Posts Tagged With: Fermo

Discovering the local volcano and other things…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Apologies for being a bit quiet for a while! I’ve been having issues with WordPress who host my blog. Anyway, it’s all sorted now (at least for the time being!) and I’ve got quite a bit of updating to do from the last month or two. I’ll try and summarise!

The first update is that my poor Batfink lost his fight a day or two after the last blog post. It’s been horrible. We were a good little team. It’s always heart wrenching losing a pet; they’re like members of your family aren’t they? But I think we had quite a special bond, us two in particular given everything that we’d been through together in the last year or so. I miss him.

A few days after Batfink passed away, I heard meowing coming from a hedge by the gym. I eventually located it to a tiny black kitten. To cut a long story short, I ended up adopting her, despite my better judgement. She’s not got a name yet – I’m a bit nervous to give her one lest I get too attached and something happens to her. In fact, she went missing for 4 days a week or two back and I was convinced she’d died too but I was thrilled to be proven wrong.  Anyway, I’m pleased to report that her and Rusty Carrot (he’s gained a name) have finally bonded after an initial settling in period which involved a great deal of hissing (Kitten isn’t much attuned of social cues and so didn’t let it upset her).

So that’s the cat update. I’m very much hoping further cat updates will be less traumatic, at least for a bit!

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Rusty Carrot and Kitten

Meanwhile I’ve been out and about as ever. There’s a continuous string of festas here during the summer and it’s difficult to justify being at home when I could be seeing jazz, or blues, or dancing or seeing medieval games, or going on walking excursions or painting excursions or eating cheap pizzas etc. I used to think London was hectic with things going on all the time but I don’t think it’s a patch on Le Marche in the summer months.

The weather has been absolutely roasting too and the countryside has been spectacular with sunflowers and hay bales stretching across landscapes as far as the eye can see.

 

In other news…

  • I had a lovely evening with the Dezi family who are a big name locally in the wine industry. They are only a couple of minutes up the road from me. It was lovely to meet some of the locals, and their wine was great! If anyone is interested trying the wine, they run some good value tasting events.

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  • I went on a long walk in the mountains with a friend that’s not from the area. I’d been meaning to do this walk for a long time and I was quite chuffed I managed to get us where we were supposed to be going within the timescales I was supposed to! There’s lots of scope for error and there are hardly any sign posts but I’m beginning to know the local mountains quite well so it’s not the daunting prospect it once was!
  • There’s an organic farm, Indaco Foods in a town very close to me called Monsampietro Morico. They run what they call a “Dining club / Social Event Organisation” offshoot called La Bibioteca. Some friends of mine have been keen to go for a long time, as have I. I thought the food was great with some very original recipes. They run a variety of courses too in things like Sourdough breadmaking and I’m determined to do their beekeeping course.
  • I’ve been on a few painting excursions to Torre di Palme (Towers of Palms),  Lago di Gerosa (Lake Gerosa), Lago di San Ruffino (San Ruffino Lake) and Montefalcone Appenino. All are worthy trips with or without painting equipment! I’d certainly recommend Torre di Palma, a hill top town overlooking the coast. It’s very quaint with lots of little restaurants and nooks and crannies to explore.
  • I saw the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian equivalent of the Red Arrows. I was really pleased as I seem to always miss airshows so I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.
  • I went to a concert to see Paola Turci in the  mountains organised by RisorgiMarche, a set of concerts dotted around the Sibillini’s to show solidarity to the people of the area and help breathe life into some of the villages hit by the recent earthquakes. There’s a lovely vibe at the concerts. Paola Turci is a big name in Italy and is often in the charts. It was just her and her guitar, singing a few meters in front of us with us sitting on our picnic blankets and singing along to all the songs. It really had a great atmosphere and it felt quite special to be a part of it.
  • I went to see one of my favourite festa’s of the year, “Artistrada” at Colmurano. It was sad to see some of the town blocked off presumably after the earthquakes but we still had a great time.
  • Then there was the Opera ‘Turandot‘ at the Sferisterio in Macerata. The Sferisterio is a spectacular building so it’s always special seeing something there. It was the first time I’d seen Turandot. I wasn’t bored stiff like in my first attempt at opera last year. I think what helped was just how very odd it was – the princess was writhing around in a glass box filled with ‘blood’ after getting off her polar bear (I told you it was weird!!)  It did have the song Nessun Dorma in too which helped.  Alas, now I understand the context,  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to that song again without getting annoyed at how pathetic the character who sung it was.

