Wednesday, April 30, 2008

airfare watchdog

Here is a quick update on airfares to italy for those interested, remember this site for future travel plans. ciao dds
Be sure to visit our Rome Fiumicino, Italy Airfares page often, since we update fares throughout the day. To ensure that you continue to receive emails from us, add to your address book today.
Today's Best Airfares: Rome Fiumicino, Italy Edition April 30, 2008
You can still catch the Eurofly sale from New York that started last week. Seats are available for May departures starting at $575 to a number of cities (although Palermo appears to have sold out) and you can read all about it on our blog.
We've also found some great summer fares from Boston and Chicago, prompted by the new Air One non-stop service to Milan scheduled to begin in mid-June.
Check out the international airfare sections for these gateways to see all the Italian destinations available and keep in mind that you can often add the cost of a reasonable connecting flight from your home town to take advantage of these fares and still come out far ahead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

weeding with Raffaele, grape formation, bacco and Scotch broom?

29 Aprile
After a 6 day recovery from my last finger cutting, I can now type again with my Rt index finger. As my associate has kindly pointed out for the 2nd time, it is better if I don't try to cut things when i am tired from hoeing. I made a really nice protective splint made out of a little crescent wrench which served me well for 2 days. This wound took about 20 minutes to stop bleeding and I must thank Larry and Brian for the supply of steri strips they sent me. I used a pack and a half.
It was a good excuse not to hoe and since Raffaele knows how fretful I get when the hoeing is not getting done, he took a turn in the field.
I have been back in the USA this past week (figuratively) as we have had our Kansas City guests, 2 americans who live in Rome and a guest from the English Slow Food master's program. She was there while i was in the Italian master's and she has brought 3 friends, so we are speaking english here at Nascondiglio. That will all change next week when we will be again full of italians, but it is nice to actually see some soldi travelling into the coffers instead of always out as our season starts up again.
Our agronomist came by today and said my hoeing was not adequate (not wide enough) and I had some choice words in italian for him, seeing as I have been doing this for over 3 weeks now and he hasn't said anything prior. The problem we have is too many rows of vines with too many fast growing weeds. As I finish 1/2 of the vineyard, the 1st rows need hoeing again. I have waved the white flag and asked for an army of helpers so we can get ahead of this perennial called erba medica which was in our field the last 3 years and refuses to die.
The old vineyard has been putting up some little grappoli as you can see and in my spare time I am weedeating around the old vines to keep the rows clear. Also with 2 acres to mow and weedeat around Nascondiglio di Bacco, I stay busy.
Bacco has a friend this week as Linda from Slow Food has brought her border collie, lab mix to the agriturismo and Bacco is so excited, he quit eating for a day and a half. He is back to normal today. You can see a nice picture of him above.
The artichokes are really wonderful and I am picking them before they develop their chokes. I cooked up artichoke quiches in little ramekins as part of a dinner we are serving for our neighbors who do all our tractoring and treating of the vineyard tonight. These will be in honor of Damon who 1st showed me real men can not only cook, but also eat quiche.
I wish him well as he is recovering from a stem cell transplant.
The pool is coming along, although the pictures probably seem the same. The wall for the waterfall is being constructed right now.
The mystery bush has 2 guesses from my friends Erika and Sabrina who thought it might be forsythia or gorse. I think because the woody part is green and the leaves are sparse, it is Scotch Broom. Still looking for word from my plant expert Lorie to chime in or whomever has a better background than me in plants of the Med basin.
Finally, we are looking forward with great pleasure to seeing our lost friend Rebecca this Friday as she is making a trip from Venice to see us!
A dopo

