Crazy walks, Italian “Holiday” analysis and stunning waterfalls…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? I’ve had a great but busy week here.

I have, in no particular order…

1. …Been to see the lovely Cascate delle Marmore – the Marmore Waterfalls which are really impressive. It has the highest man-made waterfall in Europe (created in the 3rd century BC by the Romans). Its 9 Euros to go into the surrounding park area where you can do a number of walks around the waterfalls. It’s absolutely stunning and when there’s sun, I can imagine there being a perpetual rainbow because the air is always filled with a fine mist.  You have to be careful when you visit though as sometimes they turn the waterfall off (imagine!) because the water is needed for creating hydroelectricity and that’s done somewhere else. You can check a timetable online.

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2. …Been to see some cows! My neighbour and I popped over to a cow farm the other day to see the baby cows. (I’m sure there is a specific name for this but I can’t for the life of me think of it – answers on a postcard!) My neighbour is on a mission to get me educated in `country ways`. Last month she had me planting my own row of potatoes. Anyway, I was fortunate enough to see and learn about the ‘birds and the bees’ for cows (The vet rams his entire arm up the cows bottom, pokes around and then depending on what he finds up there, he gets a massive needle with er, well I’m sure you can work out the rest). The whole thing seemed rather indelicate and I felt a bit sorry for the poor cow. He didn’t even attempt to get her drunk first.

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This is a little 3 day old calf. She (I think she looks like a ‘she’ at least), has been separated from her mum whose milk is valuable and put in a small metal box and given a powdered milk solution instead. When she’s a bit older she’ll be transferred to a bigger and more overcrowded area. This, people, I think would be considered a 5 star resort in comparison to many other places. My visit to the cow farm has not made me rue my vegetarian lifestyle at all.

3. …Been celebrating Saint Giovanni (24 June) by bathing myself in water steeped in flowers (and alas, quite a few insects) so that I could be beautiful and free of disease (hmm).  Italy, and perhaps all Catholic countries, have quite a lot of saints that need celebrating and some unusual ways of doing it. In fact, I have an Italian calendar and I don’t think there’s even one day that isn’t dedicated to one saint or another.

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This was a ladle or two of flowery water prepared by my neighbour. I am devastated to report that is doesn’t seem to have affected my level of beauty and I feel about the same in terms of general health. Maybe next year?

4. …Been making bread. I think it all looks good here but those flat holey things are crispy and impossibly hard to eat for anyone that doesn’t have teeth made of diamonds. Thanks Mr Hollywood.

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5. Been playing with my neighbours kittens. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Unfortunately their fleas are almost as big as them poor little things (the kittens, not the fleas).

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6. Been on a stunning walk to Lago di Pilato which is nestled in the mountains under Mount Vettore, the highest mountain in the Sibillini’s. This walk beats the other crazy walk I did a few weeks ago that was over a river and up a near vertical slope. It was perhaps a tiny bit more of a gentle slope (89 degrees as opposed to 90 maybe) but went up for longer and  going down was more stressful than going up because the path was rocky and slippy. It’s the only walk I’ve ever been on where I’ve felt sorry for the “Old Sue”, my former self of a few hours before that had been walking up and who had been thinking the end of the path was nigh but actually having another 2 hours to go (my walking book helpfully doesn’t give you any details as to distance but it was just over 12km in total and with a 1km climb). Anyway for anyone interested in this walk: go to Foce and walk between the mountains. The path is clear and rather unusually marked out! If you’re like me (not a mountain goat) allow 3 or 3.5 hours or so to get up there and maybe 2.5 or 3 hours back the same way.

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The scenery in the mountains is always stunning but the flowers were amazing. At every different level there were different types of flowers. I’ve never seen wild pansy’s before but they were growing really quite high up.

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It’s not permitted to go too near or touch the lake. There’s some little red prawn type things in there you don’t find anywhere else. It was absolutely crystal clear.

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Beautiful!

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Quite a large portion of the walk was walking on glaciers! We walked along this one and then discovered it had a rather unsettling cave underneath.

6. …Been to Senigallia on a little vacation to stay with some Italian buddies. It was a lovely little break. Each time I go to the beach I realise how much I miss it. I think the need to search for sea glass is now an inherent part of my being. And this weekend I finally “got” the concept of Italian beach holidays. Let me explain. To my English eyes, this is a typical Italian holiday: Have one or two months off work and go to the same place you’ve always gone to stay in your “beach” house which is often only about 10 minutes from your “normal” house. Spend all day and every day lying on a sunbed, “taking the sun” as they say (or more accurately, burning themselves to a crisp), surrounded by millions (I jest not!) of other sunbeds and a beach so crammed with people it’s difficult to get anywhere. If they’re not at the beach, then they come to their “mountain” house and sit outside in big groups all day in a garden under a parasol and rarely venture out. For me, holidays have always been an opportunity to see new places; what a waste to do the same thing year in and year out when there’s so much to see and do in the world! How can they justify it?! As a result, I’ve secretly scoffed at this crazy Italian tradition and even pitied them a bit. But no, I had it all wrong…

What they’re doing is taking time out to spend quality time with their family and friends, the people they grew up with. They go to the same bunch of sunbeds (“stabilimento” – there are lots of little stabilimenti up and down the beach) where they know everyone. Every day is a reunion and opportunity to have a laugh and spend time with the people they love, care about and grew up with. Maybe because I’m out here on my own without my family and friends I hadn’t grasped the concept, but I can understand it now – it’s not where they are that’s important, it’s who they’re with. We miss this type of holiday in England to our detriment in my opinion.

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But honestly, do they really need THAT many sunbeds! It goes on like that for miles and miles!

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This was an empty day at the beach apparently! In July, you can’t move for people.

So I think that about sums up the last week or two. The next couple of weeks are going to be equally busy I think! Anyway, I hope you’re all having a good week. I’ll sign off with a pretty sunset pic taken from the terrace!

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My new favourite place, visitors and an ant infestation…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? I’ve had a string of visits! My parents, Pane Caldo’s parents and my brother and sister-in-law all came over from the UK. It’s been lovely to have people from home here and it seems a bit quiet now they’ve gone, though the next set of visitors are out in July so not too much time to feel lonely! It’s been really good to do something other than house related activities too and see some local sights that I’d not been to before. Firstly though…

Happy 750th Birthday to Sarnano!

A couple of weeks ago marked the 750th anniversary of Sarnano being an independent comune so the Sarnanese celebrated in style over the weekend. Alas, I missed a few of the celebrations but I’m pleased to say that I made it to see our local celebrity band, La Racchia. Along with more traditional instruments, their party trick is to play various household items like colanders, drainpipes and toilet cisterns. And what band would be complete without the customary colourfully dressed band leader with a dummy in his mouth wielding a wooden spoon?

