A July in Umbria


Whew. Made it. Arrived. Just ahead of a dramatic summer squall. Dark trees in waving seas of sunflowers. Bathed in bright sun one moment and dense shade the next as white clouds traded places with black ones every few seconds. Changeable as our rental car radio. It’s a Lancetti. Well that seems properly Italian now doesn’t it? But it is a Daewoo. And the radio just comes on full blast whenever it feels like it. If I could only find the off button but it all seems to be in Braille and you know how it is when you jetlag yourself off the plane and first insert yourself back into polite society. More airline stories later.

We are so easily amused. Or another way of putting it is that small pleasures are often the best. One of our great treats in Italy is to arrive dog tired and stay awake long enough to get to Masolino’s restaurant and have the Belfico family cover us in comfort food and then go climb into blissful sleep coma and get two night’s sleep in a row almost and gently get acclimated to this time zone.

When we arrived at Masolino’s on Sunday night there were a couple tables full and then ours with the tiny gold Reservato on it waiting for us. I asked our friend Andrea if it had been a busy summer for him. Over his shoulder he said ”non ti credi”. Within five or ten minutes I saw what he meant as the place filled solid including the outdoor balcony. Which was grand for everyone until the mother of all summer storms hit with wild wind wild rain lightening all at the same time. Waterfalls pouring over the awnings drove balcony dinners running into the already full restaurant with their plates in their hands and napkins flapping like speed streaks behind them. And no place to go till they set up places for them in the bar. We have eaten there a million times (conservative estimate) but never had Mamma Brunna’s Sunday lasagna special and special it was. A drop of prosecco please and lights out.

NOW ATTEMPTING RE ENTRY INTO EUROPEAN TIME ZONES

I can’t really make sense or talk the first day back so seeing houses and trying to take pictures immediately is almost counter productive so I gardened like a maniac the whole first day and got everything how it wanted it. I can garden and prune in my sleep. And sort of did I suppose.

The next two days Midge and I went around like crazy seeing houses with Katia from Citta della Pieve in the south to Cortona in the north. What a fun whirlwind and you will eventually see the results in This Just In and on the web pages. One townhouse in Cortona really rings my bell. Neither words or pictures will ever do it justice. 490,000 euros and well, just totally down town and just stupendous, classy, chic. Architect designed and finished with such good taste. And views out to Tuesday that include high lake views. Won’t tease you any more with that till I have all my photos organized.

MORE MORE PERFAVORE
(more MO ray, pear fa vore ray)

Before gardening the first day we needed artificial stimulation in the form of our morning cup or two of cappucchino our favorite caffine delivery system of choice until they invent a convenient IV drip system for home use. Good trip. Between cafe Masolino and cafe Bar Gallo (they are four doors apart) we got two dinner party offers and one was for that very night. Life is good.

Post gardening Midge did the right thing and took a siesta. I did what was right for me and went for gelato. What’s this? Looks a new flavor to me. MOray. OK, Moray. I’ll bite! And lick too. Black berry is written ”more”. I can remember a yogut in a store with the engaging headline ”piu more” which I kept wanting to translate as more more. But in reality is more blackberry.

This is my flavor du jour for the trip. Must totally be the season. I have at least one blackberry gelato a day and love each new one as much as the first one. That is Aldo at the top of the page handing one of many. Last night I completed the MOray Trifecta. Totally by accident. My favorite dessert is Stefi’s famous Panacotta. Cooked cream never tasted so good. She can do it with chocolate, with a carmel or my favorite Frutti di Bosco. Wild berries. And at this season that means more MOray. Say it with me now! MOray. MOray. And after dinner Andrea brought us complimentary after dinner drinks and asked what we tasted in it. Midge got it on the first try MOray. More more more. I really can’t get too much of this good thing. And the Recioto della Valpolicella classico Domini Veneti was a very good thing.