I finally went to see the Roman Theater in Piane di Falerone. It’s just 10 minutes down the road from me so it’s been on my list a while. It’s difficult to get to see it – it’s open Sunday’s between 4pm and 6pm (sometimes) and costs 3.50 euros.  You can organise a private appointment to see it by asking a woman in the local newsagents who knows a man who knows how to get someone there to open it. There are events there occasionally and so I’d recommend trying to tie in your visit with that so you get more out of it and there’s slightly more chance it’ll be open!

  • Then there was the Sibillini Swing Festival a week or so back. Riccardo Foresi and his band were playing the night that I was there. They were great and played for two or three hours solid! Sadly none of the Italians are big on dancing to swing so the dancefloor was taken over by about 15 English people. I suspect they thought we were nuts!
  • I’ve been to 3 plays in the last month or so in various places. A couple were in dialect resulting in a rather challenging hour or two trying to understand exactly what’s going on! Thankfully my previous neighbour has given me a good grounding in dialect words so I wasn’t as lost as I could have been!
  • In other news, near the house there is a volcano. I’ve been meaning to go and see it for ages and finally a couple of weeks ago I went with a friend. I warned him it might be a bit of a walk – I’d seen the trail outlined in a tourist map at the parking area. So we put on our walking shoes and were done about two minutes later! The volcano is less of a volcano and more of a muddy patch and there were no trails! If you would like to attempt to find a trail yourself and learn more about the patches of mud, visit this site for more information.
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The Volcano (admittedly I’ve since discovered it’s called Vulcanelli di Fango – little volcanoes of mud, but still I think even that’s a bit of an overstatement)

So that sums up the last couple of months. Sorry it’s been such a long update, hopefully the blog issues have now been resolved and I shall be able to write a bit more frequently!

x

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The Good, The Bad and The Stressful

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Well, I’ve written this blog about 5 times now. I start and then I don’t quite finish, and then more stuff happens and then I have to re-write it all! I’ll start with the good stuff.

I’ve moved in to my new temporary home fully now (I say fully, my bits and pieces still litter the globe in various places…One day I shall consolidate them!).

This is my new view…

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Ignore the telephone wire. I did take a lovely one from the valley but it’s disappeared (the photo, not the valley!)

It’s gone well and for the first time in a long time, I feel settled. I’ve actually joined the local gym and swimming pool. It even has a spa!

It’s such a lovely time of the year here – the flowers are all out in the mountains (I have another blog to write up following a trip up Monte Sibilla a couple of weeks ago) and the fields are all golden with hay that waves with the wind.

Batfink settled in really well. He’s never been in a house so big. The first day I let him out he kept circling the house, meowing through each window and door as if to say “and this… this is STILL our house?”. I also acquired the couple of kittens that I was looking after back in Ripatransone for a while after my friend went on holiday. I even bought a little house for them outside (they’d run havoc if let them loose inside I fear!). Batfink and the kittens greeted each other like long lost friends which was sweet and they really helped Batfink settle in too.

When I came back to Italy I was able to tag onto the end of a life drawing course in Porto San Giorgio, a coastal town not too far from me. It was a joint course with Italian college students and me and a few other English ex-pats. We even made the local news paper!

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This is Porto San Giorgio…

And the wildlife is exciting here! A couple of Redstarts had nested in the woodpile and were very upset about the snake that had slithered into it. The next day they stopped taking food in and I discovered their empty nest the following day. I feel bad for Mr & Mrs Redstart – even I had empty nest syndrome. I’d gotten used to them knocking on the windows (who knows why? Trying to catch bugs on the inside?) But they’ve gone now. Anyway, poor Snakey has to eat too I guess. He’s not a dangerous snake (for humans at least!) but I might be on my guard a bit more next time I get wood!

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Spot Snakey!

