Does it ever snow in Umbria?

Yes, Virginia, there is a possibility you’ll see snow for the holidays. Italy is fairly temperate, so it most likely won’t. But even the rare winter storm can have a shiny silver lining. In fact, some of my favorite memories were formed during winters in Panicale, years ago, when we lost power. We heated with our lovely wood burning stove, we have gas for cooking so we were still able to entertain by candle light. We relished the muffled silence on every side of us as we walked to the dimly glowing Masolino’s restaurant street. They were one of the few places that had a generator. Another time I remember pulling on boots and crunching our way thru the knee deep snow of an un-plowed road to a friend’s house on the edge of town. We popped prosecco corks and admired the most fanciful, tallest, gilded chocolate cake I’ve ever had the pleasure to see in person. Our friend had made it on commission for a fancy party which had been cancelled because all the roads were impassable. In the flickering candle light we marveled at the cake, then without further regard for its artistic merit, we sliced it, enjoyed it and toasted our friendships and congratulated ourselves on being stuck in such a fine place at such a fine time. Salute!

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

P.S. And if you do get to Italy and find yourself stuck in a snow storm, tune your ears for this expression because it will be being bandied about. You watch. Someone will push in through the door, stomp the snow off their boots and start to grouse about the weather only to be met with a smile and a shrug and a philosophical “Sotto le neve c’e pane.” Which is a very short way of saying Remember, that under the snow is bread. Meaning snow brings moisture which will help to grow the wheat that is going to feed us, so lets all be all zen about the snow already! In fairness, as Pollyanna as that sounds, the second half of the rhyme is “sotto l’aqua, c’e fame.” Meaning, yes, but too much water, ie: flood, means we’ll all go hungry, too. So, smiley face followed by frown face. My sense has been that Italians may all know the second half of the rhyme but I’ve rarely heard it used.

Trasimeno at twilight

twilightovertrasimenoPANICALE – Just got this fine iPhone shot of Kiki’s last supper in the garden. Taken by her friend Kathleen. Brava, brava.

And Kiki tells me she now has the full name of the new deli/bakery/take out place she has been raving about in Panicale. In the same way we call Bar Gallo, Aldo’s, Kiki had been calling this new place “Salvatore’s” but thanks to her credit card bills she now knows its official name is L’umbria dei Sapori di Riso Salvatore. As they say when I’m chewing – that’s quite a mouthful.

Speaking of food, Pino of Siena’s Osteria da Divo has a dinner at the Italian Life Expo that is totally sold out. He’s part of the Siena-based Friends of Rick Steves in Tuscany. They wil be at the expo and there are many other events during the expo June 9-11, so we’re telling people to get there tickets while they can. Tourism, copper ware, ceramics, wines and olive oils abound. And these are wines from little-known grapes like some of my favorites the Turnina Marzeminos and their light and lovely Chiarettos of the Brescia region. You’re not going to see these beauties or dozens of other regional favorites from generations-old family vineyards at your local Piggly Wiggly. Sign up and drink up, June 9-11. Salute!

Ok, See you in Italy (or for a couple days in Portland, Maine during the festival. We’ll be the one in the GREEN ape)

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.
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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,

Kiki

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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

The Italians are coming, the Italians are coming . . .

What would the world be without an Italy? Discuss among yourselves and get back to me? I was thinking about this after having pizza at a seminar yesterday, penne pasta primavera last night at home and on my way for a shhh-don’t-tell-the-office cappucchino breakout this morning. When! What to my wondering eyes should appear but a brand new Fiat 500. Parked right next to me. What a trick pony that is. The owner was getting his haircut when they saw me taking his car’s portrait and salon emptied and we had a moment there. Fiat execs would have been misty-eyed at the enthusiasm over their new baby. This one is a limited edition. Edition of 500. Wicked cool.
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And of course that reminded me that the Italian Life Expo team just got confirmation yesterday that a literal boat load of Italian products got onboard in Genoa. And that ship has sailed! Wines, olive oils, copper and ceramic wares all pointed towards Portland, Maine. The Italians they belong to are probably packing their bags as we speak. The countdown is well underway, let the festivities begin. Got your tickets? June 9-11 on Portland’s waterfront.

