Blog of Lists. Things to do in Italy.

PANICALE, Umbria – MIDGE’S LIST VS MY LIST. What I’ve learned from comparing the two of them carefully: They are not the same.

And I’m rewriting mine.

Gardening in Italy fall 2006

Stew’s Italian vacation list:

• Go to hardware store for more big black plastic bags to clean garden.

• Clean the garden.

• Find computer store for power cable. This would be easy except the cord is for a Mac.

• Spread out all our gadgets and wires and adaptors and servers and routers and see what we’ve really got that makes sense together here.

• Find computer tech to hook up the above mess and get us connected to the darn broadband.

• Get a multiple plug from the electrical shop, if I can ever find it open.

• Keep trying.

• Find my friend that knows the mason and see if we can get him to come to the house.

• Meet the mason to fix the kitchen wall where it is shedding paint.

• Pay the garbage tax at town hall.

• Go to bank, check out our checking account status.

Midge’s Italian vacation list:

• Take a walk. Look at the olives

• Sit in the garden. Read.

• Find Paulette. Talk.

• Take short afternoon nap.

Her vacation time management list is a thing of beauty. Mine was more of a battle plan. Lesson learned? We’ll see. I hope so.


rose colored glassesMONTEPULCIANO, Tuscany– OK the calendar says Fall. Late Fall. I checked. And the lazy November sun was punching in later and checking out earlier – every day. But! When that sun is out and about, so are we. We spend our days strolling about in short sleeves. And our nights sleeping with the windows wide open. And according to my Plant Diary, it was exactly like this last year at this same time. In Maine, the colors have run away and left us with shades of grey. But here in Umbria? Things are just starting to get their autumnal glow. When we got to Umbria on the 24th of October, I noted the left behind vines of recently harvested grapes were still rather green. The next week they went momentarily golden and now they are turning nut browns and drifting down to the still warm ground.

Almost insincere shades of lush bright green cover hillsides. And flowers mix with red vines climbing up and over walls in the village center. And there are bright blue skies overhead every day. It all puts me in high spirits maybe higher than on a summer’s day. I’m tempted to stay home and laze about. But it is just too nice. You have to be out. And coffee at “our local” is not a bad idea either so we’re off to the piazza for a soft launch into the day. So many people to meet and greet, so little time. This morning we saw at least Paulette, Susan, Mauro, Gigi, Biano, Adelmo and was that all? Light day but excellent.

the bellringer of Montepulciano, TuscanyToday we are blessing Montepulciano with our presence and buying a few Christmas presents while we are at it. The town is abuzz and people are in their Sunday best. Which is maybe as it should be since it is Sunday after all. Looks like there are more than a handful of End of Summer neighborhood festivals, a chestnut festival, public dinners (you can hear and smell the sizzle of sausages being grilled, mid-day bells ringing, there is accordion music in the air outside one festival. Way too many stores are open so our progress is slow as we roam up and down the steep, stone streets. We dropped in the Osteria di Borgo that Paulette spoke of in glowing terms, and it is way up at the apex of the town. The better to see your view, Montepulciano. One of a million vantage points with panoramic vistas here in this crows’ nest of a town. After awhile, incredibly, you just start to take the fabulous overlooks in Montepulciano for granted. An embarrassment of Tuscan riches? Yes, indeed.

And the best part? The crazy clock on the village tower says it is LUNCH TIME! And we are in Italy. And, and, we are eating outside. In November!

La dolce vita, in fatti.

so many good things to eat Italian and Tuscan style


We had many things at the Osteria – including a rosé Prosecco that I really liked. But then, there really isn’t a bad Prosecco. Not in my unsophisticated way of looking at the world. I expect Prosecco to be good and it almost always is. But the cheese plate we had here and the ribollita WOW they were both real Dear Diary entries. Montepulciano is famous for its Vino Nobile but they love to Say Cheese here, too. And we had an especially nice collection on our sampler plate, and the sauces to dress them with were serious fun, too. Green, red, mahogany brown, they were representatives from all over the color wheel. The green pepper sauce you could sort out for yourself but the almost purple black one, I had to taste it several times before I caught its onion origins. There was one spicy, spicy one I really liked but really never pinpointed the principal ingredients. The ribollita soup, on the other hand – it was brilliantly obvious what it was made of. Perfect texture, not just a big old mush, which I also like just fine but this one was visually attractive with bright primary colors clearly defined the full range of the Vegetable Kingdom. Did I say it was great? Hey. Hey, get your own bowl!

write on stew. right on about ItalyHUGS AND KISSES

To hug or not to hug? Being from the Midwest, it is a curious thing to me – all this hugging. When I was growing up on the Great Plains, physical contact was pretty much limited to football practice. In my life to date, I’ve gotten along fine without an overabundance of social hugging. Well, I think I have. Who knows if I would have been a better or a worse person with more or less hugging?. Even though I’m a native of a relatively hug free environment I’m finding I’m rather OK with all the hugging going on around here. Maybe the times are changing. Is it me or are people, even in middle America and New England, huggier that they use to be? Hard to put a stake in the ground and compare. Here, in central Italy, it is really almost not all that optional. You may have noticed. You see an Italian friend, their eyes light up, their arms open wide and the next thing you know you are sure enough hugging. And there is the option when a handshake becomes, of all things, the double kiss option.

So, now look. . . if you are going to get sucked into this whirlpool of hugs and air kisses I say you may as well do it Right. Literally. See the kissee’s head? You go to the right. Your right. Airkiss. Then go left. Repeat airkiss. But it all starts to YOUR right. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t go to the right first, but it does throw everyone off a bit. So get out there and practice, practice, practice. Kiss. Kiss. XXOO

See you in Italy,


Olive this and NPR too

TUSCANY, Italy– I was scooting around the house like a chicken with my head cut off this morning. Off to a frantic start to the new years. Where are my car keys? Shoes? College interviews for one daughter, a trip for another, prescriptions at the drug store, doctor appointments, and on and on all before 8 AM yes 2007 may be the Year of Hit the Ground Running. See 2006, 2005, etc. whew.

But I did actually stop in my buzzzzing around like a bee with a thread tied to one leg. When I heard the soothing tones of Italian language being spoken I stopped and I listened to an NPR story about Picking Olives and Tasting Olive Oil, in Southern Tuscany. A great and timely story about the olive harvest. I don’t know how long the story will be at this link but it was there when I got into the office and Googled NPR and Morning Edition.

Coming up soon is my story of being at the olive oil press with the olives we picked. It is decidedly a fun way to pass the day, you get involved and trust me you feel wanted. During the harvest there is definitely a scramble to recruit any able bodied buddy for any amount of time. If you go to the home page of our site you will see Midge picking away at this fall’s harvest in Italy. She’s so funny. She’s a great hard worker at office or church or committee but, not sure she likes “manual labor”. Obviously not raised on a farm in Iowa where this is not totally an option. But peer pressure is a wonderful thing and once coaxed into it she loved it and ended up picking olives in Panicale in Umbria for a couple wild days and then picked at Spannocchia in Tuscany too. A true gypsy migrant worker that girl. With seventy degree temps and good friends up every tree it was hard work but more satisfying than a day at the beach!

See you in Italy,