Category Archives: Italian life

July 5 — Luther’s birthday

Special day for Luther. We were invited to a BBQ up in the mountains. Our Italian friends who are our Italian famiglia invited us. It was a beautiful, breezy day. Not at all hot. We were nine people. The family of four, two young girls and their parents, who own the lovely property, and her father from Slovenia. Me and Luther, and another couple with a house in Umbria. They are Polish and live in Colorado and also in Puerto Rico.

The meal was wonderful. We started with a guacamole dip and a tomato salsa and chips. Wine flowed right from the start. I brought chocolate chip biscotti, the Poles brought a hunters stew. This property has a great pizza oven and BBQ in it’s own stone structure. We had grilled sausages, pork, beefsteaks. Also a very spicy eggplant dish which took me by surprise by its spice 😳 and also salad.

After a short time frozen vodka flowed as well as lemoncello. There was a cake for Luther to cut. My cookies and chocolate we brought rounded out the desserts.

View of had
View of the yard and oven.
Picnic Pavillion
Pizza oven.
The group
Outside dining
Vera and Luther
Dessert. Luthers cake, my biscotti, and a chocolate bell.
Birthday boy.
Me, Luther and Vera.

Our first trip since Lockdown

Sunday, June 28
It was a birthday celebration. The plan was simple. We were driving on our first road trip from our house in Umbria to a hotel on the Mediterranean coast to a town called Castiglione della Pescaia. It would not be a long drive, only 2-3 hours.

We drove the Angelo Giallo for the first time since lockdown. We had taken it to the dealer for it’s annual servicing and it had a coolant leak. So we were all set. We left at 1:30 and drove from our house to Siena on the decent four lane road and then went south and slightly west to our destination. A pretty and interesting route.

We arrived at about 5pm, just after our friends Susan and Gary. It was Susan’s birthday trip and Luthers birthday is July 5 so kind of a piggyback. Hotel L’Andana is a few kilometers from the coast. From certain parts of the property you can see the sea. It is over 500 acres of land. They have hundreds of olive trees, all regimented and perfectly shaved. They look like they have all had the exact same flat-top haircut.

This is the driveway and gate. It was 900 meters long.
Maremmana cattle. Amazing horns. Nearly went extinct. Mussolini drained the swamps where they were adapted to live and work.
Our room. Great AC!

The next two are pictures of the property.

We rested and changed for dinner at the hotel. They have two restaurants, only one of which was open. The more casual of the two. Nice spot outdoors. Lots of spacing between tables. Everyone wore a mask. Unfortunately for me my main course was inedible. Grilled octopus on mashed potatoes. The octopus was a Goodyear retread tire. Almost impossible to chew. I rarely have an experience like this, and never in Italy. So I sent it back and got chicken. Susan and Gary got the Branzino cooked in a pouch which they loved. So, it was a mixed result. I might also mention, this restaurant was EXPENSIVE. 

Monday, Susan’s birthday. And today was to be her day. Beautiful sunny weather but would be hot. We had breakfast outside under the trees. Near our dinner spot from last night. They’ve got loads of help here, so service was great. Not always experienced, but always someone there. I had scrambled eggs. There was a big buffet but they had to serve us. Buffets aren’t allowed since Covid. Luther had smoked salmon. There were croissants and bread and butter, yogurt, freshly squeezed OJ. Eggs, any way. Just fine.

Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.
Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.

We left after breakfast and headed for the beach. Castiglione della Pescaia is the pretty town nearby. We drove through, turned towards the beach and ended at a dead end. Finally extricated ourselves and headed down the main highway that parallels the coast. We drove through a big park. It was a huge forest of umbrella pines. Quite amazing. Campgrounds were in and among the trees. At the end, I saw there was a town called Marina di Grosseto. I peered down the first road we came to and I saw umbrellas and a big parking area under the pines. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth we parked and walked to the beach. Tre Stelle, a little Bagno, or beach restaurant with its own umbrellas out front. We rented two, and four chairs and even finagled towels. The beach was beautiful. Maybe 40% full. Lots of empty chairs. And all the umbrellas were well spaced with at least six feet between them. Felt very safe. Nice breeze. Susan got her birthday wish to sit on the beach, go in the water. I did too but since I had no suit I got my pants good and wet but didn’t swim. The water was a perfect temperature.