Fireflies

And there’s been fireflies…

My brother, sister -in-law and little nephew came out to visit for a few days too which was lovely. It’s always a good opportunity to see some new places and check out some festas. One of the highlights was Servigliano and their Corpus Domini ‘infioratura’ (‘in flower’) festival. I was really impressed by the amount of work and effort that goes into a number of similar festas around Le Marche. Intricate designs and patterns are laid out with the most vibrant petals and in Servigliano they’d laid out a carpet of flowers extending about 1km only to have everyone from the morning mass walk over them. I can’t get over how badly they’re all publicised – there was nothing on the internet at all!

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Servigliano is a really interesting town – it’s unlike any other I’ve come across. It’s in the valley and is formed as a square (well, not quite, it’s 144 x 137 meters). The entire town centre was built within the space of 6 years starting in 1773 in response to the ever-increasing risk of landslide on the original hill-top town (which is apparently very close to where I’m now staying). It was actually called Castel Clementino before, named after the pope at the time (Clemente XIV), and only changed the name to Servigliano in 1863. They have a market every Monday morning. One of the things that’s quite quaint is the curtains hanging over most of their doors – I get the feeling that they want a bit of a breeze in their house but without losing their privacy! Anyway, here’s some more pics…

So all in all, I feel settled here in a way I haven’t felt settled since pre-earthquake. I’ve struck it lucky to have such a lovely house to stay in with such magnificent views and I’m gradually getting to know a few locals who seems lovely. There are lots of festas, events and walks on at the moment. I could be out every night if I wanted.

However, life has also thrown a few curveballs my way since I’ve been back.

Batfink has been horribly ill for weeks now with bladder stones/crystals and subsequent complications. He flips between acute kidney failure because he can’t wee or he’s incontinent with a catheter (who knew that cat catheters don’t come with bags). It turns out that cats die very, very quickly if they can’t go to the toilet. It goes from “hmm, he seems like he’s struggling a bit” to “oh my god, he’s dying” in a matter of hours. He had another relapse last week resulting in a 2am emergency vet visit after which he was kept in for a few days to see if they could get him functioning again. In the end we’ve had to resort to what is basically a sex change op which has altered his male parts into female parts which will widen his urethra and help him go to the loo. So it should be a totally fixable issue but alas, so far, so bad. He’s having a horrible time of it, as am I, and I’m not sure what to do. I’ve never seen such a sad looking cat; he doesn’t eat, he’s stopped drinking, he stumbles around aimlessly and then collapses facing a wall. Anyway, hopefully it’s just a matter of time before he gets back to his old self. I really hope so. I can hardly remember that, it feels such a long time ago 😦

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My very ill Batfink after his first ‘procedure’. Poor poor Puss.

Meanwhile, one of the kittens died which has been just awful. I found him on my driveway this morning – I’m afraid I ran over him but I can’t believe I’d have done that and not noticed – particularly given I check they’re ok before bed. I was preoccupied with Batfink so perhaps I didn’t but it just seems so unlikely. Potentially something else might have got him and this afternoon there were a couple of massive dogs chasing the remaining kitten, ‘Carrot’ (renamed from ‘Doomed’ – the other was renamed Pumpkin from his original ‘Fated’ rather ironically) today.  So I don’t know. Poor Carrot doesn’t know quite what to do with himself now. He’s got pent up cuddles which he’s giving to me which are somewhat bittersweet.

In marginally less traumatic news, the downstairs toilet got blocked. I can’t even begin to describe the horror of that! Of course this all happened with my family staying – typical! Suffice to say, not only the toilet was a no-go area but also the floor, bidet and shower. The sewage cleaning guys had already been out to clear the cesspit a couple of weeks ago as the plumbing was being a bit slow. They came out again to resolve the block. They solemnly promised it wouldn’t block again. Two days later in was blocked again – luckily nowhere near to the same terrifying proportions. We managed to resolve it ourselves that time and again on a subsequent occasion but I am nervous about what the future holds! The owners have been so lovely to let me stay in their home whilst mine gets sorted (and I’m aware you’re probably reading this A&R!), I feel somewhat racked with guilt that these issues seem to have arisen just now! Still, I’ll keep my fingers (and legs?) crossed.

The car has needed a new injector. It took 4 visits to my old mechanic back in Sarnano to get that changed finally and I think all the faffing around during the visits (none of which was my fault!) has resulted in a somewhat inflated price. At least it fixed the problem or so I thought. The car was fine for a week or two but now has stopped being able to accelerate again leading to some stuck-in-the-middle-of-roundabouts-with-oncoming-traffic fun.

