Monday, September 26, 2011

Floss is Empty, Pre-Tirement is Over


Well, it had to happen. Not only has my last container of Italian floss (or Filo Interdentale, which I bought at the Mercatale Conad, my favorite little store in the world) run out:

and not only is it almost a year since we started our big pretirement adventure, it looks like I may have to actually retire from my pre-tiring to start up gainful employment once more. Which means that the Six Months blog is going into hibernation, until the next pretirement (hah!) or at least our next trip to Italy. We can’t stay away from Andrew and Marianne and the Upper Tiber valley for too long. Not to mention that I’m craving risotto from Calagrana and pizza from Bar Fizz (Quattro formaggi co cipolla, of course) daily:

Ciao-

PS: Hey, why not come over to my cocktail blog Spiked Punch and say howdy. It’ll help ease my “pre-tirement is over” pain.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bread, Olive Oil, Arugula, Pecorino

It’s coming close to a year ago that we moved to Italy (I suppose I don’t even need to say I wish we were heading that way again) for our pretirement, and one of the first things we ate at our Italian home was the below: bread, olive oil, arugula, pecorino:
Simple stuff. And wonderful, too.

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Looking Out a Window on Assisi

It's hard to believe (from the sunny-ness) that this picture was taken in December, when we (along with Nat’s mom Carolyn and sister Christie--hey, happy birthday to Carolyn today by the way) were eating lunch at ai Frantoio. It was extra chilly outside, due to a wind that seemed to come from St. Francis’ desire to clear the earth of the un-worthy or something. Assisi was still lovely, naturally, but we were certainly glad to be inside for a long lunching:
*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Snakes and Skulls

This small reminder was on the somewhat-tarnished-but-still-remarkable little church outside of Castel Rigone (which is a smallish town in the hills around and behind Cielo Chiaro):
*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

If All Meat Was This Pretty . . .

I’d still probably be a vegetarian, but it’d be a lot harder. Just look at that lovely meat (both sliced and spread). I expect meat-eating pals will be drooling now:

PS: This plate was delivered (if I remember correctly) to pal Shane Farmer at a restaurant in Arezzo called Le Tastevin.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Artichoke Risotto from Calagrana

Because some days I just like to make myself salivate:
And cause I miss those Calagrana folks and foods.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Monday, August 22, 2011

This Pic Makes Sookie and Rory Tear Up

While we have a lovely Rainier cherry tree in our Seattle backyard, Sookie and Rory still dream of the days when they spent hours eating persimmon parts under the tree in their yard at Cielo Chiaro:


*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gubbio Rooftops

It must have something to do with being built on a hillside, but Gubbio always provides great rooftop photo opportunites. It could also have something to do with the amazing old buildings and the particular roofing materials. Perhaps it’s the combination:
*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Spina di Rosa Bottle is Empty


Aw, this picture is sad:
Though drinking this lovely rose’ from Donini winery was delicious (and, as a model of restraint, I drank it slowly over a few days), it was our last bottle. We were lucky enough to ship a box of Donini wines back (thanks to Keith and Tasha for the assist), and while we still have a bottle of frizzante white Brigante, this is it for the Spina di Rosa. That empty bottle is almost a reason to go back all on its own.

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nero con Fonduta e Tartufo Nero at Fiorintino

Yep, I’ve posted pics (and that does mean more than one) of the Nero con Fonduta e Tartufo Nero served up with relish at Sansepulcro’s beloved Ristorante Fiorentino. But you know, a dish this good (black risotto, black truffles, and a rich cheese fondue) can’t have too many pictures:
I feel a bit awkward admitting this, but just looking at the picture makes me salivate. Get me to a plane!

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Close Up from Orvieto’s Duomo

I was talking to a friend about Italy yesterday (he and his family are getting ready for a trip, and I of course was happy to give opinions and things to do and see in central Italy), and it was a strange experience. First, I’m always ready to point folks in directions when they’re visiting Italy--directions of spots I like, that is. But secondly, it was hard (and always is) to talk to someone who is heading towards central Italy when I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Anywho, to get away from my maudlin meanderings, one of the places we talked about was Orvieto. If you’ve read my Orvieto post, you know I was blown away by the wild Duomo there (if you haven’t read the post, go here). The prismatic colors, the doors, and especially the sculptures are not to be missed. Of course, after we talked I went back and looked at all our pics taken when there, and just had to post this close up of one of the scenes on the Duomo, Cain and Abel's story:


It’s so textured, and life-like, and ruthless, like many of the scenes sculpted. Amazing.

