Posts Tagged With: cycling

Painting attempts, Lost Temples and Cat Sagas

Buongiorno a tutti!

Well it’s been another busy week or so. On my way back from the blog tour a couple of weeks ago, I finally stopped at a few places that have been on my list to see for ages. Firstly there was….

Urbania

I’ve heard good things about Urbania. It’s near Urbino, in north  Le Marche, which is a beautiful town well worth a visit. Urbania is less quaint than Urbino. Still, I was glad I had the opportunity to go there and have a wander around. Here are some photos…

Gola di Furlo

Now, you’re probably reading this and pronouncing Furlo like, well, an English person would pronounce it. You’re wrong. There is no way of pronouncing this word that an Italian person will understand. You actually have to spell it out (and even that’s traumatic because I must have told you before how the Italian’s spell? They just say the word very slowly and consider that spelt! It clears up absolutely nothing.) Anyway, the Gola di Fuuuuurloooo, is a beautiful gorge between the mountains where a river runs through. It’s difficult to get a good photo – the gorge also has a road but that’s closed to cars so you need to either walk or cycle through. However the road is lined with trees making it impossible to get a good view of the river. In the end I had to jump over a fence to take a picture and even then it didn’t do it justice!

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Tempio del Valadier

The next stop was Tempio del Valadier in Genga, built in 1826. I’ve been seeing photo’s on the various tourism websites for this temple for ages and was curious to see it in real life. It was just as impressive as it seemed from the photos and I’m just awed that we have it in Le Marche. In fact, Le Marche really is in my opinion one of the best regions in Italy (the world?!?!?!) – it has such a mix of different things to see in terms of the landscape, towns and history. Really I don’t think you could ask for anything more!

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It looks like a model here but I assure you it’s not! It’s absolutely massive.

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Here it is from the other side.

But, beware the snakes…

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Genga

Then I popped over to the town of Genga. Genga is a pretty little hilltop town but seemed quite deserted when I was there. They do have a museum which looked like it might be quite interesting, talking about the history of the local area but I didn’t have time to go in. The buildings are interesting – they seem to be half carved out of rock strata. It’s very pretty. There was also a room open in what seemed like an old church that had a very impressive picture made of various seeds and grains. It seemed so much like a painting that I had to touch it to check  – I thought the seeds must be glued down. They weren’t. I made a big hole which I hastily tried to cover up.  If any of the artists are reading this – sorry guys!

The weather this year has been generally rubbish on the whole – we have a couple of days of glorious sunshine and then it’s followed by thunderstorms. I took this rather daunting looking picture on the way back from Genga. I did manage to miss the rain though so was pleased about that!

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Walking Group!

I had my third trip out with the CAI (Clup Alpino Italiano) walking group of Sarnano. We were supposed to be going to Monte Bove (still in the Sibillini’s but more central than where I live). It would have been an impressive walk but we had to cancel that because of the storm due that afternoon. Instead, we went out locally, walking from a part of Sarnano called Bisio and then up to a refuge called Citta di Amandola and then on a bit further to the lookout point over Santuario dell’Ambro, a church set in one of the valleys. Our little offshoot of CAI isn’t very well supported (a lot of areas have their own CAI that appear to have more active members). In fact this week, there were only 4 of us. The group don’t appear to have embraced technology to publicise the walks, so I might look into that on their behalf! The Club President is one of the more interesting characters I’ve met here – a sort of hairy naked dude that eats all the plants as he’s walking along but he’s a lovely guy and knows every single path in the area. One of our group was wearing head to toe expensive specialist walking gear…whereas the President was (periodically) wearing a holey vest and shorts and the sort of shoes used for protecting your feet when you’re doing DIY.

I was a bit taken aback hearing a story of some poor paraglider that made a simple mistake and ended up killing himself on that rock face in the pictures below (right hand side). Poor man, I think that was years ago but as an ex-paraglider pilot myself it put the wind up me a bit!

Cycling

On Saturday I decided I would try and make it up to Sassotetto on my bike. Sassotetto is one of my nearest mountains. I packed a sandwich and lots of water and set off at about early morning. Wanting to do a circular route, I went via San Liberato first, a beautiful monastery set in the woods about half way up the mountain. I mistakenly thought that it might be the easiest route. In fact, it was exhausting. I had to get out and push on a number of occasions. The road was empty other than every time I got off my bike, within seconds you could guarantee a troupe of cyclists would come along (all sporty looking men in sporty looking outfits – in fact, there are simply no cyclists that wear normal get fit stuff here, they all seem to have proper racing gear like they’re all doing the Tour de France – they take their cycling very seriously! I don’t think they were particularly impressed by me with my general keep fit gear, a big backpack and a cheap bike!). Anyway, 6 hours and 40 kilometers later and with legs that refused to work anymore, I was back home again. Guess how quickly one of my CAI walking companions does that same route? An hour and a half. I don’t think I shall ever ‘cut the mustard’ as a cyclist!

Cat update

It’s just been an awful year for our little community of cats. A few posts back I mentioned how one of them was at the vets apparently suffering from the same slug pellet poisoning as before. Unfortunately he didn’t make it which was terribly sad. He was less than a year old and had a lovely character, always wanting a chat, albeit the conversation was a bit ‘samey’ after a while: “Meow?” “Meow”, “Meow!”, “Meow?”. Then last week, the lovely Pellosina died. Pellosina was just the sweetest little cat and was about 4 years old. She was really quite shy and didn’t like to be stroked but had such a gentle character and she was a fabulous climber – always high up on some post or other. She had three kittens a couple of months ago and though she didn’t like to be stroked, she was so content with motherhood that if you approached her with her kittens she would roll over onto her back with the kittens still suckling as if to say “look at my little family” and she’d let you stroke her and the kittens. She was the girlfriend of Neve the Evil Cat (he’s constantly attacking my cat Batfink) and it was him that led us, Lassie style, to Pellosina when she was convulsing behind a shed. Slug pellet poisoning is absolutely awful; it’s an agonising way to go and poor little Pellosina died in my arms outside the vets office. That’s 3 cats that have died now and it feels like I’m on a countdown until Batfink is struck down again (he’s already survived one bout). So, I would like to urge everyone – please don’t put slug pellets down. Have a look here for alternatives. Here’s my little photographic tribute to them 😦

And Sole, one of the survivors from the last batch of kittens has an awfully sore nose from something or other. Here he is having a cuddle from Batfink. It’s never a dull moment with the cats at the moment unfortunately!!!!!!

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Poor little nose!

Lion King!

On a less depressing note, Sarnano had a theatrical production of the Lion King the other week! It was an amateur production but still a lot more impressive than the amateur productions I used to be a part of. I was rather amazed to see that some of the costumes were akin to the ones used on the London stage!  The only problem was, it seemed to go on for a lifetime. The trouble in Italy is that everything is just too late. The show started at gone 10pm and there were little children in it! Why they don’t begin their entertainment events in the late afternoon or early evening, I will never understand. And yet, the Italians don’t appear to be perpetually tired so who knows, perhaps the country just doesn’t need to sleep?

Painting

I’ve been having fun with the watercolour class and painting. There’s a real technique to it. Watercolour is completely different to painting with any other medium. I can’t say as I’ve ever been particularly enamoured with watercolours as I have traditionally veered towards bolder paintings with quite a lot of texture: I discredited watercolours as “painting-lite” for those who just want to paint quaint, dreamy village scenes and flowers. That was until I started my watercolour course a couple of months back and in fact, I really like it. Far from it being a “quaint” form of painting there are some really amazing techniques and it needs a lot of practice even to do what seems to be the simplest of things. The course focuses on landscapes but I’m absolutely inept at those, though perhaps getting marginally better. Portraits seem a bit easier. There was talk about us students having an exhibition. I quite like the idea of that – something to work towards. I think I’ll dedicate July to producing a couple of reasonable landscape pictures. Anyway, specifically for my Uncle Richard who has pointed out on a few occasions that I never post photos up of my paintings, here are some of my least embarrassing efforts to date.  I’ve specifically embedded these pictures in small so don’t look too closely and don’t judge me, I’m still learning!!!!

And to help with the inspiration, I decided to create a little ‘studio’ where a bookcase used to be. I like being up there and it’s good for watercolours because I can pop them out to dry on the terrace. All in all, I’m quite pleased with it.

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I’m looking forward to the weekend – I’m going to be staying in Senigallia (coastal town) with my friends this weekend and then I’m straight off to Puglia (southern Italy) with another friend visiting from the UK. I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!

I shall leave you with my tagliatelle making efforts from yesterday. I hope you’re all having good weeks!

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x

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Part 1: Getting the beautiful air in Bellaria Igea Marina…

Buongiorno a tutti!

I had a wonderful few days in Bellaria Igea Marina on the Blog Tour last week. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a packed schedule. I stayed in the lovely “San Salvador Hotel”, a 3 star hotel just a minute’s walk from the beach.  The tour included tours of Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna, not to mention Bellaria Igea Marina itself. We had cooking lessons, we tried our hand at paddle-boarding, we harvested some vegetables (well, mainly flowers in fact!), we cycled and we danced… All in all, it was a busy week.  So as not to overload you with photos and blurb, I’ll split it into parts!

Firstly, the disclaimer: I do love Blog Tours – they’re like little all-expenses paid holidays where you’re fed and entertained for the duration. Their purpose is to promote the area. However, I’m not obliged by any means to write a good review. That being said, I do really like Bellaria Igea Marina and I think it’s definitely a worthwhile holiday destination. Yet, for us English folk and in fact, probably for many other nationalities, Italy as a beach destination offers a very different kind of holiday to that which we’re used to. Indeed, sadly, there aren’t many English people that visit. With that in mind, I don’t feel like I can properly sell the merits of Bellaria Igea Marina without explaining a bit about the Italian beach culture first.

Why choose Italy as a beach destination in the first place?

We English folk do like our beach destinations. What could be more relaxing that lying back in a little cove or bay, with golden sand and nothing and nobody around for miles? Bliss! The reality of course is that unless you fit within some very specific age ranges (or you’re me), there’s inevitably children or old people in tow that require 24/7 entertainment and relentless toilet trips. Nobody takes a beach umbrella on holiday (hardly worth buying one anyway in the UK is it?) so the true Brit will burn to a crisp within the first hour and spend the rest of the holiday bright red and in pain. There will always be an annoying and stubborn pebbly lump under our towels and if it’s a sandy beach; you, your towel and all your belongings will be covered in the stuff within a couple of minutes.

Italians love beaches too but they do them completely differently. On the face of it, they seem to ruin their beaches by piling them with back to back umbrellas and sunbeds. There are bars every couple of meters, volleyball courts, boules, ping pong tables and pop up market stalls on the beach selling everything from towels and sarongs to sunglasses. There are people that take your children away and entertain them (not in a sinister way I should add!). There are even people that take your bikini clad older people away and make them do “aerobics” (I use the term loosely –uncoordinated joint jiggling? Sadly I was unable to obtain photographic evidence without being obvious. You’ll just have to use your imaginations).

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One of the market stalls looking like it might get rained on soon. It was a wet few days on the whole so my photos all look a bit moody!

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On the right is what I think must be “boules”. This is where the elders seem to hang out!

Italy have commercialised their beaches like nowhere else I’ve ever been to. But the thing is, they’ve made it much more relaxing as a result! It takes a while to get used to and in fact, I was scathing for a long time until I realised that actually, it’s nice to spend time at the beach and drink water without fear of not finding a toilet later. It’s nice to be able to buy something to eat or drink. Or relax on a sunbed and not be burnt to a crisp or covered from head to toe with sand within two seconds of applying sun lotion. Or buy sunglasses because I’ve left mine at home. Women of all ages and shapes parade up and down the beach-front in their bikinis and men do the same in minuscule “slips” (“budgie-smugglers” for the rest of us) and nobody cares! To be honest, I think Italy is a worthwhile holiday destination for that alone! It’s a very liberating experience.  Visiting Italian beaches should be used in therapy. Deep seated paranoia about cellulite or batwings just falls away when you’re just one of a million other people who just seem to be content with what they’ve got, whether that be a “beach body” or a stomach that flops over your knees. In fact, covering up just draws more attention to yourself – you’re sort of forced into being body-confident.

Italians often visit the same “bagno” or “stabilimento” (little patch of sunbeds) every year for a life time. Their parents went, their children will go, and their children’s children will go. It’s a family tradition that seems to be passed down from generations and it brings not only the family together but all the people you’ve grown up with who have the same tradition. If I visit the same place more than once, I feel very guilty – I don’t want to miss out on the rest of the world but actually, what the Italians are gaining by having this tradition and culture is much more important in my opinion: friendship and family, and having a lot of fun whilst they’re at it.

And why come to Bellaria Igea Marina?

For a start, the clue is in the name – Bellaria means Beautiful Air! The beach is golden, sandy and clean. In fact, in the morning someone rakes the beach to clear it of debris. Rock barriers stretch along the coast a few dozen meters from the beach to protect it from large waves. The water is shallow for a long way out making it ideal for children. When I arrived on Wednesday morning it was brilliant sunshine and the water was almost at the temperature I might have a bath!

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See the rock barriers… it’s shallow pretty much all the way out!

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They put a lot of effort into their beach cleaning. Someone comes each morning to rake debris into piles and then this tractor and lorry combo come along to pick it up!

There are plenty of “bagni” to take advantage of – for a few euros you can take advantage of the sunbeds, umbrellas, toilets etc. Here are some photos of the beach…

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The advantage of such a busy beach is that there are lots of well-equipped lifeguards!

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Two ladies having a morning stroll along the beach front. Later on, the beach front becomes a positive super highway of people doing the same!

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As you can see, the beach is well used!

