Posts Tagged With: Italian driving

Italification, how to defeat curses and painting with oils…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Good few days here. Here’s the update…

Italification

Today, I took one more step towards driving like an Italian. I’m not proud of it. It’ll tell you what happened. I was waiting at temporary traffic lights at some roadworks. The lights went green and cars went through. Then came the amber light, as is customary with traffic lights, and the car in front of me sped through. Fair enough. Nothing illegal technically there really. And then they turned to red. Quick as a flash I weighed up the options. Did I have time to stop? I could see the road was clear and, although not proud of going through on red, I decided squeezing through was the safer option. I looked back. Would the man in the car behind me judge me for going through when they had turned red? I gave a snort of derision when I saw he’d also gone through. And then I laughed all the way home when I saw another 6 cars also go though after him! Rules are there to be broken is most definitely the motto here.

Painting

I’ve been doing a bit of painting in the last week or so – experimenting with oil paints which I’ve not done before. My nude-y drawing course is just getting going – it’s one afternoon a week. We have a male and a female model that will pose alternate weeks. It’s quite good having a model that is paid to stay in one position rather than asking a mate to begrudingly stay still! Anyway, my plan is to do many more oil paintings and be good enough to sell them online. However, I can’t bring myself to post up my first oil painting attempts so I think I’ll have to overcome that for my strategy to be effective!

How to defeat a Festa / Outing Curse

Last week I was invited on an organised walk by my friend, Il Polemico. Every time I go somewhere with him something tends to go wrong – I take the train to a station 2 hours in the opposite direction, I don’t bring lunch on an all day walk, I take us to a “festa” that consists of about 2 stalls… This time though, I read the walk instructions and I was well prepared. It was to start at 8.30 at the little church in Olmeto which was about two hours away. Fine I thought. I’ll wake up early and give myself plenty of time. I packed my bag and made a packed lunch the night before and headed off at ‘insane o’clock’ the following morning. Nobody was there but I was early. And then it was 8.30 and still nobody was there but that was still OK because I’m in Italy and everyone is always late. And then Il Polemico phoned to ask where I was as he was supposedly phoning from the same little church parking lot that I was in. I looked around and it was still empty. I knew then it was the wrong Olmeto – and indeed it was. There are two in Le Marche apparently – the one I wanted was 3 hours in the other direction.

Anyway, not wishing to waste the day, I went on a personalised tour of the region…

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This was taking from near Olmeto where the walk was not taking place!

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And then I headed to Asissi which was close-by. I really like Asissi but I didn’t do much looking around as I’d already been and there were other places on my tour that I hadn’t been to before.

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And then there was Spello which is a lovely little hill top town.

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Another view of Spello.

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And this was taken in Foligno. Foligno has been on my list of places to go to for a long time so I was glad I went. It’s a bit more of a main town and less quaint than I was thinking it would be. And it’s not on a hill which is my favourite kind of town! But it did have small waterways running through it, a river running outside of it and a beautiful park so all in all, still a nice town.

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Evidence of the river running outside Foligno.

Last year I went to a festa called Diamonte del Tavola in Amandola. It was very good – there were hundreds of people and the streets were packed with stalls selling truffles and wine and various local specialities. The thing is, I was with other people and my festa / outing hit rate is more successful when it’s not just me. Anyway, this year I went by myself. And it was not bustling. There was basically only a book stall and the streets were deserted. Tumbleweed blew across the town (it didn’t but it might as well have!) I think what had happened is that I had mentioned out loud that I was planning to go to the festival, and subsequently the stall owners and visitors subsequently disappeared. I imagine it’s like a surprise party where all the guests hide behind the sofas and in wardrobes but in this instance they just don’t come out until I’ve gone. Anyway, I bought some books so that’s good. And I assume it livened up a bit closer to lunch and dinner time.

