Friday 28 May 2010

The olive tree is surely the reachest gift of Heaven (Aldous Huxley)

Homer called it 'liquid gold.' In ancient Greece, athletes ritually rubbed it all over their body. Its mystical glow illuminated history. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the peoples of the Mediterranean- it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power.

Our ancestors used it as antidote against poisons and later on as medicine to cure arthritis, rheumatism and gout. Athletes smeared olive oil over their bodies to strengthen their muscles and women used olive oil as skin moisturiser. It was also used as a weapon when boiling oil was thrown at enemies in times of conflict despite the fact that olive oil had always been regarded as a sign of peace. Its branches, emblems of benediction and purification, were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures- some were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.

The olive tree, symbol of abundance, glory and peace, gave its leafy branches to crown the victorious in friendly games and bloody war, and the oil of its fruit has anointed the noblest of heads throughout history. Umbria is one of Italy’s smallest regions, and it's very well known for its olive oil production.
Some of the finest olive Oil is derived from olives grown in the Umbria region of Italy.
Even as far back as Roman times, Umbrian olives were considered the best in Italy. Nowadays, Umbrian olive oil stands out due to its flavour, digestible qualities and nutritional values.

The trees producing this olive are cultivated on the Umbrian hills. Here they are unreachable by the insects that damage crops and so the plants have usually no need for any chemical treatment. The trees are not sprayed with chemicals, pesticides, or fungicides and olive oil is a labor of love, tradition, and passion.

The most prominent olive trees that blanket Umbria are the Moraiolo, Leccino, San Felice, Frantoio and Pendolino.
The olive trees are fed exclusively by the natural elements. The cold press method used is known as the ‘ciclo continuo’, a new procedure that avoids oxidation or deterioration to the oil. It is only after this process that a very low acidity olive oil is obtained – which of course means the purest, cleanest taste.
Olive oil which is completely pure and unadulterated and it's the result of Umbrian tradition of generations who have worked with passion to satisfy the demand.

Regarding the classification of olive oil, Italy follows the European regulations, which call for and describe nine types of oil, of which only four can be placed on the retail market for consumption.

Virgin olive oil is classified as oil obtained from the fruit of olives using only mechanical or other physical processes and under conditions – with particular reference to heat- that does not cause any alterations of the oil, and which has not undergone any treatment other than washing, settling, centrifuging and filtering, and excluding oil obtained using solvents or re-etherification processes and any mixtures with oils of other types.

These oils are classified according to the following designations:

Extra virgin olive oil: olive oil with an absolutely perfect taste and the acidity of which, expressed as oleic acid, may not exceed 1g (0.035 ounces) per 100g (3.5 ounces).

Virgin olive oil (the term “fine” may be used at the production and wholesale stages): virgin olive oil with a perfect taste and the acidity of which, expressed as oleic acid, may not exceed 2g (.07ounces) per 100g (3.5 ounces).

Ordinary virgin olive oil: good-tasting virgin olive oil and the acidity of which, expressed as oleic acid, may not exceed 3.3g(.116 ounces) per 100g (3.5 ounces)

Lampante olive oil: imperfect-tasting virgin olive oil, the acidity of which, expressed as oleic acid, exceeds 3.3g (.116 ounces)per 100g (3.5 ounces).

Olive oils are distinguished by their levels of acidity as follows:

Pure: with a more modest flavour, colour and style, this is the oil to use if you don’t want the flavour of the oil to overpower a dish.

Semi-Fine: this oil is a blend of virgin and extra-virgin olive oils. Its acidity is measured at 3% per 100ml of oil.

Virgin: with a flavour which is slightly less conspicuous than extra virgin olive oil and with a slightly higher acidity of 1.5% - 2%.

Extra Virgin: the highest grade attainable for an olive oil having an acidity level of less than 1%. This is the most popular and renowned olive oil in Italy.

