In my last post I forgot to mention a funny thing. There had really been quite a downpour as we were eating with our friends in Calagrana, so when we left, during a lull in the storm, everything was soaked and dripping. We drove down the strada bianca what the IItalians call the unpaved roads – white roads) slowly. Lots of potholes and puddles. Then we saw them, toads crawling across the road, then small frogs leaping and hopping across. It’s been so dry here that I am sure they were all rejoicing in the new water. It’s their breeding season and they need the water to breed. Let the orgy begin!
Speaking of rain, night before last we had some of the heaviest rain we’ve ever seen. It was like the heavens opened and buckets of water came down. When we have heavy rain here, this new house has a nearly flat roof and, BOY, is it loud! It roars. In the morning all the plants survived. All looks as though nothing happened. Yay! ~~~~~~ House news. We met again with Irma, our architect. She brought a plumber with her so he could look at the caldaia issue. His idea is to move it onto the outside wall just next to the window in the kitchen. This would be ideal in my mind. I don’t like them in spaces that are used, like a kitchen, anyway. They aren’t the prettiest appliance and take up space. In our previous house it was in the attic and reachable by a pull down stairway. Optimal solution IMO. Now I guess we wait. I hope Irma will give us some drawings to look at soon. We still have to wait until fall to get the work done. And I would still like to get a refrigerator for up there. She needs to let me know the dimensions.
Most exciting of all! At long last our Deruta table has been finished. It’s been about two months. This is a game changer for the terrazzo. A table and chairs is a big step to livability. Here are highlights of the delivery (those slabs of stone are HEAVY) and of the table in its new forever home. Note, there are hummingbirds, and butterflies!
Now to order some cushions for the chairs. I’m thinking yellow! It was that or blue but I couldn’t find this cerulean blue anywhere. The table and chairs make the top floor much more livable and inviting. And soon, it will be even more inviting since we just heard the sofa we ordered will be delivered next week. Things are shaping up.
It’s a little cool today for sitting outside…but soon! Ciao a tutti!
We had a great time with our latest guests who only stayed two nights. Sadly. We began by picking them up in Arezzo where they had spent one night. There are two parking lots near the Duomo. One is free, the other is paid. The free lot is always full. The pay lot is always empty. We parked in the pay parking lot and took the escalators to the Centro. In the parking lot was this beautiful plant. It had long trailing arms loaded with buds just about to pop.
We had arranged to meet our friends at the Bar Duomo, which was near their hotel. It has been years since we saw them but we recognized them right away. We decided to have a caffè before leaving. I loved the artistry of my caffè macchiato. Looks just like my cat Rocky!
It was a beautiful day so we decided to stop in Città di Castello because it was on the way. We walked around and stopped for some refreshments. Then headed for Umbertide. Before going home we visited the Montecorona church. One of my favorite places on earth.
We arrived and checked into our apartment 🙂 …well, they checked in, we live here! We had a light lunch of prosciutto e melone, cheese olives, breadsticks, crackers and bread. During our lunch we were serenaded by a thunderstorm. Perfect timing. After lunch, and after the rain, we walked into town and we showed them around.
That evening we had meant to dine at C’era una Volta, near us but they were full due to a political meeting. Our mayoral election is coming up this weekend. So we had to form a Plan B. We decided to go up to Montone for dinner, which we did. We picked Erba Luna. We were the only patrons. Dinner was very good. Our friends had the antipasto plate with local meats and cheeses. Some had lamb chops for secondi. Very good.
