Category Archives: Travel

Cagli – Le Marche

In case you thought we never did anything…today we did a little day trip to explore a town we drove past last month. Cagli, in the Marche region, our next door neighbor. We are actually very close to both Le Marche and Tuscany here in the Upper Tiber Valley. We went the scenic route. It was a beautiful day. Perfect for the top down. Here are a few pictures I snapped along the way. I was very surprised to see a lot of the trees were changing their colors already. And even more surprised to see mostly orange. It is not a common color here. More yellows. Very few reds.

Heading into the big Apennine mountains – they form the spine of Italy. From north to far south.
Pretty sky
Many rocky cliffs
Trees turning
The long and winding road.

But then…a thunderstorm! Funny. I’m no meteorologist but I’m interested in things like how the big Apennine mountains affect the weather patterns. On the west side of them all was clear and no rain in sight. But once into the mountains I suppose the weather gets disrupted by the mountain ranges? I dunno. And I’m even more interested in the weather on the eastern slopes and the Adriatic. Anyway, we had a bit of a downpour just when we arrived into Cagli. We had to take cover in a coffee shop.

We had reservations in La Gioconda Ristorante. When the rain let up we found it and decided to eat inside since it was still sprinkling and cool. They did not ask for our Green Cards. The place was nice. The food good enough but not special. The service perfect. And they had a few nice touches like gifts from the chef, house made bread, and separate truffle and porcini menus. I went with the porcini, one of my favs.

Interior
My antipasto. Porchini arrosto (roasted) on a bed of potatoes with panko. Yum.

After lunch, we walked around the Centro Storico.

Porta Massara
The Comune
Fountain with four faces and sweet, potable spring water.
The main piazza, Piazza Matteotti, what else?
Torrione Martiniano
Pretty streets.

There is always something to love in an Italian town. No matter how far off of the beaten track. We had a lot of fun, and a lovely day.

Sardegna — Trip Report

This is a Trip Report, so skip if you’re not interested
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We decided to do a trip while the window of opportunity is open for us. Who knows how long it will last. One of the last three regions we haven’t yet visited, Sardinia, or Sardegna as the Italians call the island. It is north of Sicily and just south of Corsica in the Mediterranean. Things are not too good covid-wise in Sardegna. 2.3% RT. And they are having big wildfires on the west side of the island. Devastating the farmers. Sadly we read these fires are arson. The people who set them are firefighters who will be hired at €100 a day to fight the fires. Despite these issues we decided to go through with the planned trip.

We opted to fly. You can drive to the west coast of Italy and take a ferry. That way you’ve got your car. But we decided to fly. We could fly out of Perugia to the southern end of the island and drive three hours to our chosen destination. Or we could drive 2 hours to Ancona on the Adriatic and fly into the airport in the northern part. We decided on this one. We had not flown out of Ancona before. It’s chock full of the so-called low cost airlines. WizAir, RyanAir, Volotea and Vueling. It was a pretty easy drive except for construction zones. We had arranged to park off airport and that all worked well. We got checked in with all the hordes going to either Olbia (our destination) or Catania in Sicily. Lots of young people flying. The plane left on time and arrived 15 minutes early. We picked up the rental car and headed north to the Costa Smeralda. Emerald coast.

Really interesting terrain. Rough, rocky and reminiscent to me of the US southwest. Susan said it reminded her of Baja. There were enormous, wind sculpted rock domes thrusting up dramatically. And in the distance serrated ridges shot high into the sky in jagged peaks. There were houses and hotels all hidden out in this desert-like landscape. The ones I could see were much like the adobe houses in New Mexico with clay exteriors painted in pastel earth tones. With flat terracotta tiled roofs.

Our hotel is called Grand Relais dei Nuraghi. It is a small boutique hotel with only about 30 rooms. Many of the rooms are in separate cottages or duplex cottages. We checked in and got unpacked. Went to the pool for a glass of wine and later we had dinner reservations.

Our hotel
Huge, rock, just next to our hotel. Good landmark!

The food was good without being notable. They do half pension so many of the guests eat there every night. It’s not open to the public. I had a very nice shrimp appetizer, a carrot soup and then the “catch of the day”.

Sunset from our table
Shrimp starter
Carrot soup
Catch of the day

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Wednesday July 28

Above was the breakfast buffet. I thought it had gone the way of the dinosaur since Covid but it’s obviously back.

Today we went to explore “Billionaire” coast. The town of Porto Cervo. This town didn’t exist until the Aga Khan fell in love with the coast in the 1950s and decided to create a playground for the rich. He did accomplish that! He purchased the land from the poor inhabitants for a pittance in the 60s. They didn’t value coastal land, they were, in fact, frightened of the water from whence all invaders came. For these people being in the mountainous interior felt safe. The Port was built in the 80s and it is the best in the Mediterranean with 700 slips. The real estate here is THE most expensive in Europe. An eye popping $300,000 a square meter (!)