To keep up with the details about this happy bit of Italy coming to our shores Follow the Expo on Twitter and/or “Like” their Facebook page

See you in Italy (when Italy comes to Portland!)

Stew Vreeland

Kiki finds a couple things to do in Umbria

Maybe a couple times in our Life After Buying a House in Umbria, people have said “well, gee, if you buy one place then you’ll never be able to go anywhere else. And won’t you get, like, bored?” As if. Every time we go to Italy, and this is a dozen years now, we find things we can’t now imagine that we missed. Its just an embarrassment of riches waiting for us to discover.
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That came to mind when we got this fun-filled note from our buddy and co-owner Kiki. We have so much unscheduled merriment there in Panicale that we often teasingly refer to it as Panic Alley. What the heck, same general pronunciation?

If I interject and annotate her note I’ll put my words in Italic and in parens.

See you in Italy!

Stew

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Hey Styooo, (how Anglo Saxonish name Stewart comes out in Latin-ish Italian. Regardless, music. Well, to my ears)

Pix when we can. (Fine, fine. I’ll do mine!) Too busy having fun. Here’s what we’ve done:

Wednesday arrival, lunch at GMB. (over over the top coffee, pastry extravaganza at bargain prices just outside Cast.d.Lago. fotos here hint of same. enclosed is their idea of civilized morning nosh, above, and box lunch, below. BTW, I think the lunch delights came to under $10 USD. Box and bows included.)

Thursday Morning discovered Salvatore’s, the new take-out in Panicale. Best bread ever, plus wonderful seafood lasagna (recommended by Giovanna) and torta di Napoli.

Thursday Night we hit Cortona to visit Kathleen’s Peaks Island friends. Saw Pia! Air-kissed and said ‘hi.’ (that’s Pia of Nando and Pia fame our old friends at Bar Sport by the intersection of the piazzas in the center of town. Just beside City Hall and across from theater) Kathleen’s friends want to buy here, so we told them about seeyouinitaly! (why, thank you) They’re smart, cute and funny. Yet more nice friends to have here.
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Friday, back to Salvatore’s, then Assisi and our first gelato of the season.

Saturday Ikea in Firenze — wait ’til you see my new living room! …

Sunday, back to Salvatore’s, then brunch at Elida’s with Sophia + Anna; Sunday evening dinner at the Peter/Sarah’s with gang of ten others. so good to see.

Monday Siena, so Kathleen could see St. Catherine’s head — and thumb.

Today, Cetona with the Bowers to visit their antiques guy — and have a three hour lunch.

Tomorrow, Rome. Jim is driving us because he wants to see the Coliseum, too. Nice, eh?
(they are back. loved it eternally they said. But, no. They didn’t elaborate. Assumed they were just still having too much fun. Wait, wait “I’ve got mail)

Rome. That’s a riot about the earthquake. We were rather like you, Midge and friends when you were at the Autogrille when the place had been evacuated for a faux bomb scare: innocents abroad. We knew nothing. Jim drove us to Rome to pick up Rob, who slept his whole flight and was plenty rested. We parked near the Circus Maximus, walked to the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain. Had a good lunch — and the most incredible ‘iced’ cappuccino. Lovely. Lots of walking on what seemed like terra firma!
(versus the italian word for earthquake: terremoto)
No time yet to swim in pools, patronize favorite local restaurants or take pix. Definitely will!

What … flood? At the office? (can you hear the roar of the fans? she’s in Italy, we’re here with broken water heater water lapping at our office door. sigh. Almost fixed! YAY.)

Baci, baci.
Kiki