And yesterday I went to Appassimenti Aperti in Serrapetrona with Pablo (and I also didn’t mention it out loud so people weren’t informed in advance to scarper). Appassimenti means “withering” in reference to the way they make their wine, known as Vernaccia. Aperti means “open” – a lot of the Cantinas where the wine is made in that immediate area are open to the public. It’s definitely worth a visit – the countryside is spectacular and the wine is good. They have an unusual production method  – they string up the grapes they’ve harvested and then leave them to well, wither, for a few months before they even start wine production. For the festa itself, you pay 4 euros for an empty  glass and a handy little carrier for it that goes around your neck. You are given 5 tokens which you can use at the various Cantina’s or at the stalls in the main town, to try whatever wine you’d like. There are free minibuses that take you to the Cantina’s from the main town. We only made it to one Cantina which has one of the best reputations, Alberto Quacquarini.

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They hang up the grapes for a few months before making the wine. Interestingly, they didn’t seem completely riddled with flies. I wonder how they do that?

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There were dozens of rows of these grapes…

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And they had a pretty idyllic terrace as well…

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…with amazing views.

I think that about sums up the last week or two here. I hope you all have good weeks wherever you are.

x

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Sticky Tape Car Windows, The Roadtrip of Searing Heat and Buying a House in Italy

Ciao a tutti,

Well I’ve been a bit quiet of late I know – I’m back in the UK for a little bit and have been manically doing up a property that I’m hoping to rent out so it hasn’t left much time for anything else!

We drove back to the UK a week or two back. Why drive I hear you ask? Because I have to get the car MOT’d back in the UK so that I can get it taxed and insured. It’s an expensive undertaking when you take into account petrol, road tax, hotels and eating out (or buying food which immediately melts, whatever it is, in the heat of the car). Having calculated it and I think I could have gone to the Maldives instead by the time I drive back to Italy too!

Having said that, to buy a car last year was too stressful and potentially too expensive because I didn’t have a “residenza” (Residency. In fact, I’m still not entirely sure I have it. I would have liked a medal as proof). So I think I did the right thing sticking with a UK car.  But I’m going to dedicate the next few months to trying to resolve the car buying/insuring in Italy issue as I’m going to need a four-wheel drive to get to and from my new house in the winter. Anyway, let me tell you about the roadtrip!

Roadtrip

The roadtrip prep commenced a couple of weeks ago when the passenger window slid down into the car door. It did this 2 days before the last roadtrip too. The car has a sixth sense. Without any time to fix it, the first part of the roadtrip was characterised by whoever was passenger having to hold the window in place.  The second half was considerably better following a sticky tape mission. This at least was slightly less embarrassing when it came to paying the road tolls – at least there was an obvious excuse for opening the door and not the window like normal people.

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Sticky tape – what every car window needs…

Despite my misgivings about the cost and the sauna like temperatures resulting from the lack of opening capability for the passenger window, it was good nonetheless.

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Melted dairy milk bar. The heat was overpowering but I must say, we discovered something AMAZING. What you do is buy a bag of Maltesers, leave it in a searing hot car for 3 days, put in a hotel minibar fridge and an hour later – voila, the best chocolate bar of all time.

And anyway, you don’t get to appreciate the countryside by flying over the top of it (apart from the alps always looking very majestic from the air). The route back took us past:

Genoa: We were actually outside of Genoa really so didn’t get a good feel for the main town. In fact, all we got a good feel for was the commercial centre. I didn’t even take any photos. Poor blogging effort I know.

Monaco: Wow! Very impressive sky-line and water. I was upset I didn’t bring my swimming costume. I’m not into the F1 particularly but it was interesting to see the road/race-track. I can imagine that would be good to watch (for 5 minutes).

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The stunning Monaco…

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And the sea front – this was taken from the race track

Cannes: The harbour was nice – full of flashy boats and it looked like it had a nice shopping area. Alas by this point we were hot, sticky and grumpy from a stressful drive out of Monaco (stupid sat-nav) and into Cannes (stupid road signs) so I think it might require a revisit at some point. 🙂

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Lots of jealous-making expensive yachts in Cannes…

Avignon: Historic town in France with a very grand cathedral with holes in the walls to shoot your enemies with arrows (in a churchly manner of course) and had some nice piazzas or whatever they’re called in France! It’s definitely worth a visit.