We had a lunch reservation at the only Michelin One Star restaurant in the area. Ristorante ConFusion. As the name implies, it is a fusion between Sardegnian food and Asian food.

We arrived and parked in an underground lot. We walked around the shopping area which was pretty and unusual and completely unlike anyplace I’ve been in Italy. It’s like being in Palm Springs or Boca Raton.

Tony shopping area
Looks like New Mexico!
Lamborghini dealership. What else?

Towering over everything were the mega-yachts in the harbor. You could walk in and gape. Which we did! We looked up the names of some of the yachts. One is owned by a Saudi. One of the biggest was owned by a Walton daughter of the Walmart empire. These yachts cost millions of dollars.

This one you can rent for €160,000 a week – plus €40,000 expenses…accommodates eight.

After some refreshments out of the hot sun we walked to our restaurant. Pretty place that felt comfortable and not pretentious…except for the fact that they bring a selection of glasses so you can pick your shape! That was a first. Chef Italo Bassi was very friendly and accessible. There were only two other tables so he had time to chat. We decided on a la carte for two of us and the Chef specialty 3 course menu for the other two. Prices were breathtaking, but the food was too.

Here are some of the dishes.

Some of the many gifts from the chef. Along with four bread courses.
Yin and Yang. Essence of avocado.
King crab with Wasabi ice cream
Tagliolini with lobster. No skimping on the lobster!
Salmon “sushi” with morels.
Espresso served on a mirror

After our return and naps we went poolside and had drinks. It was very lovely. They bring a nice plate of food to enjoy with the wine so that was plenty. We didn’t really need to eat dinner after the mega-lunch.

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Thursday, July 29

This was the day we decided to go on a catamaran to the Maddalena archipelago. This is supposed to be the prettiest island group. There are some roads on the main island and you can ferry over with your car. There are a few towns as well. But the most popular way to see the islands is by boat. And BOY is it popular!

We left the hotel at 8:30 for the 40 minute drive to Porto Sardegna. We got there no problem on itty bitty roads to the very tip of the mainland. There we found a yacht club. A very cute yacht club. With cottages built into the rocks and hobbit bathrooms. At the bottom, a cafe. We hung around and finally boarded around ten. There were 18 of us plus three crew. It wasn’t crowded. It was mostly younger people. Plus one middle aged couple. The oddest group was a foursome of two boys and two girls from Calabria. They spoke a Calabrian dialect mixed with German. Really. Very odd.

Hobbit bathroom

We all boarded and were briefed about the boat, and how to use the bathroom. Then we took off. It was a nice boat called Alice. I know most of you won’t know this, but it is not the woman’s name…but the word for anchovy in Italian. Pronounced al-ee-chay. The boat was named Anchovy, because it skips over the waves Captain Alessandro said. There were two more crew, Ely and Sandro. Our first stop was Spiaggia Rosa. A pretty spot with amazingly blue water. We went swimming.

While here we had antipasto with bruschetta, olives, cheeses, salumi, and bread. Our next stop was Calla Vergine. This was so popular there were literally hundreds of boats of all sizes. Amazing. The water was lovely, calm and blue-blue.

I took this video to try to show just how many boats there were. Note: videos don’t usually play in the email version of this blog. To see it you want to go to NancyGoesToItaly.com

It was lunchtime and our Chef crew member Sandro, made a nice pasta lunch with rigatoni and lots of tuna. Served with beer, wine and cold drinks. It was delicious. Then we had fresh fruit, cookies, and Mirto, a potent drink made around here from myrtle.

There was one more stop. The famous pink sand beaches. I was the only person who opted out. It was REALLY hot and it was a ride on the rubber tender to the beach, then a hike over the hill and down, but you couldn’t go on the beach. The beach is protected by a full time caretaker because people were stealing the sand. No joke! One guy was caught with 3 pounds of sand and they fined him €3,000. Anyway, I decided to skip it. The rest reported I was smart not to go. I got to see the less than impressive pictures. While they were gone I went for another swim. The water is nice and cool and so salty it’s impossible to sink.

We returned at 5:45. It was really fun. I’m glad we did it. It is a thing everyone should see. The Maddalena islands are spectacular. But boy were we all whipped. It really makes you tired being in the sun and wind and sea all day. When we got back we all just opted for showers and room service. I slept very well!

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Friday July 30

Supposed to be 102 degrees this day. That is HOT. And the humidity is quite high. After our breakfast we had reservations to visit a winery called Carichera. It is one of the best and biggest producers.

