the art of living the moment. brought to us by friends in Cortona who are masters of the moment. oh, the food, the wine. the lovely walk about. we need more walking. too much fun eating.

When last we met we were in Siena at the Tenuta di Spannocchia. We met our friend chef Stephanie of Sea Grass Bistro in Yarmouth, Maine there and headed to our home in Umbria. But first, we were going right by Cortona. Let’s swing in there. Note: no I am not in Italy right now. I sketch out stories in Italy and put them up when I’m back. That way I get more adventures per minute while I’m there.

SIENA, CORTONA, PANICALE– Cortona has always been so civilized. But sometimes you almost can’t get there from here. Now they have a new parking garage subtly tucked into the hillside, lower down the hill from the usual top spots. It would be a bit of a straight up hike but you can cheat and take an escalator up there to “Centro.” But on this day we didn’t even need that and just cruised into a good spot like we owned the place. See, Stephanie, this is how we do Cortona. Now, lets go see our friends Nando and Pia at Bar Sport. “Hey, Luca!”, we yell at their son who is almost the first person we see on the street. He’s on a mission so we only talk for a minute, and he says his parents are up at their bar and he’ll catch up with us there. We keep moving that direction against the current of the always-busy main shopping street.

But oh, no. Luca didn’t mention the bar was closed today. Their day off we’ve learned is Friday and today is Wed. We peek under the sad, prison-gray, half-pulled-down metal doors and said “C’e nessuno?”
Street seen in Cortona, Italy. Day in Tuscany
Yes, you Italophile film buffs, did catch that cinematic reference. The opening line of Di Sica’s “Garden of the Finzi-Contini” is “C’e nessuuuuno?” As you remember there, all the tennis playing teenagers are swirling about the gates of the villa waiting to get in. But here at the gate to Bar Sport in Cortona what, to our wondering eyes, should appear but our own version of Babbo Natale, Babbo Nando. He’s a happy, non-judgmental Santa. Cortonese through and through so I’ve always suspected he doesn’t really care if we’ve been naughty or nice.

We all hug and I offer him, Mr Barista, a coffee. This could be good. He always buys us coffee because he has the bar full of beans right at his finger tips. He and Pia seem to think that since we brought their folkloric team of flag-spinning, crossbow-shooting Men in Tights to Maine a decade ago that they owe us. The reverse is true in our mind. But, look, he says “buon idea” to our coffee shop thought and HE’S going to coffee with US and points us back down the street we just walked in on. We’re marching arm in arm nodding and joking with all the citizens in our wake. Because Nando owns the central bar in town and seems to be Capo of every event, when you are with Nando in Cortona it is like being with a celebrity. The seas part and we are soon drinking espressos and eating to-die-for chocolate macaroons. Poor Nando. He’s swapped his one day off for this day because of a festival that starts on his regular day off. And here comes the tourists. Us. No warning, we just show up.

Can’t blame them for not wanting to be closed Friday as that will be a great day for their bar. It is not only Italian Independence Day for the whole country, it is also the festival of Santa Margherita, the patron saint of Cortona. We’ll be back and will cover that in another episode.
doing a walk about in Cortona, Tuscany, Italy

We sip that frothy coffee, my favorite indoor (and outdoor) sport, talk of things of great import and stroll back to dark Bar Sport to find the ever-chic Pia. She is often decked out as the queen to Nando’s king in local events. We have dropped in out of the clear blue Tuscan sky ON THEIR DAY OFF and without a blink of an eye, or a minute hesitation spelling “oh, crap” they are all about maximizing this moment and are planning what we can do together. Oh, please Zen Master, give me the ability to ever be this full of life and style and grace. Whatever they had planned and deserved for their day off is off the table. Gone forever. So. Here’s the new plan. We’ll walk, we’ll talk, we’ll see sights, we’ll come back to our now “private bar” for prosecco and looking at photo albums of past festivals. Then, when it is sufficiently mid-afternoon, we’ll do a lunch, then more walk and more talk. How’s that sound to you?