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And taken from the other side.

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This is what I think of as party pier! Boat trips go from the end of it. When I arrived they were on a loud speaker and sounding like they were having a great time!

For anyone liking seafood, Bellaria is THE place to come to for clam hunting. In the morning, the sea is filled with people wandering around knee deep searching for them.

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One clam picker

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This photo is admittedly not a fair representation of the sea being “filled” with clam collectors but I speak the truth, honestly!

And still on the beach theme, you can rent pedalos, canoes and my new personal favourite, paddleboards! They call it SUP here, pronounced “soup”  (apparently it’s an acronym of Stand Up Paddle). Paddleboarding is amazing fun – it was part of the tour so we all gave it a go. I’ve always considered it a sort of surfing for wimps. You have what looks like massive surfboard, and then you stand up on it and paddle your way out using a long oar like you’re a gondolier. It seemed a very ineffective and unstable means of transport and lacks the excitement of catching a wave like in surfing… Oh how wrong I was! It was hilarious! Trying to stand up on this thing is nigh on impossible. You have to make constant little adjustments to your balance in order to remain above water and it uses EVERY muscle! So, it’s actually an amazing workout and I can imagine it must be relaxing when you’ve mastered it and  you’re not in constant peril of falling in.

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Here’s one of our member having a go with Fabio, our instructor, providing moral support.

Bellaria Igea Marina is flat and with large tree-lined roads, it makes for ideal cycling. In fact, everyone seems to cycle everywhere! Our hotel, the San Salvador Hotel, offered the use of bikes and our first afternoon consisted of a cycle tour of the area.

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This was my bike. I loved it! THIS is how bikes should be. Baskets, a saddle bag area, comfortable sitting position, no complicated gear changing (there weren’t any to change!!!).  Alas, it’s a bit difficult to go up hills!

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Lovely tree lined streets pave the way for cycling.

One of our first stops was the La Torre Saracena, one of six towers built in the 17th century to defend the town from pirates and other ‘baddies’. Only two towers exist these days and one is now a private residence so it’s good this one is kept open to the public. Now it’s home to “Il Museo delle Conchiglie”, a shell museum where you can see shells from around the world.

Our next stop was “La Casa Rossa di Alfredo Panzini” (The Red House of Alfredo Panzini). Alfredo was a writer, born in 1863 and who died in 1939. He’s well-known in Italy, although I admit, I hadn’t heard of him before. He was a keen cyclist and once cycled from Milan to Bellaria (well over 300km), meeting people, stopping here and there and writing about his experiences. He bought the Red House in 1909 with his wife, Clelia Gabrielli who was an artist (all the paintings in the house are hers). The house has now been turned into a museum. You can see where Alfredo used to write, his desk, his bike, some of his notes and lots of photos.

On a less cultural note there are some good shopping streets selling all manner of things and wandering around makes for a pleasant evening stroll.

Just a few minutes walk from the hotel is Gelso Park which is a large green park with a lake, playgrounds, a dinosaur area (seriously) and large trees that grow blackberries (in fact, that’s where the park gets its name – Gelso is the name of the blackberry tree).

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These are some of my fellow bloggers taking a blackberry break! You might just be able to see one of our members up the tree.

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Beautiful lake at the park.

The area was affected quite heavily by the war – or at least Rimini was. Our 14 year old Bellaria Igea Marina enthusiast cycle guide showed us one of the last remaining reminders of the war – a bomb shelter hidden behind a fence and sunken into the sand.

So that’s Bellaria Igea Marina itself. The San Salvador Hotel provide a good description if you want to read it here. What makes it such a good location though in my opinion is its proximity to some of my other favourite places (click the links to check out my blog posts about them): San Marino, San Leo, Gradara, Forli, Urbino, Pennabilli to name just a few and then of course there’s Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna which I’ll tell you about in the next post.

Stay tuned!

x

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Poor Poisoned Pusses, Ankle Biters and Events!

Buonasera a tutti!

How is everyone? It’s been a little on the stressful side here! I shall start with the most stressful and work my way in a random fashion to the least stressful…

