Category Archives: Italian life

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 🌈

Regional dinner – Emilia Romagna

This week Calagrana’s special Regional dinner was from Emilia Romagna. The food capital of Italy. I’m sure some would dispute that, but it’s where many products you would recognize come from, like Parmagiana, Prosciutto and Balsamic vinegar, to name three. This week the entree was Rabbit alla Modanese. Since many people don’t eat rabbit Ely had a second choice of pork. We tried the wine this time.

Last Sunday I went up to the restaurant to pick up take-away items. They have lists of available things every couple of weeks which we order and then pickup at the agriturismo. Ely is really good at pastry. We got some of her chicken and leek pies. They make great lunches. Single serving size! And some English muffins. Two pizzas. And a marinated chicken. It’s like a holiday when I go there. It’s only 15 minutes away and in our Comune (and legal in the Orange Zone) but it feels like a real outing! I get out so seldom. I also run into other actual people there! Who are also picking up food. It’s kind of sad that this constitutes a high point in our week. Here’s the menu:

Below are pictures of our meal. The rabbit was rolled and stuffed. It was excellent. I loved the wine pairing. Eccellente as always!

Sentence for today “è tardi ed è ora di andare a letto.” — “it is late and time for bed”. Pronounced…eh tar-dee ed eh or-ah dee and-are-eh ah let-toe.

Stay safe y’all…andrà tutto benr 🌈

Cannara onions

At the Wednesday market in town, one of my errands was to buy some more of the “famous Cannara onions”. I keep a string of these sweet onions available all the time in my kitchen. They work used any way, raw or cooked. A young man, maybe 20s or 30s comes in a van with braids of the onions, dried legumes and, in summer, fresh things they grow, like fava beans. I drop by to get these onions often. A little information about the “famous” onions follows.

The onion of Cannara is a protected product of Umbria, earning the title Traditional Product Agribusiness from the Minister of Agriculture. This commemorates not only the goodness and versatility of this onion in the kitchen, but also it’s historical roots in this area. Besides this prestigious award, the Onion of Cannara also won the coveted title of Slow Food.

The traditional cultivation and harvesting of the onion of Cannara is carried out by small producers called “cipollari”, often handed down from father to son for generations. The word cipollo means onion so cipollari means something like ”onioner”. It has been cultivated since the 1600s in and around the small village of Cannara which is situated in a vast, fertile plain that, back in Roman times, was a shallow lake. The entire process of growing and harvesting is closely monitored to guarantee the quality standards and origins.

The onions cultivated around Cannara are of three distinct varieties: red, golden and borrettana (flat disc type), but all three are characterized as sweet, soft and easy to digest. To me, the red type, with its beautiful red-coppery skin is by far the most tasty, delicate and sweet. They are most often sold in the characteristic braids.

The town of Cannara, in normal, non-Covid times, has a famous festival which is held during the first two weeks of September and is called, the “Feast of the Onion.”

Too pretty to eat!

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I took this next snap of a pretty house painted in one of the traditional colors used around here. Almost orange. I was taken with the duvet airing on the balcony which went so well with the house color.

Sentence for today. “ho ricevuto il mio pacco da amazon oggi.” — “I received my package from Amazon today”. Pronounced — oh rey-chay-vu-toe eel me-oh pack-co dah amazon ohg-gee.
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Stay safe – andrà tutto bene!🌈

Moonset – times two…

I was up at 6am Saturday and from the window I saw the full moon setting with a reflection in the Tiber. I went out in the cold in my nightgown to snap a picture. Brrrrr. Mornings are still very cold here.

But, Saturday was sunny and warm in the Piazza. We headed out to do some errands and visit our local market to see what was to be seen. I bought a few things at the market. Broccoli/broccole and Cauliflower/cavolfiore are always around this time of year. Some fresh eggs. And I got the ever present Cavolo Nero or black kale. Luther bought six bottles of vino bianco from our local winery. The nice lady there is always so excited when we come. I don’t think she sells much 😞 So we are happy to support them and the wine is good!

We also drove to a store and bought some pellets for our stufa, and visited the grocery for some supplies. I bought carciofi romana…artichokes …because I saw a picture of someone cooking them and it made me drool…🤤
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Carciofi Romana Why have I never made this before! It is so good. And really not so hard. I had four artichokes and I cleaned them and prepped them for the pot. Then I rubbed them in garlic, mint, salt and pepper.

