Category Archives: restaurants

Ristorante San Giorgio

Just here in our main piazza is a splendid restaurant, Ristorante San Giorgio. Elegant. The food is the best in town. We have been eating there since before we moved to Umbertide. They always begin with a plate of ”gifts” from the chef. When we go the food is always excellent.

But, we have not been since last year. Why? you may ask…since it is so good…do you not go more often? It is because they don’t change their menu — EVER. They do not have seasonal menus. They never have a special. The gifts from the chef never vary. They even got a brand new chef when they reopened after Covid. I was excited to see what changes she would make. Well, exactly none. I suppose the owner must think if you’ve got a good thing then don’t mess with it. It is Michelin rated bib-gourmand.

To me, half the fun of eating out is seeing and trying the new and seasonal things the chef has created. It keeps me coming back. I would become really bored if I cooked there. Since it has been a year, at least, since we went, I think we will go back soon. And if you ever visit Umbertide, do give it a try. It is a special restaurant for sure, if you don’t eat there too often. You must reserve, and it is open for lunch and dinner and it is closed Tuesdays. Here’s San Giorgio at night, across from our apartment. Romantic!

Beautiful Sabato!

Last night, I said to Luther, we should go to a winery tomorrow, while we have this nice break in the weather. We haven’t gone wine tasting since we had our last guests in October. Quick phone calls ensued. Mevante, a winery near Bevagna which we had not visited, were happy for us to come for a tasting. Luther thought lunch at one of our favorite places, L’Alchemista in Montefalco, would be a fine idea.

What a glorious day, if a bit windy. The winery sits on a hill overlooking the valley over to Monte Subasio. They were hosting a big event this evening, a christening for 100 people, so they set up a table just for us outside. I felt like royalty! I will let the pictures speak for themselves. First two are views from our table.

Tasting room
Grecchetto white wine was one of the best we have had
Their olive oil was some of the best. super peppery in the throat. I loved the itty, bitty bottle.

The owner was our host and he was very welcoming despite that he was very busy with the expected group. Of course we bought quite a bit of their wine.

We drove to L’Alchemista. I love the round square that Montefalco has. It was a lively place today. Fun people watching. Our food was good as always.

We headed home for a siesta as is called for after a satisfying lunch. Here’s a picture of the small street in Umbertide which we cut through to stay in the shade. It looked pretty today. I love all the layers, balconies, lamp, stone balustrade, rooflines.

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Finally, good news! We see they are finally bringing back our Otto Cento festival, gone since Covid. (put Otto Cento in the search bar to see pictures of past festivals) It will be the end of September. I am thrilled.

In other news, the little hill town near us, Montone, is gearing up for its annual film festival. It lasts a week with multiple screens for films around town, each with food and drinks served. This year, the really big news is that Stanley Tucci is the guest of honor. He will get the keys to the city. I have to think he will show up at our Saturday slow food market in Umbertide since he is all about food. I will be hanging out! Hope he does.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print! ciao!

Spain/Morocco/Portugal Cruise – part 2

Go to Part one of the trip


Wednesday June 22It was very cool this day. I even bought a sweatshirt from the ship store. We had docked in Gibraltar during the night. The “Rock” was not as expected. Turns out we were on the wrong side of it. Our side had vegetation and was not the pronounced, pointy granite face I had expected.

The Rock – from the wrong side

We didn’t take the tour to the top. We just decided to walk into Gibraltar city. It is known for its shopping. So — we shopped! I bought some new tanzanite earrings to go with the bracelet I bought on our trip to Turkey. And another pair of inexpensive earrings.

Gibraltar streets
Gibraltar streets
British live here

We went to Zoca, a small out of the way but pleasant place to have lunch…of what else? Tapas! These were good but since we now have many others to compare them to, they were not the best.

Zoca
Fritters
Patatas Bravas
Iberian ham
Steamed bread sandwich
Garlic shrimp
Beef – can’t remember what was under it.

The walk from the ship to the town was very long. But it wasn’t too hot. We returned and relaxed before heading to the briefing on the next port of call — Cadiz where we will be for a day and a half. Then we had dinner in Amphora and we even had dessert!

Thursday – June 23
I woke early and watched them dock the Star Pride in Cadiz. The town is right next to us today so not a long walk.

Really pretty city

After breakfast and a little earlier than we usually go out, we left to be assured we would get a map. They said the Tourist people are only there a couple hours. We successfully obtained maps and headed into the city. There were four walking tours on the map. We ended up following the pink/purple one. They painted lines on the streets so we could easily follow the way…except for the worn off bits…then the map was useful. It’s a lovely city. Pretty streets with nice architecture, balconies, wrought iron and embellishments on the buildings.

We visited the Cathedral which was crumbling. And enormous. We visited some pretty squares. The Plaza de Fiores with lots of flowers.

The Cathedral is crumbling. There are nets to keep the bits falling from the ceiling from hitting people.
Flower market
Pretty, colorful and billowing dresses.
I loved this wrought iron gate

Then we visited the huge indoor food market with vendors all along the two aisles with amazing seafood. We get good seafood in Italy but there was some that I couldn’t identify. Cadiz, being right beside the sea at the mouth of the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic has much to catch! The exterior vendors around the sides were all meats. And there were veggie places scattered about. It was great. I love a good market.

Beautiful shrimp
Tiny conchs
Pretty clams!
I had to look these up. I have never seen anything like them. They are barnacles! I didn’t know you could eat them.

We stopped for a glass of wine and to figure out where to go for lunch. They are more traditionally Spanish here. The restaurants don’t open until 1:30. Many tapas bars open at 4:30 or even 8pm. This is the Spain I remember from my first trip here many moons ago. I’m glad it still exists.

We chose Casa Rafael. It got good write ups and was open when we wanted to eat. It was a bare-bones neighborhood place. Rather understaffed and chaotic. The menu only in Spanish. We managed to get fed. We had the plate of cured meats. A bigger variety than I have ever seen. Then we had patatas bravas. Next gamberos grilled, and the salt cod. It was all good enough.

Casa Rafael
Obviously famous for their meats
Patatas bravas (again!)

We returned to the ship for naps. Thursday nights are always the big BBQ nights. We sat on the deck and the wind blew in a gale. It was so strong it blew the salad greens right off your plate! In thinking of the BBQs we enjoyed on the Wind Star ship in the past this one pales by comparison. There was a much smaller variety of starters. There was no grilled lobster, my favorite. And there were only flank steaks,  no other types nor did I see chicken.

Afterwards they cleared the deck for the line dancing. We moved to the top deck to watch. It was fun.

