Lago Trasimeno

I love our big lake called Lago Trasimeno. It is the biggest lake on the peninsula, with a surface area of 49.4 sq miles, it is just slightly smaller than Lake Como. The lake’s water quality is very good. This is because of the small population living in its watershed, and a lack of large farms in the area. Trasimeno is shallow, muddy, and rich in fish, including pike, carp, and tench. During the last 10 years it has been 5 meters deep, on average. It has no outlets and only two minor streams feeding it. It is mostly reliant on rainfall, and fluctuates in depth because of that.

There are three islands in the lake — Isola Polvese, the largest — Isola Maggiore, the only island with year round residents (population 35) — and Isola Minore, a private island which once had a town with a population of 500. It was abandoned due to malaria.

Isola Polvese just off the coast of San Feliciano

I’ve always been fascinated with the fishing culture and history of the lake. Fishing is done only with nets, and many of the families on the lake have been fishing for generations. A fisherman’s life on this lake depends on the catch. If the morning catch is plentiful, they will sell their fish to the co-operative. Then they will clean their nets and go out again the next morning. If the morning catch is small, they will often go back out in the afternoon to try again.

Photo credit Cooperative Pescatore del Trasimeno

The inhabitants of the communes around Trasimeno and the Umbrian people have successfully protected their lake, whose waters are fit for swimming and whose surrounding valleys and islands are protected. In 1995 a natural park was established over the entire surface and the shores. A 50 km (31 mile) bicycle path was opened in 2003 around the lake that allows tourists to explore. There are also cross-country paths, especially over the hills on the eastern side. Inside these limits no motorized boats are allowed. They limit the length to 9 meters at the waterline, and they can be propelled only by oars or sails. This keeps loud, disruptive jet skis and motor boats away. For this reason Trasimeno is calm and beautiful. Perfect for enjoying nature and meditation.

The Trasimeno Fishermen Cooperative located in San Feliciano, was established on 23 September 1928 with the aim of improving the economic conditions and quality of life of the fishermen.

Photo credit Graham Hoffman

It is made up of a workforce of at least fifty people, it defines itself as the guardian of the natural environment of Lake Trasimeno; a fragile ecosystem in which the fishers live in harmony with their catch, protecting their balance through fully sustainable fishing.

Photo credit Cooperative Pescatore del Trasimeno

The Trasimeno Fishermen Cooperative has seen, in the last decade, an important generational change, which has reduced the average age of the fishermen from 75 to 40 years. This means the traditions will continue and prosper. It is one of the many things that I love about Umbria…Here, the traditions live on.

The Cooperative is helping preserve the profession of lake fishermen. The younger workers contribute to the income of the Cooperative by giving the fish to the Cooperative’s warehouse on a daily basis, guaranteeing the supply of fish, which is processed for the purposes of storage and distribution of the fresh and frozen lake fish to operators in the tourism-hospitality industry, and to individuals, in the two distribution points in San Feliciano and Sant’Arcangelo.

The Cooperative also offers fishing tourism activities: for instance, excursions on Lake Trasimeno — fishing trips with traditional techniques that allow you to discover the landscapes of the lake and to admire the pretty sunsets, accompanied on board by fishermen.

Photo credit Graham Hoffman.

Because we can, and because it is a gorgeous autumn day, we went to San Feliciano for lunch and some photo taking. Da Settimio and Osteria Rosso di Sera are our two favorite restaurants there. Both specialize in lake fish and seafood.

And now for the mandatory food pictures.

For another perspective on the lake, here is what it looks like from the mountains that ring it.

This is a spectacular view of the lake from a friends house up on the mountain above Tuoro. Incredible views.

In summertime it is a party place with lots of camp grounds, discos, restaurants, hiking, biking, boating and swimming. I think it is pretty much undiscovered except by Italians. It is a beautiful place.

Ciao, ciao, ciao.

Our first guests!!