Thursday, April 24, 2008

apricots, ginestro, artichokes, and the bane of bio

24 aprile
Here are the latest photos from Nascondiglio di Bacco.
The cement pond is coming along and should be on schedule for completion in 3 weeks.
I have a picture for Lorie who will try to tell me the USA name for ginestro, the green twiggy plant with yellow blooms. Aloe verde comes to my mind, but I am sure that is not right.
With our biological certification comes some maladies which can only be cured by pesticides and since those are verboten, we just live with our parasites. You can see our plum tree is suffering. However, our apricot tree is readying for a good harvest and we continue to bring in artichokes every day.
The olive trees are just chock full of blooms and according to my sage neighbor, we should have a wonderful olive year in 2008 after the dry, barren 2007.
I continue to hoe every day although today I am taking a break since it is raining and will accompany my KC guests to a couple of wineries. It is a chance to inspect every grapevine and see the sloppiness of the planters as they have forgotten to put in about 25 plants in various spots, have broken 2 without replacement and finally, we are having a bit of a problem with the Petit Verdot with about 4% or more not sprouting. All things to make right in the next month or so. We are also due to spray the young vines with sulfur, one of the 2 compounds allowed in a bio field. This, to prevent early infestations which can stunt this year's growth.
We have a 3 day weekend in Italy starting Friday and we will be completely full for the weekend at our special reduced "construction rate" of 60 euros. It will be strange having indoor work to do!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kansas City arrives, history of Nascondiglio, cement pond

Our guests from Kansas City have arrived and hopefully will have a nice week here in the Marche! Pete and Lori bought our donated week at the Kansas City Hospice Auction and were kind enough to give a big donation for that wonderful cause!
I met Antonio this week, who was born and raised in our little house. He told me the history of his family's ownership from the 1930's to around 1970. Some of our olive trees are over 70 years old. The field full of our 30000 grapevines used to have 20 diagonal rows of trees which were planted as supports for their grapevines!
18 people lived on the 2nd floor and the children were 6 to a bed and there were four families in total, which pales to the 25 who lived in a house across our road, since demolished.
I continue to hoe every day and feel like we are about 65-70% finished with the 1st pass. My fingers are swollen, and my wrists are sore, but my ipod keeps me going (thanks Laurence and Hal)
The cement pond is coming along with an estimated completion time of 2-3 weeks from now. I will be pleased if all is complete in 4 weeks including walls, new grass, pavement etc.
I have included the before and after pix from the concrete pouring; 3 trucks full.
We are in the middle of our artichoke season and every couple of days, we find another 10 or so to harvest. Wonderful stuff! and to think Raffaele wanted to cut down all our plants (they aren't that beautiful, I agree)
Our roses are getting ready to flower any day, as well.
I promise more colorful pix ahead including grapevines budding.
And finally, another travelbot for finding cheap airfares is i have recently seen usa flights to rome for under 600 dollars for this summer, flying from boston and nyc.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The 2nd swimming pool

April 18
Here are the first views of the lower pool and with a really acute imagination you can imagine the waterfall from the pool above to the lower one.
Bacco is self sufficient and drinks freely from the community water fountains. He must weigh about 33 kg by now.
The days are full of hoeing and cleaning, placing mulch around our plants and finishing up the vegetable garden and the flowers.
I am excited to welcome our 1st Kansas Citians Monday and all is ready, I think.
We are going to continue our big room sale until the pool is finished at just 60 euros a night, so plan your trip in a hurry.
A travel tip I use for hotels and flights is the travelbot, which takes you into about 30 different search engines to find the cheapest prices. works well for hotels in Italy, especially Rome. Kayak is usually, but not always the cheapest for flights and both are inside booking buddy.
Slow Food had a nice dinner to benefit native South Americans, who will be travelling to terra madre (the presidi products and lectures at Salone del Gusto- see, at a Grottammare restaurant called Frangipane. I will add it to our list of recommended restaurants. Very cute and all hand picked or hand made products with a limited but nice wine list.
When I get caught up on the hoeing, I will start translating the posts Raffaele has placed on the Nascondiglio blog which are much more complete and educational than mine!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


16 aprile
I hope tax time wasn't too trying for anyone.
After a day of weedeating, mulching, and hoeing and with 2 new blisters under my fingernails, no less, I am a bit tired (stanco), so I will just be showing pictures today. We have a visitor to nascondiglio, a Bacco update foto and the rest are of our back yard which is a mess except for the beautiful tulipani sabriniani.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Alles gut zum geburtstag, Pippo

