Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Giacomo and Belinda have finally received their grant to turn their home into a rental property. They’ll add a pool and a medieval-style tower for two additional apartments. When it’s all finished, the main house, with three or four bedrooms, and the two additional apartments will be rented en-masse, perfect for a large family or a group of friends. Should the dollar take a turn for the worse, we plan to take over one of the apartments and work as caretakers!

Although I don’t know the details, I do know that Giacomo worked long and hard to prepare the paperwork for this grant. They could have started the work at any time, but if the grant hadn’t been approved, they would have been out not only the money they’d invested up to that point, but also committed to continuing the work at their own expense.

The grant they received was for €80,000, and they estimate they’ll spend an additional €80,000 of their own money. A few weeks back Giacomo received notice that he could go to the bank to collect €40,000 in cash to begin the project. The bad news is that the entire project must be completed by December 2007. Had they begun work before the grant was official they would have been in better shape for the deadline, but I agree with their decision to wait for the official notification.

The pool will be the first thing to go in, and when it’s dug the foundation for the tower will also be dug. Installing a pool will mean that some olive trees will have to be moved, and although they definitely want to save the trees by transplanting them, I’m not sure the trees will survive. Moving them in mid-season like this can’t be the right time, but the December 2007 deadline means that they have to begin work ASAP.


We went to the picnic last Saturday hosted by our new expat friends, John and Vera. There must have been at least thirty people there, maybe as many as forty. After introducing myself numerous times and trying desperately to not only meet everyone, but also to remember their names, I finally had to give up. Here’s what and who I do remember:

John and Vera, our hosts, have a fantastic house that they built a few years ago. A large covered portico separates the main house from the guest house, and both houses have large covered verandas from which to enjoy the spectacular views of Todi, and of Fabio’s castle-in-progress. (See previous post for more info).

John was in charge of the barbequing, in traditional American style. He’s brought his Weber kettle grill with him….and he’s not afraid to use it! We had chicken, ribs and Italian sausage, all grilled to perfection.

Vera loaded the table with roasted potatoes, baked beans….yes, American style baked beans!, roasted peppers, pickles, and if there was something lese, I’ve forgotten. Anyway, quite a nice meal!

I brought some brownies for dessert, thinking that it was the perfect American picnic-type dessert. Along with the brownies we had cheesecake and a chocolate torte flavored with espresso….too much coffee for me! I gladly passed the torte over to Art, and he gladly accepted.

We met a LOT of Brits, a few French, some Germans, and one woman from Bulgaria. We met Mark, who’s a moderator on the Italymag’s message board, and his wife Karen. Karen and I looked at each other all night trying to decide where we’d met before. BOTH of us swear we have, but never could come up with a place, time, or even a remote possibility!

Fabio, builder-of-the-castle was there, and he did remember us from last winter. He asked about the couple who’d been with us, and wasn’t too surprised when we told him they’d returned to the United States. “Plans change” he said. He’s still trying to sell his house near Tuoro, up near Lago Trasimeno.

I met a French woman, Marie Christine, who’s married to the German Rolando, and they have a home just outside of Monte Castello di Vibio. They’ve been here for many years, having previously worked in Rome. While in Rome they bought their current house for a summer place, and once the retired it became their permanent home.

We met a British couple, Alison and Steve, who have a house not too far from us. When they told us where they live, we knew immediately that they must know the UNrealtor, and we were careful to steer the conversation away from that topic. Friends of the UNrealtor probably are only still their friends if they didn’t buy a house through them (Alison and Steve didn’t), or because they’re fiercely, blindly loyal. Either way, I didn’t want to get into our long story….it’s been three years now, and although we can’t avoid him or his friends completely, we can do our best to minimize the contact or discussion.

We met John and Morris (or is it Maurice?), who live in Collazzone…I think…I don’t think it’s Collepepe…..and, Nathalie, the woman from Bulgaria, and Frederick and his wife (name????), both German. We met three young American girls from California who were traveling around Europe for a few weeks. Everyone we met spoke better English than we did their native language, so English was sort of the default language.

The weather was perfect for a picnic, the views were spectacular, the food was delicious and the company was very interesting. What a great way to spend an evening in Italy….or anywhere!


I've had this recipe since 2001 and had never made it until last night. Once we moved to Italy part of the problem was the cheese, but now I realize that parmesan could just as easily be used. Anyway, yesterday I harvested enought tomatoes from our garden to make this pie. I used some cheddar that we'd brought back from London, and although I'm sure jack (or colby) cheese would have made it creamier, it was still delicious!

One of the interesting things I did was to make the pie crust using lard instead of shortning. Since Crisco isn't available here, it's a precious suitcase is usally filled with Crisco sticks when we return from a U.S. visit. Lard IS available in Italy though, and I'd bought a package of it a while back. I wasn't too pleased with the first pie I made with lard...I could smell the lard as it baked, and it just didn't seem the right thing to use for a fruit (or other sweet) pie. Using it for this pie seemed perfect....and it was!

Tomato and Onion Tart

2 large onions
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups jack cheese, grated (or other cheese as you wish)
7 roma tomatoes, in 1/2" slices
1/4 cup olives
single pie crust

In a large skillet cook the onions in the olive oil until nutty and brown. Allow all the liquid to evaporate. Cool.

Into the prepared (unbaked) pie shell, spread the cooled onions. Top with cheese. Arrange the tomato slices and olives on top of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 375º until golden, about one hour.


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