The Terrible Incident of the Poisoned Cats

For a short time last week I was left in charge of the neighbour’s collection of animals. My neighbour has countless chickens, rabbits and about 9 cats.  The morning after she left, I found one of the cats, Batfink’s girlfriend (Batfink is my cat), in an awful state – frothing at the mouth, meowing a very mournful little meow and convulsing. Poor little thing. I phoned the vet who asked me to take her to see him, which I was just about to do until I then noticed Batfink frothing at the mouth as well. Suspicious, I checked up on the others and they all seemed well although Storm, a sweet little black cat, was missing. Eventually I located him unable to move in a field, he was frothing at the mouth as well. Three ill cats! The vet took pity on me and came out and took them all to his practice. It turns out they had eaten slug pellets. Generally cats don’t eat them but it emerges there are some types of slug pellet that are very appealing and yet very poisonous to cats. Poor Batfink’s girlfriend didn’t make it, which I’m really sad about. I do miss her. Batfink and Storm thankfully pulled through. By the time the slug pellet theory materialized, another of the cats had been poisoned. Luckily he pulled through as well. Shortly after I managed to locate and resolve what I thought was the source of the pellets (a delicate situation in itself – I fear it may have been another cat loving neighbour who had been unwittingly using the pellets and I didn’t want to upset him). All has been well for a few days and then, Storm showed up in an awful state frothing at the mouth again. He’s currently having an overnighter with the vet so fingers crossed! Perhaps I should train to be a vet?!  I think it would be a less expensive situation overall with the way things are going!

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This is one of the new kittens, thankfully unaffected by the Slug Pellet Saga this week. I think I’m going to call her Cindy for her little mole on her lip. In fact, she might be a he. I’ll have a re-think if so,  I don’t want to give him a complex.

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Awwwwwwwwwww…

Italian Funerals

Sadly, I had to go to a funeral this week here in Italy. It’s only the second funeral that I’ve attended and my first in Italy so I didn’t know quite what to expect. They have a quick turnaround time here, with funerals taking place only one or two days following the person’s death. When someone dies, they ring the local church bells and then a poster goes up on several memorial notice boards in town which tell you who has died and when the funeral is. The funeral I went to was closed casket, I think they often are but there does seem to be an opportunity to see the person before the funeral at their home or at the hospital. The Italians are ‘gobsmacked’ by the length of time it takes us in the UK to bury people – their main confusion is around where the people are put between the time of death and burial. I’m no expert. I told them we have special buildings with large fridges. That’s what it seems like in the serial killer documentaries at least.

The church service itself was probably much like a church service in the UK. They do not have an Order of Service but they do have a sort of memento you can take away. It’s usually got a photos of the person and a comforting quote. People wear whatever they usually wear to the funeral. I wore a rather plain dress and felt positively glamorous in comparison to almost everyone else. They go to the cemetery after the church. People aren’t often buried in the ground here – they’re slotted into a wall. If you’re well off, you’ll have a family tomb, otherwise you’re slotted into a large generic wall. There doesn’t seem to be much said at the cemetery itself and it’s all quite a practical affair. They have a bricklayer in situ who actually seals the coffin in the wall there and then. They don’t seem to have the concept of a wake and there’s not generally a gathering after the event. It was obviously a very sad occasion of course but quite interesting at the same time to see how different it is to the way things are done in the UK.

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This is a bit of a blurry example that I took years ago at the cemetery in Camerano

Walks not to do in Elcito…

Elcito is a tiny little village atop Monte San Vicino or at least atop a sort of mountainous outcrop of it. I found it very evocative. It seems totally abandoned apart from a garden and a little cafe/bar. It’s lovely to just sit in what must have been a little meeting spot and look out at the scenery.

It’s set in a lovely area of Le Marche which I haven’t really explored. There are some good walks around Elcito. Alas, we didn’t do one of them. Instead we walked downhill 2 or 3 km, realised that we weren’t even close to doing one of the recognised walks and that there wasn’t really an adequate way of getting back unless we went back the way we came so we had to walk back up again. All in all, it was an unsatisfactory walk but there was gorgeous scenery which more than made up for it. I’m hoping to go back soon and do a decent walk!

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There’s some beautiful flowers out at the moment. Anyone know what tree this blossom belongs to? On a separate note, the blossom from the Acacia (seems to be called Black Locust in English) with its white blossom is so prevalent here that it seems like it’s snowing on a windy day!

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Sitting in the little grassed over meeting point, I spent ages photographing the very busy bees!

Tagliatelle making

In this week’s successful news is a new found appreciation for pasta making. I really like tagliatelle but it’s more expensive than other types of pasta and being the miser that I am, I find it difficult to justify buying it. Now that I know how cheap it is to make, it’s even more difficult to justify buying it! To make tagliatelle for 2, you just need 200g of flour and two eggs. My eggs come from the next door neighbour and the wheat is bought from a mill in Gualdo so it’s all quite nice and fresh with organic ingredients. I’m not a pasta aficionado but it doesn’t taste bad either. The only issue is that it requires more time than getting it out of a packet! I don’t buy bread these days either – I make a big batch every now and then, cut it into slices and then freeze them so I can just take out a slice as and when I want it. I think I might start doing that with pasta as well (not slices)!