Getting ready to dance

Friday – June 24
Our second day in Cadiz was just a half day. We went out walking to a different part of the town and then went back to the ship for lunch in the Grill on the top deck. I had a hot dog! Don’t laugh! I haven’t had a good grilled dog in a very long time. And sometimes you just gotta have a dog if they are there!

hot dog!!

We watched sail-away to the Vangleis music – which doesn’t quite work on a non sailing ship, in my opinion. It was the most beautiful day. Sunny and the temperatures are perfect. We stayed on deck for a while and headed down for our siestas.

Later we went to the briefing for Casablanca. I was a little nervous about this one. He explained where we would dock. How we could get into town. There’s a shuttle bus and taxis. Two kinds of taxis petite and grand. The little ones are all red. The big ones are all white. The mosque in Casablanca is the third largest in the world. This minaret is over 600 feet tall. There are two Medinas – the old one and a new one.

We had dinner in Amphora and went topside for nightcaps. A pretty night. The ship was rocking a bit. But not enough to be a problem.

Saturday – June 25
We had gained an hour overnight. A new time zone for the rest of the trip. We arrived before seven and the tours went out at 7am promptly. One to Marrakech which was a twelve hour tour, and one to Rabat – five hours. We decided to just explore a little on our own.

We took the shuttle bus into town. Casablanca is Morocco’s big business city. It also has the largest port in the world. We were dropped off at the United Nations square. Easy to pinpoint because there is a big Hyatt hotel there. Turns out the Old Medina was just next to this and it was my first time on the continent of Africa.

Not beautiful!

Here are my impressions of the Old Medina. We were early so many stands were not yet open. Luther noted the electric lights around the stands and thought they might be open at night. The men working there were very persistent and I learned the code words “no shopping” and they left you alone. It was dark and dirty. There was trash everywhere. But I noticed the people were sweeping it into piles. Maybe someone comes and picks it up. Maybe it was left from the previous night. The food/fowl/fish market was very smelly. The chickens were pitiful. We took pictures and left. It was enough for us to see.

Loved these colours
Has he got a deal for you!

There were hundreds, maybe thousands of cats. Strays, skinny and sad. A tiny kitten mewed at us piteously. I doubted he would live much longer. I hate this. We saw not one dog. Berbers hate dogs.

We were still early, gaining that hour kind of messed us up some. We figured eating there wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t have any local currency anyway. So we returned to the ship where we had lunch and a siesta.

In the evening we are early and watched sail away. We also watched the late bus arrive back from the 12 hour tour to Marrakech. The road had been jammed by an accident. Then we watched the inept dock people destroy the Star Pride’s paint job by scraping and jerking with a fork lift the gangway. We finally got underway. Later we dropped into the bar where the duo was singing. They are good. There was a talent show where the crew gets to show off. I decided to give it amiss. The room was crowded, and I didn’t feel like sitting in a crowd. I am still sensitive to my surroundings after Covid lockdowns. I’m sure it was fun. Cindy and Bill went.

Beautiful sunset

Sunday – June 26
We sailed all night and half of the next day to arrive in Portimao Portugal. Overnight the seas were very rough. we did some rocking and rolling but it was like being rocked in a cradle while you slept.

We got up and went to breakfast and then to the Yacht club which is on the top deck in the front so we could watch our noon arrival. We had to go up a small river and it was narrow and shallow. There was a big tug which helped turns us 180 degrees for a fast getaway in the evening. We were only in Portimao for five hours.

Kicking up some mud.

We had signed up for a bus tour. An Algarve wine tasting and tour of a tiny town Silves. Algarve doesn’t make alot of wine and it never gets exported, so we weren’t familiar with it. The guide was good. the town of Silves was not much. It had a castle. It WAS Sunday so very quiet. The winemaker, Mark dos Vales, was a German man. Quite eccentric, but enthusiastic. We tasted a very good rose, a white, and two reds, along with a little bread and olive oil. A little more food would help since none of us had had lunch. We were glad we had taken the tour but it wasn’t the best. We got back to the ship just in time to let it get away for our last sail-away. It’s always sad to see your last sail-away.

Castle in Silves
All things made from cork. Hats even shoes! 90% of the worlds cork comes from Spain and Portugal
According to our guide they no longer migrate and are nuisances now. They sterilize their eggs.

We had our last dinner in Amphora. It is always hectic since you’ve got to get packed up to be able to have your suitcases into the hall by 6:30am.

Monday, June 27
We arrived and debarked on a transfer to the Altis Grand hotel in Lisbon. Our room was not ready and sadly the Windstar people dropped the ball badly by not telling us about a way to pre-check in which would give us priority for a room as soon as it became available. They just told us to go away and come back in six hours.

We did a huge long walk from our hotel to the seaside. The weather was quite cool so it was pleasant. We found O Trigueiros, a neighborhood restaurant which was great. It was packed with locals and because we got there early, we got a table. We were craving sardines since the wine tasting the day before when the winemaker mentioned eating them with his wines.. O Trigueiros delivered. A huge plate of delicious grilled sardines, with blistered, crispy skin served along with boiled potatoes and sliced tomatoes. Heaven! It was a lot of food, which we could not finish. It was a great little place and a cool experience!

Speciality of Lisbon. Custard tarta.
Mmmm
Fellow diners


Tuesday, June 28
We were up early – 5am – for our early flight with Portugal Air to Bologna to retrieve our car and return to our casa in Umbertide, where it has been unbearably hot for our entire trip. Our house sitters had a tough time. This is an unusually early heat wave. Normally we get this sort of heat in July/August – not June! Our flight was uneventful, if late. My sister was not so lucky. I hope when she gets home she will erase the ugly return and remember the lovely time we two sisters had together after three long years apart 💕

Summary

Best olives – El Cantón, Cartagena
Best Iberian ham – Mediamanga, Barcelona & Casa Rafael, Cadiz
Best Tapas – Cerveceria Catalan, Barcelona and Cerveceria Catalan, La Tranca, Malaga
Best Lunch – Cerveceria Catalan, Barcelona – La Tranca, Malaga and
Best seaport – Cadiz
Best city – Barcelona
Biggest disappoint – Gibraltar
Best shopping – Gibraltar
Worst meal – Candles and Cuadro44 on the Star Pride
Dirtiest place – Casablanca
Best tour – Barcelona
Most remarkable thing – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

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Go to Part one of the trip

Spain/Morocco/Portugal Cruise – part 1 

Here’s another Trip Report so skip if you’re not interested

Lots of food pictures – of course! 
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Go to Part Two of the trip

Tuesday – June 14
We left our casa in Umbertide in the capable hands of Liz and Mark, Canadian friends and cat lovers and we headed for Bologna where we overnighted before our nine AM flight to Barcelona. In Bologna we always stay at Hotel Bologna Airport where we get a room for the night and they keep our car during the trip. Not a fancy place, but adequate.

