Category Archives: Italian life

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!

Boring things. We all have to do them…

Like everyone on this earth, we all have errands to run to keep our lives ticking along on track. We are happy all the shops are still open and, although we have to stay in our Comune, we have everything we need here.

Our list for today was extensive. First stop. As everyone does, we are preparing for winter. We have a heated mattress pad for our bed. And we have a summer one. So that summer one went to the dry cleaner to be cleaned for next summer…SUMMER ☀️ which I see as a shining light ahead of us! Maybe a new beginning after this pandemic. Spero di si.

Second issue we had been dealing with. Our old printer had died and we ordered a new one from Amazon, after trying to find one locally. We got that on Friday and have semi-set it up. (Don’t get me going on how hard it was!) Of course, as these things go, I had JUST ordered new toner for our previous printer when it died. €80 worth. So I needed to return it. But, without a printer, I was unable to print the mailing labels to do so. So I waited. Today we took the toner to the DHL pickup location to return. Check.

Last week we also had to go to the ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – Local Health Unit) because our E01 had expired. Our Dottoressa had noticed when we visited her. This is the code that is used here to determine how much you must pay for prescriptions and some tests…according to your income. If it expires, you automatically pay the most. So we got that updated but we didn’t have all of the copies of our cards they needed (of COURSE they need copies!!). At home, we had no copier…so we waited and once we got the new printer – we made the copies and we took them there to drop off. Check.

A trip to the EuroSpin supermarket to order a turkey for thanksgiving was next. This part I liked best. This year I decided to do Thanksgiving dinner, even if it is just for us. Our friend Susan offered to make a pie and I think Gary is making a vegetable. No matter. I will take a pan of turkey, maybe dressing, gravy, and of course, mashed potatoes to them. We will eat alone, alas, but at least we will share the bounty with some friends.

After that we visited the Coop supermercato. I had not been since we went to Code Orange and they are again taking things seriously. We had our temperatures taken before we could go into the mall, of course masks are mandatory everywhere now, both inside and outside, and the spacing between people is being enforced. We bought a bunch of the staples we needed. And also some cat food for our friend who is in isolation. She feeds a mamma cat and her litter from this year and was running low on food. I dropped it by her house so she should be good for a while. She told me they are coming to her house to give her the Covid test rather than making her go to Citta di Castello. One of the few benefits of age 🙂.
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I took a walk Sunday evening. By the time I got back to the Centro the sun was just setting and the sky was pretty. Here are two pictures.

The Rocca, our fortress.
The entrance to the Centro Storico. We have a pedestrian bridge which crosses over from the road.

Stay safe all….andrà tutto bene 🌈

Tuscany is Code Red

It’s getting ramped up fast here. We are still Orange but just a few miles from here is Tuscany, and it is Code Red now. The highest. Pretty much a complete lockdown over there. The map below shows how fast Italy is raising the alarms.

Unfortunately I now know of a number of people in our area who’ve tested positive, or of people in self-isolation after being exposed. It is far worse for Umbria in this second wave that it was in the first.

It is Saturday. It’s cold and damp here. I am not even going outside to our Kilometer zero market. We have the stufa burning so it’s cozy inside. Here’s the foggy view from our terazza …No laundry will be drying today!

I had hoped to clean up some in my ortino. Take a look at my biggest producer. I’ve never had a pepper with so many before! These all ripened in the last 3 days. And these babies are HOT. I freeze them but now they are taking over all the space.

Stay Covid-safe everyone. Wear your mask! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Autumn market

Our weather has been perfect fall weather. We reach the upper 60s in the day. And it chills down to the 40s at night. We almost always wake to dense fog in the morning, which takes until around noon-ish to burn off. Rather dreary starts to our days. I should be used to it, but I’m not.

Town wall and buildings inside — in the fog.

Very suddenly, the fog miraculously begins to burn off and finally the sun shines brightly. Nothing like blue skies and sunshine to lighten the mood.