Umbrian hillside olive trees produce an olive oil considered more delicate than the one made in Tuscany.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Italians at the table- eating Italian

Simply put, Italians love food. The ceasefire of commercial hostilities in the middle of the day is largely so that everyone can go home and have a rollicking-good lunch. Various kinds of food cultivation and production have been part of the phisycal landscape for thousands of years, becoming deeply ingrained upon the psyche. Food is celebrated, newspapers carry olive oil reviews, mention of a classic dish brings an appreciative murmur is almost any social solution. Breakfast almost doesn't exist in Italy. At home Italians have a large bowl of warm milk with some coffee in it and biscuits or a croissant. In a coffe bar it might be one the myriad styles of coffee with a custard-filled brioche or light pastry. Lunch is the main game and can have several courses, typically one of pasta and one of meat, along with vegetables side-dishes, salad, bread and wine. Dinner is much the same thing and can be extended with an appetizer such as bruschetta, finger food etc, soup and fruit. The Italian expression 'siamo alla frutta' (we're at the fruit) to indicate that they have finished something; if it's the end of an Italian meal, it might have been a long road indeed!
Decoding your Italian menu doesn't require the help of Da Vinci. The order is starter- antipasto (little fresh meats always served fresh and small selection of cheeses); then a first course- primo (usually a pasta dish or a soup); a second course- secondo (usually meat dishes) and side course- contorno (vegetables on the side), finally dessert-dolce, coffee-caffè and maybe a digestivo (also called amaro), a bitter liqueur to help you digest your meal (supposedly). It goes without saying that you are not obligated to order each course. As for eating out, Italians have a classification of- tavola calda (buffet style, the place keeps the food hot), taverna (tavern), osteria (local restaurant that serves very good wine) retaurant (where you can expect all the courses and it's usually a little more expensive) and pizzeria (pizza place). Wine is the accompainment par excellence to the Italian food. Wine production has taken place in the region of Umbria since Etruscan times and is still a very important industry today.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Umbrian wines

Ok, we live here, and we know Umbrian wines are fantastic. But we don’t expect you to take our word for it.

Robert Parker wrote in ‘The Wine Advocate’ issue 152:

"... Montefalco Rosso, which shows much Sangiovese redcurrant fruit and floral notes on the nose and a firm, ample, and ripe palate, has an important continuity from the attack to the solid finish. "

He also wrote in issue 164:

"... Montefalco Sagrantino, warm, ripe, and intense, offers raspberry fruit and an important spiciness in a packed and mouth-filling format, dense and solid in its flow and with a rising warmth, amplitude, and breadth on the finish. It will easily last another 15 years."

Here’s what’s written on page 243 of Dorling Kindersley’s Wines of the World (2006):

"The beefy entry level Montefalco Rosso DOC is an earthy-tasting wine which these days is often softened by a drop of Merlot. One step up, there is also a full-bodied Rosso Riserva which delivers the authentic Central Italy wood-aged style at a fraction of the cost of its Tuscan counterparts."

The superstar, however, is the immensely powerful Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Sagrantino is a grape variety which grows only in this corner of Umbria.
It is a wine with a heady aroma of blackberries and toffee apple, and with massive tannins that need at least three or four years to mellow, especially since the top producers give their wines the full new oak treatment.

And this is from Gambero Rosso (2009) Slow Food Edition’s section on Italian Wines regarding one particular Sagrantino di Montefalco:

"The ’05 growing year has produced a wine that alternates very complex nuances of forest fruits with earthiness and refined spices. The palate unfolds confident and tangy, showing breadth, unrivalled depth and perfect tannins. This is a Sagrantino with balance and refinement, stamped by its territory of origin and also by a truly distinctive style."

And this from the same book, in 2008:

"...a marvellous interpretation of the variety that is almost stunning for its bouquet, packed with blackberry tightly wrapped in pungent, balsam-like medicinal herbs and lush spices. The palate fulfils that promise: spacious and deep, dense-packed yet dynamic, with a ultra-luxe skein of tannins. Still young, of course, it will reveal its true soul down the years...."

My Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG hasn’t been opened yet (but it will be very soon). Uhm, do you want to taste it?

