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.
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,



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

House Hunters Int episode was great

Just saw the HGTV episode of House Hunters International with our clients Bob and Carolyn finding their new home in Umbria with Giancarlo.

Just saw the HGTV episode of House Hunters International with our clients Bob and Carolyn finding their new home in Umbria with Giancarlo. Complimenti a tutti e tre. Well done, nice 20 minute tour of the area and some properties. And nice cameo by Aldo of Bar Gallo too. If you missed it on first run, it looks like it will be on again very early in Dec. For dates and times, see the link on an earlier blog

I could almost see our house and some of its wisteria in one scene where they were being interviewed outside. And you may recognize many places in Italy in the course of the show. We could certainly see Panicale, Paciano and Castiglione del Lago.

In Memoriam: Tigre. 1996-2009

Aldo just told us. Tigre died last night. He asked us to make the announcement here.


PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–
Cold and dark outside. Bar Gallo was empty and quiet for a moment. Aldo just told us. Tigre died last night. November 3rd, 2009. Aldo asked if we would place an announcement here.

I thought Aldo was going to cry. I know he wouldn’t be the only one there that felt that way. But he more than anyone else. Aldo had warned us it was emminent. I chose not to believe Tigre could ever be anything shy of ten feet tall and bulletproof. I know he was “only a cat” but what a princely cat he was. Let Venice have the lion of St Marks. Tigre in many ways was a symbol of Panicale. Our guardian at the gate. We don’t throw coins in the fountain here and think of coming back soon. We pat Tigre.

If you noticed, there are lots of cats in town. But there was never another feline, of any stripe, anywhere near the piazza. And canines were only there provisionally. Right to the end. Only last week he was catnapping in one of the new chairs in the back part of the bar when a long haired lap dog pranced by on a leash. Tigre raised himself up majestically, and sphinx-like fixed the dog with a laser beam look that said “I’ve got my eye on you” De Niro couldn’t have said it better.

A page has turned, an era has ended that I wasn’t ready to see end. As Aldo said “. . . e’ la vita . . ”

Tigre has gone to join la cara Annanina. What a team they were.
Tigre has gone to join la cara Annanina. What a team they were.

After Aldo broke the news to us I asked if there would be a funeral and he said he had done it. I said I meant at the church and with black trimmed posters plastered to the outer walls of the village. Failing that, here’s perhaps a way we could help his memory linger on: with a collection of his photos made into an iBook to leave in the bar. Surely there was never a cat more photo-documented by people in Panicale. I’m trying to sort through my pictures of Tigre. Send stories or photos to

Here’s one of my favorite Tigre Tales. There is an opening blurb about some press coverage Panicale got in a big Italian magazine. After that first short paragraph, it is all Tigre at his macho best: “Tigre explains life to the Great Danes. And their little dog too.” There is a photo of Tigre there as well.


Coffee Rules – Italy


cappuccinoHere’s a link to The Rules of Coffee Ordering and Drinking in Italy. Saw it on a Twitter and think it says it all. Italians take coffee so rightly seriously. And of course if you want a cappuccino after lunch or dinner, and it makes you happy, by all means I say, Do It. If your barista was to give you a look, which they won’t, just shrug and say “Scusi, sono straniero.” That covers oh so much ground. Use it freely in almost any situation. Italians will happily accept our money. Along with our foreign idiosyncrasies. Goes with the territory?

Except maybe for Daniela.

Reminds me of a late night, coffee-like story:


We’d had a fine mid-day eatathon that day. And how we could even consider eating again, I do not know, but after an extended siesta/nap/fall-down-and-be-quiet thing, we did a walking tour of Panicale and then had a most excellent but light dinner at Masolino’s. Sans wine. But, then, to make up for that momentary lapse into the dark world of abstemiousness I found my lips forming the words “Nightcap, anyone?” All hands were raised and we wandered post-dolce to Aldo’s next door and had the Wiley Traveler’s Special. It tastes like a nice, late night coffee would. But it is coffee imposter, caffeine-free Orzo, brewed up like a cappuccino and topped off with Bailey’s. How easy was that to say? Orzo with Bailey’s. You might think so. But you’d be wrong. At least in Panicale’s Bar Gallo with Daniela in charge on a busy night. Elegant Daniela, who suffers fools hardly at all, decided I needed to be taught how not to drive her crazy. After a couple false starts over a week’s time, (practice, practice) we got me to parrot these words back to her:

“Orzo corretto con baaay-lees in una tazza grande”. Say that, like that, and you’ll get your foamed and frothed up Orzo in a cappuccino-sized cup with good shot of Bailey’s. At least from Daniela. I’d think in a place we didn’t know we’d have to specify. Maybe add “fatto come un cappuccino” or such. Be that as it may, we had to go around the horn a bit to get to this Daniel accepted version of ordering as I thought the “corretto” part would mean Grappa would be added. Turns out coffee can be “corrected” with any liquor of choice. I dare say if you don’t specify you will Get Grappa’d.

Regardless, it is as fine a sleep potion as I’ve ever come across. And a marvelous way to end a marvelous day. About a euro in your local bar. Sogni d’Oro/Orzo to all and to all a good night.


All about Umbria

Kathy McCabe of “Dreams of Italy” subscription newsletter about, yes, Italy – asked us to write an article about about the area around Lago Trasimeno for her June issue that was completely focused on Umbria. So, i did! And she used several of our photos. Got to mention many names of many favorite people and places.

If you’d like a copy, just let me know and I’ll send you a pdf of it, in living color.

and we have tickets in hand for Italy in October.

if you will be there then we really can say:

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland