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.

COUNTRY COMES TO TRIESTE.
VIEWS OF PIAZZA FROM HARRY’S CAFE

AFTER MIDNIGHT, PIAZZA GRANDE
TRIESTE, ITALY IN SPRINGTIME

When push came to shove . . . .
we came to Torgiano

TORGIANO, Umbria–I think the fact that we came here to Torgiano to celebrate our anniversary was very telling. A year ago it was Torgiwhat? We’d certainly never been in the village. (It is a bit left of Perugia and above Deruta) Oh, we’d heard “i voci” whispering about the wine museum, but I’m such a barbarian, I just couldn’t imagine such a thing. Turns out, I’ve only got two speeds on my wine analysis dial 1) hey, not bad. keep pouring and 2) Gack. no, no, choke, i’m fine, thanks.

But our co-anniversary celebrants kept after us. And we thought, you know, they are such inveterate, non-stop, explorers – lets get over ourselves and go see the darn Wine Museum with them. Well. We spent over an hour at MUVIT last year one rainy spring day and hardly made a dent in the place. Loved every minute of it. They have every thing from the ancient, ancient, bet-you’ve-never-seen-one-of-these to knock-your-socks-off modern art.
olive oil museum, torgiano italy, umbria, wine museum. Siro's restaurant
Thanks to their sugardaddy and founder Lungarotti Vineyards, everything is top drawer, world-class. Exceptionally well done and high art standard across the board.

This year, on a rainy spring day we went to its companion museum MOO. Yes, as fluent as the site and guides are in English, they all seem oblivious to the fact that we think “MOO” is cow noise, but they think it is Museo Olio Olive . It was smaller than the wine museum but no less interesting. Both are worth the trip and both can be seen on the same ticket for the price of seeing either one. On the day we were there they were throwing in tickets to the wine tasting at the winery as well. Win-win.

The previous year, post tour, we asked a guide where to eat. Specifically where CLOSE as it was raining buckets and some other museum-goers had “accidentally” walked off with my wife’s black and white polka dotted umbrella. The guide half leaned out the door and pointed to the corner of the street. And said “Giri, a destra all’angola, immediamente a sinistra, c’e Ristorante Siro.” This is where I would usually put a link to a deserving hotel/restaurant’s site. They evidently don’t have one. You can Google them, people like them and review them, but I couldn’t find a site per se. Regardless, we went and we were glad we did. And not just because we had shelter from the storm although that was in its favor. I would rank the food as wonderful, good vistas and personable staff who were the only people we ever heard speaking English. So there.

Exactly how much did it ring our bell? When we had to cut our trip back from three weeks to one, we could see it would cost us jaunts to the dream duo Trieste and Lake Como. We thought what can we do to make this right? To come up with a worthy last-minute fill in that wouldn’t chew up all our precious time by riding about in a rental car? We voted and revisiting Torgiano/Siros won. We felt like we did too. It was an unforgettable string of laughing in the rain, Dear Diary moments.

Thanks Torgiano,

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

You can’t have one, you can’t have one, without the . . . other.

MAY IN UMBRIA, Panicale–Our favorite month in Italy is probably always going to be May. Why? Short answer is Roses. The longer answer is everything is so green, so full of hope, promise of sultry summer days and swallows and sunsets. roses and umbrellas
But every now and then in May, you may want to know where your coat and hat are. And absolutely your umbrella and even gloves might feel good. Every moment of running back from Aldo’s with a coat over your head hiding from a sudden downpour is worth it, if for no other reason than for the roses. Whatever it takes to keep our new roses happy. One small bush, when seen from a walk by in the garden, seems a poor, underwhelming plant with no flowers to its credit at all. But, not so fast. Let us not judge this book by its cover . . . turn the page, move in closer and what the heck, it is over-producing. Its flowers are so dense and heavy that they point down like divining rods. Once we saw that, we just cut and then cut them some more. Roses for everyone. Roses on the house! Vases in every room.

TALK ABOUT CHANGEABLE.

Bruna, (on left, below) of Ristorante Masolino fame, has been the ranking chef, with the most seniority and history in Umbria for years. She lives a few steps from us one way, and her restaurant is a few steps on the other side of us. So, we see her coming up or down the street in front of us regular as the tide on Casco Bay. You can see she’s wearing an umbrella and a parka. And trust me, she needed both. For that moment at least. Look past her on the right of the photo. That is the top of our garden wall. In the other companion picture, at another moment, is Midge at the bottom of that wall, basking in the sun albeit in one of my sweaters. We’d be in the house and all of a sudden we’d see the sun was out and in a flash we’d be in lawn chairs and feel like we were in a solar cooker. At that point “someone” would “be up anyway” (gardening) and get sent in the house to fetch sunglasses. And before they could get back, the world would turn black. The theater would go dark. Summer would become winter.
umbrian umbrellas, beach chairs, umbrian spring weather changeable in italy. roses
Ma, va le la pena and worth the trouble too. In fits and starts, a chapter here, a page there, books were read, big thoughts mused, weeds met their final match. Glasses and spirits were lifted. And we put it to a vote, and we decided all was very right with the world.

Salute,

Stew Vreeland

Can I get a witness?

anniversary in Italy, umbriaPANICALE, Umbria–This time our excuse was . . . our anniversary trip. We think it was well deserved. 40 years for us and 40 for our best man, Harry and his wife, Alison. I was his best man and he was mine. I think Sandro said the simple way to relay that complicated relationship status was “eravamo testimone reciprocamente”. Tricky business, since Best Man implies a certain maleness I’d much prefer testimone ended in a clear-cut masculine “o” but no. Its that neutral “e” thing. Which is fine because technically it just means Witness.

We all enjoy Italy and so here we were, celebrating up a storm at GMB pastries outside of Castiglione del Lago. Here’s to many more! Salute! You can tell by the scarves and coats it was shoulder season.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Having barrels of fun.

PANICALE, Umbria–Yes, there’s a new guy in town. Welcome Paul Turina. He and his wife Betty are our new partners in the house in Panicale. They are on their way to Italy shortly to take romantic vineyard pictures with Paul and Jane of Avis Studio.
That could be one reason why Paul’s smiling. But on the other hand, he usually is. And why not. As he says “I’ve got the best job in the world.” And what would Job Nirvana be for a died-in-the-wool Italophile be? Right, the first time: Importing Italian wine.
paulapebarrelssm
Visiting vineyards, sampling luscious new wines at any and every hour of the day and night? Going out to eat in all corners of Italy with clients who know the best local places? Writing off your tickets to Vinitaly as a business expense? And calling it all work? It is a tough job but someone has to do it.

We just helped him double the size of the Turina Italian Wines site to keep up with his growing stable of select family vineyards. And the first day the new and improved site was “live” Paul was featured again on Fringe Wine This is the third time he and his specialty wines have been featured on this blog!

If you are eating out in Panicale in April and you see some guy at the next table – with an extra big grin on his face, just raise your glass and say “Salute, Paul!”

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland