Category Archives: Umbria

Catch up

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. We have been doing a few things. Mostly mundane. We had a Calagrana lunch last week with two couples. Then we had a lovely invitation from Vera and family to their mountain house. It is three kilometers up a winding mostly gravel and dirt road. They are at the very end. So beautiful up there. It was just us and the family. A simple barbecue but so nice. Le regazze!

Some of the food.

The week was full of chores. We have to replace some of our zanzariere. Zanzara is the word for mosquito. Say it out loud. Doesn’t it make you think of the zzzzzzz noise a mosquito makes beside your ear? Two of the screens are ripped and several no longer hook down as they should. They said they’d come next week. And yet again we are trying to get our Tessere Sanitaria renewed. But we needed an appointment so we go next week.

Finally today we had a little fun. We met up with a friend who is buying a house here. He has been stuck in the US because of the travel restrictions but he finally got here this week to see his house. And we had lunch at Nonna Gelsa, a nearby restaurant. Ravioli with pistachio pesto.

Tomorrow I start packing for our little getaway. Leaving on Sunday. First trip since our lockdown from last fall. We are going to Sestri Levante on the Mediterranean. North of the Cinque Terre and south of Genoa. It is to celebrate our anniversary. I will do a trip report, of course!

Ciao! 🌈

Umbertide is back!

Eurocup. Italy versus Turkey. Back in the olden days. Before Covid. We had exciting gatherings in front of Bar Mary to watch sporting events. Mostly soccer, or football as they call it here. Since Covid things have been different, but tonight! Tonight! There’s a huge crowd outside. Bar Mary, as of old, has set up a big TV and the chairs are all pulled up to watch the game. Cheering erupts at intervals. I can hear it well up here. See the fun…

Makes me happy.

Winery visit — La Palerna

Today my friend Elizabeth Wholey arranged a wine tasting and lunch for us. It was a pretty day and we took off north — way north. To the very top of Umbria. It meets up with Tuscany and to the east Le Marche. Three regions. This winery is not in a wine region. It is in an unlikely location. And they are focusing on the Pinot Noir — Pinot Nero — wine grape. Also an unlikely choice. The winery is called La Palerna. It is at an altitude of 650 meters. High above the upper Tiber valley. Owned by Luigi Merendelli and his wife Paola. They own a large packaging company called Vimer. Here is the view from the winery.

We were greeted by Rosanna. She has worked for the Vimer industries and the family in different capacities for a long time. She is Swedish born but was raised in Luxembourg. She married and moved to the Upper Tiber Valley with her husband who is from here. Now she is in charge of sales and marketing of the Palerna winery.

We toured the property with the permission of Paola to include their beautiful grounds.

Rosanna took us around the property. We saw some of the vines and also the orto, or vegetable garden.

Orto, well fenced in to protect from the animals
Sangiovese leaf.
Pinot Noir leaf
Vine, Pinot Noir, has red stems
Sangiovese has green stems. See the baby grapes?

Next we toured inside the winery. These are the methode champenoise bottles. They are turned a quarter turn every week and slightly tipped higher. It encourages the sediment to slide into the neck where it can be popped out before corking.

Rosanna provided us with a lovely antipasti to complement the wines we tasted. They are very proud of their Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. Nudo di Palerna. 100% Pinot Noir.

She sources her food locally. We had a big platter of toasted bread drizzled with their oil.

We had the Mozzarella di Bufala from la Fattoria Montelupo. I buy mozarella often. I am a huge fan of the cheese made from the milk of the water buffalo. It is famed from down south in Campania. I’ve had it a number of times and am always blown away by the rich creaminess. It is NOTHING like common mozzarella. Well, I am here to tell you this is the real deal. Made from the milk of water buffaloes just north of us. The fat in both the olive oil and the cheese is cut by the sparkling wine which is why it’s paired. A marriage not to be beat!

Next we tried their Rosatto. Or Rose to us. Made from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese grapes.

