Category Archives: Umbertide

CeramicArte — Deruta ceramics in Umbertide

On a street nearby, Via Cibo, is a shop called CeramicArte. The lovely young woman, Laura Tomassini is the proprietor and the artisan who creates these beautiful ceramics. She is affiliated with one of the ceramics workshops in the town of Deruta and she paints traditional Deruta patterns, using traditional pigments.

First a little history of Deruta and it’s famous ceramics. Deruta is a medieval hilltown in Umbria and is mainly known as a major center for the production of painted earthenware since Renaissance times. Production of pottery is documented in the early Middle Ages but there are no surviving pieces until about 1490. It reached its artistic peak in the 15th and early 16th century. It was the first Italian center to use lusterware pigments, usually yellow, ruby or olive-green.

Laura is following in the footsteps of centuries of artisans. A noble endeavor. I walk past this shop often. Always, there she is, creating beautiful works.

Laura at work
The shop

She’s been busy with Christmas things. Ornaments, jewelry. Take a look at these! Bellissimo!

All white cutout ornaments
Gold leaf
These are pendants…they come with a chain. She also makes tiny earrings like these. Nice gifts.

Our recent guests ordered some of her ceramics. She makes things to order. You pick the design and what you’d like. Two years ago, I commissioned a bowl for my niece Rachel and her soon-to-be husband Alex. Here’s the bowl. Peacock design. I picked the red and black. Laura will inscribe the back for a special present. Like the back of the bowl below.

When they were here they commissioned a plaque with their house number for outside their front door with the same pattern. That will be a unique addition to their house!

Mike and Anne chose some salt and pepper shakers. Mike, once he was here for a while, got very into our Italian coffee. Yay for him. When he got home Rachel and Alex gifted him an espresso maker. Of COURSE he needed espresso cups which he ordered after he went home… Pretty!

These are on their way to the US. As I posted in my last post I bought a luminary. And I also have a couple of pretty lamps the same type of design. If you come to Umbertide, be sure to visit this unique artisan, and her shop. And if you like, you can also commission things using her email below and she will ship to you.

CeramicArte is a treasure in our town. I’m happy they are here and if you come visit, you can commission some for yourself!

Buona Domenica a tutti!

Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving 2021 was a far cry from Thanksgiving 2020. Then, we were headed into a long, strict lockdown. No gatherings were allowed. So it was especially joyful today, to spend a day with friends having a scrumptious pranzo, and giving thanks. Calagrana had sent out a Thanksgiving menu invitation for Pranzo today. Susan and Gary decided to host a table of nine, of which we were two. There were six Americans and three Italians. A nice mix of the two languages.

In the restaurant there were several other tables. A table of seven Americans who we didn’t know next to us. A table of six, four which were friends. Two Americans and two British. Then another table of four which we knew, some Americans and some British. And finally a table of two British who we didn’t know. On the way out I wished the table of seven next to us happy Thanksgiving. They were visiting here and had rented a villa. There were the matriarch and four daughters and two spouses. They were from Portland Oregon, Sacramento and New Jersey. I think they said they were here for a couple months until January. Our meal started with appetizers, four types, an egg roll with dates inside, cheese, sausage rolls, and fried shrimp. Then we had spiced pumpkin soup. Yummy.

Then the main course. Of course Turkey! And a whopper, a 38.4 pound Tom turkey. Here, there are female turkeys which weigh minimum 15 pounds. And male turkeys which start at about 33 pounds.

Sides and sauces. A really good cold green bean salad in a slightly vinegary sauce and toasted sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Cranberry sauce is not possible here so we had a sauce of sweeter berries. Brussels sprouts.

Dessert was a apple plum tart. Everything was scrumptious. The company was fun and warm and it was such a pleasure to be, once again, sharing a holiday with friends. Two years is a long time to be bereft of friends and family. Speaking of which, I called my sister when I got home. I miss being with her a lot. Especially on holidays like this one. FaceTime is nice but not quite the same 🥺.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Newsy post

Sono raffreddata. I have a cold! How could that be? I always wear a mask. Except when I’m eating or drinking of course, which means I got it either when I went out to lunch, or had a coffee or drink with friends. All of which I have done recently. I haven’t been sick since before Covid. I had planned to go to lunch at a favorite place tomorrow with friends. But in these times I figured I would scare everyone with my coughing, which I cannot control.

My friend encouraged me to take the home Covid test. I went over to our pharmacy and bought a test. €9.90 or about $12. Came home and read the, not clear at all (!) instructions. End of the story…I tested negative. I have a classic cold with no fever so I wasn’t worried. At least now I know how to do the test.