I put them into a pot and poured the olive oil over them, then added the water and brought to a simmer. I put a lid on the pot to let it cook.

After thirty minutes they were done. Very yummy and garlicky. I served them as a first course before our hamburgers 🤣😂

The ingredients are few. I did four artichokes but you can do as many as you want. You can look on the internet to see how to trim them if you haven’t done it before. You’ve got to be pretty ruthless. Most of it goes in the trash. If you’re not cooking right away put them in a bowl of lemon water so they won’t discolor. Chop about a tablespoon of mint and garlic fine, add a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Rub the artichoke cut parts in it. Put them face down with stems up in the pot. Put the heat on medium. Pour about half a cup of olive oil over them. Add about a cup of water. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Serve warm.
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Moderately good news. Umbria has gone back the Orange Zone. This does very little for us except people can sit outside a cafe for coffee, and the dress shops will be open again. I think that’s about it. We still can’t leave our Comune. I don’t mind telling you, we are all bored out of our gourds here. If they’d let us go into a Zone Yellow we could at least travel in the region of Umbria and the restaurants could open for lunch. Maybe soon 🤞🤞
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Italiano for today. “Ho incontrato un amico in piazza e abbiamo fatto due chiacchiere” In English, “I met a friend in the square and we had a chat.” Pronounced — oh in-con-trah-toe un ah-me-ko in pee-ahtz-zo A ahb-bee-ahmo faht-toe dew-ay key-AH-key-err-ray. The word Chiacchiere is a really hard one for me to pronounce. They really accent the second syllable. And they roll all their Rs. Really roll them which I cannot put in my pronunciation. Many English speakers have difficulty rolling their Rs. When I was little I used to do a lot of sound affects with my toys. So rolling my Rs is natural! 😁
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Stay safe everyone, buona domenica! 🌈

We have news!

My friend Susan posted some information she found about the vaccines for we Umbria residents.
“There will be 3 ways we can make an appointment for the vaccine: go through a web site, use and 800 number or go to the pharmacy. We are registered by year of birth, so we need the Codice Fiscale to verify. Then we will be sent a text message telling us where and when we get the vaccine. People 80 and over are first up then the rest of us staggered by year of birth. And the vaccines will be given in Umbertide. We’ll see how this all works, but it is at least step One.”

Thanks for posting Susan! It makes me feel we have some organization and plan, since we have heard very little until now.
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Big snow storm coming tonight and it will be the first “actual storm” since we’ve been here. Predicting 15cm of snow. That’s around 6”. For us, that is a lot. I am excited! Pictures will follow…
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Tonight we will be having the regional dinner provided by Calagrana. Delivered to our door. This evening it will be Trentino Alto Adige.

Sentence for today. “per stanotte è prevista neve!” in English, “snow is predicted for tonight!” Pronounced…Per stah-note-tay A pre-vista nay-vay.

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Stay safe ! 🌈

Permessi

So, you probably read that I found out our Permessi di Soggiorno were ready in a previous post? And I said we would have to wait, with the Zone Red. The story was not finished…

For some reason, this morning I asked Luther to check his phone for an SMS. The Questura is supposed to send us one when the PdS is ready. Sure enough, he had been sent one last Wednesday. Our appointment was February 10…February 10th!!? That was today. I looked outside at the wind driven rain and sighed. With the appointment on the phone we could leave our Comune. So we decided to “man up” and go.

We drove the 20 kilometers to Città di Castello. The rain, thankfully, let up on the way. I admired all the brilliant green fields and mountainsides. The winter wheat is so welcome about now when everything is gray. But the wheat! It is neon!

Arriving at the Questura we saw no one standing outside the door. This was odd. Usually there is a crowd. We parked and walked to the gate where there was a sign. It said it was closed until February 21 for the Permesso di Soggiorno. Oh well. No matter. The sun came out on the way home but black clouds loomed ahead. We visited the Wednesday market for some produce and retreated before the rain. Piano, piano as they say here. Slowly, slowly. In due time we will get the Permessi 🙂
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Now it is late afternoon and there is an ENORMOUS thunderstorm looming from the north. I took some pictures. It is pretty impressive. The sun is shining in the foreground and on the hills. The storm is a very black cloud behind. It sets off the sun very well. I love the contrast. And the thunder rumbles….

