Carrying on in Italy

Varenna Castello over Lake Como, Italy
TRIESTE/LAKE COMO, Italy–Our anniversary trip to Italy was grand. It was just too short. We had planned for three weeks but it became one. Best laid plans and all that. And seriously, who is going to pout about ONLY getting a week in Umbria / Italy in spring? Where would a person have to go to find a lot of sympathy for that?! Regardless, we were there in our minds. Ferrari Varenna, Italy on Lake ComoAnd our travel buddies from Steamboat Springs Stayed Calm and Carried On in marvelous fashion. And thru pictures and videos made us feel like we were actually right there with them, just as planned. Which well and properly answers the age-old question “what are good friends for?” Their still photos of Italian lakes, Ferraris, and lazy afternoons shown here are from Varesse on Como. The video from Piazza Grande (now called Piazza Unita d’Italia) in Trieste. Trieste is about as far as you can go in Italy. East of Venice. A couple miles further out of town and you are in Slovenia. I’ve heard it said that Piazza Grande is the biggest piazza in Italy. It’s original name more famous by the classic Lucio Dalla song “PIAZZA GRANDE, 1943”. Three sides are elegant buildings. The fourth side is all Mediterranean, looking out past cruise boats, across the harbor at Emperor Maximilian and Carlotta’s fantasy castle, Miramar.



Live. And Learn.

typical Italian dinner at moms Panicale, Umbria, ItalyPANICALE, PADOVA, TORINO, Italy–If we live to be a hundred, we will never get to the point on the Generosity Chart where Italians seem to be born. Like a Ferrari, the average Italian has some extra gears they can shift into, at a moment’s notice. They make it look so easy and effortless,

A couple examples. We were in Padova, years ago, at our Italian foreign exchange student’s home for the first time. We were seeing the house and doing the polite, “What a lovely home. Love that painting! Gorgeous flowers here on the balcony . . .” Which was all fine, until we got ready to leave and they had elaborately wrapped gifts for all of us. And after those individual be-ribboned and bowed packages had all been opened, there was one more. A bonus round “for the family.” It was the framed oil painting we’d admired on the wall. You have to be careful out there, admiring things.

And food. Be careful there too. That tide may only flow one direction. We were almost coaxed into a food coma at our friends in Torino’s home. They fed us like Christmas geese. “This is wonderful, but three helpings is fine, please, thank you” didn’t seem to work. And so we were lovely and polite, and kept on eating our way through the food pyramids in front of us.

Later that vacation we invited them to a similar feast in their honor at a place we were renting near Sarzana. They looked at the food we put in front of them, and looked at us like we were a tiny bit deranged. “What is all this food they asked?” They ate a bit of this and a bit of that. You know, normal people portions.

naturamorta italian still life with wine, grapes, tomatoes, melonSo, if you think you can “get even” or return the favor, that would be a rookie move. Here in the states we hear people say “Oh, we owe so and so a dinner. They had us over and we need to pay them back.” This is patently impossible in Italy. Repeat after me: You can not out-gift or out-feed Italians.

We ate so much marvelous food on our most recent trip. But I’m quite sure my favorite was Lunch at Bruno’s Mom’s. She’s ninety, her garden is vast, and lunch was equally so and fit for a king. The home-made tagliatelle was the best ever. I told her so and she waved me off. This? I just tossed this together” They double-teamed me. They had me at the end of the table, between them. When I looked to my left at mom while we talked, Bruno on my right, would fill one of my glasses, with the more of the fine red wine he made from her grapes. If I looked back his way, mom would upend a serving dish of pasta or salad on my still-full plate.

And even though we were all going to a town-wide Festa Dell’uva dinner that night together, Bruno and I still got a to-go box. The grapes are mom’s, as are the tomatoes. The melon? Bruno and I liberated it from a field outside Paciano that had been mechanically harvested. They missed a couple. We didn’t.

pacianopozzo pozzo or well, outside Paciano, Umbria, ItalyMoral of the story: When you are up against the kindest, most generous people on the planet, you cannot compete. To have an Italian friend is to be constantly in debt to them. You can but live and learn. And maybe–if you are good, very good in this life – you may get to come back. As an Italian.

See you in the next life,

Stew Vreeland

Ferraris and Carabinieris. Like pb&j they just go together.

