Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Food Part II

Of course being in Italy is not only about escaping to the sea in the summer months, it is also about eating well in spite of the heat.

Our piazza celebrated the summer season with food and lots of wine. A perfect Italian rememdy, great food, great company and lots of laughter.

Eating on a terrace with lots of friends is another way to beat the heat. Just make sure that the sun has gone down first.

Smaller portions will still allow you to eat the most delicious things such as these spinach ravioli and not feel as if there is a bowling ball in your stomach.

Then again you may want to skip the primi or first dish and go directly to the secondi. In this case, a sauteed fresh tuna with shrimp dish and lemon wine sauce. The dish was both light and delicious.

The Stoic One has gotten into the idea of summer and made his first ever Salade Nicosie. It was as excellent as it was beautiful.

Good job, hon. Very delicious.

Finally, a great way to escape the heat is to head up to a roof top bar at a local hotel and enjoy an "apricena" which literally dinner. It is a time for cocktails, appetizers had at your leisure from 6:00 until sunset.

Hope your summer is filled with beauty, great food and wine and most of all friends who love you.

Summer 2017 Part I

We are in the dog days of summer as they say. No offence to Mr. Luca.

Although the summer did not officially start until June 21st, for those of us living in Italy, it started the end of May when the temperatures soared to the mid 90's and have never let up.

What else could we do except escape from the heat by going to the lake.

First to Como:

We both love this lake, and it never disappoints. Beautiful, clean water, soft sunsets and healthy fresh lake fish.

Unfortunately, we did not see George and family, but we heard many kind stories about him and how the town tries to protect him from prying eyes. 

Taking the ferry across the lake and visiting all of the little towns is a true pleasure even if you don't spot George. 

Unfortunately, we had to leave this calm retreat and head back down the penninusla to Umbertide. Ciao Lake Como until the next time.

My sister arrived and we decided that a trip to the coast would be a good thing. We found a great spa on the Mediterranean side and the water was pristine.

When the heat is too much, the Italians head out to the sea. A great idea.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring 2017

Once more it has been a while since I have posted. We have been back to the US several times for work and are still exploring and traveling in Europe.

We had a beautiful spring for about a day!  The say April is the cruelest month. Just when we thought the cold rainy days were over, we were reminded that it is still April.

Now, however, we have May! Let's hope that this spring time is for real!

The cherry tree near us was in full bloom.

They cleared our piazza of all cars for some political event, and the Stoic One took that opportunity to take a few photos.

We, or course, think our piazza is the most beautiful and without any cars around, it certainly shows its lovely symmetry.

I think that spring in Umbria is the best. Umbria is called the green heart of Italy, and in the spring that green reminds us of hope, growth and prosperity. Hope you are having a delightful spring.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February in Umbria

It has been a while since I have posted, as I realized this is my first post in 2017! We had a very quiet January with a short visit from my friend Leslie. She came with her daughter and her daughter's friend and they were having fun exploring the Italian cities. It is great in the winter because the crowds are so much less and the Italians are more at their ease with the tourists.

 Living in the country side, we are very much tied into the seasons, and winter is time of quiet reflection. The light at this time of year is always changing and there is a serenity in the starkenss that appeals to me.

We make our plans for the year ahead, and try to stay warm! We have a pellet stufa or Franklin Stove, which we use a lot. It's important to get the higher grade (more expensive) pellets, or the ash will clog the pipes. Other than that, we have had no problem with it, and it heats the living room very nicely.  They have different styles and sizes but we like this one that fits nicely in the corner.

We have been off to Bologna a few times. We love that city and found fabulous restaurants and shopping. It is a young city with a large university population (Bologna is home to the world's oldest university)  which also makes it fun and lively, particularly in the winter. It is also home to a wonderful hand made shoe shop that the Stoic One adores.

On Sundays we continue our tradition of going to Calagrana for Sunday lunch. The food that Alberto prepares is second to none. He is a true artiste and we enjoy both the company and the food.

We began today's meal with pork popcorn! In the US we call them pork rinds, but these are a bit of deliciousness that melts in your mouth.

