Posts Tagged With: lago di fiastra

Earthquakes, Traumatic Treks, Castrum Sarnani and Opera…

Buongiorno,

I wrote the blog below before the terrible earthquake struck central Italy yesterday morning.  I’ve experienced two or three earthquakes now in Italy and I thought the others were quite strong but nothing like this. The epicenter, where the most damage was done was only 24 miles away as the crow flies. I woke up at 3.36, like I think almost everyone else did in central Italy and it felt like I was in a washing machine. It’s very difficult to orientate yourself, or even get out of bed when everything is shaking so violently and things are falling from the walls and smashing around you. There wasn’t any warning – it doesn’t slowly warm up, it just hits. And it went on for such a long time, well over 2 minutes. Myself and the neighbours all convened outside. Each year in August, families from Rome come to stay in their holiday homes in the hamlet so there were about 10 of us outside in our night clothes on the road for 3 or 4 hours too scared to go back inside. We gradually began to get dribs and drabs of information about those that weren’t so lucky. Watching the terrible scenes unfolding from the worst hit places has just been heartbreaking. Over 240 people are dead and there are still lots missing.  Obviously terrible things like this happen all the time but rather unjustly, when it’s so close to home, it really puts things into perspective. My neighbours and I have all been very lucky.

There have been dozens of aftershocks, lots quite strong and each time everyone rushes outside again. The families from Rome have all gone back to their main homes and so there’s just the core of my little hamlet here now. It’s a lovely community spirit and everyone watches over everyone else though so I don’t ever feel too alone in that regard.

The house is full of cracks, a couple I’m a bit worried about but apart from a few glasses and a mirror broken, all is pretty much as it was. Someone will come today to check that all is ok and I hope it will be. There are 30 families in Sarnano who are not so lucky and have had to move out of their homes as they’ve been classed as too dangerous to stay in. AirBnB have a disaster relief scheme and I’ve offered my spare rooms on that, even though I’m a bit nervous to sleep in the house myself until the aftershocks calm down a bit. Last night I slept in my tent. Of course, life goes on and you can’t not sleep at home for fear of something that will probably (fingers crossed!) never happen, but at the moment it’s just not a very relaxing thought sleeping under concrete whilst there are still aftershocks (even one as I write!). In fact, there were at least another couple of tremors last night, one fairly large but under canvas (and putting aside the concerns about everyone else), it’s less scary and more awe-inducing!

Lots of friends and family have been in touch worried about me so thank you for your concerns and well wishes, it’s much appreciated 🙂

So that’s the earthquake. My thoughts (and hopefully more practical things like blood and clothes in the not too distant future!) are with the people of the towns worst hit. On a lighter note (though admittedly not much the first part of the update!) here’s everything else I’ve been up to!

Last time I wrote was a month or so ago so there’s another mass of things to update on. Summer here in Le Marche just seems to be very busy with things to do and people to see which is nice of course. Anyway, first things first.

The walk in Gran Sasso I was about to embark on the last time I wrote…

It was absolute stunning. I need to go back there again under my own steam to take more photos. However, I feel like our “day out” could be made into a disaster film without using much imagination. It was not a 10 hour trek as planned; it was 16 hours and consisted of more climbing than hiking (a particular challenge given I’ve never climbed before!). The fixed ropes that should have already been in place were not there, ladders fixed to the side of the mountain were missing the majority of their screws and rocks the size of footballs fell on our heads (thankfully  only on the ones that had helmets). We got down to the bottom of the mountain on our return just before nightfall and then had to try and find our way in pitch black to the cars. Nobody had phone reception to call for help, nobody had enough water (mine fell out of my bag), angry horses chased us and the angry wolf-killing dogs protecting them chased us too for good measure. And to cap it all I broke my very expensive camera…. On the whole it wasn’t an enjoyable experience and I eventually got into bed 24 hours later; an exhausted, sunburnt, aching mess. I haven’t quite worked up the courage to go out for any more group excursions since!

The views were stunning though…

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Valle dei Tre Santi

However, I have been on more successful walks and Valle dei Tre Santi was one of them: to discover the Valley of the Three Saints. It was a local walk, about 12km long and included some lovely little waterfalls and a “gola” (basically where two large rocks/mountains meet and leave a gap).

