Posts Tagged With: Agriturismo

Part 2: Exploring the local area: Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna

Buongiorno a tutti,

As promised, here’s the second part of my latest Bellaria Igea Marina Blog Tour Trilogy. (When it’s made into a film I imagine it will be split into 4 films and I will be played by Angelina Jolie). If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, have a look here.

Santarcangelo di Romagna

Our first out-of-Bellaria Igea Marina visit was to Santarcangelo di Romagna, just a few minutes drive from the hotel. It’s a very pretty town. In fact, they had only just had their “Balconi Fioriti” festa (Balconies in Flower) and all the balconies and houses had blossoms of all shapes and sizes outside. The cobbled streets reminded me of old villages back in the UK.

One balcony did make me laugh though…

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This would be like my attempt at producing a balcony flower display. I did find it strangely pretty though and definitely eye-catching from my perspective at least! I am slightly concerned for the owner’s welfare though. I hope it’s just a case of being a terrible gardener.

Our tour guide showed us around the town, taking us past the Tonino Guerra Museum. Tonino Guerra was a well-known writer, poet and screenwriter born in 1920 and died only recently in 2012. His work often featured butterflies as when he was held prisoner during the war, out of hunger he was forced to eat them. Afterwards they held a special significance to him, realising he no longer had to eat them made him happy.

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A mosaic fountain outside the Tonino Guerra museum. See the butterflies?

Just before the Tonino Guerra museum is the Button Museum. Yes, that’s right, buttons! There’s over 8500 of them in there! Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit.

In the main piazza, Piazza Ganganelli, there’s an archway called ‘l’Arco Trionfale’ or also ‘L’Arco Ganganelli‘. Legend has it that if you walk under the archway, the horns on the arch will move if someone has cheated on you. Ha!

Santarcangelo also has a sprawling man made cave network underneath it. The caves have been used for multiple purposes over the years. Nowadays many have been sectioned into private areas enabling the inhabitants living above to have more space: a sort of underground extension. They were also used as a bomb shelter during the war but their more long standing use seems to have been as a wine storage area as the temperature stays a pretty consistent 12 or 13 degrees. There are some curious parts in the cave system – for example, you’ll see in one of the photos below that some niches have been carved out of the rock. Experts have debated the purpose of the niched room – I think my favourite was a sort of meeting room where each person has their own niche (the explanation was more elaborate than that but that’s the gist!). Back when I used to have a proper job, I’d have enjoyed meetings a lot more if I could have had my own niche.


Cantina Tour

After Santarcangelo, we went to visit Collina Dei Poeti, an agriturismo (sort of B&B set in an agricultural setting of some sort) and cantina (wine producer in this instance!) set in some lovely countryside that produces Sangiovese wine, a wine typical of the Emilia-Romagna region. We were given a tour of the estate,  showed the vineyards, olive groves and a couple of rows of Gelso trees (you might remember from the last post that they produce a sort of blackberry). After the tour, we had an opportunity to taste the wine. Now, this is where it’s very noticeable going on a wine tour with Italians. I’m generalising here of course but, Italians are just awful drinkers despite their passion for wine. For example, the guide opened up a bottle of their fizzy Sangiovese wine – shared between 9 of us, the bottle remained half full and  people were questioning their ability to cope with a second, let alone a third glass. IMAGINE! Still, it was good wine and it was complimented with some of their own olive oil doused bread and some other aperitivo style treats. All in all, it was a lovely finish the day, even if I did feel like a raving alcoholic by the end of it!


Our final trip was to Rimini. I’ve been to Rimini before and liked it a lot. This time though, we had a tour guide that gave us some insights. Rimini was heavily bombed during the war and many buildings needed to be reconstructed. In fact, some were never rebuilt and remain as ruins as reminders of what happened.

I hadn’t noticed the graffiti in Rimini last time I was there but it really is very good – in fact, calling it graffiti seems to be a bit disrespectful! Have a look at the photos below. I love the old lady in the smoke and if you click on the image of what seems to be an old stone relic next to the water, you might be able to see that it’s just painted like that and it’s not made of antique stone!

