November 27, 2018


One doesn’t have to be an American Woman in Italy to have the chimney stuffed full of straw birds nests, feathers etc.  Our pellet stove here in the tiny hamlet of Mazzarelli had sounded its alarm about a month ago. DANGER!  The repairman finally came yesterday after all these weeks.  The chimney is blocked.  It’s straw and birds nests. We are SO lucky that one of our neighbors is expert at working in high places. He kindly stopped by today to have a look at our blocked chimney and, additionally, just to add to our woe, the leak coming down through the antenna.  We live on the third floor, the attic above has a bit of water on the floor.  It’s been raining a lot.  The neighbor, Giuliano, helped us last spring stave off the pigeons, multitudes, that like to perch and poop on our kitchen windowsill.  Hopefully, he’ll resolve the leak and chimney block tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain.

Giuliano is a member of the local senior citizens club, of which we are also members.  He is one of our immediate neighbors whom I know well enough to talk to.  We see each other at the dinners sponsored by this group.  Senior citizens here are active–continuing ed. and physical ed. classes and sponsored trips around Europe.  We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary at one of their “anniversary” dinners.

We are leaving to return to US in about 10 days.

Bye bye Marco and Christian.  Our village, Paciano, has two small bars/caffes.  The tiniest one is changing hands again.  Marco and Christian, two young guys, have called it quits.  Hard to make money and boring to stay stuck in the bar all the time.  We don’t know who will run the place, but it should open tomorrow.  We don’t know if there will be changes to the coffee, to the drinks, to the atmosphere.  We’ll go check it out.

I dream of my “expresso macchiato” when I’m in the US.

Today Bob hiked to the top of our local Mt. Pausillo (Purgatorio) during my Italian lesson with Dani.  Ironic because I’ve been studying about Inferno (Hell) and Purgatorio with Dani, reading, studying Dante.  I’m also beginning to write a story about Peonia, the hen turkey, saved from death at Thanksgiving, by the Epiphany witch.


Quirks: Aldo’s Bar (Il Gallo) in the neighboring town of Panicale is hugely popular.  If you have seen Bob and me on Househunters International, you will have seen us filmed there. Everyone loves Aldo’s, especially in summer, when one can enjoy a drink on a lovely terrace in the main square.  Aldo’s bar sold Bob on coming to move here, he liked it so much.  He plays bridge there Wednesdays with the boys.

Aldo’s son opened a restaurant across the piazza a few years ago.  Last summer he installed a platform over the cobblestones outside his restaurant, thereby increasing the space for outdoor dining and making that space level and safe.  You have never heard such howls.  How ugly!  How invasive!  What nerve!  How did he get the permits?  Blah blah — a half year later the platform is gone, victim of pressure from the Belle Arte (fine arts) committtee.  So what gives???

26 Novembre 2018

Hi all you readers.  I know you are few, but there will be more as I write more and launch this fascinating blog about my life as an American in Italy.

Question of the hour?  Will I ever be integrated into Italian life, into Italian society?  The answer is a resounding “NO!”  Perhaps if I had started this adventure in my youth, the answer would be “yes,” but I must admit that I’ll always be the “American” around here.  Exotic?  Weird?  Neighbors wonder why would we live here in this tiny hamlet???  What do we see in Mazzarelli?   Good questions!

The answers lie in the fact that I love the Italian culture, the landscape, the language, the history, the art (birthplace of the Renaissance) and, oh, I almost forgot!  The FOOD!

I’m OK with always being on the outside looking in.  Every week we meet new locals here — I will know them enough to say “Buon giorno, salve” etc. and maybe even a little better than that, but I’ll not be invited to their homes.  I’m not sure the local Umbrians (Pacianesi) here invite others into their homes.   I believe they prefer to meet in public places, the bars and caffes being their living rooms.  And I believe that in this tiny hamlet, where everyone is related, they pretty much stick to their own families. I found this to be true in France, where even tho I speak the language very well, I always felt like a tourist.  In Germany, where I lived for 7 years until quite recently, I found the same.  Things got better there and here in Italy when I began to learn the language. I’m still working on Italian, meeting for a private lesson twice a week and reading Inferno by Dante, father of Italian language.