We were greeted by Anna. She told us about the history of the vineyard and the family as well as the types of wines they produce. The family name is Capichera.

Next we were transported by golf cart through the vineyard to a brand new tasting facility. The entire vineyard has drip irrigation. Still, some of the vines were suffering.

Along the way she showed us some of the indigenous plants to include the myrtle, from which they make the Mirto liquor. Then the pretty strawberry bush which flowers in November and fruits in summer. The honey is said to be very healthful. It is also rare since bees often do not pollinate that late in the year so they produce little honey. Anna said the people of Sardegna are some of the most long lived in the world. This is because until recently the people only ate what they produced which is very healthy. Little was brought in. There was no globalization. Until only 60 years ago they still mostly lived in stone huts with no running water or electricity.

Strawberry bush

We arrived at the tasting room which was blessedly air conditioned. The big windows had nice views of the patchwork vineyards.

We decided to do two tastings and share. Luther and I got two Vermantino white wines, and two red. They only use the Vermantino grape in Sardinia to produce the white wine. The red was a Syrah and a Syrah blend. Very unusual grape in Sardinia.

The placemats had the names of the wines so you could place your glasses in the right spots. Look at the names of the wines above. Most are in Sardegnian dialect. It is a very strange language. When I got back, I looked up lingua Sarda. Turns out there are three Sardinian dialects. Then the top part of the island speaks a Corsican dialect because Corsica is very close. Then a small town, and area to the west speaks a Catalan dialect. Very interesting. So the wine names we’re in the Logudorese Sardinian dialect.

We had lunch reservations at Li Neuli. It’s the restaurant at a country club. It was nice. Air conditioned and a pretty room. Interesting menus with much fresh seafood served crudo — raw. To include sashimi, an octopus carpaccio and fresh tuna. I picked the octopus and a nice scampi dish. Just the right amount.

This is the Sardinian, cracker-like bread served everywhere. They even use it as a plate, putting it under cheese, fruit and salumi.

A good day. We finished off with drinks by the pool with our bartender friend Luca.
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Saturday July 31

We didn’t have much planned beyond lunch today. We breakfasted lightly because we had decided to return to ConFusion because we all liked it so much. I took some more pictures of the pretty buildings.

The lunch was wonderful as the last time. I only got an antipasto and a secondo. That way I would have room for dessert.

Lamb chops
House made vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Rare to find vanilla in Italy.

This is Filippo. One of Chef Bassi’s chihuahuas. He was cute.

An excellent lunch. It’s probably good that this guy is not closer to where we live!

Later, when we went for our customary glass of wine at the bar beside the pool at seven, we had to say goodbye to the sweet bar keepers. Luca and Gabriele. Two young men, small in stature and dark with beards. Quite handsome. They had to dress in the hotel dark pants with shirt and dark vest with a tie. Sometimes I felt really sorry for them because it was damn hot in the sun in those hot clothes. But they were both very nice and seem genuinely to like us. Sometimes you wonder with these employees. They have to be friendly but these two seemed to be really happy to know us. Anyway, sorry to say goodbye. I wish them well in the coming times. Which could be difficult.

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Sunday, August 1

Thanks to Susan we got late checkout. Our flight is at 9:20PM. We can keep our room until six. A big thank you to our hotel. So we have this air conditioned space to share until we go to the airport.

We had hours to do things so we decided to go to the other big wine producer, Surrau. They had a three wine tasting with a nice plate of local cheeses, three meats, grapes, wine jelly and apple. Very nice. It was a big facility and very reminiscent of the California tasting rooms. Again that similarity to California.

Then we drove up into the mountains to a small town called San Pantaleo. It has the only piazza in our part of Sardinia. It also has attracted artists. Cute place. We visited the piazza and the church.

The town is full of little stone buildings. These are the typical houses that the people lived in before globalization.

The town nestles up against these massive, wind sculpted granite mountains.

We decided to have lunch here in a place called Zara Cafe. Cute family owned place. Dad is the cook, Mom and son run the front. We had fresh grilled fish. So good.

We returned to the hotel and stayed until five. Then for the horrors of travel nowadays. If we didn’t catch Covid here, we never will. Crowds of young, and, I’m sure, unvaccinated people. No social distancing possible. Everyone was good about wearing the mask at least. But it was horrible.

