Tag Archives: Umbria

Productive Relaxation, Italian Style

24 Apr

In Italy, there is a sight commonly found in smaller towns – men sitting on benches, or standing in small groups, discussing everything from local politics to international sports events. Meanwhile, their wives are shopping, visiting, cooking, cleaning, etc.  What they all have in common is the phrase: Siamo in pensione, or, we are retired. 

We, too, take this retirement thing seriously. Take productive relaxation for example, not an oxymoron but instead an art.

Fernanda had today off, so our day began in her garden where she prepared breakfast – her delicious yogurt cake and cappuccino.

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After enjoying the sunshine and planning for our vegetable garden, we drove to Panicale, one of our favorite little borgos about 45 minutes from Cortona, and a first visit for Fernanda.

In 2018, Panicale, in Umbria, was listed as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages.

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Although it is small and easy to walk around, it is not the easiest of villages to find. But GPS has gotten us there every time.

The medieval hill town overlooks Lago Trasimeno, a site where in 217 BC, Hannibal and his legions ambushed Roman legions along the banks.

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As you can see from the map below, the streets are narrow and form concentric ovals.

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Panicale still retains its medieval castle, which was once surrounded by a moat,

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as well as other well-preserved charming buildings.

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It also has a few unique door bells!

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No matter which way you walk, all streets seem to lead to the historical center’s Piazza Umberto I,

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where there is a travertine fountain, (formerly an ancient cistern), dating back to 1473.

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The piazza is surrounded by a few eateries and shops, including our favorite – Bar del Gallo, (lower right).

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The staff is always friendly,

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and the melanzana (eggplant) is always delicious.

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Of course, there are other menu items, but for us, it’s too good to pass up. And Fernanda agreed it was one of the best she has ever eaten.

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Perhaps best of all at Bar del Gallo is the owner, Aldo Gallo, a man whose warm smile and genuine hospitality keeps one coming back for more.

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Today we learned that Bar del Gallo earned a gold cup award in a coffee competition, an award well-deserved. Complimenti Aldo!

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We said our goodbyes and drove the long way home, stopping at a nursery to select our plants: 10 tomato (three varieties), and nine zucchini.

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Why nine zucchini, you might ask? Well, last year, we had an ever-lasting supply of zucchini flowers, (actually too much of a good thing!) and very few zucchini, so Len did some research. Apparently, zucchini should be planted in “hills” of three plants, close together. This is because when the plants flower, they produce both masculine and feminine flowers, and apparently, they need to do their thing “nature-ly” (cross-pollinate) to produce zucchini! Who knew???

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Well, we’ll see what happens. Updates, and hopefully zucchini, to follow in a few months.

Grazie, Aldo, for another lovely afternoon in Panicale. See you again soon. 

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And that’s how we spend a very productive day in a most relaxing way, Italian style.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Cannuccia, C. del Lago

10 Oct

Winter arrived today, so say the Italians, as the winds were strong and the dark clouds made the temperatures drop. Suddenly, fashion consisted of turtlenecks, an abundance of scarves, and “puffy” (down) coats and jackets. Luckily for us, we were prepared.

With a sprinkle in the air in Cortona, we got in our Fiat 500, destination unknown, and soon found ourselves in Castiglione del Lago. Stronger winds and bigger clouds greeted us,

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but without rain, and a goal of fresh air and exercise, we were happy to walk as we had the lake and view to ourselves.

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Water is mesmerizing, and as we walked, we watched the waves crash upon the rocks. The seagulls were playing what looked like Marco Polo, that “catch me if you can” game we played as kids and they played with the waves.

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After awhile, the clouds broke across the lake and the sun shone like a spotlight on several of the hill towns.

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Eventually, we stopped for lunch at La Cannuccia, our lakeside go-to cafe. We ordered our usual split lunch, a grilled panino and mixed salad, which is served with delicious warm rolls.

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After lunch, Riccardo asked if we were football fans.

“I’m a big baseball fan at the moment,” I replied, “as I’m from Chicago and …”

“Chicago Cubs!” he said and smiled.

“We live about two miles from…”

“Wrigley Field!” he exclaimed.

“You must like baseball,” I said.

“Not so much. It can be boring, especially when there is a pitching battle,” he replied.

“Like the first game the other night…” 

“When the Cubs won 1-0 against the San Francisco Giants,” he quickly replied.

“We haven’t won in over a century, and…” 

“The goat,” he said, and raised his hands like Italians do. “I don’t believe.”

By now, Len was intrigued. Since our dear friends, Carrol and Larry, had left weeks ago, Len had not found anyone to have a good baseball conversation with. And here was Riccardo, born and raised locally, owner of a bar in Castiglione del Lago in the center of Italy, speaking English, he – a fountain of knowledge about American baseball, a sport that wasn’t even his favorite.

After they talked baseball for a bit, I asked what Il Cannuccia means. “It’s the tall grass that grows in a swamp,” he said, as he pointed to the bottom right of a giant photo on the face of the bar.  100 years ago, much of the lake was a swamp.

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The present bar was built in the 50’s. It has been in Riccardo’s family since the mid 70’s and is now operated by Riccardo and his brother Simone.

La Cannuccia Bar©Blogginginitaly.com

La Cannuccia Bar©Blogginginitaly.com

I asked if I could take a few pictures.  “Sure, but the best view is looking out.”

La Cannuccia Bar©Blogginginitaly.com

La Cannuccia Bar©Blogginginitaly.com

Easy to see why he thinks that and one of the reasons we keep returning.