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Sightseeing!

In no particularly order, these are a few pics from the last two or three weeks of sightseeing around the area…

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Penna: Beautiful hill top town just a few minutes away with a little park at the top and amazing views across Le Marche.

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View from the top of Penna at sunset

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This was on the way back to Sarnano from Penna.

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View from Montefortino – another quaint little hill top town.

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Pretty little square in Montefortino

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Madonna dell’Ambro nestled in the mountains

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This is the Santuario di Macereto near Visso

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Crystal clear lake in Visso

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Castle in Visso – only the ruins remain but you can walk up to them for a good view. We went on a little round trip from the town. Mind the snakes!

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Visso

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There’s quite a few trout farms in the mountains it seems – at the base of this valley in Visso is one of them.

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Pretty little church in Visso

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This is near Casteluccio, my new favourite place.

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At Casteluccio there’s piano grande – a massive field of cultivated flowers. It’s not quite ready yet but the flowers should be out in the next month or so.

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The poppies were out though :-) That’s the town of Casteluccio up there on the hill

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They even had a little wood in the shape of Italy!

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Casteluccio closer up. As you can see, I like Casteluccio! This is the last picture, I promise.

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I also went to check out Treia – you guessed it, a hill top town! This is one of the churches.

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And this is taken from just by the main square where last weekend they were holding a ravioli festival!

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This is Lago di Fiastra. The ginestra (broom) is out at the moment so it’s looking very colourful.

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This is a little cloister in San Ginesio. San Ginesio is definitely worth a visit – it’s known as the “Balcony of the Sibillini Mountains” and for a good reason. There’s a nice restaurant called Terra Nostra in the piazza which looks fairly small from the outside but is larger when you get inside, is nicely decorated and has nice food. And we got a free limoncello so that’s always a bonus.

And this is the cloister at Tolentino outside the Basilica di San Nicola.

And this is the cloister at Tolentino outside the Basilica di San Nicola.

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Sarnano has been a bit thunderstormy lately and mid mountain visit we saw this one approaching!

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This was taken near me in Sarnano, looking very dramatic with the approaching storm.

I think the visits all pretty much went without a hitch apart from the last night with my brother and sister-in-law. When we first moved here myself and Pane Caldo tried a restaurant that was recommended to us by our old landlord. It’s called Scherzi a Parte. It’s brilliant – lovely food, great location, fab service. As a result, we’ve been going there ever since and taking all our visitors there. With any visitors that come back, they’ve been keen to go back to the same restaurant. But there are OTHER restaurants!!! What if we’ve all been missing an even better restaurant?!?!?! So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to go somewhere new with my brother and sister-in-law, a place recommended to me on a couple of occasions. It was a terrible mistake!!! The decor was like something straight out of the 1970’s. The pasta was dry and hard – not even al dente but like it was made the day before and heated up. Terrified of offending anyone we tried our best to eat our meals but the pasta didn’t diminish, only multiplied before our very eyes. We’d still got a large selection of anti-pasta to work our way through too. As typical English folk, it’s just inconceivable for an entire table to order starters and main courses and leave almost everything. Oh the embarrassment, the shame…….until I remembered I had two plastic bags in my handbag. Our moods shifted as we stuffed the bulk of our food into the bags. My sister-in-law refused to lower herself to that but she’d done a better job of eating her food than we had so fair enough. I did feel slightly guilty when the waitress came over later and chastised her for leaving more food than we had! Anyway. Scherzi a Parte next time it is.

Animal / Insect watch

It’s been a while since Animal Watch and goodness me, there’s been some unwelcome ones! My bedroom, bathroom and terrace have been somewhat overrun with ants. I’ve had to become a specialist in ant elimination which is really not something that I’m proud of being an animal-loving vegetarian! Anyway, I seem to have resolved the issue (bicarbonate of soda and sugar seems to do the trick. Poor ants).

The next intriguing development has been fireflies – I’ve never seen fireflies before but they’ve suddenly appeared at night. Apparently it marks the start of summer so that’s good! I managed to catch one in a jar for a closer look but it promptly stopped lighting up as if in protest. It was released shortly thereafter. They only live a day or so anyway poor things.

My favourite animal update though are the kittens. I’ve been trying not to get attached because last year’s litter all died apart from my Batfink. However, they’re all doing really well, although three of the five are still really tiny. Those ones belong to Batfink’s mum so I’m sort of encouraged that at least he did quite well! (The other two have a different Mum). I’ll put in a photo next time!

I think that about sums up the last few weeks. I’ve been doing a bit of DIY as usual but I’ll update on that in the next post.

Have good week’s all :-)

xxx

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Whirlwind solo tour of the Gargano National Park…

Buongiorno!

I’ve been on holiday!!! It’s been ages since I went on holiday. If I’m not in Sarnano, then I’m in the UK and nice as that is, it doesn’t feel being on vacation. Anyway, this blog is dedicated to my trip. I apologise in advance for any rambling and the hundreds of photos but I was on my own and I feel the need to share!

I have two main ‘go-to ‘inspirational people that motivate me in different ways: Margaret Thatcher, who was said to have only had 4 hours of sleep a night and managed to run the country. And my most recent one is Pane Caldo who, after work, drove almost 3 hours on his own to watch his football team lose, and then 3 hours back mid week. For me, if a drive is more than an hour, I rule it out. It never occurred to me to just not care! So, with that in mind, I waited for a gap in the rain and I drove 5 hours down to the National Park of Gargano (Puglia), the spur of Italy’s boot and somewhere I had wanted to go for ages.

Puglia is like another country! All the fields are golden and dotted with lots of olive trees. There are goats wandering up winding country roads. The hills are terraced with old dry stone walls that must have taken years to do. There are pretty ‘Mediterranean-looking’ flowers. It has a completely different feel to it than where I am in Le Marche.

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Pretty pale pink and dark pink flowers…

I stayed in the Forte Hotel in Vieste. It’s nice and good value (though be aware that the “do not disturb” sign does not work it turns out). The surrounding area however, is an odd mix of other nice hotels, building sites, rubbish and a donkey. (I was considering mounting a donkey releasing campaign but I didn’t think I could hide him in my hotel room and he doesn’t fit in the car, so I settled with singing “Little Donkey” to him when I went past). So the immediate surrounding area around the hotel doesn’t look that impressive. There is a golden sandy beach but, seeing as though it was quite windy, a lot of the sand had spilled onto the pavements leaving not so enticing heavier rubbish behind on the actual beach.  I think it’ll perk up considerably in the summer though (the Italian Summer is strictly between 1st July and 31st August).

