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.
Here are the obligatory food pictures. But first the church across from La Grotta. San Biagio.
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. ~~~~~~~~ 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.
Sunday is the traditional day for lunch out in Italy. Families and friends go to the country and in town places. It is imperative to book. We were going with our friend, Elizabeth to Ristorante Caldaro. A nearby place that always slips my mind when I’m mentally thinking of dining possibilities. Not sure why, since it is one of the nicer and better places around.
Downside was it was very crowded. There seemed to be a celebration of some kind on the first floor. There was an enormous table. We were upstairs and it was full. The tables are not as far apart as I have seen in most places and not conducive to feelings of well being. Now we’re heading into winter and we’ll be eating inside more often. We have cut our dining out to once a week or less. This, is to try to limit our proximity to people. And also because we are watching our calories right now.
We three enjoy eating and we are all wine afficionados. We had two courses each, plus shared dessert, and we shared two bottles of wine. One white, a Lungarotti Torre di Gianno vigna il Pino, and one red, La Spinetta Vigneto Gallina Barbera d’Alba. Both lovely. Here are pictures of some of the food.
A fun time with good company, good food and wine…how can that be wrong? 💕
We had a nice overnight with friends to Senigallia. It is an easy drive. About 1.5 hours if you don’t stop anywhere. We planned some visits to wineries along the way so it took longer. Most of the trip, outside Umbria, was in Le Marche. A pretty region similar in landscape to Umbria except for the proximity to the Adriatic.
Our first target was Matelica. The landscapes and views are beautiful. It’s agricultural and also pretty mountainous. They’re are lots of wineries. They make primarily Verdicchio which is a nice white wine. If you find a good producer, it can be very complex. We chose ColleStefano. A nice property. All the wineries are in the middle of the harvest and the crush so we had a bit of trouble visiting them. We bought a case of the Verdicchio and a few Rosati (Rosé).
Our next goal was finding a place to have the picnic we brought. We visited another winery. We could purchase, but not taste because the family was busy with the harvest. No place to picnic.
Off we went towards Senigallia. No picnic tables to be found. Finally along the Lungomare, the sea coast, we found a small park with a table. The town is quite empty. Quiet. We checked into our hotel, TerrazzoMarconi. Our view.
The evening was a fancy dinner at a Michelin 3 star restaurant Uliassi. Seafood. It sits right on the beach. It was sprinkling as we walked to dinner. We had to wait a bit for the doors to open. Here are a few pictures.
A nice evening.
Thursday morning. We had a nice if surprising breakfast. Buffets have disappeared since the advent of Covid. We had seen none until today when they had a completely open buffet. No glass covers over the food or anything. No restaurants in the Marche took our temperature or contact info. I suppose all the regions have their own rules. We even had a mini-bar, also a thing of the past since Covid.
Luther and I took a walk on the beach. It was hot!
We got underway and headed for another winery for a tasting and to purchase. This one was near Jesi.
After our nice tasting we headed for Fabriano and lunch. There is good news. And there is bad news. We arrived and parked and walked to our intended restaurant. They were closed. So we went to a small piazza not far away where there was a nice bar. So we settled in and ordered lunch. The bad news was, the food was awful. I can’t remember when I’ve gotten such bad food in Italy.
The town of Fabriano is known since the 1300s as a primo paper making city. They are even a UNESCO heritage site for this to this day. I love this city. Here are some pictures.
It was a fun little giro. I must keep in mind that the sea is very accessible and go more often.
Here’s a trip report. The trip was short but the report has plenty of pictures. If you are not interested, as always, just skip!
We took the train to Rome. It was a FrecciaBianca. One of the high speed trains but the slowest of the three kinds. We booked first class. There weren’t many people in our car. The seats were staggered anyway so no one sits near anyone else. We all were wearing masks. This was the longest stretch that I will have worn a mask non-stop. I put it on at 9:15am and it will come off around 3pm. (Except for eating) ~~~~~ Then we boarded the FrecciaRossa to Napoli. This is the fastest train. We got up to 298 kph. We can get from Umbria to Naples in just over three hours, including a change of trains. We were in the business class car called “Area Silenzio” the silence area. Nice in there. Big cushy seats. Only one other passenger. Took just over an hour to get to Napoli from Roma. Before we boarded they passed out little bags with: a mask, gloves, antiseptic wipes, a cover for your seat back, water, cups and napkins, nice.