Some part of me hates them dropping everything on our behalf. And, in our defense, we have had this miracle happen before if we unintentionally drop in on their day off. So, we were quite totally fine coming on a Wednesday for a coffee, a hug and back out on the street. Fridays we do on tiptoes because they have given us their Fridays until we figured out that is what was happening. Not premeditated at all.
the hunter restaurant, Cortona, Italy. il cacciatore served us an ocean of seafood

Yes, yes. Lame old joke. Regardless of intent, this was a spontaneous in-the-moment joy to spend the afternoon with Nando and Pia and their two grown sons and bar partners. Very cool and relaxed. Except for the bill-paying part. I wish I could win this battle more often. At the coffee place we went AT MY INVITATION by the way, that owner was all “no, no, you are with Nando, your money’s no good.” Later, at the restaurant, the charming owner again said “ I can’t take your money” Pushing past me Nando said “they only take Cortonesi money here” and that was, unfortunately, that. They did, we note, let us be the boss of the money when they came to our town. Complicated system when you don’t always get some of the cultural rules in play. But even with that, Stephanie and Midge and I had a grand time of it eating an ocean of seafood. The restaurant was named “the hunter/cacciatore” but in my mind it could have easily been “pescatore.” I can remember at least clams and shrimp. And eel! With more wine and more grappa. This is lunch! What were we doing drinking Prosecco before lunch? Give me strength. But you can see why we did have to treat ourselves to a lazy siesta as soon as we all got back to Panicale.


How we could think of eating out again, ever after that fine mid-day eatathon, I do not know, but after that 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 caffeine-free Orzo brewed like espresso 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 Bar Gallo with Daniela in charge on a busy night. Daniela, who suffers fools hardly at all, decided I needed to be taught how not to drive them crazy. After a couple false starts over a week’s time, 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. Went round the horn a bit to get it as i thought corretto meant 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 another marvelous day in paradise. One euro in your local bar. Sogni d’Oro/Orzo to all and to all a good night.

N.B. if you want to jump in to the Cortona lifestyle as a native, we did just put a brand new listing up on our “This Just In” section.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Che Festa! An Umbrian Wedding Feast

Simone and Lorena are married. if you have ever been to Panicale you would remember Simone. He’s our buddy at the bar, Aldo and Daniela’s only child and heir apparent of Café Bar Gallo. That is the institution that is the lifeblood of the town. 500. as in dinner for 500.
che festa.

italian wedding day in Umbria

PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–Simone and Lorena are married. You saw their engagement announcement right here. And, if you have ever been to Panicale you would remember Simone. He’s our buddy at the bar, Aldo and Daniela’s only child and heir apparent of Café Bar Gallo. That is the institution that is the lifeblood of the town. They serve good coffee and good cheer and spread caffeinated sunshine all over all of us who wash up on these shores, local or foreign.

Lorena is from Sicily and they were really married a week ago there in 80 degree temps. People in the wedding party were swimming in the Mediterranean! But now everyone is back and taking the celebration local. So they had a dinner for a few friends.
wedding food in Umbria, Italy porchetta etc

Imagine having five hundred friends over for dinner. It happened at La Lupaia outside Panicale for this “wedding of the century”. Food and wine flowed in great waves. Nine piece band with a singer and a brass section. The party started at seven pm and by 7:20 when we got there, there were already tons of cars and people. And food. What starts at seven in Italy? And on time? Now we know. Big old wedding feasts. Aldo met us at the gate and told us to get eating and get drinking. Several entire hogs were raised for and met their demise in service of this event. Aldo introduced us to a big, cheerful mustachioed guy named Mario who raised those pigs specifically for this. And so, without further ado, we literally stepped into hog heaven. Multiple porchettas, sausages at the grill sending smoke column up into the sky. Cooking staff in matching shirts, red aprons and traditional straw hats were carving up a storm and trying to stack up as many panninis as they could in advance of the rush.
table talk at an italian wedding in Umbria
Oh man, look what we have here: fagioli. Beans with bacon! Wow. At the bar this morning (yes, back at work already) Bella Siciliana Lorena was saying “Beans? Everyone was so excited they were on the wedding menu and I thought why ARE people going on about them. Beans, at a wedding? OK, fine. THEN I tasted them. I GET IT NOW.” Killer beans. Sausages were really something too. Made locally for the occasion. Mai ho mangiato altre piu buono. And the pasta, and plates of meat of every stripe. Huge tables full of everything being served by staff of La Lupaia, but they ran steaming plates of it around until you couldn’t see straight. Yes, Lupaia means wolf’s house named for the nature preserve the restaurant is set in. And wolf was almost the only thing not on the menu for this feast. Four foot long loaves of bread or three foot wide round ones, were hollowed out and filled with panzanella that rang Midge’s Panzanella Meter.