Wednesday – June 15 – Barcelona 
We took the shuttle and everything went without a hitch. No one paid any attention to our expired Permessi. Yay, and big relief. The flight was an hour and a half. Easy peasy. Arrived in Barcelona at 10:30. Got our luggage and met the driver who was transferring us to Casa Camper our favorite hotel in Barcelona. It is in the Gothic quarter, two blocks from Las Ramblas. We stayed here four or five years ago and loved the quirky vibe.

Our street
Outside our bathroom window. I love Casa Camper.

We had been in touch with my sister Cindy, on WhatsApp, who arrived from Virginia earlier than us. They were staying in a different hotel. It makes it more difficult being in hotels a 25 minute walk apart. But it’s just two days. We decided to meet up for lunch at Cerveceria Catalana – a popular Tapas place closer to them than us. We sat outside and had multiple plates and multiple bottles of wine. The food was soooo good. I am sorry I didn’t take more pictures of the food. This place had the best patatas bravas of the trip. Our waiter was soooo amusing. It was a lot of fun and this was the first time in three years I have been able to actually – physically – touch my sister. Emotional and overwhelming. 

Fried fish
Squid-O-s

We walked las Ramblas and then Cindy and Bill went back to their hotel. We returned to our hotel for naps and then later for snacks from the free kitchen in Casa Camper. They have an honesty bar on the roof deck area with bottles of wine and liquor for which you just fill out a form saying what you took. We sat outside where it had cooled off nicely and enjoyed some wine and Luther, his cigar, a gift from Mark, our house/cat sitter. A vintage Cuban cigar made in 1991. It was so well made and burned beautifully for a long time. Thank you Mark! It was a nice first day of our trip.

View from rooftop
Our wall of plants outside our bathroom window

Thursday – June 16 – Barcelona
This day we had our half day tour of Barcelona. We had a driver, Jorge, and Marta our guide, who owns Forever Barcelona. We were picked up at our individual hotels at nine AM and we started off with a walking tour of the Gothic quarter. We got a pretty good picture of how the city evolved. Where the ancient Roman walls were, where the Jewish quarter was until around 1050 when there was a riot and massacre. We saw the cathedral. The former forum, lots of interesting tidbits. Then we met up with Jorge and we drove to a panoramic view of the city. It has between 1.6 and 2 million people. It was a sleepy backwater until the 1992 Olympics put them on the map. Since then it has been a vibrant city.

The cathedral
Love the gargoyles
Cathedral
Gargoyles
Gargoyles
Ancient mailbox. The swallows say your mail will fly, but the turtle tells the tale.
So the bishop didn’t have to go outside.
Beneath the bridge
On our walkabout we came upon a schoolyard in an ancient plaza

Today was Corpus Christi. Every place we went had the ”floating egg”. It is the tradition. Here are the three we saw.

The highlight of the tour was Gaudi’s church of the Sagrada Familia. I was completely gobsmacked. The man was an insane genius. The church is still unfinished. They wanted it to be finished by 2023 – the 100th anniversary of his birth, but Covid put the kibosh on that. Now they aim for 2030. There is still much to be done. This was my first view of the cathedral. The large tower, center, unfinished, will be the highest spire.

The fruits. God’s bounty
Sculptures everywhere you look. Overwhelming.

Now for the spectacular interior. It literally took my breath away. It was like being inside an animal – so organic.

My first stunning glimpse of the interior of this amazing building
The pillars split at the top to resemble tree branches
Fire
Ice.
light cast by blue stained glass windows

Exiting the church on the back side, which is newer and more abstract. The different sculptures were not all done by Gaudi. They were merely his vision created by other artists. Here is just one from outside the back. They all together tell the story of Christ.

After that we went to a restaurant nearby that was recommended by our guide called Mediamanga. It was on the pricy side. Not traditional tapas. But we shared a bunch of plates that were mostly pretty amazing. World famous Iberian acorn fed ham was on the menu. I have heard of it many times but never got to try it. It lived up to it’s reputation. We also had a plate of Spanish anchovies, fried whole shrimp, a chicken lasagna, white asparagus with anchovies in an anchovy sauce, and a fried egg and scallops with suckling pig. All smallish dishes. All shared. Very good food. Nice waiters. 

Aged Iberian ham. Delicious.
Anchovies served with tomato garlic bread
Garlic. shrimp – fried
White asparagus pieces toped with sardines
Fried eggs with scallops and suckling pig
Their take on lasagna. Delicious

We all returned to our hotels for a nap and showers to wash off the sweat.

In the evening we went out shopping for some ham and cheese and some chorizo. Also bread and wine. We had a nice picnic in our “living room”. In Casa Camper everyone gets a bedroom and bath and across the hallway, a living room. Makes it easy to enjoy some food without messing up your bedroom. Then we enjoyed the roof deck which we had all to ourselves. 

Friday – June 17
This was embarkation day. We went down and had a big breakfast (because who knew if we would get lunch?) of scrambled eggs and bacon with juices, and cake and cheese…and.. It was excellent.

I packed everything up. On this trip, which is pretty long, I brought one medium sized suitcase and one carry-on size. The bigger one was packed full of just clothes. The smaller one I aimed to use In Barcelona so I didn’t have to touch the bigger suitcase. This mostly worked great…except for the socks.

After breakfast we went out for a walk around the neighborhood. It was already steamy hot and humid outside. Then we went back, got our luggage, and checked out. They called a taxi for us. The ride to the port is short. We arrived and they took our luggage, we went through port security which is like an airport and then into the terminal. This is where the fun begins.

There was a huge room. With chairs set up in three columns of four seats. We all got numbers and were directed to which section to sit in. There were two tables in front of this section. When our turn came we went to one table and he checked our temperature and also our vaccination certificates. We were directed back to the seats. About 30 minutes later we were called and given an Antigen test. Then we moved to another set of chairs to wait for the results. There was water, iced tea, and cookies in this area. 

Meanwhile my sister and her husband had arrived from one of the Windstar city hotels on the bus. They got there after us and it took them a while longer to get through since they were in a big group and behind all those who arrived first.

We got our A-OK and went to check in. We turned in our passports and gave them our credit card, and went down the line of people. We purchased the drink package and we made reservations at the two restaurants where you needed to specially reserve. The Star Pride, our ship, has a specialty Spanish restaurant and the Candles restaurant. 

