continuing World Cup follow up

emails coming in from Italy today we thought you might like for the spirit and the feel of the occasion. Being in the World Cup only happens once every four years. Winning it, hardly ever, unless you are Italy and then this is still a rare treat but number FOUR!
Grande Italia sono contento soprattutto per “CUGINI” francesi.

Ciao e a presto

do you see our fabolous “partita” yesterday?
Oh, we are all in the road today, nobody works, we are all in


Later that same night . . . .

Its 2:30 in the morning (Italian time) when we finally got through to Wiley’s telefonino, a great clamour of noise in the background (and we were wondering out loud: Is it too late to call? Will we wake the poor baby up?) and sure enough she answered on the first ring saying Oh, babbo can’t talk now, the party is just getting going good, we’re down at the lake, (Trasimeno, assume she means Castiglione del Lago) its a great bar right on the water, people are getting thrown in, all crazy, tell you everything tomorrow! OKgottago.




DATELINE: ALL OF ITALY— NEWS FLASH! ITALY WINS! THEY ARE IN THE WORLD CUP SOCCER FINALS. OPPONENT TO BE DECIDED TONIGHT. EITHER FRANCE OR PORTUGAL. Forza Azzuri! Yay Italian Blue. Did you see the match yesterday? Nice of them to have it on the Fourth of July. Wow. What a match. Beating unbeaten Germany in Germany. OMG. There must be much dancing in the streets in “football” crazed Italy today. FINAL MATCH ON FRIDAY, JULY 9TH.

We return you now to our regularily scheduled blog:



PANICALE, Umbria— There is a Roman family who live on the street below us. And some other Romans who live beside us. Now we have another new neighbor from Rome: Amselmo. He’s not new. Just new to us. Like many a Roman in Panicale, they are more often than not actually originally from Panicale, but they live and work in Rome. And come home to Panicale on the weekends. It’s a couple hours and couldn’t be easier for them. He and his wife have a building down the street from us. They live on the top two or three floors and for the last year or so have been renovating the ground floors of his building into a stylish weekend home for his adult kids. We’ve been watching the progress every time we go by and if Amselmo’s there he invites us in. Very much a constant twinkle in the eye kind of guy. He did the place for his kids to lure them to Panicale but no dice, they didn’t come as often as he had hoped, so he’s selling it.


ROME, Italy— They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. But we saw the heck out of it in a day. Did not know you could do that. So, I had to be coaxed and cajoled into spending a day in Rome. Well, I got my just deserts there. What a fine and fun day in the sun that turned out to be. Like all recent converts, I’m all fired up and ready to go again at the drop of a hat. Mood swings? Yike. Here’s the no-stress way we spent the day. Got up at seven. See that wasn’t so hard, now was it Stew? Had a leisurely coffee with Aldo, caught the 8:59 Chiusi to Rome Termini. Trenitalia (trains of italy) by the way, is pretty much bulletproof train schedule site. With brother Roger and his wife Donna in hand we pulled into the Rome station at 10:46. I defy any one to pilot a car to central Rome in an hour and three quarters from Panicale in the middle of Umbria. Usually it takes us three solid hours to get to Romes’s airport. I’m guessing the trip to the center of town would be a comparable driving nightmare.

The train pulled in right on time, ten euros later, by cab (yes, yes we could have walked but we didn’t know that now did we?) we were at Hotel Giuliana on Via Agostino Dpretis. Antonio greeted us happily as Roger’s reservation filled his last room. Hey, Antonio, save us a room. We will be back!


We found the hotel in DK Eyewitness Travel under “Rome” under “Termini”. This book proved bulletproof too. So helpful for scooting around town. Ok, one drawback. The book is not only heavy with detail, it is just plain heavy. Another time I might just read, review and leave at home. But as a security blanket, it was worth its weight in gold. A slightly braver Roman Traveler might find true happiness with just one Dam map. We used our really tough, light, durable Van Dam “Street Smart Rome” folding map a hundred times in the one day. Unlike a lot of embarrassingly large, bed sheet sized maps, this one is discrete and folds out more like a brochure. Colorful, simple, helpful, laminated. Would not go without it.


So, what did those resources help us see in one easy day? Lets start at the Terminal:

Hotel. Got in, chatted up the nice staff, got settled, oriented.
Coliseum. This was no drive by. We did the complete guided tour. See below.
Roman Forum
Hadrian’s Column
Victor Emanuel Monument. Also see below.
Bernini’s Elephant based obelisk
The Pantheon!
Trevi Fountain

All on foot and all casual. This was absolutely not one of those forced marches tourists sometimes inflict on themselves. We’re way to lazy for that. We stopped, we gawked, we took each other’s pictures in front of every piece of carved marble in town, we sat in the sun, we ate paninnis, we licked gelatis. And then, Midge and I caught the 5:14 back to Chiusi after making sure Roger and Donna were all organized, finding them tickets for their next day’s trip to the airport. We showed them the trick to catching that train. (The trick: that train comes in off to the side of the major tracks. To your right as you are looking at the trains going to every corner of Italy. To the side and waaay down the corridor. That’s right, just keep going. Airport train is a bit different as it is sort of inter-city, special deal) The train station in Rome has become very uptown and cool. Like a trendy mall versus the greasy gritty third world dump I remember it being. I was, and remain, impressed. With train, station and Rome.