We were so happy to welcome Luther’s brother Mike and his wife Anne. Along with their daughter Rachel and her husband Alex. They had not managed to visit since we’ve been here so it was great to show them around. Their trip was only for five nights here so a whirlwind visit. They brought gifts! Hominy in cans for me and some beautiful spices. And a couple of boxes of cigars which Luther sent to his brother before they came.

Our normal strategy with guests is to do a mix of things but lunch is always the focus and the big meal of the day. We try to choose from our favourite restaurants to give a variety of foods from basic Umbrian cuisine to more adventurous chefs. We were blessed with pretty much perfect weather almost the entire time.

WARNING: there are a LOT of food pictures on this post .

As always, travel is fraught with uncertainty. They were booked to fly from Washington DC to Montreal to connect with a direct flight to Rome. They missed the flight to Montreal so were re-booked through Paris. This put their arrival around six hours later than planned. But still they managed to get here in time for our pizza night dinner at Calagrana. Always fun and the pizza is the best. We headed back home to put them to bed. Speaking of that, we have three bedrooms but it felt a bit crowded so we rented an apartment at Borgo Fratta, a new vacation apartment property here in Umbertide, walking distance from us. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Mike and Anne were very comfortable in their own space and we had Rachel and Alex with us.

The Gang!

Monday. Our first day and we had an appointment at a winery in the Montefalco area. Cimate, a winery new to us but they could give us a tasting and tour so we went with that. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Paolo is the owner and he took us around. At the end we had a tasting and a lovely plate of cheeses and meats that complemented the wines.

The winery had beautiful views.

Here are our tour and tasting pictures. This was the first winery who “raisins” their grapes, or part of them, prior to making the wine. This increases the sugars and reduces the juice. The sugars become the alcohol in the wines so this doesn’t mean the wines will be sweet. The first three pictures are the racks and the grapes drying.

Paolo with the group in the aging room. Sagrantino is undrinkable until it ages a minimum of five years.
Aging barrels. Usually French or Slovenian oak. They had a ton of money tied up in these barrels.
Tasting room. They also serve lunch if it is reserved.
Terrific Rose.
The heavy hitter….Sagrantino di Montefalco. As you can see it is 6 years old. It gets much better with a few more years aging.
We each got our own tasting plate paired with the wines. The fatty meats and some of the cheeses went with the white and Rose.

We headed to explore the small town of Montefalco and had lunch there at l’Alchemista. It is situated in the unique piazza which is in the hill top and a round, rather than square space, with all the streets radiating like a wagon wheel. It was sunny and warm and wonderful. This happens to be the time of year for Sedano Nero, or the black celery only grown in Trevi, a nearby hill town. It is a Big Deal here. l’Alchemista always has menus featuring these local ingredients. This top picture is of my Sedano Nero appetizer. Very reminiscent of lasagna but with celery instead of pasta. Nice and light.

Lamb chops were, as always, good.
Pork filet with grapes and carmelized Cannara onions.
Pasta made in house with white truffles. They are the winter truffles and they are just coming in now.
Alex got the Piccioni or pigeon prepared in many ways. Note the slider 🙂

I made a Stuzziccheria for us for dinner. It was meats, cheeses, and fruit. Then we had a big surprise for dessert – Luther noticed they had just brought in Panetone Christmas cakes, the very first of the season, at our wine store, so he brought home a caffe and cream one. Yum.

Tuesday. We planned to go to Assisi today. Always a treat. I never tire of this town.

Fortress

We visited the Basilica di San Francesco. They seem to be forever changing how you can visit. This time we entered the lower church, visited the crypt and then ascended to the upper church. It was empty. There were not the throngs of the past.

Then we wandered up the shopping street and settled in at Osteria Piazetta della Erbe, one of my all time favs. It was shady under our tree once we switched with a group of women. This restaurant has a “traditional” and a “fusion” menu. Both so good. But for me it is fusion all the way!

