A new taste of Italy

PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–New web site to send your way. From our very talented friend and Panicalese neighbor Diletta. This is in our neighborhood. In fact, our house is just above her in the photodiletta of panicale, italian shopping site. The site is brand new, a work in progress, the English version will be up shortly. Watch for that, but in the meantime there are plenty of fun photos and a sense of good things to come. Say you have a desperate need for saffron, fresh from Italy, well, this could be for you. Or olive oil, or many other things that help awake fond Italian Memories of all things Umbrian.

NEW, NEW VITI TRASIMENO SITE. The site, for the moment, is all in Italian, but never fear, there are big pictures of the products and a link to email where you can write in English or Italian and ask Dily any questions you have about the products, about ordering. Her English is all inclusive, very fluent.

Allora, ci sentiamo and in September we hope to . . .

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

Kiki takes the cake in Umbria. New taste treats hit Panicale

PANICALE, Umbria – Kiki’s birthday was yesterday and she was telling us about the cake she got as a birthday gift from her new best friend, Salvatore in Panicale. Here she is in words and pictures below. Kiki, Kathleen and Salvatore. Clearly La Dolce Vita goes on as usual in Italy.
Discovered Salvatore’s, “Sapori dell’Umbria” the new take-out in town. Best bread ever, plus wonderful seafood lasagna (recommended by Giovanna) and torta di Napoli.

Salvatore is from Napoli. He makes the best bread in Italy. Crusty outside, soft inside and a bit salted. Yummm. Salvatore is across from the post office, where the grocery used to be. Just past Aldo’s. We … love …. it.

Styoo! Of course we’ve been to Aldo’s. The first morning Salvatore bought us coffee there. The second morning Nico bought us coffee. Today Rob experienced the scene — along with Daniela in fish net stockings. Wow!

We went to Castiglione del Lago today for lunch … visited Fabio the framer to get Francesco’s painting all dude’d up … then hit the lake so Kathleen and Rob could swim. They loved it.

Ciao, ciao,



Side note: It appears from initial conversation down-loads that Kiki accidentally asked Fabio to marry her. She was ok with that, in general, but her intention at that moment was just asking him to “dispose” of a box. Who knew? She figured “disposare” was close enough in Italian to “dispose” in English. But of course “sposare” is to marry and well, I’m sure that is how some dream matches have been made.

That is the latest in Italian News for now.

If you can’t get to Italy this Spring – and you happen to find yourself in New England – remember the Italian Life Expo is in Portland, Maine, June 9-11. Yes, the Bad Monkey (as we affectionately have named our Vespa-made 1982 Ape) will be there. With loud speakers on, blasting Italian music and generally calling attention to itself. Prima donna is Italian and fits this monkey to a T. If you are feeling adventuresome, come pat our little green Ape on the head during this fun waterfront weekend. Paul Turina’s baby blue, hard-working ape (Good Monkey?)The Turina Italian Wine Ape will be there too.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Bringing Italy home with us

If you are like us, you get a taste of Italy and you don’t like letting go. We just got back from Italy but some part of us feels that we’re still there basking “Under The Tuscan Sun.”

But! Did we tell you we’re working on a way to stretch out that “being there” feeling? That’s why we’re helping start the first ever Italian Life Expo in Portland, Maine. June 9-11th at the Ocean Gateway right on the harbor, across from lead sponsor Auto Europe’s world headquarters.

madampresidenteDozens of exhibitors including generations-old, but undiscovered family vineyards from Lake Garda to artisans in copper from Montepulciano, prosciutto and cheese makers from Parma to tour operators from Siena, so many shiny objects to hold your attention.

Here’s Midge outside Spannocchia who, with Institute for Italian Studies, are lead presenters of the Expo. One day last week, after this picture was taken, Midge, Paul Turina of Turina Italian Wines, and other board members went into Siena for a festive dinner at Antica Osteria da Divo by Chef Pino di Cicco. Everyone came back raving about him and counting the minutes till they could see him again at the Expo.

Good times coming. If you are in New England this June, the Italian Life Expo may be your ticket to Italy. It’s never been closer.

Tickets go on sale this weekend. Check it out.

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

What’s cooking, Andrea?

