Divine Comedy, Christmas festivities and slimey fruit…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? It’s been a busy week here. I’m trying out a new way of displaying photos on the blog. If you’re reading it from the WordPress internet site hover over the pictures to read the captions. However if you receive it by email, I’ve no idea what it will look like! Let me know if it works ok ūüôā

Here’s a quick update…

Sightseeing!

These last couple of weeks we’ve been to some¬†new places which have¬†been really lovely. I had forgotten how much I like exploring new areas.

A couple of weekends ago, we had an interesting coach trip¬†to Gradara and Candelara with¬†about 40 or so of our¬†immediate neighbours. It was good to meet them all, though I don’t think I could tell you anyone’s name. Although if you call everyone Giuseppe you have about a 70% chance of getting¬†it right!

Gradara is really interesting. It’s a beautiful castle that I’ve been meaning to visit for ages having driven past it several times. It’s a few miles north of Ancona. We had a guide to show us around. She spent ages and ages talking about headaches in a very confusing fashion, almost giving them a personality if you will. Or at least, I thought that’s what she was talking about¬†until I finally established that “mal di testa” (headache) is not the same as¬†“malatesta” (a surname). It turns out Gradara was owned for a period¬†of time by the very influential Malatesta family and not reigned by headaches.

The castle has an interesting story attached – it tells the¬†true love story between Paolo Malatesta and the wife (Francesca) of his¬†brother (Gianciotto). The story is¬†immortalized in¬†Dante’s `Divine Comedy`. Basically Francesca is tricked into marrying the unattractive, limping, hunch-backed¬†Gianciotto because he sends his handsome brother Paolo to propose on his behalf, pretending that he’s him. She seems to genuinely marry Paolo but he signs the wedding certificate in his brother’s name. That night, back at the castle, the curtains around the bed were pulled, all was dark, Gianciotto enters and er, job’s a good’un. Francesca, on discovery that she’s married a man¬†with a face like a bag of spanners and the morals to match (though at least she married a clever man, if not a looker), decides to starve herself to death.¬†Francesca, who seems to have been a very forgiving sort, didn’t seem to hold a grudge against Paolo who she immediately commenced an affair with. Gianciotto finds out, tries to kill his brother but¬†Francesca steps in the way. She’s stabbed and killed and then Gianciotto kills his brother, Paolo. ¬†I think that sums it up – no need now to worry about having to read the Divine Comedy ūüėČ

Candelara is a beautiful hill top town. The coach trip also included this too as at this time every year they have a festival where all the lights are turned off and it’s lit only by candlelight. During this, they had a `pyrotechnic display` which featured 10 regular sized balloons with lights in. ¬†There was also a big¬†market and an exhibition of precepe (nativity scenes).

Ferrara

Last weekend, we went to Ferrara with some friends and had a fab time. We stayed the night before in Jesi at a friend’s house and went out for a nice meal in the centre of Jesi. It reminds me a bit of London. Whereas on a Saturday night in Sarnano, absolutely nobody is in town, on a Saturday night in Jesi, everyone seems to be in town! It was standing room only in all the bars. We headed to Ferrara the next day. Depending on which¬†website you visit or who you speak to, Ferrara is either a great place to go to or quite dull. In my opinion it’s the former. Quaint with lots of little pretty alleys, it’s got a stunning cathedral and it’s just a nice place to have a wander around. When we were there it had a Christmas market and with all the festive lights, it really did look pretty.

Sarnano

It’s not really sightseeing because it’s only 5 minutes away, but I just wanted to say how impressed I am with our little village. It’s got a good sized ice-rink. I went during the day and before the Italian’s turn their Christmas lights on ¬†(here it’s about the 8th December I think) so I’ll go back again this week and take some photo’s for the blog. I might even attempt to skate.

As an aside, I don’t know whether this is just in my area or not but today is bonfire day here. You light a fire so that the angels carrying the Virgin Mary’s house to Loreto can find their way there (no Sat Nav I suppose) and warm themselves up a bit. How sweet!

Christmas Decorations

Keeping on the Christmas theme, we bought a Christmas tree from a florist in town. It’s my first “real” tree too. I don’t usually approve of that but this one is in a pot so we can bring it in year after year assuming we don’t kill it. I hope it doesn’t grow too big. Anyway, it’s feeling quite Christmassy in the house, despite the terrible handmade tree decorations involving paper, oranges and fir-cones. I did a little better with the wreaths which I’ve been giving away as presents (I gave one to my¬†Jehovas Witness neighbour this morning. She wasn’t in so I left it by her door. When I returned, Pane Caldo informed me that they don’t celebrate Christmas so I raced back to retrieve it. Her mother is generally on guard at the window and I have a horrible feeling saw the whole sorry business).

Paying bills

Bill paying in Italy is a mystery. You never¬†pay the company that you need to pay directly. I made that mistake when I phoned up the water company once asking if I could pay my bill. They said, yes, of course. I asked if they would take credit card. They said they weren’t sure. I was a bit stumped and asked if I should give them the long number on the front of the card. There was silence and then they finally understood…. I can’t pay THEM, you know, the people I owe.¬†It turns out, in Italy, you pay your bills at either the bank, at the Tabaccheria (basically a little corner shop selling cigarettes and newspapers sometimes – oh and matches, you can only get matches at a Tabaccheria rather oddly) or the post office. I still don’t know what you pay where. I generally do a circuit of all three until I find the correct one. It vaguely makes sense to outsource your bill payment I suppose, but it seems strange nonetheless!