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View from my hotel room terrace

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The room

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The beach

The main town area of Vieste is nice. Everything is white with marble pavements (be prepared to slide across large sections if you have no grip on your shoes/flipflops. When it rains I imagine one could aquaplane their way down from one end of Vieste to the other without ever lifting a foot). My favourite part was the old town up on the hill. It’s full of winding cute little paths and places to eat. There’s a castle at the top which seems to be a military zone so you can’t go in but it has some spectacular viewpoints around it. There’s also a pretty church on the hill and a cathedral at the bottom of it.

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This is a weird fish collecting contraption – there’s quite a few around the coast – I assume they’re not used anymore.

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The south side of Vieste

Vieste Lighthouse

Taken from a nice little seafront piazza

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The Cathedral

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Cathedral and coastline

Vieste Viewpoint

Huh! I’ve just realised where this was taken. The weird thing about Vieste in the old town, is that you go for a walk in a straight line and end up where you started! Anyway, this is the view from the opposite side of one of the previous photo.

Vieste Cathedral

No matter where I go in the world, the main monuments have scaffolding! But I kept this one in because I thought it looked pretty with the blue and the sunlit bricks

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Across the harbour at sunset

From Vieste you can go on boat trips to the Isole Tremite (3 islands nearby known for their lovely blue waters. Mussolini put his political prisoners there. Not a bad place to be held prisoner really) and the Grotte Marine (there are a number of caves in the cliffs around Vieste).  If you wander around Vieste there are lots of tour companies offering these boat trips. I decided to ask one guy in a little rundown shack advertising the trips, my theory being that his company wasn’t having to subsidise a fancy shop so he might offer a better deal. My theory didn’t hold. The costs seemed to be largely similar. Anyway I turned up at 8am the following morning at the shack as agreed but nobody was there so I resolved to go to one of the other companies dotted around the port. I walked along the port and didn’t see any tourists; just a bunch of weathered looking men leering at me as I went past. As freeing and liberating as it should be to go on holiday by yourself, the idea of going on an all day boat trip with either one leery man or several didn’t appeal. I’ll just have to go again with reinforcements another time.

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This is the port where you would take the boat to the Tremite if you were going!

My Plan B was a drive to the Foresta Umbra (the Shadowy Forest). On reflection if I was after a safer alternative to the potential all-creepy-man boat trip, this wasn’t really it. It took a while to find, mainly because if you look online, there is no “address” for the forest; it just sprawls across several comune’s which isn’t really helpful when you’re trying to find it using GPS. The forest in fact, is reasonably well sign posted although as usual, there were several T-junctions signs missing  and inevitably I would always take the wrong turn. However, if you take a direct route it takes 30 minutes from Vieste and the open olive fields suddenly turn into leafy old forest.

It’s a beautiful road that takes you through the forest – albeit epileptic fit inducing with the sunlight flickering through the trees.   The forest itself is stunning and appeared to be very well maintained. I’ve never seen such lovely open paths. When I go for a walk in my local woods, I have to use my imagination to work out what is a path or not and at the end of it, I usually end up having to crawl through undergrowth to get out. It’s not like that here. Every few meters there was a picnic spot with several tables, chairs, parking spots and often a walking trail. Absolutely lovely.

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Look at the nice wide path with a lovely big sign!!!

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This is the laghetto – little lake.

However, after my friend and I had a scary encounter with a nutcase in a very similar forest years ago, my forest risk radar is heightened so I didn’t venture in too much. I did however find what seemed to be a well-trodden little walk around the “laghetto”– a cute little lake full to the brim with tadpoles (presumably frogs if anyone goes later in the year). Conscious of not wanting to be entirely on my own, I latched onto a nice looking couple that were going for their own walk around the lake keeping a healthy distance between us so as not to appear suspicious. Alas, I don’t believe I succeeded in being suspicion free. They kept stopping, presumably wanting me to pass but I would feign interest in my phone and stop too for the same amount of time. I wonder if in years to come they’ll write blogs about the Stalker Woman of the Foresta Umbra.

Then, deciding towns and cities were probably the way forward, I went to Monte Sant’Angelo. I’m not fussed about that place. I felt like the locals were trying to do ‘the hard sell’ – parking was expensive and didn’t really seem that official, and people came up asking me to go to their restaurants. I was actually hungry so found a little trattoria run by a man with a dark brown toupee with his white hair in what I thought was a very courageous non-blend style.  I had orecchiette (little ear shaped pasta) and tomato sauce. Meh – it was alright. There wasn’t much else to the place – there was a nice castle (which was closed) and lots of tourist shops but otherwise, it just felt a bit derelict and unloved. I do feel sorry for it though – there are no local businesses and tourism is all they have so no wonder they try and make as much out of the tourists as they can.

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The castle at Monte Sant’Angelo

But they had nice bread! It’s like I said earlier, Puglia is like another country! When I was making my first sourdough loaves a while back, they came out like hard flat disks but they actually sell that here as a sort of regional speciality. I’ve been missing a trick!

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My first bread attempts looked like this! It’s very difficult to get sourdough to stay in a recognisable shape so it squidges out and this is what you get. I hadn’t realised that was a valid bread form!

From Monte Sant’Angelo, I took the coastal road back to Vieste. It took ages to get back to the hotel because I kept stopping to take photos! It has a very pretty coastline with unbelievably blue sea and with the ginestre (“gorse” in English – I think we should adopt the nicer sounding Italian word) out and some other pretty purple flowers, it really did look spectacular.

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Beautiful coastline

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I know there’ll be a scientific explanation for this but it’s very odd to have such a perfect hole in a massive rock!

So all in all, it was lovely to visit a completely new region and a couple of nights was probably about right for me. It’s a shame I missed the boat ride but ultimately I got to see much more of the local region so I’m pleased with that. Definitely worth a visit if you ever have time to go :-)

I think that’s about it on the holiday front. I hope you’re all having good weekends.

Ciao!

x

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Night of Madness, the Beams and Bluetit Serving Platters

Ciao a tutti,

How is everyone?! It’s been horrible weather this week – cloudy and always raining! I think it might have been my fault – in the heat of the week before I decided that I probably wouldn’t be using the stufa for the rest of the year and so I put the remnants of convenient stufa wood into the cantina. I should really move it back upstairs and release Italy from this non-stop rain.

I’ve got some visitors in the next few weeks: parents, my brother and sister-in-law (a special occasion indeed – it will mark I think the second visit in 15 years! ;-)) and then a group of friends in July. It’s spurred me back into the DIY. I have a big blackboard for my month goals in the kitchen and every single month, I tick off everything, but “finish the beams” is always ongoing to the following month. It’s such a life sapping task. However, this month I FINISHED THE BEAMS!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!! When I say finished, I mean “I am finished” rather than the beams are now finished per se. I spent an entire day up a ladder sanding them with a machine and by the end of it, I didn’t notice even a slight difference. So, I decided to oil and wax them anyway. Voila. Finished beams.