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Monte Vettore

I also finally made it up to Monte Vettore, the highest mountain in the Sibillini range at 2,476 meters. It’s the highest place I’ve ever walked up to so I’m pleased about that! It’s been on my list of things to do for months 🙂 Here are some photos…

Around Sarnano

I also had some visitors here so did some of my usual “tourist” route activities with them!

Montemonaco

We also went to Il Tiglio, a very plush Michelin starred restaurant in Montemonaco. We went for the “degustazione” menu – a tasting menu where you try a bit of everything on the menu. I had a vegetarian version which was very tasty. I think the best bit was just the sheer creativity… as a starter a branch came out with “berries” stuck on made of parmesan etc. Pudding was a sort of custard poured on the table with fruit and granola type stuff which sounds pretty normal but then the waiter poured liquid nitrogen over it to freeze it! It was a very interesting dining experience all around.  On the way back we stopped off in the town and took some photos…

Rocca Varano

We also made it to Rocca Varano, a castle on the outskirts of Camerino. I’ve often driven past and wanted to investigate. It looks particularly elegant at night, all lit up. So we headed there and predictably it was shut! We still had a wander around though. I’ll have to go back and explore the inside at some point.

Pescara

Pescara is another place that’s been on my list of things to do for months. It’s a city about 2 hours drive from here on the coast. I met a friend for lunch and a quick walk around the town so didn’t do too much exploring but it looks quite a nice town on first impressions.

Opera at the Sferisterio

I’ve also been to see the opera at the Sferisterio, a sort of ancient semi-circular Colosseum in Macerata. It was quite an experience. I was pleased to note that most of the Italians don’t understand what on earth is going on either. Even with the subtitles which were flashed up at the sides, it’s difficult to understand what’s happening because it’s all in ancient Italian that often doesn’t bare any resemblance to Italian nowadays. I think they could have been a little clearer as well in terms of the scenes and costumes (it took me a while to work out that there were two separate main women as they both looked the same, dressed the same and sounded the same…. note: I am reliably informed by my opera singing expert friend that they didn’t in fact sound the same).

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Castrum Sarnani and the Serafino

Finally, last week, we had Castrum Sarnani, a big medieval festival in Sarnano that happens every August. It’s a great event with things going on every day for a week or so. It kicks off with the Serafino, a competition between the four zones in Sarnano where they compete to win things like tug-of-war, tree-trunk cutting, tree climbing and a race with a jug of water on your head!

During the taking of these photos above, I got stung by a wasp. Over a week on, my finger has only just gone back down to normal size!

Once the Serafino has finished, the real party starts. Sarnano is filled with medieval demonstrations – candle making, flour milling, juggling, singing and falconry. There are 4 or 5 different “taverns” to eat at within town and you can pay for everything using special coins made by the resident blacksmith! It’s just a really lovely event – I highly recommend it!

I think that sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having an excellent August 🙂

x

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Sunbathing in Senigallia, Entertaining and Photography!

Buongiorno a tutti!!!

How is everyone? Well, I have a daunting amount of updating to do! It covers a bit before the Puglia trip at the beginning of the month and thereafter.  I shall aim to keep it short and sweet (I realise I’m not particularly adept at that!). On a separate note, if you’ve signed up to these posts by email (thank you!), I’m told it’s worth clicking on the link to read on the website as the layout is better. Anyway, between doing a bit of teaching, I have been…

Sunbathing in Senigallia

I spent a weekend with some good friends in their apartment in Senigallia at the end of June. The weather was amazingly hot and it was nice to have some time at the beach. We had an aperitivo at a lovely bar called Chalet Beach at Marina di Montemarciano and then finished up near the apartment in a great restaurant with candlelit tables on the beach. It was already busy back in June but later this week it’ll be even busier because they hold a Summer Jamboree – an international rock festival which I went to a couple of years ago and loved. We had some good sunsets whilst I was there, in particular one sunset that looked remarkably like the sky just before the aliens came down in the film ‘Independence Day’.

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Photographic Excursion

I also had a little photography excursion around the mountains near where I live with the friend who came to Puglia with me…

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Then a few days later some other friends with their 17 month old came out to stay for the weekend. I was slightly nervous because I wasn’t sure how ‘toddler-safe’ the house is. My stairs to get to the second floor, for example, are really something to behold – I’m considering attaching a mountaineering fixed line for people to attach themselves to as they go up and down. Anyway, I’m pleased to say that despite my concerns, the 17 month old left intact and happy and I think the parents did too!