Food

This week has been curious on the food front. The next door neighbour has a lot of cachi at the moment. Cacchi are orange apple-sized fruit that mature about now. As a short Italian lesson: cacchi is the plural, caco is the singular version of the noun. All italian nouns are split into feminine or masculine¬†and they end in a different letter accordingly (very simply ‘o’ for masculine, ‘a’ for feminine usually). In most cases it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember whether your inanimate object is¬†masculine and feminine – people get what you’re trying to say. But, you must never, ever, say “caca” when you intend “caco”. The word “Cacca” means another thing entirely and something you certainly shouldn’t eat. It’s the same with all kinds of fruit – if you mix up your feminine and masculines when it comes to¬†fruit it can be very embarrassing. Anyway, apparently you should eat your caco on bread and I must say, it’s very nice. It has a consistency of jam without the hassle of having to make the jam.

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Caco on bread…

 

There’s Nespole which is another fruit (Japanese Plum for us maybe?).¬†This one is a small orange one which you eat when it’s brown. My neighbour is insistent about you eating things immediately¬†so when she presented a brown squidgy slime that looked positively gone off and then encouraged me to eat it, I didn’t quite know how to cope with the situation. However, it wasn’t too bad. Weird with lots of sort of big random pips in, but not bad. I’ve got lots to eat now. I’ll have to make something with them.

On taking this photo several flies flew off when I moved them. I think they might actually be mouldy. I think that's just how you eat them, like blue cheese.

On taking this photo several flies flew off when I moved them. I think they might actually be mouldy. I think that’s just how you eat them, like blue cheese.

Carrying on the food vain, I made focaccia the other day but it turned out flat and heavy, not light and fluffy like it’s supposed to. I consulted my neighbour who said I should buy some dough from the bakery. The dough is decades old, from the bakers mum. I don’t think she’s ever bought yeast because it’s a living organism and so it just grows. When you make your bread, you leave a bit of the dough to one side, add more flour etc. to it and then it grows more yeast.¬†I do not know how to make bread using this strategy! I have a bread recipe book and at no point does it say to get a bit of someone’s dough and do ‘x’ to it. You just don’t seem to be able to buy yeast in packets here like in the UK.¬†I kind of like this method, it’s quaint. So tomorrow, I will go to the¬†bakers and ask for their dough (ha!).

Writing

I’ve almost finished my book! I just need to write another 3000 words or so to make it up to 70000 but I’m stuck on the ending! It’s absolute trash but I’m quite proud of having got this far. ¬†I usually give up after the first chapter. Anyway, please send happy writing vibes, I’m determined to finish before I leave for the UK next week. but these last few words are a struggle!

Animal watch

The animal watch spot has been quiet, I know. We haven’t seen many really but here’s one I took this evening of the resident animal.

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I thought cats sort of curl up to sleep but no, Batfink sleeps like he’s had too many beers.

 

Right, that’s it for now. Have lovely rest of weeks!

xxx

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8 thoughts on “Divine Comedy, Christmas festivities and slimey fruit…

  1. 1 Mrs Sensible loves cacchi, to be honest I cant see the appeal in a fruit that looks soft and mouldy before you even get it off the tree.
    2 I keep trying to read Divine Comedy but I end up falling asleep, after reading the plot on your blog I will give it another go
    3 I love your blog.
    Merry Christmas
    Pn and Mrs S

  2. Aw, thanks Pecora! I always look forward to reading your blog too! Let me know how you get on with the Divine Comedy – if it’s any good perhaps I’ll do more than just read the summary! Buon natale a voi ūüôā

  3. Peter G

    I’ve always fancied reading Divine Comedy after it was referenced in Se7en, I may get around to it one day, so thanks for the reminder.

    • Well let me know how you get on if you do… I sort of fancy the idea of reading it but I get a bit daunted at the prospect of literary classics! ūüôā

  4. Your blog made me laugh as usual – thanks for the humour. We pay our water and electricity bills by direct debit with Banca Marche, as well as our F24 – local taxes, and our insurance. We have been banking at our local branch for years and they know me and e-mail me if there is not enough in our account to pay the forthcoming bill.

    • Thank you! ūüôā Yes, I think I’ll set up a direct debit payment too – seems less stressful! I was just trying to gauge first how much we were using before committing to direct debit. Out of interest – are you on on a 3kw or a 5kw electricity link? I think we’ll have to up our electricity allowance but seems like it’ll cost a fortune. But as it is, I can’t have the hob and the cooker going at the same time! The local branch thing is the nice thing about Italy – I have internet banking in the UK, I know my (now-not-so-local) bank manager though in Italy and it’s quite nice! Though I’m on the look out for a bank which doesn’t charge me 6 euros a month for the privilege of having an account with them! Anyway thanks for the comment, much appreciated as always x

      • We are on 5k and still can’t have all four hotplates on the hob on at the same time! And if we were there all year round it would be ridiculously expensive, but 3k just wasn’t enough. As for Italian bank charges … well, I don’t want to get into an expat moan.

  5. Hi there! Ah interesting – I had hoped 5kw would cover it! Not that I ever use them all at the same time, but like, two at the same time would at least be nice ūüôā Glad everyone gets the bank charges – I feel better about that, I thought I was being ripped off to start with! x

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