 

This is the beam closest to the stairs. Not that much paint eh?

This is the beam closest to the stairs. Not that much paint eh? Despite the blurry photo, you can see it’s not a bad beam.

And they then get progressively worse until you get to this beam! I've neatened up all the rough plaster and painted it so it looks a bit neater at least.

And they then get progressively worse until you get to this beam! I’ve neatened up all the rough plaster and painted it so it looks a bit better at least. My hope is that nobody ever looks at the ceiling.


The rest of that week was spent painting and decorating the living room. I had grand plans to put lots of photos on the main wall in the living room which, you might remember from previous blogs I had blocked off a door-sized niche with wood and plaster. It turns out I am not amazing at plastering. You can quite clearly see where I blocked it off. So I’ve reworked my plans and put some big canvasses there instead! The photo’s are now on the wall by the stufa. In all, I’m reasonably pleased with how it looks at the moment bar a few finishing touches though it certainly looks “unique” and “rustic” what with the half painted beams, random rough plaster patches and a weird zigzag in the floor where there are no tiles (after the wall was taken down) .

I’ve painted one of the bedrooms too and have managed to turn what would have been quite a nice bright room if I’d have just carried on with the white paint, into another “unique” and “quirky” room. I have great reservations about it and I’m considering painting over it, particularly because at some point I was considering renting the room out. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Blue Tits

In other exciting news, we have some Blue Tits that have been nesting in the roof. For several days Mr and Mrs Bluetit had been perching next to the terrace with great long worms in their beaks, eyeing me up suspiciously before flying off. I couldn’t understand why these birds weren’t obese. They seemed to be worm killing machines. And then eventually, when they disappeared under a roof tile a couple of times, I suddenly cottoned on that maybe they had a nest there and were feeding their young. The closer I got, I heard some tiny little chirps! Cute. My mother suggested I feed them…

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…..but she was not impressed with the initial blue tit serving platter saying it was perhaps too sparkly white.

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This is Blue tit Service Platter Mark 2. I can report that the Blue Tits of Sarnano do not eat raisins or coleslaw but they do like cheese. Or at least something on the roof does. Unfortunately the family have now gone. I’m worried something bad happened – a tile where their nest appeared to be had moved quite considerably. I’m hoping their house was under another tile because there’s no sign of them.

ID card

I got myself an Italian ID card the other day. As far as I can see as general life goes, there’s no point to this card – it has a picture of me on with a description (brown hair, green eyes etc) and my address and cost 5 euros and 49 cents (that 1 cent extra to make it easier for everyone would have pushed it over into the realms of too expensive). Passports and driving licenses seem to be just as effective. However, I decided to go ahead with it because I needed it to open a bank account (my English passport and driving license didn’t cut the mustard) so I braced myself for months of red tape and bureaucracy and multiple visits to the Comune to attain this ID card. It took 5 minutes! I walked in with 3 passport sized photos and it was done. I recommend the process to everyone! So I have a nice ID card now and it makes me feel very Italian so I’m glad I have it, though it ended up being entirely useless in my quest to open a bank account. It turns out banks are annoying in Italy too, not just in the UK.

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One of the oldest road races went through Sarnano the other day so I popped down and took lots of photos of old cars as they sped past. Here’s one…

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Visit to the beautiful Ambro fraction of Montefortino

May is a special month for the Madonna here in Italy, being a predominately Catholic country. Jesus’ mother is big news here. In fact, not being religious or particularly well read in the bible, I was somewhat confused up until very recently. Town’s often refer to their churches by “Madonna di <town name> “.  Not really thinking about it, I had assumed, that all of these towns had their own Madonnas and it was just a very common name (a bit like if you’re not sure of a man’s name here in Sarnano, you can call them Giuseppe and you’ll more than likely be correct!). The Sue of Portsmouth, is not the same Sue of Edinburgh for instance. However, I’ve been informed that there’s just the one Madonna and she does good works everywhere. Every year, a trip is organised for the Sarnanese (the people of Sarnano) to go and worship the Madonna at the Madonna dell’Ambro church in the fraction of Montefortino. The story goes that the Madonna appeared to a mute shepherd girl in the month of May just by the river and where the church is now, and was given the gift of words. It’s certainly a stunning place and it looks like there’s some nice walks there too. I’ll have to investigate.

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This was actually taken from Montefortino itself rather than Ambro.

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Birthday Celebrations

It was my birthday on Saturday so I decided to have a party. I don’t like the idea of having parties; if people show up then there’s all the pressure of having to make it fun with food everyone likes and if people don’t show up then it’s a bit depressing isn’t it? It’s a lose, lose situation! However, I wanted to do something just as a gesture to my neighbours to say thank you for being so welcoming to me in the last year or so, so I prepared an English-style buffet (sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad, pastry nibbles etc.). In the end, not that many people came but it was really good! I must have them over again – they were positively overflowing with compliments about the house and food.

The celebrations continued with a virtual online Eurovision Song Contest party that evening with my friends and family back home which was very good. It could have been a bit of a miserable day being away from everyone but in fact, it turned out to be a good day all around!

My immediate neighbour gave me a ‘massage experience’ at the Sarnano Terme where she works. Terme means spa/thermal baths in English. It’s not like a beauty spa though – everything is geared towards health. There are three springs within the Terme – the waters are all used in various different treatments: Inhalation to treat allergies etc, hydromassages to treat aches/pains and water retention etc. and if you drink the water from one of the springs it has amazing diuretic properties (I didn’t even know this was a good thing but it apparently is). My experience started off with a hydromassage first with a lovely man who explained about the terme and was very patient whilst I laughed my way through the first 5 minutes. It’s an unusual experience! You walk up some little steps to a big metal bath filled with this special thermal water and then the masseuse uses a reasonably high powered hose to massage you under the water. Once the initial ‘surrealness’ had passed, it was actually very relaxing. Then I had a more conventional massage which was lovely. All in all, a great birthday present and a unique experience.  If you’re coming to Sarnano, it’s definitely worth checking the spa out. In fact, the grounds themselves are lovely and it’s free to go to them. Take an empty bottle with you and fill it up with the thermal water (and when you drink it, make sure you’re near a bathroom).

The Hunt for Wild Boar

Apparently the area is rife with wild boar. Rife. However, in almost a year, I’ve not seen a single one (apart from perhaps the bottom of one running into some trees being chased by dogs during the hunting season but I can’t be sure). I have seen evidence of them though (they sort of nose around in the soil looking for food and churn it up) so I’m sure they exist in the area. My neighbour has taken it upon herself to show me the local wild boar so we’ve been on a few wild boar searches of the local area. We’ve seen some from a distance which look strikingly similar to bushes so I still don’t feel I’ve really experienced seeing a wild boar. Still, the hunt continues so who knows, I might have some photos for the next blog.