Despite the new Code Orange lockdown, we have the normal market outside. One of the two bars is closed. The other is doing carry out. Irene was bustling across the Piazza with trays of tiny cups of espresso. I hope this doesn’t hurt them too much. Bar Mary is less of a young people’s bar so it will keep doing the takeout. Cafe Centrale is the bar with the big nightlife which attracts many young people who don’t follow the rules and I’m sure they are one of the reasons our cases are up. I’m sorry for Diego, the owner though. He says he may go out of business. He can’t manage on just takeout, or only daytime traffic. It is too bad because he has poured a lot of money into that bar.

Anyway, we went out to do our shopping. Here are some photos.
In the autumn you will always find mounds of chestnuts. And sometimes one of the stands will have a roaster going. In the foreground is one of the weirdest vegetables I’ve ever seen. It is called Gobbi. Also known as cardoni and cardi in Italian. And cardoons in English. It is a lot of trouble to prepare and I only have done it once. Not worth the work.

These next ones are the winter squashes. The word for all squash is zucca. The second one is the gigantic zucca which they sell by the piece. They lop off however much you want.

And finally the cheese. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the cheese in Umbria is probably 95% pecorino. It is sheep’s cheese. There are a few small artisanal goat cheese places which I want to try someday. But mostly they make pecorino here, and in many styles but it is still pecorino…

Today, for the first time in my life, someone said cheerio to me. A British gentleman who lives in town. I knew OF him but we had never met. Today we were introduced to him in the market — Robin, and his dog Zorro — by Susan and Gary. He is going back to England soon. Driving. It is a long way. He goes up through Switzerland, then into Germany, France and the Low Countries of Netherlands and Belgium, and finally across the English channel. He said he’d take his time. He says the only finicky ones are the French. Susan asked how long they had been like that , he said probably for the last thousand years! I had to laugh. And then he said cheerio! So I will also sign off with a cheerful cheerio to you all — stay COVID safe and wear your masks! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

The fruits of our labor

We were given six liters of olio nuovo yesterday by our friends Joanne and Mark 🙂. It is a portion of the oil produced from our harvesting effort on Friday. They told us the yield was low but the quality is good.

Look how pretty this is! So green! We just had some bread dipped into the oil today. Bruschetta perhaps tomorrow. The flavor is wonderful. Grassy and peppery and slightly bitter. It will smooth out as it sits but I just love the new oil for its brashness. You can only get it like this one time a year so it is very special.

Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Sadness

Umbertide after six during lockdown lite. Silent. Dark. Damp. The fog rolls in. Winter is nigh. Cold. Depressing. Winter. All our efforts were for naught. Sadly, the Covid cases in Italy rise exponentially. During our last lockdown it was the beginning of spring here. Each day grew longer, each day grew warmer. Things began to grow. It was so much easier to accept then. So much harder as we do the opposite. We head down that dark tunnel into winter.

Even in Umbria, we are now listed as one of the regions with the fastest growth. Umbertide, my small town, is showing 8-10 new cases a day. The hospital here is virtually shut down due to most of the staff testing positive for the virus. We fully expect a complete lockdown in the very near future. The numbers are out of control and drastic measures are necessary. So many have Covid fatigue. It is a worldwide phenomenon. I have it too. I am stoic about it. I can’t change it.

I also watch the disaster happening in the US. The daily new cases climbed above 100,000 yesterday for the first time. And yet, nothing is being done to slow it down. I read there were 30,000+ new cases and hundreds of deaths attributed to the maskless political rallies. It will grow and grow and spread and kill. I’m very sad for the US. At least, here there is an effort to slow things again. Sigh.

To bring things into focus for myself, I am trying to remember other times of troubles. I think of London during the Blitz. Years of bombing, sirens, taking shelter in the metro tunnels. Rationed food. Deprivation. Loss of life and loved ones. Their time of tribulation. Our time of tribulation is now. We must rise to it. It will pass.
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I am sorry for such a downer post. I AM feeling a little down. Let’s hang together and work to last through this thing. We will have a vaccine sometime. And always remember … Andrà tutto bene.🌈

Raccolta 2020

Raccolta means “harvesting”. Raccolto, means “harvest”. We participated in the olive raccolta, yesterday. It happens like clockwork every October and November here. We were invited by our friends Joanne and Mark who have 75 trees of varying age.