Lounging in Lago di Bracciano

Then the a couple of days later I drove down to Lago di Bracciano with a friend. That was a bit of a long day – 9 hours of driving in one day. I think that’s about twice my personal record!

It was a good day though and it was nice to explore a new area. The lake has a swimming area and the sand is actually black (and really, REALLY hot!). It was a nice lake and I also visited Anguillara Sabazia, a little town jutting out into the lake which had a lovely ‘old town’ to wander around.

Watercolours!

I organised a little watercolour painting excursion too at Lago di Fiastra which I think went really well although there were only 4 of us. I think we were the talk of the beach! Everyone kept coming up to have a look. I felt like it could have been a comedy sketch – us four reasonably professional looking painters and then my painting at least, looked like a 2yr old could have done it. I can only imagine what people were thinking! Anyway, I’ve definitely got the bug, I’m hoping to organise another excursion in a couple of weeks, though to be honest, I haven’t entirely worked out the advantage of painting “live” as opposed from a photo! Our tutor said the other day that we should be ready to start painting something that we might want to put on our wall. I think I have vaguely managed that, or at least, my friend from the class wants one of my paintings to put on his wall! I’ll put some photos up of some paintings on the next update.

Colmurano “Artistrada” Festival

I’ve heard good things about the Colmurano “Artistrada” Festival for months. Colmurano is a little town in Le Marche, about half an hour from my house. The festa is one that celebrates all kinds of art forms – whether that’s painting, portrait drawing, music or street performances. I have to say, it was one of my favourite events that I’ve been to in Italy so far. Colmurano itself is pretty to just have a wander around but the events were all really good too. I even bought a CD by a guy called Geordie Little, a percussion guitarist (have a look at his videos on the link if you don’t know what percussion guitar is).

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Percussion Guitar is where you use all of the guitar – you might hit the sides to get effectively a drum beat and you might press the strings down on the neck like you’re playing a piano… it’s very interesting to watch!

Then we saw an excellent dance group who I unfortunately only saw through the phone of someone videoing it (thankfully,  otherwise I wouldn’t have seen a thing as it was so busy!) and then a brilliant fire-dancing group called Pyrodanza. I took some photos and they are going to put them in their online photo gallery 🙂

Party!

I am always being told by the Italian’s how many English people there are in Le Marche and up until a week or two back, I’d met only about 5,  which doesn’t seem to tie up with the high numbers I’d been told about. Anyway, I was invited to a party (I was the ‘plus one’) and there were dozens of us! DOZENS! When I moved out I was quite wary of not mixing only with ex-pats as that seems like it’s cheating a bit, but then that seemed an impossibility anyway because I couldn’t find any! However, it was great having a chat about other people’s experiences here, particularly with the language learning and I met a lot of like minded people so I’m pleased about that. The party itself, a celebration of a recent marriage, was fabulous too. We were even treated to a couple of celebrity singers!

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Ricardo Foresi and Monica Trapaga. Apologies for the blurry photo – I blame the phone camera (and not the wine)

Macerata Language Exchange Group Outing!

I recently discovered a lovely group of people, part of the Macerata Language Exchange group, wanting to improve their English (and sometimes their Italian, as many of them come from all over the world!). We met for a special “Games / Chatting” night at Civitanova organised by a professional facilitator, Adriano. It worked out very well in fact as we were prompted to talk about things that probably wouldn’t come up in normal conversation – goals, life history, stories… Good for my Italian! And I can’t tell you how amazing the place was where we had the event, Casablanca – it was absolutely stunning, complete with swimming pool and restaurant. I’ll definitely be going back there again.

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Trekking & The Walking Boots of Hell

I also went on a fab trek a couple of weeks ago in the Sibillini Mountains with some new fellow ex-pat friends. It was a gorgeous day and we walked up along the ridge of the mountains. It was difficult walking – through long damp grass and on uneven slopes, but satisfying and definitely worth it when we got up to the ridge which had amazing views. Alas, I slipped onto a rock and still have quite a painful leg as a result! However, it made me think. I spend a good potion of my time in the mountains slipping down them. I had previously been blaming my general ineptness at maintaining any kind of balance but it suddenly occurred to me it might be my old, cheapish walking boots. It was also a revelation when I spoke to the others about the state of their feet / boots that apparently, it’s not normal to feel like you’re tottering on bloodied painful stumps towards the end of a walk. WHO KNEW?!?! So, I’ve invested in expensive new walking boots and walking sticks (sporty ones rather than the old people ones), and they’re amazing! I hardly slip at all now (touch wood, or touch iron as the Italian’s say!) and my feet are still entirely operational after a long walk. This weekend there’s a long trek with my walking group in Gran Sasso, an area of the highest of the Apennine mountains. I had worried about being able to keep up but after a local walk this Sunday, I got approval to go by our walking group president who said I was very “tosta” (tough)!