OMG. Just shoot me! You would have to probably shoot me to keep me from going back for more or saying yes to the servers forcing their wares steaming hot upon us. The prosecco servers were doing a fine job distributing their wares as well. Plus red wine, plus white wine, plus water plus stop stop stop, ok, one more. More food than truly imaginable and it was stellar.
wedding cake at an italian wedding in umbria, italy
And the cake. So good it caused a fine feeding frenzy. The same bakery that makes Bar Gallo’s daily pastries made this snow white mountain of a cake. Now, Italians have always seemed to me, to be passively disinterested in dessert as a food category in general. I’ve always thought they could take it or leave it. Not last night. No leaving anything during this special night. It was like a lifetime of cake deprivation had set in, prisoners rushing the gates at liberation. A cake stampede you had to throw yourself into at great risk of life and limb. Huge wedding cake stripped to nothing in moments. Other cakes without number being cut and carved as fast as the servers could fling them. Oh, the plates of cake were flying. Everyone came away smiling. All good. The happy couple beaming, their friends and family excited for them, the party a massive success and an inspirational way to start a married life.


Hmmm. What is that ringing noise? What time IS it? Where’s my sunglasses? Going out for coffee this morning I’m like what the heck. Lost in the confusion of the evening. Sunny out when we arrived more like midnight when we got home. Slept till ten when door bell rang. Sorry. Maybe later.

Went back to the location of the party (scene of the crime and all that) and one person who seemed to be the boss of the place knew exactly where my glasses were. Favorite glasses. Office present. Found them and found a new baby lake with walking paths by the party place.

Wandered home (a mere five minutes) and the town around our gate was choked solid with every kind of motorcycle or ATV ever made. Wonderful show. Does the party ever stop here?!
motorcycles, planes and flags oh my, an umbrian, italy weekend

And we haven’t even talked about the Santa Margherita festivities yesterday in Cortona with hundreds in costumes and pomp and splendor. Nor the airshow in Castiglione del Lago. What a 24 hours. We’ll serve up other photos and stories later. Simone gets his story first. He was up till who knows when last night and was slinging coffee by early light and when we came in said “when will we see the pictures on the blog?” Since he is the purveyor of the life-giving nectar around here I’m thinking he has the lowest number and is being served right now. Complimenti a tutti!

A presto,

See you in Italy!


Happy Independence Day

They celebrate their Fourth of July on April 25th. The Ruzzolone is an afternoon event and that leaves the whole evening free and we might go catch the beginning of the third leg of this festaday. The two day Santa Margherita festival begins tonight in nearby Cortona.

independence day in italy, umbria

PANICALE, Italy, Umbria–They celebrate their Fourth of July on April 25th. It is much more recent history here as this is their Liberation from the big war. Hard to imagine this languid, pastoral countryside covered in rack and ruin and everyone scared and hungry. Try not to think about it but there are monuments in every town, so the liberation from those dark times is something to celebrate.

