Does it ever snow in Umbria?

Yes, Virginia, there is a possibility you’ll see snow for the holidays. Italy is fairly temperate, so it most likely won’t. But even the rare winter storm can have a shiny silver lining. In fact, some of my favorite memories were formed during winters in Panicale, years ago, when we lost power. We heated with our lovely wood burning stove, we have gas for cooking so we were still able to entertain by candle light. We relished the muffled silence on every side of us as we walked to the dimly glowing Masolino’s restaurant street. They were one of the few places that had a generator. Another time I remember pulling on boots and crunching our way thru the knee deep snow of an un-plowed road to a friend’s house on the edge of town. We popped prosecco corks and admired the most fanciful, tallest, gilded chocolate cake I’ve ever had the pleasure to see in person. Our friend had made it on commission for a fancy party which had been cancelled because all the roads were impassable. In the flickering candle light we marveled at the cake, then without further regard for its artistic merit, we sliced it, enjoyed it and toasted our friendships and congratulated ourselves on being stuck in such a fine place at such a fine time. Salute!

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

P.S. And if you do get to Italy and find yourself stuck in a snow storm, tune your ears for this expression because it will be being bandied about. You watch. Someone will push in through the door, stomp the snow off their boots and start to grouse about the weather only to be met with a smile and a shrug and a philosophical “Sotto le neve c’e pane.” Which is a very short way of saying Remember, that under the snow is bread. Meaning snow brings moisture which will help to grow the wheat that is going to feed us, so lets all be all zen about the snow already! In fairness, as Pollyanna as that sounds, the second half of the rhyme is “sotto l’aqua, c’e fame.” Meaning, yes, but too much water, ie: flood, means we’ll all go hungry, too. So, smiley face followed by frown face. My sense has been that Italians may all know the second half of the rhyme but I’ve rarely heard it used.

It was a dark and stormy night.(part three of a series)

And there it is! And now we’ve got an italian ape following us wherever we go. Looming large in our rear view mirror like some crazed tailgater out of a Steven King novel bent on doing a monkey jump right over us.

BAYFIELD, Ontario, Canada–Fine weather turned to foul weather and that turned to famously abusive Ike. Just as we were pulling into our Bayfield Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron so was the tail of the hurricane and everything went black. And wet. And wild. They had seven miles of road closed on one side of town. Lakes in people’s yards and standing in the fields of ready to harvest crops. Crazy. We stayed inside and talked cars and apes with Ken Johnson and his wife Delores and went our to eat in the hurricane. I went out barefoot to avoid being soaked and put on my shoes just before getting out of the car and going into the restaurant.

We got up this morning and loaded the Ape on the back of the Tahoe.

And there it is! And now we’ve got an ape following us wherever we go. Looming large in our rear view mirror like some crazed tailgater out of a Steven King novel bent on leaping right over us. So, there’s that. And now we have to do fret about busting thru customs with a 25 year old three wheeled Italian motorcycle. We idled in line for awhile and then explained it slow and carefully to the border crossing lady and her uniformed associates as more uniformed people ran by pointing at it going “what the heck is that?” Finally “pull over there” became the answer we expected. But when we got it inside a real matter-of-fact crew cut guy said “who’s importing the scooter?” I raised my hand. And asked if I could go to the bathroom. We’d been driving forever. The guy sighed and waved me to the elevators. Just like I’d planned, by the time I got back down, a responsible adult, Paul as it turns out, had pretty well settled everything and they were stamping my papers with what they no kidding called “the full BS stamp of approval” and we were solid gone before they changed their minds. No tax, no charge just “have a nice day.”
APE from ontario
ape of ontario

Finally. We’re back in the US, back in the US and we seem to have a newly naturalized ItaloCanadian with us. Can’t wait to get this little green bit of Italy settled into life on the farm in Gray, Maine. We’d be well on our way but now we’re sorting out Paul’s Lancia in the morning. And starting our caravan of Italian cars across America to Maine.

Non vedo l’ora amici, non vedo l’ora. And I can’t wait. Getting closer to home every minute. Stay tuned.

See you in Ape, (I’ll be the one waving like mad and grinning my face off)

Stew Vreeland

Casamaggiore indeed

What a good day this was. After coffee at Aldo’s I went around with Giancarlo and a nice Dutch couple and saw many fine properties. The one he had been sending me pictures of in Tavernella, I was a bit cool about. Giancarlo takes good pictures but from the pictures he’d sent me, I just didn’t see the attraction. But wait. In person I got it in a heartbeat. The pictures here? That’s just a couple random shots. Of the barn. The villa rocks and could be a B&B easily. The options here are just infinite. Almost in town but up on a hillside over the town really. Lots of room. Makes me want to get out the pads of paper and start sketching who gets what rooms and where the pool should go. Big fun.

Speaking of Big! In the afternoon we went to see a new listing in the aptly named hamlet of Casamaggiore. Some fine, fine big houses in this tiny village, a five-minute walk from Gioiella. This one looks classically well-aged, shall we say, from the exterior. But inside it’s totally livable. By any number of people. Over five thousand square feet with a fenced garden and nice neighbors. The picture here is a tiny piece of the front and then a shot of a room off the sunny, well-kept garden. Quite swell. One of the members of the family showed us around. And around. This house is like a town, we just kept opening more doors and finding more baths, kitchens, fireplaces, there is at least one grotto for curing meat. We didn’t go in. There is a rooftop terrace. Above the third floor. Stairways are wide and noble and arched at their tops. Sometimes the arched ceilings intersect in crosses. Details abound. Old light fixtures, some walls decorated with painted panels. It is quite a find. We were all fascinated with it. Very engaging house. A lot of personality.

After all that fun I came home and locked myself out of my house. Linda? Do you have one of my keys here at your store? Oh, that’s right. We did give it to your husband. Bruno, do you have a spare key to my house? His hands were full so he told me where to find it in his car. And then as long as we were that far along, he decided to drop whatever he was doing with buckets of cement and to go up my chimney and see what it would take for us to hook up our woodstove tomorrow.

The main event tomorrow is that we may be taking a trip to Cortona. Stay tuned. One property there sounds especially good.

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!