonaia. The trees were full of flowers which have a very sweet aroma. This is also the space I will use to make my open plan kitchen. Behind that large china cabinet is a wall and a minuscule kitchen. We will remove that kitchen and the wall. Then across that whole back wall will be the kitchen and in front, an island. Looking forward to that project! Here is the minuscule cucina.

Very odd to me that Marcella and Walter do not have an oven in either kitchen. So strange. Do they never roast anything? Or bake anything? I couldn’t live without one. I am buying one that sits on the counter for the downstairs kitchen. But for the new kitchen it will be a very nice range, this time free-standing. Not built in like our present one.

So there you have our latest update. This week I have to do a lot of final stuff. We also are meeting some new friends for dinner Thursday. And there is a Quiz night tomorrow night — a benefit for books for dogs. Should be fun! Ciao for now! 🌈

Off and running…

We got the new year off with a bang! We are only five days in, four of those were working days, and already I have received my renewed drivers license and our new Tessere di Sanitaria, health care cards. I think getting the later this fast must be a record!

I also have an upcoming unpleasant test to prepare for. I think most can figure out what it is 😏. For this I had to get blood work done and buy meds which my doctor said were over the counter. Got both of those things done yesterday.

We did a pleasant task today as well. Thank goodness sometimes we get to do fun things! We ordered two beds for our new house. We have only one mattress that we are bringing so we also bought a new mattress. We visited our old friend Sr. Tiziano. We bought a lot of things from him back when we moved into this apartment. He has a showroom with some furniture. But he also has books full of products to order. I leafed through the copious pages and chose two pretty iron beds. I really like their look. Clean and spare. We asked if he could deliver the same day as we move into our new place and he can. That’s good because I want to move in as soon as we can. A bed to sleep in is essential.

Tomorrow is Epifania, Epiphany. It is a holiday here. The end of the Advent-Christmas season. I wrote a post about this and the beloved witch Befana who comes the eve of Epifania. It is an interesting story — check this link for the legend. All the Italian children wait for her to come and bring them gifts. Much like Santa. Anyway. I heard the town band playing and went to the window to see. They were coming down the street all dressed as witches! And one of them was dressed as Befana herself. She is the one in the scarf and checked apron.

We are nearing our move. I am doing some packing of things that I would rather not have the movers packing for me. Our guest room is piled with boxes. I have been purchasing some odds and ends that I think will come in handy. Like a hand truck. I love hand trucks. I used to manage all of the trade shows for my employer, back when I worked. I accompanied our big display booth, making sure it got to the show and back safely. I used a hand truck all the time. I decided it was just what I need now to move boxes around. I think Amazon knows how much I love hand trucks because they sent me two!

Ciao for now!

Capodanno!

Today is New Year’s Eve. New Year is called Capodanno in Italian. Everyone is wishing each other buon anno and auguri. Today is Saturday so I got to go shopping for the beautiful produce I needed for our dinner today and tomorrow. I also wanted to get a pork shoulder. My eating plans for the weekend are in step with the traditions of two countries, Italy today, and the US tomorrow.

In Italy, the tradition is to eat lentils on New Years Eve. The legumes are coin-shaped. So they are supposed to bring you wealth. They traditionally eat Cotechino at the holidays too. This is a traditional product made of minced pork, fat, and rind with salt, spices and wine. Since pigs were generally slaughtered in December, this sausage became a symbol of the holidays, accompanied by lentils and mustard or mashed potatoes. Super easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients.

So. I prepared the Cotechino as the box instructed as well as lentils. I decided a salad was needed for a green — I had bought some nice greens from the market today. I also added an egg. Here are pictures.

This was our first Cotechino. It tasted a lot like corned beef. It was pretty good. I am not a big meat eater. The small Cotechino was perfect for the two of us. I would do this again!

Tomorrow I will be doing Hoppin John. Carolina gold rice, black eyed peas and pork shoulder. Homage to my southern roots. The more luck the better for the coming year.

