Archive for November, 2013


The village of Solomeo

The village

About two weeks ago, we visited Solomeo, a small town west of Perugia with a population (last census, 2001) of 436. Buses come just a few times a day, mostly for ferrying kids back and forth from school. Automobile is the most practical form of access. We went because Solomeo is the location of Brunello Cucinelli‘s factory and outlet store (photos of the factory here, located in the castello). Cucinelli is also a founder, and the patron, of Castel Rigone Calcio, about which I am continuing to write, and he supports local historical and cultural initiatives, such as the € 1.1 million consolidation and conservation of the Arco Etrusco, the ancient northern gate to the city of Perugia, which has been under scaffolding since we arrived.

The Restoration of the Arco Etrusco in Perugia

The Restoration of the Arco Etrusco in Perugia, entirely funded by Cucinelli

At a time of serious ongoing economic constraints in Italy, Cucinelli’s success is a bright spot for Umbria, and his rise from farm to fashion has become quasi-mythical both locally and internationally. Profiles have appeared in the Financial Times Weekend Magazine (October 2013); Vegas Magazine (October 2013); Forbes (March 2013); GQ (April 2012); and Harper’s Bazaar (March 2011), to name a few.

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Snow (La Neve)

Winter wonderland

Almost a winter wonderland…

We hadn’t expected it so soon, but Umbria has been visited by snow for the past two days. It’s not much snow, by Midwestern standards, but the flurries we’ve had so far in the city have graded into 6+ inches on the slopes and inner mountain valleys of the Apennines, and some towns have been hit hard, with school closures and lots of accidents. The Iveys got some good pictures of the storm.

An Umbrian town “nella morsa del gelo” (“in the maws of frost”) on Nov. 26

The main problem of course has to do with driving. With so many steep, stone streets, cars can’t get a grip in many parts of Perugia. It’s less of an issue for walkers. This afternoon, when we trotted down to soccer practice at Don Bosco, we could see whiteout conditions in the valley below (we couldn’t even see the valley), and the field had begun to accumulate the white stuff. At the end of the scrimmage, the winning team lay down and made snow angels.

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The Carousel at the End of the Street

Step Right Up and See the World

Yesterday after a lovely late lunch we strolled down the Corso Vannucci, because Perugia was hosting a cultural exploration laboratory ( with exhibitions, lectures, and showings of film, new media, radio, tv, web series, storytelling, and fumetti (comics). One of the most impressive sections was ‘Young Guns‘, an exhibit of young graphic/comic artists, showing an array of imaginative and expressive local talent. Great sources of inspiration for Jakob.

At the end of the Corso, however, loomed paradise for a five-year old: a Ferris wheel (here, ‘Carousel’; what we call a ‘Merry-Go-Round’ is simply an ‘Antica Giostra‘), set down at the edge of the town walls. As it was 16:15 and sunset was approaching, of course we went up (for a good 15-20 min. ride). Here are the boys and the views.

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Crepes, Truffles, and Sashimi


Close-up of our Nutella crepes; photo by Micah.

Some of you may be tired of reading about Italian soccer, and some of you may be wondering what we have been cooking and eating recently. Today was a particularly good food day; so here is a quick update.

Some weeks ago we discovered that the Italian version of baking soda makes excellent pancakes. They have become our regular Sunday morning treat (and the kids have come to like Nutella as a topping). This morning Simon had an early morning soccer game (you will have to ask him about the details), and while he and Pedar were at the field, Micah, Jakob, and I decided to rework our pancake recipe into a crepe recipe (basically more eggs and milk).

We were pretty happy with the results. Jakob created this plate of Nutella crepes. We filled the rest with frutti di bosco jam.

Having stuffed ourselves with crepes for breakfast, none of us was hungry until about 2:00 pm. We finally headed out for a late lunch – this is where the truffles and sashimi come in…

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Castel Rigone, Weeks 11-12: Put Your Boots and Courage On

In each of their last two matches, Castel Rigone has had a player dismissed from the game for accumulating two yellow cards. Within the club philosophy of fair play, they certainly don’t shy from physical play. After 12 weeks, they are in 12th place, just inside the play-out zone. Video highlights for both games can be found at the end of this post.

Sunday, Nov. 10 saw a 1-0 loss to Ischia Isola Verde, a game in which Castel Rigone seems often to have been under siege. Castel Rigone would have equalized in added time, but Bianco’s freekick goal was disallowed, as three teammates were behind the Ischia defense and in an offside position at the time he struck the ball (whether they were ‘actively involved in play’ is an aspect of the offside rule that often invites argument; it currently states a player is offside if they are: “clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movement or challenging an opponent for the ball”).

Tranchitella’s first penalty

Saturday, Nov. 16 was a strange match — Castel Rigone dominated and should have won, but earned only a 0-0 draw because their striker, the joint top scorer in the league, Dario Tranchitella, missed two penalties. For a penalty given in the first half, Tranchitella initially scored, but the goal was called back because a teammate, fellow striker Marco Agostinelli, had entered the penalty area before the kick was taken (his timing was off —  Tranchitella had paused his run-up to the ball in order to induce the keeper commit to one side). On the re-kick, Tranchitella stuttered his run-up once again, but the keeper guessed correctly and blocked the ball, with Dario skying the rebound over the bar. Three chances at point-blank range, and no goals. This approached the performance of three penalties missed in one game, accomplished by Martin Palermo of Argentina in 1999). In the second half, Tranchitella’s penalty was simply poor — weak, and too close to the keeper. He looked like he was wary of missing again, rather than intent on scoring.

When fear taps a player on the shoulder, what happens to efficacy, and what role does ethics play?

Probably the most common phrase told by coaches to players here is: “gioca senza paura” (play without fear), which is far easier said than done. In order to play without fear, one might want to know what courage is. And for that, we might consult the Platonic dialogue Laches.

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Turrets and Tunnels


The fortified tunnel (at left) leading from the palazzo to the castle keep of the della Corgna family of Castiglione del Lago.

Over the last month we have visited two fortresses: the 13th-16th- c. castle of the famiglia della Corgna at Castiglione del Lago, on the west side of Lake Trasimeno, and the largely 14th-15th-c. Rocca Maggiore that perches above Assisi. In both cases, the boys enjoyed climbing up the towers and skittering through some of the very long tunnels that connect parts of the respective complexes. Both fortifications are also connected to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (himself born just east, near Ancona), who was baptized at Assisi and spent his early years in that castle, and who ordered the construction of the castle at Castiglione del Lago just a few years before his death.

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