The next day, their only full day here, was going to be a perfect day! They had lucked out on the first part of the trip and had really nice weather the whole time. They had chosen Gubbio for our target to tour. Before we visited, the night before, we viewed videos of the Festa dei Ceri which is the biggest festival they have (always May 15) and it is famous. I knew the city would be madly preparing for the event. Being very hard to describe I will try a bit here and then I will post a good video of it. Ceri is the word for candles. The fest starts in their main square and it is literally packed. The town has three Guilds left over from the medieval times. They compete in this fest, to carry three heavy (700 lb) tall wooden structures (Ceri) up the mountain, and it is steep and a long way. The Ceri start out as prone, parallel to the ground. On a command the teams tip the heavy things up so they become vertical. Then they must circle the flagpole in the center of the square three times before going up the mountain with the Ceri. They are mounted on long poles and eight or ten strong youths are carrying them. As they tire, they get replaced with fresh men for the long run ahead. It is worth it to watch this video and then I have a very sweet video to share after you’ve seen how the whole fest works. I won’t ever go. It is too crowded and quite frightening to be in the crowd.
I just took this one picture of where the rotation happens and the crowds gather and the Ceri begin their run up the mountain. The entire city was decked out in its finery. The neighborhood flags were everywhere.
This was precious. In the Piazza was a class of little kids. Dressed in their pink or blue smocks. The teachers (or some volunteer!) had made miniature versions of the Ceri. The kids split into neighborhoods and guilds. They gave the signal and round and round they went with their miniature Ceri while all the other kids cheered them on. Someday, they will be grown up and will participate in the Festa! Traditions. Passed along over the centuries.
The Duomo stained glass and nave.
Our next stop was a wine tasting and lunch at our local winery, Vineria del Carmine. They have a good chef and you can just have a small appetizer, which we normally get. This time, since it was lunch we decided the wine tasting with the light lunch would be good. First we were served freshly made bread sticks along with two dips. Very delicious. They also served bread, their olive oil, and truffle salt. Our guests had never tasted good, Umbrian olive oil (the best!). It’s hard to find in the US. I was proud to see they really appreciated it and said it was the best they’d ever had. Then they brought us a Sfromato di zucca gialla su letto di fonduta di parmigiano — which is a flan of yellow squash and truffles on a bed of parmesan cheese cream. At the same time they brought a cool soup of fennel and chive oil. To finish we had cheeses with truffle honey and meats. Along with the meal we tasted two whites, both Trebbiano, one 2019 and the other 2020 (Umbrian indigenous grape) and two rosés, one a Merlot and one a Sangiovesi, and three reds all blends of Merlot, Cabernet, and Sagrantino, in differing quantities. It was a leisurely lunch and I think we all had fun. The sommelier is a nice guy and we like him a lot. I only remembered to take one photo!
We left and I have to say, the countryside in this little valley is incredibly beautiful. Some pictures. The poppies are blooming everywhere now. My favorite.
Final dinner was at Calagrana, because, well, it is Calagrana! The weather had turned horrible. Much cooler and plenty of rain. So we ate in the cozy inside. I took one picture. My asparagus with a fried egg and parmesan cream topped by shaved truffles. So incredibly good.
Today, we delivered our guests to the Foligno train station to catch the Frecciabianca (fast train) to Rome. They brought the good weather with them, and gave us the bad weather when they left. We hope they come back soon. 😉
As I mentioned recently, today is May Day all across Europe. Equivalent to our Labor Day. Umbertide has always been reliably Communist since WWII so it’s no surprise that they take the day seriously with parades honoring the unions and workers.
Being in a new part of town we were surprised to hear horns honking, getting louder as they approached. Out on the balcony we watched a cavalcade of tractors and trucks, all with flags waving as their horns blared. Here are some pictures I snapped.
After the Tractors came the trucks. The Molini Popolari Reuniti is our local mill. Seems each area mills all their own wheat. They have fleets of trucks to transport the grain.
We could clearly see into each truck and tractor from the balcony. Almost every one had dads with all their kids who were having a great time. What’s not to like, riding with Dad in a tractor or big truck, honking the horn and waving flags?
There was a short break and then more music. This time it was people marching. Most with Union flags. Unions are strong here. If you’re interested here’s the video.
