It was a gray day but it didn’t rain as predicted. I had plans to visit the Saturday market which was buzzing with activity prior to Easter. There was a very rustic gentleman who was selling his asparagi del bosco, wild asparagus out of one of the booths I frequent, always a treat. I wish I had taken a picture of him! I bought two bunches. He had obviously foraged it in the hills, a big pastime here in the spring. It will be part of our Pasqua meal tomorrow. It is very different than “normal” cultivated asparagus.
I also met up with Jane one if the buyers of our house in Centro. We walked through the house and I answered all her questions. It is looking good with new paint and the floors polished.
Afterwards, I walked back home and we met Jane and Christie for lunch at C’era una Volta near our house. It was lovely and we were the only customers. Apparently lunch was so quiet because everyone will come tonight and tomorrow for Easter lunch. A very busy time for them. We had pasta with asparagi del bosco and fungi. Very yummy. We also had their amazing antipasto plate with dozens of great things, as always.
Tomorrow is Pasqua, Easter and a big deal here. Then Monday is Pasquetta or, little Easter, a holiday and traditionally a day when Italians take to the hills for walking and picnics, or to their favorite restaurants, or beaches. I think the weather will cooperate. Buona Pasqua a tutti! 🌺
Today there was a little something special in the Piazza. There were several booths with local products sponsored by Slow Food. I love Slow Food for promoting the ancient products and the organic and locally grown things. There is a chapter in the Alta Valle del Tevere or the upper Tiber valley, where we are. They had a big booth of olive oil and there was a wine booth with tastings and a woman with dried legumes, local saffron and fresh eggs. It was fun walking over and watching all the action. Everyone was in a happy mood, the weather was cool but perfect. After a cup of cappuccino we walked back home. Here are a few pictures.
There are a number of shops in the Piazza as well. This window caught our eyes! The dress! And the pink suit! (Stylish shoes too) There was a lot of reflection in the glass but I had to get a photo.
Last night we met friends for aperitivo. My first spritz of the season!
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.
My friends alerted me that I should check out the sky. An amazing full double rainbow. Got my socks wet going out and taking photos!
Off to do marketing at the Saturday local market. Wet day but not raining right now. Pretty blue sky! The autumn veggies are gorgeous.
Soon this market will be sharing space with the town Christmas tree. I am excited the season is beginning.
~~~~~~~~ Our new apartment is on Via Fratta. We still don’t have a firm closing date. We are still waiting for the estimate from the moving people. The way the apartment is set up we have the top two floors. Essentially all the necessary living space is on the 2nd floor. On this floor we will put all of our current furniture that we are bringing. This means we will have a living room, dining room, kitchen and office. The bedrooms will need new beds and one mattress which we will order once we have our dates. The top floor, which I want to make into a great room with open plan kitchen, will have almost no furniture. It will be unusable at first. I hope to hit the ground running to get a kitchen, appliances, and furniture. We will need some construction. A small wall needs removing and the services for the sink and stove will need to be relocated. That means we need to hire a Geometra to manage the construction and installation.
Today we took a trip to Divani & Divani to look at sofas for the great room. I am torn. I want to buy soon so we will have the furniture without having to wait too long in the new apartment. I also thought to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. Today was the last day. But, I don’t have any measurements of the new space. Reluctantly I decided to wait. Next week we will make an appointment with our sellers to go see them with a bunch of questions. Also we will be able to take measurements. I think it is best to wait. I do know what I want to get now, so the trip was not wasted. ~~~~~~~ I forgot to mention we picked up our new olive oil Thursday from our friend Fabio who always comes to the Thanksgiving feast. He has around 250 trees and I always buy from him since he has consistently had great oil. I bought 15 liters, and 6 half liter bottles which will be gifts.
Now we are back to everyday life after our big vacay. It is really hot. This weekend will be a record breaker.
Our first BIG thing was to go to the Questura with our final documents for our long term Permessi. But while we were gone our printer bit the dust. So we couldn’t print what we needed to take today. With some help from friends (thanks Paul) we got it printed. Friday morning we headed to the Questura. Sigh. Their hours changed. They were not open. We must go back next week. Back to normal Italian life! One step forward, two steps back.
While we were gone tomatoes happened! Yes they did! I had my first tomato sandwich yesterday.
Growing up with a Southern mother, I lived on these sandwiches when I was young. At my mothers knee. She loved them too! Luckily we have American style white bread here, see picture, so I am all set!
Today is the Saturday market. If I don’t get out early I miss out on fresh eggs and the tomatoes that I get from my favorite stand. Everyone has tomatoes, but only one has the tomatoes that are the ”right” tomatoes. The kind I remember from home, the right shape, the right kind of red.