What a lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday. To think that two days ago my sister in law was wearing my parka! If I had had a wool scarf in Montepulciano even the day before, I would have worn it too. Today Rome was blessed with Tshirt weather and we were reveling in it. And loving the fact that a lot of the city was closed to cars and major streets around the forum were reserved for pedestrians and bicycles. Not sure what the occasion was, but regardless, let us just wave goodbye out our train window and say Viva Roma!

I hope to be writing up some Helpful Italian Train Riding Hints shortly. Fun for all ages.

Until then,

See you in Italy,



OK, Where’s the Party? My place?

PANICALE, Umbria— That’s what they say today’s holiday is. Festa Nazionale. Off to a funny non-typical start for a holiday in Umbria. Well, at least one in June. Its dark and chilly, but the clouds parted a bit late in the afternoon and sure enough a tent went up in the piazza. They were selling local olive oil. Wiley says Katia’s family’s oil is part of the brand that gets sold with the town logo on it (the painting by Perugino of St Stephen). We got a tin of it for our Italian American neighbor Carlo, back in Maine. Always take presents that are heavy and/or breakable. Our one firm, unbendable Vreeland Family Travel Rule.

We are so slow on the uptake. The festive carved watermelons in town might have been a hint? It appeared to us that the one tent in the piazza was the sad sum total of the Festa. But some patient person took pity on us, took us strangers in a strange land, by the hand and pointed out there were galleries and cantinas open down every alley in town. How did we miss that? Always surprises us when these fun places open up. Day in and day out they present blank, ancient wooden faces to their alleys and we mindlessly walk by. Nope nothing there. Nothing to see here folks. Keep moving. Then, a couple times a year they unbar those doors, swing them open and start slinging wine and bruschetta at you in one and olive oil and local fagiolini (broad beans) in another and so on right around the town. Some are old wine storage places with ancient wine presses or wooden casks left behind for ambience. Some are proper pastel painted galleries with modernistic Italian lighting in their arched ceilings and views over gardens. Totally changes the feel of the town in the Where Are We sense. Once the light bulb went on in our tiny brains we knew where all these cantinas often are and passed ourselves from one to the next buying bottles of wine, jars of saffron, more wine. One place had a fish-based bruschetta which sounds rather odd but tasted rather divine. Benefits of an open mind and, in this case, open mouth. We came, we tried, we liked!

What a fun and revealing trip around town. Can we really be this blissfully unobservant? Our house sits between two tiny stone streets. We get use to using our top street. Its where our main doors are, its just the logical path of least resistance and makes the smoothest, easiest entry. But we do have an entry on the lower back street, our back alley in Panic Alley, Umbria. The trip we took through our lower street today to see all the local products on display was a real eye opener. Something has happened here. Can’t fool me. We looked away for a minute and What the Heck, we done got gentrified down there. I’d heard that Patrizia (of elegant restaurant Lillo Tattini, right on the piazza) had a rental place in town, just didn’t know where it was. Today the massive doors that close it off from the world are open and it is chic, chic, chic. But what am I talking about, the whole street is looking great. Che shock. I think it is our downstairs Roman neighbors relentless application of flowers and more flowers followed by liberal application of lace curtains and polished wood doors. We have one double set of doors there and we are polished wood and lace curtains and our garden looks ok from that angle too now that I look up at it. But Massimo and Stefania da Roma really put us to shame with red geraniums spilling out of every door and window opening. When we bought our house our “door” on that street was a mangled mess of old wood sort of shielding a dirt floored stack of moldy junk from view. Sort of. A place where soft hearted neighbors slipped in plates of food for the wildcat swatter residents of Casa Margherita. Not now. Less Cat. More Chic. The things you can find. Right in your own back alley.


Anyway, what with all this activity we shill-ied and shall-ied a bit too long and Masolino’s was fully booked so we decided to stay in and nosh. Salads, cheeses, bread and the Wiley Traveler’s outrageously fine escargot. So successful and tasty and unusual that, since it has been raining off and on all day, we went out in the garden and scooped up several dozen more latent escargots candidates (lumache) to start the next slow food event! Our garden isn’t big but it is like a game preserve for the local lumache. Big honkers too. See typical Garden Variety Big Game next to euro bill in photo for size. They are all that big. Luckily this game is somewhat slow moving, so hunting and tracking them is about my speed. The preparation is the really amazingly slow part of the process. Six days from snail to snack! Wiley is writing the story of the preparation, but now that I think of it she’s being slow too, isn’? Hmm. The ultimate Slow Food, indeed?

We settled down for a fine night by the woodstove, playing Scopa!, teaching my brother and his wife the fine points of this fun Italian card game. And somehow . . . it made us a bit thirsty and we sampled all the wines we had carried around from the festa until oh no. All gone. How did that happen?

As early sixties writer, H. Allen Smith might say “These photos illustrate the type of work the Vreeland brothers do”

Until next time,

See you in Italy!