Then we were on to a fantastic shrimp dish.

The main course, or secondi, was beef fillet with potatoes and mushrooms.

Then to finish, we had carmel semifreddo. Wow! On Sundays, this is definitely worth a stop to admire the fantastic view and admire the artistry in the kitchen, and indulge!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Buon Natale 2016

Images of Christmas from Verona:

May all of you be safe, healthy and surrounded by people and animals who love you.

California through Italian eyes

The month of November, the Stoic One and I were in California and Arizona on a trip with the Florentines. We started out in Pasadena, the high school town of the Stoic One, where we rented an adorable craftsmand style cottage from VRBO. I think it was the favourite of the Florentines. The house was small enough for them, that they did not feel intimidated by the space, and I think it matched their idea of an "American house." We all loved Pasadena and can imagine living there if the circumstances were right.

It was Halloween, and our friends were quite interested in how Americans celebrated this holiday. We were with the Stoic One's family, and went off to a local haunted house that was decorated by the owners and attracted hundreds of people. They had cops monitoring traffic and had closed the streets. Unbelievable. I had forgotten how much people in southern California got into this holiday. They even decorated their mail boxes to get into the spirit.

After visits to the Botanical Gardens of the Huntington Library, which they loved, we headed east to stay at Flagstaff in order to get to the Grand Canyon. Crossing the Mojave Desert our friends kept saying "enorme" or enormous. They also came to understand the English expression "in the middle of nowhere." As Ms. Florentine said, "In Italy every where is somewhere. There is no nowhere in Italy."

Another lovely house rental through VRBO, but it was a little too large for the Florentines. I think they felt uncomfortable in the house and nervouse about following all of the many rules that the owners had laid out for us.
The next day we had a guided trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the main stops of our trip. The weather was magnificent and the scope of the Canyon is breath taking. According to our guide you could see all the way to Utah on this clearest of clear days. The Canyon is 277 miles long and at its widest point it is 18 miles across.

That is Mr. Florentine in red standing on the edge of the canyon. What you can't hear is all of us yelling at him to come down and not fall off!

If you look closely, you can see the river down there that created all of this on the right hand side of the photo about half way up.

We then went to Palm Desert to stay with our good friends Dorothee and Mike. The desert was sunny and warm and the friends were the same.  The weather was perfect mid 70's and sunny. Another place we could live if the circumstances were right. Sunny in November. We loved it.

We then traveled to San Diego and again had perfect weather. Then on up the coast to the Bay Area to visit with friends and then down the coast.

Some observations by the Florentines:
They found Americans to be open, friendly, and down to earth.
The food, which they had heard terrible stories about, was delicious. They particularly enjoyed guacamole and chips, which they had never eaten before! They also loved mole and hand made tortillas, as well as American steaks.
The found American spaces to be huge, or "enorme". The people, the houses, the portion sizes were all a little over the top for them.
Finally they absolutely loved California and understood the American dream in a totally different way.

Buon Natale a tutti!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Voting Italian Style

We are now coming to the end of this year 2016. It has been a memorable year for us in many ways. As an Italian citizen, I was eligible to vote in this country, once I attained citizenship. In prior elections, I did not vote, feeling that I was not informed enough to make thoughtful decisions. This year I read a lot about the referendum, talked to my other Italian friends, read both Italian and English newspapers and finally made my decision. I went to the commune to get my Tessera Elettorale, which gave my voting location and I went to the voting polls and voted for the first time. It was actually quite exhilerating, and I very much felt part of this community. I received a stamped booklet that marked that I voted. I need to keep this booklet for future elections to show my eligibility. I will be issued a new card once I pass my 16th election!

Otherwise the voting process is quite similar to that in the U.S. The Renzi referendum was clearly not popular with the Italians. They thought he put too many things in one amendment and did not trust him not to turn into another Mussolini. They have experience with this so I appreciate their point of view. As you can imagine, the Italians are riveted by the American elections. Trying to explain Trump to them is as impossible as trying to explain it to myself. Democracy is a messy thing.