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!
Today was a nice day. We got together with friends for a holiday lunch. Three friends, all of whom moved here since the beginning of the year. All near Spello. Roselyne and Steve live in Spello Centro Storico. An excellent apartment with great terraces which have country and mountain views and a front balcony above the main street going up the hill. Right in the action. Doug lives in a sweet house situated on Monte Subasio. I don’t know his elevation but it has views across the valley to die for. He is in the very beginning of renovations.
We chose to meet in Assisi. There is a nice restaurant there called Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erbe. It is just off of the main piazza which has the Assisi Comune. It also has the temple of Minerva and lots of cafes and shops. Today, it was empty. I don’t think I have seen Assisi as empty and quiet as today. The restaurant welcomed us. It wasn’t very busy. We have been going to this restaurant since a 2011 trip with my sister and her husband and another couple. It is still good. It is nice in summer as it has probably the only trees in Assisi. They have two menus, one Traditional and one Fusion. I love the fusion choices. Here are a few pictures. The first one is fried artichoke/carciofi in a cheesy sauce. Very delicious. It does look a bit phallic. Three of us got this.
It was a really nice get together. We won’t be doing much this Christmas. Nothing in fact. Which is kind of sad. But it is what it is. Happy Winter Solstice, here’s to longer days…if not warmer ones!
We really don’t go out at night often. Mostly we are tucked inside watching a movie after our dinner at 8:30. That’s why we seldom have pizza. Around these parts they only make pizza at night. Never at lunch, except for pizza by the slice in some take out places. It is because it takes a long time to get the oven up to the optimum temperature. Here it is — fiery hot!
There’s a place in the next town north called Pizzeria Nestore. We’ve passed it countless times but it always looked closed up. That was in the daytime. At night it is brightly lit and inviting. Tonight we decided to try it with Christie and Jane. We got there when they opened at 7pm. Good thing too, because it gets very full, very fast. A bottle of water and a bottle of wine and we looked at the VERY extensive list of pizzas. There must have been 100 different kinds. And all the kinds I alway hear Italians don’t eat were included. Like pineapple pizza. Yes, it was there.
We all ordered and shortly after we were delivered four big pies. The crust was quite thin. I would call it Roman style. I will put what they were in a caption.
All of us ate almost all of our pizzas! They were delicious. Christie couldn’t quite finish hers as you can see below.
I thought Nestore pizza was good, but not extraordinary. Every Italian town is chock full of pizzerias and they are for the most part very good or they wouldn’t stay in business. Italians are very picky about their pizzas. I guess we need to explore the ones here in town. I will report back if we do! Ciao a tutti!
On our ride south today to lunch with friends. Brilliant sunshine.
We met up with friends in a town called Bastia Umbra. Completely overlooked by everyone but we are told there are a lot of monied folks living there. I assume it was bombed during the war since much of it was new. But the old outline of the wall was still there. And some of the old gates remained. Inside was a clothing market along the streets. The second picture below is marking the border of one of the Rioni, or neighborhoods. Most towns have a number of neighborhoods and people living within them are fiercely loyal.
Our friend Doug found the restaurant we went to. It was just outside the old perimeter, called Perl d’Oro. Unpretentious outside but pretty inside. Good service. Delicious seafood.
Here are pictures of our food. Captions under photos.
Originally we wanted to visit a huge fair on the fairgrounds there which was all kinds of vintage things, clothes, furniture etc. We didn’t allow enough time to make the entry fee worth it but I will go again in the future allowing more time…once I am in the buying mode for our new house. 😁
We had a very good meal with nine others at our table in Calagrana yesterday. They started doing a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixins a few years ago for all the Americans in the area and a sprinkling of British and Italians. Originally Susan and Gary had them cater a dinner for us since a big turkey here is too large for the normal Italian home oven. After a couple years of making the gargantuan Tom turkeys, Ely decided there might be interest in a dinner from others. And the rest is history!
The Tom Turkey which we feasted on yesterday was a whopping 17 kilograms, or 38 lbs. Here he is!
And my dinner. The turkey was amazingly moist and tender. Jane and Christie had brought two bags of real cranberries on my request. So we had real cranberry sauce — my old standby Zinfandel cranberry sauce. I have to use Primativo here which is a relative of Zinfandel.
Besides the turkey we had antipasti of tiny shrimp and a primi of ravioli with zucca puree (sweet winter squash). Very sweet with a surprise of what I thought was wasabi. It turns out it is Senape Essense. She got it at the pharmacy. It added a nice kick. Her little bottle had a skull and crossbones on it. 😄 If you’ve ever had hot Chinese mustard and eaten just a little too much on your eggroll you’ll know what I mean. I looked it up and I think I’ll order some, could be fun to experiment with!
Although I am a day late, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a great day! I am thankful for all I have. I wish for peace in the Ukraine and the USA. I also wish for global accord to combat climate change. 🕊 Today is the day Against Violence to Women. There is a little demonstration in the piazza. I also wish violence of all kinds would stop. Andrà tutto bene 🌈
What a day. It has turned sharply colder. Today was the day we celebrated with our buyers, Christie and Jane, and our former realtor Jim and his wife Jill. Jim was our original realtor in 2014. He knows the system and we just give him power of attorney and he handles the rest. So easy. We all went to Calagrana. The day was incredible the sky brilliant blue and the slanting autumnal sun made everything starkly clear.
There was a new addition to the Calagrana family. Here is Tallula. She is 50 years old and is entirely original. She has only 60,000 kilometers on the clock. An original Fiat Centocinque.
Here is the group with Ely in the foreground.
It was a lovely afternoon. Lively conversation and great food. When we got back to Umbertide, the Castagne man had his fire going and the chestnuts were a-roasting. I love this! Every autumn this man and his family come and roast their chestnuts just next to the Piazza. This farmer is one of my favorites and comes to both of our weekly markets. He has the best tomatoes of anyone…but now is not tomato season…it is castagne season!!
So good. Sweet. I ate well today…Ho mangiato bene oggi! And it was lovely to spend our day with friends.