Living the dream in Italy

early autumn in Umbria, Italy, by the pool. does it get any better?

This email just made our day, our week, our year. THIS is why we do this real estate match-making. The words and photo here from happy clients/great friends says it all.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland


Peter and I have been here in Italy for a glorious three weeks. The weather, food, and friendship has been more than we could have ever dreamed of. We look forward to our next trip at the end of October and sharing some memories with you both such as finally having you both to our home for dinner! Hope you and family are well.

Peter says “ciao” from the pool!!!

much love, Sarah

“Follow us” to Italy? Daily, on Twitter.

Come along with us on Twitter? We’ve already started posting Italy-related tweets daily. Check out today’s post on the fab Grape Harvest Festival gala weekend in Panicale that starts on the 17th of Sept.

follow2italy2Ciao, ciao amici!

Our long-overdue, much-postponed, trip to Italy is FINALLY coming right up. We’re looking forward to seeing friends and new real estate listings October 16th – Nov 7th. Come along with us? Following our 1960 Vespa will be counter-productive. What with the annoyance of the Atlantic Ocean and all. But you can easily follow us on Twitter. We’ve already started posting Italy-related tweets, daily. Check out our post on the fab Grape Harvest Festival gala weekend in Panicale that starts on the 17th of Sept. Here’s how: Go to Our Twitter Home Page and hit the “follow” button in the top left. You’ll be right there with us as we visit places like Panicale, Siena, Torino and who knows what other shiny objects Italy will dangle in front of us.


Call it what you will, we have broadband at our place in Panicale and our intent is to use it to post something “short and tweet” every day. We’ll include iPhone pictures, a couple of words and interesting links.

There’s a blue Twitter “T” logo on the top of every page on our site now – so you can get to our Twitter page that way, too. Isn’t technology grand?

See you in Italy! In October. And right now on Twitter.

A presto,

Stew Vreeland

More low impact fun in Italy

low impact fun in Italy
PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–It may LOOK like I am just standing absentmindedly in the piazza. See shady character in center photo. That could be me. Spending quality time gazing pensively at my reflection in the back window of an allegedly Smart, but very dusty car. And photodocumenting the moment for all posterity. It may not seem like a productive way to do business. But don’t be fooled. This is power networking I am doing here.

I am, at some level, just waiting. For a miracle. Named Maurizio. Katia says if anyone can unscramble my bushel basket of computer wires and modems and routers and random equipment and make their sum total equal me being on broadband, it just might be her Maurizio aka “Bel Genio”. So, I’ve left the olive harvest celebration lunch and am pacing myself back and forth around the edges of Piazza Regina Margherita. No Maurizio so far.

Ah, but what is this? It is our dear Swedish friend Gun (pronounced goon, not gun) sliding into the piazza in her battleship gray Fiat Panda. This car works for a living. And looks it. Gun uses it like it is a two ton diesel dump truck. She has her cheery Dutch friend with her. We air kiss through the open car window and banter a bit. You have to catch a moment of Gun’s time when and where you can. She says, in a long suffering way, that she has thirty Swedes working for her, picking olives for their room and board. She says feeding them is a full time job; so, she isn’t certain Who is working for Whom. “And Some of them are So Old”, she cries. “They can hardly pick. But they eat like starved people”.

Gun is a bit over 70, but doesn’t look it or act it; you have to know she means typical old people. NOT like her. Well, they couldn’t be like her. No one in their right mind works as hard as she does. I know, I know! Ask me! I have an idea Gun – Why not feed these lollygagging old people according to how well they pick, and see if they pick up the pace? There is the “woosh” of air brakes and our whole field of vision is filled with one apartment-sized tour bus. It is Her Swedes coming back from their olive oil pressing. Gun’s son, the Swedish priest, is in the front window – tour guide microphone in hand. They spill out of the bus and swarm around us, covering her in bright, perky Swedish. She gives me a wistful look, and I’ve lost her.

But look over there. Isn’t that Giancarlo in his shiny acid green Fiat? He’s pulled up to the Stop sign, he rolls down his window, takes a furtive last drag, and kicks a butt out on the street and makes an appointment to for us to get together the next day. We’ve both got cell phones, land lines, emails. But he acts like he totally expected to see me right there, right then. Ok, there he goes. See you tomorrow.