Notte dei folli

A week or two back was Notte dei folli in Sarnano – Night of madness. People dressed up in costume and there were lots of people performing: lots of bands, singers, dancers. And I’ve never, ever seen so much alcohol available here, or so many people in Sarnano. The Italians are somewhat boring drinkers – most of them seem to have one glass of wine and call it a night (unless they’re driving in which case they’ll have a bottle or two). Even if they do drink, they hold it remarkably well and you wouldn’t particularly know. It’s not like in the UK where past 9pm all the pubs are full to the brim of people being loud and stupid and then later photographed sprawled across pavements. So I was shocked to discover at this festival there were actually DRUNK people, it was like being back in London :-) I’m definitely going next year. There was an absolutely brilliant performance from a group called DuMadet. I don’t think I’ve actually seen two such talented musicians before.  It was a guitarist and a violinist doing wonderful and quite elaborate versions of modern songs. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

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This was a band called “Cecco e Cipo”. The two main guys were in the Italian X-factor a few years back. Here’s their x-factor audition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpvngeQTlyA. Cipo, the beardless dude, is particularly mad /amusing. It could never be said that he gives a boring performance. For their final performance of the night, they just all came into the audience and starting singing, much to the displeasure of the sound and light people!

I think that about sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having a great week.

xxx

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Long Walks of Achyness, Sightseeing in Emiglia-Romagna and Umbria and Megabugs…

Ciao all,

How is everyone? It seems it’s been a while since I’ve written so thought I’d give you a quick update…

The Long Walk of Achyness

Just after I wrote the last blog post, some friends came to visit me in Sarnano and I thought perhaps it might be the ideal opportunity to combine their desire to see the Lame Rosse (the cool rock formation I wrote about in the last blog installment) with something new I was keen to see, the Gole di Fiastrone (literally “throats of the Fiastrone” referring to the river and the formation of it). I dug out my map and found a route that would take in those two features but also another sight: the Grotto dei Frati.  I estimated it would probably take about 6 hours which isn’t bad really – we’re all fairly fit and enjoy walking.

It was indeed 6 hours but half of that was up a near vertical slope! I enjoy walking but I’m not cut out for climbing!!! So, it goes down as the hardest walk I’ve ever done but I’m very glad we did it. About midway through we came across a sign that said the trail was for “expert hikers”. I felt proud and stupid all at the same time!

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The cat helping me find the best route…

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The Fiastrone riverbed. To continue the walk to the Lame Rosse we needed to cross this river. I did attempt it – I took off my boots and waded into the river and about 2 feet in, I wimped out and came back. It’s cold and slippery. We sat looking mournfully across the other side of the river eating our lunch and were fortunate enough to come across some people coming from the other side of the river wanting to get to our side. We watched as they made their way precariously across the river on some broken tree branches and debris. None of them died so them having set a precedent, we followed shortly thereafter.  In fact, one of our members actually braved walking across the river wielding his dog.

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This was taken on the way down from to Lago di Fiastra. You can see the dam at the bottom of the river. That’s where one of our cars was parked, a depressingly long distance away and that was about 4.5 hours into the walk!

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This is part of the Grotto dei Frati, a little area cut into the rock face that still seems to be used for religious ceremonies.

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And from the Grotto dei Frati, you can see the Gole di Fiastrone (where the river meets the rock about the center of the photo). To get there I think we’d have had to have waded up the river. Definitely more of a summer activity!!!!

Forli and Giovanni Boldini

The following day I went to Forli with another friend to seen an exhibition of the wonderful Giovanni Boldini. He does some amazing portraits and it inspired me to get back into trying to get good at drawing portraits again.  The day ended up taking us on quite a road trip and we stopped off at Citta’ di Castello and then Gubbio in Umbria.

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One of the squares in Citta di Castello

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A sculpture with her breasts out in what seems to be a type of courtroom – an effective way to appease a jury no doubt.

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Little church dedicated to baking pizzas in Citta’ di Castello.

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Cutie pigeons taking in the scenery around Citta’ di Castello.

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Citta’ di Castello – it’s a walled town, as many of them are but this one seems much more intact.

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This is the beautiful town of Gubbio

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Gubbio again with the rains approaching!

The Science of Happiness

I finished my Science of Happiness Online Course last week which I started earlier this year. It’s free, online and you can do it in your own time.  It’s my first online course and I hadn’t realised there was such a wide variety to chose from. I went for this one because it appeals to my interest in psychological things and well, I think I’m pretty happy but there’s no harm in looking to see if there’s something else that could make me happier eh?

I think people always have a view of psychology as being a bit of a “fluffy” science, but this course wasn’t by any means. There were a range of topics covering the links between happiness and empathy, compassion, social connections, forgiveness, self compassion, goal setting, generosity and gratitude etc. Information was presented in conjunction with corresponding scientific studies including not just how feelings are affected but how our physiology is impacted too and why happiness-inducing behaviours might have evolved in the first place. My favourite titbits – did you know that rats can laugh?! And quite a heart-wrenching finding – “touch” is so important to us humans that until caregivers were instructed to hold and touch babies in orphanages, many of them died. Have a read here

In other news…

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I made pitta breads – they taste exactly like pitta breads! I’m reasonably impressed with myself! (They don’t have pitta breads in Italy as far as I can work out).

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And…. I came across this bug… It was almost exactly the same size as my car. I’ve decided to call him Megabug.

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And….I cleaned out the Snake Pit under the house – this photo was taken part way through. There were actually no snakes in it very much to my relief. I took a golf club down there just in case.

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And…. I went to a jazz concert at the local theatre with a friend which was a mix between really very good and very bad (this latter review is not an indictment on the musicians, who were brilliant, but instead, my ability to retain interest when listening to the more “unstructured” jazz pieces). I was definitely impressed by the good bits though and I have resolved to find some good jazz tracks to get into.

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And….. following on from my recent “Driving Guide”, this photo was taken in Forli and nicely demonstrates the appropriate distance between parked cars when parking in Italy.

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And…. finally on the photo front – we’ve got kittens in the neighbourhood! These belong to Batfink’s aunty and father (who are we to judge?). There are another three (true brothers and sisters to Batfink) too. I want them all.

I think that’s it for the photo journalism! I hope everyone is having a good week.

x

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Italy Driving Guide for Foreigners!