Numbers of Covid infections are going up all over Europe. Italy and Spain are going up the least because we have higher rates of vaccinations. Close to 90% for each. But still, the numbers are ticking up here too. Among the unvaccinated for the most part. I am reading this won’t mean restrictions for the holiday season but the color coded risk system is still in affect and there are three regions in danger of going to Yellow Zones.
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Big news in Umbertide! I had heard from our friends, who have an apartment in this building, that the building is getting a badly needed paint job. Italy got a tremendous amount of stimulus money from the EU because we were so hard hit by the pandemic. And it seems, it is now just going out to towns and cities all over. Umbertide is doing a LOT of refurbishing and renewal. The owners in this building applied for a grant to have it painted. It is right on our main piazza and is kind of an eye sore so this is very welcome and will really make a big difference in how the town looks. The owners have to pay part of the cost but it is a very small, and reasonable, amount per apartment depending on size. I snapped a photo of the scaffolding today. You can see how grungy the paint is now. Can’t wait to see the results! I heard it will be a darker color. Brick, or peach, or reddish.

They are painting the smaller building to the left too. This will make our house look kind of dingy. Maybe we should look into a grant.
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The blog wouldn’t be complete without food pictures would it? 😁 This was the Spanish lunch at Calagrana last week. Really yummy paella, there were tapas before. And the dessert pictures are here too.

Stay safe everyone. 🌈

Whoo hoo!

Yesterday, Italy hit the goal of 80% of people over 12 years old fully vaccinated. It is a BIG DEAL. I will say, life is pretty much normal here now. The latest proclamation has opened sporting events to 100% capacity. Gyms, theaters, swimming pools are all open. Of course, one must show the EU Green Pass (or equivalent proof of vaccination from another country) to enter any of these places, plus restaurants. Also, one must still wear the mask inside. Not a problem for Italians, who are not normally rule followers, but are doing it in this case. They, and us interlopers, all wear masks with no drama. Sad to say, a friend who came over from being in Florence, said he witnessed an American woman tourist in a clothing store there who jumped the line to buy something. She had no mask on. The clerk asked her to put on her mask and she said “no”. The security guards ejected her. Why come over here to visit and be so rude? These are the rules of the country who is your host. I sincerely hope this was an anomaly. She was that one bad apple…

Yes, there have been riots in Rome about the Vaccine mandate here. They are organized by a neo-fascist group and definitely not main stream. I read they may be banned. We don’t need this sort of dissent in the middle of a global pandemic.
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Otherwise it is definitely autumn in Umbria. The tobacco is being harvested, the sunflowers have dried and been harvested, the grapes have been mostly harvested. The fall vegetables are now in the market. If I go to the local Saturday market here in town, no one needs to tell me what month it is. All I need to do is look at the available produce and I know. 🙂

Wednesday mercato today, as usual. My market buy today was these beauties!

Porcini mushrooms only fresh in the fall. Many people go mushroom hunting around here. These are plentiful. I’ll be making tagliatelle con porcini – mmm.

Then I bought this…

Salame al Cinghiale. Wild boar salami. It will be for our Sunday Stuzzicheria to welcome our first guests!

Ciao for now!

Bells…near and far

Since my friend, Jennifer and I visited the bell foundry in Molise I have been thinking about bells a lot. I’ve always liked them…been fascinated by them. When we lived in Germany, in the small villages they were always evident, telling the time so no need of a watch…as a matter of fact, until 50 years ago, most people didn’t own a watch so the bells served an important purpose. When we returned home to the US I really missed hearing them.

The foundry was super interesting, and in my investigation for this post I found this nice little video about the Campane Marinelli – Pontificia Fonderia di Campane.

Marinelli foundry.

Before we moved here, and after our return from Germany, we lived in Alexandria, VA, outside of Washington DC. It was founded in the 1600s. There are still many of the original churches in town and they all have their bells. Usually just the one to call to service.

In Arlington, near the Iwo Jima memorial, there is the Netherlands Carillon with it’s 53 bells. A gift, in thanks, from the Netherlands to the US for the liberation of their country from the Nazis. It rings the Westminster Quarter everyday and visiting musicians play it as well. It is played like an organ, with pedals and keyboard.

Then there is the National Cathedral in Washington. It has a full 53 bell carillon too. But to me the best thing is that it has a full set of Peal Bells. I have always been fascinated by this tradition. The Cathedral has ten peal bells. These are rung by a group of Ringers by pulling ropes. Each person has a rope attached to one bell. They are rung in mathematical sequence and are not melodic. This is because each bell can only be rung once every two seconds due to the swing of the bell, the hit of the clapper, and the return of the bell to a position to be pulled again. I won’t go into all the interesting things about “change ringing” it is quite the feat, and art. You can google it if you’re interested, and the National Cathedral site has a nice write up. The tradition originated in the cathedrals in England. So, there are some bells in the US, but not the really personal village church bells like in Europe.