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Somedays I Really Miss the World’s Best Trucker Restaurant

And the world’s best trucker restaurant is, of course, Mastro Dante, right off the E35 in the Upper Tiber Valley in Italy. Big plates of pasta, mighty mouthfuls of meat (if you partake), a bottle of wine per person, and the most fantastic antipasti bar:


all for a mere 12 Euro. Dang, I wish I could roll up there for lunch today.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marianne’s Antique Pasta Roller

In Col di Rosa (our landlords Marianne and Andrew’s wonderful house outside of the town of San Leo Bastia), there is not only a lovely separate apartment that you can rent (if you visit Italian rental site Amici Villas, that is) but also the possibility that you might get invited upstairs for a meal cooked by Marianne. I’ve detailed one we had here, but didn’t talk enough about how amazing the kitchen/dining room is, packed with intriguing pieces like this antique pasta maker:


I probably didn’t talk enough about how wonderful a cook Marianne is, either, but really, you should go over to Italy and discover that for yourself.

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Caramel Panacotta at al Frantoio

In honor of Nat bringing Bella Cinghiale (which was her Italy blog) back up and running, and with a focus on delicious pictures of scrumptious sweeter treats (most of which she makes her-own-self mind you), here’s a pic of a wonderful dessert we shared at the restaurant al Frantoio in Assisi, a caramel panacotta that was just over-the-top tasty:


*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Boar for a Birthday Husky Boy

One of the few sad thing about our Italian pre-tirement was the folks that couldn’t make it to visit, including pal Jeremy Holt (though, for full disclosure, he and his wife Megan were with us on our first trip to the Upper Tiber Valley, and another one too, so we have had the pleasure of hanging out with them in Italy). Jeremy’s not only a great pal, but also the co-author and omnivorous half of Double Take, and is mighty fond of the pork products. And, it’s his birthday today, so I wanted to invite a large member of the Italian pork family to send along birthday wishes:
Happy birthday Husky Boy! May your glass and plate never be empty.

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Castiglione del Lago in Fog

This view of Castiglione del Lago (the mountain town that boasts not only a full castle to walk through, but also the dandy Cantina restaurant and Nat’s Italian dentist) I believe was taken from Isola Maggiore on Lake Trasimeno.  Doesn’t it look adorably medieval in a way:

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Truffle Risotto at Il Granaro del Monte in Norcia

I always meant to do a full Il Granaro del Monte (the restaurant in the Grotta Azzurra hotel in Norcia) post, but just never got around to it. We went there with pal Shane Farmer way back when, when he visited us during our pre-tirement, and I did post one pic of his meat plate, but skipped everything else had there, including the tasty truffle risotto, which is what I had. It was different than many risottos, in that it had big chunks of cheese mixed in, as well as truffle shavings on top. Yummy:
*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Crowned Eagle in Ravenna

Following up the below bird-art-in-Ravenna theme, here’s a picture of this amazing crowned eagle statue which was perched in the Dante neighborhood (if I’m remembering correct). This pic also shows in beautiful blue fashion how pretty our day was in Ravenna, with clear skies to go along with the avian art:
 *Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tiled Duck in Ravenna

I wrote a lot about the most Byzantine of Italian cities, Ravenna, before (in this here post), and even (in said post) showed a pic of a random tiled duck that was on the floor of San Vitale. I forgot (until going through my pics again, for nostalgia’s sake) that there were actually two ducks on the floor, and since I loved them both, I wanted to bring the second one a bit more public attention:


*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dessert Nibbles at Da Cesari

I’ve droned on and on to all who will listen about the gustatory glory that is the restaurant Da Cesari in Bologna (here's my Da Cesari post, in case you missed it). Not only is the food top notch, but the folks that work there are swell, too. So swell that they always bring us a little plate of sweets to accompany the homemade blueberry grappa (which they also are nice enough to bring out). This is on top of the wonderful Cesari dolce proper, but hey, you can’t have too much of a good thing, right? I especially love the chocolate-covered candied orange peels:
Delicious.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Radicchio Bruschetta at Nestor’s

Doesn’t this just make your mouth water:


Nestor’s Pizzeria (one of our favorite pizza spots, and considered by many to be the best pizza in the Upper Tiber Valley) is, of course, renowned for its pizza. But gosh, as the above pic shows, they have some other tasty items, too. This bruschetta was wonderful, with that tart radicchio playing off the salty pecorino and the olive oil tying it all together on top of the crisp little toast. A crunchy delight.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nat Gets Close to Nature

We’re lucky that Seattle is a very tree-y and plant-y city--and that we have our very own cherry tree in the backyard (and a garden in the side yard). But I still miss the forests we were surrounded by in Italy, and I’m guessing Nat does, too. One of the trees we saw a decent amount of was the Castagno, or chestnut tree. The chestnut is a big deal in the Niccone Valley, and in the fall when we were there you’d see a ton of roasted chestnuts for sale near markets and even on the side of the road (our own local bar in Lisciano Niccone, Mafalda, even had plates of them as snacks during the aperitif hour a couple of days)--and one lovely little town near us, Preggio, has a huge chestnut festival. We also saw loads of un-shucked chestnuts on forest walks. If you haven't seen them, they're very interesting--spiny (though soft spines) and round and not looking at all like you'd expect:


I also think it looks like Nat’s about to send that one flying at me through the air, in some sort of Italian spell-casting. Hopefully it’d be a friendly spell (maybe one that ensured my bottle of Strega was always full)?