Ciao all,

The other day I was driving in the mountains and around one bend, I came head on to another car in my lane taking the racing line around a bend. The guy swerved back onto his side of the road, missing me by what must have been millimeters. When I moved here, that kind of thing would happen often and terrify me. In fact, I used to send messages to my nearest and dearest warning them that I was driving to the shops and that just in case anything happened, I loved them. These days, it’s like water off a duck’s back. In fact, mostly, driving here is amusing: Cars driving in the “fast lane” on a motorway and nothing else to be seen for miles etc. I realised the key to stress-free driving here is just knowing what to expect. So, I have created a “Foreigner’s Guide to Driving in Italy”! It’s tongue-in-cheek and not intended at all as an insult to my Italian buddies, all of whom are wonderful drivers (none of this is based on them I hasten to add!).

Italian Driving Guide v2

Italian Driving Guide pg v2

Happy driving :-)

x

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Bull balls, Scorpion Dens and Snake Pits…

Buongiorno!

How is everyone? It’s been lovely here! I had the first evening without the heating on yesterday. As much as I love the stufa (woodburner), it does get a bit tiresome lighting it and cleaning it out everyday so that was a nice break.

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This is near Macerata, isn’t it pretty? Now that the yellow flowers are out, I’ve established that the bitter veg that the neighbours have given me is actually oilseed rape.

I’ve been trying to make the most of the sunshine. Here’s a run down… If you’re interested in this week’s exciting “Property of the Week”, skip to the end!

Walks – Lame Rosse

I’ve been meaning to go to Lame Rosse for months after seeing some photos of some weird and wonderful rock formations online. Last weekend, I finally decided to do it and printed off some instructions for the walk. True to form, the walk instructions bared absolutely no resemblance to the actual walk, and in fact, were positively misleading. I had to ask directions from an old guy who kept on looking me up and down and said how I couldn’t, as a woman, go on my own and it was dangerous (he couldn’t be specific although I did ensure it wasn’t because the route was frequented by rapists and murderers). It’s not like I was wearing stiletto’s and an evening gown for goodness sake! In the end he gave me the directions but said that he wouldn’t be accountable for anything that happened to me because he didn’t approve of my going!!! So, the red rag had been waved and I decided to do it anyway. When I parked up, I joined a little group (two disabled guys and their girlfriends no less!) that were also doing the walk. The path is all up hill for an hour and a half but it’s not too steep and it’s a nice wide gravel path with limited options to make mistakes, unlike all of the other walks around here!

Anyway, Lame Rosse was spectacular and well worth the up hill journey. Don’t let any old guys put you off – apart from the incline, it was a breeze.

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My next “big” walk is going to be to locate the Gola di Fiastrone (the throat of the Fiastrone river) which is again, only a few minutes drive away and the photos I’ve seen online look amazing so I’m looking forward to that.

Sightseeing in Visso and Frontignano

My lovely neighbour and her sister took me to the heart of the Sibillini mountains on Sunday.  It was a spectacular drive and not too far away at all really. We had a wander around Frontignano which has ski slopes up Monte Bove – I definitely want to try out those slopes next year. On the way back we stopped in Visso, a beautiful and brightly coloured little town in a mountain valley.

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It has some ruins which I believe you can walk up to – I’ll do that next time I’m there.

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Visso taken from a very majestic war memorial on the hill side.

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Sunday in Visso is market day and there were lots of cute little crafty stalls.

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And this was taken by Frontignano.

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This delicacy, in a butchers in Visso, can literally be translated as “Balls of Bull”. I’m assured that it’s not the real thing but I’m not convinced.

DIY progress

DIY continues at a steady pace. There’s a door sized niche in the wall behind the sofa in the living room. We’d been wondering what purpose it served. Anyway, whatever it was, I didn’t want it there. I have grand plans for a ‘photo wall’ on which to display my pictures, so I dismantled the niche this week (it was blocked off with wood) and it turns out that it did indeed once be a door. Now it has a floor to ceiling waste pipe in the middle. I felt slightly less guilty about blocking it off having acquired this new knowledge. So, I put some wood up and have plastered over it. However, I doubt the resilience of my blocked off wall. It bends when you poke it. I’m hoping the top layer of plaster will harden it a bit and make it less of a flexible wall!

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First plastering attempt of my Flexiwall! I hasten to add, there will be a top coat of plaster!

I made some headway in the Scorpion Den / Cantina this week as well and cleared out several bin liners of stuff. There’s nothing in there now that I don’t know about (I inherited a mass of junk) so at least that’s a decent start. It does need a lot more work though. I need to clear out the Snake Pit too (this is a little room under the steps to get into the house which has the water stopcock. If any of you remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it resembles the hidden passage that the leading lady finds in her room but hopefully without the booby trap skeletons). I do not want to clear out the Snake Pit even slightly. However, the neighbour has said that it needs to be done otherwise turning the water on and off will be even more traumatic than it already is.

I also painted the bathroom ceiling because it was all flaking off. After prodding the flaky bits, whole chunks of plaster came off too so I’ve had to do a bit of plastering there as well. As soon as I had finished painting, the paint started flaking again.  I think I have a special “anti-paint” ceiling.

And finally, I have constructed a garden masterpiece out of some old bricks, a sink and a Christmas tree.

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Just what every garden dreams of… The bricks are occasionally moved around the back garden because I don’t want to get rid of them in case we want to build something with them in the front garden. And the sink is impossible to move so I think it’ll be a permanent fixture!

Art

In other breaking news this week, I’ve made the heaviest object known to mankind. I found a round wooden table top downstairs in the cantina and have stuck a mirror onto it and used up most of my sea-glass as a mosaic around it. I think it looks quite good but I can’t take a picture of it that shows it at its best as I can’t actually move it from the floor so I’m going to leave that photo out until I can somehow get it hung. I think I’ll have to get a crane.

Property of the week – Church of the “Madonna di Loreto”

I walk past this church regularly on some of my favourite walks from Sarnano – it’s in a beautiful location and right next to a waterfall. Here’s a picture and some information, both taken from the Presitigious Building website which has more photos of a stunningly painted inside as well as other properties in the area.

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The church of the “Madonna di Loreto” was  constructed in the XV century by the “wool guild” constituted by craftsman of the textile, weaving texture and colouring cloth mill.

In 1619 the church was in part reconstructed and restored as it now appears, for the devotion of the Madonna, in relationship to the promenade from the south that where going on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the “Madonna di Loreto”, situated north and in the direction of Assisi in Umbria.

The building is constituted of a single central nave in a rectangular form of approx. 17.30 m x 7.30 metres and approx. 8.00 metres in height, orientated with its principal axis north – east,  south – west; the entrance is exposed south – west while on the opposite side is situated the sanctuary constructed in a heavy vaulted ceiling in spider – formation probably built in the XVI century.

On the side adjacent to the stream is positioned the priests residence home developed on a two – floor layout.
The church nave is covered with a barrel – shaped vault constructed of a cane and gypsum chamber supported to the wood truss – beam roof being the main constituted part of the supporting roof structure. The higher part of the walls and the vaulted ceilings are decorated of relative paintings of the Madonna di Loreto,  paintings that dates back to the XVII century and of valuable exquisite workmanship of its perspective.