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After lunch, I considered having gelato, as theirs is very good. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Ricardo asked if we like cream. “Sure, why not,” I answered, and he set off to make something special for us.

He arrived with this.

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This incredibly light “sugar donut” is called a ciambella. He quartered it, and topped it with  panna fresca, (fresh cream,) and cacao candela, (cinnamon). My sister Florence and her husband Vince would have ordered this and skipped the salad and panino. Benita too.

Castiglione del Lago in Umbria is about 30 minutes from Cortona on the SW corner of Lago Trasimeno. Although Cortona is a city where you don’t need a car, if you have one, it is such fun exploring all the neighboring towns, taking in the sights, and making interesting new friends like Riccardo. Who knew???

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Rilassamento = Relaxation

2 Sep

No better way to relax than to head to one of Lake Trasimeno’s islands in Umbria. Yesterday, we took the ferry to Maggiore, the only inhabited one.

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Some of our group chose to relax inside the ferry,

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while Fernanda and I enjoyed the breeze on our faces.

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The calm ride offered beautiful views, and we arrived eager to explore the island.

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Maggiore is a small fishing village which reached its height in the 14th century. Today, I am told, only 17 residents inhabit the island year round. Most of the buildings date from the 14th century. We climbed to the top and saw these historic buildings along the way.

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©Blogginginitaly.com Villa Guglielmi

©Blogginginitaly.comChurch of San Michele Arcangelo

©Blogginginitaly.com Church of San Michele Arcangelo

It is on a path, beneath this Church, that St. Francis spent 40 days and nights in prayer.

©Blogginginitaly.comChurch of San Michele Arcangelo

©Blogginginitaly.comChurch of San Michele Arcangelo

The church sits at the top of the island, nestled in olive groves, and provides lovely panoramic views.

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Afterward, we worked our way down the hill to the main and only street in this car-less town and enjoyed lunch and the view.

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Who is this man in so many of my photos??? I’ll have to ask Carrol.

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My favorite part was this delicious dessert!

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Then off to the dock to return home.

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On the trip back, the sun gave us lovely shadows of the town’s reflection

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as well as clouds dancing on the lake.

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Half an hour later, and very, very relaxed, were arrived back in Castiglione del Lago for the ride home. All in a day’s work!

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Gubbio

15 Jul

A fun and interesting way to help improve foreign language learning is through TV. Len and I watch a number of Italian detective series including Commissario Montalbano, filmed in Sicily, and Don Matteo, filmed in Gubbio. Besides hearing the language, (and having English subtitles!) the shows often provide lovely views of their filming locations.

A few days ago, we took a drive to Gubbio to find the sights associated with the Don Matteo series, even though it seemed a bit touristy. Don Matteo, played by Terrence Hill, is the priest in Gubbio who casually helps the police captain and marshall solve the weekly murder mystery. In fact, I doubt there is even an annual murder let alone a weekly one. Nonetheless, we wanted to see the beautiful sights so often shown in the show.

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And lastly, “Don Matteo’s Church”…IMG_3092

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Gubbio, such a lovely town!

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Ciao,

Judy

Italian Hill Towns

7 Jun

Just returned from a two-day tour of the Italian countryside in Tuscany and Umbria where the drive was as lovely as the three ancient towns we visited.

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Our first stop was Citta di Castello, meaning town of the castle. Although there actually is no castle, there are stately old buildings and monuments, and of course, in the “larger” cities as least, a duomo or cathedral. The area was an ancient Roman port on the Tiber River and some archaeological remains of the port are visible in the southern part of the historical center.

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Eliza, at Antico Canonico where we spent the night, was most helpful in telling us about the city as well as other nearby towns which we visited the next day. Our “hotel” was originally built years ago as a home for priests. While the door to each unit is the original “cell” door, the apartment behind is simple, ample and clean. Yes, this is our apartment door!

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In the afternoon, we enjoyed  watching the men’s bocce tournament. And in the evening, we strolled the town with the locals.

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The next morning, our first destination was the lovely town of Citerna in Umbria, a tiny hilltop town which boasts of Etruscan and Roman origins and is ranked among the 100 most beautiful villages in Italy. It is the northernmost town in Umbria and while it was severely damaged during WWII, you’d  never know it today.

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The panoramic views as we left town were spectacular!

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From there we headed back to Tuscany to a town called  Anghiari. At first, this appeared to be a “modern” town until we came upon the ancient hilltop walled city. Anghiari is famous for a 1440 battle between the towns of Florence and Milan, and even inspired Leonardo da Vinci to create a fresco in Palazzo Vecchio. Although the original fresco has disappeared,  a sketch of it by Peter Paul Rubens is still in existence.

Peter Paul Rubens' copy of the lost Battle of ...

Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of the lost Battle of Anghiari. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ancient town is filled with steep, winding streets, and on one of them, we came across a wonderful shop called Carabattole. Sitting inside was Marinella, from whom we learned about tombolo, an art not practiced in the US.

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I bought a lovely pair of earrings similar to the ones shown above. Afterward, we enjoyed a simple but wonderful lunch at a local Cantina.

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When we returned to Cortona and talked to some of the locals about our trip, many had not even heard of tiny Citerna. How lucky for us that  Eliza directed us there, as well as to Anghiari. Continuing to follow the road less travelled without agenda always brings us wonderful surprises and new memories as well as the opportunity to share them with you.

Ciao,

Judy

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