She paired this one with meats. Salami and cured ham or proscuitto. Also from a local producer – Azienda Agricola Pigolotti. Along with a plate of bruschetta with pomodori…tomatoes.

Next we had. This was an everyday quaffing wine. Only €8.00. This is a normal price for decent but not fancy wine. We had this one with two local cheeses. Both pecorino.

Then, the prized Pinot Nero. This is not a normal grape here. We have only seen it at one other place near Orvieto. Sr. Merendelli fell in love with the French Pinot Noir and decided to dedicate much of his vineyard to this grape.

And finally Cospaia1441. It is made from Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It is nice with a lot of fruit and boldness. But the best part is where it got it’s name. It seems the border between Tuscany and the Papal State of Umbria was not fixed. There was constant fighting. So, finally, in 1441 the two agreed the small river running from the Marche down to the Tiber river would be the border. The north would be owned by Tuscany and the south would remain a Papal state. Due to a technical error, they seemed to not mention an island in the river. So it was neither Tuscany, nor Umbria, but a free and independent republic for almost 400 years! The label has a floating island on it held up by balloons. The motto of the land was “perpetua et firma libertas” — “firm and perpetual liberty”.

Here are Rosanna and my friend Elizabeth.

An excellent excursion. Other than a bit of haze it was a beautiful day. Let it be the first of many more!

Tenuta Borgo Santa Cecelia

Today we had yet another excellent adventure. More correctly we had an excellent Pranzo. Luther had read in a column he subscribes to called Doctor Wine, about a albergo and restaurant that was highly rated and not very far from us. It is called Tenuta Borgo Santa Cecelia. No one I know has been there that I know of. It is not new. They said it was opened in 2014. Closed for a while because of the earthquakes and then got closed again by Covid. A rough road.

It is in a beautiful place. It took about 25 minutes by car to get there. It was in the middle of nowhere, but that nowhere was amazingly, stunningly Umbrian beauty at its best. You could see the Apennine Mountains in the distance. And all around, because we were way up on a ridge with 360 degree views, farms and forest. The Tenuta came into view. A group of honey colored buildings.

We were welcomed and seated on a pretty terrace. We proceeded to be wowed by the food. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder how a place that’s fairly remote gets their business. The place was perfectly and stylishly decorated. The lawn was manicured. It was elegant but without being stuffy. Comfortable and welcoming. And where did they get a chef so talented as this one to come out there? We did ask. He is from Gubbio. This restaurant is about halfway between Umbertide and Gubbio. He trained in the north and has cooked all over the North. But the owner of the Tenuta lured him home from Bologna. So. Let’s see what he could do! This first one is the view from our table.

This was the gift from the chef to start us off. Such a nice presentation. On the left are egg shells filled with a very creamy, very cheesy custard. The orange dots are “smoked butter”. It was great. The one on the right has two potato bread balls with a house cured slice of venison. Pleasantly tangy.

We ordered and the antipasti arrived. I just got shots of Luther and my dishes. He got what translated as tuna of rabbit. It was beautiful and the vegetables with it were the star, and Luther never raves about vegetables. Mine was puréed smoked cauliflower with a cream on top. Porcini mushrooms and cauliflower and crunchy brined almonds. I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever had. I should say, the veggies come from there, the game is wild from the property. They actual forage for some of the vegetables in the forest and fields around there.

We all chose a secondi. I ordered the venison, Gary and Luther got the lamb and Susan got the pigeon. All were superb but my venison was the star. It had a wild herb pesto with it and a foraged green.

Hungry yet? 😁 Our wine was about perfect. Lungarotti Rubesco can’t be beat.

The portions were perfect for us and we had room for dessert. They had four different ones. We got one of each and shared. Mine was honey, whipped cream and honey gelato. Luther had Mont Blanc which was pie-like. There was also a pear one, and a chocolate one.

Finally, a goodbye gift. A chocolate cookie with a dab of coffee cream, and a chip with a Campari reduction. That Campari had a real bite.

It was a very wonderful lunch. Our friends, Susan and Gary and Luther and I have always enjoyed a new restaurant to try. This one was especially liked because we are just getting to exercise our freedoms and it was such a surprise. A real FIND as we are fond of saying. We will go back. And it is a great place for us to bring guests, if ever we get them again!

Arrivederci and have a great Sunday!

Beautiful day for lunch outside!

Of course, outside is our only choice right now but that set to change next week I think. We had originally been going with another couple but turns out they got their vaccination appointments right at the time of our lunch so they had to cancel. It had been so long since we had been to l’Alchemista we decided to just change our reservation to two and still go.

A gorgeous day today too. Sunny and highs of 28C or 82F. Montefalco is a hill town about fifty minutes from us set in the famous Sagrantino wine region. It is also known for it’s high quality olive oil. Here are some pictures along the drive taken from the car so not the best. I have always thought this is the prettiest part of Umbria.

We reached the hill town and I took a picture from just outside the walls. The big, round mountain is Monte Subasio. The pilgrimage town of Assisi is on the left of the picture on the mountain side. The plain has the town of Cannara, famous for its onions. Back in Roman times it was a lake.

We were greeted like long lost friends and seated on the outside dining terrace. It is in the main square and has spread out to about double its previous size. It was so nice to see all the happy faces, not just of the diners but even the wait staff seemed happy. It has been a long dry spell of them so I’m sure they are pleased to be back.

We had their delicious olive oil, brilliant green, and their homemade bread while we chose our food. They brought us a gift from the chef which was delicious. A small scoop of cheese and cream whipped almost to a custard with a drop of blood red pepper jelly and a crispy fried piece of faro. Sorry, I got carried away and took a taste before I thought to photo it.

My meal started with La Stracciata, scrambled eggs with truffles. Light and tasty. Then I chose the hamburgher, as they spelled it. It was nothing like a regular hamburger. They described it as “gourmet, knife cut, beef hamburger on guacamole, carmelized red onions, crunchy bacon, and ‘Brancaleone’ cheese from Norcia”. It was very good. Pictures…

And to see the inside…

Excellent Montefalco Sagrantino.

It was a lovely lunch on a lovely day. And it was a real pleasure to do a little road trip out of our area.
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Enjoy your holiday everyone. Let’s hope the summer stays safe and we can all have some fun.

Best laid plans…

I just re-read my last post. Nothing worked as planned…no surprise!

First, the day we planned to go to the new Asian market happened to be the day the Giro d’Italia was in Perugia. Streets closed. Public transport closed. Traffic nightmares. So we decided against that trip for now!

Lunch Saturday also called off. The restaurant is fully booked both Saturday and Sunday. All the restaurants are very busy since they’ve been allowed to reopen. The main issue is the limited number of outside tables. Now we have to regroup. It looks like we will need to plan a little farther ahead.

Due to some great tips and recommendations from one of my blog readers (thanks Matt!), our trip for our anniversary has moved from our original destination up the coast to a town called Sestri Levante. It sits between Genoa and the Cinque Terre along the coast. We have been a couple of times to the Cinque Terre but never have we explored the coast north of there. The town of Portofino is just near Sestri and I’ve always wanted to see it. We also want to visit Rapallo and S. Margherta Ligure. I am told they are nice villages. And then, possibly we will take the train into Genoa. I want to have some downtime too. So we will see.

Buona serata a tutti!

Where is May!!?

I’m getting tired of this cold wet weather. May is usually so reliably nice. But not this year. Last weekend up to Monday was nice. Then the cold damp came roaring back for the rest of the week.

Big news! Finally. After almost two weeks. We managed to get into our garage! Whoo hoo! Things always take longer that you expect here in Italia…one gets used to it… Now we can take the Angelo Giallo out for a spin. (Note to self…get a second door key)

We still aren’t doing very much interesting so I’ve not been writing too much lately. We did go out to nice dinner with friends at San Giorgio this week. It was fun and good to get to know our new friends. I had Bottoni…a pasta dish. Means buttons. 🙂 descriptive as are so many pasta names.