My starter…ceviche – OMG so good! Fusion menu.
A dumpling panino for Luther and Rachel. Fusion menu.
Luther’s lamb. Traditional menu.
Gnocchi with white truffles – traditional menu
Salmon with bok choy. Fusion menu.

After Assisi and lunch we headed to Deruta for ceramic buying. Everyone found things they liked. This night we had Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce at home for dinner.

Wednesday was a designated “down” day. No long car drives. First, cappuccini at Bar Mary, and people watching in the piazza. The big market was in Umbertide this day, so we explored the market. We picked up some Porchetta pannini and explored a little of our town. Rachel and Alex bought a plaque from our local Deruta ceramics shop, for their front door with their house number. It will be sent to them when it’s completed.

We then drove to Montone. It is just ten minutes away and a lovely little hill town. We took in the views of the mountains and fields and wandered the small streets. Then we went to Antica Osteria for lunch.

During our lunch there was a funeral right in the piazza. Here, when someone dies, they lay in state in their home and all their friends and family come and pay their respects. Then they transfer the body to a casket and they remove it to a hearse. During this time the funeral bells ring and the onlookers watch respectfully.

Our lunch.

Egg and truffle starter. The white truffles are only served on mild flavored food.
Eggs or tagliatelle are preferred.
Anne’s lamb chops

We stopped for gelato for dessert after our dinner. We got chocolate, pistachio, and cherry. Tonight I made pasta e fagioli. We practiced at playing Briscola, the Italian card game. Interesting.

Thursday. Today it was off to Gubbio. An excellent medieval city not far from us.

Rachel

After visiting the church at the top of the town we headed back down, and winded our way to the Funivia. A method of transport to the top of the mountain to visit the church of Saint Ubaldo, patron saint of Gubbio. This method of transport is a lift composed of individual cages holding two standing people. It is a bit scary for most so only Rachel and Anne went up.

The empty cage going up.

Here is the video of their descent. https://youtube.com/shorts/VCO6GV3GptA?feature=share

Then we had lunch at Il Lepre (the rabbit). It was pretty good. Mike really loved his pork.

Pasta with pears and greens
My lasagna.
Luther had the rabbit.

After lunch we tried to visit our local Frantoio, or olive mill to show them the process. Alas, it was closed. There just are no olives around here this year. Then we drove to the Chiesa di Monte Corona, an ancient church near Umbertide. It has a crypt built in the 1000s and an upper church consecrated in the 1100s. It is to me a place of calm, but also power. There is a monastery up on top of the mountain with monks who tend the church. this night we had Pici con Ragu di Cinghiale. Pasta with wild boar ragu which I had made prior to their visit.

Every night we had all watched L’eredita, a game show which we’ve been watching for years on our own visits here. It is helpful for learning Italian. Lots of words. It is funny how people get into this game even if they can’t speak Italian. We’ve initiated many, many of our friends and guests to this show and it is always a hit. It comes on RAI1 every night at 6:45. If you want to watch it you can stream it on RAI on your computer from anywhere. Do the time conversion. It is good to help learn Italian too!

Friday. This was their last day with us, and the day they head back to Rome for their early flight on Saturday. We decided to caravan down to Orvieto to visit the town and famous cathedral and then have a farewell lunch and launch them on their way home. We ate at Trattoria la Palomba, a very traditional place with great food. It was a short visit that flew by but we all had fun, I think.

Cathedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. No crowds. Tourism is not yet back to normal.
Frittata with truffles.

All good things come to an end. At the moment I write this they are near to landing back in the US. I sincerely hope they can come back soon. Next time we will go somewhere together as a group and rent a villa. Maybe in Puglia. It will be fun! Thanks for coming to beautiful Umbria and we will see you soon! 💕

I am so happy to have had this return to normalcy and I hope this continues. My niece Rachel, a nurse, spent a long year working the Covid wards at John’s Hopkins. A very hard thing to do. She is our hero!