…and eggs. I got eggs! The word for eggs is uova. The word for egg is uovo. This is opposite of what you’d think. Usually if something ends in “A”, it is a singular, feminine noun. In this case it is not singular, it is plural. I am told it is because it derives from a Greek word. Anyway, the man I get my eggs from held up one very dark egg as he was choosing mine. He asked if I wanted il cioccolato? Here is my basket of eggs. Il cioccolato is on top. I love the pretty hues of different browns and tans.
We have a monthly publication put out by the Umbertide Comune called Informazione Locale. I always try to read it. I saw this nice illustration of our Centro Storico and scanned it. I always like pictures of where we live. If it is a poster I will buy one.
We had a bunch of errands to run today. First to the pet store to stock up on cat care items for our cat sitters. Next to the dread Poste Italiene. The third ring of Hell. Now that all restrictions for Covid are off they again let as many people in as want to come, rather than queuing outside. You get a number, according to what you want to do. Then you wait. People watching is the preferred pass time. The board was on number 075 and I got 088.
After the wait I picked up what I thought would be a package. But in reality was a notice of a fine I have to pay. €135,52 – So far I cannot figure out what it is for and why I owe it.
Next we were off to the Bancomat…our two ATMs near our house are very persnickety lately. One says my card is illegible, the other says they cannot connect with my bank. So we stop at another bancomat when we are out and it will give me €500 at a time. More than the other ones will give me for the same fee. My card is obviously legible and my bank contactable !
Last errand was going to the grocery store. Saturday morning is THE worst possible time to go. But we had put it off for a while and really needed to go. While standing in the checkout we realized our friends Tom and Calvert from Montone were right behind us. Tom said to me, we are all retired. Why are we here on a Saturday morning? Good question!
Back to the apartment to unload and then I parked the car. It was just about 11:30 so our local market was still open but the vendors were pretty much wiped out. I did get a few things. Delicious sweet strawberries are here now. And crisp radishes as well as new potatoes which are just in.
Then I visited the lady with the local cheese from Montone. She is from Sardinia and you might recall I bought some of her dumplings a couple weeks ago. They were so delicious, I got some more, but different ones called Culargiones. (Rachel, you can google this one for a recipe 🙂.) They look like big gnocchi but with a leaf-like shape. They only want a buttery, tomato sauce with fresh basil.
Lastly I couldn’t resist some great looking mozzarella. Still waiting for the tomatoes!!
For the first time in nearly three years I had to buy olive oil! I am saving the little oil I have left from our friend, Fabio because it is the best olive oil I have ever tasted and too good to use for cooking. And we used up the oil we got from friends when we helped at the harvest, which was also excellent quality. It was a lot of oil. I may check with friends who may have some to sell. I am spoiled. I don’t want to use oil unless I helped harvest it, or I know the owner of the grove. 🙂 One of those cool things about living in Umbria.
~~~~~~~ From time to time Luther sends me a recipe he likes. Truth be told, he sends me at least one a week. They come from the Italian newspaper or from the Dr. Wine site. He complains that I don’t make many of them. I admit, I don’t. Friday, I made a zuppa that he sent. Zuppa di legumi misti, mais, e orzo perlato. It is a mixture of dried beans, farro, lentils (your choice of the mix) with corn and orzo. This is another oddity. Orzo, in the US, is rice shaped pasta. Here, orzo is barley. Here’s a picture. (I added short pasta and potatoes)
~~~~~~~~ I love this time of year. Gone is the winter produce. Now we see ruby red radishes, piles of fava beans and new peas ready to sbucciare, my new word for today. As in to shell, or to peel. Luther will sbuccia all of them for me, and then I do the cooking part 🙂 There is asparagus in heaps, of course. Beautiful bitter greens like arugula, called rucola here. And lettuces. The baby zucchini are just coming in and the cucumbers. I impatiently await the tomatoes but they won’t be here until July, maybe late June.
Today I bought something interesting from one of our nice cheese mongers. She had in her case containers of Sardinian potato dumplings that she had prepared (she is from Sardinia). All I have to do is boil them and serve with a good tomato sauce with basil. I also bought a container of fresh ricotta.
~~~~~~~~ Lunch out Saturday! With friends. We decided on a restaurant in Montone, a nearby hill town. This restaurant has been there since we’ve lived here but in typical Italian fashion it was never open when we tried to go. I heard from friends that it is open now, under new management. It is called Taverna Del Verziere. One of the best features of this place is the views from the walls across the valley from their terazza. Spectacular and oh so pleasant on a summer day.