While I was waiting to pick up my Tikka masala on Takeaway Thursday. I took this pretty shot of the Lido – the park by the river. Once it actually had cabanas and people went there to go swimming, go dancing and sun bathe.

This is now….

This was then… so very different from now. Dancing and partying. You can find this same vibe today along Lago Trasimeno. In summertime it is disco dancing and partying non-stop. Lots of Italian tourists. Nowadays you will see women…I note there are none in these pictures except the dancers.

1939 cabanas in the Lido
1934 Pommerigio festivo alla piattaforma
1934 when the Tiber was clean…It is not dirty now…but I suspect there was a time when it was…

Today, the Saturday Market. I picked up some coriander plants at the Books For Dogs/Libri per i Cani special plant sale. Then we met some good friends at Bar Mary for drinks. They just arrived home from the US this week. They have a home in Montone and are residents of Italy so can come here with no problem. We were interested to hear their experiences for their trip home. They said many people trying to travel without citizenship, residence or an acceptable, essential reason were turned away by the airline in the US.

This man, nicely dressed with his “man purse”, on his bicycle had a 3 liter container of vin sfuso from the wine booth. Looked like a nice rosato. You can just see it in his left hand. Wish I’d gotten a better view! It was classic!

Italiano phrase for today. “Ho messo in ordine tutti i libri” — in English — “I tidied up all the books”. Pronounced…oh mays-so in or-dee-nay toot-tea ee lee-brie.
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Get vaccinated everyone, if you can. Here in Italy it is slow…but in the US everyone now is eligible — so please, do it for the greater good…and thank you 🌈!

Lovely first lunch out with friends

Well, today was our first foray out of our house with friends to actually eat at a RESTAURANT!! We went with friends to Calagrana who have a new menu and have their outside terraces open. It wasn’t really warm, but it was warm enough and it didn’t rain. I count that as a good day. Here are pictures of my food. I’m sure you’ve all missed seeing these 😁 ha ha!

First I had Chef Alberto’s tartar…it was piquant and perfect. This was a new dish.

Next I went with the cappelli di preti or priest’s hats. Bi-color pasta filled with goat cheese and ricotta in a butter sage sauce. Mmmm.

My dessert…

It was a good day. Piano, piano we slowly move forward… Stay safe everyone 🌈

Umbrian Pecorino Cheese

So, I got that wrong. As of Monday, we can travel to any yellow region. Doesn’t have to abut. The only orange regions (off limits) are Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, and Val d’Osta. And poor old Sardinia. What did they do wrong? They were the only region to be Bianca, just a few weeks ago. Now, they are the only Red Zone. It’s just hard to understand how this virus works.

I was out at the market this morning. Beautiful sunshine. Everyone is in a jubilant mood anticipating next week. I ran into many friends. Everyone is looking forward to aperitivo on the Piazza next week. Let’s hope for nice weather. 🤞 Also, we will be going out to lunch on Thursday and Sunday, next. Indescribably excited.
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Pecorino DOP
I was talking to an American friend who lives in the US recently. She talked about making something in which I had used Pecorino cheese. She said she would get a different type of cheese for her version.. This made me remember that Pecorino in the US is generally one type of cheese….Pecorino. That is definitely not the case in Umbria.

Today, I bought a few of the different types of pecorino cheese to showcase here in the blog. Umbria is known for Pecorino, and pretty much ONLY Pecorino. It is ewe’s milk cheese and is slightly sour. But this gives it a bit of depth in comparison to cows milk cheeses. It is also made in uncountable ways. What we lack in variety in the type of cheese, we gain in the many ways the cheeses are made, flavored and aged. I decided today to just concentrate on the non-flavored cheeses. But there are truffled varieties, varieties aged in hay, in ashes, with pepper, etc. Next time I’ll talk about those.