Rimini has some fascinating roman relics. In Piazza Ferrari lie the uncovered remains of “The Surgeon’s House“. They know a surgeon lived there because of the tools uncovered that are remarkably similar to the ones still used in the operating theatre today. Mosaics cover the floor. They dug down a couple of meters to discover these relics. It’s amazing to think that under Rimini there could be a lot more. It also struck me how similar it was to our own roman ruins – in fact, I remember visiting a very similar example in Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex years ago. The thought that at one point, our nations were so similar and inhabited by the same people, but are now so entirely different is quite mind boggling I think! I live so much in the present that it’s a struggle to imagine this surgeon going about his business in the 2nd century AD. They even know which room he used to meet clients in.

We also explored the “Tempio Malatestiano” which was commissioned by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta around 1450.  The Malatesta Family (known as the House of Malatesta were an Italian family that ruled over Rimini from 1295 until 1500, as well as (in different periods) other lands and towns in Romagna. Sigismondo (what a great name) became Lord of Rimini at the age of 15 and the family has quite the story of deceit and  corruption (like all politicians then!!). The Tempio Malatestiano was originally known as San Francesco, a gothic church but Sigismondo decided it would make a nice personal mausoleum for him, his lover and later his wife. So he organised a sort of extreme makeover style regeneration and the external walls were covered by thick marble carved with Malatestian symbology. It certainly is a very grand church. You can see in the photo below the external marble arches that were built to cover the original stone windows. There’s some very elaborate stonework inside too. I was struck by a creepy looking cherub, photo evidence below. I can’t ever work out if they’re forces for good or evil! And finally, I took a picture of the inside of the church and I was surprised to see the rather ghostly looking white figure in it. I’m sure she wasn’t there when I took the picture… !

Walking around Rimini, our excellent tour guide gave us a very detailed and interesting account of the buildings and history of the city.   The lady with the bike in the photo below is riding through what used to be a fish market. The religious looking chap in the statue below is in Piazza Cavour and is of San Gaudenzo, the patron saint of the city… or is it? No, apparently it’s actually Pope Paul V but the dedication was changed when the anti-papal Napoleonic troops invaded with the hope they wouldn’t destroy (it worked). The arch there has been in the wars, literally. The top part needed to be reconstructed after the bombing and it looks a bit worse for wear these days. There used to be a bronze statue on top which has never been seen or heard of since it’s disappearance (I’m not entirely sure how they know there was one – there’s nothing in the books and no photographic evidence! Perhaps my house used to have a bronze statue on too). The bridge, has seen it’s fair share of history as well, once spanning across a river which has now been diverted. All in all, far from what many people regard as just a seaside resort, there’s actually a lot of history within Rimini’s town center and it’s well worth a visit.

I think that largely sums up the visits… Please tune in for Part 3: Fried Sage at the San Salvador Hotel.




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Nightmare Journey from Hell, Interviews and Fashion…


This week without school has been reasonably productive and saw me actually sorting my CV out and sending it off to some English teaching schools – within a few hours I got a call from one of them in Jesi to say that they wanted me to come in for an interview. I had the interview on Friday.

The interview went well-ish. Getting there did not! The interview was at 2.30pm in Jesi. Jesi is half an hour away in the car. However, I think the Italians would agree with me that the public transport system here isn’t amazing. So I left at 9.30am giving me oodles of contingency time for late connections etc. And interviews are a bit stressful in themselves so I wanted to ensure I arrived in good time in a relaxed and calm fashion. I also thought I’d splash out on buying some replacement shoes for the interview (I don’t want to take the Rain Shoes out anymore, it’s not fair on other people). So that’s what I wanted to happen – this is what actually happened (for clarity I have highlighted levels of annoyance on a scale of “irritating” to “Basil Fawlty”):

1: The first bus was late (Annoyance Factor: Irritating. But to be honest, my expectations had already been set – the bus has never been on time and this is exactly what the contingency time was for).