Ciao ciao ciao! 💕

US and European work

I am enormously interested in what is going on in the US job market. Having lived in Germany in the ‘90s I worked in a German bureau. I learned that the Germans work very hard when they are working. They are the most productive people outside maybe Japan. Yet they work only 37.5 hours a week with 6 weeks vacation a year. I also saw they worked when they worked, and when they didn’t, they had a life outside of work. They started at 9 and they left at 5. They took a 1.5 hour lunch with coffee breaks in the morning and snack breaks in the afternoon. They didn’t work weekends. They took all their vacation time. In other words, they worked to live their lives and enjoy themselves and their families. I thought this was brilliant. And when I returned to the States I refused to work ridiculously long hours. My bosses didn’t like it, and maybe I didn’t get promoted, but I was fine with that.

Now I read that people in the US are reassessing their work lives. After Covid allowed them more freedom to work from home and lose the long commute they have decided maybe there is a better way. Is this the silver lining from Covid? Maybe so.

I had a comment on this blog which prompted this post. She seemed to think people were being incentivized to stay home by the current administration. But those incentives have expired. I truly believe that corporate America is getting a wake-up call. They can’t continue to abuse and underpay their employees. And give them no benefits. Like the restaurants, retail and service industries routinely do. People have realized they have options. And power to them, I say! Corporate America can afford to pay their employees, (without which they cannot operate) fairly.

The restaurant workers are an excellent example. I hope the accepted system in America must be changed now, because restaurants cannot get staff to come back. The restaurants pay super low wages ($1.50 an hour sometimes) because they expect their customers (!) to pay the wages of their employees. How arrogant! And no wonder they can’t hire staff. They need to pay a living wage with benefits like any proper job should have. It works in Europe, it will work in the US. They need to bite the bullet and add a service charge to the menu, and raise prices to pay the wages of their employees. No tipping. People do not tip in Italy. You can round up the tab if you want but that’s about it. It is not expected. Increasing pay, benefits and compensation is what is needed.
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This is not to say the Italian system is better, because it is not. So many problems here. Unemployment among the young and very well educated population is awfully high. The young & educated are leaving Italy for other places where they are valued and hired. They don’t want to go, but they have no choices. The system does not encourage entrepreneurs. They actually penalize those with more than 50 workers. It has become a contract economy. The employees are contract workers. The taxes are very high. I am not an expert. But these are the things I have learned.

And in Covid news…as of yesterday all workers must show the Green Pass as proof of vaccination or they will be laid off. Alternatively, they can pay and have the Covid test every 48 hours but this would take a lot of time and they have to pay for the tests themselves. It has come down to, do you want a normal life?
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So this past week we have been readying for our first guests in a long time. I don’t remember when we had our last guests. It is fun anticipating them and getting ready and planning their time here. It is Luther’s brother and wife who live in Virginia, and their daughter and her husband. Of course, I’ll be taking pictures and doing posts.

Ciao, ciao, ciao.

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!

Recent adventures

Well, maybe not “adventures”…but stuff we did 🙂. Mostly eating. What’s new?!

Anyway, we had lunch with new friends we had not met before last week. They bought a house in Gubbio and were visiting the first time since Covid. It was a pretty day. We sat outside. We were at Ristoro di Campagna. It is a very Umbrian place. No menu, they come and recite what they’ve got. And we dined with chickens! A first for that!

Our view.
Mr. Rooster
….and the little lady

Today we drove to Montepulciano. It’s about an hour and 10 or 15 minutes from our house. We were meeting up with an old friend, Rod, that we both worked with in Germany. Twenty six years ago!! 😳 We dined at La Grotta, one of our favorites. Been many times. It was pretty and we ate in the garden. It was great to catch up, and great to meet Ana, Rod’s wife. Yummy food and nice conversation. Here are my dishes…mmmm.

Hand made pici with almonds, olives and sun dried tomatoes
Perfect lamb chops
Semifreddo

Stay safe everyone!

Molise road trip

This is a trip report, so you can skip if you’re not interested.