Our beach.
Our beach.
Our beach.

After a few hours enjoying the beauty. We headed back to Castiglione della Pescaia. We had reservations at Bagno Tito. Right on the beach. We found a free on-street parking place and walked to the beach. Just 3 blocks. It was a really nice little beachy place. We sat under umbrellas on the beach. The food was good enough. Not great but fine. We had nice local wine. A nice breeze. What else could you wish for.

Lunch. Bagno Tito.
The view from our table, right on the beach.
Luther got Alici…fresh anchovies. Cracked pink pepper cornes perked it up.


We visited the local Coop grocery store where we bought food for a picnic in the room. Then, back to the hotel for showers and a nap. The picnic was fun. Nice conversation. Later, Luther and I sat outside while he smoked a cigar. I listened to the night noises. Owls maybe? Or small creatures? Horses neighing. Long soft sunset like we get during the longest days of summer. 

Tuesday — We met for breakfast at nine. More scrambled eggs with salmon. A good breakfast. We had to get out by ten because we had an appointment to taste Bolgheri wines an hour away, up the coast. A place called Fornacelle.  As always it was a wild goose chase to find it but we persevered and with the help of google maps finally found it. These wineries are all on the flat lowland between the beach and the bluff rising to the mountains. And the area is networked with little one lane roads. 

Our hostess, Sylvia, was a member of the family which owned the winery. A small operation. She showed us the cellaring room with the oak barrels. And an art installation along with art upstairs in a gallery. They use this on their labels. We finally settled on a pretty patio outside to taste. We had a 100% Vermentino Zizzolo white, a 100% Semillion white (aged in oak), a Rosso Zizzolo blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These two are named for a small fruit tree which produces an apple-like fruit. They had a tree next to the patio. Next we tried a Red made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. And finally a 100% Cabernet Franc called Erminia. This last one was a beautiful wine. My favorite. She brought crostade with their good oil. A very fun tasting which lasted longer than expected. We had a second appointment but couldn’t keep it and make our lunch reservation.

The cellar.
Zizzolo tree and fruit.

Next few are of the patio where we tasted the wine and some of the wine bottles we tried.


Off we went to Agriristoro La Cesarina. Another exciting adventure in tiny one lane roads, eventually going up the bluff to the top where the restaurant was situated. What a view. Small, casual, place. Obviously their home as we interrupted their lunch. The whole family was there. Turns out Nonna was the cook. Very traditional Tuscan cuisine. But all good. We had antipasto for all four of us plates of meats with melon, cheeses with figs and fig jam. Bruschette – red pepper and liver. All good. Then we had main courses. All the choices were very long cooked meats. A roast pork with carmelized onions. Roast cinghiale, roast beef. Everyone liked theirs. The wines were Bolgheri wines and good.

La Cesarina dining area.
La Cesarina dining area.
The view.
After lunch digestivo. Anise and something else I couldn’t place.

Driving home was another hoot. Up and down the mountains through the valleys. But we got home in time for Susan’s conference call.  
We again gathered for snacks. Watermelon, a little cheese was left and some mortadella.

I rose a bit early and tried to sit outside but the humidity has risen and there are millions of gnats and tiny bugs. So I had to retreat. I did take a shot of the long morning shadows which I thought was pretty.

We breakfasted and got on the road. Home in 2 hours 10 minutes.
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Impressions for our first trip. Restaurants were generally doing well with good distancing. Bagno Tito, the beach restaurant had no paper towels. That was bad because after you wash your hands you don’t want to touch handles etc. All other places had immaculate and fully equipped bathrooms. The hotel was very nice, clean and had great beds and linen. No worries there. The two beaches were sparsely populated and all umbrellas and chairs widely spaced. Unless in the great out of doors, everyone wears masks. So I’d give Italy an A.

During the trip we saw 2 German tags, 3 Swiss, 1 UK, 2 Monaco, 1 Lichtenstein, 1 Netherlands, and one Austrian. Every other tag was Italian, so Italians far out numbered everyone else, very few crossing the borders.