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Pretty cathedral in Avignon…

Nimes: We thought that it would be too expensive to stay around Avignon so I randomly selected a nearby town, Nimes, to stay in. Alas, Nimes had the most expensive hotel of the entire trip and thieves in the car park to boot! Two poor people had their cars broken into overnight. Little did the thieves know all they needed to do was to tap my passenger window to gain access. To think – they could have swiped my Malteser bar!

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The Forum in Nimes

Between Nimes and the Middle of Nowhere Near Limoges where we were staying, there was the Millau Bridge, designed by Norman Foster. A very impressive bridge indeed – I recommend a visit!

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The spectacular Millau Bridge

Middle of Nowhere Near Limoges: I booked a B&B in the middle of nowhere in Limoges. No matter what setting I put in my Sat Nav, if there is a small one lane road through the countryside, it will insist we take that road rather than the much more direct motorway. So instead of the 4.30 hours it was supposed to take, I think it took about 8. And then we didn’t have an en-suite. I should never be responsible for booking accommodation. Gorgeous countryside though.

Somewhere Near Le Mans: I knew Le Mans sounded familiar. It turns out it’s where they have an endurance race around a track for 24 hours. It was the same weekend we were there so very good timing. We’d booked a lovely random hotel – Hotel De France, in an area not even particularly near Le Mans and it became apparent that it was the hotel where the drivers/owners/other famous people stay (I wasn’t responsible for booking that one). The Nanmobile, with its sticky-taped-up window fitted in beautifully with the other cars in the car park (Lamborghinis / Ferraris).

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This is the hotel. You can see that outside the hotel there’s a very flash car which everyone is admiring. In the car park are other flash cars. In the corner of the photo is my sticky taped Fiat Panda. I’m a bit upset that it didn’t draw the same crowd that the other cars seemed to. Carist! Pfft.

 

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Pretty little village where Hotel De France is…

Caen: And then we finally got to Caen for an hour or two before the Ferry left.

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And back to the UK 🙂

Crazy Italian Driving

What was most noticeable about the trip was the almost immediate difference between driving in France and driving in Italy! The Italians all drive in the middle or the fast lane. If they see that you’ve left over a cars length of space between yourself and the car in front, they’ll do a risky overtaking manoeuvre to fill that spot, and give you a look / hand gestures for being too slow (and then they’ll drive at exactly the same speed just in front of you and seemingly attached to the bumper of the car in front). Italians don’t realise that the “slow” lane is for driving in when you’re not overtaking. I on the other hand will always drive in that lane unless overtaking. And not wanting to undertake, if I want to overtake one of the Middle Lane Drivers, I’ll then have to go across two lanes to overtake in the fast lane before going back across two lanes to where they were supposed to be driving in the first place. In Italy – they don’t get the hint. In France, not only do the majority all drive in the correct lane to start with but if you do the above “training manoeuvre” with them then they’ll soon get the hint and move to the slow lane. I wonder why the driving is so different in Italy to other places?!

House Progress?!

The house business in Italy is coming along really quickly! I’ve transferred my deposit to the owner and signed the first contract (Compromesso).  There’s no going back now (or not without a significant cost). Completion is set for 30th July. The whole thing just feels a bit odd though – the house plans still do not represent the house we’re buying. At the moment we’re still buying the  neighbour’s property according to these plans and there is still a rustic building represented which doesn’t exist. My solicitor ensures me that because of what she thinks is a comforting line in the contract: “the owner will ensure the plans represent the property when it comes to the final contract”, all is ok. So whether I’ll get a rustic building or whether the plans will be updated, and whether I’ll be getting the neighbours property or not – who knows?!

In response to my question “erm, the plans here show that the cantina is split into 3 completely separate bits – not that it’s open plan like it actually is – can we change that?” was met with “if you want, we can get the owner to stack some breeze blocks in these doorways”. Well yes, that’s EXACTLY what I was after. Loosely placed breeze blocks. Much better than up-to-date and accurate plans.  The whole process at the moment seems odd – and I’m half expecting the owner to run off with my money. Cross your fingers please everyone!

Right, that’s it for today. Hope you’re all having good weeks.

x

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