~~~~~~~ I brought a picnic. Egg salad sandwiches with tomatoes, and peanut butter cookies courtesy of my friend Jen (yum – thanks Jen). And a bottle of white wine. Livin’ large on the FrecciaRossa. ~~~~~~~ We had, for the first time, hired private transport from the Naples train station, to Positano – two hour drive.
The other two times we’ve visited, Luther drove rental cars. This time, our driver was waiting for us and he drove us expertly to our destination. All we had to do was walk down the hill to our hotel. It was pleasurable experience. If we ever again have guests who manage to come, we will do this again.
Our hotel is called Palazzo Murat. Our first visit to Positano was in 1994 when we lived in Germany. This is the hotel we stayed in then. So, kind of for old times sake, I chose this one again. It is much more luxurious than before. Might be the best place in town. They have a pretty patio bar. Our room has views of the sea and the duomo. There is also a large garden beneath our window.
The entire building is wrapped by a bougainvillea that is more than a century old. It’s main trunk is as big as a tree. For a plant enthusiast it is incredible. Along the balconies, and above the walkways there is a Genus Bignonia. There are also a banana plant, and tropical plants. My friend Doug would love it. There is even an entire trellised lemon, orange and tangerine grove. To one side there is the restaurant’s garden full of beautiful ripe tomatoes, and herbs and salad greens used by the chefs. All of this in the center of Positano.
I was intrigued by the history of the Palazzo. It is 17th century and was the summer home of the King of Napoli. He was the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1808 he visited Positano and fell in love with the house. He spent summers with his lovers away from the politics in Napoli.
Now the house is the home of the Attanasio family. Several generations have lived here and made the hospitality of the hotel their careers. Each member of the family looks after a specific department. ~~~~~~~ After we arrived we rested and showered and met our friends Gary and Bill for drinks in the pretty bar as the sun set behind the cliffs. They had taken the boat from Salerno, where they live. I met Gary, virtually, a few years ago through my blog. We had met in person in Rome for lunch back in December, what seems worlds away now. I was happy to try an interesting drink so Gary and I tried a Bellini. Peach juice (fresh) in Prosecco. One of us tried the Fresh Breeze, a cucumber based drink. And one got a white wine.
After drinks we wandered down to the beach. Gary and Bill had already made reservations for us at Chez Black. This restaurant has been there since 1949. We even ate there in 1994. The food was good. And the servers were nice. We started early. By the time we left the place was packed. That had been a surprise. Positano is positively packed with tourists. Mostly young people. They have mandatory masks inside but not on the street. I admit to not feeling comfortable with this.
After dinner we sat in the patio bar where Luther could smoke his cigar. Pretty at night.
~~~~~~ Our one full day in Positano I wanted to do some shopping. We rose and took our time going down to breakfast around 9:30. I thoroughly enjoyed it. They brought a plate of pastries and jam. And we ordered OJ (fresh squeezed – no surprise being in the citrus capital of Italy) and cappuccini. Then we ordered a la carte the smoked salmon Insalata dressed with a mustard, honey vinegrette. Very yum and light.
After breakfast we walked all over Positano. The shopping was not what I had hoped. Maybe when I get to Napoli. Or maybe not. I was looking for some interesting necklaces. Not expensive but kind of large with interesting colors and stones or shells or … But I found only one store with interesting things like that and they are an expensive store. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spring for that amount of money. Maybe tomorrow morning, before we leave I will go back. Or not…
~~~~~~~ Dinner in the restaurant at our hotel with Gary and Bill. First drinks on the patio. Such a pretty place. We just had to walk down a set of steps to the restaurant. I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with the food. We had a bruschetta gift from the chef. I had tuna with a Bloody Mary sauce. It was not notable. The squash blossoms looked good. It was still an enjoyable dinner with good conversation and companions.
~~~~~~~ We breakfasted and left our pretty hotel to meet our driver Vincenzo. He whisked us straight to the Grand Hotel Excelsior.
For this, our first trip to Naples, I chose the seafront. There is a row of big hotels. They sit directly across from the Castello Ovo. All around the castle are seafood restaurants. It is a quiet area compared to in the city center. Next time we come we decided it would be more fun to be in the city.