Monday 24 May 2010

Welcome to the most glorious month in the Italian calendar

May means blossom and bluebells and gardens in abundance! An air of enchantment- magnificent magnolias, cascading wisteria and fragrant lilacs bring a sense of exuberance to an idyllic Italian garden overlooking the Niccone Valley in Umbria. Arriving at this Umbrian property is a distinctly Narnian experience. One moment you're driving through the little village of Niccone, you turn to a country lane, and find yourself in another world. A track overhung with trees opens out to reveal a magnificent stone Italian villa. Terracotta pots brim with tulips in shades of red and pink, while billows of acid green euphorbia lend all the colours a vibrant intensity. Leading from the house, serried ranks of yew and palm trees topiary of various shapes and sizes keep the exuberant borders at way. This is theatre on a grand scale and is exactly the effect to be expected from the owners, whose garden designs evoke an age when gardens were as much an entertainment as they were a place of horticulture. Architectural fragments, follies, grottoes punctuate the planting and add an air of jollity to what might otherwise be a rather grand garden. A tangible air of joy pervade both house and garden!

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Rustic reflections

A wonderful Umbrian tower has been completely transformed with an intriguing blend of English and Italian country style, a mix inspired by its ower's love of tradition and refinement of taste.
There's a stillness about this beautiful house in the vicinity of Todi.

The calm is beguiling and nothing is hurried as its owner moves about the place, arranging flowers fresh from the garden. Watching her work in the traditional interior, she has created a gracefull living. 

Catherine purchased this house last year and her Umbrian property is now a perfect synthesis of Italian and English country style. Her initial plan was to rent for a year to see whether she could live in such an out-of-the-way location. From the start, the village life was very important to her and she got involved with all the village committees.

It was actually one of the villagers who suggested that Catherine should look at this Italian villa, which was for sale.
Catherine renovated the property from top to bottom. She repainted the walls with pastel colour tints- she has a distinctive way of choosing colours for the interior: "Often the best way to find a shade for each room is to consider what would suit a particular painting"; polished and stained the terracotta floors and everything instantly turned the character of the house completely.

She bought beautiful lamps combining ceramic and granite, hand made curtains made out of precious fabrics, carpets, towels and cushions. She also bought some local art pieces. Not surprisingly the attention to every detail and all aspects of her work throughout the house, have meant that the property is now wonderful and most importantly is just Catherine's house in Italy. It's very unique and done with taste!

Friday 14 May 2010

Take the first step towards buying your Italian property

Your journey starts by first discovering the beauty of Italy and its regions and browsing our portfolio of farmhouses, villas and building land, it ends with a visit to your own home in Italy.

Few European nations are as diverse or as breathtakingly romantic as Italy. Comprising three millennia of history and culture, the country has a Mediterranean climate of mild winters and hot, dry summers.
Admire Renaissance architecture, shop in bustling piazzas and sip espresso in Rome; also known as the Eternal City, an Italian property in the country's capital will give you access to some of Europe's most amazing sites; enjoy the opulence of the Vatican and visit the Forum and the spectacular Colosseum.

An Italian property in the north could put you at the foot of the Alps and within a stone's throw of the beautiful Lake Garda, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Lake Iseo and Lake Orta. Elsewhere, see Venice in style from a gondola, don your hiking boots to explore Umbria's medieval towns, or an Italian property on the Mediterranean coast could put you on the doorstep of some of the most beautiful beaches on the world; from fine art to country living, Italian properties have something for everybody. Villas in Italy promise good food, sunshine and plenty of la Dolce Vita.

Abode are here to help you find your property in Italy!
Abode introduce you to our selection of traditional Italian properties for sale and to let in the Italian hill towns, vineyards and olive groves of Italy - find your Italian property here!

Thursday 13 May 2010

Searching for wild asparagus in Umbria

This is the time of the year to go hunting for the slender wild asparagus stalks in Umbria. Well, I say hunting it is more searching with a very big S. You see one of the great talents of the wild asparagus is to hide itself from view. You know the shoots have to be there because you can see the prickly dead weeds of last years plant as well as the equally irritating new leaves, but the shoots itself remain elusive.
Early spring is the best time of year to go asparagus hunting.

The mature asparagus looks like a small tree. It grows up to about four feet tall and has soft light branches that resemble feathers. The plant is green like the color of grass so it is camouflaged in the grass and it is hard to find.

The since mature asparagus is taller than grass, but the mature plant of the asparagus is not the part you want to eat. You want to find the small asparagus that grows up next to the mature plant. You can find several small asparagus growing near a mature asparagus plant.

You can have wonderful adventures hunting wild asparagus. And the best part besides eating the wild asparagus is that the asparagus does not bite back like other wild things.