When we pulled our Rent-a-Fiat into a parking spot under the countessa’s palazzo yesterday, this poster was under our car’s nose. I’d been describing to our friends at our design and marketing company how Italian sometimes use the exaggerated photo dot as a graphic element so this got my attention first. But the words worked very well too. We used the same big dots devise in the art for Paul’s delivery Ape. Photos just arrived!
Due Fratelli Ape Art
This festa today is a good example of the feared multi-tasking that we sometimes get ourselves into, it’s a festival three ways that we know of. First, Independence Day and supposedly everyone is off work. But there was Linda and family in front of their store as usual. Yolanda too. “What the heck?” was how I believe I phrased it to them. Oh well, there were 30 camper trailers washed up on Panicale’s hilltop, full of happy campers. Until they found out they were about to starve because it was a holiday. So, Linda implied they HAD to open for that opportunity. I do confuse easily, may have this right or may not. All I know is everything is supposed to be closed and it is all open.

Second, Happy Easter again. Sort of. Remember this time last year when we talked about Pasquetta, the day after Easter, when the magic of Cheese Rolling happens? It is called Ruzzolone. Big Wheel. Wheel of cheese tossed merrily down a course at the edge of the town. I guess Easter this year was a three day storm of biblical proportion. People’s eyes go wide with respect as they describe mighty rain, wind, snow, lightning. Basic end of the world sort of unrelenting storm to celebrate the coming of spring. That was over a month ago. They put it way off in hopes, eventually, of finding a peaceful spring day. And I think they have found it.

Still quiet in town. The happy couple Simone and Lorena are back from their wedding in Sicily where people were swimming in the balmy mid 80’s temps. Everyone came back sunburnt and full of seafood. The renewal of their vows is tomorrow and that is all anyone can talk about. There will be dinner in a club out in the country. For the entire town. Dinner on the house. As Simone’s father, the legend that is Aldo, as he says, “from six till . . .” and then he just makes that horizontal slow drift off of his hand. Can’t wait.

But lets talk about today. The Ruzzolone is an afternoon event and that leaves the whole evening free and we might go catch the beginning of the third leg of this festaday. The two day Santa Margherita festival begins tonight in nearby Cortona. Midge’s middle name is Margherita, the nearby piazza where we park is Piazza Regina Margherita. Our house is more or less officially Casa Margherita. Midge’s favorite flower is her name sake the Margherita (daisy). We have bought a ton of flowers from the also nearby Daisy Brothers nursery. Filli Margheritti. So, we’re fired up to do a bit of celebration in Cortona as well. Gosh we haven’t seen our friends Nando and Pia in Cortona for, what, two or three days (have written that trip up but not put it up. Forgive sequence aberration) so it would be fun to get up there and get in the middle of that festival too. We’ll see how that goes.
lavender buying trip to angela's greenhouse
I’ve got a bunch of gardening to do in between events as well. Planting beds of lavender which we love. Yesterday, we skipped Margheritti Bros and went to lovely Angela for our lavender. Do you believe the view from her green house? That is Lago di Chiusi past the petunias.

Happy Festivaling

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Winemaking fun under the warm Cortona sun

I’ve got to admit my only experience with the wine harvest involves swirling the end result around in the glass and making it magically disappear.

pressing grapes outside cortona, italy. warm tuscan fun

CORTONA, Tuscany, Italy–I’ve got to admit my only experience with the wine harvest involves swirling the end result around in the glass and making it magically disappear. Olives, we’ve picked. Grapes, no. I’ve had offers, but weasled out of them to my great regret. Next time! We have friends who are selling their Villa outside Cortona and moving back to Australia. We hate to see them go. But, if you have to go, do it like they are doing and go out with a bang! They have just finished a stellar, multi-year renovation on their property that they can be truly proud of plus, as you will be able to tell from the letters below, they just had the fine experience of growing, harvesting and bottling their own wine. They have been in Italy for years and they really have been living the dream while they were here. Complimenti a tutti e due!

