Today they pretty much finished the space which will now wait for the cabinets and appliances. There are some covers that need to be made to go over the electric and plumbing. But the walls and ceiling are done and have been painted. The floor is laid and grouted and the terrace has been rid of all the trash and built up detritus. There is still a ton of dust that needs to be cleaned up but I will do that a little at a time. I can finally access the upstairs internally again. I am pleased with it.
~~~~~~~~ Over the weekend we had lunch to celebrate our friend Doug’s successful passing of the extremely difficult written driving test. I’ve spoken of this before. The test is in Italian, technical Italian, and draws 30 questions from over 7,000 possible questions. You can miss 3 and pass. All Americans, and Canadians (I think) must take this test within a year of becoming a resident in Italy. After a year it is illegal to drive on your US license. I’ve got lots of friends here and every one of them has passed despite not necessarily being fluent in Italian. It takes months of study, you must enroll in a driving school and really it is a matter of memorization. Anyway, it was a special day for Doug and five of us had lunch in Bevagna. It was sunny but chilly. First picture is of an early flowering tree in front of one of Bevagna’s gates.
Lunch was at le Delizie del Borgo which is situated just outside the walls of the city in a pretty park. Captions beneath the photos.
Then, we lucked into (not) another parade past our house. I was just taking a nap and was roused by the pounding bass from enormous speakers. I have no idea what the occasion was but I took one photo.
Exciting times. I met with Irma, my architect, along with Alessandro and Donatello. Such pretty names for construction men. Donatello is the idraulica, plumber. He will move the pipes and gas. Alessandro will do the demolition. The work begins tomorrow. There is nothing much interesting in these pictures except to document what it looked like before the work started. First The Wall. This will be demolished.
The floors will be jackhammered up and removed. This was a conundrum for Irma. With two floors there already, how can we integrate a third? It had to kind of blend in color-wise, and also not clash with the patterns. It had to be plain. I hope what we finally settled on will look ok.
The place where the kitchen used to be which our sellers removed when they left. That is the caldaia on the left on the wall. A caldaia is a boiler. We have two. This one doesn’t work now. Most houses heat the radiators and the water with these. This means the wall is full of pipes. Water and gas for the heating system upstairs and the water. This makes demolition a bit harder. The pipes will have to be run under the floor and they will install a new caldaia outside.
I boxed up all our books and things and piled everything up on the two couches so they could be covered and sealed against the dust. This is just the one. The guys will roll up the carpet for me.
I don’t know how awful the noise will be yet. If it is too bad we may have to find a place to retreat to in the day time. More for the cats than us. We could always leave but they can’t unless we find a place for us all to go. Jackhammers are loud 😳.
The work will last about two months. The worst should be over in the beginning. They will completely seal the upper floor from the lower meaning to access it we will have to go out and up the elevator or stairs and then in the door upstairs. Not really all that hard. The washer and drier are up there and some plants outside which will need watering. ~~~~~~~ I have only one key to the upstairs door. I went out last week to our Ferramenta – hardware store EmporioCasa. They made two keys. They didn’t work. Back this morning. I pointed out the difference in the two keys. He made two more which looked the same to me. They didn’t work 😡 So I went back right away because I need the keys tomorrow. Finally this time they work. Whew.
The Ferramenta is a cool little place, long and skinny with two floors the bottom of which is open to the top floor. Stuff is everywhere! You don’t really browse in here. You ask for what you want. I sometimes take a picture of it and show it to them, which helps. Although the place is a jumble, the father and son and helper know where EVERYTHING is. This is outside sign. The building is right behind the train station.
You really can get just about anything here. Zoom in on these. This first one I wanted to show all the baskets they have up on the ceiling, for hunting mushrooms and truffles.
Two more. They have things seasonally. Now you’ll find heaters and fireplace tools and grates. Also pellets for the stufe. In the olive harvest season, they have rakes, and beaters, nets and the big cans the mill puts the oil in as well as smaller tins for separating it into usable sizes.
We decided to go out for lunch on Sunday, Calagrana was having a Sunday Roast and all the fixings. This is a British tradition every Sunday at all the pubs. It had been a while since we had eaten out. My appetizer was an artichoke, beet and goat cheese insalata (really good). And we had the roast. Which was not beef but lamb and pork belly. Pictures.
Ely seated us at a table next to Americans who live here part time that we had never met. Dale and Mark from Dayton Ohio. They have a house near the Niccone valley. We had a very nice time getting acquainted. They apparently had just met friends of ours a few days before Joanne and Lynne in a cafe in Passignano. There are a lot more of us around here than we know!