A young guy goes by in a car. Is that our Maurizio? Nope. Guess not. Like I said, I have a cell phone and, just to prove it, it is ringing away. Oh. Hi. It is Maurizio. I hear laughing and see him, waving, a few feet behind me. That WAS him in the car. All the planets aligned in under five minutes of piazza standing. And a couple hours later, Bravo Maurizio had us wired. Life as we know it can go on.

Some of my finest work.

See you in Italy (I’ll be the one in the piazza)

Stew Vreeland

Pressing Engagements in Italy

PACIANO, Umbria, Italy– It is a gorgeous day in Paciano as the road winds its way up past il Casale Restaurant toward the frantoio. The olive mill. Manicured green, green stair-step terraces of silver-leafed olives shimmer in the sun and look for all the world like they were done by Disney. Can’t be real. Have to take my word for it. Mouth open. Camera closed. I missed the photo op but lived the moment.

at the olive pressThe view from the hilltop frantoio was resort quality. Lake in distance, Cortona beyond that, very romantic. Inside the mill everything was all business, all chrome and spankyclean, industrial blue, high-tech-looking Italian olive oil pressing machines. You can wax as poetic as you want to. But basically, your hard fought olives go in here and the oil comes out there. In your polished metal can at the other end of the system. I came, I saw, I got it. Fine, ok, lets eat. As best as I can tell, anything potentially interesting is happening inside those machines and they’ll tell you all about it if you ask. People were asking. The answers sounded like machine noise to me. And heck, I’ll take their word for it about how it all happens. My attention wavered in oh, about ten minutes.

Did someone say lunch? NOW, I’m focused.

Steve’s hosting the post pressing party, an Italian tradition, so he’s got a reason to bail out of Machine World and I jump in with him. To help. Well, I offered. He says we’re “Having soup”. Yes, yes we are. Military sized caldrons of it. Plus grilled sausages. And salads. And grilled Italian focaccia sandwiches. And we are so not considering the lunching officially started until the other pressing buddies have triumphantly entered with repurposed wine bottles full of the cloudy green, minutes-old olive oil to drizzle over hot hot wedges of grilled and garlic rubbed bread. Even as we eat Steve keeps slicing and dicing and seasoning and stirring things bubbling, sizzling in various shiny pots. And bringing yet more food to the table. Where is he getting all this? You know the clowns spilling out of the tiny car at the circus? That is Steve with his spotless galley kitchen. Party time Italian Style
Maybe the spotless galley thing is why I didn’t get pressed into asst chef role so much. I was allowed to carry things to the table. Like cheese. How much could I hurt cheese. Did I mention Cheese? Well, I should have because we were covered up with cheese. And bread in loafs and sticks and circles and one loaf is white tuscan bread and the next is dark and heavy and, and its stacked up and down the table next to plates of nibbles and snacks and bottles of wines and we keep eating and passing and passing and eating and OH NO it is FIVE PM and yet, we continue to keep LUNCHING . . . Is that my phone ringing? Is it my stomach calling in a Stop Order? No, no, it is happy Peter and Sarah who have just landed. They’ve flown in from Maine to see the progress on their home’s renovation. And . . . can I go to dinner with them? Dinner? Like, with food? Tonight? At Eight! Dear God in Heaven! Is this Lemoncello I’m drinking while I’m distractedly talking to them on the phone? Am I in the early stages of a food coma? What! Does Steve really have a pan of Tiramisu in each hand and a bottle of champagne under each arm?

Must leave, must leave now. Every man for himself. Maleducato Stew is backpedaling urgently away from the table. With some waves, and hugs of congrats on the raccolta to the proud Mini Oil Barons of Panicale, he’s done and gone. Wave bye bye to Baked Stuffed Stew.

Andrea and Umbrian Truffles
A couple hours later – hours, mind you – the wheel has turned another revolution. Peter and Sarah’s stay here is beginning. And mine is ending. Ending just as it started. With Andrea shaving white truffles over home made pasta at Masolino’s. How I worked up even a morsel of an appetite in a couple hours I do not know. Go home, Stew. Go now. Pack. Close up your soon to be lonely with out you house. Tell it Goodnight. For now. Because even in leaving, I’m thinking about the next trip. And the next time we get to say . . .

See you in Italy



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,