Pecorino is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses, and over the centuries there have been very few changes in the way it is made. Over the course of 2000 years, cheesemaking traditions and techniques have been handed down orally.

The methods used to curdle the milk, break the curd, press, drain, scald and salt the cheese vary, depending on the type of Pecorino being produced. The best Pecorino is made between May and June, using the milk from sheep grazing on spring pastures. Pecorino can be either mild or aged. The mild variety should be consumed shortly after it is made, while the second is aged in a cool, fresh cellar with low ventilation, so that it matures fully.

Pecorino fresco is good in salads, and is perfect with a toasted Umbrian bread topped with extra virgin olive oil. The aged and semi aged cheese also pair well with Umbrian cured meats, and they go well with honey, and of course, with Umbrian wines.

Here are the few types I bought. They go from Pecorino Fresca (fresh), to semi stagionato (semi soft), semi-dura (aged and hard), and dura (aged longer and it is very hard). I think the cheese monger thought I was nuts although I did explain to her I was writing a blog about Pecorino. She was happy to sell it to me. And now we have tons of cheese to eat! 😐

Fresca. You can see the liquid it releases. It’s good in salads and with toasted bruschetta.
Semistagionato. Good eating cheese, firm and soft.
Semi-dura. Semi hard. Aged 8 months
Dura and aged 18 months.
Aged 2 years. Good for eating and grating.

Italiano phrase, “Dopo pranzo è tempo di fare un pisolino” In English, “After lunch it’s time for a nap”. Dope-oh prahn-zo A tem-po dee fah-ray un piss-oh-lean-oh. I like the word pisolino 🙂
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Stay safe all! 🌈

Vaccine appointments

Yesterday we got the call from our medico di base. She has vaccines and we have an appointment on Tuesday to get our shots. We are happy. It is good news. If we get AstraZenica, as we assume we will, we will get the second shot in July sometime. They say the efficacy is a lot higher if you wait.

On Monday we go to Zona Gialla. Zone Yellow. This is the BEST news. We will be able to travel to places in our region and even to adjacent regions that are Yellow. So we could go to Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Le Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio. 😁 💕 What freedom. The ristorante and the Bars are also opening for sit down outside drinks and meals. How exciting for them. It’s been very hard on these businesses. I was out yesterday, and the chef at San Giorgio, the restaurant across the Piazza from us, was outside cleaning his tables in anticipation. I was excited for them and asked if they’d be open next week. And yes! They will be, for Pranzo. It is the best place in town. It warms my heart to see Cafe Centrale out spiffing up the outside space, and Bar Mary too. It will feel like the old Umbertide again 💕. Spritzes on the Piazza…wow.

Beautiful weather today. Just perfect. Pastel blue sky, bright green wheat, the trees with varying blushes of tiny spring leaves. The birds flitting about. I saw our resident Hoopoe or Upupa on our terrace today. Big beautiful bird.

Dinner last night was from the little group who do “takeaway Thursday”. They offer two menus. One, more traditional Italian or continental. The other, more exotic. This week we got one of each. Luther got the French one. I got the Thai one. Very yummy. I walk across the bridge over the Tiber to pick-up at 6pm. Half of Umbertide seems to be over there getting dinner! Here is a picture of my dolce. Peanut butter cups with spicy bits on top…to be honest, I ordered my meal just to get these. 😁 There were three…

Next chore is to put together our packet for the Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (ex carta di soggiorno) – elective residence. We finally have gotten everything we need to apply. And it is quite the list, let me tell you. I will be working on this today and tomorrow and I hope to have it all ready to submit on Monday.
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Italiano phrase for today. “ho pranzato, ora è tempo di fare un pisolino” In English “I had lunch, now it is time for a nap”. Pronounced….oh pranz-ahto, or-ah aa tem-po dee fah-ray une peese-oh-lean-oh. Pisolino is a favorite word…a nap!
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Stay safe everyone. Un buon fine settimana! 🌈