OK maybe it wasn’t the most exciting thing, our May Day parade, but it was a little out of the ordinary anyway. Happy Labor Day.
Buona domenica a tutti! It’s a pretty day here. And this is a holiday weekend. Tomorrow is Mayday. Equivalent to our Labor Day. There will be marching and protests across Europe. For us, we, spur of the moment decided to go out to lunch beside the big lake Trasimeno. No such luck, Sunday and a holiday weekend, everything was booked. So we are staying home. Fine by me, I can continue to work in the garden.
As for recent news, I was pretty psyched to have a meeting with my architect, Irma. She is a friend of friends and I had met her a few times at get togethers. She dropped by and like most people, was stunned at the apartment. It is very unexpected being in an ugly suburban building. She was quite enthusiastic about my idea of an open plan kitchen on the top floor. I’m happy she can see my vision. And for the first time I think it may be possible. 🙂 Of course, work can’t even begin until fall but it’s okay, I will figure out a way to cook outside. I mentioned I wanted to buy a refrigerator. She asked me to wait for her drawings. She said she will bring a plumber (idraulico) to look and see if the caldaia can be moved and the wall taken out. If so, we are off to the races!
In other news, I have gotten my herbs and planted them.
I also bought a few other plants. I am so completely out of my depth here. I don’t know anything about the plants. Their heights, and flowering times, and all that. I need to enlist my gardening friends, and find a good nursery. So far I have not found a good one. Piano, piano.
I noticed my little gifted olive tree is blooming! Will they become olives? Time will tell. If I can “harvest” the little tree, I will cure them. It will be a new experiment!
The lemon tree is also extremely happy. It is flowering and forming fruit all over the place. I will take a picture soon. Finally, I went to the hospital here in town for a procedure and I had to take a picture of the Madonna, who is always watching over us. I am sure you won’t see this in any US hospital…but here she is always there for us.
Since our last momentous news I thought I would update about our comings and goings and doings 🙂.
The day we got our PdS lungo periodo we had already planned a celebration of sorts with friends who live in or near Spello. It was a quiche potluck. The participants were Steve and Roselyne, our hosts, and our good friend Doug who is in the midst of a major renovation of his house on the mountainside nearby. We had three quiches. The celebration was of Steve’s passing of the written exam for his Italian drivers license – Patente. This is probably THE most difficult hurdle of all to moving and living in Italy. All in archaic Italian with “trick” questions. But he did it! First try! So a real cause to celebrate. And we also celebrated our long term PdS and Doug’s house getting a floor. That is also a BIG thing. Anyway, it was a very fun day. Steve and Roselyn’s apartment has two lovely terrazzi and a balcony overlooking the main street in Spello. After lunch we sat on their grande terrazzo. The rooftops of Spello spread out and the views of the mountains were lovely. A special place.
I did a lot of work on Sunday. I had been putting it off but the day was fine. I had ordered new, stick-on rugs for our stairway. The old ones were awful. Dirty and rough and the cats fur stuck to them.
I also shifted about ten bags if soil and transplanted my two herb plants. This is just one planter of five. They all need dirt to be added so it will be a slow process.
Below are the roses that managed to escape the “purge” by our sellers. I transplanted two which may or may not survive. It will be interesting to see what colors they are. The other bed has a rogue hydrangea on the right side. I will let it grow. This will also be my spring garden. I have some hyacinths to transplant and some tulip bulbs and the two primroses gifted to me by my friend Jill. I “think” there may be one more hyacinth coming up too, in a different bed.
I bought two pretty little side tables if ever we get an outside sofa! I plan to order a sofa soon. They are mosaic tiles on wrought iron stands.
I also obtained two amazing Thailandese cat statues from my friend Paul. They are heavy as all get out but I love them on the terrace. They are near the pizza oven.
