Pesca, Pecorino, Pistacchio

So I’ve been told that today is Friday (days of the week matter less in semi-retirement), which means one thing: SATURDAY MARKET TOMORROW!! One can think of the Saturday market in Perugia as a cross between a farmers’ market and a flea market; you can find everything from fidget spinners (the new Beanie Babies) to live chickens (Kiley has a plot to free them all) to nun’s pajamas (insert joke here). Included in this mass of randomness is really great fresh food from local producers.

As we’ve become more settled in Italy over the past couple of weeks, so too have our diets. In general, we are snacking on more cheeses and fruits during the day, which is perfect for the Saturday market. Most produce at the market is around one euro per kilogram (about $0.50 per pound), which is super cheap. For comparison’s sake, this week’s sales at Meijer include tomatoes for $2.50 per pound and grapes for $0.99 per pound. Given the price, one can’t afford not to eat more produce!

Last week, we bought about 10 pounds-worth of food and we’re likely to get even more tomorrow. The pecorino cheese is amazing here; locally-made by producers in Norcia (they were hit real bad by the earthquake a few years back). The peaches are also great; neither of us came into Italy as big peach eaters, but when we saw everyone here eating them, we decided to jump onboard and they are soooooo good. Not so good in Italy are the apples—then again, we are spoiled for apples in the good ole US of A, eh?

The market food will last us most of the week. By Tuesday/Wednesday, our fresh bread is getting a little tough (as our Instagram followers are well aware), which is why panzanella has become our mid-week staple. Panzanella is an Italian bread and tomato salad that Kiley also makes with onions, peppers, etc. and tops with cheese (usually feta) and delicious balsamic. Aside from panzanella, we’ve made some pasta dishes at home (pesto linguini and lentil bolognese), because… you know… Italy. The bolognese was a hit (we’ll make that again), but the pesto linguini fell a bit flat—we think because we used store-brand pesto. Pesto ranks right up there with balsamic on my “best things in the universe” list, so we won’t be giving up on Perugian pesto just yet. Other at-home plates have included bruschetta, caprese, arugula salad with fruit, veggie patties with roasted zucchini, and lots of fruit and cheese platters. Our at-home dinners have generally been pretty light due to the near-daily aperitivo (see our last post for more on that).

In general, the restaurant aperitivi (plural of aperitivo, your Italian lesson for the day) have been good; we’ve seen everything from pizza and cold cuts to French fries and couscous. Aside from the aperitivo, however, our full dinners at restaurants in Perugia haven’t been great. This is mostly because we’ve been sticking to restaurants on or near the main strip in town, which are the ones catering to tourists. As such, we mostly blame ourselves; although our dining timing hasn’t helped either, since most of the local joints close up by the time we’re post-aperitivo hungry (again, see last post for more). By this time, it’s generally just the pizza shops and tourist restaurants that are open.

Wait… “pizza shops” you say? Isn’t pizza from southern Italy? Aren’t central and northern Italians very proud of their own local cuisines and don’t they detest foreigners for demanding pizza when they visit? Yes to all—at least, that’s what we thought. But pizza is everywhere in Perugia. The city isn’t terribly touristy (a lot of Italian visitors, from what we’ve seen), so our best guess is all the colleges; the University for Foreigners in particular. Anyway, pizza in Perugia comes in two basic varieties; restaurant and shop. Pizza from the restaurants is great; lots of variety, good ingredients, and very cheap (€4-€7 for a whole pizza)—compare that to $15-$20 at Napolese, our favorite neighborhood restaurant in Indy. The by-the-slice pizza shops are also great, but in a ‘it’s-2am-and-my-belly-is-rumbling’ kind of way. A couple of slices here ends up costing about as much as a whole pizza at a sit-down restaurant, but you can’t beat the convenience. One last note on pizza shops: pizza cones. Yes, those are a thing and they exist in Perugia. We’ll update our Instagram account when we finally experience that.

And now our foody discussion comes to La Dolce Vita, which—in Perugia—means three things: chocolate, gelato, and pastries. I wasn’t aware of this (Kiley was), but Perugia is known for its chocolate and the city hosts the giant Eurochocolate festival every October. Apparently the history goes back to the Perugina chocolate factory in nearby San Sisto, which dates back to around 1900. Anyway, we’ve been sampling some of the local varieties and they’re all quite good. The gelato is also solid in Perugia (like chocolate, it’s pretty hard to screw that up); we’ve tried several places and there hasn’t been much separation (Kiley here, Mike says this but has ordered pistacchio gelato every time—I on the other hand suggest the ricotta, honey, and nuts flavor from Il Gelato di Mastro Cianuri). And finally, the pastries… oh the pastries. We were walking down a less-busy side street late on one of the first nights in town (after everything had closed), when a most pleasant smell wafted in our direction. We followed the scent to find bakers preparing a giant tray of the next day’s pastries with the door open (solid marketing strategy). Anyway, this place is called Pasticceria dell’Accademia; we went back the next morning and, needless to say, that’s now our go-to pastry shop.

Moving away from our dining experience in Perugia, here are some other recent highlights from our trip:

  1. Travel to London is booked… almost. In the past couple of days, we’ve booked an Airbnb in London that we hope will cover the duration of our house hunting and the overnight ferry that will transport our travelling little band from the Netherlands to the UK. We have to take the ferry because we are: a) travelling carless; and b) unwilling to transport Schaefer in the cargo hold of a plane. Anyway, there’s a LONG story associated with Schaefer’s travel to Europe, but we’ll cover that in its own post when we arrive in England (knock on wood, inshallah, etc.). The only big piece of the puzzle still missing is travel from Italy to Holland, for which we have 8 days budgeted. Could be train, could be air, could be car… stay tuned.
  2. Travel to London is booked… for now. Notwithstanding all the plans mentioned above, we’ve built a lot of flexibility into our travel, should better opportunities arise. For example, Kiley has been discussing short-term stay options with many of her classmates that could render the Airbnb unnecessary. We’ve also talked about shortening our 8-day Italy-to-Netherlands trek in order to get a jump on house hunting in London. All of our travel plans have flexible cancellation/alteration policies, so stay tuned for what we decide!
  3. We’re planning even more trips… in Italy. We’ve done our day-trip to Assisi and we’d like to do at least one more trip outside of Perugia before we leave. Currently on the list: Ravenna. Kiley’s heard great things from her former colleagues about Ravenna and I know it’s rich in history, so we’re going to try to make a 2-4 day trip happen next week. Again, stay tuned.
  4. Schaefer gets his passport next week. Using her balla Italian skillz, Kiley booked Schaefer’s appointment for Wednesday the 21st. If everything goes well, Schaefer will walk out with some new documentation that will allow him to travel throughout Europe much easier and will save us from having to schlep around 50 pages-worth of his information all the time.
  5. We’ve both finished reading books! Aside from walking, eating, sleeping, travelling, and planning for more travel, we have actually been taking some solid time to relax. This time has been divided between documenting our experiences on dat der internet (it’s exhausting, I don’t know how you people do this all the time) and reading good ol’ fashioned paper and ink books. Kiley’s read The Art of Racing in the Rain (about life from a dog’s perspective), I’ve knocked out Oliver Twist (one of my big literary gaps), and we both hope to finish another before we leave.

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