In the centre of the vault is a configuration of the holy home of Nazareth of Loreto with the Madonna and the Angels, a glimpse partial view of the arcade open gallery is positioned in front of the “holy home”.

The paintings cover an area of approx. 175 sq.m. of  remarkable importance to emphasize the partitioning wall of which contains the altar painted an architectural structure in a canopy form with six red Verona marble pillars, giving a splendid perspective of the perfect elements of a remarkable architectural effect.

The entire building is constructed of masonry brick – work in red cotto externally left as it appears.

If you’re interested, please let me know!

Have good weekends all!

x

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Property of the week – Beautiful Castle in the Sibillini Mountains

Ciao a tutti,

I hope you’re all well! I am pleased to announce the addition of a new “Property of the week” section to the blog…

Funny story… I was talking to a friend of mine, Renzo, who helps people find houses locally. Every time we meet he gives me a run down of what seem to be absolute bargains around the area. We loosely discussed me putting some up on my blog as a way of reaching a different market so I sent the web address to my blog to give him an idea of my nonsense /quality output. Remember the photos of those beautiful ruins I put up on one of my last blog posts? It turns out they’re half his and I was trespassing! (Thinking back, I had wondered about the private property sign I had to step over to get to them)! Fortunately, Renzo will not be pressing charges ;-) However, we did think it would make an excellent first “Property of the Week”!

Aside from thinking a “Property of the Week” might be of general interest to people anyway, for anyone that is keen to “Escape the rat race” and buy a place in Italy like me then brilliant, but proceed with caution! It’s such a different experience to buying elsewhere (at least buying in the UK since that’s my only experience) that if you’re not prepared, it can take the edge off what should be a really exciting time (see my blog post from August last year when I bought my place). Renzo is English speaking so that already takes out one potential hurdle and as well as having a large selection of properties on his books, he’s got a team of good people and contacts from Notary’s to builders who can assist you with the whole buying process. And of course, I’ll be happy to assist where I can!

So, without further ado, I present you:

Il Castello di Roccacolonnalta – €429,000

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The castle is in the Comune of San Ginesio, Le Marche. At over 600 meters above sea level and set on the cusp of the Sibillini Mountains, it has beautiful views of the surrounding area. It’s absolutely unique with a wealth of fascinating history behind it. It was built in the 14th Century and is unusual because of it’s 12 towers. It has two floors which cover a total of 1600 sqm. It will need work, but is currently part owned by an architect who is keen to work with the new owners to see the castle meet it’s full potential.

Want to practice your Italian? Have a look at this website dedicated to the castle for more information, background and pictures.

If you’re interested in this property or finding anything else in the Sarnano / San Ginesio area, let me know in the comments and I’ll get in touch.

Buonasera :-)

x

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The Arrival of Spring, Easter Processions and Painting the Forth Bridge …

Ciao a tutti,

How is everyone? It’s been a lovely couple of weeks here. I’m pleased to say that Spring has finally arrived! Not only have the clocks sprung forward, I present you with other convincing evidence:

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Exhibit 1: Primrose or Primula in Italian

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Exhibit 2: Another spring flower but I don’t know what it is – any ideas? Very pretty though.

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Exhibit 3: Iced Coffee laced with Mistra the local aniseed spirit only to be enjoyed from the Spring onwards.

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Exhibit 4: The fridge magnet thermometer never lies… Hot hot hot :-)

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Exhibit 5: Klaus the Scorpion has made his first appearance. I think I’ve blocked off a potential scorpion entry way though so we’ll see how that goes.

As always in Spring, I struggle with clothing. Italians continue to wear coats, scarves, hats, gloves etc. regardless of the weather/temperature outside. They are quick to point out that if you’re not wearing any of these essential items of clothing, that you are likely to be immediately overcome with bronchitis. Oh the Italians and their oddities…  Anyway, the other day whilst out walking in brilliant sunshine and 28 degrees, I dared to take off my coat and jumper to the open-mouthed gawps of the occasional wrapped up passer-by. On a completely separate and unrelated note, I now seem to have something akin to bronchitis :-s

Walkies

I’ve been charged with looking after the neighbour’s dog whilst she’s at work. It’s quite a responsibility as the dog is an experienced escapologist, particularly at the moment whilst all the female dogs are on heat. Anyway, it’s been quite good because it means I’ve been on lots of walks and I also managed to re-find one of my favourite walks in the area.

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Could there by a more idyllic picnic spot? It’s right next to a treacherous looking footbridge so as long as you can make it across yourself, you can have your lunch and have hours of entertainment watching other people brave the crossing as well! Not that it’s a particularly busy picnic spot by any means.

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Beautiful scenery…

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….and friendly horses to feed.

San Benedetto

My neighbour also took me to see San Benedetto, a seaside town known for it’s prolific palm trees which make it look quite exotic and nothing like the other beach towns in the area.

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San Benedetto has a nice long shallow beach that goes on for miles…

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And cool fountains…

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And long straight sea front roads complete with flash cars and the occasional rollerblader.

Pasqua (Easter)

This week has been quite full on with the Easter festivities. I’m not religious at all and it’s been a long time since I was in a church to do anything other than look at the artwork so it was all quite fascinating to see. It’s going to be very easy for me to make a mistake in this section so apologies in advance for any incorrect terminology or information that’s wrong! On Thursday (“Giovedi Santo”) people honor Jesus by keeping him company (it’s the night of the Last Supper) until midnight. Almost all the churches are open all evening and my neighbour took me on a tour of what seemed like all of them.  The churches were all filled with flowers and grain (they seem to plant the grain in pots and then keep it in a dark humid place so that it’s clear and short…it must be representative of something but I’m not sure what!). In some churches there was a priest leading some kind of sermon and in others people were just sat in quiet contemplation. Others again, were doing a similar church tour to us so it was quite busy out and about.

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This is the church of Santa Maria in Sarnano.

On Friday, to acknowledge Jesus being crucified and finally dying at 3pm there was a procession in the evening starting from the main church in Sarnano and going around all the back streets before ending up in a church towards the bottom of the hill (Sarnano is a hill town). Again, it was really interesting to see (and to accidentally take part in!!!).

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This cross looked incredibly heavy! Some poor man had to carry it for a good half hour or so (in fact, I hope someone swapped with him part way down)

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There were a lot of men wearing brown all over, including hoods over their faces (with handy eye slits), and wearing no shoes and chains around their feet. The women were wearing black all over and didn’t even have the eye slits to help them work out where to go! My neighbour explained what these people represented but my Italian Religious Dialect knowledge let me down. Feel free to fill me in anyone that knows about these things…

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A statue of the dead Jesus was brought down during the procession.