The flight was fine. It only takes 45 minutes. We landed at 10:40PM. Got our car just fine and decided to drive home. Only an hour and a half and it was fine. It was great to be home with our poor cats. The temperatures have been in the 100s and the house was very hot. I threw open the windows and hopefully it will cool off tonight.
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Now for my best and worst…
Our hotel. Grand Relais dei Nuraghi. There were some glitches but they work hard to fix things. And they let us stay eight hours after checkout for free. 👍
The two bar tenders, Luca and Gabriele, need special thanks for their always cheerful care.
Best foodConFusion
Best outing — Catamaran to the Maddalena archipelago.
Best thing — those brilliant, cool, clear, electric blue waters!
Worst thing — Olbia airport.
All in all a fun trip. Would I go back? Probably not. It was not the “real” Italy. It felt like the US in many ways. The landscape and architecture looked like the US desert southwest. Because of this really big difference from what we are used to, it was a great get-away if only because we felt far away from home, in an exotic place for six days. I’m glad we went. I know we missed the interior for the most part and the south. So I can’t speak to those parts. Of the two islands, Sicily and Sardinia, I’d pick Sicily.

Bye bye Sardinia

In five days we will know if we got Covid. We were hyper aware of the threat. The rate of transmission in Sardinia is the highest in Italy. And there were hordes of young people, most likely to not be vaccinated…or to follow the rules. We were in very crowded inside venues. The young people from Calabria on our catamaran tour were unlikely to be vaccinated and no one wore masks. I will report back!

This and that

I guess you all know the Italians won the EuroCup football championship last Sunday? Duh, right? Interesting observations after the win:

We went to dinner with a friend last night at Patrick’s Enoteca. Patrick is Italian but he worked in London for a time and speaks good English. He also (normally) attracts a British clientele at his Enoteca. He said he hadn’t seen a single English person all week. Not since the Big Game (defeat for England!…) 🧐

We just read an article that said the Italian restaurants in England have had a huge decrease in revenue since the game… Are they sore losers? I think so! Sorry to my English friends…but it’s amusing to me, to observe these reactions. I know, I know, it hurts to lose…I’m sorry. 😶
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In other news this week we received an SMS from our Questura telling us that our Permessi di Soggiorno are ready. You could have knocked me over with a feather! In the entire seven years, and seven Permessi we’ve gotten over that time, it has never taken less than 5 months to get this card. This time…just TWO! Normal situation is we apply for the new cards in about March. (The old cards expire in June.) Then we get the appointment at the Questura for fingerprints etc. After that, we normally wait 6 months for the card. It has been as long as ten months. During around six months of this waiting time, our old Permessi are expired. A big hassle for us to travel in Schengen. And to keep our Health care in force. But this year…A MIRACLE! Maybe there are less immigrants now? Not so many have been entering Italy. I’ve got no idea but I’m very happy. We will go next Wednesday to pick them up.
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I’m afraid this part is a downer. But it is part of my life and I wanted to speak of it. There is a window across from our living room into the Comune. It seems to be some sort of storeroom that no one ever goes into. The window has gotten tightly stuck shut and there are a lot of pigeons trapped inside. Also many outside trying to get in. I’m sure they are nesting in there.  It’s distressing to watch. I’m no fan of pigeons but watching them die a slow death I don’t care to do. So far I’ve asked Irene at Bar Mary to call her friend in the building. No luck. Then Luther called the Guardia (local police). They said they would come domani, tomorrow. The next morning they did indeed send a cherry picker truck which lifted a guy to the window but it remained stuck. That was on Tuesday. Luther called the Guardia again, a day later. The pigeons appear to be still lively but it’s been six days now. I finally went and rang the bell of the public works folks in the Comune. People all seem to know about it. She said Monday they’d come. I said that could be too late for the the birds. So that was my last gasp. I have exhausted all my options. I’ve covered my window now, so I can’t see them 😢 

We have a few chores and errands coming up next week. We are also planning a trip to Sardinia, leaving the 27th. One of the last two regions of Italy we have not yet visited. The whole Covid issue is getting worse here in Italy, just like it is in the US. Since we began planning our trip a couple of weeks ago they’ve begun new regulations to fly to Sardinia. It is a real hazard of traveling nowadays. Things change with lightening speed. A number of regions in Italy look to be set to go back into Yellow zones with restrictions on travel and on businesses and restaurants. What a mess. If any of you are planning travel, keep these things in mind. Things are by no means back to the old normal.

Enjoy your weekend!

Beautiful Friday!

We had a free Friday for a change. Normally we have our Italian lessons but our teacher went on holiday to the beach. Where else? To Italians the beach is the only place to go in summer. I’m asked constantly by Italians in my town, “when are you going to the beach?” I usually say a date and they nod happily.