Our hotel is described as the Grand Dame of hotels. It was nice enough, if a little dated. Very large room with olive flocked wallpaper. High ceilings and a decent bath. Two big windows looked out on the sea. The room had a seal across the door indicating it had been sanitized. The hotel takes all the Covid precautions. The top floor is a roof terrace. Pretty flowers and trees around and among the tables. They serve breakfast here as well as drinks at night. The breakfasts were good.
The first night we decided to have dinner at La Scialuppa. Right beside the water. Outside tables. They took our temperature and then we had to fill out a form with our contact info – document number telephone etc. everywhere we went they took our temperature. Food was good enough. I had the Caprese salad and a pasta – big tubes with a pistachio cream sauce and prawns. Very rich. I was glad I had ordered the Caprese. And we could actually see the island of Capri where the Caprese is said to originate
We returned to the hotel and went up to the roof terrace for Luther to have a cigar and an after dinner drink. It was very pleasant. ~~~~~~
After a good breakfast of scrambled eggs fruit and toast we grabbed a cab and went to the Museo Archeologico. The cab ride was beyond exciting. The traffic in Naples is legendary and our taxi driver was expert.
We have two full days here and today was the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. We’ve wanted to visit here for years. They’ve got all the original Pompeii art, frescos, mosaics etc. Also Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and all the prehistoric societies in southern Italy. We toured for almost 3 hours.
The museum was really great. In it they have all the bits of Pompeii and Herculaneum that they removed. Entire walls from houses with their frescoes. Mosaics. All kinds of ceramics and pottery. There was an Egyptian section. A Roman section. An Etruscan section. A Greek section. Even a prehistoric exhibit. Lots of carved statuary. The focus is on the bottom of Italy. The heel and toe of the boot up to about Rome and also Sicily and the islands like Capri and Ischia. Excellent museum. We spent about 3 hours there.
They had a cute photo installation with some of the sculptures juxtaposed into photographs. Here are just two of them.
We left the museum and headed down Via Toledo. It is one of the main drags in Naples. Very busy street. We were looking for a place to stop for refreshments and to rest our feet. We found a place in Piazza Dante. It didn’t have food though and we were hungry. We used the phone to find nearby restaurants and went to one called Cisterna. It was close. I ordered a wonderful ceviche with lime. Cool, light and refreshing. We were planning an outing later in the afternoon so took a taxi back to the hotel.
After resting we headed out to find the cigar store that Luther had heard of to see if he could buy some cigars. It was about a 15 minute walk but the sidewalks were very hard to walk on. Hard stones and uneven surfaces. And lots of traffic and crosswalks. Very chaotic. Not liking it. We found the store and Luther got his cigars. Then we headed to a wine bar he had found. We had a glass of wine and walked back to our chosen restaurant, 28 Posti Bistro con Gusto. I was sorry to see it was inside dining but the tables were far apart. After a temperature check and document filing as usual, we sat down and ordered. I had bruschetta with colorful tomatoes and peppers. And then a spaghetti con Vongole. Both tasty. We walked back to our hotel and I turned in. I was bushed after a very full day.
Thursday. Our other full day in Naples. The weather has been hot. And no rain. We left after breakfast. I had downloaded an app called GPSmyCity. You can pick any of eight or ten walking itineraries or custom make one. We took a taxi to the starting point at the Duomo of Napoli. The duomo is enormous. And very pretty. We started following the tour. It was nice. It told you where to go and then had nice write-ups of the sights. The second stop was the Naples Underground. I really was enjoying this neighborhood. Skinny streets, lots of shops. Lots of people shopping for their groceries at the individual food shops. One for fish, one for pasta, one for bread, one for fresh vegetables. Lots of life. This is where I’d like to stay next time.
Then, there was this sign. Translates as — Top signs says, they are awarding degrees immediately. The second sign says they are hiring housekeepers who have the measurements of 90-60-90 with offers of food, accommodation, washing, rinsing, drying, ironing, massage and sex at will. Okay then….
We kept going, seeing Piazze, and churches, statues, and landmarks. The tour actually ended at our hotel. We decided to stop for lunch. We couldn’t find anything with outside tables. Eventually we found a cute trattoria. It didn’t have outside tables but it didn’t feel too cramped. They took our temperatures and we filled out the forms. They are required to keep the forms for two weeks. If anyone gets infected they can use them for contact tracing. I had Caprese insalata again. It is just so good because we are in the land of Mozzarella di Buffala. It is much creamier than what we got in the US or even in Umbria. We also noticed it is spelled Muzzarella here. From the dialect of Naples. Which is getting closer to the Muzzadell’ you’ll hear in NJ and NY Italian communities. After the Caprese I had another pasta with seafood dish. It had Pecorino cheese in it. It was sort of a cross between Caccio e Pepe Roman specialty and pasta with seafood. Strange. But good.