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Watercolour class

I’m having a great time at the watercolour class on Friday’s. It’s a really difficult  medium – it’s definitely something, I think anyway, that requires a bit of guidance and tuition first. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally. I’ve done a couple of portraits and some landscapes. You’d think landscapes would be easier but I’ve struggled more with them than anything else! I’ve also found a good group for artists in Le Marche too and so I’m hoping to get out in the field with them to get some more practice in. It’s a very relaxed medium as you just can’t rush otherwise you’ll ruin your painting. You paint a bit, and when you can’t do anymore you can just sit and admire the scenery in the sunshine and wait for your painting to dry a bit before you do the  next thing. Lovely!

Antiques fair in Recanati

Now that summer is coming there’s an increasing number of events out and about. One of my expat friends was over a couple of weeks ago and what we always seem to do together is to find events to go to that are either cancelled or just perhaps don’t even exist in the first place! We decided this time we’d attempt to go to an antiques fair in Recanati, a town in Le Marche towards the coast. However, during the drive, the heavens opened and it seemed even more improbable that there would be a fair. I lowered my expectations of a successful antiques fair visit from an already low 10% to 0%. However, we were surprised to find that the fair was on and people (albeit not many) were there! We finished off in an English pub stunning the barmen with our darts playing prowess (they probably hadn’t seen anyone so consistently miss the dartboard before).

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My friend found some crystal glasses for an absolute bargain. I, however, wander around all antiques markets in a state of amazement at the sheer number of ghastly things brought together in one place. I’m so busy concentrating on nightmarish ornaments that alas, I suspect I miss out on genuine bargains.

Scarfiotti Race in Sarnano

A couple of weeks ago the 26th Scarfiotti Sarnano to Sassotetto car race was held. Once a year, Sarnano is full to the brim with fancy cars, be they formula one or ancient antique style cars. They have a time trial up the mountain. Sarnano has about 3300 inhabitants. I wouldn’t class it as a totally sleepy little village but it’s approaching that description. I am quite frankly stunned that once a year, apparently reasonably well-known people come with their reasonably well-known cars to compete in what is apparently a reasonably well-known competition. Isn’t that lovely?! I’m quite proud of my little town! It’s just a shame that it rained almost the whole time and on the main race day, there was just so much water that it would be difficult to have distinguished road from waterfall. Anyway, perhaps next year I can see if they’ll let me compete with the Fiat Panda.It’s a good little car, I think I could take on the cars below…

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This car clearly has nothing on my Fiat Panda.

Abbadia di Fiastra

There’s a series of 3 concerts set in the woods at Abbadia di Fiastra (Le Marche) which have taken place over the last couple of Sundays with the last one this coming Sunday. Abbadia di Fiastra is a lovely setting. There’s an abbey and two or three restaurants and lots of countryside to explore. The concert was good and quite atmospheric set in the woods.

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There were a lot of people at the event… Here’s a photo. I was testing out my “dreamy” setting on the camera!

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The first of the three concerts was a flute quartet

Festa dell’Europa in Macerata

Every year in Macerata there’s a festa to celebrate European food of all different types. The UK was represented. This place below (alas blurry) was serving fish and chips and burgers! (I feel like we were cheated a little in terms of quality, probably understandably given the lack of equipment). It was a good and lively event with lots of stalls and lots of people. We ended up eating in another English style place. They served coleslaw (or “coldslow” as they called it), chips, onion rings and some sort of chicken quiche affair for meat eaters.

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The highs and lows of bike riding

The bike riding is going reasonably well. I say only ‘reasonably well’ because it’s not serving its primary purpose which was to get fitter and lose weight. I shall be leaving my body to medical science. The more exercise I do and the healthier I eat, the fatter I become and the worse my general fitness becomes (thought I am getting better on the bike). However, I have accepted my fate and have discovered other unforeseen advantages to going out on the bike: I’m often awestruck by the scenery and this way, I get to see more than if I’m walking and have a bit more flexibility than going with a car where I can’t stop and admire the scenery or take photos quite so easily. If it was just exercise (that seems to yield no/negative results) I probably would have given up by now, but it’s nice to see the countryside in a different way. A couple of days ago I came across a porcupine happily running towards me (I was less happy about it running towards me but it was great to see nonetheless! I’ve only ever seen dead ones at the side of the road). And look at the countryside below…. this was taken the other day from a ride to Gualdo, one of the closest towns. Isn’t it just beautiful?!