Buon anno a tutti and Auguri! 🎉🎊

Italian Health coverage – a new year

Here, in our part of Umbria, we are required to obtain our social security statements from the US Embassy in Rome to obtain our enrollment in the National Health system. This statement must be stamped and signed by the American Embassy in Rome. This is ONLY a requirement in this part of Umbria. How and why this came about I do not know. When we first moved here, we self declared our income. After a couple years they decided we needed this statement. It really threw a monkey wrench into the works that year for all of us! We eventually got used to it and just go with the flow, requesting the statement from the Embassy.

I always send off two emails, one for me, and one for Luther to the Social Security office in Rome asking for this statement to be sent. Usually I do this in mid-December so I can get them by January 1. I complain, and everyone does, about Italian bureaucrats. Now, in this case they work at the American Embassy which is almost entirely staffed by Italians. I got a nice reply from a woman to me that she was sending out my statement right away. But I also got a reply from a man to Luther that he would have to ask again after the first of the year. 😡 Annoyed I shot back an email that said essentially “my wife can get hers now why not me?” He replied that he “normally” waits until the year is done to send it, but would send it now. Think about it, this is our Social Security benefit for the year 2022. It is not like this will change in the next two weeks! Geesh. Dealing with bureaucrats can be exhausting.

When we receive the statements from the Embassy we will go to the USL which is the agency of health and re-up for our annual payment and enrollment for 2023. It is 7.5% of our social security benefits. It is paid annually in January. We are usually out of the system for a week or two while completing the payment and application. Once we sign up, most things are free. Co-pays are small and linked to your income on a sliding scale. For Italian citizens and workers they are automatically enrolled. I am happy with our care here. It is a good system.

This n that

It hasn’t been as cold but, boy! has it been rainy! The Tiber got very high and jumped its banks, but it has subsided. It is still running fast and muddy but staying behaved in it’s banks now. This morning I woke to sunshine. Nice for a change.

Out and about for a nice walk and visit to our local market. First I bought the vegetables I thought I would need. I got one of those beautiful romanesco broccolis. So pretty and so alien looking!

And I got beatole, the big meaty and leafy green I use in soups a lot. Along with a couple nice leeks. Now I have to decide how to use them.

I dropped off the veggies inside our door and went for a walk. I always like to have an aim for a walk and this time I wanted to replenish my depleted bay leaves. When I first came here I tried to buy bay leaves in the store. There were none. I was baffled. Eventually I learned that bay laurel trees are everywhere and you just pick off a leaf or a branch when needed. I went looking and sure enough, I found the town bay tree. You can see that the whole bottom of the tree has been sculpted as people pull off a branch or two.

Just next to the tree are a series of orti or vegetable patches. There are still a few hardy winter veggies like cabbages, but not much else.

I turned up-river and took a couple pictures. Tiber a bit high.

You can tell when we have had a lot of rain because this small “river” called a torrente, which is normally a trickle actually lives up to its name! Here it is joining its bigger brother the Tiber.

Last night I went to the Christmas open house at Books for Dogs – Libri per i Cani. I think everyone who reads this journal knows about this charity which supports two local canile which care for abandoned dogs. It was a nice little gathering. I saw some folks I knew, and met some I didn’t know. I snapped a couple, pictures in the town as I went home.

Ciao for now!

Commissioni, in another word, errands…

Even though today is one, vile, day we decided we couldn’t put off our commissioni another day. I fear the Umbrian winter has set in well and good. Rain, gray, dark and cold for the foreseeable future. It is not like people picture Italy, all sun and aperitivo on the piazza. The weather will remain like this for the next two – three months. We stay mostly inside with the stufa. It is quite cosy.

Today we had a number of things we wanted to get done. It started with the Saturday market. We bought what we needed there and walked to the photo store to get a photo of Luther for his passport renewal. ☑️ Then we walked back to the Carrefour to get a couple things. ☑️ Next up, the bakery to order our Christmas panettone. Last year we missed out because we were too late. This year it seems we were too early! But we got on the list for when they start making the cakes on December 15 ☑️

Then we walked to the car and drove to the big wine basement nearby. It is quite the place. Lots of great wine and all kinds of other booze. But, they also have seasonal things and they sell custom baskets full of good things to eat. Take a look at some snaps I took.

