Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Pilgrimage Visits Panicale

  When we are here in the late winter/early spring, the village is quiet, for the most part. Evenings are cold, and people stay inside. Inside their houses, or in our case, inside Bar Gallo...playing dominos, reading, watching videos, or just relaxing with pals.
  After Easter, there are more people around, and as May approaches, it can become lively.

  But...summer is a whole different animal. The heat keeps folks inside during the middle of the day, but at night the piazza is the place to hang out. We have been stopping in most evenings, around eight or nine, for a last sip of wine, and there are usually plenty of people around. We've been staying often until midnight, when it gets slower and Aldo & Daniele can sit for a moment to chat about the day and laugh at all the craziness.

  It's nice, but after three weeks, we both agree we kind of like the quiet time better, even if it is cold, wet and windy. That's the weather we are used to at home, and all the people and activities of summer make me a little anxious.

  To be honest, my favorite time of the day during these weeks in July has been late at night. We will have one last nightcap, sitting on our terrace...maybe one o'clock in the morning....there is a nice breeze, it's silent but for the crickets...perhaps a fireworks display will go off somewhere along the lake.
I especially love the late night train that winds through the valley below...if it's really quiet, you can hear it. It looks like a glow worm, moving along it's tracks.
  And the stars. Lots of stars.

  Anyway, I got off track, sort of....what with the train talk and all.

  Friday afternoon, we decided to go into the piazza to see what it's like during the midday heat (we have just been hunkering down at home midday, napping and waiting for it to cool down. We get chores done early...).
  We found a place to park (another big change in summer months! We can't park wherever we want...there are entire areas strictly for residents living in the walls, and loads of 'one hour only' spots. We have had to park way down below the school...and hike up. You folks who understand,'s tough to get used to!)

  So, we scored a decent parking place, by chance, near the little park, in the shade, even. Sweet!
 As we walked towards the main gate to the village, we heard music from the area below, where there is a sort of community center...what was going on, in the heat of the afternoon?

  Evidently, there is a large group of late teen-early twenty somethings that do a walking pilgrimage to Assisi every year, stopping at various villages along the way to sing, dance and get all inspired...

  We watched for a little while, admiring the renovation of the bocci court and park area, as well as the Franciscan Sisters & Brothers shaking their money makers...then moved on to the piazza, which was very quiet. Midday, nap time, after all...

Just the way we like it, but take away the scorching temperatures, please.

  After a glass of wine, some mandatory potato chips and a large bottle of fizzy water, we high tailed it back to The Nut for our own midday nap-a-thon.
  So glad to have a little breeze coming through the bedroom window...

  Way, way, way later, after doing this, that and the other....we stopped back into the piazza, only to find those same Sisters, Brothers and Pilgrims were still at it! What are they putting in their water????

  It was most entertaining to watch the group dancing, and just take it all in.
  What a trip... I was impressed by their infectious energy in the hot weather, knowing that they are walking miles and miles each day.

  It's amazing to see so many people jammed into the piazza..and loud, too. 

  I hope this gives you an idea of the energy/mayhem...

  Different, for sure, and everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time. The recorded music was super loud, and I had to wonder what it must be like if you live in the walls and were trying to sleep, read, watch a movie...but this is summer in this village, and I assume everyone is used to it.

  We made our way back home to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside, happy to have so many 'life options' in this home away from home we have created. So far, all the options have been pretty damn good.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wild Summer Weather And Lunch

  Well, the weather has been exciting the last couple of days here in the center of Italy. We have been experiencing hot days and very warm evenings, and then the storm fronts moved in...Summer storms are much needed here, as most fields of crops really relay on rain to get them through.
  Unlike home, where we go months and months without rain, it's unusual to have gone three months without, which is why things are especially dry.

  We woke at 5am to the sound of thunder, the day before yesterday... I was able to catch a little of the activity:

  Yes, me, in jammies, on our terrace...watching the storm. I'm trying to get used to thunder & lightning, which freaks me out, usually.

  We had planned to head over to Montepulciano, Pienza and Monticchiello. Johnny was thinking of doing some watercolor pieces. 
  After checking the weather online, we decided to head out. Figured we might get caught in a little rain, but no big deal.

  We stopped to have a glass of wine and enjoy the view from Caffè Poliziano...Nice.

Feeling very civilized, indeed.

Watching a little rain wash through the valley below Montepulciano.

  We started the steep trek up to the top of town, and were stopped short by the fastest moving storm cell ... ever!
  After ducking into a couple of storefronts, we finally gave up, Johnny ran across the street to buy an umbrella, and we found a balcony to huddle under until this monster blew through. It was quick, and massive, turning the steep slope into a river, for a few minutes, anyway.

  After it settled down somewhat, we decided to head back to the car. I had on sandals, as it was hot, and they were slippery..I felt like I was sliding out of them. Didn't want to risk the steep street and stairs.
  The rain finished, it became really hot again, and now muggy. Each. But we stuck with the plan, and headed to Pienza, where the fields were so dry, I couldn't believe the storm had just passed through.
  The heat just sucked up all the rain.

  These were taken maybe thirty minutes after the storm went through...

  We did a nice walkabout in Pienza, which was crowded...still not accustomed to summer and so many people, then decided on lunch in Monticchiello.
  Everyone loves La Porta, a very popular osteria, but we prefer it's little sister, La Cantina della Porta.
  We hadn't been for a couple of years, and it was good, as always.

Porcini 'tortina' with pecorino creme and truffles.

Simple bruschetta. 

The interior.

Johnny's spinach and ricotta ravioli with marscapone and truffle sauce.
So good...