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I see things aren’t going so well in the US. The EU decided not to let travelers from the US into Europe. The benchmark scientific metric used was new cases over the past two weeks per 100,000 people. The average among the 27 European Union countries was 16 in mid-June; in the United States, it was 107.
Please everyone, wear your masks when not in open countryside. It would slow the virus to a crawl and the economy could come back without drastic shutdowns. It’s really not hard…I hate the masks, but I wear them.🌈

Road trip!

So, tomorrow we are off on our first excellent adventure since total lockdown here in Italia. A heady time! Also, a little nervous-making. 😳  But you have to put your toe in the water sometime as I say.

Today was all about packing, ironing, doing last minute errands, and buying picnic stuff. All of which we have finished. We also went out for an apperitivo at Bar Mary. Almost all the tables were taken. We sat at a table next to a guy alone at another table. Heard him talking, British. But I recognized him….then I finally got it. Ralph Fiennes. I knew he had a place here in Umbertide but never I had actually seen him. Wow. I had a drink next to Lord Voldemort! 😳
 
I have friends who are avid bikers. They took this picture on their recent ride. One million happy Umbrians – thanks James and Virginia Lupori!

Market day – ho comprato i pantaloni!

Hi all, beautiful day. We are having near perfect weather and long summer days. What’s not to like.

I have been anxious to have our market back since last week I bought a pair of casual pants that it turned out I loved. They are nicely made. Not cheap.  I liked them so much and hoped she had more. Turns out, she had tons and I couldn’t decide amongst the colors and patterns so I bought 3. 🤪 they are cotton and nicely made with drawstrings, elastic and a nice inner sleeving of beige cotton canvas to hold the drawstring. The inside of the bottom of the leg has pretty eyelet lining and can be turned up. Nice and summery and casual. Right up my alley.

Tell me, does the pair on the left closest to us look like it’s got marijuana leaves on it? Haha haha! Brings back memories!

Governor Andrew Cuomo is on CNN right now. He’s talking about a quarantine plan for NY, NJ and Connecticut. They will require a 2 week quarantine for people coming from States with high virus infections. This is kind of amazing to me! 😳

From the Washington Post…

Even as Florida hospitals are rapidly filling up with a spiraling number of new infections, authorities have changed how they measure the number of beds being used in intensive care units that will likely lower the figure. The move comes as the state eyes the next phase of reopening in July.

I have decided not to weigh myself anymore. That way, I will never gain any weight. Well, true, right? If I don’t look, I don’t know, so it isn’t real. Sorta like testing for the virus. Or counting the beds differently to show lower numbers. Right?
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News from the EU today is that the US will not be among the countries they will allow to come in on July 1. Any future date to reconsider is TBD. This is a baseline decree. Each country has their own last word.  The EU ruling is for all member states. I think a country can set a more stringent plan if they want. This will change when the US gets their virus house in order.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Market day and Summer Solstice

Happy Solstice! I think it starts at 5:30-ish tonight. It is a beautiful day for the market. It is finally starting to get warmer.

I visited the local market this morning. Then I took a turn through one of the town parks for a walk. Look at this picture My friend Paul took this morning of a bouquet of squash blossoms! Really beautiful.

And this one is a street in the Centro part of town near our house. Flowers and sunshine were pretty.

Finally a couple in the park that cuts through town. It is a green swath next to our small Torrrente, or creek.

Yesterday, I was sitting on the terrace in the afternoon, and a bird flew in and I shooed it away, thinking it was a pigeon. But once I had, I could see if was definitely not a pigeon. So a while later, when he returned I sat very still and he landed on the railing a few feet away. He looked at me and I, him and suddenly he popped up this most magnificent orange crest. He had a very long beak and was about the size of a red bellied woodpecker in the US. After he flew away I looked him up and he is a Hoopoe. Or in Italian, Upupa. They are migratory and fly up from Africa to breed all over Europe. I copied a photo since I didn’t have a camera while he was there and I posted it on my Facebook page. I apologize if you are a friend and have seen this. Here he is. Is he not beautiful? 💕

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Have a nice weekend everyone! 🌈

Weekend!

Well, here we are again at another weekend. It will be a quiet one for us.