I’d seen their winemaking pictures and really wished I had been part of their party. I asked them if they would put words to pictures. And I’m tickled to be able to share their adventures here.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

any more in that barrel of grapes? winemaking in tuscany, italyHi Stew,

It’s hard to describe the pleasure of holding a glass full of just pressed novello from the rich harvest of our sangiovese grapes after a perfect, hot, dry summer nurturing these abundant vines. That we could share the process, initially with one, and later with three groups of friends was an added joy.

In the end, the best words that spring to mind are total satisfaction.

First came a full week of pruning in January. Then watching the vivid foliage burst forth in early primavera and working hard to maintain the truly biological, organic fruit – despite the insistence of neighbours that we should be dousing the vine leaves and swelling grapes with copper sulphate. Days with friends when we thinned foilage to let the sun and vitality of the vines concentrate in the fruit in summer. The heartbreak of pruning almost half the crop in the last month to improve the quality of the bunches we retained, followed by meals, wine and many happy hours. In late September, picking, de-stemming and crushing the grapes, all by hand, ready for fermentation and two weeks of testing sugar and alcohol levels until the “must” was ready to press. The last winding of the arm of an antique wine press in perfect Tuscan sunshine, followed by a fabulous al fresco lunch as our first vintage sits in a cool wine cantina to clarify before we move it
into an oak barrel. We’re not in Italy. We’re in Heaven!

Hi Guys,

This is priceless. Well done and well said. Great adventure.

Oh, one more thing. Did you plant the vineyard or was it an ongoing entity when you got there? I seem to recall that all the equipment was on site in your original pictures. Must have taken some studying up to know how to do this. You sound like you may have done this before.

Thank you for this and all best,



happy campers of tuscany, italy after the wine pressingHi again, Stew,

The vineyard was here when we got here. The equipment was too. But it was pretty rusty (and not antique) so we threw a lot of it out and begged/borrowed/stole/bought what we needed as we needed it. As for studying, apart from sommelier Arnaldo (from Trattoria Pane e Vino in Cortona) there’s a great consulente enologica in Pietraia (about 5 minutes drive from us) which sells ‘everything’ you could possibly need to make wine and has knowledgeable staff whose brains we have picked extensively 🙂 Salute!

Take a ten minute trip to Italy

We went to Cortona to book our tickets for an evening of wine tasting and an open air concert. A very sweet lady conspiratorially whispered to us that the tickets are much cheaper on the night, and that only imbecilic foreigners pay the full price. Also found a lovely hat shop there (do they exist anywhere other than Italy?) and am considering buying a fine Borselina hat. It certainly looks splendid, but appears to cost more than the suit I got married in

Our friends Mel and Soren are from London. They just got back from two weeks in our place in Italy. Soren is such a good writer and Mel is a shutterbug with a great eye. They entertained us no end with their Letters from Italy. We asked them if we could share their photos and written email notes of their trip to Panicale. It was a trip to see it through their eyes.

There are photos all through their notes here and, at the end, a slide show/mini-movie that captures the spirit of this visit. And, stay tuned, a future blog will be their Notes from Home.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Hi Midge and Stew,

Happy to pass on greetings to your friends in town, in our basic (but rapidly improving) Italian! Soren has just had his first trip to the barbers – the shave of a lifetime! Only had a couple of days here, but we love it already! We are going to the market tomorrow, and looking forward to doing some cooking, and eating on your terrace.

Thanks once again,

Mel and Soren

the beans of italy, taste of Umbrian fall


The weather is glorious, but we did have one of those month’s rain in hour storms as we were driving back from Perugia – I actually quite enjoyed the drama of the lightning and the roads awash with equal amounts of rain, leaves and branches. It certainly was Biano who gave me my close shave (you draw him well) and I am impatiently waiting for my stubble to grow to the length required for a return visit, and when I do, I shall pass on your greetings.

We went to Cortona to book our tickets for an evening of wine tasting and an open air concert. A very sweet lady conspiratorially whispered to us that the tickets are much cheaper on the night, and that only imbecilic foreigners pay the full price. Also found a lovely hat shop there (do they exist anywhere other than Italy?) and am considering buying a fine Borselina hat. It certainly looks splendid, but appears to cost more than the suit I got married in; Mel helpfully reminded me that true style comes at a price.

