I made a new soup which I adapted somewhat from a Washington Post recipe called Caccio e Pepe soup with chickpeas and kale. It was delicious. It was modeled after the pasta dish Caccio e Pepe which is one of the easiest pastas to make, just pasta, parmesan or pecorino cheese and black pepper. Comfort food. This soup was quite rich and very warming.
We also had a really fun, and filling(!) pizza night with Jane and Christie at Degusto. They have two types of crust. One is integrale or whole grain. Pictures of two.
Yesterday was a big day. Since we had managed to open our recalcitrant second garage we could order pellets and wood. In this new house I guess these are the benefits. No way we could store this much in the old apartment and we have this basement garage storage area which has easy access to the elevator. Much easier for us to shift these things here.
So, that’s done and dusted! Of course there is the sinus issue still looming. The dentist had to remove an old crown (with difficulty) and tested the tooth which is viable so they say it can’t be the problem. So next is a pre-op testing regime and I guess I’ll find out about a date for the procedure. I don’t look forward to that but I will look forward to feeling better, for sure!
This weekend is the festival of San Martino. One of my favorites!
It is agosto, August, time stops here. I read some complaints on Facebook expat groups about the fact you can’t get anything done now because everyone is on vacation. You might be surprised, but really everything does stop. Go to your bank. There are no tellers. All construction stops. Factories close. Everyone is at the beach or in the mountains. My comment to the complainer, who said Italy can’t progress because of this stupid August thing, was to say, Viva la difference. Although it can and is frustrating to live in a culture so unlike the culture in the US. The very nature of the inconveniences make Italy, Italy. I didn’t move here for convenience and US sameness. I moved here precisely for the differences. For 45 years I worked in the “progressive” USA and fought for a work/life balance. Who is to say the crazy work, work ethic of the US is better?
On a lighter note, I walked to and from the Wednesday market and I grabbed a couple shots of this newly created “garden(?)”. I was amused. Snow White and her dwarves, fake grass, fake water lilies! Who says the Italians can’t be tacky? 🤣😂😅
I forgot to mention that we learned a little more about our apartment. Paolo, our cabinet maker, seems to be fascinated with this apartment. He was surprised, as so many are, to find a place like this in this area and in this building. Unexpected I guess.
Anyway, he must have mentioned it to other people and in the process he learned the original owner was a strange one. He had a storefront but did no business, his money sources were not known and he seemed to have no visible means of support. This means one thing to me. And you can probably guess what that is. He ended up bankrupt and this apartment went up for auction. The people we bought from were it’s second owners. I assume they got it for cheap. The original owner is no longer living. It is always interesting to learn about your house.
Again I made pesto. I wish you were here, I would give you some!
The title of this post is the name of Italy’s famous flying team. It means the tri-colored arrows — tri-colored for the colors of the Italian flag. It is recognized as one of the best aerobatic air patrols internationally. They fly Aermacchi MB-339 single-engine, two-seat advanced training and light tactical support jets. There are ten jets, nine fly in formation and there is a single outlier. We were thrilled here in Umbria to be paid a visit by this famous team. They headquartered at the Assisi airport for the week, flying practice runs over the countryside and doing two air shows, one in Perugia and the other in Foligno.
I should also mention, in the time since we moved here the Perugia/Assisi airport has really grown. There used to be only 3 or 4 flights a week but now we can fly from there all over Europe. And it is so easy to use. Twenty minutes south of us with easy parking and only 2 gates. It makes air travel fun again! ~~~~~~~~ Last week Paolo, our cabinetmaker, finally finished the work. His last thing was a built in cabinet with shelves into an odd triangular shaped space in the main hallway. When we moved in it was empty with no molding so I assume something was built in and removed by the seller. There was also an ugly spot on the wall that had been hidden. Our painter, Luca, fixed this when he painted but the space cried out for something to fill it.
Here is the finished cabinet. I think it looks nice. I will find something else to put on the empty shelf. And we will use the cabinet below to store the bags of pellets in the wintertime. Good place to hide them.
Lunch today was a panino. We had gotten a sample of flooring for our new kitchen and had to return it today. On the way home we picked up some nice prosciutto, both cotto (cooked) and crudo (cured). Prosciutto is just the word for ham here. I also bought a delicious ciabatta bread. Did you know that meant slippers? It is for its shape. The bread is chewy and really tasty unlike much Umbrian bread.
The weather today must be one of the top ten days ever on this beautiful earth! Cool breezy, sunny, puffy clouds, crystal clear air. Simply amazing. View from terrace at Calagrana. Am I right? Is it not perfect?
We joined four friends from Canada. One old friend and three new ones. Our friend Karen comes every summer and rents in Tuscany but not terribly far from here. They were blown away by the beauty of the restaurant and it was perfect as always. I loved my starter. In fact four of us got this. It sounded so good. Grilled peaches on a tomato bed with prosciutto.
Next will be some of our pastas. One a tagliolini in a creamy sauce with truffles, the other Fishioni (a type of pasta) with sausage ragù, arugula and pecorino cheese. So good!
The dining terrazzo full of happy diners.
Great seeing friends and sharing a delicious meal. Buona domenica a tutti!