It is hard to overstate how important…how much a part of the yearly cycle, the olive harvest is to Umbrian life. For people who live here it is a way of life. It is something to look forward to, something that brings people together to work, and after a days work they join together in a meal. It is tradition.

Last week you may have read we visited our local hardware store. At this time of year it is chock full of all things raccolto. Hand rakes, long rakes, beaters (battery powered implements to shake the olives down), nets, crates, and all manner of containers to store it. Everyone is excited, getting ready for the new oil. It is a happy time, lord knows we need some happiness nowadays! The frantoio, or olive mill, is a happy place. It processes the olives 24/7 with the farmers and olive grove owners looking on lovingly as the “green gold” comes out of the spigot after the processing.

The new oil is unfiltered, so it is cloudy. But it is bright, brilliant green. Much greener than the olive oil most of us use daily. And it is only this way for a short time. It must be savored atop bruschetta or tagliatelle during the short time each year we have it. We put it on something mild flavored so the oil is the star! The qualities of Umbrian oil are a grassiness, and a peppery taste in the back of the throat. It has a very strong aroma. There is nothing mild or reticent about the oil from Umbria. It is a brash and in your face oil 😋. I love it completely. I really hope everyone who loves Italy can visit Umbria during the raccolto so they get a chance to experience the new oil. It is spettacolare. Most restaurants showcase it during meals at this time of year.

Yesterday dawned gray and foggy as it does for most of the winter here. We left at nine and drove to our friends house up in the mountains between us and Lago Trasimeno. They have restored an old abandoned farmhouse over many years. They are now retired here. Their property has an olive grove. It seems most properties have a grove if you’ve got any land at all. So in the fall, it is hard NOT to be invited to help in the raccolta. We really love it. Open air, good honest work among friends. In these Covid days it is nice to be safely among friends.

On the drive up the twisty road into the mountains we were first in dense fog. But the higher we got, the brighter it got. Until suddenly, we popped out above the clouds which created the fog below. Are these not spectacular pictures!?

We arrived and got to work. The fog had not yet burned off at this elevation so it was still quite cool. We worked until after two and then lunch was served. I was famished. Most people were pretty tired. Luther and I went back out and finished the tree we were working on and then headed home. Here are some action pictures and pictures of the views.

The fog was just below where we were working. Spooky looking!
Tina and Joanne hard at work.
Carol and Heather.
There was some autumn color across the valley.
One person is using the “beater” . The nets are spread under the tree to catch the fruit.
Just 3 of the 25 boxes that were picked.

The 25 boxes went to the frantoio last night. I haven’t heard how many kilos we got nor how many liters were produced. I will include this in a future post.

It was fun as always to get outside with friends and do some honest work. To be able to participate in an Umbrian ritual that’s been going on almost the same for thousands of years is part of the reason we love living here.
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Around town and beyond

We have been out and about a little the last few days. Saturday we had a long-standing date to have lunch with a couple we had not met in person. Virtual friends. Matt and Zeneba.

We met at one of our longtime favorite restaurants, La Grotta in Montepulciano. Unfortunately it was a rainy blustery day so I didn’t get any photos from along the way. The scenery, being Tuscany and the famed wine area of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – the Noble wine of Montepulciano, was manicured. Many vineyards with pretty vines all in their autumnal yellows and reds. The grapes, long harvested, are in the process of turning into the beautiful wines of the area.

While stopped at a railroad crossing, I looked to my right at this pretty little terrace right on the road practically. I loved the still life of pumpkin and pretty gourds.

Here are the obligatory food pictures. But first the church across from La Grotta. San Biagio.

Sweetbreads with mushrooms.
Luthers lamb chops. Don’t you love the beans? 🙂
It is porcini season and they had them a few ways. Zeneba had them as an antipasto. I had this tagliatelle.
Dessert was pistachio gelato with chocolate cakes. Mmmm.

