Man about town. A brush with passion.

PANICALE, Umbria–To say Bruce likes to paint while he’s in Italy, is like saying The Pope has a bit of a religious background. Bruce has stayed at our place in Panicale before and I’ve always admired his painting of Panicale. But, I’ve never been there when he was there. It was fun to catch him in action. And easy, too. Here’s why: Panicale is small. And he’s out on the street, in one spot, painting until he’s satisfied he’s got it right. And that was true every day unless it was pouring buckets. And we knew when night had fallen, because he would actually come home then.
manabouttown Bruce Kidman painting up a storm in Panicale, Umbria, Italy
But lunch? Not so much. We’d be eating something fun, basking in the lunch-time, garden sun, plucking a fresh fig off the tree to nibble on while reflecting on the flowers close at hand or the lake in the distance, when I’d realize Bruce was MIA. “No problem” Kiki would say, with a dismissive wave of her hand “he’s painting.” She was right, he could not be lured away from his art. It didn’t matter if he was a few houses away, or on the other side of town, he made it clear, he’d much rather paint than eat. He’d pull a candy bar out of his pocket and keep on painting up a storm.

I so admire the passion. And the paintings that are the tangible results of that persistent passion. Complimenti, Bruce, complimenti, pure.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Italian funk, American Country Music and the Queen Mother of all Apes

PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–That’s right. You got it on your first guess. It was Festa dell’uva time in Panicale again. Always exuberant, always eccentric, often unpredictable, but always fun. This year, the parade was short and not nearly as many floats as usual. But the music venues and the wine tasting booths were many and all killer-good.

SIDE NOTE: I don’t care what anyone says to the contrary. . bottlers put some dang thing in wine before it hits my glass here in the states. All I have to do here is stick my nose in a wine glass and I’m growing a headache. In Italy, I do everything but brush my teeth with it. And wake up smiling and ready to try it again. Just another in a long line of my excuses to go to Italy.

All over town were wooden arrows pointing you to the next pop-up wine tasting venue. Ten of them. (That is our rascal restaurant friend Andrea Belfico of Masolino’s freelancing an 11.) I tried each night to pick up, numerically, where I’d left off the night before and just do them in some sort of order. And every night I would fail terribly, distracted from that quest after a couple tastings by a whole host of other shiny objects. Usually food-oriented. With big side orders of MUSIC!
pfunkfest. p-funking, masolinos, ape Calessino, vespa, Wine festival, panicale, umbria, italy in SeptemberThis year they really pulled out all the stops on the music. P-funking. Remember that name. See them if you get a chance. Type that name in on YouTube and stand back. Everybody loves them. The town was abuzz about them for days. Serious crowd-pleasers in the parade and in the piazza afterwards. Link above is P-Funking playing in Panicale, Italy. And that was just a part of the music available in the afternoon.

At night the big band era sound was in play one night and almost, what disco, maybe another night? All the music groups had hundreds of people of all ages dancing till midnight both nights after the town-wide “cena sociale.” Meanwhile at the other end of town, in the Kids’ Area (college age people, plus or minus) there was rock one night till two in the morning and then country from a whole other country: Italy. Wild and talented bunch of fringed-leather-jacketed, stetson-wearing cowboys. From Gubbio, Italy. Great trio of musicians. They could hit a lick. You could take them and their guitars and banjos to Nashville or Amarillo and do fine. Except for the they-don’t-speak-a-word-of-English thing. Which they told me in Italian. Even though they
ONLY sing American Country songs. In perfect American English! Watching people learn to line dance on a summer night under the spot-lit tower of the Countessa’s Palazzo was one of my trip’s memorable moments. I don’t know. Just stuck with me and made me smile.

And then. Speaking of smiling! And then. . . there it was. The Ruler of The Planet of the Apes. The mother, as it were . . . . of all Apes. The Ape Calessino. The folding top, four-passenger Ape. By Piaggio. They are brand new, but look 60’s retro and really hit the mark. I’ve read about them, seen them in fancy house / spa magazines, articles. But never. Until now. And they claim they would even let me rent one. From the slightly oddly named Umbria in Vespa. Everyone said the company was started by a nice English lady but the “in” in their name doesn’t seem to quite make sense in English. I know, I know, it makes some sense in Italian, but still. Sure, but I’m thinking there is a dual-language answer. Anyway, those are really show stoppers and I can’t believe you can actually rent them. I don’t think I would rent one of these to me. And I have hours and hours behind the “tiller” of an Ape. Just saying. Glad they do, I want to say I’ve done it.

Apes aside, as usual, the festa was a hit. I didn’t get to sleep till two or three in the morning Wed to Sunday if I recall and I don’t, it went by in a blur. And every morning after, I was right back at the gardening. No rest for the wicked / Having fun as fast as we could. Both policies in effect.