People often ask me what I do all day. Month’s back I started preparing a ‘day in the life of’ post – but I can safely say at the moment it’s just flitting between various crises’!

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hopefully my spell of the ‘malocchio‘ has finished for this year but one never knows!

x

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Earthquakes, prisons for cats & explorations…

Buonasera,

I hope you’re all well.

Things are moving along here. On the earthquake front, we’re still getting quite a lot of tremors, still magnitudes 3 and 4 which aren’t insignificant. I guess it will take a while for the earth to settle down. I had never realised before just quite how long it takes for the aftershocks to stop after a big quake. It could be a year or more.

Storms and high winds (Sirocco winds from North Africa that can get to 100km an hour) have not aided progress. On my first day back from my UK visit I’d set up a tent in my neighbour’s garden as a place to hang out when I was ‘back home’, and hypothetically speaking, to store stuff rescued from my house (not that I would ever, of course, consider entering it as once it’s been declared dangerous, it’s illegal to  enter and you can be fined heavily). Anyway, imagine my frustration when I discovered the following day that the tent had been ripped up and destroyed by the wind in the night with all of the stuff I had managed to rescue from my house.

Just down my little road of a kilometer or less there were about five trees ripped up, blocking the road and lots more on the way back to ‘Home Two’ in Ripatransone.

They call our emergency centre in Sarnano ‘Base Camp’ – it makes me feel like I’m  about to climb Everest each time I go in! It’s a lot quieter there now with people having been moved out to hotels and apartments closer to the sea. The town centre is still closed and will remain that way for a while – there are very precarious tiles and chimneys that have come down that are balancing on  roofs and that will all need to be sorted before people will be allowed back.

Next week the structural engineers will start doing property checks around the area. I really don’t know what they’ll say with regard to my place – whether it will need to be knocked down and rebuilt or whether there’s a chance it can be restored somehow. I’ve had promising chats with a Structural Engineer who says that perhaps my main concern – ‘the Bulgy Wall’ can be replaced and other measures put in place to make it more structurally sound. However, it’s never going to be great – basically in the event of another earthquake the amendments would just give me more time to get out before it crumbles! On the other hand if they do knock it down, I should be entitled to a new home, but what if I don’t like it?! I don’t imagine I get much of a choice of design and with the building being shared by three others it will be difficult to agree a solution we’re all happy with. On the plus side, hopefully it wouldn’t crumble around me in my sleep so there are swings and roundabouts!

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The Bulgy Wall

Meanwhile, single displaced residents like I am get 300 euros towards accommodation and there’s talk of container houses being available before Christmas and wooden huts in the Spring. It’s difficult to piece together what’s rumour and what’s reality at the moment and I suspect the powers that be don’t have all the answers yet either.

Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying my new home in the hills surrounding a little town called Ripatransone. The cat has settled in really well, I think he’s probably happier here away from ‘Evil Cat’ who used to attack him every time he left our old house. Now he has a very naughty little puppy to contend with, a 3yr old ‘mouse catching champion’ dog and two other cats.

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This is Batfink relaxed in his new home – he likes his head being stroked! I’m not throttling him, honest.

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Despite looking innocent, this is a very naughty puppy. We aren’t talking at the moment. He pooed on my carpet and then I unwittingly trod in it with bare feet (just after I’d done my nails which further rubbed salt into the wound).

The apartment is lovely and even has central heating – a complete novelty to me – so much so that I just can’t work out how it works!

The countryside around the house is really interesting and different from further north in Le Marche where my house is. I don’t have my decent camera at the moment but you get the idea…

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Those sort of protrusions of oddly shaped rock are called Calanchi. There’s lots of them in this area. I was quite pleased to capture this lovely rainbow!

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And the vineyards are spectacular at the moment.

I’ve finally done some exploring of some of the local towns which has been great. I’ve been to…

Offida

Offida is known for its yearly carnival which is apparently something to behold. Maybe this year I’ll have the opportunity to go. It’s also known for its tradition of bobbin lace making. My friend and I saw one woman who was demonstrating ‘lace’ jewellery in action – I thought I might get an idea of how it was done but she was impossibly fast! Even Offida has been impacted by the earthquake. The main square was full of firemen and vehicles and many of the buildings are cordoned off.