Finally, today we had an appointment at the Anagrafe in our Comune to change our abode from Via Grilli to Via Fratta. Easy to do since they are both in the same Comune but nonetheless an experience. The people in our Comune couldn’t be nicer. Whenever we’ve had dealings there they are always super helpful. So we did all the paperwork. Went from office to office and got it all done. They are a bit old fashioned here. Everything is done on paper. Here are some pictures I snapped inside the Comune. It used to be a grand palazzo. A single family home. It is enormous. The grand room pictured below has the seal of Umbertide. It looks like a hanging but it is not. It is a fresco on plaster. It is where the official dealings of the Comune all happen.
On the wall in the office we were in they had this great photo of Umbertide Centro Storico.
Below is the second office we visited. The tax office — ufficio tributi. We only pay trash tax, no property tax, here since our apartment is our prima casa or primary home. But they need to know we moved. I was amused that all their records are on paper in all these file boxes. Wow.
Big stuff done. We still must visit the vigili or the local police and tell them we have moved. We’ll probably do that Friday or next week. Always makes me happy when we get things done!
Our weather has turned fine, finally! It’s low 70s and sunny. My big focus will be on the terrace as time goes by. Stay tuned for updates!
This is the beginning of Holy week. We aren’t religious, nor were we raised Catholic. But we like the history, the traditions, and to watch the rituals. We asked our friend Angelo if there were any food traditions for Palm Sunday, and apparently there are not. We are still in the Lenten season so meat is still not eaten much, if you’re observant. An interesting aside, Angelo, who owns the Alimentari in our old building on the ground floor showed us, in his back storeroom, that the building was part of the original wall of Umbertide. His wall on the back is six feet thick. It was built in the 1300s. So our former home was part of this building.
Saturday we went to the market and did some errands. We saw friends and had a vino at Bar Mary, and we rescued my tarragon plant which had gotten left behind in the move. They were working up in our old apartment in anticipation of the arrival tomorrow of our buyers for a three month stay.
We had also been invited to lunch with friends in Montone, a nearby hill town. It was a delicious meal and we feel very comfortable with them. The conversation flows easily. We had a plate of charcuterie to start and then a delicious half red pepper which was roasted and was filled lightly with savory things. Cheese, olives, anchovies and roasted again. Delicious. I plan to make this one in the future! Then we had a duck risotto to die for. It was like a delicious ragu of duck in the rice. I also want to make this one. After that a refreshing salad of mache and tangerine bits and for dessert, a rich olive oil chocolate cake. It was dense and moist. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect meal. Their house is just on the walls of this hilltown. I took this picture from their terrace. It is still just a little too cool to sit outside. So beautiful. Umbria is living up to its reputation as the “green heart” of Italy. When the trees leaf out it will be its greenest.
As we walked back to the car up the hill the bells in the church began to ring. This video is more about the bells than the video.
Here are a couple of pretty photos of springtime in Umbria on our way home. I never tire of it. Most of the vivid green is winter wheat. In two months it will be golden.
They said they would come today to install the kitchen…and THEY DID! It is a bit different getting a new kitchen here from in the US. I remember renovating our kitchen in Virginia. Painful experience and it took eight weeks. Here, they come and measure the space carefully. Then go away and order it all from the factory. They build it in the factory, and then on the appointed day, they come and assemble it. They arrived at 9 am and finished by 7 pm. Some pictures during the assembly.
That’s Johnluca doing the installing. He doesn’t speak great English. But he keeps trying. He says he tries to speak to customers in English, French and Spanish. Good for him! We helped him learn new words and phrases throughout the day.
And … the final product! It still needs a few finishing touches. The baseboard is not there. The plumber needs to come and hook up the water and gas. And the backsplash has not been attached yet. It’s not my dream kitchen, but it will do for now.