Since we had a big lunch we decided to stop by the grocery on the way back and put together a picnic. We got ham, mortadella, and two cheeses. Along with a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. The end of a nice day.
The following morning we breakfasted and packed and checked out. We grabbed a taxi to the station and found our train was delayed 25 minutes. It meant we’d miss our connection. But we grabbed the next one so not terribly inconvenient. The downside was the train was a Regional and it was packed. Everyone put their bags and backpacks in the seat next to them, taking up 2 seats each. They had no seats marked restricted which would have helped with the distancing. But this meant that a family who got on couldn’t find seats. No one wanted to sit right next to, or across from anyone. Including me! ~~~~~~~ Final thoughts. I always love Positano. Taking the private transport from the Naples station there was seamless, relaxing and painless. The town was packed on the Sunday afternoon when we arrived. I was surprised. Monday was not as bad. But still a lot of people. Masks are required indoors but not outside. The hotel Palazzo Murat is amazing. The food in Positano was not at all notable. Chez Black was the best.
Naples was as I expected. Busy chaotic Italian city in the south. Lots of horns honking. Millions of Vespas and motorcycles. Crazy drivers. But they did let you cross in the crosswalks. The neighborhood up near the Duomo was the most interesting. There are many places we didn’t see of course. They don’t seem to use the word Ciao as often in Naples as they do further north. The food in Naples was not notable. Not bad but not great. We didn’t get any pizza. Maybe next time.
In Europe the virus is making somewhat of a resurgence. France has become the new hot spot in Europe. As for Italy, we had 642 cases here yesterday, that is even with the numbers on May 23. It had gotten down to only 100 cases a day at one point. So, there is cause for concern. In my last post I made an error. The Italian officials have closed all of the Discotheques. The spread here, as in most other countries, is due to the young people flauting the rules, gathering in big groups, no social distancing, and no masks. The new cases everywhere are overwhelmingly among the young. But then, they bring it home to grandma and Mom and Dad who tend to get much sicker. I just heard we have 4 new cases in Umbertide. Kids who vacationed outside of Italy and brought it back.
In every country, people experience this pandemic in different ways, depending on what they do for a living, where they live, their race, etc. If they are poor and live in crowded conditions, must work, and have no health care, they have it much worse than someone who is say, a professional, perhaps a white collar worker allowed to work from home who still has insurance and income.
From a Washington Post article… “Not everyone is experiencing the same level of stress, and everyone’s pandemic struggles differ. Any “essential” worker exposed to high-risk conditions day after day has more urgent concerns than someone merely stuck at home and missing out on summer barbecues.“
“No question, epidemic fatigue or pandemic fatigue is real. We are experiencing it,” Markel said. “But throughout human history, there have been terrible pandemics and contagious threats. Every civilization, every nation, has come through to the other side. And we will, too.”
I do know about epidemic fatigue. Just about everyone I know has it. Here in Italy we are a bit freer to do things, but everyone feels the threat of the virus, and has the fear of another lockdown. It kind of looms over us. The US hasn’t gotten there yet. They’ve got a ways to go but I see a downward trend so that’s a good thing. Still, that damn virus will loom over us all. Until we get a vaccine. But humans are pretty adaptive and resilient. Amazingly so. We will get through this…as long as we stay careful until then.
~~~~~~~ Dinner out tonight. With new friends. We went to San Giorgio in the Piazza. It was nice to have a good amount of time to get to know each other better. Here are pictures of what I had to eat.
~~~~~~~ I scored two big, fresh Porcini mushrooms yesterday at the market. They are destined to become tagliatelle funghi for dinner tonight. I adore these big meaty mushrooms. It is not possible to cultivate them, they must be gathered from the wild.
~~~~~ Stay safe everyone. Now is not the time to let down our guard.🌈 Andrà tutto bene…
Our first Covid case in months has been announced by our Mayor. A man, who returned from travel in the north of Italy brought the Virus with him. He is being isolated and there is contact tracing so I’m hopeful this will be a one off. We will still stay vigilant. ~~~~~~~
This is Sunday. Beautiful and hot. Just like August should be. Yesterday I made summer soup. A mish-mash of a few recipes I read. It is delish and people have asked for the recipe so I’ve included in the recipe bar above.