Panettone and Pandoro
More, all kinds

I think my favorite thing about many (most) Italian stores and hospitals and even gas stations is they have pictures of Mary or Jesus, or a crucifix or even more! In this shop, just above the cash register they have an array of religious photos. Mary, Jesus, Pope Francis…

We bought our wine and I decided to buy a panettone to share with friends since we couldn’t yet get one from the forno. ☑️

Next we headed to the Poste to see if we could pay a bill for a friend. It was jammed with people lining the sidewalk. First part of the month is a busy time there for pensioners getting their checks and all sorts of other business. The Poste is not just the Post Office but it is a full service bank and where you pay your bills. Anyway, we decided to try again next week. No check. 😞 Next ATM and last to the pellet store for more pellets. ☑️

Then for the hard part for Luther…the toting the purchases up 53 steps. Our neighbor said he couldn’t help carry the pellets because he has hurt his back. But he did help with one box. When we move the elevator will be our favorite thing!

I hope your weather is better than ours!

It is here! Christmas 2022 begins.

They kept us waiting this year. But today was the day the town Christmas tree arrived! My last tree while living in Centro so I savored the experience. I got a much appreciated phone call from Paul who could see the tree from his apartment as it was maneuvered into the Piazza. They don’t truss trees here so they are very bushy. They needed a crew and cherry picker to keep the street lights from being sheared off the buildings. As a friend said this morning, The Italian ability to get things through tight spaces should be the envy of the world. And I have to agree. I had to wait…and so did everyone else…anticipation!

Previous post with all trees from 2014 to 2020. For 2021 see last December.

Finally the tree is in the piazza. It looks to be a beauty!

The tree hung in mid air for a while.

Then they settled it into position.

I shot two videos of the maneuvering.

The tree will be lit on Thursday December 8, L’Immacolata, a National holiday. I will post pictures.

Celebratory lunch at Calagrana

What a day. It has turned sharply colder. Today was the day we celebrated with our buyers, Christie and Jane, and our former realtor Jim and his wife Jill. Jim was our original realtor in 2014. He knows the system and we just give him power of attorney and he handles the rest. So easy. We all went to Calagrana. The day was incredible the sky brilliant blue and the slanting autumnal sun made everything starkly clear.

Calagrana on it’s hillside.
View from in front Calagrana.

There was a new addition to the Calagrana family. Here is Tallula. She is 50 years old and is entirely original. She has only 60,000 kilometers on the clock. An original Fiat Centocinque.

Here is the group with Ely in the foreground.

It was a lovely afternoon. Lively conversation and great food. When we got back to Umbertide, the Castagne man had his fire going and the chestnuts were a-roasting. I love this! Every autumn this man and his family come and roast their chestnuts just next to the Piazza. This farmer is one of my favorites and comes to both of our weekly markets. He has the best tomatoes of anyone…but now is not tomato season…it is castagne season!!

So good. Sweet. I ate well today…Ho mangiato bene oggi! And it was lovely to spend our day with friends.

Excellent lunch with friends

Today, Saturday, was a bit gray, dreary and chilly. I went out to the market to do some shopping where I bought quite a lot of stuff for soups and salads. I noted we have a new bread kiosk which I must try. But today I visited our local forno for bread.

My haul.

Our friends from Spello, who moved here in July, were coming up for lunch at C’era una Volta, a restaurant near our new apartment. The name means Once Upon a Time. But first an aperitivo in the Piazza was in order. We sat at a table and Jane happened by so we invited her to join us. Then Jim (our realtor) and four other Brits sat at the table next to us. Bar Mary is always the place to meet and greet.