~~~~~~~ Home for Sale in Umbertide Our friends are selling their beautiful home here in Umbertide. It is situated on the prettiest square in town, Piazza San Francesco. It also has beautiful, calm views of the Tiber river and is walking distance to all services. It was finished to a very high standard. I wanted to publicize it to my group of reader friends here, in case anyone is looking or if you know anyone who is looking. Here is the website: “Our Umbertide Property”. Please share! ~~~~~~ Yesterday we had a cold front move through with very high winds and thunderstorms. The temperature dropped precipitously. But after the storms we were treated to a beautiful sunset. I don’t have the view I used to have, but this is pretty nice.
Today there was a little something special in the Piazza. There were several booths with local products sponsored by Slow Food. I love Slow Food for promoting the ancient products and the organic and locally grown things. There is a chapter in the Alta Valle del Tevere or the upper Tiber valley, where we are. They had a big booth of olive oil and there was a wine booth with tastings and a woman with dried legumes, local saffron and fresh eggs. It was fun walking over and watching all the action. Everyone was in a happy mood, the weather was cool but perfect. After a cup of cappuccino we walked back home. Here are a few pictures.
There are a number of shops in the Piazza as well. This window caught our eyes! The dress! And the pink suit! (Stylish shoes too) There was a lot of reflection in the glass but I had to get a photo.
Last night we met friends for aperitivo. My first spritz of the season!
So, I forgot to mention that on Thursday, when Luca returned from his pranzo, he had a bag of fresh lettuce and radicchio for us. He is so sweet. How many people have had their house painter bring them fresh garden veggies from their orto? I saw a crisp salad in my future.
Luca is a very typical Italian. They are super regimented people. In the morning, he greets me with how are you? Come stai? I always say “bene, bene, è tu?” Then we get along with the observations of the day’s weather. Later, when he leaves for lunch it is always buon pranzo! And at night there’s the obligatory buona serata. On Friday it is always buona domenica. They always have a coffee and a cornetto (pastry) for breakfast at a bar. Pranzo is mandatory and an hour and a half to two hours long. I ask Luca what he had for Pranzo and it is always pasta. This is what all traditional Italians have for lunch – everyday. But the fresh vegetables he brought made my heart happy. 🙂💕 Today, I had a big salad with the lettuce and I added a hard boiled egg and a ripe avocado. I whipped up a homemade ranch dressing. It was delicious. Luca came out while I was eating it and he seemed pleased I was enjoying his produce. But the amusing thing is, when he left for the evening, he mentioned bringing more veggies tomorrow and asked if I had something other than the salad. I said no. He was incredulous. How can someone have pranzo without pasta?! Amusing, but so typical.
We called the kitchen designers Friday to see when we can expect the kitchen. 2-3 MORE WEEKS! Argh! I hate, hate, hate not having a kitchen. 😡 They lied to us. Big surprise,
We are hanging close to the apartment until Luca gets done. It is mainly herding the cats. Keeping them in a part of the house where they can’t get into paint. He is painting the bedrooms now. The guest room and the “junk” room are in progress, then our room the hall and the bath are next. The big part is the living room and kitchen. That will take time. Looks like it will go into next week.
The weather is changing. The highs in the day are between 15 and 21 Celsius. Nice. Nights are still cold. I am itching to go somewhere, like to taste wine. Or, I saw a frantoio (olive mill) with tours that looks great. Ciao for now!
Luther and I decided to have Sunday lunch in a restaurant right next to us that we love. We lucked out and got the last table. Note to self: remember to reserve next time. C’era una Volta is the name of the restaurant. It means Once Upon a Time. It is a family run place with no menu. They just come and read what they’ve got. They are known for their antipasto platter so we got one to split. And then we each got a pasta. I got tagliatelle with cinghiale (boar) ragù bianco. Luther’s came with guanciale (pork cheeks) and potatoes. It was all good. First three pictures are the antipasto, next my pasta, then Luther’s.
It was good to get out for a bit without having to get something done!
On Saturday we picked out a stufa. We have a chimney sweep coming to clean and then they will come to install.
It is Monday. New week. New things to get done! Ciao for now!