Today, we decided to visit Calagrana for Pranzo. It had been too long. What a big crowd they had! Yay for them. A few pictures. The view from their terrace is always beautiful.
My lunch was excellent. My first course was amazing. Deconstructed gazpacho. But…I ate it before I thought to take a picture. Sorry. But I did take a picture of my next course. Seared tuna with a poached egg. Yum.
This next one is for my friend Jen who always loves anything fashion. These shoes, worn by the lady at the next table, and the purse to match, were amazing.
Last night we had the most amazing cloud formation. I suppose it was a thunder head. It towered maybe 50,000 feet into the sky. Love the sun coming over the top. Or maybe it is not coming over the top. 🤔
This is a mini trip report. We decided to do an overnight to one of our favorite areas, Abruzzo. We also traversed Le Marche on the way. The motivation was to revisit a restaurant we had visited a couple years ago that we really liked then, and also to arrange a winery visit and tasting. To get away for a while. Change of scenery.
We were just coming off of a bad heat spell that had broken with storms. We left on a Tuesday morning with fresh air and sunshine. Perfect top down weather. We drove south through Spoleto and headed east along the river and through the gorge that cuts through the mountains to Norcia. Then over the mountain pass and down into the flats near the Adriatic sea.
Our winery, called Tenuta Torretta, was up in the hills just into Abruzzo. We had an appointment at 2:30. We were having some pretty spectacular thunderstorms. The winery had amazing views to the Gran Sasso mountains and the sea. And a ringside seat to the lightening show as the storm moved up the coast.
Here is the storm over the Adriatic. Lightening streaked from clouds to ground as we watched.
Later, after the storm passed. The sea is a pretty aqua.
Here is the view towards the Gran Sasso – I’m sure it’s spectacular when the storms aren’t around.
The view out over the olives and through the vineyards is gorgeous.
We were met by Cinzia (the Italian version of Cynthia, my sisters name). And afterwards her sister-in-law and her father. It became a real family affair. I think they have missed having visitors during the Corona lockdowns. Anyway we sat outside at plastic tables and tasted three whites, a Vermentino, a Pecorino, a Chardonnay. The big surprise was the Cerasuola, a wine made from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes which they allowed to sit with the skins for only half a day. Then the skins removed. But in that short time the wine becomes quite red, redder then a Rose but served chilled just the same. And more full flavored. Then we had two reds. Along with the wine we had good bread and sausages.
I liked all the family. The two sisters were super friendly. And the Dad mostly talked to Luther about the winery. He was probably our age. We bought three cases (of six). It was WAY more than a tasting and I think it lasted almost 2 hours! This is the kind of experience I enjoy most here.
Here are pictures of the wines we tried and the sausage nibbles we had along with bread.
We headed down to our destination for dinner, Villa Maiella in Guardiagrele. The hotel is mostly empty. From the breakfast tables there were five rooms occupied. It is also a very basic place. It sorely needs an upgrade. The bed was comfortable enough and the AC was great.
The claim of this place is its restaurant. It does not have an a la carte menu. Just tasting menus. Differing sizes. We didn’t feel up to a 12 course dinner so we chose the smaller menu. It was good-ish. Not as good as I remembered from last time. The biggest downside was the dining was inside. Widely spaced tables but still, I am not comfortable in an enclosed, interior space. And most tables were full.
The morning dawned very cool and partly cloudy. Someone said, we went from August to October overnight! We had a nice view of the Gran Sasso mountains, the biggest in Italy and they are now a large park. We had a nice breakfast in the basement. The hotel, after reopening from the lockdown, moved the reception into the basement.
We set off for home, deciding not to visit another winery. We drove through almost continuous thunderstorms all the way up the coast super strata. This highway is very nice. It runs from Bari all the way to Ancona. We turned inland and passed through some of the pretty Marche countryside. The rain finally let up just after we arrived in Umbria. All in all a nice short getaway and change of scenery.
~~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone and be vigilant. 🌈 andrà bene.
Last night we went out to dinner! This is a rare occurrence. Instigated by Joseph and Paul. There were 6 of us, all the Americani in the Centro of Umbertide. We wanted to support a local restaurant, Appennino . It is just steps from our door. And we overlook their dining terrace from our own terrace.