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A friend of mine and I were discussing food…it is an obsession in Italy…and after sharing the recipes we had been trying he said…”we have to keep our strength up for whatever”. And I laughed and laughed…yes we DO! Eating well is our best defense. And it gives us something to do.

Singapore Teochew Braised Duck is the next meal.  Luther is a huge duck fan. Always pestering me to cook a duck. I like duck. I just don’t like COOKING duck. I had duck parts. About half a duck chopped up. We bought it in the super mercato here in town. I decided roasting was not the way to go with parts. So I searched on braised duck and picked this one.

It was good. Had a nice broth from the braising. It included soy sauce, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, ginger root, garlic, onion. I made basmati rice. I put some of the broth over it. It was very tasty. I would make it again. I even have left over broth for another use.
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Italian sentence. “Domani è un altro giorno, proprio come oggi.“ in English, “Tomorrow is another day, just like today”. Doh-mah-nee A un al-tro gee-or-no, pro-pree-oh coh-may  ohg-gee. 🙂
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Stay safe! 🌈

Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno

I wrote about some of the more obscure legumes we can get here in Umbria. One of them is Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno. The Blog post I wrote in December describes the attributes of this legume and explains the difficulty in cultivating it and hence it’s scarcity. Click the link to re-read the post.

I have just gotten around to using the Fagiolina. I researched recipes and decided to go simple and make a soup. It is really cold now. We woke up to a dusting of snow and it is supposed to go down to -3C tonight. Perfect soup weather. Especially a stick-to-your-ribs soup like this one.

I like the beans. They taste very much like black-eyed peas. Those have always had a flavor to me that was different than other beans. And these have that same flavor. Buon appetito!
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We are still in lockdown Code Orange. Although, we have many freedoms, we cannot leave our own Comune. There are exceptions for very small Comune so they can go to an adjacent one for shopping etc. They are using twelve different statistics to determine your zone color. And they just added a Zona Bianca, white zone. This is what we all want to get to. More freedoms.

Quote translated from Corriere della Sera “But although the overall situation appears to be slightly improving in several regions, at the moment almost none are close to the values ​​to go white. It is necessary to have an Rt (rate of transmission) lower than 1 and the weekly incidence of cases must be below 50 per 100 thousand residents. The control that assigns the bands to which they belong, has already decided that no territory will become white next Friday, considering that the data being examined are those of the previous week (therefore January 18-24). Basilicata, which is the one with the least serious situation, had a weekly incidence of 60.58, close to the required 50, but still above. Sardinia is at 77.89, Tuscany 80.62 and Valle d’Aosta at 93.10. In the other regions the situation is quite different: Bolzano 578.19, Friuli 293.94, Trento 211.31, Umbria 200.22, Emilia 189.75, Marche 183.05, Sicily 180.46, Puglia 165.85, Veneto 152.9, Lazio 136.93, Liguria 124.46, Abruzzo 120.08, Campania 118, 47, Molise 113.21, Piedmont 112.87, Lombardy 110.41, Calabria 102.66.”

So as you can see, we are a ways away from getting out from under these restrictions.
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Italian phrase for today. “Mi piace cucinare. Oggi ho cucinato la zuppa di fagioli.” Which means, “I love to cook. Today I made bean soup”. Pronounced…Me pee-ah-chay cooch-in-are-ay. Oh-gee oh cooch-in-ah-toe la zoopah dee fah-gee-oh-lee. 😋
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Stay safe – Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Snow!

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.
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Stay safe everyone. Big week coming up!

Christmas restrictions in Italy

New rules for us here in Italy, as well as for anyone who plans a trip to Italy during the holidays. Information is from The Local.
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Italy is tightening the rules for people crossing its borders this month.
While other countries may be relaxing their rules over Christmas, Italy has announced it will crack down on travel both to and within Italy.

Its solution is to impose quarantine on anyone entering Italy over Christmas or New Year, as well as stepping up mandatory coronavirus testing for travellers.

The rules, introduced in a new emergency decree signed on December 3rd, come into force immediately but will get progressively stricter the closer we come to Christmas holidays.

They will ease off after the traditional end of the Christmas period on January 6th, and be replaced by a new set of rules from January 16th.

Mandatory quarantine for everyone arriving over Christmas and New Year
The biggest change is that everyone who enters Italy between December 21st and January 6th will have to quarantine for 14 days, including people travelling from within the European Union.

That applies to all travellers, regardless of nationality and whether you live in Italy or are just visiting, and including if you’re entering Italy by private transport.