The people of Offida are very strict though; imprisoning cats for their wrong doings. Who knows how long this one has yet to serve…

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Cossignano

Cossignano is in an even worse state than Offida with a lot of the streets cordoned off. The damage to the buildings was perhaps a bit more obvious in parts too. From the bits we could see, it looks very quaint. It’s a lot smaller than Offida. We found a lovely, empty restaurant called Elvira serving really nice cremini (bread-crumbed deep fried squares of custard… mmmm), giant portions of delicious pasta and some absolutely foul home-made alcoholic distillation of something (old socks?).

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Cupra Marittima

Cupra is a seaside town. I’m not endeared by many of the Italian seaside towns and this was no exception! They’re just a bit plain and uniform and well, I prefer quaint! HOWEVER, there IS Cupra Marittima Alta (‘alta’ means high) which is on the overlooking hill and that is absolutely lovely. It’s a very cute little village where it feels like all you do is walk upwards. We didn’t see anyone else wandering around. We did find the only bar / restaurant though, Pensione Castello, and had a nice meal there. It’s rated number one in the area on Trip Advisor and specialises in fish. They did a good job at providing something for me though as a vegetarian. I would definitely go back in the summer, if only for the views which are spectacular and overlook the sea.

Grottammare

Grottammare is similar to Cupra. It’s a seaside town which is pretty plain as far as I can establish but again has an absolutely lovely ‘alta’ part which I’ve been to earlier in the year and thought was great. I did take photos then though I can’t track them down for the moment. They had a food festa on last week where the streets were lined with stalls selling everything from chocolate to all manner of repulsive looking meats (there was one man stirring some stomachs and intestines around in a saucepan – deeeelicious).

Petritoli

Petritoli is another cute hill top town that’s worth a visit. I got lost on the way to the supermarket and ended up here so it was a rather quick visit but I’ll certainly go back.

Ripatransone

And lastly Ripatransone which is now my nearest town – it has the smallest street in Italy (the world? Universe?). I can confirm it’s very small. Next time I’ll take a picture. I almost had to shimmy down it. It’s also got an amphitheatre where they have operas in the summer. We had a chat with an old lady for about half an hour whilst she gave us a bit of history of the town. I like it when that happens – it really is nice when people are so friendly and I think she liked sharing her knowledge too. The photo’s below are from the old wash-house where women used to wash their clothes with water that was piped down from a spring on the local hill. There were some tops hanging up – perhaps the tradition is still on-going!

 

Well I think that about sums up the last couple of weeks. I’ve been busy sketching and painting this week which has been a nice change from packing and unpacking! If you want to receive painting updates as and when they happen, follow me on A Painting Occasionally  (click the three lines on the right hand side for the “Follow” option!

A presto,

xxx

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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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UK Tour, Best Self Controlled Teacher Award and Appropriate Clothing…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? Well, I hope! I’m sorry for the silence. I’ve been out and about doing a speedy tour around the UK.

So, the tour started a week ago last Wednesday and I headed up to the Lakes to spend some time with a good friend and her new baby (well new to me at least), then onto Harrogate in Yorkshire for an annual “girls weekend” and had a great time. Then I headed down south to see friends and family in Hampshire and then a flying visit to London before coming back to Italy on Sunday.

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Harrogate – that’s Betty’s Tea Room on the corner. It’s a bit pricey but absolutely lovely!

Meanwhile, I put in an offer for a house in Portsmouth which was rejected (pah!). Why are you buying there and not Italy I hear you ask? Well, I have a cunning plan which involves buying a house to rent out in the UK so I get some more rental income coming in every month and then I can retire from my much loved teaching career.

Much loved teaching career

ARGH I HATE IT!!! One 6 year old swore at me yesterday. I think he was hoping I didn’t know what it meant. Little did he know that I have an Italian friend here obsessed with learning English swear words which has resulted in me acquiring a reasonable grounding in the Italian equivalents. Anyway, in the last 6 months, I haven’t seen this child without ‘disgustingness’ encrusted around his nose. I’ve tried being nice to him which does work occasionally but when he’s actually punching me, it’s a struggle to be nice. I don’t want to ‘big myself up’ at all but I should definitely, DEFINITELY be nominated for some sort of prize for not punching him back (I’ve just checked – there are genuine Teacher Awards. Who knew? I think you have to be nominated by your pupils. Booooo!). I only have 10 weeks there left. I’ve informed the school who contract me out that the mental torture isn’t worth the money and I’m not doing it next year. They seem to have been alright with it and even offered me another teaching job every Thursday to “young adults” which I’ve accepted. It doesn’t sound quite so emotionally draining and apparently there’s a syllabus (not that I’ve seen it, still plenty of time before this Thursday eh?!). These young adults will be working in hotels and restaurants so I really hope this means cheap/free food and drink over the summer period. I’ve another private regular teaching job coming up too.

Fermo

I’m going to Fermo (a region in Le Marche further south than where I am now) on Friday for a couple of days to catch up with a friend of mine and to see the local area. I can’t wait! I don’t think I’ve been there before and it’ll be great to see some new towns and get a feel for a new area. My friend is then coming back  here with me so I’ve been trying to make the flat look acceptable. Another friend has very rudely dubbed my spare room the “sh*t tip” because of a rather large collection of driftwood and various beach-found materials stored there for artistic purposes. Pah! However, all the great artists were misunderstood and unappreciated when they were alive aren’t they? I suspect it’s just not my time yet 😉

Spring is here!

The weather has been amazing since I got back – hot and sunny. The flowers are out and everything is green and pretty. People had been asking last week whether I was looking forward to going back to Italy and I have to admit that I wasn’t that fussed this time because it meant going back to work! However, I’m thrilled to report that I still love being here. I was on the beach the last couple of lunchtimes and it’s difficult to imagine a nicer place, for me at least (mainly because I’m surrounded by seaglass and interesting rocks and shells for the artwork!).

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Look how nice and sunny it is around Monte Conero!

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And the nice sunsets are back too 🙂 This is from my balcony.

Artwork

Well, let me tell you. Nobody (that I saw at least) is using dry brush as a technique for portrait painting in London. They seem to be using charcoal. So the new plan is to do that. I still need a lot of practice on the portrait drawing front. My friend in Harrogate was stroppy for a whole hour after my portrait of her (nobody ever poses for me – they’re always watching TV, or looking at their laptop so everyone always looks a bit gormless. ON THEIR OWN HEADS BE IT!). I need to get better at making everyone look pretty. There’s not been much else going on unfortunately on the art front because I’ve been out of the country but hoping to do some more next week.

What’s a bit odd?

It’s been a while since I’ve had a “what’s a bit odd!”. This one cropped up when I got here last year but it’s worth a repeat because it’s such a weird cultural difference. You can ALWAYS pick out a foreigner here. Today, it was 21 degrees. A beautiful warm and sunny day. I even got a bit of a tan. I, Ms English, was wearing a vest top, cotton trousers and some slip-on shoes. To sum up, I was wearing weather-appropriate clothing. The Italians, also wear a vest top. But on top of that they might wear a long sleeved t-shirt, a jumper and then to all intents and purposes, a sleeping bag. They’ll also probably have heavy jeans/trousers, definitely a scarf, sometimes a hat, and a large percentage will have big boots on. And let me tell you why – it’s simply because it’s not June yet. In Spring and Autumn, the Italian’s wear jeans and jumpers and sleeping-bag-coats REGARDLESS OF THE ACTUAL WEATHER. We English folk will look outside at the weather, see that it’s sunny and warm and go immediately to a beach/park and strip off, lest we completely miss “Summer”.

So, I struggle with this one – I generally try my best to fit in with the Italian culture (mainly by eating pasta, pizza and drinking wine all the time) but I think I would just expire if I attempted to wear the excessive level of clothes that an Italian does. The weirdest thing of all, is that they genuinely don’t seem to realise that it’s hot. It’s not like watching dogs trapped in cars in the summer – they’re not panting and there’s no visible sweat marks (I suppose you’d never see it through the sleeping bag anyway). I think they’re actually just built differently.

Ok, onwards and upwards. Have a good rest of week everybody!

xxx

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Thunderstorms, Nudists and Overworked Beavers…

Ciao!

