Just here in our main piazza is a splendid restaurant, Ristorante San Giorgio. Elegant. The food is the best in town. We have been eating there since before we moved to Umbertide. They always begin with a plate of ”gifts” from the chef. When we go the food is always excellent.
But, we have not been since last year. Why? you may ask…since it is so good…do you not go more often? It is because they don’t change their menu — EVER. They do not have seasonal menus. They never have a special. The gifts from the chef never vary. They even got a brand new chef when they reopened after Covid. I was excited to see what changes she would make. Well, exactly none. I suppose the owner must think if you’ve got a good thing then don’t mess with it. It is Michelin rated bib-gourmand.
To me, half the fun of eating out is seeing and trying the new and seasonal things the chef has created. It keeps me coming back. I would become really bored if I cooked there. Since it has been a year, at least, since we went, I think we will go back soon. And if you ever visit Umbertide, do give it a try. It is a special restaurant for sure, if you don’t eat there too often. You must reserve, and it is open for lunch and dinner and it is closed Tuesdays. Here’s San Giorgio at night, across from our apartment. Romantic!
What a beautiful day. We are in a lull in our summer heat. We are totally enjoying it! Last night we had thunderstorms in the wee hours and nice rain. I woke to very cool temperatures — 61 F. And fog hanging in the valley. Refreshing. Here is a picture of the super moon rising over our Piazza.
Yesterday we took a trip down to Etrusco, our favorite butcher. We don’t get there often so we buy a lot when we go. We bought a beautiful Tomahawk steak, two fillet mignons, a flank and a skirt steak (I think? I am never sure), two tomahawk pork chops, sausages and hamburgers. He brought out big tubs of shrink-wrapped meat for us to see. For each piece of meat I bought, the butcher went to great lengths to tell me how to cook it. Mostly it involved holding the fatty edge on a hot griddle or pan and letting the fat sizzle and melt. Then cook one and a half minutes on each side in the rendered fat. He also was super proud of his lamb. I am excited to try it because he explained the lambs were two years old and castrato. This is a lot older than most “Lambs”. Perhaps it is the castrated part…I don’t know. He again told me how to cook it, even to giving me a big piece of fat to use. I know this butcher well. He only sources from local farms and knows that they were raised humanely, and treated well during their life. I prefer to buy meat like this. He wished a buon Ferragosto! Happy feasting.
The Saturday market was abuzz with activity. It’s high summer now and the produce is abundant. I probably got a little carried away. I bought a ton more of the wonderful tomatoes, green beans, baby zucchini, arugula (super bitter to go with the steak tonight), sweet new red onions, a pepper, friggatelli, eggplants and a melon. I visited Angelo to buy prosciutto crudo to go with the melon. A feast for a festa! This picture is only some of the bounty! I love our local market and am really happy I will still be able to walk to it from our new apartment. Not many towns have a market like this. I feel blessed.
I will take a picture of my dinner tonight if I remember. Here is a picture I took of my Rocky-cat helping me out while I am preparing dinner. I am constantly stepping over him or around him. He is very helpful!
Finally, an unbelievably beautiful sunset a couple of days ago.
To get you in the mood, here are couple of beach scenes from a previous trip to Senigallia, a seaside town in the Marche on the Adriatic. This is what the seaside looks like here. Nearly all of the Adriatic beaches get the ”blue flag” designation because they are so pristine and clean.
Italy is pretty fanatical about the August vacation month which revolves around Ferragosto, August 15th — a one day holiday that somehow justifies the closing down of Italy for the whole month. I know a number of people who plan trips to Italy to look at houses only to find all the realtor offices closed. We learned early on that one should never plan to get anything done in August in Italy.
When we moved here, we arrived at the end of June. We were just beginning our renovations on our apartment. We rushed to get plans in place and pay a visit to the kitchen manufacturer before the end of July so we could place our order. It actually made no difference because, although we ”placed” our order, the factory still shut down August 1 for the month!
Most Italian families will be going on vacations of two to three weeks because their workplaces — both public and private — close. Even hospitals and clinics close or are on skeleton staffing. The whole country takes a break. It is unimaginable to foreign visitors.
Ferragosto is untouchable here. It centers around August 15, but the whole month is considered a holiday. If Italians don’t somehow celebrate Ferragosto, they are bereft. Even if they are broke, and renting an umbrella is expensive, they go. Italians may be having hard economic times. But as I have said before, Italians have extended families. Over the years properties are passed down and inherited. It seems all Italians either own, or they have the use of, multiple houses. Including beach houses. This makes a getaway affordable. Also, if they are short on cash, nonno and nonna are always happy to help out with funds. Families, after all, are everything here.
The actual day designated Ferragosto, August 15, is a time for big meals on the beach under umbrellas and canopies, with family and friends.