With our Friday freedom, we decided to go for a drive. From Umbertide we headed towards Montone and then took that road east towards Pietralunga. A nice town but we passed it by and headed into the big Apennine mountains. This is the spine of Italy. It runs all the way down the peninsula. They are a formidable border between the western parts of Italy and the Adriatic coast. Most of the roads through these mountains follow river valleys cut deeply into the earth. These roads are very old. They were used by the Umbras and the Romans for thousands of years. We didn’t stop along the way so I only got a couple car shots. Sorry.

Pianella

Our chosen end point, where we would turn south and head homeward was Cagli in the Marche region. Before today I didn’t know of it. It was just on the way. What a nice town it is. Walled and gated. Several churches and towers. Notable history since the sixth century. Once a woolen, silk and hide tanning city. Quite prosperous. But then the Papal state took it over and they had to adhere to the rules of Le Marche. They were told to grow cereals. But the soil was poor and the yield, low. So the town went into decline. Later they built a railroad from Fano to Fabriano to Rome. So the town again prospered. Then the Nazis destroyed the rail line. It took until nearly the present day for them to recover. They have and they have several very interesting sounding festivals annually. One is an international gathering of people celebrating charcuterie – the area is famous for it.

All together it was a couple hour drive and we have decided to go back to Cagli soon and this time stop and visit…and maybe lunch!

Once back home I started laundry. First the colors! Sorry, I just thought it was a pretty picture 🙂

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Let’s talk about Italy and what’s happening here. Almost all restrictions have been lifted. Only wearing of masks inside of buildings is still mandated. I note most people continue to wear them outside too. It has gotten to be uncomfortable to NOT have one on.

There are ominous rumblings however. Today I read that last week, for the first time in 10 weeks, the virus has increased – by 10% across Europe. Opening up wide so fast may be contributing to this…also the prevalence of the Delta variant. We must take into account the fact that 63% of Europeans are still waiting for their first dose. So the continent is not protected. I don’t know what this means for the future of travel here. Will they lockdown again? It is what makes travel in these times so difficult. One never knows what to expect or what new edict will come out, or when.

As of July 1st the EU has unveiled the “green pass”. It will allow travel across the regions. It is an app which has a QR code which has your vaccination, immunity or testing information. It will be mandatory for entry into sports venues, museums or to travel between countries. We still await our second shot so we don’t have one yet. We are scheduled to get the shots July 13. Then just two weeks wait for full immunity.

This all said, our region, Umbria, has very good numbers…and the daily new case numbers continue to drop. All good for us I guess.
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Buon fine settimana a tutti!

Trip Report – Sestri Levante and the Ligurian coast

FINALLY! A Trip Report! If you’re not interested just ignore.
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For our anniversary we decided we needed a short trip to celebrate. First trip since last September. Long, long days of lockdowns and restrictions. We decided to go to the Mediterranean coast. North of the Cinque Terre and south of Genoa. We haven’t explored this area before.

We left Umbertide at eleven. It’s only around a three and a half hour drive. We stopped for a picnic. They don’t make that easy in Italy. They have rest stops but they seldom have a picnic area. I think we did see three places with a parcheggio and tables but two of them were too early and the one we thought was perfect was closed! So we kept going. Finally by 2PM we found a rest stop with a few picnic tables in front of a shop. We decided to just go for it. I’d brought some pasta pesto salad and some fried chicken. Can you say picnic? We also had some wine. So it all worked out.

We continued and arrived in Sestri around three. We were staying in the Hotel Vis a Vis. Way up high above the town. As always, the parking and access are ridiculous. The hotel assured us there was parking. And I guess technically there is. The drive up to the hotel was several very sharp hairpins and super steep. We negotiated it OK but, not having ever been here before we didn’t know what we were headed for. We were nearly at the top and a woman waved us back. So we backed up and got out of the way…two cars cannot possibly pass each other. The woman helped her husband to get out of his parking place…no easy feat. We figured we would continue on up and we took his parking place. Luther said he didn’t fancy taking the car back out so we will probably just hang around the ‘hood and see what’s to be seen. At least for tomorrow.

Reception checked us in and took us to our room which wasn’t quite finished so we went to the rooftop bar for a drink. Beautiful space. Views to die for. I forgot my big camera but this one is from my phone. It’s the view. And the bay is called the Bay of Silence. Isn’t that a pretty name?


After relaxing and getting cleaned up we enjoyed the bottle of champagne and strawberries we had in our room while watching the football match — Italy/Wales…Italy won 🙂. Then we headed for dinner. The restaurant in the hotel is Olimpio. On the fourth floor with glass walls all around. Good table spacing. It was my first time eating inside a restaurant since last fall. The sunset was gorgeous.

The meal was good. I had oysters again. And we split the Dorado catch of the day. It was baked in a salt crust and beautiful and tender.