I know you are all wondering what this has to do with Italy, right? Well, in our town we have, so far as I know, three active Catholic Churches, all of whom have bells. [The town seems to have at least eight Catholic churches when I googled but I’m not sure they are active with congregations etc.] We are between two of these churches so we are treated to the bells many times a day. I’ve been here seven years and I still don’t understand all of the ringings and why they are rung when they are rung.

One of the most historic buildings in Umbertide is the bell tower on the edge of the piazza which is all that’s left of San Giovanni Batista (Collegiata), an old church which was hit by bombs in 1944. It has four beautiful bells that now ring for the Chiesa della Madonna ‘della Reggia’, the town’s main church, which is associated with the Chiesa San Francesco in Piazza San Francesco. Construction of the Chiesa della Madonna ‘della Reggia’ began in 1559 and it is a unique round building. The four bells in the tower of San Giovanni ring simultaneously for Sunday Mass at 11 a.m. and for High holy days and Saints days. They make an amazing, and to me, joyous cacophony. One of these bells also rings the hours of the day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. …for those who forgot their watches. 😁 I tried to video the bells ringing but as usual, I was flummoxed by them. One never seems to know the schedules and they change for no apparent reason.

San Giovanni Batista – the bell tower is all that’s left.
Chiesa della Madonna ‘della Reggia’

The church behind us is called Chiesa Parrocchiale del Convento di Santa Maria della Pietà built in 1481. It also has four bells. Unfortunately the note that one of them has is very flat. To make it worse they play “tunes” on them. At noon and at six p.m. every day they “sing”. They also ring a different tune for masses etc.

Chiesa Parrocchiale del Convento di Santa Maria della Pietà

This church also rings the bells for funerals. Each of the four bells, starting from the highest (and flat) one, toll slowly one after another. Then pause and begin again. Over and over. It is mournful and sad. Someone told me they ring them longer, the older the person was, who died. I looked it up and did see this could be true… “ traditional ringing calls for the funeral bell to ring six times (twice three times) for a woman. The bell would toll nine times (three times three) for a man. Then, the bell would ring one time for each year of the deceased’s life.”

The church behind us also rings a bell precisely at 7:30 a.m. every day. For the last year or two, it has been one bell ringing 33 times, then pausing and ringing 33 more times. Yes, I counted. I’m usually still in bed at 7:30 🙂. No one could tell me why they rung this way. I did figure it could have been Jesus’ age. But why twice? On Saturday, October 3, the bell changed! It still rang at 7:30 but only 30 times, and only once. Please tell me why!?

I guess you all can see I am fascinated by the bells. I freely admit it and it is an ongoing fascination. There is much I don’t know, and much to learn.

This is a video I found while researching. It is of the bells in the church behind us.

Company’s a’comin’

That’s right! For the first time in over TWO years we are having visitors! I’m very excited. I will get into the who, the how, and the why…later. But for now, I’m getting ready for them.

Last week I procured some wild boar, called Cinghiale here. We here in Umbria and Tuscany are pretty much over-run with them. They breed twice a year with from 3 to 13 piglets every litter. They are so prevalent here, and so destructive, that there are no limits as to how many you can kill, in-season. I wrote a blog a few years ago about the Cinghiale hunts around here. Highly orchestrated. Interesting reading. Tis the season of the Cinghiale hunt.

Today, I am preparing cinghiale ragu. It takes hours to cook to be tender. And I can freeze it for an evening pasta dinner. I’m sitting here now and smelling it cooking. Devine!

Marinate overnight in red wine, herbs, bay leaves, juniper berries, rosemary, peppercorns, onions,
This is the basis of practically any Italian sauce. Called sofrito. There is this in almost every cuisine, different name of course.
Once marinated I chopped the meat up small.
Up the heat and add to the sofrito until it gives up its juices completely.
To add a bit of fat (and flavor) some sausage is added.
Added the passata…tomato sauce, a basis to much sauce here. And some water. Then simmer three hours or more.
The finished ragu

We won’t eat this now, but I borrowed a picture of what the dish will look like, from the recipe which is an Italian recipe from ideericette.it .

I think we will all enjoy this dish!

Otto Cento 2021

This isn’t all about Otto Cento. First I need to give you links to previous posts about the festa, so you get an idea about the briganti and what they get up to. First 2014, our first year here. Next 2015, our second Otto Cento. These are just a couple years. If you are interested go to the search function and put in Otto Cento.

The Biganti are a big part of the fun of Otto Cento. They are the bad boys. Always up to mischief. And always during the wee hours of Saturday night. Today, I woke up to see in the middle of the piazza the biggest pile of shit I’ve ever seen. Along with some signs which I cannot decipher.

