Ok, I’m back now.

First it rained for a few days here in Umbria while we jetlagged about the house and test drove the wood stove. Then we had what are now referred to as the days of wild sunsets.

Been crazy since last blogging. First it rained for a few days here in Umbria while we jetlagged about the house and test drove the wood stove. Then we had what are now referred to as the days of wild sunsets. I have a photo, in fact, several photos that will attest to swell levels of weirdness. Then we started Italian gardening in spades. And of course it was necessary to take pictures of new flowers in bloom. I call this Wisteria in the Wind Is anyone buying any of these lame excuses. Anyone, at all? And seeing houses and meeting friends and making up for serious lost time. So, it has been just an Italy bit busy around here these last few days. Our town is called Panicale. It is so fun and social and full of things to do we affectionately call it Panic Alley. Having entirely too much fun, too much food, coffee and gelati. You know. . . That does sound pretty good. Wait right there.

Ok, back now. I must just be an urban kind of guy I guess. Popped my head out, popped right back in for umbrella and off to Aldo’s for gelati with “the family”. Nocciolo and almost black chocolate gelati. Aldo and Nico are talking plants and watching Italian movie sort of. Late at night these town cafes get more like being in someone’s living room. Where you can drop in as late as you want like bad teenagers. We get right into the fertilizers and cosmic issues of light and shade. Should we try to raise lemons in a pot or not? Big issues, weighty thoughts. And the good part is Aldo is sitting and gossiping like all the people he waits on all day every day. Is it obvious why I have trouble getting blog up? Easily distracted here in Umbria. Two stores up the street, and half way to our house is Masolino’s Restaurant and it finally looks like I can get in there. To see for sure if they are open Wednesday when friends from Colorado are racing up from Rome to eat there. Tuesday is still the day of reposo. Plan accordingly. Andrea says “you came in twice before and went back out” I said “cripe yes, era un cassino qui”. Somehow saying something was a bordello evokes crazy busy. Huge crowds every time I went by earlier and decided to pass on that even after I had actually stepped in. “Nobody but Americans still here now” he said without too much irony pointing towards the last couple tables lingering over coffees. Then he poured me a grappa something and we talked about fun things to do in Miami. Did I mention Miami is next month? I do too have a good excuse. Family member has a birthday and they insisted we party like Foridians. What could I say? And I will be reporting in “live” from Caffe Milano there thanks to Andrea’s heads up on that touristic front.

Seeing delightful Italian homes in all price ranges up to 2 million euros. And as low as 55,000 euros. Trust me you get what you pay for so if Giancarlo takes you to the 55,000 no whining, OK? Its cheap, already.

Some lovely lovely houses all around this part of Umbria. Places with gardens, with pools, or both. Complete Italian villas with their own woods, fields, horse paddocks like Podernovo, fairy tale hilltop, private homes with garden on all sides in full flowers, near Citta della Pieve. Go to the This just in! section for the full tease and then write me for the photo galleries or more information. This is really just the tip of the Italian real estate ice berg. Hold my feet to the fire when I get back to make me keep sorting and get all these beauties up on the site!

I went to the theater last night (it is a couple doors down the other way) and saw an amazing production by a local group. High tech, high concept, just a wonderful thing even if it does take place in hell? Astaroth in: La Guerra Spiegata ai Poveri. War explained to the poor people. Written in Italy right after WW2 but relative today as well. We knew several people in it. I loved getting my ticket. I was grocery shopping and my friend Dily wanted to know if I was going to the play and what night and we discussed and she said a ticket would be waiting and it was. Second row, middle, sold out show. I love how everything works here in Umbria.

The night before I walked to a friend’s house just outside the castle gates by full moon light. Chairs packed around the dinner table. A dog under the table. Some of the British people at the table kept exclaiming with great joy “It’s a Lurcher, it’s a great bloody Lurcher’. Which I guess is a breed of dog we silly Yanks don’t know about yet, big thing, mottled like a great dane. No, wait again, make that two dogs, I think there was a Jack Russel under the Lurcher, and if you stood up to get seconds on something a cat would doze off in your chair. Well, one did in mine. We wined and dined. And wined. Prosecco, local white Umbrian wine, Vin Santo, two kinds. Anti pasti, pasti with fresh rape, artichokes baked in a torte, fish (its head was nearly as big as mine) mouse, cookies. As the Egyptians say if I wasn’t standing deep in de Nile, I would admit to a bit of a “morning after” syndrome from all the wonderfulness.

The day before that party I really and sincerely found myself lost in deepest Tuscany. Ok, THERE is the map – at the BOTTOM of my computer bag. Boy, I could have used THAT a few hours earlier. Roads were out. Word of the day: Deviazione. Deviate indeed. I was lost. I was on roads that I later saw on maps, and they resembled nothing so much as twisted entrails. My own personal stomach was not doing a bad impersonation of same. If I only had a brain. Or a co-pilot. Or the map. A normal person could do it quite easily with any of those above.

It was worth trip I will admit. Podernovo, was my photographic goal of the day. Acres and acres of Tuscan woods being meticulously manicured and groomed, the pool and its terraces being readied for summer. Multiple stone buildings, all rooms freshly painted in the most luscious and tasteful pastels, old details cared for, restored and flattered with accessories, flowers and vines ready to burst into color. From the villa and grounds you look over at the town of Monticiano. Or you can canter through your own Italian woods to the Monticiano’s horse track where they train horses for Siena’s famous Palio. How many small towns have a horse track. How cool is that?

Wait. How far out of whack am I on this blog? Have I been so blogged down that I dropped the ball and didn’t report on seeing Siena again? I’m here again?