Kaffee Klatch

Every Sunday morning, and most Tuesdays as well, Bob and I drive over to Lia and Fausto’s house in our village, Paciano. Lia, being German by origin, is a fantastic baker of breads, richer and more German in style than the white unsalted stuff loved by the locals here.  On Sunday morning we meet up with friends, we drink coffee and we eat delicious pastries and rolls.  And we “klatch” — that is, “chat.” The crowd is mostly “stranieri” (foreigners), mostly British.  Lia is happy that some Italians have started to roll in.  She too has always been an outsider, being German, and having raised 3 kids here in Paciano.  I was happy to see some of our Italian neighbors there yesterday.  Lia’s husband is Italian. They have installed a wood burning oven for baking.  Sitting around the big table in  the warm kitchen on a rainy day (yesterday) is a fine example of “gemütlichkeit.” That is a strictly German feeling, now found here in our Sunday kaffeeklatsch klatches!  WWII has been over 70 years…..

Property line dispute

Paciano is our idyllic village, resting on a hill above our hamlet, Mazzarelli, which is a subset of Paciano and its 1,000 inhabitants.  The state is Perugia, the province is Umbria, the country is Italy.  Seems the federal Italian gov’t has decided to reconfigure all the irregular and incorrect property lines in Italy.  It also seems they decided to give tons of expensive work to “notaios.”  “Notaios” are sort of like lawyers, they draw up deeds and documents having to do with property.

The mayor of Paciano has come to us with a request for 1500. Euro, to be paid to a “notaio” to reconfigure our property line, which is off by about 18.”  Our neighbors, who have lived in this building their whole lives, are also getting drawn into this dispute for more money than us, bless their hearts.  We all met with the mayor last week and perhaps we’ve reached an accord.  But since all 25 property holders in our tiny hamlet must also come to an agreement to pay for their reconfigurations, we think we are waiting for Godot.   Our neighbors, Franco and Astelio (who grew up in this very apartment we live in)  can be seen outside with a long measuring tape.





November 11, 2018.Bye bye and buon viaggio!

DOLOMITES/VENICE Tomorrow morning at 9 am we’ll board the train at nearby Chiusi for a 6 hour journey with 3 changes and 4 trains:  final destination is Brunico/Bruneck, in the Dolomites, aka the Italian Alps.  Loving the mountains we just wish to explore this area in the Italian Alps — midseason between summer hiking/biking and winter skiing.  I’m taking along my Nordic Walking Sticks for a bit of exercise.  75% of the people in Brunico, Italy speak German, so it’ll be nice to revisit German culture, having lived there recently for 7 years.  I’ll try to post pix when I return, but otherwise I must take a pause from this blog.  On the way back here via train to Mazzarelli we’ll stop for 4 nights in Venice in a back neighborhood on an island called Giudecca.  Of course we’ll check ahead to see if there’s acqua Alta, high water — if so, we’ll cancel.

Coffee Klatch!  Today was our Sunday coffee morning at Lia’s.  She makes fabulous breads in a wood-fired oven in her home in our village.  Many of us meet for coffee and chat on Sunday mornings.  Photos to be inserted later.

Macelleria. Butcher shop — here is where I went today to order a turkey for Thanksgiving.  I expect there will be 8 of us at Alex’s house, I’ll bring the cooked turkey and pecan pie.  Half of the people at the table will be Americans.  I love my butcher shop/deli for all the things they have besides meats.  Lots of prepared foods. Today I bought homemade pici pasta (our local pasta) and ragu and a small pork roast, all tucked into the freezer for our return from the Dolomites.

Baby Giacomo lives downstairs from us.  He’s 3 months old, and, boy is he ever cute.I took him small gifts yesterday — apparently taking baby gifts isn’t done here — maybe they feel obligated to bring a gift in return, in our case, surely not for a baby.  Giacomo’s daddy pointed out to me that Giacomo is the BOSS!  some kind of understatement.  We can hear him through the floor, but it’s very light.

Lunch today with friends at our local restaurant — Sunday lunch.  Bob had cacio e Pepe and I had sautéed thin sliced chicken breast with lemon and cooked fresh greens from the restaurant’s garden.  Nice to visit with friends.  The owners are friendly to us, but, alas, they have their place up for sale.  We had our 70th birthday party there.  And did I forget to mention the lava cake for dessert?

Lakefront walk. Just like in Kirkland, Washington, we live near a beautiful lake, Trasimeno.  Normally we take walks along it, but laziness set in today.  We drove along it, lots of Italian families out for a walk on a beautiful crisp fall Sunday.

fall colors.  Not like in Colorado orWashington, but our linden tree’s leaves are changing to colors iike those of a tortoise shell cat.  The local vineyards have stripes of color, with rows ranging from deep burgundy to pumpkin orange, as their leaves change and depending on the variety.

OLIVES are being picked around the neighborhood.  Friends and neighbors come around to help. We don’t have any, thank God! We’ve been to the mill to pick up a couple of liters of the fresh green stuff, cloudy looking, peppery tasting and chartreuse in color.  In a few months the cloudiness, pepperiness and chartreuse color go away, to make a silky product.  But we love this new oil!  Perfect on salads and on bread.  Raising olives and harvesting them for oil is a huge part of the local culture here.

COBALT SKY OLYMPUS is my granddaughter’s name for me.  It has something to do with fairies.  I believe in fairies.  My granddaughter gave herself the name EMERALD RAIN SILVERMANE.

On that note, this fairy is leaving, see you after Venice, or maybe during if I can do this on my IPAD.     Ciao!











November 9, 2018, REDDER TAPE

MORE RED TAPE!   I guess my post from yesterday didn’t get published.  I’m having moments of confusion about using this blog site:

So not only do we need to go back to ground zero and start all over again to obtain a visa to allow us to enter Italy and stay for 90 days, meaning at least one trip to the consulate in San Francisco and playing the waiting game.  But we also have an argument running with our village over a tiny strip of land upon which our wrought iron fence was built some 30 years ago and which they now claim is theirs and for which we must pay many Euro.Further stories of inefficiency: we went to the train station at Chiusi to purchase our tix for the Dolomites — all well and good–except that the station mistress’s computer wouldn’t print out our tickets.  She became flustered, had to cancel the debit card transaction, start over again, and meanwhile a long line was forming behind us and a person muttered “Americani.”  Finally all is resolved and we’ll be on our way to the Italian Alps on Monday, stopping in Venice on the way back.

I promised stories about quirks and every day things, but I’m still sweating the red tape.  However, last night our doorbell rang and a woman appeared, apologizing for interrupting us.  A neighbor, she wanted to meet us because she has a house for sale and she thought maybe we knew some Americans looking for a house here.  If we knew such a person, we’d sell this apartment to them!!!  We got to visiting.  She grew up here in this tiny hamlet and attended the school, which comprised the ground floor of our present house.  The school room is now our ground floor studio apartment.  We live in an apartment on the third floor.  We are a house divided! The baby, Giacomo and his parents live in the apartment in between.   Lidia, the neighbor,, told me that she attended school here. The teacher lived in the apartment upstairs from the school room (now Giacomo’s apt) and had a child with “problems,” said Lidia, I assume handicapped.  Lidia told me that the teacher brought her child to the classroom every day.  In the 50’s before there were programs for special kids.  Now that’s a story I didn’t know!

Tomorrow I’ll be in a. better mood, I’ll post a few pictures and tell another story, OK?

I love that the hairdresser here calls my new violet hair color “castagna Beaujolais.”

Chestnut beaujolais — leave it to the Italians to be poetic!

Ciao tutti!

Red Tape!

November 7, 2018 It took us 24 hours, door to door, to arrive here in Mazzarelli from Seattle. And it will take 3 times that long to get over jet lag. Why do I love it here in Italy? Well, it’s not because of RED TAPE: Driver’s license: We must have an Italian license if we stay here longer than 90 days. This requires “residency” which we obtained a few years ago, and the renewal of our “permesso di soggiorno,” which we allowed to lapse. We’ve started the renewal procedure, involving plenty of paperwork and personal appearance at the police station in Perugia, the big city 45 minutes away by car. I dread these police station visits because the lines are always really, really long, with no place to sit and stone faced government employees. We are immigrants here in Italy. We add to the economy. At the “questura” (police station) all immigrants are treated alike. At least there is not a wall, not yet anyway. Here are the topics I plan to explore on this blog: Quirks in the village. Friends here. Human interest stories, some happy, some sad. Dante’s “inferno.” The French connection. Groups.My new neighbor (3 months old, Giacomo.).

Venice in May and Umbrian Quirks

Buon Giorno tutti!  Hello everybody!

Very soon I’m going to “launch” this blog, putting the word out to everyone I know hoping they’ll read me!

Now that my inertia and technical difficulties are resolved, I’m moving forward on this “Bella ciao” blog.


This is not a travelogue, It’s not about food and hotel recommendations.  It’s about Italian  culture.


The Venice Architectural Biennial, open now thru November 25 2018.

Quite by accident we happened upon the opening weekend of the Venice Architectural Biennial — a fair/exposition ranging over the entire city, with an intellectual focus on  architecture.  (In two years there will be an Arts Biennial.)

Our goal was to see Venice again, a second time.  I wanted to attend “La Traviata” in the newly rebuilt La Fenice Opera House.  It burned in a fire in 1996 and took years amid great controversy to rebuild.   The singing, the orchestra, the ambiance of the gorgeous theater “Traviata” pleased us immensely.

Also we intended to see an exhibit by the abstract/pop art German painter Albert Oehlen (see picture).  The retrospective called “Cows by the Water” runs in conjunction with the Biennial, taking over the entire strikingly renovated Palazzo Grassi, owned by Henri Pinault, one of France’s wealthiest men.  The paintings and the palace together make up a visual feast.

We stayed in a giant hotel on the island called “Giudecca,” in a Hilton Hotel, once a flour mill.  This island is delightfully calm compared to the main island San Marco.  We saw 5-6 cruise ships, in fact they passed right by our noses on the Giudecca Canal as we were having breakfast.  We know they disgorged thousands of passengers each day and we did our best to AVOID THOSE THRONGS!

We walked the back streets of Giudecca Island and discovered how the locals live.  Mind you, there are no cars in Venice.  Everyone travels by foot or by boat.  We loved the repurposed monastery,  now an artist’s enclave.  A relaxing island, with little commercial activity, just lots of canals, boats and windowboxes.

A vaporetto (boat) took us to peaceful San Giorgio Island, where there is absolutely NO commercial activity, only a beautiful papal Basilica. There we saw a glass art exhibit from Marseilles, France. It is part of the Biennial.  Since our home town, Seattle, is known for art glass, we were most interested and pleasantly surprised.  We attempted to see the 12 Vatican Chapels, commissioned by the Holy See for the Biennial.  Alas, it was invitation only.  We will return in November to see the chapels.

Ai Wei Wei’s “Gilded Cage” is visible from a vaporetto, a boat one can take to the Biennial Giardini, the cluster of 30 some pavilions, each from a different nation, each housing an architectural exhibit and the true centerpiece of the Biennial. The US pavilion showed a giant map of the US/Mexico border, elaborating on the many things that can cross borders:  ideas, questions, books, insects, air, water and disease, just to name a few.

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We dared into hot, crowded San Marco square to see another exhibit of the Biennial, the original Olivetti store.  Bob sold Olivetti so many chips that he thought we should have been guests of honor.

I could go on for days about the Biennial and about Venice.   I’ve become a Venetophile. I’ve become a “lagoonatic.”  I love it, I love the water, the boats, the vistas.  We dined beside the Giudecca canal. We ate small plates of “Cichetti.”  We’ll be back!

Next posting will be about my observations of the people, the natives, the locals, who live around here.   Wonder what they think about me?   A dopo – “see you later!”