As you may notice the Briganti have hoisted their flag behind their creation.

To enter the piazza you need to go through a curtain which has large naked butt. You walk between the legs.

It is all in fun and the boys and their molls love it. I love it too. 💕
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We went to lunch at Calagrana with a new friend, Brian, who is contemplating a move to Italy. It was a messy day weather-wise. It rained sporadically, and the sun shone some too. The view of the Niccone valley was, as always mesmerizing. We had a nice conversation and a nice lunch. I wish Brian luck in his quest to move to Italy.

Approach to Calagrana
My antipasto – liver pate with pepper jelly .
Tagliatelle puttanesca
Luther’s lamb shank

When we got home the skies opened. Much needed rain! Lovely.

Stay safe all. Next up, my road trip to Molise with my friend Jen. Exciting.

The Americans are coming!

I am amazed at the numbers of Americans arriving here in Italy right now. I guess many people waited until fall to come on the much wanted trip after the lockouts and lockdowns. I heard Florence is back to the teeming crowds of tourists, so long gone. I’ve seen pictures of other tourist destinations which are also very crowded. It is all good for the Italian merchants, restaurants and all the tourist oriented industries who have all suffered so much from this pandemic. They are all very happy to hear American voices again.

We have been meeting some of them. For a meal or a drink. Some are virtual-friends through my blog. Some already have places to live here and have returned after a long time of not being able to come. Many are looking for a property here. It looks like the property market is finally heating up somewhat.

We had a nice dinner with a couple who own an apartment in one of the many reconstructed borgos around here. Purpose built from old farms or small abandoned villages into vacation home enclaves. For my foodie friends, this was my Primi course last night. Pasta with a duck ragu, figs and nuts. Unusual and very good!

We just noticed there is a cannon in the Piazza outside! Along with the Italian banner. It is time for Otto Cento! For those who don’t know, Fratta ‘800 or Otto Cento has always been our town’s biggest and most fun festival. It was always held about this time of year and lasted for four days. A quasi recreation of the beginning of the Italian republic in 1861.

People dressed in period costume, re-enactments abounded, the cannons boomed, the horse Calvary were here, the briganti hid in their lair along with the ladies of the night in the brothel until Saturday night when they overtook the town. Garibaldi turned the tables and order was restored on Sunday. Four days of mayhem. 15 or more popup restaurants serving period food. Entertainment in keeping with the 1800s. Alas, since Covid it has been a shadow of its former self. But some people are keeping it going with restrictions. Hopefully in 2022 we can get back to our normal one.

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Today a decree will be signed to mandate vaccination to all workers in Italy.

From TheLocal
“Italy is expected to become the first European country to make its Covid-19 health certificate mandatory for all workers in both the public and private sector from October, as the government tries to speed up vaccinations and keep the infection rate down.”

Apartment for sale

Hi everyone. I thought I would take this opportunity to mention again that we are selling our nice apartment here in one of the most convenient little towns I’ve ever encountered here in Italy. Literally anything you could need or wish for is within walking distance of our apartment. You go to the normal little medieval towns in Umbria, or Tuscany, or to a pretty hill town, and they steal your heart. But there is no “there” there. There are no services. You have to drive everywhere. But not here. It is all close by, reachable on foot. In a flat riverside town, surrounded by mountains. You will get integrated into the Italian life. You will know the shopkeepers, and they will know you. This is not to say Umbertide is not pretty with historic sights because it is also that.

We have the best of both worlds in our apartment, a town view of our main piazza, and a bucolic view of the mountains, river and fields from the back. We LIVE on our terrace in the summer. The people here in the Centro, which is like a town within a town, are super friendly. There are two nice bar/coffee shops just downstairs and the two weekly farmers markets are just out our front door. Here is a link. Umbertide Apartment.

Vino on our terazza
Misty sunset
Moon over the Tiber
Summer flowers and sunset

If you dream of Italy. Maybe my apartment will make your dream come true! Nancy22314 at yahoo dot com. We can do the sale directly without a realtor’s fees. My real estate agent from when we bought will handle all the legal paperwork and obtain a Notiao. 🌈

Pizza night at Calagrana

Every Sunday is pizza night at Calagrana. Fun and casual. Albi mans the wood burning outdoor pizza oven with his assistant. We ran into many longtime friends we hadn’t seen in a very long time. All were in good spirits and have weathered the pandemic. Also we saw newly returned friends Linda and Evan. They will be here enjoying their apartment and the pretty autumn weather. We brought along our friends Jane and Christie who now own the little apartment overlooking the square where we stayed while renovating our apartment. We all tucked into our pizzas, hot off the fire. So good! Thanks Team Calagrana.

My pizza bianche with ham, funghi, olives and artichokes
Luther’s more traditional with salsiccia.