We boarded the ship and were shown to our room. It is an “all suites” ship. We had a bedroom and living room and a small balcony, big enough to stand on but not big enough to sit on. Nice setup.

The Windstar fleet is just 6 ships, three yachts, and three sailing ships. The three yachts were scheduled to undergo construction where they cut the ship in half and inserted a new section in the middle. Essentially it became a ship version of a stretch limousine. So the Star Pride just got out of dry-dock and back to sea at the end of May. This was all planned prior to the Covid pandemic. They proceeded with the work once the shipyards reopened in Italy. We learned the ship is about 2/3 booked with about 230 people on board. This is just the second sailing since it’s refurbishment. 

Picture of the stretching.

We went out to explore. There are eight decks. The bottom three are not used by the guests. We are on deck six. We found all the restaurants, the spa and gym, shop, and the deck with the pool. We stopped on the top deck to have some wine while waiting for Cindy and Bill who finally got through the testing process and checked in.

We had our mandatory muster call, and then watched sail-away from our little balconies. It was much cooler now. Beautiful Sunset.

We went to dinner in the Amphora. It was ok.

We were disappointed that the smoking section on the top deck was put in the most unappealing possible spot. Between the two gigantic stacks of the exhaust and behind a bunch of stuff. Four chairs and a table, and a couple of other chairs made up this awful spot. I think perhaps it will be better when we are not sailing but rather, in a port for the night. We will see.

Saturday – June 18 – at sea
This was our at sea all day, day. We went to breakfast around 9:30. Then we wandered around the boat first going to the Yacht Club which is a nice lounge with a coffee bar and continental breakfast. It is in the bow and affords nice views forward. Later we shopped in the little boutique shop onboard. Then we headed up for a glass of wine outside on the top deck. We had a light lunch of salads for most of us at the Grill, but the guys both had some of the grilled meats. This is a well known chef who chose the menu and set up the restaurant. It is primarily grilled meats. We liked this added casual restaurant venue.

After a short rest I joined my sister and Bill for a Spanish wine tasting. It was quite good. We had a sparkling, a white, and three reds. Most came from the area north of Barcelona. We also attended the talk about our first port of call, Cartagena. 

We returned to the Amphora for dinner. I had a cooling watermelon and feta salad, which was good. My choice of pulled pork penne was not good. Too salty by far.

Sunday – June 19 – Cartagena
We had breakfast and then headed into Cartagena. In the talk we heard it was a town of around 250,000 but there is a central old town, as usual. It seemed much smaller. The boat docked right next to town. Easy walk. Pretty little place with impressive multicolored stones for pavers on the streets. Many streets were pedestrian only. But it was Sunday, and a lot of shops were closed. We walked the length of town. Which isn’t saying much. Still pretty with some nice architecture to include an Art Deco section. We visited the Roman amphitheater. It was only discovered a hundred years ago. They had built a church on top of it. It was pretty impressive. 

Now it was time for lunch. I found a traditional tapas place. It was supposed to have the smaller sized tapas. Nowadays, apparently the so-called tapas are more of an appetizer size. But traditionally they really were just a few bites. The restaurant was called El Cantón. Only a block from the Roman Amphitheater. A nice little place. Not much English but a fun proprietor. We sat outside. We each chose several tapas. The menu has sections like “let’s start with” and then, “toasts” then “boards” and more robust finishers. We had everything from tomato with olives and tuna toasts, to crackers with Russian salad and anchovies, to chorizo with crackers, to goat cheese and Caramelized onions, and finally two plates of the famous artichokes Cantón style, apparently a speciality.  A light white wine washed it all down, it was really fun and nice to try authentic tapas. Good value at only €78.50.

Our Restaurant. Loved this “local color” in the foreground
The proprietor explaining his head is in the coin.
Tuna, tomatoes and olives. What’s not to like?
Toasts.Topped with the ubiquitous “Russian salad” and anchovies.
Artichoke hearts with bacon and bread crumbs. The speciality of the house.
Pork stew with frites.
My sister! 💕
Our dining companion.

We returned to the ship for sail away.

We had dinner in the Spanish restaurant on ship. It was OK. We each had an appetizer and entree. We chatted with the people near us and then headed to the Star Bar for a nightcap. To be honest, even though this is a well known NY chef, it is hard to beat the Tapas we can get in the towns we stop in. If we weren’t in Spain it might seem more special.

Monday – June 20 – Malaga
We arrived in Malaga after a bumpy overnight ride, we had purchased tickets to the Picasso museum and we headed out at around 10:30. We toured the show. Malaga is Picasso’s birthplace. The museum had some early works and some later works but not many in between. It was a good show with some good anecdotes in the write-ups. We decided to stop for a drink in the plaza behind the museum and in front of the Roman ruins and coliseum. 

Next to where we had drinks.
Just beside the port

We decided on La Tranca for lunch. It got good reviews. Well, it was a real hoot. Not many tables. A long bar. Great Spanish music on the stereo which the waitresses sang along to. We got there just at one and within ten minutes the place was packed. The menu was only in Spanish, which was a challenge. We looked up some words and figured out a lot of the offerings and then we each ordered one or two things. They were soooo good. Luther got tuna with cheese on a skewer. Cindy got avocado with crab and shrimp. I ordered a skewer of shrimp which was so garlicky and to die for. Bill ordered an empanada. And then we had a huge bowl of salty grilled peppers and patatas brava. We did not go hungry. It was all delicious. At the end they total up your bill by writing in chalk on the bar and adding it up. €50 to include two bottles of nice white wine and a tip. Not bad at all!

Pimientos de Padrón – a favorite of mine. I could eat this whole bowl!
Avocado and shrimp and the cheese and tuna
Totaling our bill on the bar in chalk.

We wandered back through the city and returned for a siesta as the locals do. At six we headed to the lounge for the Flaminco show. A group of five, two women and three men. One woman sang, one man played the phenomenal guitar, one did percussion and the other two were the dancers. They were all very talented. For dinner we tried the grill. It was served buffet style and there were baby back ribs and marinated grilled chicken. Along with salads and sides. A nice change from the Amphora. Finally Luther could smoke a cigar since we were spending two days in Malaga. The ship wasn’t moving.

Tuesday June 21 – Malaga day 2
Our anniversary! A special day. The summer solstice, my wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of my retirement! It was cloudy and cool. A welcome change. We had a leisurely breakfast and decided to wander the streets and small alleys of Malaga. There were no big stores and I saw only one chain store which was Spanish. It was just about all small shops. Many souvenir stores. The specialty items which we saw in many shops were scarves, fans, Malaga ceramics, flamenco paraphernalia. I have now accumulated three fans! They are quite beautiful. I bought a hand painted one in Cartagena and two here. Both of the later ones were smaller in size and fit in my purse. One quite inexpensive, and one of wood which was moderate in price.