So stay tuned for more regular posts about the kitchen renovation. Ciao!
As I mentioned in the last post we were going to Calagrana. It was coolish but nice and sunny today. Good Thanksgiving weather! We drove Christie and Jane along with ourselves. At table was a great mix of people. There were fourteen of us. The restaurant had two other tables of two and one of four.
It turns out I knew some people either actually or virtually at all the tables. Two were people I was only Facebook friends with Joan and Giovani who I enjoyed meeting. They live in Deruta – the Ceramics town. And Cathy and Sal who we met a few years ago when they viewed our apartment. They ended up buying out in the country in the beautiful valley south of Gubbio. Then there was Tanya, Lisa, Nigel and Michael who are local friends.
At our table were six Italians, one British, and seven Americans. A great mix with me getting to use my Italian because I was near the Italian group. The Italians are all enthusiastic Thanksgiving fans. Especially Fabio 😁. We buy our olive oil from him.
The meal. Ely had made a lovely group of four finger foods. I know there was date wrapped in prosciutto, arancia, and two others I couldn’t identify. I am missing one in my picture because I ate one before remembering to take a picture
Then came a delicious risotto with zucca and Scamorza cheese. Smoky flavor. Albi is a Milanese and risotto is their special dish. The rice was al dente, it had a very, slight crunch in the mouth. Perfetto!
Then the feast. Turkey with all the trimmings. The bird was 18 kilos or about 40 pounds.
The dessert was a ricotta tart with candied fruit and vanilla gelato. A treat because they don’t often have vanilla here.
Our friend Christie who was one of the couple who bought our previous house can really sing well and she gave us a song. The song was, Put Some Sugar in My Bowl. 🙂 Oh la la.
We arrived at one pm and left at five thirty. A normal Italian pranzo with friends. I thank Susan and Gary for treating us to our meals. Luther and I provided the wine. I thank Ely and Albi and Ristorante Calagrana for the feast! And I am thankful for all the people I can call friends here. Makes me very happy.💕
On our way out, I paused to take this photo of the valley from the restaurant at dusk. The half moon had risen. It was lovely. I hope that all that celebrate it, had a nice Thanksgiving.
I don’t think I posted about my recurrent sinus infection? I think not. I had an infection back in June. I started at the dentist because I thought the pain was from a tooth. She said I needed to see an Otorinolaringoiatra, or in plain terms a ENT doc. In June he gave me an antibiotic and it made it go away. It came back just before our cruise. It made that a bit difficult and when I came back I started to try to find treatment. I got more antibiotics and a prescription for a CT scan. The antibiotics didn’t work this time. I made an appointment at a diagnostic center in Città di Castello north of us. I got the CT scan (€120). Back to the doc yesterday. He wants yet ANOTHER scan. So tomorrow I go back for a different scan. Then he thinks I need an endoscopy of my nose. Ugh. But I feel really crummy. I want this fixed, if possible.
For those interested in how this works here, all this has been private pay until yesterday. The ENT doc charges €100 for a consult. Fine. That’s not bad. The scans are not expensive. But yesterday, the appointment when I returned with the scan was free. And the endoscopy will also be free under the Italian health system. The way Luther and I do it is pay for the first appointment then normally we get into the system so the treatment is free. This isn’t true for tests like an MRI, radiograph or CT scan. Those you do at a private diagnostic center. But they are cheap compared to US costs. ~~~~~~~~ One pet peeve I have is the ridiculous waste they have here for medicines. These, in the picture below, are for one month of blood pressure meds for me. I take 2 pills a day. Unlike in the US, where they come in a plastic bottle, here they come in bubble packs and boxes. This seems like an inordinate amount of waste. I don’t know why it is this way.
We had a nice lunch on the weekend. Here are a couple of pictures. First one is on the way. I tried to lighten it but if I did I lost that dramatic sky. So, it is what it is!
After Rachel and Alex left we managed to squeeze in a lunch with friends. Our weather is still amazing so we MUST take advantage of it since winter is not far away. The “gang of five” met up at Lago Trasimeno in a restaurant called L’Opera. Our “gang” are Doug, our friend who has been keeping busy renovating his home here and now is studying for his Italian drivers license, and Roselyne and Steve. They live in Spello and came here from Miami. Roselyne is French with an EU passport making their move here easier than it is for most of us. We meet up as often as our schedules allow and always enjoy each others company.