Laura, the proprietor, has been trapped in Cuba, of all places, since Lockdown. She has an apartment there. She only got back a few weeks ago. She has re-opened her restaurant. She says she has good business so far. The terrace out back is a wonderful place and being outside it is good for distancing. But she can’t find any Italiani to help. Weird to me. With all the unemployment and bad economy here, you’d think people would want the work. Right now it is just her, and her mom working.
Anyway, we had a nice meal and great (and amusing) conversation. It was damn hot, even outside after sunset. We mostly had lite meals. Most had a pasta for second courses except for one pizza. For apperitivi: two had a nice carpaccio. Two had buratta with guacamole, or pesto and prosciutto, and one got a beautiful shrimp tartar.
~~~~~~~ I figure you all know how I feel about how this damn virus has been handled in the US. And it gets worse. People just want consistent and coherent leadership in times of crisis. When they get conflicting information it makes them anxious and suspicious. And they don’t know WHAT to believe. It seems like it should be simple…
This, from The NY Times…
Why is the U.S. enduring a far more severe virus outbreak than any other rich country?
There are multiple causes, but one of them is the size and strength of right-wing media organizations that frequently broadcast falsehoods. The result is confusion among many Americans about scientific facts that are widely accepted, across the political spectrum, in other countries.
Canada, Japan and much of Europe have no equivalent to Sinclair — whose local newscasts reach about 40 percent of Americans — or Fox News. Germany and France have widely read blogs that promote conspiracy theories. “But none of them have the reach and the funding of Fox or Sinclair,” Monika Pronczuk, a Times reporter based in Europe, told me.
Fox is particularly important, because it has also influenced President Trump’s response to the virus, which has been slower and less consistent than that of many other world leaders. “Trump repeatedly failed to act to tame the spread, even though that would have helped him politically,”The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has written.
And don’t get me going on the masks. It is the simplest way to get this virus under control. This is proven in multiple countries. Does the US want to get back to work? Do they want the economy to recover, jobs to return, kids to go to safely back to school, life to return to our new normal? Then. Wear. The. Damn. Mask. Period. It’s not hard.
I know many of you want to come visit Italy. And Italy wants Americans back in Italy. To enjoy la dolce vita with us. The beauty that is here. And I, for one, would like to travel to the US without worrying about catching the virus. Let’s go people! You have a job to do…just like we did here in Italy. ~~~~~~~ Rant over. Sometimes I just have to. Sorry. Please stay safe miei amici…🌈
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ~~~~~~~
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.
~~~~~~~ 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.🌈
June 25 is an auspicious day for us. On this day, we flew from the US to Italia to begin our excellent adventure! Here is my post from the day of our flight — June 25, 2014 — Our journey is Accomplished.
Picture from our first summer here…
Since we had to get our Elective Residency visa to start on the day we planned to go to Italy, it expires on the June 25 date every year. It just so happened that our appointment at the Questura was today. This is the appointment where we get ourselves fingerprinted and turn in more paperwork and our photos.
The experience was a little different. The former waiting room was devoid of chairs and the old disused windows in that room were now open and functional. So we didn’t ever enter the building. Our old favorite police officer, Latizia, whom I had missed for the last two appointments was back. She’s super nice and after seven Permessi, she knows us. Only the two people at the two windows were allowed inside. We waited outside until our turn. The horrible fingerprint experience ensued. I hate that part the most. But we always get through it. Piano, piano as Latizia said. Another bureaucratic hoop has been jumped through. Maybe next year we can again try for the long term permit. Sigh. I hope so. It’s not terribly hard to renew yearly but it’s just a lot of time and tedious work. Plus, now that our Permessi are officially expired we can’t travel within Schengen. People think they can with the postal receipt, but it is not true as that is not an official EU document. If we get the long term permit we won’t have this issue. ~~~~~~~~
Dinner tonight was something new. Pizza from the wood oven at Calagrana. The downside, I had to drive there to pickup. The upside, the pizza was excellent!
Excellent pizza! Mmmm. ~~~~~ I am so sorry to be watching the numbers in the US on TV. It is frightening to me. Everything seems so out of control. Anyway, please, all my friends, keep yourselves safe…stay home, if you must go out wear your mask. It is a no brainer…it saves lives. 🌈