PANICALE–Umbria, Italy. Our friends the Lambarts of Colorado have been in Panicale many times and now they are there celebrating their daughter becoming a Di Maria. You can’t beat that for an Italian last name. They are having such a good time and have been so great to share their good times with us. Here they are in their own words and pictures. Their garden pictures stopped me in my tracks. Dear Plant Diary: June = Jasmine, Jasmine = June. Must remember that. Oh, if only the white bloomed jasmine shown here were Scratch and Sniff.

Here is a June peek into Panicale.

See you in Italy,

Stew and Midge Vreeland

Stew and Midge-

Must have been fun to put your mind on rewind and be at another N.U. graduation again! (our daughter Grayson graduating from Northwestern, outside Chicago, many years after we both did) … We expect full report on graduation, festivities and Colbert, when we see you at BC/NU game.
So, trying to keep up with Vreeland standards, and having fun as fast as we can….Arrived Friday night, and had wonderful dinner at Simone’s osteria, then Saturday morning cappucini at Aldos, who has asked Jeff about playing him in Briscola, then Ceremony to open the retired Caribinieri club in Panicale (Aldo says shifts around each year, this year for one year in Panicale)…Multi multi Caribinieri!

Then, last night had dinner at Logetta in Paciano, meeting new owner from Roma and his wife the cook, and then this morning walked to Paciano for express at little bar in center, ran into Margaret, then the Ferrari tour through Panicale, before finding GMB for awesome lunch (and dolci). Oh, ran into Andrea, (Masolino’s) who says Ferraris are “Italian Art, and Adriano, who Jeff used to play Briscola with, getting ready for rematch.

”Whew!….resting under your pergola again this afternoon, practicing our Briscola before having pizza from new Sicilian bakery/take-away shop outside Porta Perugina. Also , met Fernando (older gentleman who now lives here), and he is tutoring Jeff in Italian each day.
Attaching some photos of our adventures with Panicaleese

And some pics of garden, in mid-June. Still can’t get used to all the people who stop above on street to look over garden and ohh and ahh.

36 hour trip to Italy. Still great.

Most searched places this winter on Travel + Leisure site? 1. ITALY! Then Costa Rica, Paris and New Orleans. Just back from Italy, this week. was stellar. New Orleans a couple weeks ago. In Italy there had been lots of rain so the fields were just green green green. Some sort of winter crop? Can you believe these shots are from mid-February? I was there and was incredulous even in person.


Was only there in Italy two days. Saw a million things, ate most of them. Visited some towns I’d never seen before. Always something new to wonder at in Umbria. Even in the middle of winter.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

These will get you to the church on time

ORVIETO, Umbria, Italy – We leave for Italy in: 1 week. 7 days. 148 hours. But who’s counting? Me, is who. In the meantime our friends Cay and George are in Panicale and having a fine time of it. I’ll let their iPhone words and pictures tell the story of a typical day of spontaneous fun in Italy. It’s all about being open to the moment.

Just as we arrived in Orvieto this morning a whole string of Ferraris
came roaring by and parked beside the Duomo while Mass was going on
inside. Only in Italy! There must have been 30 or 40 of them. Didn’t
mean much to me, but George was going nuts!

Orvieto Underground was really cool and we went down into the St.
Patrick’s well with the two circular staircases.

Only 4 day left and still so much to see! But we are enjoying it all
and it is so nice to come back to Panicale at the end of the day!



OK, there’s a great story here dealing with lost opportunities,
temptation, marital relations, luck, and redemption. All intertwined
with Ferraris, including an F40 modified for the street.
Wait till you see my pix from the real camera
(I took about a zillion), plus short videos of 40 red Ferraris
zooming down the stone-lined, side streets. One of those religious experiences you
get once or twice in life. Cay wasn’t quite so moved, but I took it to be
a gender-linked miraculous event, in the land of saints.



Must be a cultural thing. Red Ferraris, White hair, Blue jeans and Blue dress shirts. I’m getting one of those blue shirts so I can hang out with the big guys the next time it’s Take Your Ferrari to Church Day.

See you in Italy, and see you there real soon!

Stew Vreeland

P. S.
If you want to follow along via Twitter, click this link, then hit “follow” under my getting-ready-to-go-to-Italy face. We’ll try to send a blurb and photo a day. Prefer facebook? We’re equal opportunity and we’re on that as well. Go “be a fan” and you’ll be all set