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Church Outside Castel Rigone

Castel Rigone is a smallish town up even higher (and a bit south and east) than Cielo Chiara, the lovely house we spent out Italian pre-tirement living within, and once we found the town we stopped in often (it’s only a short 5 or 7 minute drive on the back roads from Cielo Chiara). Usually, we’d just have a drink at the cafĂ© in the small town center, playing Quiddler or having a snack with the drink. But once in a while we’d walk around the town (there are only a few streets, and some are solely walkers), to check out the amazing views of Lake Trasimeno, or to look at the lovely old church on one end of town:


Yet another amazing, little, seldom-stopped-at Italian town that you might just want to spend a few hours in, relaxing and enjoying the Italian sunshine.

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gnocchi Tartufo at the Taverna di San Leo Bastia

I am almost 100% sure (at least 97.5% sure) that I’ve posted a pic here already of the Gnocchi Tartufo from the Taverna di San Leo Bastia. If I haven’t here, I know I did on Spiked Punch after an earlier trip. But dang it, I’m going to post another pic here, because it is so good, and because I am craving it so much. The homemade gnocchi are delicious, warm with a tiniest bit of chew, and that truffle sauce, all creamy and yummy and truffle-tastic, could make a mad man sane:


One of my all-time favorites in the Upper Tiber Valley without a doubt.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lookie at This Pleased Pasta-Eater

Well, when we were pre-tiring in Italy we had oodles of great guests, so I’m not going to put one on a pedestal above the others. But look at pal Christy Scharrer’s pasta enthusiasm for the tagliatelle ai funghi in this photo:


That’s showing the gusto Italians love to see. And, when she was taking this bite, she’d only been off the plane a few hours, and only off the train a few minutes. Amazing, really. The restaurant we were eating at was called Ristorante Etruria, and mostly chosen because of its nearness to said train’s station, and actually shared a wall with a used car lot, and was completely non-descript, with a waiter/owner who spoke little English and stood about 5-foot flat, but the food? The food was still delish.

PS: Happy Birthday to Christy, too, one day early (but hey, it's almost your birthday in Italy right now)! Wish we were all in Italy celebrating.

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Duomo and the Christmas Tree

The Florence Duomo is one of those building that makes you have an instant intake of breath. A “wow” moment, if you will, and (at least for me) not just the first time you see it. It’s not only breathtakingly lovely with its variety of colored stone, marble, and statues, but also just massive. Seeing a giant Christmas tree alongside it, which it dwarfed (even though in this photo the tree is partially holding its own—due to my lack of a sufficiently wide-angled lens to even come close to capturing much of the Duomo), only emphasized the massivity:

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Calagrana Lemon Cake

Sometimes I dwell too much on the savory side (which makes sense as I tend to like savory better than sweet. Which isn’t to say I won’t sweet it up on occasion). Which may be why I never posted this pic of a delicious, light, flavorsome lemon cake we had at the wondrous Calagrana:

But wow, it was (like everything there) great. And the homemade ice cream on the side? And the delicate creamy lemon chocolate sauce? Also great. But would you expect anything less? Maybe if you’ve never been—but in that case, what are you waiting for?

*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stone Heads in Citerna

Citerna was an Italian hill town we visited one fine afternoon in November, 2010, which I detailed a bit here. It’s well worth a visit if you ever happen to be in Northern Umbria and like art, good coffee, and amazing views (and who worth their salt doesn’t?). Wandering through the town we took a right turn up some stairs in hunt of a particular antique fireplace and all of a sudden were face-to-face with these carved heads:


I was both scared (they do have that “we will now pronounce your doom” look about them) and in wonder (at how you never know in Italy when you’ll all-of-a-sudden be face-to-face with art).

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Florentine Pugs

I’ve mentioned this before, but it deserves reiteration (or re-bark-eration): we’re dog people. And so took pictures of lots of Italian dogs, including these adorable pugs (or pug and a pug-mix) in Florence. I love how that little tongue is sticking out—touring around is so hard for a dog. While our dogs are big ‘uns, my sister-and-nephews-and-brother-in-law have pugs (as well as pals Ame and Ron), so we definitely have a pug soft spot:

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bar Fizz Quattro Formaggi Pizza

This pic is of the first pizza we ever had at Bar Fizz! And I hadn’t yet posted it here (I think). That seems somewhat amazing to me in my culinary hindsight. You can tell it’s early, because it’s a Quattro Formaggi (notice the Fizz usage of gorgonzola on their version of this standard Italian pizza) but it doesn’t have the cipolla addition that we grew so fond of during our pre-tirement:


Yummy. I think if I could afford it, I’d fly over to Italy tonight just to have one of these.
*See all Italian restaurants

*Note: We were on pre-tirement, and now we’re back. Want the full story? Start the pre-tirement journey here. Want to go backwards? Read the last pre-tired post here and scroll back. Or, just keep coming back for pretty Italy pictures.