Posts Tagged With: gradara

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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Divine Comedy, Christmas festivities and slimey fruit…

Ciao a tutti!

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

Here’s a quick update…

Sightseeing!

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

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

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

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

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

Ferrara

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

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

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

Christmas Decorations

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

Paying bills

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

Food

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

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Caco on bread…

 

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

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

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

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

Writing

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

Animal watch

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

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

 

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

xxx

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Neighbour watch, the Damp Wars and One Match Wonder…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? It seems like ages since I’ve written. I’m still here! I’ve just been doing other writing! Anyway, I thought I’d check in and give you a run down of the last few weeks.

Neighbourhood

I just want to say how much I like my little patch of Italy.  I was just trying to describe it to a friend and it all sounds so obscure. Quaint but obscure. I don’t know how much I’ve ever described the house and the setting so here goes. My house is in a little hamlet which is a 5 minute walk from the main road. In the hamlet there are maybe 5 habitable houses and one of those, mine, is split into four separate dwellings. There’s a few rustic buildings littered about too which are falling apart and have tree’s growing through the middle of them. Everything in the area used to be owned by a large farming family. “My” house is about 145 years old . My specific bit covers three floors and is over and under the next door neighbour’s section of the house in a very odd configuration. Another neighbour entirely owns a room directly underneath my kitchen. It seems strange but according to my investigations with the neighbours, it’s always been like that. There are often chickens roaming outside around the houses and there’s a couple of dogs that seem to regularly come here from several miles away to chill out on the front steps. One of them is the size of a small horse. Batfink the cat dislikes them intensely and so requires an escort to and from the house.

The community is really nice. My immediate next door neighbour is always dropping us food and fruit/veg. She’s been taking me on several tours of the area and introducing me to everyone under the sun. Two doors down there’s a really nice couple that again, give us food, lots of advice and lots of DIY support and tools (he’s a metal worker by trade). There’s a couple on the other side further up towards the main road that have offered us free wood, as long as we can clear it off the land – they’re really friendly too. Further up still, 5 minutes from the house, there’s a “forno a legno” which seems to be basically a rustic sort of bakery. That’s really nice and they give us new stuff to try rather than the bog standard (saltless) loaf of bread. They own a little corner shop as well but because it basically looks like someone’s house I’ve not had the courage to go in but I’ve recently met the owner so I’ll pop in next week. I’ve never really felt like part of a community before – in London, you basically kept your eyes on the ground at all costs and speak to no-one! I don’t think we could have asked for a nicer, friendlier area.

Out and about

We’ve had some Italian friends over the last couple of weekends which has been lovely.  Everyone seemed to like the house and the area. We tried a couple of “traditional English” meals – an afternoon tea for one of the lunches and a roast dinner with our other friends.  For my Italian friends that haven’t come across those yet, an afternoon tea generally consists of sandwiches, then scones with clotted cream (the best thing possibly in the world – alas, you don’t have it here!) and strawberry jam and then sometimes cakes. Roast dinners are usually a lump of meat (I’m vegetarian so substitute it with something else), roast potatoes, yorkshire puddings (not a pudding!) and maybe another vegetable dish covered in gravy (a type of sauce). Both seemed to work out ok!

The countryside here at the moment is spectacular with all the autumn colours. Unfortunately I didn’t take out the decent camera so the photo’s are a bit poor. I’m hoping to go out later this week when it’s sunny to get some nice ones.

Fai da te

In the DIY sense, we’ve finally finished putting up the panels around the bath using bits of wood left over from the kitchen and put some beading up around it. It’s had duct tape around the bath for ages to protect the lumpy weird concrete the builder used to mount it. So it looks really nice now in comparison, despite my bad sealant efforts.

We’ve been putting various vents in (see Damp Wars below) and finally have an extractor fan in the bathroom. We finally have a bedroom light too, something that was sadly missing when we bought the place.

Otherwise it’s been a bit slow on the DIY front recently but hoping to get back on the DIY horse shortly.

The Damp Wars

Damp continues to be a big issue in the house, mainly the bedroom. I’ve been told by neighbours to go around with bleach which kills mould spores so I’ve been doing that. A few weeks ago I spotted a bit by the wardrobe so pulled that out and it was absolutely thick with mould behind. Ugh! It’s not a nice job clearing that stuff I can tell you. It’s also got into our new chest of drawers. It turns out my “hayfever” is “mouldfever” and has substantially improved since I resolved the wardrobe issue. I’m having to go on a de-mouldifying mission in the bedroom every few days. I’ve been told you can’t eradicate damp from these old houses but I’m hoping at least that we can improve it. So, we’ve embarked on a war against damp!

All furniture is a few centimeters away from the wall to allow the air to circulate, we’re going to put vents in almost all of the rooms (according to the websites air circulation is key, and our damp meter seems to back that up), windows are open when it’s a nice day, the stufa is on in the evenings to provide “dry heat” and we’re putting the dehumidifier on in various rooms, including the cantina downstairs to try and draw as much water out of the walls as we can.

By the end of winter, we’ll be Damp Eradication Experts.

Stufa

I’ve done it! Just call me One Match Sue. So, I know that absolutely no one will be interested in my fire starting methodology but here it is anyway! I have tried all manner of fire starting methods including little wooden teepees and pine cones stuffed with bits of paper and tissue etc. The way to start a fire, in our stufa at least, is to create a little pile of tissue and card and set that alight and then start adding little dry wood twigs to it.  Fires need air underneath, our stufa has a section underneath it to collect the ash and has a little grate in that too. If you open the door entirely and let the air in under the fire, it acts as though you’ve just poured petrol on it. It’s like a fire turbo charge.

Bureaucracy  

The neighbours said that residency wouldn’t be difficult to obtain. I told them that it would. Of course it would. It’s never, ever easy here. The last two times, they have required countless documents, private health insurance, proof of savings, work contracts, letters from the language school, proof of address, ID, special stamps that you have to pay for at the tabaccheria etc.  They all thought I was lying. So it was with mixed feeling that I was able to obtain residency in about 10 minutes with just a passport. Why it would vary so much within the same region mystifies me.

However, nothing is ever simple and although I got away with obtaining my residency without having to get private healthcare insurance I then tried to register for a doctor and I apparently need it for that! My neighbour has decided that I should register myself as unemployed so I can receive free healthcare. I’m slightly concerned that means I have to actively look for a job. Booooo….

On another note, I’m annoyed I didn’t face my residency acquisition fears earlier because now, I have to pay IMU, a sort of “second home” tax, even though I don’t actually have a second home here. That came to 146 euros for 4 months. If I’d have registered when I moved in, I would have just had to pay regular tax which is 80 euros a year. You live and learn I suppose!

Right, that’s it from me. We have a horribly early start for a bus trip with 40 of our neighbours to Gradara and Candelara a couple of hours north from us. That’ll be an interesting day! I’ll report back with some photo’s in a couple of weeks.

For now, buonasera a tutti!

xxx

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