For some history — Ferragosto is an old custom. It goes back to the ancient Romans, to Emperor Augustus Octavian who made it a celebration in the first century. It is named after Augustus – Feriae Augusti, meaning ‘Augustus’ rest’. Of course the reasons for the holiday were different back then when they celebrated harvests and pagan gods of fertility and well-being. They decided to stretch the holiday to before and after the day so August is the month of vacation and celebration. Everyone joined in, no matter their class.
Of course, when Christianity came along, Ferragosto couldn’t be the pagan festival it once was, but like Christmas it was incorporated and became Assumption day.
Starting in a day or two, all the cities will empty out. When tourists come they will see the ubiquitous signs on the doors of bakeries, shops and restaurants…‘chiuso per ferie (closed for holiday). Rome will be empty. It will be populated by non-Italians and the few poor souls who keep the hotels open.
Ferragosto is something that will always be celebrated no matter how! Buon Ferragosto a tutti! ~~~~~ Partially adapted from The Local.
I am sure some of you wine lovers will recognize the name Heitz. Back in the US we drank good California wine and Heitz was a well known producer. I read an article recently, published by Wine Spectator about the couple who had sold up in California and relocated here to Umbria…to make wine, of course! They purchased their property of about 50 acres… but only just over two of them were planted in vines.
Today Rollie and Sally Heitz were kind enough to allow us to visit them and try their first vintage. We tried four. Starting with a lovely Rose. I am a big Rose fan, especially in the summer. And it was the perfect summer wine! Crisp and dry.
Then we tried a Sangiovese, a Cabernet, and a Merlot. Sally provided a plate of tasty things to eat during the tasting. We very much enjoyed the wines. My favorites were the Rose and the Sangiovese, which was soft and round and lovely. They told Luther their production for the 2019 vintage (their first) was 12,000 bottles. Pretty good for just one hectare.
Our conversation was far ranging but centered around our mutual love of Umbria and our separate relocations from the US. And wine of course! I hope they come up to visit us in the far north when they can get away. Right now, understandably they are busy getting their new business on its way. We stopped to admire their view of Todi.
It was really broiling out. We tried to put the top down but it was just too hot. On the scenic route back home I snapped a couple photos. Near Bevagna and Montefalco.
Despite the intense heat the fishing contest on the Tiber in Umbertide went on as scheduled. These people were out in this heat for hours! At least they had their umbrellas.
Big news! We got a call from the immobiliare that he had a response to our offer. We walked over (it is in walking distance). To our surprise, the selling couple, were in the office. I don’t think I have ever met the seller of a property we bought in the US. The first you see of them is when you go to closing. Walter and Marcella. They are super nice folks. And cat lovers!
Anyway, they agreed on the price we offered. The only changes they asked for, were for closing to be two months later and that they keep the big wood stove. That was fine with us and I know the buyers of our apartment are OK with us staying after we close. This will give us the money from the sale here to use on the apartment. I was a bit sad about the wood stove. I guess we will have to buy a new one.
It is a relief. But we still have the move ahead of us! This is uncharted territory, a move! A moving company! And I will definitely want to do some work. I have already decided I want a new kitchen upstairs. There is an itty bitty one in the same place where I’d put the new one so the water and all is there already. It will be open plan to the family room. But I guess I have to wait until we get there to get started. Otherwise I think I will want to have it painted, probably.
Anyway, I wanted to tell all those who read this journal. We now have a hiatus. We remain in our beloved house in Centro through two more seasons. I will enjoy another Christmas here. I will enjoy another Autumn. And then, it will be time for change!
We went out for Campari Spritzes. It was cooler (yay) and we wanted to check out the scene. Irene was working her shift at Bar Mary. She is so sweet. Today is Angelo’s birthday… We made a point to stop in his shop to wish him a buon compleanno.
We chose a table. The passeggiato was under way. Plenty of people watching. I said to Luther that the tables at Bar Mary really feel like an extension of our living room. It is an odd feeling but it is apt. We walk out our door. Ten steps, order our drinks and enjoy the evening with all the cittadine of Umbertide. The fashion show is interesting. I can’t say Umbertide is the fashion capital of Italy! Some very strange outfits were on display.
Tonights band was setting up. Sound checks. Drummer testing his sticks. Singer (if you can call him that) stretching his vocal cords. Here is a short clip.
Later — Right now I am listening to the band in our living room. The window is open. I could close it and not hear it, but, well, it’s fun to listen. They play all Italian music. I have gotten used to it. To be honest, it has no real beat, you can’t dance to it, the singers emote big time. It is Italian. What can I say?!
We will definitely miss this scene right outside our door. The good news is, if we get our offer accepted on the new house it is only a ten minute walk away. No, not quite the same…sadly, but we can still borrow the ”living room”.
Amazing weather the last few days. Blessed rain! We have enjoyed it. So have the flowers, crops, animals and birds. It cools things off but it also humidifies things. We had a misty morning with clouds hanging low over the fields.