14 aprile
I am just getting back from a fact finding expedition in Umbria, probably my last until low season in late Fall. Never lacking in opinions, I must recommend for those who are making this region a priority. Be sure to visit Castiglione del Lago and Spello, two new towns to add to my list of favorites which also include Norcia, Spoleto, Orvieto and Assisi and Perugia in no apparent order. I now lack only a few must sees in Umbria including Terni and its nearby waterfall and Todi and Gubbio which are supposed to be special.
I really have to recommend Spello for americans who want to do a day trip to Assisi and have time to drive another 10 minutes east to Spello which is full of great views, things to see and cute shops.
Castiglione del Lago is on the other side of Umbria near Tuscany and has a nice castle with a theater inside and also nice shops and restaurants and one can take a ferry to islands in the middle of the lake, which is surrounded by olive groves.
For those with too much time, near the town of Montegiove is an architects dream of the perfect city called La Scazuola, but you need to hook up with a group of at least 10 total to visit.
We broke down and bought good equipment for the yardwork and having a Stihl weedeater in hand after the plastic piece of junk I was using is like a slice of heaven for a contadino!
The pool is lined inside and out and tomorrow they start planning the cement base and the final stair to enter the pool.
My knee is primed for a bit of exercise in the form of lawn and vineyard work; I am tired of its aching and complaining about long drives in the car.
Bacco has just suffered through a bout of GI upset which reminds me of on call nights as a surgeon. Instead of phones or beepers ringing, I have a dog whining in my ear which is no less an emergency if you don't want to mop at 5 AM!
The pix are of Castiglione and the castle, Spello, and my chick magnet dog who has learned to drink out of public fountains at Trevi.
I also visited Montefalco, Bevagna and Trevi, which I am not putting on my list of must sees for Umbria, but each with its little points of interest.
I now need to search out some other sites in the Northern Marche like Urbino and think I have a perfect excuse with a Mark Knopfler concert coming up in that town. More pix of Bacco and the pool progress tomorrow or day after.
Finally, the title is an attempt at Happy Birthday for Philip, our friend and classmate from the Unisg master's program

Thursday, April 10, 2008

growing vines and how i broke my knee

10 aprile
Today, I got Raffaele out into the field to do a bit of hoeing. tough work. We are trying to extirpate all the weeds near the 30,000 new vines while at the same time filling little holes that have been exposed around some of the vines from the rains we had.
Then, it was on to mulching the olive trees around our little road to Nascondiglio di Bacco and finally a visit with our friend Adele at the coldiretti who helped me fill out my indecipherable form for my permit of stay.
Bacco found a stye to roll around in, so afterwards he and I took a walk on the beach at San Benedetto del Tronto to clean him off.
The pictures show our permit for construction, the pool as of today, our poppy field (something to fall back on if the B&B doesn't make a go) and the hill I completely cleaned with a machete and weedeater and where I slipped and tore my MCL.
I won't let that little injury stop me, but i just got my bike serviced and new rollerblades and they will all have to wait a few weeks while i heal! Bummer!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

concrete, too many supervisors and bacco

9 aprile
Buon compleanno a Matteo! 10 Aprile. Stiamo aspettando per te a Nascondiglio!
Today was the pouring of the cement around the frame of the pool day.. this pool ain't goin nowhere now.
As in America you need 3 supervisors smoking and shooting the bull for every worker and you see Italy is no exception to that rule.
Bacco eats everything and has found a nice piece of wood as an antipasto.
I finished all of the yard today with my bum knee slowing me only slightly. I used a machete and weedeater, leaving the poppies where i could, and also the bietole, which is a bit like our spinach and was planted on the hill il Signore knows when. We ate some of the latter for supper and it was wonderful!
Time to start the whole grass cutting process over again, as it's grown in other parts while i finished the hill.
Not much new to report otherwise although I continue to try to get my permit of stay so I can drive my car.
As I told my friend Larry Cordell yesterday, good airfares are still to be found to Italy. I am flying back here in May with a round trip fare of 790!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pool update

8 aprile
They are laying the little brown rocks around the pool frame which will serve as the base for the cement. All the frame is locked in, including our roman staircase to enter the pool which has a built in lounge chair for the 1st guest to claim it each day.
Today, i have continued my efforts to hoe all 12 acres of vines as well as completely weed eat and machete all the tall weeds and grasses on the hill Nascondiglio di Bacco sits on. This to prevent seeding of the vineyard with the weeds. Don't want all those dandelions!
Unfortunately, the hill is steep and i slipped with weedeater in hand and heard my right knee pop. Bye bye to some of the ligamentous attachments in the MCL. Thanks again to Larry for my Relafen bottle. I hope it works!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mr. Bill trapped in the tulip