The restaurant is all seafood and the owners are Sicilian. Consequently, there are a number of Sicilian dishes which I love!
They grow a lot if pistachios in Sicily so they use them in a lot of ways. Palermo was conquered by Arabs who brought along couscous which you’ll still see on the west side of Sicily. ~~~~~~ We had a nice lunch at Calagrana Sunday with the purchasers of our former apartment, Christie and Jane. They are always fun and the food is always delicious and as I can’t help saying – again! the weather was amazing. I took a photo of this Range Rover convertible (I had no idea they made a convertible) sitting next to a vintage yellow Cinquecento.
I had two of the best things I’ve ever had there. An asparagus appetizer with a fried egg and black truffles. It was perfect. My second course was a ravioli whose filling was ricotta, sultanas, pear, pumpkin. It was served in a butter sage sauce. Delicious. Pictured below. And the next picture is Luther’s veal chop with arugula and tomatoes.
On Tuesday our friends from Florida who have a house in Pisticci in Basilicata down south drove up to visit a couple days. We had Christie and Jane over for aperitivo and we all had fun. I didn’t take a picture!
Meanwhile we had been dealing with getting blood work done for the Great White Cat, Rocky. Both of our cats are 14 now and we wanted to check Rocky. The first test came back that he is hypoglycemic which gave us a scare. They retested after we made him fast overnight and happily, he is fine. Whew.
Sadly, the weather will be changing for the worse next week. Rain and much colder. And we have not gotten our stufa cleaned or pellets and wood ordered. I guess we better get crackin’!
The weather today must be one of the top ten days ever on this beautiful earth! Cool breezy, sunny, puffy clouds, crystal clear air. Simply amazing. View from terrace at Calagrana. Am I right? Is it not perfect?
We joined four friends from Canada. One old friend and three new ones. Our friend Karen comes every summer and rents in Tuscany but not terribly far from here. They were blown away by the beauty of the restaurant and it was perfect as always. I loved my starter. In fact four of us got this. It sounded so good. Grilled peaches on a tomato bed with prosciutto.
Next will be some of our pastas. One a tagliolini in a creamy sauce with truffles, the other Fishioni (a type of pasta) with sausage ragù, arugula and pecorino cheese. So good!
The dining terrazzo full of happy diners.
Great seeing friends and sharing a delicious meal. Buona domenica a tutti!
Our friends gifted us a plant. Evidently he didn’t like the full sun he was in. We wrestled him up to the terrace. I had a perfect spot for him. Then we had some vino to celebrate.
We had to go out a buy a pot for him, and a smaller one for our mint. So we went to Pollice Verde. This means “green thumb” in Italian. It is a very quirky place with everything from pet foods, to plants, salt for the water softener, soil for planters, dog houses and chicken coops. When we were checking out we noticed a sign that said “buy the set! 5 chicks with 20 chili of food.” 🙂
I’ve been working on the terrazzo. I have managed to get the irrigation up and working. Good to know we can go away and the plants will get water. I’ve got the herbs all done. I have been buying and planting flowers, hostas, and I ordered ferns on-line. I even found water lilies for my “pond”. Here are a few pictures.
The new Gabbeh rug I ordered came. I love it.
I have been working with our architect on the kitchen designs. We are leaning toward an induction invisible cooktop. It is very cool. You can cook right on the countertop and then use that same space for other things. There is a possible September start. Yay! Here are pictures from the brochure. Captions below pictures.
Lunch on Lago Trasimeno yesterday with friends from the US. They come almost every year and stay near Cortona. Shirley used to be my boss eons ago. She always brings me things from my wishlist. Thanks Shirley! We always meet for lunch when they come. This time at Ristorante Rosso della Sera in San Feliciano. A long time favorite of ours. Yesterday was Republic day, a national holiday. Here are a couple of pictures. It was a perfect day for this.
Finally a not so fun thing. I have a toothache, and it also seems to affect my sinuses on one side so I suspect an infection. I finally made myself go to the dentist, because there is a lot of pain now. A surprise to me, dentists don’t have X-ray machines here. I’m so used to that in the US. He prescribed antibiotics and an X-ray at the hospital. I started the antibiotics but have to wait THREE WEEKS for an X-ray! Geesh.
Today is glorious too. Here is Monte Acuto from our terrazzo. And my haul from the Saturday kilometer zero market. Good food in our future!
We had a great time with our latest guests who only stayed two nights. Sadly. We began by picking them up in Arezzo where they had spent one night. There are two parking lots near the Duomo. One is free, the other is paid. The free lot is always full. The pay lot is always empty. We parked in the pay parking lot and took the escalators to the Centro. In the parking lot was this beautiful plant. It had long trailing arms loaded with buds just about to pop.