We have finished looking at the houses we found that were in any way suitable. We have tried new cities. We have pondered. This house will likely be our last house. We are looking at the long term suitability. And, wonder of wonders, we both seem to have decided that Umbertide is our town. For better or for worse. We like the size, we know the ropes, we have friends here. So we gave it one more try to find places in Umbertide to see. Alas, to no avail. We have decided to make an offer on the first apartment we saw. After all that it seems to suit us. It is not perfect. But I can make it my own. A new challenge. If…and only if…we can negotiate a sale. Stay tuned…
Off we went to meet our agent Martine who helped facilitate the showings today. The other agent involved was Simona. Foligno is a sweet city. Super lively. Tons of restaurants and bars. Picture of just one small street across from where we parked.
We were seeing three properties today. The first one a magnificent Palazzo. The top two floors plus roof terrace. It was incredible but sadly, not for us. I really enjoyed seeing it though. The owners renovated it keeping many old things but it is in a modern style. I had seen the floor plan before we went and it was …odd. Here are pictures.
But just LOOK at these views!
Floor plan. Note the odd curvy bit. It is the hallway which goes between the baths and the bedrooms.
I neglected to take pictures of the industrial kitchen. Truly a restaurant kitchen. Suitable for catering. Also I did not take pictures of the stairs. There was a lift to the bottom of three floors. If I wanted to stay all the time on that floor it wouldn’t be bad. But the top two floors were pretty amazing with terraces and views. The stairs were stone and twisting. For the long view, this one wouldn’t work. It was right in the middle of the action in town. It had two secure parking places.
Onward to the second apartment. It is owned by a famous football player…thats soccer to Americans. It was on a super busy highway with a LOT of road noise. That pretty much nixed it for me. It did have a nice open plan kitchen — really unusual for Italians (see below)….which was not included in the house. Italians take their kitchens with them. If you are buying a house in Europe always be sure to specify what stays in the house. It is common in all of Europe for people to take kitchens (to include sink, appliances, cabinets and counter), and light fixtures and any appliances. This apartment was just outside the Centro and walking distance to the train station. Also just across from the Army base.
Moving on to number three. It was further away from the Centro. In a residential neighborhood. It was quiet with lovely views. There were three terraces. There was nothing commercial nearby. Our agent said there was a bakery not far. The building with twelve apartments was nicely kept. The finishes were good. The apartment was spacious. The kitchen, in typical unfathomable Italian fashion was minuscule and closed off from the house. For people who love to eat they are incredibly weird about their kitchens. It is not the heart of the house as we, Americans like. They are tiny and hidden and there is always a door so you can enclose the cooking smells, which are somehow offensive. They also ALWAYS have a zone di notte…night zone…they are incredibly anal about the sleeping quarters being closed, literally by a door, from the living area. Ostensibly to keep those offensive smells out of the bedrooms. It is Italy. It is what they do. 🤷♀️ 🙄
Finito for today. I have to admit I am discouraged. Both Luther and I are wanting to stay in Umbertide. But there is just very little here that works for us. We plan to visit a realtor tomorrow or Wednesday to see about the new apartments near us. We aren’t sure if they are all sold. There is also a big house Luther likes. It seems a little TOO big for me with a yard and grass…I am not into yard work. Gardening, yes, mowing lawns, weeding and edging — no. Anyway. The beat goes on…
The weekend was REALLY hot. We made it through it. Sunday dinner was a salad medley. I bought borlotti beans yesterday at the market and cooked them this morning while it was still cool. I also cook hard boiled eggs in the morning. Always good for protein. I bought a sweet cantaloupe which are just coming into season. Luther had gotten prosciutto crudo to put with it. I got some mozzarella, and of COURSE tons of tomatoes. That was our dinner. All cool and delicious. Perfect on a hot summer night!
Thats 102.2 in Fahrenheit. We are hunkered down. To make it worse there are fires. Most in Umbria are small (so far) but there are big ones in Tuscany, Lazio, and Trieste. The ones in Tuscany are said to be arson. I don’t get why someone would do that! It has made it so hazy you can’t see very far. Yesterday when we were driving back from Spoleto the mountains were just shadows.
Tonight we had a salad for dinner. I cooked the eggs, beans and potatoes in the morning while it was relatively cool. It was a perfect dinner. New potatoes, amazing tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, pickled onion (a new thing I tried), hard boiled eggs, avocado, olives and feta cheese. To finish it was drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sherry vinegar and torn basil leaves from my plants. My idea of a perfect summer dinner.
We eat outside and then stay out and watch a movie. Once the sun sets it starts to cool. Every evening massive flocks of rooks fly over us to roost for the night like clockwork at nine pm.
I hope everyone is staying cool. We have no plans for the upcoming weekend, other than the Saturday market. Ciao for now!