PANICALE, Umbria– One of my favorite things to do in Italy is to watch our little town come to life in the morning. Bruno unloading carts of groceries into his wife’s grocery’s storeroom. Emiliano and his Ape are out and he’s sweeping the street with his stick broom. Sometimes I like to poke my nose into Masolino’s Restaurant and see if I can bother Andrea. His whole family has been up till surely midnight, cooking, cleaning the spotless kitchen. And yet, here he is in the kitchen. Bread making. “Getting pretty close to getting in sister Stefi’s pastry-making zone” he admits, making that kind of dismissive, circular motion of his hand that seems to say “but here we go anyway.”
cookingwandreaThis is a new passion for him, tied in with their new German oven. It is in action during lunch and dinner every day and generally is slow cooking some thing over night, every night. But first thing in the morning Andrea whips up a couple dozen loaves of bread in it. Our first night in town, before we knew they were baking their own bread, I said “Andrea what is this fantastic bread with these little black things in it?” Turns out that was the right question. He was happy to talk about his new bread baking skills and tickled someone noticed. How could I not notice black truffles? Being warm gets the truffles all excited and they start throwing off waves of that truffle perfume every time you go to take another bite.

The day I took these pictures, it looked like he was cooking a green salad. But no. Onions and leeks. Just making them “sweat a bit” in the pan he said. When he had them how he wanted them he added them to bread dough and put the loaves into the oven and told it to have them ready at 12 noon, sharp. Wonder what tomorrow’s bread du jour will be? Finding the answer to that question is just about all the excuse I’d need to get back on the plane.

OK, see you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Food and Wine comes to Panicale

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PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–Our friends Peter and Sarah are packing as we speak to head off to their lovely, newly renovated house in Casamaggiore, in Umbria. They just called last night to ask if we had seen the March ’09 issue of Food And Wine Magazine. It features our Umbrian hilltop castletown of Panicale. Sarah is a great and inspired chef and baker so she has a subscription. It isn’t in the newsstands yet. We’ve checked. But the How to Cook Like You Own an Italian Villa article IS online already.

Matt Molina, a chef at L.A.’s Osteria Mozza stayed at his boss’s house recently. That would be the Panicale home of Nancy Silverton. She is a co-owner of Osteria Mozza and the story line is about Matt’s food adventures all around this part of Italy. I’m getting hungry just reading about Panicale. And all nostalgic as well. But, we are taking action!


We have plane tickets in hand and happy to have them. We chased prices up one side of the internet and down the other. We’ve made this trip hundreds of times and it’s an adventure buying every time. This time we found very good and reasonable $700 something on Alitalia. Boston to Rome direct. An overnight flight is an overnight flight. Direct flights makes life so much simpler and so much less room for that “Oh, sorry your connecting flight couldn’t wait and oh look there it goes without you” business. Plus, this non-stop flight gets into Roma at 7 AM. I’m good with that. Landing at say 10 or so after pulling an all-nighter finds me much less coherent than at 7.

Our car rental charge for three weeks were in the low $700 range. We went through, as we usually do, Auto Europe. No, this is not an ad. I WISH I got paid for mentioning them! Alitalia? Same non-lucrative deal. Anyway. We ran through our car needs and the bottom line kept coming in just under $900 – for three weeks. Part of the problem, one issue, was that we were coming into the country at 7 AM one day and leaving at 10 AM on the way out of country. So that Three Hour Day became a full day’s charge. Talk about not enough hours in a day. I could pay the charge or hang out watching the clock for three hours. After being up all night? I don’t think so.

So I called Auto Europe back and said “But what if we put our early-morning, post-arrival time to use and headed North by train to Chiusi. And picked a car up there at the train station? Chiusi is easy to get to by train and only ten minutes from our house. No sweat, they were all about that. That not only chopped a day off our bill, but they said they were also able to take off a “Rome airport delivery charge.” That was a new one to me. And in the “That Doesn’t Make Any Sense, But I’ll Take It” category they then said if I picked their car up in Chiusi I could return it to Chiusi or at the Rome airport-–for the same price. Our choice. Here’s what I got out of this exercise: I asked a few questions, had them email a couple written proposals to me, and didn’t take the first rate they gave me. And after a couple five minute phone calls, I had somehow saved almost $200. Highest and best use of my time all week!
springtime in Siena, Tuscany and Panicale, Umbria

MA! Va le la pena. As they say. Umbria in Spring. In my mind I can almost see it, touch it, feel it. Whatever effort it takes to get us to the promised land is worth it. So, now that the airline and car rental planets have been so nicely aligned, we are holding our breaths and happily counting the days until our mid April touchdown.

Spring is one of the best times in Italy and we can’t wait to see our all our friends there. What a breath of fresh air it will be after a bundled up winter of snow to see the Umbian countryside in all its many shades of green. The fruit trees will be in bloom. And dozens of kinds of flowers, the early bloomers. We especially love the forty-foot-long yellow rose bouquet our house and garden set out on our pergola to welcome us home at this time of year. Grazie, grazie infinite, Casa Margherita.

Non vedo l’ora and I can’t wait, either.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

The purple and white spring flowers shown above are from Spannocchia outside Siena, Tuscany and the yellow ones are from our garden in Panicale, Umbria