We had arranged to meet our friends at the Bar Duomo, which was near their hotel. It has been years since we saw them but we recognized them right away. We decided to have a caffè before leaving. I loved the artistry of my caffè macchiato. Looks just like my cat Rocky!
It was a beautiful day so we decided to stop in Città di Castello because it was on the way. We walked around and stopped for some refreshments. Then headed for Umbertide. Before going home we visited the Montecorona church. One of my favorite places on earth.
We arrived and checked into our apartment 🙂 …well, they checked in, we live here! We had a light lunch of prosciutto e melone, cheese olives, breadsticks, crackers and bread. During our lunch we were serenaded by a thunderstorm. Perfect timing. After lunch, and after the rain, we walked into town and we showed them around.
That evening we had meant to dine at C’era una Volta, near us but they were full due to a political meeting. Our mayoral election is coming up this weekend. So we had to form a Plan B. We decided to go up to Montone for dinner, which we did. We picked Erba Luna. We were the only patrons. Dinner was very good. Our friends had the antipasto plate with local meats and cheeses. Some had lamb chops for secondi. Very good.
The next day, their only full day here, was going to be a perfect day! They had lucked out on the first part of the trip and had really nice weather the whole time. They had chosen Gubbio for our target to tour. Before we visited, the night before, we viewed videos of the Festa dei Ceri which is the biggest festival they have (always May 15) and it is famous. I knew the city would be madly preparing for the event. Being very hard to describe I will try a bit here and then I will post a good video of it. Ceri is the word for candles. The fest starts in their main square and it is literally packed. The town has three Guilds left over from the medieval times. They compete in this fest, to carry three heavy (700 lb) tall wooden structures (Ceri) up the mountain, and it is steep and a long way. The Ceri start out as prone, parallel to the ground. On a command the teams tip the heavy things up so they become vertical. Then they must circle the flagpole in the center of the square three times before going up the mountain with the Ceri. They are mounted on long poles and eight or ten strong youths are carrying them. As they tire, they get replaced with fresh men for the long run ahead. It is worth it to watch this video and then I have a very sweet video to share after you’ve seen how the whole fest works. I won’t ever go. It is too crowded and quite frightening to be in the crowd.
I just took this one picture of where the rotation happens and the crowds gather and the Ceri begin their run up the mountain. The entire city was decked out in its finery. The neighborhood flags were everywhere.
This was precious. In the Piazza was a class of little kids. Dressed in their pink or blue smocks. The teachers (or some volunteer!) had made miniature versions of the Ceri. The kids split into neighborhoods and guilds. They gave the signal and round and round they went with their miniature Ceri while all the other kids cheered them on. Someday, they will be grown up and will participate in the Festa! Traditions. Passed along over the centuries.
The Duomo stained glass and nave.
Our next stop was a wine tasting and lunch at our local winery, Vineria del Carmine. They have a good chef and you can just have a small appetizer, which we normally get. This time, since it was lunch we decided the wine tasting with the light lunch would be good. First we were served freshly made bread sticks along with two dips. Very delicious. They also served bread, their olive oil, and truffle salt. Our guests had never tasted good, Umbrian olive oil (the best!). It’s hard to find in the US. I was proud to see they really appreciated it and said it was the best they’d ever had. Then they brought us a Sfromato di zucca gialla su letto di fonduta di parmigiano — which is a flan of yellow squash and truffles on a bed of parmesan cheese cream. At the same time they brought a cool soup of fennel and chive oil. To finish we had cheeses with truffle honey and meats. Along with the meal we tasted two whites, both Trebbiano, one 2019 and the other 2020 (Umbrian indigenous grape) and two rosés, one a Merlot and one a Sangiovesi, and three reds all blends of Merlot, Cabernet, and Sagrantino, in differing quantities. It was a leisurely lunch and I think we all had fun. The sommelier is a nice guy and we like him a lot. I only remembered to take one photo!
We left and I have to say, the countryside in this little valley is incredibly beautiful. Some pictures. The poppies are blooming everywhere now. My favorite.
Final dinner was at Calagrana, because, well, it is Calagrana! The weather had turned horrible. Much cooler and plenty of rain. So we ate in the cozy inside. I took one picture. My asparagus with a fried egg and parmesan cream topped by shaved truffles. So incredibly good.