The heat has finally hit. It could, and probably will, get hotter but this is hot enough for me! In July Umbertide is really jumping. Jumping as much as it ever will. All the people with holiday homes in the hills around here are back. And all the people who rent rooms, villas and apartments are here too. The bars, markets and restaurants are full. Supermarket parking lots have a plethora of license plates from all over Europe. On certain days it’s like grand central station when the weekly rentals change over and everyone new is buying groceries.
It’s really no wonder that so many people come. Although Umbria is not famous like our next door neighbor, Tuscany, it is just as beautiful. It is quieter with less tourists, an oasis of Italian food, wine and beauty. This picture was taken on a farm just outside the Umbertide city walls. The girasole, sunflowers, are a big crop here for their oil, but also a big part of our July landscape. 🌻
Here are a few terrazzo pictures. First one is of our fish, Qua and Quo, who are increasingly more friendly because they know where the food comes from. The rest are garden pictures and the new rug. Captions below the pics. As always click for larger versions
I sat outside all day yesterday. There was a lovely breeze. I just need to get Pino, the electrician, back for some outlets and lighting outside. Oh and to fix the lights that don’t work. ~~~~~~ All y’all stay cool!
Sunday we finally managed to go to the Infiorata in Spello, a small hill town not far from Assisi. A religious ceremony – Corpus Domini – which is celebrated the ninth Sunday after Easter each year by many towns with flower carpets on the streets. But Spello goes all out for this religious holiday. It draws thousands of visitors each year, to see the flower carpets. All up and down the streets are amazing, religious themed, creations made out of mostly flower petals, but also other organic and plant material.
About one quarter of the population of 8,000 volunteers in some way to help make this event happen. It is a huge undertaking because there are busload after busload of people coming. And parking lots in fields for the thousands of cars. All of this must be managed and coordinated. Then there is the art itself. The people in the town spend weeks plucking petals from flowers and gathering wild flowers for the creations. It works essentially like the old paint by number paintings. The designers create the designs. I am sure this is another whole layer of work unseen by most which must take months to finalize for each creation. They use chalk to draw the designs on the pavement under tents erected to protect the workers and the flower petals from the elements. The workers work all night making the creations. All the bars and restaurants stay open all night. They are supposed to be finished by 8am but some were still working when we got there at 8:30.
This is an example of the tents that cover these while they are created. As you can see the framework is just being dismantled and the workers are still hard at it after an all-nighter.
I tried to get a picture of the design which was posted next to each creation so you can see what it would look like had I gotten overhead. Luther says next year we should have a drone! This is the design of the one above.
Some of the raw materials used in the creations. I wonder how many flowers they go through!
This board had the petals and the corresponding numbers. And they even included the name of the flower they came from. As I said, paint by the numbers!
I think there are 60-70 of these carpets and I did take a lot of pictures. I hope you enjoy them. There will be less to read…but more to see! I will caption them where needed.
The under 14 year olds had a few entries. I should mention that these are all judged and prizes (plaques) are awarded in different categories.
This next design, followed by the creation was my favorite. Entitled The Choice. I liked it for the design and especially the creative use of artichokes in the dragon detail.
The next four are another example of the use of different plant materials in the designs.
We finally made it to the top!
And now for a few pictures from around town. They not only do awards for the carpets they also judge the flowers that residents grow and decorate their windows, doors, balconies.
The crowd. The streets of Spello are narrow. Add the carpets that you can’t walk on, and the 100,000 or so visitors and you’ve got…well…a mob scene. 😳 And it was very warm, nearly hot.
There was a holy Mass at 10am and then the procession began. This is where I wanted to cry. They walk right on and over the creations. Then the faithful who are following the holy procession do too. The beautiful carpets of flowers that took thousands and thousands of hours of work only live for a few hours. Then they are gone. But I remembered, it is not about the flowers or the art. It is about Corpus Domeni.
As you can see we had a birds eye view of the procession. Thanks to our friends Steve and Roselyne who invited us to their apartment to recover. They own this apartment right on the Main Street with a nice balcony so we got a good view.
I hope you enjoyed this photo essay of one of the iconic fests in Umbria.
Our old friends sold their apartment in the Piazza to what are now our new friends. They are here for their first (short) stay. They are trying to equip the place with the necessities of living there. The furniture was part of the sale but much else must be bought.
We met them and we all went to lunch in Montone, our nearby hill town. We ate in Antica Osteria in the main square. Seems it may be under different ownership but we all enjoyed our lunch. They enjoyed visiting Montone, a town they had not yet seen. Here we are!
Today I finally finished unpacking the last boxes from the move. They were dishes I have no space for, and summer clothes which we didn’t need so I didn’t feel a big need to unpack! But I felt it was time. ~~~~~
We have a mourning dove nesting on our terrace. She doesn’t seem to mind us being out and about. My only worry is that we have engaged a carpenter to replace some old wood on the big canopy over the terrace. I want to warn him away from her nest. He won’t be here for a couple weeks but I don’t think her eggs have hatched yet. ~~~~~~ Today we got our sofa for upstairs, inside. I think it makes the space look much more inviting and lived-in. Homey. Next a rug.
Finally, tonight we went out for pizza with our friends and their guests. We went to Degusto. Very near our house. And just next to the public swimming pool. They have an excellent crust. It looks dense but it is, in fact, light as air. Here are some drool worthy pictures. 🙂
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. 😉
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.
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.