Monday
Morning and it is our actual anniversary. First to breakfast. They have it in the dining room and there is a nice outside garden space. Typical Italian breakfast with many breads and pastries, yogurts, ham and cheese. Also available were hard boiled eggs and toast and cereal. For extra money, you could get eggs anyway or a whole list of omelets.

Today we planned to explore the town and do a walking tour. So by around 10am we were off. The hotel has this cool elevator that goes right down through the mountain to the street level below. Makes for easy access to the beach and the town. The first thing I noticed was the brightly painted houses. And many, many trompe l’oeil facades. This yellow house below has a flat wall. The 3-D affects are painted on. Very well done I say. If you click on the photo and look closely on the right side, I’m pretty sure that the house painter actually signed her work. There were many, many more in town painted like this.

We walked down to scope out our restaurant choice for tonight. It is on the Bay of Silence, named Portobello and owned by our hotel. The bay of silence has a breakwater and is quite small.

We did a lot of walking. It is pretty touristy with small streets. We stopped for refreshments. Here are some pictures.

We returned and rested and cleaned up and headed for dinner. Portabella was a nice place right on the beach with much to watch. Little kids were still out playing on the beach. Adults were swimming. Boats were returning.

Liguria has very different food from our part of Italy. It is almost completely seafood based, but what is the biggest surprise is the prominent place potatoes play in so many dishes. When we were here a couple years ago I had octopus which was served atop a pile of mashed potatoes. I was surprised. But now I see it was not unusual. My pasta dish was a thin twisted pasta served with a sauce of cooked diced potatoes, green beans and pesto. Of course, everyone knows pesto was invented in Genoa so I had to try it. It was a strange dish. But very good! Luther got stuffed anchovies. They also use a lot of olives and tomatoes in their dishes so it had that. For his main meal he had a seafood dish with a prawn, mussels, a scallop, and a little tower of fish, potatoes and other things. I had a filet of Ombrina. They called it Croaker in English but it sure wasn’t anything like the Croaker I’ve had in Virginia. Very dense and thick white fish. I finished with a scoop of sorbet. A nice anniversary dinner.

Tuesday
We have two nice balconies. One faces the town. One faces the water. Every morning and evening I spend a lot of time out there.

We decided to explore the coast north of Sestri this day. This meant we needed to move our car 😳. Just kidding, it wasn’t too bad. Our parking spot was better than most, believe me! It’s like sardines here. Once we got out , we held our breath that no one would be coming up the driveway. It is not big enough to pass.

We headed for Portofino so we could say we had been. It was a bit of an ordeal. Driving there is not recommended. Judging from the number of people we saw walking along the road I’d guess most people get there on foot. We did make it and as anticipated there was no parking. So we returned to Santa Margherita Ligure, the town just next to Portofino. I did manage to snap a nice picture of Portofino on our way out.

Turns out there was quite a lot of street parking in Santa Margherita. The Angelo Giallo.

Once parked we wandered the town. It’s very cute and has a lot of small streets and nice shops, restaurants and bars. We stopped for refreshments. I tried a spritz made of St Germain, Prosecco, ginger ale, ginger and mint. It was refreshing.

We found a lunch spot, Il Patio, and had a tasty lunch. I had spaghetti with vongole, spaghetti with clams. Luther had a fish Ligurian style.

While we were eating a blackbird found a treasure just across from us! A cherry. He had a good time pecking and chasing it and pecking it again. I got a pretty good shot.

Pictures of some of the streets.

They had a pretty and very baroque church.

We returned to Sestri and stopped in the supermarket to buy a picnic for dinner. It would be beautiful to sit on the balcony and watch the evening come. But first we wanted to go to the roof top bar one more time before we left. It is a beautiful place.

We had cocktails. I had a Mojito. Luther a spritz. They always bring a nice plate of munchies to go along with any drinks you order in Italy. It is not done to drink without eating.

We enjoyed our picnic of cold meats, cheeses and fresh sweet cherries. The weather was wonderful.

All in all it was a nice and relaxing trip. I would go back to this area again. It wasn’t my favorite beach but the town itself was nice. The hotel Vis a Vis was not quite the cruise ship it tried to be. It had lots of good things going for it. They just need to up their game on a few easily fixed items in the room.

We left at around 10:30AM and got home by 2PM. It is ungodly hot in Umbertide. Like a blast oven. It makes me want to go RIGHT back to Sestri!

Ciao for now!

It’s official!

Looks like as of today, May 16 Italy is open for normal travelers. No essential reason needed. There are rules still in place that everyone should know about.