Here is a nice asparagus recipe!
Asparagus Omelette (4 servings)

1 pound asparagus (about 1 cup) - trimmed
1 cup shredded SWiss cheese
8 large eggs
4 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium sauce pan, bring aparagus and 2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and allow asparagus to cook until tender. Drain and rinse asparagus in warm water. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with salt and 1/3 cup of water.
For each omelette (this recipe should make four) do the following:
Prepare a medium skillet or frying pan at medium heat with a teaspoon of melted butter. Pour 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into the pan. Cook until egg is set, occasionally lifting the edges of the omelette to allow more egg to cook. On one half of the omelette, sprinkle 1/4 cup of Swiss cheese. Top cheese with 1/4 cup of asparagus. Fold the omelette over. Allow to cook 1 more minute. Slide omelette onto serving plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsely.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Old lady leaning out of window!

At 90 years of age, a nice woman from Tuscany, her black eyes perring out from under a shock of white hair covered by a headscarf and a permanent prankster smile creasing her ruddy cheeks, has the energy of a woman half her age. On this afternoon, she points to her collection of crochets in a little wicker basket by the fireplace. On the wall is a photograph of Lucia in her younger days, smiling happily.
Dinner is beef escalopes, she simmered the meat in a delicate wine sauce with just a trace of tomatoes, mushrooms and wild parsley. The table was heavy with other treats- a fresh salad, warm bread, olives stored from the last harvest, cheese, and local wine served from a plastic bottle. Entere someone's house in a small Tuscan village and you will be offered food and drinks- not to politely refuse, but to thoroughly enjoy! It quite often happens that regardless of the time of the day or evening you may be presented a tray of typical and local sweets, along with coffe or wine or home made limoncello, the classic Italian lemom liquor that packs a powerful punch.
Lucia has always eaten healthy food all her life. I ask her about her ritual of siesta, but she shakes her head- I don't sleep much she says. She has work to do- knitting and making meals for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Lucia lives in a small exquisite Tuscan village, delightfully romantic where the time seems to have stopped. The people here she said, are very old! They have long life expectancy she repeated proudly leaning out of window!

Thursday 6 May 2010

Home from home

When you buy a house in Italy you think you have a great chance to learn the language of Dante. This may be wrong actually! You sometimes end up learning the language of Adriano and Claudio, and although these two sound like Roman emperors, they may be in fact your plumber and builder!

Phrase books are pretty unhelpful to foreign property owners, so you will have to sort out the names for a tack (bulletta), a nail (chiodo, or if smaller, chiodino), perhaps with the aid of a famous Italian dictionary called Zingarelli, which is the Italian version of Larousse.
Some words need particular care for instance- the gas in Italian is butano, which is easily miss-heard for puttano, resulting in the request that you are asking your local gas company, to fill the tank (serbatoio) up with a sex worker or an escort!
When you buy a property in Italy, it would be a good idea to translate instruction leaflets for the central heating or electric system of your house, because user guides in Italian sometimes need Einstein standing by!
You also need to take care when addressing people, Italians have a complicated system of verbs from the familiar (Tu) to the deeply respectuful (Lei). I would opt for the latter because it's better to address your land surveyor as " Your Honour", rather than "You there"!
However while you are waiting to come here and learn the language properly, we offer you a brief glossary of Italian real estate terms to help you understand a little more about real estate in Italy.
We definitely want you to feel at home in the land of Dante, but we would also like to help you avoid its inferno!
Accatastamento / Catasto : Government's Survey System Books (Cadastre)