This week’s been quiet – the weather’s not been up to much.

There have been a few beach trips – the first one was Marcelli last Sunday. That stretch of beach seems to go for miles between Numana and Porto Recanati. Because of its sheer size, I’d have thought it would be relatively empty and yet it was RAMMED with people. I don’t think there was a single Italian that wasn’t on that beach. There’s regimented colour coordinated grids of umbrellas that people pay for, interspersed with other grids for people that don’t want to pay but who’ve brought their own umbrellas, followed by another colour coordinated set and so on for miles and miles.

Anyway, this was the beach:

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Marcelli Beach

 In contrast to that, this was Mezza Valle beach…

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Mezza Valle – better eh?

Mezza Valle is known around here as being particularly spectacular. However, you have to have a boat to get to it or be quite fit as it’s a steep 25 minute walk down to it, and more importantly a challenging trek back up!

For that reason, the beach is very quiet. I’ve been there twice this week. The first time was just before the biggest thunderstorm I’ve seen. The weather had been looking a bit ominous but we decided to risk it, had a quick 5 minute swim and then decided that we should probably head back up again before we got caught in the rain. And let me tell you, you should have SEEN it – it wasn’t even rain – I think you have to have “rain drops” for that – it was more like the sky was under water. And it had hail in it!  The weather here is crazy. Thankfully we’d made it back to the car just in time. I feel a bit sorry for the poor guys on the beach behind us. The path would have been a river – they’d have had to have done their best salmon impression to get back up to the top. We’ve had quite a few other thunderstorms this week too. And with thunder like I’ve never heard before. It’s been sounding like the sky has been falling down (anyone else remember Chicken Licken?!).

Anyway, look at me talking about the weather (you can take the girl out of Britain but not Britain out of the girl it seems) – much, much more interesting were the nudists! Family members – you might want to look away now :-). Now, Mezza Valle is not a nudist beach but it’s suitably in the middle of nowhere and big enough to be able to find a discreet location far from anyone and strip off if the desire is there. The housemates and I found a quiet spot far from anyone but kept our togs on. However, within a few minutes, the single naked men on the beach seemed to be edging closer until one started a conversation. I’ve thought about it and come to the conclusion that most of my conversations with people are conducted at eye level. After this guy came over to introduce himself (shook our hands), he proceed to sort of stand amongst us for a bit resulting in an unusual eye / naked groin level conversation. To give him credit, he did apologise for having his bits out, but in a “what can you do eh?” sort of way (put pants on), and then proceeded to squat (oh my eyes…) between us and chat. However, to my surprise he seemed relatively normal and by the end of the afternoon I’d allocated him to the “Harmless Extrovert” nudist category.  In contrast, the other “Filthy Flashing Pervert” nudist category was occupied by a couple of the other men who were patrolling our patch of beach and stopping at random points to face us in a Superman pose (standing Superman pose. The flying Superman pose would have been even weirder).

Anyway, suffice to say, it was an amusing trip and despite the Filthy Flashing Perverts outnumbering the Harmless Extroverts, there were still enough Normal People on the beach for us to not feel threatened. Having said that, I would not go back to that beach on my own. Though I suppose if anything was to happen, at least I’d know exactly where to aim my kick…

Here’s a photo of my housemate and me looking like an idiot with my snorkel:

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Jellyfish Watch: The snorkel is great – it’s the only mask I’ve ever had that doesn’t leak so I’m very pleased about that. But because the weather’s been so changeable lately, the water’s been mixed up from the rain and it was difficult to see anything apart from the occasional jelly fish that would appear out of the blue (literally). I’ve considered it and I prefer the idea of swimming without getting stung.

I went to Fermo with the school this week. Fermo’s a hill top town a bit further south than Camerano (where I am). It’s nothing particularly special, though it does have a lovely playground and cathedral on the top of the hill. Further down there’s a large piazza with places to eat and a few shops. There’s an interesting reservoir thing going on under the piazza from Roman times. We had a tour down there with an incredibly fast speaking Italian guide. Something about holes, rain, dirt and water levels. We all forgot where the car was so we traipsed round for an additional hour trying to find it before giving up and going to a bar whilst Marco carried on the search (successfully eventually!).

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View from the museum into the piazza

After Fermo, we went to a Trattoria in Camerano where we had great food which was excellent value for money but resembled a school canteen. Still no menus. The conversations in Trattoria’s seem to go like this:

Waiter: Hi there. Do you want something to eat?

Punter: Yes, yes I think I do.

Waiter: Is food alright?

Punter: Yes, food sounds splendid.

Waiter: Right you are. I’ll bring some out.

I went to the cinema this week to see “Hangover Part 3” or rather “Una notte da leoni 3”. The literal translation would appear to be “a night from lions”. Though let me tell you something about the word “da” – it falls into an annoying set of words called “prepositions” like our “on”, “in” etc. but “da” is a particular gem which can mean a seemingly infinite number of things. The usual suspect is “from” but who knows?! Anyway, what a weird translation?! Apparently it means to have a great night out. They don’t seem to have the concept of “hangovers” here. There’s not even a word for it, so perhaps that’s why they’ve changed the title?! Anyway, pleased to report that I picked up the plot line relatively well.

What else? I went to Ancona yesterday with one of the housemates and there was a food festival going on which was a stroke of luck – we spent the morning eating free olives, cheeses and tasting all the oils.  It reminded me of a much more tranquil version of Borough Market in London. I got invited out for a drink by one of the men at the stalls. The pick-up techniques of Italians thus far appear to be stereotypically Italian. He grabbed my hand, spun me around and exclaimed “che bello!” (how beautiful!). Outrageous! You can’t objectify women like that! I let him off because he obviously has fabulous taste (and I’d eaten half of his olive stock). But if a guy tried that in the UK, he’d get a thwack in the stomach with a handbag. If  women did the handbag thwack here, I think most of the male population would be constantly doubled over. I don’t think feminism has reached Italy yet.

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Look at these! These revolting looking dried insideless fish that look like they’re screaming (stoccafisso) are a speciality of this region apparently. MMMMmmmmm. Tasty.

On Thursday I should be going to Croatia with the boat folk 🙂 I’ve been sailing before and slept on boats but I’ve always been in a harbour overnight and had a chance to have a proper wash. I’m worried for my hair. It goes all dreadlocky even after I’ve been for a 5 minute swim in the sea. I think after 3 days of not being able to wash it, I’ll have no other option than to shave it all off. I’ve made an appointment with the hairdresser next Tuesday for the occasion.

In other exciting news – I’ve had my first taste of chocolate in almost 2 months! I’m rationing. It’s lasted almost a week (as opposed to the usual 2 minutes). Thank you Lucy for sending 🙂

What’s a bit odd? Given this week’s thunderstorms, it seems apt to point out how sensible and trusting the Italian’s are when it comes to umbrellas. The English, when it’s been raining and when there’s shopping to be done, will close their umbrella and wander around the shops with it dripping everywhere on everything. But the Italians often have a sort of bucket thing going on by the door so that the punters can leave their umbrellas there and if there’s not, there’s a sort of short term adhoc umbrella amnesty outside the shop. I know it’s only umbrellas but I think it shows a sense of trust that’s probably missing in the UK. It’s nice! Next time I’m in the UK, I’m going to leave my umbrella at the shop door and see what happens (I predict I will forget to pick it back up again).

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Umbrella Amnesty outside of H&M. The Italians are so trusting. And they’re not cheap umbrellas either. I’m certainly not going to leave that nice blue one I took from outside the shop…

This week I’m bunking off school – I have plans to attack my Italian learning with renewed vigour (why is it talking so long?!?!?! I should be fluent by now!!!! GRRR!!!), sort out bureaucratic stuff, look at a car (specifically with a view to buying one I should add) and do some more painting / drawing (I’m so pleased I can vaguely draw – in the absence of being able to speak Italian properly, drawing people seems to be a reasonably decent bonding factor). I shall as ever, report back.

Have good weeks all 🙂

x

P.S. It’s been a while since Lizard Watch. Here’s a picture of a beaver instead. It was in Ancona by the beach. Beavers don’t live near beaches usually eh? I think it became exhausted trying to build a damn across the Adriatic. He did not look happy, poor thing.

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Beaver Watch? His teeth were red. Do beavers usually have red teeth?

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