These were very lifelike.
Flaminco shoes for little girls.

We went to Picasso Tapas for lunch. It was on a big square with many mimosa trees. We, of course, had tapas again. These were quite small and I think we ordered nine in two rounds. My personal opinion was they were good but not the best we have had. The patatas brava were very sub-par with no garlic sauce and only a ketchup which was spiked with cayenne. The spicy shrimp were not very garlicky and not very spicy. The padron peppers were good. We were waited on by a Welshman. Unexpected!

Spanish young boy next to us. I was intrigued by his style!
Olives. There are always olives. Spanish olives are great.
Poor excuse for patatas bravas

We walked back and had our siesta then readied ourselves for the Captains reception for returning customers. And our anniversary dinner at Candles.

Candles was a shadow of its former self. Too bad. Afterwards we headed to our room where we all watched the end of the Congressional hearings.
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Go to Part Two of the trip

Spring’s bounty!

Just an addendum to my last post. My socks. 😁

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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)

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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.

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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.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Verona – trip report

This is another Trip Report so skip if you’re not interested!

Wednesday May 11
We decided to go to another city in Italy that we had never visited. Verona, city of lovers. Romeo and Juliet and all that…Shakespeare wrote plays based in Verona but he never visited.

We decided to drive mainly because it’s hard to reach by train. It would take six hours so we decided to drive. This presented its own set of problems because we wanted to be in the old city and parking is hard to find. I found a property with only 5 rooms but it had its own parking garage. It is an old Palazzo right in the Centro Storico. 

The drive was about 4 hours. Almost all on superstrade – the big highways with tolls. That is, once we got out of Umbria 🙂 Boring drive. We drove north up the Tiber valley into Tuscany and to the head of the valley where the mountains start. The highway is a real feat of engineering. It is raised on pilings the whole way. Under it, or to the sides, runs the old Roman route, still used for local travel. The mountains are very rocky, old and eroded with barren cliffs. Lots of evidence of past seismic activity. I am sure it is still active. There are also Terme – or thermal spring towns along the way. Old Roman baths and spas are still in use. I wish I knew more about geology and rocks.

We popped out of the mountains and we were in Emilia Romagna, said to be the best food in Italy. Home of Balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Parmesan cheese etc. It is flat, flat, flat and quite industrial but also has acres of fruit trees. Bologna is the biggest and best known city. 

We got into the Veneto next, home of Venice. Passing through Padova/Padua and finally we arrived in Verona. By now the landscape had changed into hills and small mountains, Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy is just nearby. And there were grapevines as far as you could see. Valpolicella comes from here, Soave, Prosecco, and one more Lugana.

The city of Verona has a lot of not so pretty suburbs, normal for Italian towns. They do have a good number of parks and green spaces. The Adige river flows through the town and there are numerous bridges. Our GPS took us into the old town, lots of people everywhere, and narrow streets. We found the hotel with only one wrong turn.

Palazzo Monga is beautiful. We were met by Jakub. It is a boutique hotel so there is no front desk always manned by people. We had to give them an arrival time so we would be met. Jakub wore a nice black suit, white shirt, tie, and bright white tennis shoes. His hair, dark, his smile, welcoming and his stubbled chin, perfect. The suite is large with a living room with dining space, big bedroom, large bath and large dressing room. The room has the biggest chandelier in the universe. I can’t figure out how they clean that thing! The ceilings are probably 18-20 feet high. Quite the place. Jakub brought us welcoming Prosecco’s and we left it to him to stow the Giallo Angelo in the car park.
We headed out for a walk and look-see. Pretty city. Great shopping. We stopped for a spritz. On our way home we found our restaurant for the first night, Trattoria Pompiere just a few blocks from our hotel.

It was beautiful.
Verona street
Wine seller.

After showers we headed to dinner which was really fun. The trattoria has been around a long time since the early 1900s. It is known for its meats and cheeses and traditional Veronese dishes. I was looking forward to the asparagus dishes. This is asparagus season and the region grows the famous white asparagus. I have loved what I call Spargel ever since we lived in Germany, many years ago. So I was over the moon with happiness. The white asparagus does not get south of the region. 

My appetizer was white asparagus with ham wrapped hard boiled eggs. Quite yummy. And I ordered the Pappardelle with beans. Special to the region beans called Bala Rossa. Luther got the Pappardelle and then Stinco di Maiale. We had a bottle of really nice Valpolicella. I got a scoop of pistacchio gelato and Luther got a grappa, which they told us were on the house. A fun dinner.

Inside of the restaurant
My white asparagus
Pappardella with beans

Thursday May 12
We sprang for the breakfast this morning. It is ordered a la carte, delivered at the time you specify  and you can order as much as you want for the price. Of course we ordered more than we could eat😁 so we have plenty left over for tomorrow. It will work out well.

We headed out for our walking tour of Verona. Luther was our tour guide. We started by going to Piazza Erbe. It was originally a Roman forum. The name erbe means herbs and it was known for various aromatic spices, herbs, coffees etc. imported from Venice where they had come from all over the world. There are many notable buildings and an impressive bell tower. The buildings span varied architecture, Romanesque, Neoclassical and Baroque. I will try to put in the captions below the pictures what they are (If I can remember!)

Piazza erbe.
Column from when Verona was ruled by Venice. The winged lion is the symbol of Venice, the lion of St Marks.
Torre dei Lambertio
Frescoed building on piazza.
Baroque Maffei palace

Behind Piazza Erba was Piazza dei Signori, or Lords Square. This square has a strong connection with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was the setting where Bartolomeo della Scala banished Romeo to exile. Just past this piazza was Arche Scaligeri and the Scaligeri Tombs. Very impressive. I loved the horse and rider atop the church.

Arches in arches.
Lords square
Loved this mounted rider statue on the church spire.
Arche Scaligere.

Of course we had to see Juiliet’s balcony. It can be a madhouse full of tourists with long lines to get into the small piazza. We lucked out and it wasn’t too bad. Of course, it isn’t really Juliet’s balcony it was only addd in the 20th century for tourists, but thousands come every year to see it. 

Example of the crowds below Juliet’s balcony.
I got this picture just as a pretty girl came out on the balcony. She was pretty perfect, she could’ve been Juliet.

We walked on down to the main shopping street. along the way was this beautiful bougainvillea on a balcony.

On the shopping street I snapped this door handle on a dress shop.