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In addition to trying to get up hills and mountains, I’ve discovered the most pressing challenge is how to avoid getting bitten by dogs. They all seem to be trained from an early age to attack cyclists. Going up hills with large rabid looking dogs biting at my ankles certainly adds a level of excitement and gives me that all important motivational push when I’m flagging. Perhaps as well as padded cycle shorts I could get padded ankle protectors. Anyway, so far my record is 23km which will seem like nothing to proper cyclists but half of that was up an entirely vertical incline.

I think that about sums up the last couple of weeks! I hope you’re all having a good Monday 🙂

Ciao a tutti,

x

 

 

 

 

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Successes, disasters and pasta making!

Buongiorno a tutti!

It’s an absolutely cracking day here. The weather has been changeable in the last week – it was t-shirt weather for a couple of days (not that you could actually wear a t-shirt in the t-shirt weather in Italy because it’s not officially Summer where the wearing of t-shirts is acceptable behaviour) and then there’s been a bit of snow. Anyway, I’m hoping it will start to warm up in earnest now because I’ve pretty much run out of wood for the stuffa. This year’s goal will be to get central heating!

I’ve had a productive week here…

One of my friends is an opera singer in her spare time. She’s absolutely brilliant, I’m very proud. She was in a production of “Suor Angelica” where she was playing a nun in the town of Fermo last week. I brought my camera along to take pictures of the town because it’s been an age since I was there. However, whilst taking a few snaps during the rehearsals, one of the actresses asked if I could take photos of the play so I ended up doing that instead. I loved it! It’s quite a satisfying area of photography which I would quite like to continue with and it was a success so hopefully I’ll get invited to do more. My pictures ended up in the Fermo newspaper 🙂

 

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The following day, was far, far, far less successful. The same friend was also starring (and directing) in an opera called “Gianni Schicci”. I’ve seen the opera before. It’s a great little introduction to anyone that hasn’t really experienced the opera before because it’s short and sweet. Less than an hour long, and it’s a comedy, and reasonably easy to follow (perhaps have a quick look at the story line first!). I was asked to do a video of it. I’ve never filmed anything. My camera is apparently good at taking videos so I agreed on the understanding it could be awful because of my lack of experience. And my word, was it awful… The opera builds up to a critical point in the play towards the end – the punchline. But during the punchline, the camera just stopped filming. No warning. I didn’t realise. The way to tell it’s filming is a little red light flashes. When I looked back at the camera, having enjoyed the crux of the opera myself, and noticed that there was no longer a flashing red light, I almost had a heart attack. It was a one-off production! I decided against recreating the missing part of the opera with my neighbour and our little cat colony and published it on YouTube with the missing part in the hope nobody will notice. If you’d like to see it and you promise not to notice, check it out here.

To continue on the creative streak, I went up into the mountains a couple of days ago to take star photos. I’m not going to do that again until it’s summer. Two days later and I can just about feel my fingers again not to mention that I give myself the ‘heebie jeebies’ each time I’m up there on my own (Have I mentioned on the blog that a couple of women went missing many years ago now in the mountains on a snowy night and turned up dead a few weeks later miles away?). Anyway, because of the long exposure times and the fact that camera takes a while to process the picture as well, I only managed one photo. Star photography is a challenge because it’s dark and you can’t see what you’re shooting. The picture that you end up with a few minutes later is a complete surprise!

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In other news, I’ve been progressing on the bike front. I’ve cycled to Sarnano twice now. I do a round trip. It’s about 8km and I manage it in about 50 minutes with a bit of walking up the steep bits. I can’t tell you how much the seat hurts! I’ve ordered special padded cycling shorts (I thought I had enough natural padding, but apparently not).

I also went on a long walk with a friend yesterday around Sarnano. It’s looking quite pretty here at the moment with the snow in the mountains.

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You can just about make out Sarnano – it was a rare “atmospheric” day yesterday – shame I didn’t take out the decent camera!

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Sometimes my cat and the neighbour’s dog come with me on the walks 🙂

My plan is to go cycling most days. I also go to a Zumba class a couple of days a week and I’m going to sign up for swimming lessons after Easter. I shall be super fit for the summer even if it kills me!

Yesterday I went on a pasta making course. I really enjoyed it! Pasta making might be my next thing. Last year my thing was bread. I feel somewhat limited on the bread making front because basically here in Sarnano I can use white flour, or I can use white flour. Then there’s white flour and if I’m feeling adventurous, I can use white flour. There are aisles dedicated to white flour in the supermarkets. I can buy 5kg bag of white flour for 75 cents. If I make an hour and a half round trip I might be able to get 500g of brown flour for 370 Euros (I jest, it’s a bit less, but still shockingly expensive given you’d think it requires less processing!). Anyway, I’m going to try to make more pasta. I’ve also heard rumours of a shop nearby that sells other types of flour so I’m going to head there this week.