All is good here. One small uncertainty: where do we find the glass door that leads us to washing machine? I think we are rather timid explorers and don’t want to trespass on your neighbours’ land, but the position of the glass door is beginning to be discussed in the same terms as one might talk of a fantastical door in a Tolkien novel. We are well stocked with clothes (I should know I carried the suitcase), but we will probably need to get laundering at some point.

Thanks again for the opportunity of getting to know this wonderful part of Italy, right now it’s Prosecco Time at Bar Gallo,



Don’t worry about our comfort – we are absolutely loving your place. Last night we sat and ate, and the view across the lake was stunning -stripes of amazing colors rose in a perfect spectrum above the lake. We just sat and stared, and then sat and stared some more.

Last night was the first time I have cooked. We went to the market and I saw those amazing borlotti beans. Mel wanted some to photograph and I wanted some to cook so they were bought in ample quantity. Having loaded the bag the lady at the market wandered her nimble fingers over a few other trays so that the bag now contained some celery, some carrots, parsley, onion and basil – it was as if she knew I wanted to make a fresh bean soup. I made ribollita, and the fact that everything tastes better on holiday acknowledged, I was pretty happy with results. Mel loved the beans – she couldn’t believe the beans were as pretty as the pods – like ivory marbles with flecks of burgundy, brick, earth and terracotta.

a fine Italian Hat

Our day will consist of the following:

1. Armed with your instructions, a search for the glass door
2. My first go at cooking with umbricelli pasta
3. Cortona hat shop (I’m sure Mel is encouraging my eye-wateringly expensive hat purchase so that she can say “you remember that time you spent two weeks wages on a hat? Well I’ve just found …
4. Wine tasting in Cortona
5. Open air classical concert

How can we ever return to work?

Thanks again,



The door has been found! Mel was getting a little anxious because she was down to her last twelve clean tops, but now the disaster that such a diminished range of options has been averted, all is well.

Mel is slowly finding her feet as far as the camera is concerned, and is looking forward to uploading pictures when she gets back – we decided against bringing the computer after the usual 50 weeks a year I spend as a Mac widow, so we’ll be sure to share upon our return.

The Hat.
I decided against the grand purchase, in favour of two less expensive models. One, a fine linen cap and the other a fine summer hat, favoured by men of experience in Italy. The shop attendant assured me that this style of hat was favoured by either very young men or very old – I decided to take that as a compliment, but he may have meant it as an insult! That said, the fine Borselina hat may well still be purchased; making that my first grown-up hat would have been a bit like buying a Rolls Royce as a first car. The two that I have purchased may be important stepping stones.
cafe society, italian style, life in the piazza with a cup of cappucchino

The Concert.
As advised, we managed to pay 15 Euros each, rather than 75, by bowling up at the last minute. The setting was amazing, and hearing the fight of the Montagues and the Capulets from Rachmaninov’s Romeo & Juliet in such a charming square made it all the more special. One slight disappointment was the assembled crowd’s muted response to the finale – I was expecting an uninhibited expression of latin euphoria, but alas, I turned around to see a crowd made up almost entirely of restrained Brits quietly clapping their appreciation. Never mind.

The Trattoria.
Salsicce. What does that come with? For a long while I have complained of London’s restaurants obsession with novelty and experiment. I have been I frequent victim of a bungling chef with a huge ego, attempting to offer an exciting new take on more conventional combinations: liver in lager; prawns in jam etc. Italy and itàs fine trattoria offer me the perfect antidote. Choose Salsicce and what do you get? Two perfect grilled sausages. Pair them with some lovely stewed beans and you have exactly the sort of meal I live for!


I will fill out some of my observations and get Mel to illustrate them with some pics (she unpacked the tripod last night and was talking about buying an easel – a sure sign she is finding her feet). We can get them to you when we get back, and be assured that Mel and I will really enjoy doing it.