This morning I went to the market and bought tomatoes! First ones. Now, I don’t have any real expectations of greatness or anything, but I thought I’d try them. Also I bought artichokes. They are small so should be tender.

After that, I took a walk. Along the river then I cut across the fields to the farm roads that crisscross out there. I took a couple of pictures of the wild flowers in the wheat field.

On the way home it occurred to me that I would be passing right by Tortetcetera, a bakery and gelato shop which moved last year to a location in the new apartment buildings behind us. They make the most amazing cupcakes. And the gelato is made everyday in the shop. It is the BEST I have ever had. I asked for a box so I could take it home. Then I chose salted caramel (my favorite), pistacchio and cioccolato.

The news from the US isn’t good on several fronts. The Corona virus numbers are really jumping in many places. Sorry to say. Opening up so soon has negated much of the progress made there.

In Florida, Jacksonville has said it will host the Republican convention with no masks required and no social distancing. Some people in the city are not happy about this.

From the Washington Post — “It’s irresponsible,” said Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett L. Dennis, a Democrat. “It will increase the number of covid infections and put the locals at risk.”

”Anyone who is a thinking person would have concerns,” said David Miller, a Jacksonville business leader who opposes the move. “It puts our community in harm’s way. And it values political spectacle over sound decisions being made with the best interests of the health of our community.”

Florida has seen a recent spike in infections as the state has relaxed restrictions and reopened businesses. On Friday the state reported 1,902 new coronavirus cases, a record high. Cases in North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma and other states also have continued to surge.

President Trump is said to not like the idea of looking out during his address at a room filled with masked people —

The president also insisted: “I don’t want to be sitting in a place that’s 50 percent empty.”

Alas, he is putting spectacle ahead of the health and safety of US citizens.
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News from Italy is rather good. Our numbers remain low and manageable. Everything has reopened. But many things are different. Still one at a time and masks required in the small shops and the pharmacy. Restaurants and Bars are open with many safeguards. Tables 6 feet apart. Masks required when you stand up, etc. You must reserve at restaurants. No spontaneous stopping when you see a trattoria on the road. Means you’ve got to plan ahead. Hairdressers open. One customer at a time inside. None of this bothers me. In fact I welcome it. It is best to still remain careful. We are enjoying our freedom. Italians and other people who reside here are taking advantage of the few tourists by going to the major sites which can be enjoyed without the crowds.

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Now I’m sitting on the terrace with the tende di sole or sun shade extended. It is threatening to rain shower and I would like to keep the terrace dry for tonight if I can. We are halfway through a movie!

Be careful over there!🌈

Wine Tasting!

I read this in the Post:

The coronavirus would have infected nearly one in five Americans, 60 million people, in the first few weeks of the outbreak without shutdowns or social distancing, according to a peer-reviewed study led by the University of California at Berkeley. The paper credited quarantine policies with preventing hundreds of millions of cases globally through early April, and a separate study estimated that shutdowns saved at least 3.1 million lives in Europe.

This is incredible. And so worth it. I know it was hard. On us. On the world economies, but just look at all the lives saved! Yay us!
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Every 2 weeks we get a new proclamation here. I know many people really want to come here to Italy, for a vacation, or because they own a second home here. And I completely understand. But, as of now, there is no provision for anyone from any non-EU member nations to be allowed in. Unless you are a registered resident here, or have family to tend to, or a medical issue. And can prove it. And then you must quarantine for 2 weeks. In a hotel, at your expense, or a home you own. This may loosen up sometime in July or August but we must wait for the next proclamation, which is June 15.

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Now for some fun stuff! Today was a nice Tuesday. We had reserved a spot ahead at a winery for a tasting at Arnaldo Caprai. Near Bevana and Montefalco. Nice day. Not hot at all. Skies full of all sorts of clouds and blue. It was our first “outing” other than the 2 Lunches we’ve had. We arrived and Camilla, the nice person in the tasting room told us we could sit on the terrace and she gave us the wine menu. Last fall, when we were here it was packed and there was no way to sit on the terrace. Today, it was only us. Quite nice! We chose a white wine each. And she brought a nice plate of meats and cheese, along with crusty bread with good oil drizzled on it. It was a perfect repast. We had another white, then switched to Rosso. Camilla said it was nice without all the buses full of Germans and Swiss. She said all they have had lately is Italians. But we did spot a car from Luxembourg. They were a ways from home. Anyway, a perfect little trip. Some pictures.

