#3 Italy, June 16, 2017
After doing our morning email at the Coop Coffee Shop on Friday, (we come here every morning now, as Burt’s computer doesn’t work well at Big Ben Coffee Shop) we shopped and shopped for our party. We also bought four kinds of fish for cacciucco (a fish soup, which really takes five kinds), which Burt made for our pranso on Saturday. He had worked hard on making things for Sunday, but still found energy and time to make the cacciucco, (sounds like a sneeze) which, as usual, we ate outside on the picnic table in perfect weather. It was really good, with a nice white wine.
We really enjoyed our group——Roberto’s two sisters, Roberta and Luigina and their husbands, Paolo and Giovanni; Mateo, Roberta’s son, along with Francesca, his girlfriend and her mother, Rosa. Mateo can speak a little English and I can speak a (very) little Italian, so we managed.
I had gotten a parking ticket a few days earlier when we went to Florence on the bus and parked the car where I always do! I did look for any restrictions but didn’t see any. Well, apparently they were there! Roberta explained that I had to pay it at a post office, and it had to be paid the next day.
So the next day we found the Post Office in Bibbiena (Partina’s PO is only open on Tuesdays and Fridays!) by using the iPhone GPS. I paid the parking ticket (28 euro, about $31) and also paid a couple of bills that came to the house for Roberto—-electric, and something else. They can be paid at the PO!
We had Pasta Alfredo for pranso one day, and the next day had pork liver wrapped in caul (some fatty, stringy stuff) that I thought was very good, but Burt didn’t like, so I ate both pieces! Burt had also made a Roman bread with olive oil, rosemary and salt.
We’re planning, now, with paper and pencil, to figure the number of times we’ll be at home for Burt to make a fairly elaborate pranso, and to figure how many towns we will be visiting, which means we’ll have pranso there. Burt will not get to cook all the things that he wanted to (we’ll have to return next year!) so we’re prioritizing.
Wednesday we drove to Urbino, quite a ways east of Partina, over some pretty rugged mountain roads. We had a lovely hotel with a beautiful view for the night that we stayed over, and visited gorgeous artistic things.
The Oratoria di San Giovanni, and the Oratoria
di San Giuseppe had marvelous frescos and other things to see. These are very old—-from the early 15th century! Urbino was a very important town in its heyday (15-16th centuries) and still has 24,000 students in 10 universities in a town with a population of 15,000. The town, itself, is so medievally beautiful—- everywhere you look is a picture.
The Cathedral was closed—-maybe still as a result of the earthquake near here that occurred last year when we were in Partina.
We ate our pranso at a garden restaurant that we had discovered last year when we were here. We also became acquainted with a wonderful white wine from the area, called Bianchello del Metauro. We drank a whole bottle with pranso. We split an antipasto of carpaccio of beef (terrific), heads of porcini mushrooms (good) and a roasted pheasant (pretty good.)
All this required going back to the hotel for a nap. When we took the bus back to our hotel, we got acquainted with a young American woman named Lisa. We asked her where the Casa della Poesia was, as we had seen a flyer about an opera concert there this evening. It turned out that she was singing in this concert!
That evening we took the bus back to centro and, after asking a bookseller, got directions to the site of the concert and found it! It started at 9:00 (pretty late for us) and we left at 10:00 at the intermission as we wanted to catch the 10:30 bus back to our hotel. When the bus finally came, it was going a different route, so wouldn’t be going to our hotel. The bus driver was very nice and let us ride along. After he finished his route in about an hour, he took us to our hotel!
We enjoyed this student (free) concert which, Burt learned from talking to one of the ‘managers,’ is a product of a program organized in Dalles, TX. These students from many colleges study the Italian language for four hours in the morning, then study opera singing all afternoon. Urbino has many colleges and universities so the town is brimming with students. And, of course it was fun to see ‘our’ Lisa Bloom perform!
The next morning in Urbino, we checked out of our hotel and moved our car to a downtown parking lot. We visited the Ducal Palace and all its riches of art and architecture. We had seen it last year, but wanted to visit it more in depth this year.
There were a myriad of art treasures to enjoy. Raphael, the Renaissance painter, was born in this town. His father, Giovanni Santi, was also a well- regarded painter in the early 15th C. Several of his paintings were displayed, as well as Raphael’s very well- known painting of a woman called ‘La Muta.’
There are many, many other 14th and 15th century painters exhibited here, such as Bellini, and Titian.
When our energy and feet wore out, we went back to our car and, with the help of the GPS system on my iPhone, headed toward home.
On the way we stopped, as we did last year, in a small town with a supermarket to buy some Bianchello del Matauro wine, which we can only find in this area, and it’s sooooo good! Unfortunately this year the supermarket was out of their upscale-priced product, so we bought four bottles of their same brand, but their cheaper version. We stopped at another small town to eat pranso—-tortellini and tagliatelle, both very good.
The drive back home over the mountains——two hours of hairpin turns—-was arduous. Then we ran into a huge rainstorm as we got near home. We almost had to stop as vision was poor, but then it lightened up a bit and we made it home. Later the sun came out again.
We shall have some rest/cook days now, before going to Verona to hear opera before coming home.