Next we visited Piazza Bra. The biggest Piazza I’ve ever seen. It is home of the famous Arena di Verona. The arena still has opera and concerts of all types. It holds 15,000 about half of what it held during Roman times. I was a little disappointed that only one part of it is actually from the Roman era. We sat down for a glass of wine and for some good people watching. There were scads of school groups EVERYWHERE today. It is the season for field trips.

Piazza Bra and the Arena di Verona, the symbol of Verona

Next we crossed the Adige river, clear and fast moving and shallow. There were many what looked to be River Trout easily spotted. We used a medieval bridge called Ponte di Castelvecchio. Pedestrian and made of bricks. Once across we followed a pleasant walking path along the river. There were some very beautiful apartment buildings with pretty apartments with amazing river and old town views. Bet they’d set you back a bit. Crossing back over the river we were just near our hotel.

Roman arch with bit of Roman road beside the river.
See the grooves worn by chariots?
Adige river
Ponte di Castelvecchio
Busker

We went looking for a place for lunch, which was harder than I had anticipated but we found, on a small side street, Osteria “Le Vecete”. It was perfect. We sat outside and had a light lunch with wine. I had Spaghetti with pomodorini, buratta and basil. Luther had the octopus salad with olives, tomatoes and potatoes. Both were very good.

Osteria

Dinner at L’Oste Scura. All seafood. We decided on trying three oysters on the half shell each. I had some misgivings about ordering them since the last three times I did I got sick. Then we had the mixed seafood crudo and I had Scallops and Luther had Amberjack. The place was lovely. We sat outside and it was warm and low-lit. The service was great.

Terrace

After dinner we walked back to our street. We passed the below restaurant, super old fashioned looking but very cool. It was completely empty save for a lone waiter. We went to a small bar with tables outside so Luther could smoke a small cigar he bought. A fun evening.

Friday May 13
All good things sometimes come to a premature end. And they did for this trip. I did indeed get sick again during the night. I must have developed an allergy to Oysters. So sad as I did/do love them. They just don’t love me.

In the morning I didn’t feel I was up to sight seeing so we decided to head home early. I am very sorry not to finish our visit in Verona. We had planned to see the churches and then a Roman amphitheater with views of the town and then maybe the modern art museum. But we saw a lot and if you only have one day then our walking tour was perfect.
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I had to take photos of the coolest bidet I have ever seen. It was in our hotel bathroom. Such a good space saving idea. Bathrooms are required to have a bidet in Italy. In your home you must have at least one bidet, in one bathroom.

This is the closed up bidet.
It just easily pulled down.

I did buy myself a souvenir yesterday but you all will have to wait until my next post to see what it is. 🙂

Catching up…

It’s been a while…so to do some recap. We have been working on the Certificato d’abilita’ and I will report back once we have gotten it. I visited the Saturday mercado which was pretty sparse. The vendors who came had very limited produce because we are at the changing seasons. One vendor, who wasn’t there yesterday, had sweet radishes last week (I know, an oxymoron but it this case true ) and also local asparagus, so I was hoping for that. I was sorry he wasn’t there.. I settled for local potatoes, onions, lettuce and spring onions.

After my shopping we had a meet up with friends who live in Foligno. We hadn’t seen each other since pre-Covid…about four years. We met up at Ristorante UNE for lunch. I posted about this restaurant recently. It did not disappoint. Here are pictures of our lunch.

Gifts from the chef
Pancake stuffed with cheese and topped with grape jelly
Trumpet mushroom with white truffles and sour cream
Local artisanal beans with smoked eel from Trasimeno lake – amazing
Lamb with cauliflower two ways
Dessert – pain perdu with gelato.

Today I made a soup. It is cold and very windy outside. It feels like soup weather. Soon, it won’t be soup weather anymore. The soup is made from a legume native to central Italy, so it is not something a person can make elsewhere. The legume is Cicercchie. I posted about it previously. It must be soaked and rinsed for 24 hours because it has neurotoxins. They are not dangerous if not eaten everyday. If you visit Italy keep an eye out for some.They are delicious. Here is the previous post.

My soup today is super easy. Cook a chopped onion until soft. Add water or stock and soaked and drained (several times) Cicercchie legumes plus 3 peeled and cut into chunks potatoes, salt and a sprig of rosemary. Cook 1+ hours until the soup is thickened. Adjust salt, add plenty of ground pepper. Serve with parsley, good olive oil and cheese if desired. So good, and healthy too.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Castiglion Fiorentina

We decided to take a little drive today to explore just over the mountains from here in Tuscany. The town is Castiglion Fiorentina, a town if 17,000 just south of Arezzo. It is about the size town we like and it is on the main rail line. Arezzo is a beautiful, and pretty large city, which is definitely off the beaten track and well worth a visit. They have a famous antiques market held the first weekend of every month.

We had the bad luck to arrive right in the middle of an enormous motorcycle rally and off-road competition. The town is a hill town but somehow they managed to accomodate hundreds of large campers and trailers, caravans and motorcycles in its parking lots up near the old town. We managed to wend our way through all the ruckus and come out the other side. We visited the more modern lower town and explored the railway area. I was not terribly enamored. We are scoping out places we may want to move someday.

When we returned home I did a little research. I had taken this picture of a statue in a traffic circle. Now I understand the motorcycle event. Fabrizio Meoni was a famous motorcycle racer who came from this town. He died in a crash in 2005.

It was time for Pranzo. We decided to have lunch in Enoteca Meucci. An enoteca and restaurant in the small town just beneath Cortona. The restaurant is just one year old. The enotecca has tastings and tours and has been open 2 years. I liked it. I didn’t love it. But I will go back if I am in the neighborhood. Pictures…

Buona domenica!

Trip report – short trip to Milano

If you don’t like Trip Reports you can skip this one.
WARNING: this post includes a LOT of food pictures 😁
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We left home Tuesday morning at 9:30 to catch a train from the Terontola/Cortona station. This is around a 30-40 minute drive from our house. It is on the main Rome Florence line and has free parking.

The local train from Terontola to Florence was 15 minutes late. Our transfer time in Florence from our train to the Frecciarossa to Milano was….15 minutes! 😳 We went as fast as possible. The train was a little late so we managed to get on. Whew. I adore the Frecciarossa trains. They reach speeds of 300 kph and have four classes of seats. We always go in the Area Silenzio. The quiet car. Business class. Super comfy seats.