Upon arrival, you will have to complete a form (available here or from your airline) giving your contact details and the address in Italy where you plan to quarantine. You will need to organize your own transport from the airport without taking trains, buses, coaches or other public transport to reach your destination.

Once you’re at your place of quarantine, you should not go outside unless there’s an emergency, nor can you invite anyone over or socialize with other housemates (unless you’re quarantining together).

You are also required to inform the local health service, or ASL, so that they can monitor you. Depending on where you are, you should be able to do this by phone, email or by filling in a form online: consult your region’s website for more information.

Pre-travel testing extended to all EU countries
While Italy previously imposed mandatory coronavirus tests on travelers from certain European countries, from December 10th the requirement will be extended to people arriving from any country in the EU, Schengen Zone or the UK.

In addition, the new decree states that you’ll have to get a test before you travel instead of on arrival in Italy. That means you should prepare to arrange a swab within the 48 hours before you depart for Italy, rather than getting tested at the Italian airport or station where you arrive.

People who arrive without proof of a negative test result will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Before December 10th, only people traveling from ‘high-risk’ European countries – Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Romania, Spain and the UK – will have to test negative before they travel.

And between December 21st to January 6th, everyone arriving in Italy will have to quarantine regardless.

As far as we know, EU travellers can go back to testing negative to avoid quarantine from January 7th until the rules are revised again on January 16th.

Canadians can no longer visit Italy as tourists.
Italy has revised its list of countries outside Europe whose residents are allowed to visit for non-essential reasons, including for tourism.

Canada has been removed, along with Georgia and Tunisia. Residents of these countries must now prove they have an urgent reason such as work, health, study or family emergencies in order to enter Italy. (Citizens of these countries who live in Italy remain free to return to their Italian residence.)

Meanwhile Singapore has been added to the ‘safe’ list and Romania has been recategorised in line with other EU countries.

The revised list, effective December 4th, is as follows:

Australia
Japan
New Zealand
South Korea
Rwanda
Singapore
Thailand
Uruguay
Residents of any of these countries are free to visit Italy, but must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Until now 16 countries were subject to Italy’s tightest travel restrictions, with entry all but barred.

But starting December 4th, these countries will be subject to the same restrictions as most other places outside the EU: travel is permitted for essential reasons of work, study, health or family emergency, or for people who usually live in Italy and are returning home.

Upon arrival in Italy, they will have to quarantine for 14 days.

The change affects the following countries:

Armenia
Bahrein
Bangladesh
Bosnia Herzegovina
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Dominican Republic
Kosovo
Kuwait
Moldova
Montenegro
North Macedonia
Oman
Panama
Peru
Rules for Americans remain unchanged

People travelling from the United States, India, Russia, China or any other countries outside Europe (apart from the eight on Italy’s ‘safe’ list above) remain the same: you can travel for essential reasons or to return home, but not as a tourist.

If you are eligible to travel, you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days.
You can avoid quarantine, however, if you travel on one of the new ‘Covid-tested’ flights starting between the US and Italy on December 8th, on which all passengers must test negative before boarding.

Remember that these flights only get you out of quarantine; you’ll still have to prove to border police that you have an urgent reason to travel to Italy.

Travel within Italy restricted
Domestic travel will also be restricted throughout December and early January.

No non-essential travel is allowed in or out of regions classified as high-risk red or orange zones under Italy’s tier system, which the government has confirmed will remain in place under the latest decree. Travel between towns is also restricted in these zones.

From December 21st to January 6th, travel between any regions of Italy – including lower-risk yellow zones – will be limited to essential journeys.

And on December 25th and 26th as well as January 1st, you will not be allowed to leave your own municipality (comune) except for emergencies.

Hotels can remain open
Hotels and other forms of accommodation are allowed to stay open throughout the holidays, though with the drop-off in tourism some will no doubt close.

There are some restrictions on serving food and drink, including a 6pm closing time for hotel bars and restaurants on New Year’s Eve.

For more information on international travel to and from Italy, see the Foreign Ministry’s website and check the restrictions in your destination country with the appropriate embassy.

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I wanted to let everyone know our new rules. These will be enforced and are mandatory. I’m sad for the loss of our Christmas this year. But it is, after all, Christmas 2020. A year unlike any other. I have high hopes for a return to quasi normalcy in 2021.

Stay safe everyone!