Appears so. The clouds parted and we had run to Siena between the raindrops. By late lunch time we were eating outside in the sun beneath scudding clouds that would have us in coats one minute and down to Tshirts the next.

Its all about food and books and people watching for me in Siena.

Food: pizza, ravioli and salad in il Campo. Porchetta and wild boar sausage in a sack from the deli a few stores away. Dinner solved.

Books: Ones with pictures and even one without: “The Reluctant Tuscan, or How I discovered my Inner Italian” by Phil Doran. We’ll see how that turns out. Had to like the title.

People watching: Note to the fashion forward, pale pistachio is the new black. It is the color in Siena for Spring ’05. My wife took her credit cards and went one way and my daughter took hers and went another and both came back with green. Shoes for one and a jacket for the other and they matched. So I started noting. Once you spot it you see it everywhere in Siena: cloth, leather, silks, walls of stores, on posters and graphics. So now you know. You heard it here first. “Green is Hot”. Ok, some of the pre-schoolers hadn’t gotten the memo on that but aren’t they so cute when with their day glow back packs and umbrellas and they are holding hands two by two like that? Town was aswamp with them.

Been quite a good Italian adventure so far and different friends are arriving every day for the next three days. My, sigh, flight is on the fourth of those days. If only the roses will bloom for me before I go. I hear good things about them, and people even send me photos of them. Never seen them in bloom in person yet. Some day.

Happy Italian Liberation Day Monday, April 25th by the way. La festa della “Liberazione” We asked if they have fireworks and got blank looks. Guess not.

Ok, for at least the next few days we can still say,

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

More Spring Showers

Last night someone in the restaurant said they thought they had heard a pope had been selected but it was not being announced yet. Have not checked the papers yet so do not quote me on papal elections. Had a long talk with my barber about the former pope and his many excellent qualities.

TUSCANY, UMBRIA, Italy— Great for a sleeping late start to the Sunday morning. Now officially over jetlag and on Italian central time. Last night someone in the restaurant said they thought they had heard a pope had been selected but it was not being announced yet. Have not checked the papers yet so do not quote me on papal elections. Had a long talk with my barber about the former pope and his many excellent qualities.

Dinner was fine the second time at Masolino‘s. Always is. But now because we are boring and do not want to be out in the rain and it is next door to our house we have been there two nights in a row. Dear me, they can cook. Teenage daughter Grayson and friend Clair pronounced the grilled lambchops the best meat they had ever eaten. Again, praise from teenagers is strangely high praise indeed.

Saw so many people we knew there last night. Such fun. Small town can be aces like that for connecting with friends. We met potential new clients there as well. Friends of Katia, Giancarlo’s new assistant who has found six houses this week. Busy girl. She had ducked in out of the rain to visit for awhile in the early evening. Her family has a business on this same street where we live. Never know who or when will be ringing at the door but it is always interesting to find out.

Today we decided to get coffee and find out what was going on around town. It was the overall opinion that the Tulip Festival was rained out so sad for the second weekend in a row. So we set off in the rain (buckets running deep in the streets kind of rain) to Montepulciano. We had pizza in a great place just outside of town. It can and sometimes does hold busloads of diners. Big but very casual place with huge walk in size wood burning ovens. It was such a Sunday family dinner experience. Why we felt positively Italian for most of the time.

Quick note as to why people like to come to Italy. First time at the cafe Bar Gallo this trip the girls were delighted to be getting large Gallo (rooster) shaped chocolates. Today they admired the big soaps by the cash register at the restaurant. Soaps of floral scent carved in shapes of open roses. No sooner had they admired them than the grandmotherly lady behind the counter passed them each one. Generous to a fault, they bowl us over.

Now we are back to find woven baskets of wood neatly delivered to the house. By Bruno. We had seen him this morning working and told him how very much we loved his installation of the woodstove. He asked how the wood supply was going and we said We would love it if we could get maybe bigger pieces sometime so they would burn longer. He rolled his eyes and said – &ldquo’Just like my mother in law”.

I’m leaving Monday, Jan 31st for Umbria!

While I am in Umbria, I plan to work around the house, test out our new Italian woodstove, drink buckets of Aldo’s cafe, visit friends, and, of course, see lots of new real estate.

I am counting the days. Can’t wait. As they say in Italy “non vedo l’ora.” My intent is to do a daily blog of the trip. We’ll see how this experiment works out. Have digi camera will travel. Flying into Firenze and working my way down to Umbria. Coming around the last corner when our house first reveals itself never ceases to thrill. Surprises us with a big dose of “welcome home” every time. The photo here is what I’m leaving behind in snowy Maine.

While I am in Umbria, I plan to work around the house, test out our new Italian woodstove, drink buckets of Aldo’s cafe, visit friends, and, of course, see lots of new real estate.

Giancarlo has just sent me his list of new properties that I hope to see in person right away. See if there is anything in this list that grabs your attention. More news on all of them as it becomes available. Note that these are in the works and prices not firm yet. This is very much a sneak preview!

• 9th Century Villa 6 km from Castiglione del Lago. Approx 500 sq.m, approx 400.000 euro. Habitable,small garden
• Terraced old property near Pescia
• Restored farmhouse near Gioiella 125 sq.m,- furnished- approx 200.000 euro. I’ll see again with the owner on Friday
• End house of a row of houses, very old property near Sanfatucchio. Habitable, approx 100 sq.m, garden with shed 120.000 euro estimated price.

He’s also very keen on a new property south of Panicale and near Tavernella. It is on our site under the top bar at the far right in the heading “This Just In!” That is my section of good intentions where properties sit for a second while I get their photos organized for the regular web pages.

If there is anything I do for you while I am there on the ground in Italy in February, let me know.

OK, See you in Italy!