6 Aprile
Did anyone notice Mr Bill trapped in my tulip in the last set of photos or was that just one of my flashbacks from the 70's?
Fatherhood has its rewards and hardships and from the latter category, i was unable to go to Vinitaly because it rained. The pioggia started at 2 in the morning which meant to an awakened DDS, no builders were coming to work on the pool (alias dogsitters), so I was trapped with Bacco and worked around the house and in the yard when the weather cleared up.
Buon Compleanno to Adrian who is a regular contributor to this blog. 36!!! sorry adrian. I am sure he had a great dinner planned in San Francisco.
The garden is coming along with the newest additon of parsley. Basil is primed in the kitchen for planting outside in the coming 2 weeks when tomatoes will also be safe to plant here.
Guests will start trickling in this month including a long lost friend from Venice and our 1st guests from KC, winners of a week stay here which we donated to the KC Hospice auction. Also, I hope to see my friend Ann from KC, and her buddies as they tool around Italy the next couple of weeks.
I know everyone is afraid to visit Europe with the weakened dollar, but there are lots of ways to save here, just shop the bots (i like for flights, hotels and rental cars) or ask me for advice. I am a bit Scottish, as everyone knows. And since our yard is a mess, as you can see by the photos, we are offering a special which basically makes our price in dollars + IVA (tax) or only 60 Euros a night total, including breakfast and a welcome prosecco as always. (That is a bit of leftover marketing from my trip to the US).
The pictures show our mess of a construction site with Sabrina's tulips and hyacinths to brighten up the back yard a bit, and the 1st one a hope for warm weather to return soon. Bacco and I have spent the last 2 days at the beach where he loves to run in the sand and the water.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The pool, day by day, and new blooming flowers

3 aprile
Bulbs coming up, the pool's external walls going up and a peach tree with new blooms.

Return, recuperation, detox, back to work

3 Aprile
My journey back to Italy was almost as long as possible, I could have made it to Australia! I set 3 alarms the night of the 30th in Denver near Wash. Park; one rang at midnight, my watch was hidden under the covers and the 3rd went off 30 minutes too late! I arose by chance at 4:51, showered and shaved and packed the car, drove to DIA to return the rental and was at my gate at 6:08, with my plane leaving at 6:45. That was the fastest part of my day. Off to Chicago, which thank goodness was not a necessary part of my trip as the consulate had come through with my Visa and sent it in time to Denver. I arrived at 8:50 or so, caught 2 CTA trains from Midway to O'Hare (which took longer than my flight from Denver), arriving about noon. My flight on British Airways was scheduled for 7:45, but I snuck onto the earlier flight at 6PM. I then flew to London, watching American Gangster and Juno and enjoying the free wine, unlike stingy American which charges for everything. I arrived on time, around 7:30 and took a shuttle bus to the infamous new Terminal 5. No lost luggage for me, just a 7 hour layover. I did try out a Gordon Ramsay restaurant called Plane Food and with just one brochure remaining, I happened to meet 2 very nice folks from LA, the Gindroz', who are travel agents and forced them to listen to my marketing spiel. If you need a personalized trip , check out their site at
The salmon was fine, but overpriced. On to Rome, arriving at 1810. I am not sure I can even do the math, but I think start to finish was 30 hours or so.
Bacco is bigger and was glad to see me and now my ear is clean as well. I caught up on a bit of yard work, with at least 2 days worth of work ahead, checked out the new vines-happy, but no buds yet.
I gave Raffa many gifts like Kool Aid and flavored Jello, which are unknown in Italy as are Keebler graham crackers. I passed on Jasper's gift of a slow food t shirt from KC and finally the 2 packs of camel lights which are almost 3 times more expensive here.
I got back to cooking normal food, like wild boar along with our garden's last bounty from 2007, some cauliflower and fennel. I am going to let my liver shrink for a couple of days before going to Vinitaly, but many thanks again to all the fine cooks and their wonderful wines in America: Larry and Pam, Larry and Marcia, Jasper, Norma and Milton, Sharon and my bro and sis-in law, Kim.
The pictures are of the vines at arrival, the pine tree my dad planted for me as i entered med shcool and the beginning of the pool construction.