Monday, September 20

A sunny Monday morning. A road trip to Molise with my friend Jen, to break in her new Patente, Italian drivers license. This license is required after one year residency in Italy. An American cannot exchange his/her license because there is no reciprocal agreement. One must study hours, and take the practice tests again and again online. There are 7000 possible questions. The test draws from this pool. The test is given only in Italian and it is one of the biggest hurdles an American must overcome to live in Italy. Once you’ve passed you must drive a low power car for a year, and adhere to other limitations. So you see why this was such a celebratory trip!

Jen is an Italian citizen. Her ancestors are from Molise. Once it was part of the Abruzzo region but in 1970 it split, becoming Italy’s newest region. But it is old and full of history. It can only be explored by car. So off we went. The trip there was not especially eventful. We drove through some exceptionally beautiful scenery. Our destination was Termoli, a seaside town. We arrived at 5:15. So it took seven hours. Mostly because Jen is strictly adhering to the laws. She does not want a ticket as a new driver. We experienced poor driving by Italians the entire trip, they are exceptionally aggressive and don’t pay any attention to the speed limits. They make their displeasure known by tailgating and even by blowing their horns to try to get you to speed up. I guess they just can’t accept a person trying to mind the limits. It was a bit stressful.

Along our drive through Abruzzo

After checking into Cairoly Rooms, a quirky hotel right in the old town we rested a bit. Then we showered and went out looking for dinner. We didn’t have reservations and it turned out that was important. At a certain point we gave up and just decided to eat anywhere that looked OK. We chose Mari e Monti. They fitted us into an outside table. We had a wonderful time. It was not expected but was very much appreciated. We shared an order of peppered mussels. The mussels were tiny and sweet and clean as a whistle. So delicious. Then I had a spaghetti with a half lobster in a red sauce. and Jen had a smoked fish. They brought a dome and covered the fish. They put a pipe in it and lit a small fire in a pipe which blew the smoke into the dome, smoking the fish. Really different. We also had a bottle of Molise white wine with dinner which was exceptional.

Along the corso. Good shopping and people watching.
Our restaurant

Our shared peppered mussels
My lobster pasta.

Tuesday September 21 

Next morning we paid a visit to the local fish market which also had produce. Just a half a block from our hotel. Beautiful food.

Market. Fruit.

Market. Fresh fish.

Since this is Jen’s home of origin I wanted her to make the plans. I am happy to just go along and enjoy. Today Jen was a lot more relaxed in her driving. We went about an hour and 20 minutes inland to a town called Agnone. It was way up on a mountaintop. The trip to get there was beautiful. Agnone is home to the oldest bell foundary in the world. No lie. Founded in 1339 and continuously operating ever since. By. The. Same. Family! 😳 Incredible. It is the Marinelli family. We didn’t want to take the Italian tour. A nice man named Ivo offered to show us the foundary. Not an in-depth tour but a basic little tour. The facts are incredible. They make primarily bells. Bells for churches all around the world. Each bell is a work of art. I learned the bell has exactly the same circumference at the base of the bell as the height. The top of the bell is half the circumference. The thickness at the bottom is 1/14th the diameter. They showed us how they make the molds, and the wax, and then how they finally pour the molten bronze into the molds which are buried in earth to keep them from melting or collapsing. There were many bells and they are all tuned to specific notes. Every major and minor note on a piano is possible. It is pretty incredible. No photos allowed inside the foundary. I got all mine outside.

Marinelli foundary
Along our drive.
Two old men – one probably the Nonno. Grandfather. I love how Italian men adore babies.

Then we went in search of a small lunch. No good choice we got a little snack and drove over to the Centro Storico where we did some exploring. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and it began to rain. We did get some pictures but the lack of sun and light was a disappointment.