We arrived in Milano and grabbed a taxi. All of the taxis we took here had very garrulous drivers. We got to our hotel, the Spadari al Duomo which is really nice. We stayed here on our one and only other visit to Milano. It is very close to the Duomo. Our room was nice with a balcony and a bathtub, which Luther loves. The only odd thing was our artwork in the room. A bit unsettling. Slug women. 😳

We immediately set out for a giro around the neighborhood. We found and visited the famous Galleria Vitoria Emanuele II. A shopping *mall* under high glass domes. Very fancy. I took a bunch of photos of the fancy wares…and some not-so-fancy wares.

The hat below. It looks like a hat I’d wear fishing. Prada. €460.00. Uh huh, right.

Surprisingly I didn’t buy anything. But Luther bought a book and some Cuban cigars. Afterwards, on the advice of one of the nice folks who read this journal and leave comments, we went to Aperol Terrazza. It is up on the 3rd floor and has outside space just next to the famous Duomo. They are known for the ubiquitous drink, the Aperol Spritz. I chose something different but we sat outside and it was a fun thing to do. They had nice heaters that keep people warm-ish.

View from the bar.

Walking through the enormous space in front of the Duomo we noticed some young men. I was taken by the outfit of one of them!

We returned to check out the shop next to our hotel. It is like a very, very upscale gourmet market. It has a big basement area with wines. Upstairs there is a produce area, candy area, all kinds of prepared foods, veggies, meats, seafoods, salads, the biggest cheese selection I’ve ever seen, bread and some cured meats.  Cool place where you can drop big bucks.

Back in our room and while waiting for dinner we ordered a bottle of wine and had a glass before we took a taxi to our restaurant which was chosen by Luther, the Ristorante Niko Romito in the Hotel Bulgari.

Just before we arrived we came to a gate. No one is getting in if they are not expected or a taxi. I realized this was a super high roller enclave. Then we went down a short street which dead ended into a botanical garden. The hotel was secluded and quiet. There was a circle in front of the hotel and all around they had crammed in cars. Parking is scarce in Milano and there aren’t many hotels which offer it. And let me tell you, these were not your everyday Chevy. There was a gorgeous Lamborghini next to a Bentley. And a very odd car which was a two seater with a huge whale tail and air scoops you could put a small child into. It was right hand drive with British plates.

Anyway, I digress. Inside the people were friendly. The restaurant was beautiful. And the service perfect. It was a very good dinner. One of the best I’ve had. Here are pictures of the dining room. The wine we had and the gifts from the chef. Lots of good breads and a good strong olive oil. Bread sticks and crackers. They brought a bowl of broth they were very proud of. The list of what went into it was long and interesting. The actual product tasted a lot like Swanson chicken broth…🙂 Sorry Niko! My antipasto was a raw shrimp dish under shaved citrusy lettuce. The sauce was sublime. Then a sea bass which also was wonderful. Finally I had the marscapone ice cream with sour cherries. Perfect ending. Pictures! (Captions at the bottom)

Interior from our table. Reminded me of a cruise ship.
The broth they seemed so proud of…and the breads
My shrimp…sooooo good.
Veal Milanese…Luther couldn’t resist
My sea bass. I also ordered turnip greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic as a side.
Gelato with sour cherries

Wednesday March 16
Today we had many plans and reservations for tours. We skipped breakfast and headed out for our appointment to see the Duomo. We had ordered an audio tour. Things did not go as planned. We went into the cathedral, which I must say was pretty darned magnificent. The columns supporting the roof and separating the nave were like looking through a forest of giant redwoods. They are each 50 yards tall. Half a football field! We realized we couldn’t get the audio tour inside and each had to go out to get it. The guard would only let one of us go at a time. I went first, managed to get the guide and return but then the *outside* guard didn’t want to let me back in. After a long argument he let me in. Then Luther got his and returned. By that time a funeral had begun and all the interesting parts of the Duomo were closed off. Bad luck. But we used the audio tour the best we could and explored inside and out.

Like a forest
On the way past the Duomo I loved this hopeful sign of spring in front of the glorious cathedral.

Afterward we headed to Santuario di San Bernardino alle Ossa, a church with an ossuary of hundreds of bones. Interesting to see. 

Then we circled back and tried to visit another church but it was closed. We bought some sandwiches for lunch because we wanted to save ourselves for dinner.

Along the way

At 3:45 we had reservations at Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Michelangelo’s Last Supper. We have all seen prints of the fresco of course, but to see it in person — it was pretty amazing.

On our way back I passed a store with beautiful jewelry. All hand made, one-of-a-kind pieces. I decided to buy a pendant. I love it!

My pendant.

Dinner at a Michelin one star Restaurant – IYO. The only one star Michelin Japanese restaurant in Italy. My choice and we decided to both go for the nine course “let them just feed us” menu. We really aren’t terribly savvy at Japanese food. Except Sushi.

OK, here come the food pictures…they are works of art really. I can remember the taste of every one of them when I look at these. I hope you enjoy looking at them if only for the artistry!

Oysters tempura in a bernaise sauce a bit of cooked celery and a tiny cup of gin.
Squid that was sliced to look like spaghetti twirled in a circle topped by a quail egg yoke topped with fish eggs in a fish sauce broth.
Sushi from scallops sea bass and other fish whose names I didn’t catch.
Tuna on rice with wasabi in a crisp seaweed wrap.
Crispy seaweed wrap topped with raw chopped fish with caramelized sugar underneath.
Stracciatella cheese on raw tuna
Linguini with fish eggs and baby clams. It had a very buttery taste.
An entire hen’s egg rolled in panko and fried. Served in a salty sauce. It came to the table in an enormous egg!
Hen’s egg after I broke it open. Amazing how good an egg can be!
Crispy pork belly.
Japanese BBQ beef (wow). My first time to have Kobe beef.
An airy ball of white — like eating air
Dessert

By this time I was stuffed even though the courses were small. We tried a bottle of Saki which was not much to my liking. It wasn’t very robust in flavor, rather kind of bland. I read that out of the three beverages – beer, wine, saki – it has the highest alcohol content. Odd.

It was an incredibly amazing dinner.  It was great to try new things.

Thursday March 17
I wonder if they celebrate St Pats today 🙂 🍀 It dawned gray and dreary today. A bit chilly. This hotel has an excellent breakfast. About anything you could wish for. We had ours and headed out to see two churches.

First was Chiesa di San Mauricio Al Monastero Maggiore known for its frescoes. It did not disappoint.

Interior
I really liked this one. Click to enlarge and see all the animals…even Unicorns!
Another Last Supper
I just loved this little detail

And next was Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. Rather austere. It was very old dating to Roman times and it was just next to the Roman city that Milan was back then. There are a lot of archeological relics that have been dug up in the area which are now in the Basilica.