 

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My beetroot ravioli making efforts

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And the green spinach blobs are my attempts at tortellone

I think that about sums up my week! I hope you all had good weeks too 🙂

xxx

 

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Why not to get a bike, being Indiana Jones and chocolate festivals…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone?

I hope you’re all well. I’m somewhat light on the photo front this week you might be pleased to know!

I had a flying visit to the UK last week. As usual it’s not ever quite enough time to get around everyone I’d like to but it was still lovely to see people. It wasn’t quite so persistently gloomy on the weather front either which was a nice change! In fact, when I left London it was gorgeous sunshine and when I arrived here it was raining… That never, ever happens! It’s always the opposite way around!

My cat Batfink (so named after the cartoon cat that had large ears… but he’s grown into his ears now and he’s a very handsome feline) seemed reasonably pleased to have me back. He’s hormonally active at the moment – I was told he was only supposed to have 3 weeks worth of err, hormones, but he seems to have fallen for his sister and they’re constantly hanging out together now. It would be quite cute if I wasn’t worried for the health of their future children. I was in charge of the neighbour’s dog today and we went for a walk up the road. Batfink came too, weaving in and out of my legs. I think I must look like a crazy cat lady to the locals.

I found an English language speaking group in Civitanova which I met up with on Friday. There was a good turnout with the majority being Italians wanting to practice their English and there was one other English girl. I’ll definitely go again, it’s just a shame it’s not a bit closer to Sarnano (it’s about a 50 minute drive).

Just before I left for the UK I bought a bike. It’s probably 20 years since I rode a bike (apart from one outing in Richmond Park). Anyway, let me tell you!!….. Buying a bike, when you live in the mountains and you live in a country known for the crazy drivers, is the silliest idea ever. I don’t know what possessed me. I have ridden up and down the road a few times on it which is absolutely exhausting and alas far less than a kilometer. Not to be defeated though, on Saturday I went to Abbadia di Fiastra, a lovely, large, flat (woohoo!) park and cycled for about 8km. It’s a great place to go to cycle because it’s all off-road so there’s no imminent danger of being hit by a car. However, I’m not used to cycling and by Saturday night, I felt like I’d been hit by a car anyway! Why do they make the seats so horribly uncomfortable?! I definitely bought the wrong bike – I want to be upright, with a basket on the front (and perhaps with a motor)! Still the deed is done so I better try and get a bit more in shape for it over the next few weeks.

On Saturday evening, I went to see my first play here in Italy. It was Madame Bovary at Civitanova Alta. I didn’t know quite what to expect. All the towns here have dinky little theatres. Having lived in London with the massive professional productions that often carry on for decades, I was expecting, well, less to be honest. However, it was anything but. It was very well performed, with excellent actors and a really creepy and original way of portraying Madame Bovary’s daughter. All-in-all, it was very impressive and I’m a bit sad that it was only being performed for one night, particularly after it must have taken months and months of hard work for them to prepare.

Sunday, rather than not get out of bed (everything ached!), I went for a walk around San Severino with a friend. San Severino is a lovely little town and it’s surrounded by hills (or rather mountains the size of Mount Everest for someone that is already aching everywhere). Walks in Italy are never straightforward. I had a book with me which described the walk, and we had downloaded a GPS map and there was also the occasional sign and yet still it wasn’t clear where we were supposed to be going! Still we made it back. The whole walk took about 5 hours. It was 19km with a climb of about 1km. As exhausting as it was, it was a really nice walk and it was good to see the Eremo di Sant’Eustachio, a monastery built in the 11th century that was partly carved out of the mountain. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones wandering around there. There’s also a lot of caves dotted around and the ruins of a mysterious round looking tower. On the whole, it was very interesting.

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See what I mean about feeling a bit like Indiana Jones discovering some secret lost temple?!

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This was the inside. There’s more rooms underneath and to the side of the Eremo, a cave that looks as if something interesting used to go on inside!

I think I must have burned off a reasonable number of calories over the weekend but after the walk, we discovered a chocolate festival in San Severino so the diet all went to pot. Still, I can highly recommend you all try white chocolate ice-cream and chocolate orange ice-cream 🙂

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Mmmmmmmm chocolate…

 

In other exciting news, I’ve been invited along on another Blog Tour so I’m excited about that 🙂 More details to come as and when I get them but it’ll be in June. I’ve also got a few friends lined up to visit me later in the year which is going to be good.

And I’m famous! I’ve had an interview published on http://www.expatfinder.com – I wrote it probably over a year ago so it’s somewhat out of date but still, I’m famous! Click here for the interview.

Anyway, I hope you all have an excellent week.

Buonaserata!

x

 

 

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