TUTTO E’ POSSIBILE

Everything is possible in Italy we have found to our delight. The culture is so accommodating. I feel guilty admitting how often our friends here fill needs we didn’t even know we had. We are undeservedly covered with kindness. Just yesterday a neighbor passing by our house noted our highest figs seemed mature and that we needed to harvest them. I agreed in concept and (trying to get out of manual labor) said my ladder was too short.. A couple hours later Bruno was calling over the garden wall with a gigantic ladder and was soon up in the tree. But first he whipped out a bright red train engineers oil can and oiled all our shutters’ tie back mechanisms. When we got to our terrace we saw he had delivered, unasked, a waist high pot of basil. I protested we were only going to be here, as he well knows, a couple more days. He just shrugged and smiled. The next night when we got home, this bouquet of artichoke flowers was on our coffee table. Not for you. For your wife, Bruno said with a wink. Is this a great country!?!

MUSIC IN THE AIR.

We can see a baroque church from our house and today we could see it and hear it. A group of flutes was practicing for a concert later in the afternoon and their notes were wafting magically through the air over our garden and into the streets for anyone who was quiet enough to separate them from the swallows and cicadas. Another day in Panicale. Or. We have died and gone to heaven. Watching the literally unbelievable pink pink Hollywood sunset over the village church and the lake a couple hours later, we started believing that maybe we had slipped off terra firma and into another more peaceable kingdom.

HIGH. AND DRY?
Up in the air over the wide, wet Atlantic. And surrounded by water. In the plane. In the airport. In sport bottles of every size and shape.

Water water everywhere indeed. When did this start? Did I NOT get the memo, again? Every person, on every plane I’ve taken lately has had a bottle of water ready for their use at a moment’s notice. Bottles in their hands, sticking out of pant’s pockets, snugged into special holsters, hung on belts and on all sides of back packs. Ok, how incredibly under-hydrated am I? There are drinking fountains in the airports and places to buy and drink water all around in the airports. And on the plane the waitresses in the sky are handing out drinks rather non-stop. Water, coffee,tea, and excuse me, excuse me. Must step over sleeping giant on aisle seat to go to the bathroom. Now. After 20 hours of being forced fed liquids almost constantly, if anything I’m feeling OVER hydrated. And my hands are full. I would so sit on my bottle and look more out of control than usual.

Lance Armstrong. Middle of France. On a mountain. Several hours into the ultimate aerobic exercise. Now, HE needs a water bottle. I saw whole families with a bottle bolted to every member from baby to teenager to parents with their hands and arms full of strollers and diaper bags. But if we crash into the Sahara, then who will have the last laugh?

SPEAKING OF ALL WET. HERE’s A REAL CORKER

We landed in London. Lines for passports, lines for shuttles. And then we had some off line time waiting for our gate to be announced.

A nice looking middle aged man pulled his bag over and sat across from us. Business man? Manager? Computer technician? Who knows.
As soon as he pulled out a plastic bag and began rooting through a minor league cornucopia of candy and chocolate odds and ends. Wait. now what’s he doing? Yes, I think he has just pulled out a wine glass. A glass wine glass. With a stem on it. Short stem, ok. But a stemed wine glass. Now he is polishing it intently with a Kleenex it appears. And out of a grocery store shopping bag comes a half full bottle of wine. The cork is sticking partially out. He pulls the cork, pours himself a glass of red, crosses one knee over the other, swirls the wine around takes a sip like he is on the Via Venato on a summer evening. Except this is Heathrow. At 5:15 a.m. I was a bit sleepy and confused at the time. But I really don’t think I could have made that up. Later, I thought, do you think maybe he started out by having a sport bottle habit and just took it up to the next obvious level?


IF YOU ARE IN THE MOOD FOR SOME BOLOGNA

Wow. This Grisham book is quite different. No court rooms. Just barely any lawyers. And surprise. It is all in Italy. Just like we are. Full of Italian dialog and characters and places.

It gives the sense that Grisham himself is in the midst of learning the language and the rhythms of the streets as he is writing this. And like his character in a witness protection program, changing into and becoming a real Italian. Good summer beach chair ”thriller” or ”giallo” as they say. (three layer and ja al low. That comes close to how you say them. Well, in StewWorld.) OK, it is not Shakespeare, but it kept me turning the pages much later in the night than I may have intended.

Allora, I hope this stream of consciousness wasn’t too random and maybe gives a peek at one tourist’s week in Umbria.

See you in Italy!

Stew

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