It was a fun little trip and we enjoyed meeting new friends. We vowed to meet for lunch between us every so often. They live in Lazio, south of Orvieto. We have to wait a bit until our new restrictions ease up.
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Tuesday – we decided to do a few errands. It was a crisp day. The colors stood out brilliantly clear in the bright sun. The sidewalk on our way, covered in leaves.

First we walked to our hardware store behind the train station called Emporio Casa. That sounds very fancy doesn’t it? But it is not at all. It is a long narrow building full to the brim with anything and everything you will ever need for around the house, yard or garden. You can’t browse anymore, due to Covid, but the men working there are very helpful. We got our necessaries and headed to our appliance store nearby.

The store is named Formica, I had always thought it funny to name a store for an insect — Ant. But someone clued me in that the name is the last name of the family who own it! Haha. We had ordered a new refrigerator a little over a week ago. They brought it to our house but it turned out we needed some carpentry modifications to make it work. Lucky for us they had brought a carpenter! They removed the cabinet doors and he did some measuring. Then they took out the old frig and put the new one inside the cabinet sans doors, so we’d have something to use. Last week the carpenter returned and changed out the hinges etc and it all looks great. So today, even though no one had asked us for any money yet, we decided to walk over and pay them. Would that happen in the US 🙂?

Next stop, the Tabacchi. These stores do many things, they sell the tax stamps we often need, tickets for the train or bus, lottery tickets, and you can pay your bills there. I paid my friends electric bill for her today. Along the way to the Tabacchi we passed the elementary school playground which was ablaze with beautifully colored trees.

Last stop, the Carrefour, our closest grocery store to our house. We picked up a couple things we needed and headed back home. It was a nice little jaunt which had the double goodness of getting a few things done. I love that we can do all of this sort of thing on foot within a few blocks of our house.

Have a beautiful day everyone, wherever you are. Enjoy the autumn day. And be Covid-careful as always.

Foraging for mushrooms

An unplanned excursion popped up early this morning. An invitation to go on a hunt for mushrooms. A friend here in town who has lived in this area for 35+ years had posted a picture of the mushrooms she had found and I had chimed in that someday I would love to come along. Well, that someday was today! She called and asked, and I said yes, It is something I’ve always wanted to do so I couldn’t say no could I?

I walked over to her house. It was cold and very foggy. Off we went up into the nearby mountains. As we drove I got a lesson on the types of funghi that grow around here and what types are edible. We drove up and up through the fog and suddenly, we burst out into brilliant sunshine. We were above the fog! Up there, it was a beautiful day.

Monte Acuto Is the tallest pointy mountain. Acuto means acute in Italian. And it is an acute angle.

We parked and started up a steep hill on a dirt road. Jill told me anyone is allowed to forage for the mushrooms, and you can go anywhere even on private property and right into peoples gardens. Unless they are fenced. Foraging is something people around here do routinely. They seem to enjoy the hunt and they use what they find. In spring it’s the wild asparagus they go for, fall it’s chestnuts and mushrooms.

We found a few inedible mushrooms. We saw lots and lots of evidence that the wild boar had gotten there ahead of us. They love mushrooms and truffles and root up the ground in their search. There were also a surprising number of other cars parked along the roads. Hunters of animals, and hunters of mushrooms. Sunday morning is a popular time. Here are the first ones we got. And some that we left alone.

We decided to change our venue and Jill called a friend, Sally who lives up another mountain road. She’s the last house so we could set off directly from there. Along the way we watched the sides of the road and I spotted a few large mushrooms. We stopped and Jill said they are Porcini mushrooms but poisonous.

We met Sally and went into some much better woodland. We ran into another man and his dog searching for truffles. Sally said this area is noted for its golden truffles. I had not heard of them before. The sun was trying to break through the mist and I got a couple of nice photos.

And finally, my fellow mushroom hunters.

I really enjoyed my outing. I may go out and try on my own one day but I won’t trust myself to have any idea if they are ok to eat! I can always show Jill. After I got home, coincidentally my friend Vera sent photos of the mushrooms her mother-in-law found. What a haul!

Buona domenica everyone! Stay safe!