We walked back to our hotel so I could change clothes for our lunch. Today, we decided to have lunch instead of dinner. We went to another Japanese place called Wicky’s. Also excellent food. We had two starters which we split – Sashimi and Mare Spicy. Raw seafood but the Spicy had a lot of different spices and herbs. The we split the Angus Spicy, and the Magica which is Sea bass.

Friday March 18
We bought a few things in Milan, it was hard not to! There are amazing amounts of luxury goods on offer every time you turn your head. Little shops that specialize in one or two things. Like the glove and sock shop. Or the sea sponges and back scrubbers shop. Tailors and shoemakers who will make anything to order — just for you. There were the most beautiful linens, sumptuous bedding. I saw a shop that only sold pajamas. For example of the style here…this is an upholstery and bespoke clothing shop. Isn’t this amazing?

When we checked out of our very nice hotel, the very friendly and enthusiastic front desk clerk asked the perennial and every popular “perché Umbertide?!” I cannot tell you how many people have asked us that since we moved here.

We took the Frecciarossa fast train to Florence. It arrived around 15 minutes late. Late enough that we missed our connection. Oh well. There is a train every hour so not terrible.

It was an excellent trip. The weather was not bad, it was just gray and chilly. I don’t think Milano gets alot of sun. We loved our hotel and the location, and we loved the food. The people were all very nice. I don’t think I will go back because there are many more places still to see. But it wouldn’t be because I didn’t enjoy my stay there.

Last weekend we … lunched!

Here it is already Thursday. It’s been a very cold week. It would be nice if we could get some warmer weather. I didn’t write about our lunches out with friends last weekend. There were good things, and bad things but it was great to see friends.

Saturday we went to our nearby Restoro restaurant with friends who own a home here. The last time we were there was in the summer, when we had to fight off the aggressive chickens. This time we were treated to a show by the resident peacock. I prefer Mr. Peacock! I think he was showing off to his own reflection in the door. Gotta defend his territory from all intruders!

Photo credit – Bob Camastro

Our friend kindly brought Luther some cigars which he ordered and had sent to them. They also brought a roll of reed for my basketmaking. Thanks! Lunch was not terribly remarkable. But the company was great. My tagliatelle with bolognese ragu. Good.

On the way home, Bob was driving, they were pulled over for a routine traffic stop. Bob and Debbie are dual Italian/American citizens. This allowed them to buy and register a car. So when the cop sees the Libretto for the car is in his name but he doesn’t have an Italian drivers license, he upbraids him for driving illegally. He says, if you live here more than a year you must have your Italian Patente. We had even discussed this at lunch and I was unsure of how the law applied to them. Anyway, to keep the nice police person happy Luther drove back. Then Bob drove home.

For those who don’t know, if you are a resident of Italy, after one year you are required to get the Italian Patente. Since you cannot buy a car until you are resident, if you own a car this tells the police that you are a resident. There is no way around the rule to change your license to italian. If you are a US citizen there is no reciprocity. Some think they can just keep their International driving permit but that is merely a translation of your US permit so it is not legally a drivers license. The test is notoriously difficult and it is only given in Italian. Many people say it is the most difficult thing they had to do to live here. The page I created on this website explains the whole thing and gives links to the practice tests and to other peoples testimonials. Scroll down to the section on cars and driving.

But wait! There’s more! It turns out that our friends are a special case. They are dual citizens registered in A.I.R.E. (Anagrafe Italiani residenti all’estero). This allows them to buy a car without being residents. If you are not a dual citizen you cannot buy a car in Italy until you have become a resident. So they own a car, but are not residents. If you come here to LIVE full time, you will be a resident. If you are not a resident then you do not need to change your license to an Italian one. The police person didn’t know this. It is an unusual situation. So from now on, Bob and Debbie will carry the Decreto which says they can own the car but are not residents. They can show this to the cops if stopped again. Whew, what a relief!
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For our lunch on Sunday we met Steve. He and his wife bought an apartment in Spello and he is here to get things moving on the renovations they want done before they move here in June. He also was kind enough to bring us things we needed from the US. Cigars for Luther, what else? And vitamins for me. Not that I cant get them here but they are super expensive and sold just 30 pills at a time. I’m used to the mega bottles of hundreds of pills. Anyway, thanks to Steve, we are all set.

We decided to meet in Bevagna. Oddly, Spello, which in all other respects a nice town, has no decent lunch restaurants. Dinner, yes, but not lunch. So, Bevagna it was. The restaurant is Delizie del Borgo Bevagna. I loved this little place situated in a park just outside the walls. I also loved the people. They were all super friendly and nice service. But, sad to say, I didn’t like the food much. To start I chose the insalata di carciofi. Below is a picture. it was very thinly sliced raw artichokes, lightly dressed in oil and maybe vinegar. On a bed of lettuce with grated cheese. At first it was pretty good. Super hard workout for the jaws chewing. Crunchy. After maybe half of it, my mouth completely puckered up inside. It was not pleasant. I love artichokes any way, fried, boiled, raw, but I’ve never had so many raw at once. Cumulatively they are 😳 in the mouth!

The boys got the polpette but it was one, gigantic meatball. I think they liked it OK.

My primo was cappolletti in brodo. Cappolletti means little hats. A small stuffed pasta. It was good, if unremarkable. The best thing the lunch had going for it for me was that it was light. Luther got the steak. It looked not very appetizing, but it did taste good. I forgot what Steve got.

We loved the little cups they served the coffee in. Local ceramicist.

It matters not, we had fun and it was good conversation. I wish Steve all the luck with getting his house into shape. I look forward to visiting Roselyne and Steve once they get settled.
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Now I want to mention how I feel about this horrible war in Europe. Other than the fact that the price of gasoline and diesel in Italy is the equivalent of $10.00 a gallon. That doesn’t matter to me. It is nothing to what the Ukrainians are suffering. My heart is with them. We are watching the news every night on CNN. Horrible. A number of people have asked if we are worried here in Italy. Some of the young Italiani we know are quite scared. I am not really worried per se but I grew up in the Cold War. So this is not as frightening for me. I’m just so sorry that this nuclear sabre rattling has recommenced. I thought the world had dodged this bullet. That said, should Putin decide to use his nuclear arsenal it will be the end of Europa, and the US, too. It is just as easy for him to hit the US as here. I pray somehow we can figure out a way out of this. Maybe the sanctions will prove too much for the Russian people and they will rise up. After all, Putin, who says he is saving the Ukrainians, is actually destroying them. He says they are Russians…so why is he killing his own people?
Andrà tutto bene 🌈 Speriamo di si…😕