Decoration on a building
Someone loves flowers
Innovative way to keep your little pots secure

After arriving back in Termoli we decided to return to our restaurant from the previous evening. We treated ourselves to a feast. We had brodetto di pesce, which was a seafood soup speciality served to two people. The funny part was, because it was chilly, we were eating inside and we were the only table with people inside. We had an order of the peppered mussels, which take awhile to eat. The lady from the kitchen kept peeking at us to see when to bring the soup. They did bring it when we were done and it was a bubbling, steaming dish full of seafood to include two whole fish, shrimps with heads, mussels, and a lobster-like crustacean. There was bread soaking up the broth and then…then, they brought home made pasta to put into the broth. Oh what a feast it was. We ate and ate. The cook kept checking to see if we liked it. At one point I groaned with delight at the broth…which was the star of the show. So rich and pure. Essence of seafood. And that pasta in there? O my god. So good. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. I commend the kitchen for producing such a beautiful dish.

Wednesday September 22

Today was much cooler. We had decided to visit a town called Bagnoli del Trigno. A town built in and around a rock. A big rock. And it was a really sweet town too. Attractive big square. Easy parking. Pretty trees and painted houses. The piazza had big trees with benches. Pretty scalloped design cobbles. And a bar called Bizzarro. I kid you not.

Ancient houses built into the rock
Really pretty main piazza
Ready for winter
Look how that church is built into the mountain!
A beauty, posing in the sun for his picture
Loved the door in a door.
Itty bitty miniature cave. Tiny flowers.

We parked and walked up the big hill to get to the castle. It was not open but there was a nice lady who took us to a private museum which really was her Nonna’s house. Preserved with wood stove and no electricity.

Castello. Too bad it wasn’t open.
An Italian hill town domestic scene

There were ample photo opportunities in and around the town. Jennifer talks to anyone and she made many friends. After our walk we went back to Bar Bizzarro for refreshments. I ordered vino bianco…they didn’t have any. A bar with no white wine. How bizarre!

I had made a reservation for our dinner this night and the restaurant called me to say they had mechanical difficulties and we couldn’t dine there. So, for this reason, we thought eating a bigger lunch and no dinner was a good idea. We found there was a restaurant outside of town. We headed to Calice Rosso. It was part of a hotel and a big place. Nice people and food was good. It was the first place I had needed to show my Green Pass (Covid vaccine proof). I had a baccala salad which turned out to be enormous and I ate about half of it. And we both got the speciality dish – risotto con fonduta di caciocavallo e lamelle di tartufo nero Molisano. See how they draped thin cheese slices under the risotto? Very rich. Neither of us could finish it but it was really good.

My insalata di baccala
Richest risotto in the universe.

We decided to visit Pietrabbondante, a town with an ancient amphitheater (Teatro). It took about 40 minutes to get there even though it was only twenty miles. In Molise, the terrain is rough and the roads small and twisty.

Pietrabbondante

We easily found the site of the Teatro. We purchased our tickets and walked down the hill to the site. This Teatro was built by the Samnites around 400 BC. They were an ancient civilization in what is now south central Italy. The site is large with several temple remains and several walls with beautiful hexagonal stones. Very well preserved and snowy white. The amphitheater is nearly complete with comfortable seating complete with back supports. There is a lot still left to discover at this site.

Autumn color
Wild flowers growing in the ancient wall
Loved this wall. This stone shapes.
The seating, complete with backs, and sometimes arms!
What a view
Part of one of the temples
Molise traffic jam

We returned to Termoli and had a heck of a time finding parking. Until now it’s been pretty easy to find parking but today the streets were jammed. Maybe it was just rush hour but we weren’t sure. We found a space and hope it is a good and legal spot. Then we walked Jen’s two sweet dogs, Cricket and Eddie. They are quite happy to remain in the hotel while we explore.

Then we wandered into the town and had spritzes and snacks. It had gotten pretty chilly and the town was very different from our first night when it was warm out.

Thursday September 23

Chilly out today. We headed to the three villages that were founded by people from the Dalmatian coast – what is now Croatia. They are said to speak Italian and Serbo-Croatian.