  • If you fly one of the “Covid-tested” flights which require testing before and after your flight you do not have to quarantine upon arrival in Italy. Right now Delta is the airline with the most “Covid-tested” flights. From JFK to Rome or Milan. And from Atlanta to Rome. AlItalia has a daily JFK to Rome flight.
  • If you don’t fly a “Covid-tested” flight you will have to quarantine for 10 days and test again. Any non-direct flight not mentioned above is not a “Covid-tested” flight and quarantine rules apply.
  • Italy has restrictions which all tourists will have to abide by just as residents do.
  • As of this writing, most of the country is a Yellow Zone. Except Val d’Osta which is Orange. Yellow zone rules are:
    • Masks mandatory inside and out unless exercising alone.
    • Curfew from 10PM to 5 AM.
    • Restaurants open for lunch and dinner outside only.
    • Museums are only at 50% capacity and tickets are mandatory. Tickets must be purchased at least one day ahead for weekends.
    • Theaters and event spaces have seating limitations.
  • Orange Zone. Same as yellow, plus:
    • No travel into or out of an Orange zone from any other zone.
    • Shops closed.
    • Museums closed.
    • Restaurants are take out only.

One thing to keep in mind. The zones are fluid. The color-coded system means there’s no guarantee that if you book to visit a yellow zone, it’ll be yellow by the time you get there—just look at Sardinia which went from a White Zone (totally open) to a Red Zone (totally closed) in just three weeks.

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Buona domenica a tutti!

V-day

Today we had our first shot of the Corona Virus vaccine. AstraZenica. It was pretty anti-climactic. But it’s done. Next appointment July 13 for second shot.

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An article in The NY Times yesterday, and subsequent news broadcasts have said the EU is opening for tourism from the US and other non-EU countries. Thing is, this is by no means sure and it is misleading. The EU and US are “talking”. Everyone agrees there should be some way to prove you have had the vaccine or have had the disease, like a passport. Thing is no one has one of these yet. So it’s not like the EU is opening up immediately. Another thing is that Italy makes its own rules. It doesn’t have to follow the EU in opening up. And they reassess every couple of weeks. Right now no tourism allowed. In May they will reassess.

Since this is my blog, I get to say how I feel about all this. Italy has vaccinated just 14% of its population, mostly older than 70. Italy opened up its internal borders just YESTERDAY to Italians. There is still a curfew. We have just yesterday been allowed to leave our home town for the first time in FOUR MONTHS. No one who’s been through this wants it all to be for naught. Including me. The arguments I’ve seen mostly range around the vaccinated being not dangerous and should be allowed in. But if you extrapolate that into what goes into taking care of that influx you realize all the younger service workers who will be taking care of them will NOT have been vaccinated. And they will be working together in close quarters and they will inevitably spread the virus among our vulnerable, unvaccinated populace. Then we will have to go back into lockdown.

This, of course, assumes Italy will open up — and no one knows or can predict that. I think they should let us be zone yellow and let the people who live here travel, and let them open up the restaurants and bars and see how it goes…then, as Italy continues to vaccinate and can catch up they can open more fully.

So. That’s how I feel. I realize there is a lot of pent up demand to come. I just think it’s prudent to wait. I’m betting on late summer and fall. And that’s not long!
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Phrase of the day…”domani è il giorno di mercato” English “tomorrow is market day”. Pronounced doe-mah-nee ay gee-oar-no dee mer-cah-toe.
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Stay safe and well…🌈

Travel?

I read the following in the newspaper a couple days ago. About vaccine “passports”. They are also going to create a similar thing in the EU. I remember there always have been requirements for people to get certain vaccinations for travel in some countries in Africa and South America. Exotic places with exotic diseases. I guess this is the same. I hope it doesn’t get politicized. That would be unfortunate. I guess if a person decided not to get vaccinated s/he wouldn’t be able to travel as freely, at least not on ships and airplanes. And also into countries that require proof of vaccine.

This from the Washington Post…
”Expect to show some sort of proof — either of a negative test or of vaccination — when traveling. “You should be planning on showing your negative test or staying home if you don’t have one,” Tariro says.

The European Union, for example, has announced plans for the Digital Green Certificate, a so-called vaccine passport that countries can use to verify a person’s health status and allow free travel across the bloc.

The concept of a vaccine passport isn’t new: To travel to certain countries, for example, you already need inoculations against yellow fever and other diseases.

The travel industry and tech companies have been working on ways to streamline digital credentials for years, and during the pandemic some have started to repurpose that technology to show proof of vaccination. “It isn’t far off in the future,” Tariro says.”