2: The published timetable for the next bus I needed to catch from Ancona was wrong. The buses did not run every half an hour as stated but at a random frequency which was on average every one and a half hours with an exceptionally long gap in the morning that I had not accounted for. The published timetable didn’t indicate what bus I needed to take either – or from where – but see Item 3 below. (Annoyance Factor: Annoying).

3: The published bus routes were wrong. Having lived in London for a good portion of my life, I feel confident in telling you that I’ve nailed buses. I pulled upon this extensive knowledge and read the bus stop sign / misleading trap (see “Exhibit A” below) with a list of destinations and thought, ah “This bus ‘I’ is going from here to Jesi”. I was pleased. It’s unusual here that there’d be a sign clearly denoting the buses and where they go. When the bus eventually came, decades later, the bus driver informed me that his bus ‘I’ does not actually go to/anywhere near Jesi. Why? I don’t know, the kind and informative bus driver offered no explanation (Annoyance Factor: Really Really Very Annoying).


Exhibit A: I know it’s fuzzy. Squint a bit and pretend it’s one of those magic eye pictures – Bus “I” goes from Ancona to Jesi. This was taken from the bus stop where bus “I” was due and to give them credit, eventually did, arrive at.

4: Even the bus stop itself which said that the buses from there went to Jesi was a trap. It emerges, only through speaking to multiple other people / victims, that I should have waited at The Secret Bus Stop further down the road that had no sign or timetable or indeed little indication that it was actually a bus stop. Why would the bus company go to such extravagant lengths to lure people into waiting HOURS in the wrong place for the wrong bus?! WHY?!?!?!?!?!  Well I’ll tell you why (see Item 5 below. Annoyance Factor: Livid making).

5: Ancona Train Station is large – there are a lot of bus stops, particularly when Secret Bus Stops are taken into account. It really does warrant someone from the bus company being there for information, even if it was to support their Mission Statement which must start with “We are committed to ruining people’s lives…”. What a lost opportunity! They could have been at the station in person to direct innocent people to imaginary bus stops and tell them to wait for imaginary buses all day! (Annoying Factor: Ugh, Annoying).

6: And another thing…Whether it was because I’d be waiting at the wrong bus stop, waiting for the wrong bus or because the timetable was wrong, I don’t know, but I stood waiting for almost 2 hours in searing heat with no shade and no seats. I believe the Mission Statement continues with “…and by the end of Summer 2013, we hope to have played a key part in reducing the world’s overpopulation crisis by indirectly causing the deaths of thousands that attempt to use our buses through severe exhaustion, heat stroke and complications from fat, bloated ankles”. (Annoyance Factor: Too Exhausted and Depressed To Even Be Annoyed Anymore).

7: I bought a bus ticket like a good citizen from the Tabaccheria who gave me a ticket costing 1,80 Euro to get to Jesi and all the way back to Camerano. I double checked because it seemed wrong. I’ve been using a 1,80 Euro ticket to go only one way for a lot less distance. But she assured me that it was correct and she is after all an Italian who sells these for a living so I went with it and cursed myself that I’d not been making full use of my 1,80 Euro tickets before. When I managed to catch the Secret Bus from the Secret Bus Stop, for the first time ever there was a bus conductor checking tickets. He told me that the ticket wouldn’t even get me to Jesi, let alone to Jesi and back to Camerano. So, I ended up paying 3,80 Euro (erm, for the English folk getting annoyed at my poor grammar right now: the Italians don’t use ‘s’ for their plurals. I’ve taken this on board whole heartedly as it means I don’t have to remember where to put apostrophes/apostrophe’s ;-)). I had every intention of writing a separate page for the blog entitled “Using the Buses in Italy – a useful guide”. I’ve photos of tickets and ticket stamping machines and Tabaccheria signs etc. all ready to go. But no, in actual fact I’m going to ditch all that and replace it with some text: NEVER GET THE BUS HERE. (Annoyance Level: Definitely Annoying)