The weather was grand. A good time was had by all. Check your calendar for next September!
(Always the weekend of the third Sunday in September.)
See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Living the dream in Italy

This email just made our day, our week, our year. THIS is why we do this real estate match-making. The words and photo here from happy clients/great friends says it all.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

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pooltimeumbriaCiao!

Peter and I have been here in Italy for a glorious three weeks. The weather, food, and friendship has been more than we could have ever dreamed of. We look forward to our next trip at the end of October and sharing some memories with you both such as finally having you both to our home for dinner! Hope you and family are well.

Peter says “ciao” from the pool!!!

much love, Sarah

“Follow us” to Italy? Daily, on Twitter.

follow2italy2Ciao, ciao amici!

Our long-overdue, much-postponed, trip to Italy is FINALLY coming right up. We’re looking forward to seeing friends and new real estate listings October 16th – Nov 7th. Come along with us? Following our 1960 Vespa will be counter-productive. What with the annoyance of the Atlantic Ocean and all. But you can easily follow us on Twitter. We’ve already started posting Italy-related tweets, daily. Check out our post on the fab Grape Harvest Festival gala weekend in Panicale that starts on the 17th of Sept. Here’s how: Go to Our Twitter Home Page and hit the “follow” button in the top left. You’ll be right there with us as we visit places like Panicale, Siena, Torino and who knows what other shiny objects Italy will dangle in front of us.

TWITTER + ITALY = TWITALY?

Call it what you will, we have broadband at our place in Panicale and our intent is to use it to post something “short and tweet” every day. We’ll include iPhone pictures, a couple of words and interesting links.

There’s a blue Twitter “T” logo on the top of every page on our site now – so you can get to our Twitter page that way, too. Isn’t technology grand?

See you in Italy! In October. And right now on Twitter.

A presto,

Stew Vreeland

Winemaking fun under the warm Cortona sun

pressing grapes outside cortona, italy. warm tuscan fun

CORTONA, Tuscany, Italy–I’ve got to admit my only experience with the wine harvest involves swirling the end result around in the glass and making it magically disappear. Olives, we’ve picked. Grapes, no. I’ve had offers, but weasled out of them to my great regret. Next time! We have friends who are selling their Villa outside Cortona and moving back to Australia. We hate to see them go. But, if you have to go, do it like they are doing and go out with a bang! They have just finished a stellar, multi-year renovation on their property that they can be truly proud of plus, as you will be able to tell from the letters below, they just had the fine experience of growing, harvesting and bottling their own wine. They have been in Italy for years and they really have been living the dream while they were here. Complimenti a tutti e due!

I’d seen their winemaking pictures and really wished I had been part of their party. I asked them if they would put words to pictures. And I’m tickled to be able to share their adventures here.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland
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any more in that barrel of grapes? winemaking in tuscany, italyHi Stew,

It’s hard to describe the pleasure of holding a glass full of just pressed novello from the rich harvest of our sangiovese grapes after a perfect, hot, dry summer nurturing these abundant vines. That we could share the process, initially with one, and later with three groups of friends was an added joy.

In the end, the best words that spring to mind are total satisfaction.

First came a full week of pruning in January. Then watching the vivid foliage burst forth in early primavera and working hard to maintain the truly biological, organic fruit – despite the insistence of neighbours that we should be dousing the vine leaves and swelling grapes with copper sulphate. Days with friends when we thinned foilage to let the sun and vitality of the vines concentrate in the fruit in summer. The heartbreak of pruning almost half the crop in the last month to improve the quality of the bunches we retained, followed by meals, wine and many happy hours. In late September, picking, de-stemming and crushing the grapes, all by hand, ready for fermentation and two weeks of testing sugar and alcohol levels until the “must” was ready to press. The last winding of the arm of an antique wine press in perfect Tuscan sunshine, followed by a fabulous al fresco lunch as our first vintage sits in a cool wine cantina to clarify before we move it
into an oak barrel. We’re not in Italy. We’re in Heaven!

Cheers!
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Hi Guys,

This is priceless. Well done and well said. Great adventure.

Oh, one more thing. Did you plant the vineyard or was it an ongoing entity when you got there? I seem to recall that all the equipment was on site in your original pictures. Must have taken some studying up to know how to do this. You sound like you may have done this before.

Thank you for this and all best,

stew

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happy campers of tuscany, italy after the wine pressingHi again, Stew,

The vineyard was here when we got here. The equipment was too. But it was pretty rusty (and not antique) so we threw a lot of it out and begged/borrowed/stole/bought what we needed as we needed it. As for studying, apart from sommelier Arnaldo (from Trattoria Pane e Vino in Cortona) there’s a great consulente enologica in Pietraia (about 5 minutes drive from us) which sells ‘everything’ you could possibly need to make wine and has knowledgeable staff whose brains we have picked extensively 🙂 Salute!