It is a family run place and they were all super welcoming. I was glad I had reserved since it was pretty packed. Their antipasto menu was interesting. We tried a couple new-to-us things. I had the papapomodoro with seasonal vegetables. A typical Umbrian recipe using stale bread soaked in tomato juices. The veggies were either roasted or pickled. Susan got the roasted purple carrot Hummus.
We both enjoyed them. Luther and Gary got the tagliata with lardo for their secondo. It is grilled steak sliced and they put a very thin piece of Lardo on top. Lardo is a speciality of northern Tuscany. Pork belly lard, the purest white, is packed with herbs into giant marble boxes and left to cure for eight months. Then it can be thinly sliced. When it is placed on hot meat, it melts and adds wonderful unctuous flavor.
Montone is a walled town with several gates through the walls. I love this one and the view.
Remember last market day? Last Wednesday? When I got shut out? Well, today was a new day! Asparagus was available in abundance. And I got some! I also got new garlic(!) and the first local strawberries.
A lot of people who retire complain that they can’t keep track of what day it is. Here in Umbertide that is never a problem. Our two weekly markets bracket our week nicely, and give us anchor points on Wednesday and Saturday. The town is very quiet on Monday and Tuesday, but gets more lively from Wednesday onward. Today, being the big, main market, I decided to go out and do a little hunting and gathering. Exiting my front door I am steps from Bar Mary and the Mercato.
There are almost always these musicians playing. They always bring their dog. Today it was some blues and then traditional tunes. They are good, so I always contribute a euro or two.
Here are a few pictures of the produce where I bought my items. The young man is from Cannara, famous for its onions. He used to just have onions and some dried legumes. Now and then he would have another crop. Suddenly, he has everything.
Here are a few of the spring veggies growing around this area now. I’ll put captions under the photos.
I was so disappointed. When I got to this stand there was a bucket with a few handfuls of asparagus. I wanted some and this was the only place I had seen it. There were three ladies ahead of me. The first one bought around 8 spears. Still plenty left. The next one bought half of what was left. But what was still there was enough for me. So, one more lady. She got carrots, onions, lettuce, and was just about to pay, when she took the rest of the asparagi!! 😱 Sigh. Oh well. It is early in its season. I will go out earlier on Saturday. Anyway, I bought two bunches of radishes, four artichokes and some arugula.
Tis the season for planting gardens.
There are always two or three really big stands. They bring much of what they sell from down south, Sicily, Calabria. Sort of like Florida and California produce in winter what people north cannot yet grow. So we are seeing strawberries here now, but not local. Artichokes are here all winter from the south. Apples and oranges are just about done for the season. These stands sell things really cheap. Here are a couple examples.
I strolled back and took these final two pictures. One of the wall and all the plants that manage to dig roots between the stones. And of the old church tower with the four bells that ring for Mass, but also the hours of the day.
Next on my to-do list is buy the plants for my terrace. While we are still trying to sell our apartment I am still going to plant my flowers on the terrace. who knows how long things (like closing and us finding a new place) would take — and that is IF we sell it! Things move veeerrrryyy slowly here. Italian time…piano, piano.
Big project tomorrow. Il Brodetto alla Termolese on the menu for Pranzo. Two friends will join us. you might remember my friend Jen and I had this special fish soup in the town of Termoli in Molise on our trip together (see post about the trip). We have been craving it ever since.
I went out to the big Wednesday market to see if my normal fish truck was there. It was missing last week and, alas, it was missing again today. Probably because of the holidays. So I decided to visit the other fish truck. I don’t know why I don’t normally go to him. Maybe because the lines are always so long. Today, I was out early, even before some of the stands were set up. So there was no line at all. As I looked over the large amount of very fresh seafood, I noticed about 40% of it was still moving. Now, THAT’S what I call fresh! It was really beautiful stuff. He even had oysters. I wanted to buy some, but I didn’t.
I bought all the food for our feast tomorrow. Two whole spigole, which are sea bass in English, shrimp, mussels (cozze), tiny clams (vongole) and the funny crustaceans they have here to make stock…not much meat and a pain to eat but for stock they should work well. I forget their name.
The mussels, clams, and the mystery crustaceans are all still alive. I remember once, long ago, I bought mussels at Whole Foods. They are always sold alive so you must let them breath. When I got to the checkout counter, the checker, a young girl, tried to tie the plastic bag, which held the mussels, closed. I told her not to do that since they were still alive and must breath. The shock on her face was priceless! She obviously didn’t know!
Tomorrow, the Brodetto. I will post the finished product after we make it. And hopefully I remember to take pictures before we eat it!