We HAD to stop to photograph this amazing view

Our first town was called Acquaviva Collecroce. Also named KruĆ. It was small and easily walkable but very hilly. Many signs were in two languages. There were lots of the typical men hanging around. We wandered and took lots of pictures. Then we stopped for a cappuccino at the No Problem bar.  No problem!

Says welcome in both Italian and Serbo-Croatian
One of the streets
Old Tom cat with a permanent scowl. Probably due to a fight. He’s enjoying the sun.
Near the church. Pretty paving stones
Lights all along the steets

We decided to have a Cappuccino at the local Bar No Problem. No problem!

The second city, which was also a Croatian town, was called San Felice del Molise. It was a larger town on a hill top. We only saw one reference to the Croatians and that was on the church. No street signs. No nothing. So different from the obvious pride the other town took in their origins.

San Felice del Molise In the distance
From Via Adriatico guess what you can see?
Some pretty streets. The city totally closed up and silent.

We headed home to Termoli, and on our way we took so pictures of the spectacular sea. Beautiful beaches and real surf!

View of Termoli old city from beach road.

We found a good parking spot and we took a little break before going out to tour the oldest part of town which is enclosed in a wall and surrounded by the sea. Beautiful sea views and a semi-trabocco, the old fishing platforms from this region. There was very little to see on the quasi island. Few shops. Few restaurants (all closed), few bars. We did help a little lady to find a street. She was so lost.

Here are some pictures from the old city.

Sort of like a Trabocco. Minus the big catapulting fishing nets. These are found slightly north in Abruzzo.
Said to be the skinniest street in Europe
Cathedral

We went back up the corso and stopped in a bar for drinks. And people watching. Always fun and entertaining. We did some (mostly) window shopping and searched for a wine shop with no luck. I headed back to rest a bit before dinner and Jen kept shopping.

After a break, we headed back to the old city and our restaurant Svevia. I highly rated place. They were a little disorganized upon our arrival. The man opened the reservation book to the 21st and nodded and took us to our table. Only thing was…today was the 23rd! 🤦🏻‍♀️. Then someone came and asked what name the reservation was in. I told him Nancy. We got our bottle of wine and had ordered and they came AGAIN to ask the name. Each time acting as though Nancy was a totally expected name. I have to think whoever wrote my name down misspelled it or something. Mattered not since by this time we had our wine and couldn’t be kicked out!

We ordered and our first course was brought. I had ordered a sublime puréed fave bean and chicory with shrimp wrapped in lardo. Jen had gnocchi with shrimp. Mine was small so I finished first. They took my plate while Jen was still eating…VERY. BAD. FORM. Then they tried to take HER plate before she was finished. Unexpected in a Michelin rated restaurant. My secondi was gamberi Catalan-style. Very good big crustaceans with a diced veggie sauce. Served cold. With tools to crack the legs and a pick for the meat. I happily sat and disassembled my gamberi. Very yummy. Dessert was a ricotta whipped with chocolate sauce. And cookies. Very yummy.

Puréed fave beans, chicoria and three, lardo wrapped, shrimp. Really good.
My Gamberi Catalan

Friday September 24

Homeward bound. Up an at ‘em and on our way by 9:30. Took five hours on the Autostrada Adriatico. It runs from Bologna to Bari. Good road. Quite a bit of traffic. Except for the frequent construction zones it moved along OK.
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So, on our trip we learned a few things. How to pump our gas. How to park and not get towed away. How to pay tolls. All good.

My personal observations:
Best restaurant: Mari e Monti
Best dish: brodetto di pesce
Best site: Teatro in Pietrabbondante
Best town: tie between Agnone and Bagnoli del Trigno.

I bet most of my readers don’t know Molise. It is very much the forgotten sister. Their Tag Line in their tourist brochures is “Molise, non-esiste” or, “Molise doesn’t exist”. I am here to say it does exist, and I think it is worth a visit. It is also one of the regions with the 7% tax scheme for those who are contemplating a move to italia.

Ciao, ciao, ciao!

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.”