I had little 'gnudi', spinach and and ricotta dumplings in a garlic red sauce.

  There was another downpour while we enjoyed lunch...evident in the photo below.
  Very wet streets-

Johnny getting inspired by this tree bark.

  We always love the view of the valley from this spot-

  Back home (I totally conked out in the car on the way back), we relaxed and enjoyed yet another storm blow through our neck of the woods.
  There were amazing cloud formations, more lighting and thunder, colorful skies...what a beautiful end to the day.

Just down the driveway, looking up at Panicle.
Crazy clouds moving our way!

  This cloud bank just kept getting bigger and stranger...

Alien invasion above Panicle?

What the?

  There were lovely moments, to be sure-

  Then, of course, a little light show-

  I wish I could show what happened later, but it was over the ridge, and I just couldn't capture it. A massive lighting storm, which we could only catch glimpses of in the clouds above. Thunder that was way big, too.
  We just aren't used to summer storms, but hey, I'll get used to them. It's all part of life here.
  Plus, everything smelled so fantastic afterwards.
  The mosquitoes were a pain, though.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Walking & Watering

  We have been so lucky to have met some wonderful folks here in Umbria. This past week, one pal needed to pop down to Rome to visit family, and she asked if we could keep an eye on her garden.
  It's been so hot, anything in a container needs water every day, sometime twice (!), so we said said of course-
  She lives just up the hill, and we worked our garden visits into our walks. We went a few times, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening.

Setting out down the hill to the main road.

A favorite group of trees we pass by.

  These shots were taken in the early morning, before it became too hat to be in the sun.
  This is so hard to get used to!
  I'm kind of dreaming about fog back home....yikes.

I envy these huge Russian Sage bushes!
I've tried them at home, but no luck-

We love this special garden....


After watering on this day, we took a new route down to the hardware store. It took us through the dry fields, beautiful in their own way....

Good Morning, Morning Glory!
On a fence surrounding this veg garden.

Our little compound from the fields.

  The tractors have been busy baling hay all week-

  I've gotten used to the difference in the landscape, but not the heat. When we are here full time some day, we'll n need to learn just how to handle the hot, hot days and high humidity after a summer rain. It's going to take time....

Panicle from the fields below.

  What we have really loved, though....Sunflowers...Lots of sunflowers!

Sunflowers and corn living together in perfect harmony.
I think there's a song in here somewhere.....

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Full Day

  Saturday was a long day filled with art and music and beauty and food and wine and friends.

  We started out really early with a long morning walk while the temperature was still cool and crisp.

  Though I have seen this spot, below, many times, on Saturday morning it looked especially fine with the oleander blooming. The crumbling plaster/paint is just gorgeous to me....but then, I don't have to maintain the building.
  In all honesty, I do love this 'look'....


  We came across a few bits of flora that we don't see in early spring, our usual time to be here in Umbria-

Castagna (chestnuts) in their spiky overcoats.

Outstanding colors of these carciofi (artichoke) blooms.

Fields of girasole (sunflowers) in the valley below the road we walk.

Wheat fields and more sunflowers.
It's so dry, and such different light.

  After a quick shower and some sweet melon for breakfast...

  A pal had told us about a large international photography show going on in Cortona, so we thought we'd head over mid-morning to see what it was all about. Also, it was market day, and that's always fun.

Mt. Amiata way in the distance. A very clear day.
We are in Cortona, looking across the valley towards Umbria.
About thirty minutes from home.


 The photography exhibition is vast, and there are several venues to choose from throughout the village. We decided on two venues, one including many works from Pete Souza, the official White House photographer for the eight years that President Obama was in office.

The banner outside.

  All I can say is this...after viewing only the first two photos, I began crying. I was so unexpectantly overwhelmed with sadness...what we have lost as a country...the bafoon we are now stuck with...

  I just cried the entire time I was walking through the show. Discreetly, of course. Well worth seeing, and all the artists we saw were good.
  The exhibition is going on for a few weeks, with lectures and workshops...

  For info:

  After enjoying the exhibitions, we stopped in at a favorite spot in town, enjoyed a leisurely lunch, and some house wine-

Half liter. Just enough on a warm day.

  A little stroll to check out the view, then back down the hill to head home.

Hey, there's our apartment...way over there across the lake.
Ciao, Umbria!

  Back home, it was perfect timing for a nap before going out to see some music.
  We conked out like babies. Between the emotional photos, lunch, wine and a warm afternoon, well, you know.

  Our pal, Mariolena had mentioned this free concert that was happening in the chapel up at the old cemetery,  the Chiesa di Santa Croce ai Cappuccini-

  We walk up here often. It's one of our regular morning walks. But we have never been inside the chapel itself. It's always closed. We have heard there are music events in the summer, and we didn't want to miss this opportunity to check it all out.
  So glad we did-

Just seeing this space at dusk was amazing!

  It's a small space, with the most gorgeous soft blue ceiling. Folks took time to visit and enjoy the location before settling down for the concert.

I wanted to get a shot of the intimate space, but was stopped in my tracks
by the cobalt blue sky outside...

That view...that view.

    Then it was time to be stunned by the talent of the seventeen year old performer.
    We enjoyed several pieces, all for classical guitar, all from the eighteen hundreds. The acoustics in this place are beyond amazing, and the show was just beautiful.

  It was such a wonderful event, standing room only and at no cost...just a drive up the steep gravel white road.
  A perfect way to cap off a full day.
  Despite the heat and wind, we are really happy we decided to see what summer is like in our little part of Italy.

  What are we doing today, Baby???