We headed down to the restaurant. We pointed out our new apartment on the way. I actually love C’era una Volta. It is only one block from our new apartment so I anticipate it will become our go-to place. The people are so friendly. I think they are Sardinian. Mom, dad, and daughter. We got the names of Mom, Laura, and Dad, Giuseppe. Next time, daughter. The food is quite good. They have a menu but the specials are recited. It is a real language and memory test! Here are pictures of our food.

Our shared antipasto plate. Amazing variety.
Delicious, made in the house, pasta with zucca (winter squash/pumpkin), prosciutto, and funghi (mushrooms).

We had such a nice time catching up with Roselyne and Steve. They are renovating their apartment right in the historic center of Spello. Excellent location with three terraces, one of which is right over the main drag up the hill so they can see what is happening all the time. Much like our view of our Piazza. It is ALL good! We will see them again soon!

When I got home I snapped yet another photo from our terrace…our last Autumn here. I want to always remember this view.

A little later I looked up and was greeted with an amazing sunset! It doesn’t get any better!

Buona domenica a tutti! 🌈

What a productive week!

First I want to mention that we had a good hard rain Thursday night/Friday morning last week. First rain in weeks. I was up checking the gutters and all looked fine. Draining, no more waterfalls. And best of all, no leaks inside. Whew. Glad to have gotten that done thanks to Fabio and Mario. Excellent workers in a difficult situation.
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Our friends and buyers of our apartment, had a bit of a mishap. Jane fell off her bike hitting her chin and cheekbone on the ground and breaking her thumb. She and Christie walked over to the Pronto Soccorso (emergency room) where they gave her a temporary cast and made an appointment to visit an orthopedic doctor in Citta di Castello yesterday. Meanwhile, our signing of the Powers of Attorney was scheduled for Tuesday.

We did manage to get the signing done, even with Jane’s right, and main, hand in a cast. It was somewhat amusing. The Notaio’s office is in a former Palazzo built in the 1600s. It is just next to an enormous green space which Jim told us it was once the main Piazza of Castello, and a formal garden. Now it is just an immense lawn. The office is just as I remember it. Grand but threadbare in a pleasing way. I took a couple photos.

Ceiling. Probably 20 feet high.
Ornate door into the room.
Cool fireplace, obviously unused.

So, Jim can now sign for Christy and Jane to close on the apartment. And he can close for us on our new place. That way we don’t need a translator. Saves a bit of money. The deal is not quite sealed…but a step closer.

Because we weren’t sure what they would do at the hospital in Castello I drove them up for the appointment. We went to the hospital and found the orthopedic department where Jane was seen pretty quickly. But she had to endure the pain of resetting her thumb…no anesthetic. The norm here. She said is was REALLY painful. Then they put on a cast and we went to get an X-ray to see how the set was. It took us 45 minutes to FIND the Radiology department. They are very short on signage. On the good side, we got our steps in. 🫤 We returned to the orthopedic docs who viewed the X-rays and told us to make an appointment to come back in a week. Making the appointment at the ASL (Azienda Salute Locale).

To give ourselves a reward for our ordeal…more for Jane than Christie and I, we decided to have lunch! We tried a new place called Grace. It opened in the space where Patrick’s Enoteca used to be. It is a bit of a sad story. Grace was the wife of the chef. She was a 28 year old American. She and her husband were involved in an accident in which she was killed. The restaurant was opened in her name.

We had a delicious lunch. They have half portions of almost everything, so we decided to do three half portions each. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures.

Zucchini carpaccio with walnuts.
My ravioli with black truffles
Jane and Christie got this zucca stuffed pasta. Zucca is the big orange winter squash they have here.
Inside – mmmm.
The zucca main course Jane had. She and Christie are vegetarians.
Being an equal opportunity eater I tried the venison. I eat a lot of vegetarian but like to try meats too.

This week we also got our guy to come to arrange to replace two window screens, the electrician is coming to replace two lights, and Luther had a hearing test today. I gotta say…I am OVERWHELMED at all the progress we are making! So un-Italian! 🙂💕 Ciao a tutti!