Luther on the Terrazzo.
First white
Our meat and cheese plate. One for each.
View from terrace
Behind winery. Grapes!
Behind winery. Olives on top.
Behind winery
Private patio. The family lives in the winery building in a separate wing.

Take care everyone…alla prossima! 🌈

Tuesday – Day of the Republic

Today is a national Holiday — Festa della Repubblica. June 2nd. In 1946, it was the day Italians voted to abolish the monarchy, and the Republic of Italy was born. So it’s called Republic Day.

After an 85 year monarchy, which had for the most part been very popular with the people, a referendum resulted in the end.  All male members and future heirs of the ruling House of Savoy were deposed and exiled.

The monarchy had ruled since Italy’s Unification in 1861. Its final monarch, Umberto II only got to be king for a month, earning him the nickname ‘Re di Maggio’ or ‘the May King’.

Umberto had actually been acting as head of state since 1944; after Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime – to which the monarchy had been allied – collapsed, King Victor Emmanuel III transferred his powers to his only son in the hope it would give the monarchy a popularity boost. It didn’t work.

The constitution now forbids a monarchy. In 2002, The House of Savoy family formally renounced their claim to the throne so they could return from exile. Umberto refused the right to return to his homeland, dying in Geneva in 1983.

There you go! Your Italian history lesson for today 🙂
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Last night I made a new recipe from “Six Seasons” cookbook. It was a faro salad with salami, cheese, and fave.  I added new peas, arugula and basil to the mint called for. Lots of good Umbrian olive oil. Very yummy. Luther loved it. 

Corona Virus 2

We now have a few cases of the Virus here in Umbria. A family self quarantining itself in Città della Pieve on the far west side near Tuscany, one in Todi, to the south, one in Foligno, and two others in small towns south of Perugia. I do not personally know of any closures.

We are starting to feel it here in other ways. The Questura is not processing the Permessi di Soggiorno that we need to stay here. Supposedly we will get extensions. This is impacting the fact we were going to try for the long term permits. Not sure what we will do now.

Airlines are not flying into the northern airports near the red zones but Rome and Naples are fine. The people who are flying places, so far are not hitting any problems. But many people are canceling their trips here. It will have a devastating impact on the Italian economy 😢. The news from the US makes me think it will be no safer there than here as this thing runs its course.

Stay safe everyone!

Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo – part 3

So… this week we did several things in pursuit of our Cartas.

Monday we visited the Agencia il Corriere. It is advertised as an auto and boat agency to facilitate all things legal, like titles and registration. It also helps with drivers licenses and we could have probably used them to convert ours had we known about them. We had thought we’d need to go to Perugia for this Police report. But the nice Policeman we visited last week told us about this agency and that they also do things like help get police reports! Who would’ve known that!? So we initiated that process. I’d pay just about anything to avoid going to the madhouse that is Perugia. We should get them next Monday.

Then Luther wrote to our Commercialista to get proof of our having paid our taxes since we’ve been here. That arrived in an email on Wednesday.

Today, we went to the Anagrafe in our Comune to get the CERTIFICATO CONTESTUALE, or family status certification. That was super easy and cost two €16 tax stamps or Marche da Bolla. Plus €1.04.

Since we were there we decided to convert our old style Carta d’Identite to the new electronic cards. This cost €27 each plus photos, fingerprints etc. We should get them in the mail.

So that’s three out of four things we need. The last thing is a Housing Certification or a certificate of habitability. We had thought this “could” be the long pole in the tent as they say. We noticed our deed mentions we do not have this certification. And it says, due to the age of the building. (!) Uh oh. So I decided to write our realtor, who knows just about everything real estate related, and ask him. Well, he replied that this is true, our house is in the Centro Storico, or historical center of town. This part of town is ancient and because of this it gets a pass. I guess we will highlight this passage on our deed and hope they accept it.

Stay tuned!