8: That was the end of the public transport saga. Is anyone still reading?! Onto sat nav… 🙂  When I got to Jesi eventually, believe it or not, I still had plenty of time to find where the interview was. That was until my sat nav on the phone decided to stop working. But not in the sense that it wouldn’t turn on. No, I mean in the sense of creating a destination road miles away which never materialised (hmm, perhaps the sat nav app was created by Ancona’s bus company?). I checked numerous times that I’d entered the correct details and not “end of the rainbow” / “horizon”. I almost walked back out of Jesi before giving up and checking on Google Maps. And let me tell you, Google, who make it their business to know everything about everyone and every place in every location that there ever was, had no record of this road that the school was on (even though it did the day before!). Its destination pointer kept pointing to another random road miles away in the opposite direction. Devoid of hope, tired, hot, sweaty, with aching feet, I headed there. And success! After an hour or two walking the streets of Jesi I arrived! (Annoyance Levels: Livid, offset marginally by sheer joy of finding the place after so long).

9: Looking around me when I got outside, I spotted some familiar buildings. I estimate the school where the interview was, was about 20 meters away from where the bus originally dropped me off. (Annoyance Level: See Basil Fawlty at the end of Waldorf Salad episode).

Anyway, I dug deep, visited my happy place and instructed myself to be cool, calm and collected for the interview which went well. The interviewer was a woman that had moved out to Italy a few years ago and loved it. Very nice and friendly. My cool, calm, collectedness lasted for a minute or two until she asked me if I’d got there ok! It’s probably an interview faux pas to launch into how impossible it is to anywhere to the office where you’d be working but regardless, she said that I had the right communication skills and personality to work there. Aw. My lack of experience wasn’t an issue. However, they’re a good school and have standards (standard schmandards…) and if I wanted the job, I’d have to commit to doing a CELTA course (despite my other TEFL qualification) which would cost about £1k, take a month of intensive study to do in somewhere that’s nowhere near here. And they only employ people with cars or that live close by (Yup. I would readily gauge my own eyes out with a rusty spoon before doing that journey again).

I knew pay was less here, that unemployment is a massive issue and that teaching jobs aren’t well paid in general but the salary is terrible! I wouldn’t have thought it possible to survive on such a low income here. I’ve checked and what they’re offering is pretty average. The cost of living here compared to the UK is pretty similar to be honest but the salaries are at least 2 or 3 times less for the equivalent job in the UK. Anyway, I’ll think about it. It was left that “we’d keep in touch”. To be honest, I was looking for something on a more part-time / when I want to do it basis. I don’t really like working.

My quest for an inscrizione dei cittadini stranieri (step towards residency goes on) – I’ve finally got a letter from the school to say that I’m a student there. I’ll attempt to go in to the Comune… (I should check how you’re pronouncing Comune – it’s “koh-moon-ay”, not “com-yoon”. It’s not a communist working camp. Ha! “Work”! Imagine! Yeah, it’s definitely not one of those)… on Monday to see if I can get the ball rolling again. I heard a rumour from someone yesterday that I didn’t actually need to be here 3 months to get a car so I’m going to start looking into that next week too. Does anyone have any opinion on what car I should get? I want to pay the least possible for a second hand one that is reliable, that uses diesel (it’s cheaper here) and that’s cheap to insure and tax. Answers on a postcard (or at end of blog!).

I’m still looking for an apartment too – I saw the neighbour’s apartment last Sunday which he’s going to be renting out in September. It’s just opposite the road from here with two bedrooms but a really small kitchen, with no outside space and newly decorated in Diarrhea Brown (a curiously popular shade here in houses).  I finally caught one of the estate agents whilst the office was open (it’s been shut continually for what seems to be the entire time I’ve been here). Despite hearing rumours that it was indeed a working office, I thought it must have closed down. But no, no…  Anyway, he was a lovely man, said how good my Italian was for the time I’ve been here (my definition of “lovely”: someone that compliments my Italian. Which is interestingly the same definition I have for “barefaced liar” 😉 ). There are apparently 3 potential apartments close by – all unfurnished though. I’m hoping to have a look at some of them soon – he said he’s going to call me. He hasn’t yet. I suppose that’s one of the inevitable hall marks of being a lovely, barefaced liar.