Today, we delivered our guests to the Foligno train station to catch the Frecciabianca (fast train) to Rome. They brought the good weather with them, and gave us the bad weather when they left. We hope they come back soon. 😉
We have had visitors for the past few days so I haven’t been posting anything but I have many pictures. Let’s start with Pasquetta lunch. This is the Monday after Easter and everyone goes outside or has a big lunch with friends or family. We had been invited to a lunch to see old friends who were selling their house. It was a lovely fixed menu, all seafood. I took a couple of pictures. First one is the antipasto course. A salad of faro, cherry tomatoes, artichokes, calamari and shrimp. Delish. I missed the primi but got the secondi which was salmon Wellington. Quite nice and now I am being hounded to make it by Luther!
On Wednesday our friends arrived from Colorado. They have a great trip planned and started with three nights here with us. How nice. We had a dinner out together the first evening. They held up well after their overnight flight. They had requested Calagrana and it just so happened that Ely and Albi were doing a Milanese menu from Albi’s childhood and early years in culinary school. The menu was:
Consomme Marie Stuarda, a chicken Consomme garnished with peas, carrots, zucchini Orecchio di elefante with roasted vegetables ‘Ris e Lach’
The first course was a consommé which Albi learned in cooking school that takes hours and needs to be clarified until it is beautifully clear. The vegetables were raw but were cooked by the hot broth. The chop was pork cooked a La Milanese. I think the Milanese claim they invented it but it is truly a schnitzel and is everywhere in Germany and Austria. The last course, written in dialect, means rice and milk. It was a rice pudding, and it was delicious.
The next day we went to Cortona. Sadly it was a vile day, weather wise. Cold and rain. Cortona is a ridiculous place. Here it is, mid-April, and terrible weather and there was not a parking place to be found. We circled the walls, driving through each lot in turn. No dice. Packed. We turned around at the top and returned back through each in turn. Finally we found a spot that was more invention than spot. That is the Italian way. But as we walked away from the car we saw someone pull out. We all three stood in the spot while luther ran back and moved the car. We felt better having a legal spot since we were having lunch.
We walked up, up and finally got on a shopping street. My friend found the purse she was wanting. We walked around some but the cutting wind was freezing. We went into a bar and had coffee and wine and then walked to our restaurant with thunder rolling about the hills and the sky black and threatening.
The restaurant is Bocaccia, a very traditional Tuscan place, well rated. The owner was one of those that is very ebullient and kind of over the top. He was nice enough and we loved the vaulted dining room. We all liked the food very much. I chose the rabbit tenderloin marinated in lemon. It was served on a crisp salad of mache with carrot and cucumber. It would be particularly good in summer because it was served cold.
Then I had the pici, which is hand made very fat spaghetti type pasta with a tomato-y sauce. I liked, and wondered about, the very hot pepper in the middle.
Today, Friday, was cold and not raining anyway. We had decided to visit a nearby winery called, Vineria del Carmine. It is a beautiful property owned by a wealthy British couple named Sinclair. They had owned a home high above the valley and a large parcel was going to be sold. The vintner said the entire valley was going to be sold. The Sinclairs bought it to preserve their view and then decided to develop the existing vineyard. They are putting a TON of money into the place. They have six wines to taste. A trebbiano (white), two rosés, and three reds. All were very good. My least favorite are the rosés. That’s surprising since I am a big rosé fan.
We got the small tasting which came with freshly made breadsticks and two dips. One a mayonnaise onion and the other truffle cream. Both very nice. Then they brought fresh focaccia, warm from the oven. It was fun. The people are very friendly.
The property is pretty darn spectacular. The valley, brilliantly green with new wheat and budding trees. There were angry looking clouds above the hills which only enhanced the green.
We had lunch in Grace which is on the edge of the old part of Umbertide. It was really good. An excellent day was had by all.
Luther and I decided to have Sunday lunch in a restaurant right next to us that we love. We lucked out and got the last table. Note to self: remember to reserve next time. C’era una Volta is the name of the restaurant. It means Once Upon a Time. It is a family run place with no menu. They just come and read what they’ve got. They are known for their antipasto platter so we got one to split. And then we each got a pasta. I got tagliatelle with cinghiale (boar) ragù bianco. Luther’s came with guanciale (pork cheeks) and potatoes. It was all good. First three pictures are the antipasto, next my pasta, then Luther’s.
It was good to get out for a bit without having to get something done!
On Saturday we picked out a stufa. We have a chimney sweep coming to clean and then they will come to install.
It is Monday. New week. New things to get done! Ciao for now!