Category: Umbria

A Break from the Heat

If you have been following the weather in Europe, you know that it is unseasonably hot in Italy right now. We are little better off in Perguia because there is always a breeze up here. Even so, yesterday we decided to escape the heat in the city and head up into the Sibilline mountains towards the plain of Castellucio. This is another area in Umbria famous for its lentils, farro (spelt), and peas. In the early summer the plain blossoms into a sea of colors. We were a little too early for the flowers this year, but the views were stunning nonetheless.


There is still snow on the mountains!


Castelluccio, population 150, 1452 m. asl

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Umbra Dig 2015: Settling In

We are back in Perugia just under a year after we moved back to Indiana. Some of the family had already made visits back—we have begun to help lead Smithsonian Institute Journeys Tours (Highlights of Italy [done in 2014 and again in 2015] and Gems of Tuscany and Umbria [2016]), and Pedar led a DePauw Winter Term tour for soccer players in January of this year, in which Simon participated. This summer, Simon is taking an intensive Italian course at Umbra Institute, and we are partnering through DePauw with Umbra for a new summer archaeology field school.

Summer Archaeology Class of 2015

Summer Archaeology Class of 2015

The view from the Umbra Institute's classrooms

The view from the Umbra Institute’s classrooms

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Porchetta and Jambalaya = Umbria Jazz

As we pack our bags, Umbria Jazz is stepping out.


Every day from noon to well past midnight  there are official and unofficial performances. We passed part of yesterday afternoon in the Giardini Carducci listening to the KJ Denhart Band and the Allan Harris Quintet, while eating porchetta and jambalaya.


Later we encountered Tuba Skinny playing in Via Mazzini; they are a true traditional New Orleans jazz band, and they are phenomenal; they look the part as well as playing the parts. For Pedar, they are the best thing going at Umbria Jazz: they play the truth.


So far, one of Micah’s favorite events is the twice daily “parade” with Funk Off. All week, at noon and 6:30 pm they parade from Piazza Italia to Piazza IV Novembre where they stop for a performance. Here’s a clip from yesterday:

And here is Micah channeling their vibe with one of his friends (stay with it to 0:52…):

He’s learned that the show must go on, even with equipment malfunctions; maybe someday he will be on the main stage.


A Day in Umbria


View of Lago Trasimeno from Tuoro

Saturday we had an Umbrian day: Lago Trasimeno, Roman/Carthaginian battle site, torta al testo, a Lombard tower, an Etruscan tomb, and home-made wood-fire pizza with friends as we watched the sun set against Perugia. June 21 was the 2231st anniversary of the Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 B.C.), an epic disaster for the Romans at the hands of the Carthaginians and not generally commemorated in Italy. Nevertheless, in the morning we set out for Tuoro, the Umbrian village above the battle site (which, diplomatically, now has Lamta, Hannibal’s home town, as a ‘sister city’). From here we followed part of the battle itinerary.

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All Gods Creatures

View towards Assisi (the collection of shining-white buildings on the site of Monte Subasio at center)

View towards Assisi (the collection of shining-white buildings on the side of Monte Subasio, center-top)

Perugia is not perfect.

First, it is hard to find a patch of green grass anywhere in the stone- and brick-paved centro storico. There’s one bit by the top of the scale mobile on the side of the hill with a fantastic view towards Assisi, but people use it to curb their dogs.

The park at Cupa

The park at Cupa (and its Etruscan fortification walls)

There’s green space and a playground below us at Cupa, but there one has to beware of drug dealing as well as dogs.

The Chiesa di San Francesco al Prato in Perugia

Then there’s a fine patch at the bottom of our street in front of the lovely Chiesa di San Francesco al Prato (begun in 1281), which in spring is full of students and lovers. (The complex also houses the Accademia di Belle Arti [Fine Arts] begun in 1573, and which has a wonderful museum of casts.) And the lawn in front of the circular Chiesa di San Michele Archangelo (started in 5th c.) near the city gate of the same name. There are larger parks on the edges of town, such as at Pian di Massiano, which are popular on weekends and holidays, and which are in varying states of upkeep.

Given all the hard surfaces in the town, and the nature of  its steep topography, which facilitates quick run-off of rain to the valleys below, one might not expect an insect problem. And generally, there isn’t.

There are some zanzare, the onomatopoeic term for mosquitoes, but they are not terribly numerous (unlike Minnesota). Nevertheless, every spring the sindaco, or mayor’s office, reminds the citizens not to leave out old tires or containers that might collect stagnant water in which they could breed.

No, the villain is one very nasty beastie, by which we have suffered, and which only this week we have at last caught.

Read on, if you dare.

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Asparagi, Carciofi, e Briganti

DSC_0008It is asparagus and artichoke season in Umbria! That means that one also has to be alert for brigands attempting to steal your wild asparagus;  more on that later.

The winter greens have begun to fade from the markets (no more treviso or broccoli rape) and in their place are piles of fresh artichokes and bunches of asparagus.

We are all happy about this situation as everyone in the family loves artichokes. In the States, ‘fresh’ artichokes have such tough outer leaves that we usually steam them whole, discard the stems, and eat them by pulling off the leaves, dipping them in vinaigrette, and scraping off the soft end with our teeth.

In Italy the fresh artichokes still have a tough exterior but once that is pulled off the leaves inside are tender. In the last few weeks we have experimented with cooking artichokes in new ways.

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