Agibilita' Abitabilita': Declaration of Habitability
Collaudo: Acceptance of Work
Concessione Edilizia: Construction Authorization
Valore Congruo: Suitable Value
Comunicazione Cessione Fabbricato: Statement of Transfer of Real Estate
Condono Edilizio: Pardon for the Infringement of Building Regulations
Conservatorie dei Registri Immobiliari: Land Registry
Certificato di destinazione urbanistica (CTU): Building Allocation Certificate
Demanio / demaniale: State Property
Equo canone - Legge 392/78: Fair Rent
Frazionamento catastale: Cadastral Splitting
Grezzo e grezzo avanzato: Unfinished and Partly Finished
Imposte Ipotecarie e Catastali: Mortgage and Cadastral Taxes
Imposta Comunale sugli Immobili I.C.I. : Municipal Real Property Tax
Imposta Incremento Valore Immobili (INVIM): Property Increment Tax
Imposta di Registro: Registration Tax
Imposta sul Valore Aggiunto (I.V.A.): Value Added Tax (V.A.T.)
Ipoteca: Hypotheque i.e. Mortgage
Prelazione: Pre-emption
Preliminare, compromesso, promessa di vendita: Promise to Sell
Prevenzione incendi (certificato): Fire Protection (Certificate)
Progetto: Project
Planimetria catastale: Cadastral Planimetry
Rendita catastale: Cadastral Rent
Rogito e scritture Private autenticate : Notarial Deed / Private Deed
Servitu': Easement
Strumento Urbanistico P.R.G.: City Planning
Superficie (utile,commerciale,ecc,): Surface
Tassa occupazione spazi e aree pubbliche (TOSAP): Tax on the Occupation of Public Spaces and Areas
Usucapione: Prescriptin or Limitation of Action
Volture o volturazione: Registration of a Transfer Deed

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Restoring luxury property in Umbria, grand idea!

Many different things prompt British people to buy and restore a dilapidated property in Italy. There's the pleasure of getting something at a comparatively low price; there's the satisfaction of bringing the place back from the dead; there's the hope of profit in selling on a beautiful restoration or renting it to holidaymakers; and there's the desire to swap a stressful working life in the UK for a perceived simpler one in rural Umbria. Whatever the motivation, restoring an old building in a foreign country can be a trying experience, taking over your life for a while. Loving care and highly sensitive restorations are even of greater importance when it comes to a historical property like an 11th century castle! If you are looking for a villa, casale or a farmhouse to restore in Italy, as well as historical buildings and castels close to Medieval and Renaissance towns or immersed in the Italian countryside, we provide an incredible range of properties you can choose from. 
Anyhow a grand undertaking deserves a grand final use and when you have completed the retoration of your Italian property, you can put it on the market for sale, you can rent it out, or make it your second home abroad.
If you choose the latter you will see how Umbria's charm will seep indelibly into your life!
Realise today your dream of purchasing a property in Umbria with Abode, and tomorrow you may discover that you have made an excellent investment!

Monday 3 May 2010

Buying and renting a property in Italy

You can tell when spring has finally sprung in Italy when you take a look at the profusion of coloured wild flowers that carpet the fields in the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside!
This is the best moment of year to buy or rent a typical rural farmhouse!

The world owes a lot to General Garibaldi

The example of Garibaldi displays those which adorn every pure and honest, leader of troops.
How much the world owes him, for his disinterested career and his devotion to the cause of freedom, is difficult to say.What many people may not know however is that it is thanks to the rugged hero of Risorgimento movement if we can wear jeans today!
A Times correspondent who was in the South of Italy while General Garibaldi was busy uniting the country wrote- 'I had my first interview with the disinterested and brave liberator of Italy in his red shirt, a dirty pair of jean trousers and worn out boots'.
It must be remembered that this patriot was originally a sea captain on the Ligurian coast who dressed, as his colleagues did, in trousers made of that indestructible blue cloth named 'Blue de Genes', blue of Genoa, from whence the appellation, blue jeans. The name 'Blue Jeans' infact comes from 'Blue de Genes” (blue of Genoa). Interestingly it was this name that was given by the locals to the blue textiles used to manufacture sails, the date of birth of the Blue Jeans goes as far back as 1567.

However blue jeans as a fashion phenomenon was to lie dormant for another while, and surely the leader of the Mille would turn over in his grave to see teenagers, young girls and grown women, instead of port workers, wearing them.
Garibaldi was also the unwitting sponsor for other merchandise, especially in England where the ladies sported blouses modelled on the Red Shirts, called 'Garibaldis'. There were also Garibaldi tie pins for the men. Besides the well-known Staffordshire figures of Garibaldi on horseback, there were Garibaldi silk scarves and bookmarks with portraits, and perfumes named after the hero were described as 'irresistible'. There were sweets known as 'Garibaldi balls' and raisin-studded 'Garibaldi' biscuits which are still enjoyed throughout Europe today.
Moreover the craze for Garibaldi produces may poems in honour of the brave general- 'Memoires of Garibaldi' etc... we definitely owe a lot to the 'Hero of the Two Worlds'!!