On Easter Monday or “Pasquetta” as it’s known here (which means “Little Easter” as opposed to presumably the big Easter the day before), I saw some friends in Ancona and Jesi and learnt about some traditional Italian and Le Marche food. I can confirm that a Pizza Formaggio is not simply a pizza with cheese but a round loaf with cheese inside which they eat usually for breakfast – very nice! And I’m also thrilled to have discovered Colomba di Pasqua (Dove of Easter), a lovely light cake with chocolate goo in the middle in the shape of nothing at all like a dove. Combined with a wonderful Easter Care Package received through the post from one of my best friends and a rucksack full of chocolate from Pane Caldo following his flying Easter visit, I shall need to diet for the next two months.

So that about sums up my Easter… Pretty good really. An idea mix of culture and chocolate :-)

Theatre

Last time I wrote I was about to head to the theatre. I’m pleased to report that it was a good little amateur production of something similar to the Emperors’ New Clothes and thankfully it wasn’t in dialect so I understood a reasonable amount.. It was nice to see the theatre in Sarnano too – it was my first time there.

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DIY progress

DIY progress is progressing! I painted the kitchen and hung up some of my artwork around the house so it feels like it’s got a bit more personality now. I’ve been trying to finish off all the niggly bits of DIY that could easily end up being left. It does feel like painting the forth bridge though. In fact, one of my earlier DIY attempts needs another overhaul (note: do not use wood as beading around the bath tub – no matter how many layers of paint and varnish and sealant you use, it will always look rubbish).

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Kitchen progress…

Right, I think that about sums up my week. I’m hoping to introduce a new “Property of the Week” section of local houses shortly so look out for that. Have a good week all.

x

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Winter wonderland, attack dogs and cultural evenings…

Buongiorno!

How is everyone? It seems a while again since I’ve written so here’s a quick update.

I went back to the UK for a flying visit. Everytime I go back I never seem to be able to catch up with everyone I want to.  Anyway, before I get to UK stuff, let me tell you about my airport stresses! My weather app had been threatening snow the day before I was due to fly but I didn’t believe it. It had been far too sunny and lovely the proceeding days. And in fact, as I went to put the cat out at 3am (after he insisted that my neck was the only comfortable place to sleep in the entire house), there was no snow to be seen. Four hours later, there was a foot of snow which kept growing throughout the following day.

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Winter Wonderland… I cleared this road.

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And I cleared this road… and there’s another road….

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I did not have my coffee on the terrace that morning.

Now, apparently the snow clearing guys do clear the roads but the day came and went and there was no sign of them. My wonderful neighbour, phoned up everyone that she knew in the comune to get the snow clearers out the following morning so she could drive me to the airport. They did not come! In the end myself and my amazing neighbours cleared the snow from my house to the main road in a joint “get Sue to the airport” effort (hmm, that doesn’t sound like they like me but I think their intentions were good rather than wanting to get rid of me!). Just as we finished, the snow clearer came! Anyway, suffice to say I made it to the airport in the end.

The first couple of days of my visit were spent tirelessly teaching my parent’s new puppy to bite, bark and chase people. It was a slow and laborious job but someone had to do it. (I don’t think I’ll be invited back anytime soon).

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This is Molly the Attack Dog contemplating her next move.

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And this is Molly the Attack Dog in action. Who needs toes anyway?

Then I was in Leamington Spa (henceforth known as L’Spa) to check how Pane Caldo has been getting on in his new non-Italian habitat and how he’s coping with having to get up before 11am.  I’m going to have to review my stereotyped opinions of things north of London that aren’t the Lake District or Scotland. L’Spa is nice with lots of green spaces and shops. It has a large bowling green which makes me want to take up bowling. We popped up to Lincoln for the weekend and went to the beach too before heading to Warwick, a few minutes drive away from Leamington Spa.

 

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One of the many parks in L’Spa

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Erm, somewhere on the East Coast (I admit my geography is bad. However, did you know 85% of British people don’t know where Sheffield is?). Twas windy and cold but lovely!

 

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This is a pretty bit of Warwick. Warwick is an odd mix of absolutely beautiful, and brutally ugly.  I can’t remember what was surrounding it but it could very well have been a block of ugly unkempt flats.

Back in London my DIY mettle was tested when I had to re-hang a door and fit a bath panel in my flat there. I quite like DIY I’ve decided. It’s nice to feel a bit “handy” and all you need is a few YouTube videos and equipment. Having said that, I would not be remotely surprised if the door and bath panel have since fallen off. Luckily I have nice tenants that don’t like telling me if there’s problems. Result.

So now I’m back in Italy. The plan for the next couple of weeks is more DIY – painting the kitchen and finishing the beams (oh the beams).

I made a terrible mistake – I accepted the offer of “free wood” which was basically the remnants of a few small trees. I really like getting wood – it appeals to my hunter/gatherer instincts I think (less hunter, I’m a vegetarian). I even bought massive secateurs for the occasion and everything. However, after maybe 3 hours of chopping up branches, I now resemble Pop-Eye, only the bulging muscle is on my lower arm instead of my bicep.  And whereas Pop-Eye can lift trucks, I can’t even lift a pen without yelping. I ended up with just a wheelbarrow of wood. I could get a wheelbarrow of better and dryer wood without ruining my arm in about 10 minutes wandering up the road. Still, never look a gift horse in the mouth (Italians reading this – good luck trying to work out what that phrase means!).

I’ve been planting things too – the neighbour has given me a number of apparently difficult-to-kill plants so hopefully I can keep them alive. I’m attempting to grow peach and plum trees too – I don’t hold out a lot of hope!

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Yesterday my friend invited me to watch her perform some aria’s (opera songs to you and me) which was interesting. It’s not my kind of music but it was very impressive and I’m really proud of my friend, she was brilliant. After, we went to a restaurant here in Sarnano which I didn’t even know existed! So all in all, a good night.

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It was a good opportunity to see Castello della Rancia in Tolentino which is a bit of an unusual castle to be honest (it’s stuck in the middle of nowhere, not even on a hill)

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The castle is a museum and the upstairs was dedicated to theatre… this is a mask from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”. You’d have to pay me a lot of money to wear that. I think I’d have to boil my face after.

 

My bread making continues… This time burger baps…

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With a bean burger – burgers are one of those things I miss from the UK. Italy still has some work to do on their veggie burgers so I made an ok attempt at bean burgers. I can’t wait until it’s BBQ weather!

 

Today, I’m going to be experiencing comedy at the local theatre.  Now, I don’t wish to do myself down but I’m not going to understand a thing – I think it’s all in dialect! I’ll report back.

Meanwhile, I’m off to get ready.

Buonasera a tutti and have wonderful weeks!

x

 

 

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