There is quite a tale tell from our wine tasting. The “expert” was not shy with his own measures and unwittingly offered a lovely study in the progressive (or should that be regressive) stages of inebriation. I will get that down on paper soon – I will never forget the moment he took of his sunglasses to reveal two of the hardest drink eyes I have seen in years – priceless.

Off to the barber’s now (where Biano will receive your salutations), and then off to Montepulciano.

shave and a haircut. two bits or three bits of italy


All good here. Started on some blog material (wish I had brought mac now!) will send it for your perusal when I get back. We have jazz in the piazza tomorrow and have decided that I can’t do without a fine Borselina hat, so a trip to Cortona hat shop tomorrow. Love Panicale. last night the bottega shop door jammed (the one fifty yards from you – what lovely people, and what an amazing range of tasty foods in that tiny shop) and it was a fantastic scene of multiple advisors and a series of men Arthur and Excalibur style trying to open it. Much advice and a series of failed attempts followed. I know it is a bit of a cliche, but it was a classic example of italians having a noisy agreement i.e nods of agreement accompanied by shouts of discord. Quite like the phrase two italians having a noisy agreement. Is it mine, or have I borrowed it? Can’t remember.

Couple of questions. Is there a food market you would recommend i.e lots of stalls selling food rather than underwear. i think we haven’t cracked that one yet. Also, haven’t had a pizza yet. where would you recommend – happy to travel for a real top-notch one.

Hope these mails aren’t a nuisance, and please don’t feel obliged to reply to them.

Loving it here, and dreading the prospect of next Thursday.


THE hat will be purchased.

Had a great night in Panicale last night. A jazz night, courtesy of Aldo, featuring Hot Club Aurora filled the piazza. The whole town seemed to have turned out and it was an amazing atmosphere – swing, blues, ragtime, mambo … (clearly, a very versatile outfit). I loved the way the pretty fountain and its steps formed an impromptu stage. We got there in good time and Mel photographed with real application. I fear her intake of Ammaretti Di Sarrono may have led to some rather abstract photography, but she seemed to have got some great shots.

I have got into a happy habit of spending the afternoon in the shade filling up a school child’s jotter bought at Panicale’s bazaar. I think we could have a bit of sport where I describe one of the town’s characters and you can see if they ring any bells. I think the first portrait will have to be of someone Mel has dubbed “Lady Scratchcard” who at an established hour exits the bazaar with a train of lottery cards as tall as her and seats herself at Bar Gallo and starts scratching and revealing symbols that seem to mean either outrageous wealth or absolute penury. A small circle of intimates hover around mouthing consolations and congratulations as appropriate – a wonderful bit of theatre to accompany a glass of Prosecco.

italian landscapes

Went to Citta Della Pieve yesterday and really liked it. Bought some amazing pasta (was it really that cheap?) and cooked it up as soon as we got back. Needless to say it was delightful. Also found a great butcher there with astonoishingly good prosciutto and salsicce, only then to return to see that the local butcher had a little hand-written sign announcing “oggi porchetta”. Well seeing as it was only available oggi I had to. Again, amazing. We might still be novices as to the region’s churches, but we have shown real application in our study of its food and wine.

Savouring every moment here, thanks again,


After a wonderful two weeks in Panicale, sadly our time is coming to an end, and we’re starting to prepare ourselves for London life. We’re looking forward to a final evening meal at Masolino’s tonight. Soren has also arranged for his final shave with Fabiano, early on Thursday morning, and we hope to enjoy our last Panicale capuccino and cornetto at Bar Gallo before setting off for Rome Ciampino. We have had a fantastic time, so thank you SO much! We have pictures and copy, should you like to use them on your blog (good shots of the barber’s, who was pleased to show us a print-out of your blog on the Panicale barbers experience!). We’ll send them to you when we get back to London.

Stew’s note: Enjoy the Mel and Soren Slide Show of late summer in Italy. And watch for their next entry based on their notes from back in Jolly Olde England.