Diarrhea Brown

I have three new housemates – a woman from Austria, another from Russia and her friend (male) from Italy. They’re all are very friendly. I think we’ll get on. I went out with the Austrian to a couple of the local bars when she arrived on Friday and had a lot of fun. We spoke in Italian the whole time so that was good – it’s great to have someone to speak Italian to at home at a sort of conversational level. Almost two months in, I remain constantly surprised that other people can understand what I’m saying: in the same way Euros seem like monopoly money to me, other languages seem like a childhood secret code (albeit a frustratingly difficult and grammatically challenging one). I had to move bedrooms – my old bigger one had been booked out by one of the others but I’m happy with the smaller one – it’s much cooler.


The new bedroom… There’s another window on the wall where the wardrobe is so I get a draught which is really nice. I was almost comfortable last night as opposed to sweltering.

What else? I went to an Agriturismo opening party yesterday – free food and drink! For people that haven’t heard of them, Agriturismo’s are usually B&B affairs set in countryside and often with some kind of working element to it whether it’s a vineyard, olive grove or something more ‘farm like’. This place was a renovated farm house I think (it had handy hooks for your dead pigs in one of the downstairs bedrooms…. I have to keep mine in the wardrobe) which was split into 3 lovely apartments. Friends / family: rather than stay with me for free, I recommend you pay for yourselves (and me) to stay in this agriturismo. It’s lovely. And there’s not even a hint of Diarrhea Brown.


The Agriturismo – It was a unique marketing event. I don’t know what it’s called. Or really where it is. Or what it costs. There’s no website, brochures of any kind or discernible ability to book…Yet, it was really nicely done and had a beautiful swimming pool. I like it a lot. People should definitely go there. If they can find it. I jest, I think I could probably find out if people actually were.

I missed out last week’s “What’s a bit odd” (well noticed Pete) so was going to make up for it now with two (infinite stock to chose from) but there’s a *chance* I may have ranted earlier rather than use the blog to provide a semi-useful Italian moving guide as was the intention. I apologise but it’s been therapeutic and might reduce the need for counselling at a later date. So I’ll keep it at one: Dress Sense. The Italians are known for good dress sense eh? They’ve got Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana… But here, back in real life, people’s dress sense only falls into two categories: 1) Bog Standard (I like to consider myself in this group) and 2) Dire. I’ve seen men wearing lime green or pink chinos with little girl vest tops and shiny long pointy shoes… I’ve seen women wearing skin-tight (tighter even) fluorescent numbers with colour coordinated giant earrings and impossibly high shoes that could probably be classified as stilts… Well, there are many examples and I can only apologise that to date, I’ve been too slow to get my camera out. And I say “dire” in the kindest possible sense. I know everywhere has a few er, uniquely dressed people. I think it’s fabulous that people explore their personalities through fashion and it must take an admirable amount of courage to leave their houses like they do wearing what they’re wearing. So this week’s “what’s a bit odd” is only to say that the ratio of Dire to Bog Standard is definitely higher here on the Dire side than elsewhere I’ve been. Along with beautiful countryside, historic and magnificent cities, quaintly picturesque towns, spectacular coastline and amazing food; dress sense is just another reason I like Italy so much. It makes me smile.

Other news – I’ve bought a snorkel! I’m stupidly excited about it. I’ve been writing this in the kitchen patiently waiting for passing-by housemates, hoping to recruit a Bag Guard for on the beach so that I can snorkel without the fear of becoming destitute if someone steals it. Alas, it’s mysteriously quiet. I might have a go in the bath.

Okeydoke, the bath / beaches await…

Hope you’re all good.


P.S. Here’s a photo from the “event” the piazza I mentioned I might go to last week.


Sponsored “stay at home” event?

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