‘Pizza di Pasqua’ means Easter pizza.
It isn’t pizza at all, but a cake made with cheese.
It’s typically eaten for breakfast on Easter Day in Umbria, along with salame and eggs.
Our neighbours brought some today, along with salame and eggs!
A few Scottish-type thistles like this one stand bold by the edge of the olive grove.
They’re way taller than I am: I had to look up to take the photo.
I wouldn’t want too many of them because they can rather dominate.
But they do look splendid against a backdrop of ancient, rounded blue mountains.
The ‘piano grande’ or great plain, jocularly referred to by expats as the Grand Piano, is one the wonders of Umbria.
It’s the dried bed of a lake ringed by mountains, famed for the variety and profusion of its wild flowers.
We went there yesterday with good weather at long last, and breathed the pure air like a desert-wanderer might drink cold water.
There were larks trilling, and crickets singing all among the short grass and flowers – a mix of sounds as mesmeric as disco music.
It’s the most romantic place I know – and that’s before I even start on the flowers!
On Friday I went for a check-up of my glaucoma.
I have a nickname for the consultant I usually see: Salvador Dali, because he’s tall and rather grand, with a peremptory and somewhat eccentric manner.
He calls me ‘cara’ (which means ‘dear’ in Italian), and uses my middle name (Léa) which no-one else ever uses.
I was surprised and amused when out of the blue he said:
“And the olives?”
I don’t remember telling him we have olive trees.
I replied that I didn’t think the harvest would be much good.
“Oh,” he said.
After a few more moments of pacing up and down as is his wont, he said:
“I haven’t bought my oil for the year yet.”
What else would one talk about during an ophthalmology appointment in Umbria?
I thought we’d never manage to pack all the contents of Clive’s room in the Lymphedema Clinic but somehow we did, and we set off for Italy at about half past eight on the morning of Tuesday 15th.
It was a long and painful journey for Clive, but cheered, towards the end, by the beautiful landscape of Le Marche and then Umbria.
Clive isn’t one to be effusive, but I found him leaning out of a window that opens onto rose and lavender bushes, breathing deeply, and I could tell how glad he was to be home.
We’d arrived at six-thirty in the evening: time to do a bit of shopping and pick up the dogs. Taylor and Kepler were both very happy, but Joules went wild with joy when he saw Clive, and couldn’t stop jumping at him and butting him.
Umbria is often called ‘the green heart of Italy’ in tourist brochures.
It is indeed bang in the middle of Italy and at this time of year, particularly after all the rain we’ve had, it’s very, very green.
Somehow the vegetation never quite achieves the juiciness which it does in Britain, but I think the quality of the light makes up for it. It’s like looking at a translucent green jewel.
Strimming in the lush orchard, it’s heart-breaking to go ripping destructively through stands of buttercups and red clover, but I remind myself that the alternative is to have plants that can literally reach the height of some of the trees.
It’s one of my very favourite shrubs, but not because I like the fruits. I don’t.
They have a thick, fuzzy rind, and the small amount of flesh inside is somewhere between tasteless and astringent.
In fact the botanical name for this plant is ‘arbutus unedo’, the second word coming from the Latin ‘unum edo’ which means ‘I eat one’ – that is, one and no more.
Having said that, the fruits are distilled to make spirits in Spain and Portugal, and bears are partial to them.
The reason I like strawberry trees so much is that
- they are evergreen
- they frequently have flowers and fruits at the same time
- the flowers are scented, and delicate-looking but actually robust
- the fruits can be all the colours of fruit pastilles, all on the same bush
- the trunk and branches grow in artistic, twisted shapes
Near Gualdo Cattaneo (also in Umbria) where we used to live, there were loads of strawberry trees, and Valtopina itself has some, down in the valley. But I’ve not seen any as high up as we are.
In fact when, 4 years ago, I planted a young ‘corbezzolo’ (Italian for strawberry tree), I was told it was probably too cold.
Against all odds, it has flourished, although it is still small and doesn’t have many flowers.
I regret planting it where I did because it is sandwiched between 2 hazel trees that I somehow never imagined getting so bushy. But then again, perhaps the sheltered position between those 2 henchmen has helped it to survive.