Of course, to travel here, you’d still need have the borders of Italy open to travelers…and that’s not looking positive unless we can get vaccines here. All the expected vaccines in Umbria have dried up…never been delivered…it is disgusting and enraging…but I don’t know who to be enraged at! I just know — no vaccines are being administered in Umbria now. 😔
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This Pasqua eve I decided to do a composed salad. I saw a picture of one in a newspaper and it looked pretty and good so I decided to make my own. I used my own ideas for what should go in it. It has a lettuce base. I bought lettuce a few days ago at the Carrefour. My own creamy dressing. Two small fresh goat cheeses, a sliced avocado, sliced hard-boiled eggs, steamed green beans, and a sliced pork tenderloin tonnato. I made the pork sous vide yesterday and had left over. It could easily go without the meat for non carnivores.

Stay safe everyone 🌈

Regional dinner and a recommendation

I just finished doing a virtual tour. Someone told me about the site virtualtrips.io. It has tours worldwide that you can sign up for — for free! It is a way for the poor out-of-work tour guides to make a little money through tips you leave. I decided to try one of Umbria of a town I’ve never visited, Corciano. The guide was Patrizia and she was quite good. I even see in the list of tours there will be two tours in — wait for it — UMBERTIDE!! I’m shocked! Dates not announced but I’ll post when I hear. There are also other cool looking tours all over the world. This could be a fun way to see some of the world while stuck at home.
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Today is Friday. And you know what that means!? Yes it’s Regional food day from Calagrana. Today we will be in Lombardia. The dish is the perennial crowd pleaser, Ossobuco.

And here it is! It was one of the best things we’ve had on the Regional tour.

Italian sentence.”Domani sto facendo commissioni”. English. “Tomorrow I am doing errands” pronounced… doh-mah-nee stow fah-chee-end-oh com-miss-ee-owe-nee.

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Stay safe! 🌈

Covid

A little thing I just realized…this is the first time in my adult life that I don’t know who is playing in the Super Bowl. And I just read that this coming Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday 😏. It is also the next super-spreader event…some advice, Don’t organize a party at home. Don’t go to a Super Bowl party.
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It’s time to update on our Covid situation and also talk about the future of travel to and from Italy. The emergency declaration which allows the government to make quick decisions about Covid issues has been extended until mid-April and it will probably be extended again.

Most of Italy has been rated Zone Yellow. Unfortunately we here in Umbria are Zone Orange, threatening to tip over into Zone Red. We have a steady increase of cases. This morning I read two cases of the new Brazilian strain of the virus were found here. I also heard the worst numbers are in the Perugia province of Umbria. In Umbertide we have a very famous rehabilitation center, Prosperious. Turns out there are 26 cases just in that center alone! It has necessitated the close of our hospital.

Speaking of hospitals, the big medical center university hospital in Perugia, Sibillini, is being hammered. There was a photo with a line of ambulances waiting at the Pronto Socorso (emergency). They have closed it except for Covid and emergencies. They are not allowing any visitors. This is particularly hard on Italians as they expect to practically live in the hospital with their family or friends.

Vaccines. We have heard our age group has been pushed to no sooner than April. They are still vaccinating over 80 year olds and health workers. We visited our doctor today and she says they have no idea what is happening with the vaccine. So we wait. I read an interesting article in the Washington Post about what people who HAVE been vaccinated should be able to do, and not do. The biggest issue seems to be the new strains which are loose practically everywhere now. The UK, South African, and Brazilian strains. No one knows if the vaccine people are getting now, will be protection against the new strains. And no one knows if a person who has been vaccinated can still carry the virus and infect others. This means people who are vaccinated can feel a bit safer themselves against catching it or getting very ill if they do, but they still need to wear masks etc to protect others. Because of the uncertainty I think they still recommend against traveling even if you’ve been vaccinated.

Travel. The EU, and Italy, have no plans to loosen the travel restrictions. In fact things are tightening up even more. The Italian government updates its rules and restrictions about every 2 weeks. And they don’t try to predict any farther into the future than that. So there’s no way to tell when the travel ban will be lifted. My guess is not until most Italians have gotten the vaccine and we have gotten the disease under control here. We are far from that right now. They don’t predict the third group of people (under 60) to be vaccinated until October or November at the earliest. I don’t think 2021 will be the year tourists return to Italy. 🙁
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Flatbread!
Today I decided to make a old recipe I’ve been making for years. Rosemary flatbread. I ordered some dry yeast on Amazon because the stuff you get here is very unpredictable. This is just like the Fleischmans I used to get in the States. So to try it out, I made…flatbread! It was thicker than my previous loaves because I don’t have my big cast iron pan here. Still it was tasty.

Sentence in Italian “Il tempo non è freddo questa settimana” in English, “The weather is not cold this week”. Pronounced – eel temp-o non A fred-doh quest-ah set-tee-mahn-ah.

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Stay safe. Don’t go to a super bowl party! Andrà tutto bene 🌈