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This is the lovely Milly – she must have gone 20 times further than everyone else that day, bounding between the members of the group!

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Smerillo 

There’s been a festival in Smerillo, another very pretty little hill-top town with amazing panoramas of the area. It’s a yearly event called “Le Parole della Montagna” (the words of the mountain) and had some good mountain focused films and talks organised. Last Friday I saw Kurt Diemberger, one of only two survivors from the K2 Disaster in 1986, who gave a talk about his climbing experiences which was interesting. Nice chap. A bit short with people perhaps but in an amusing way!  I’ve since become obsessed with mountain disaster films. I will never feel daunted by a steep slope again.

Amandola Gelato Festival

This was one of those festa’s that was a bit of a let down. It started at 3pm apparently. Knowing that the Italian’s are somewhat of a ‘late’ nation,  my friend and I went at 5pm and they were still only just setting up. We had been expecting lots of different stalls selling unusual flavoured ice-creams but there was nothing. So we got a couple of drinks and watched them set up. By the time we left at about 6.30 all there was, was a guy explaining how to make ice-cream. So we had ice-cream from a normal gelataria (ice-cream shop) and left. There was a good band on later apparently and I wanted to go to the “Silent Disco” they had planned but it would have been a bit of a wait around for several hours so we headed back to check out the nightlife in Sarnano instead…

Checking out the old Italian classics

I haven’t really explored Sarnano at night – in fact, I could count on one hand the number of times I’d stayed in town after 10pm. It was actually busy with people milling around. We stopped at a bar called Decantautore to watch a band called Souvenir D’Italia play old Italian hits. It was great! It was very amusing, particularly when the singer got out a sort of manual loud-speaker.

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Almost at the end of the update.. well done if you’ve got this far…

Tessera Sanitaria (Health Card)

I’ve finally got health cover – the same as I would if I was an Italian citizen. I’ve so far been relying on being healthy and having no issues but I decided that approach was probably too optimistic long term. So I had to pay a very specific 387.34 euros in what was quite a faff going between “ASL” (the office where you get your Tessera) and the post office. I’ll still not believe I’ve actually managed to get one until I have it in my hand.

Sterilizing the cat!

I finally took the plunge and got Batfink neutered this week. He looks so sore, I’m feeling horribly guilty. But it was for the best. I think his raging hormones are responsible for a couple of missing kittens 😦  Here he is in all his pre-neutered glory when he still loved me.

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Poor little adorable Batfink

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And this is his “I can’t believe you’d do this to me, you traitor” look 😦

And finally!!!! MY OLIVE TREE HAS GROWN AN OLIVE! Three in fact. Isn’t it impressive?! Good little olive tree.

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Spot the olive! I did have high hopes for those other little balls but they don’t appear to be getting any more olive-like. Nevermind. Three is plenty to be getting on with. Perhaps I’ll make oil.

Ok, that’s enough excitement for this blog post. Apologies it’s been so long but you can rest assured that I’m up to date now!

Have good weeks!

x

 

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Barns, bags of spiders and lake dolphins…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? All good here. Various bits and pieces going on but I still feel like I’m missing a life plan! Anyway, updates below but I’ll start off with a bit of real estate…

Who would like to buy this lovely barn?!

Fienile

I don’t know if the sweetcorn comes with it but I think it makes for a lovely rustic room divider/fly screen!

As you can see it’s a bit rustic and requires a bit of work but it would make a lovely home once renovated and it has an amazing view of Sarnano and the mountains. It’s in a peaceful, rural little area called Colleciccangelo just on the outskirts of Sarnano. There’s actually two buildings and an adjoining courtyard included in the price (40,000 euros, negotiable). There’s lots of potential and if anyone is interested, there’s even a proposed plan for the property. Great investment potential. For anyone wishing to see more photos and/or to test their Italian, have a look at the advert here!

In other news, SPRING IS HERE!!!!! It’s been lovely. I’m so pleased! I’ve been a bit more inspired to go out and take some photos too. I have attached proof of “Spring” below…

 

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I’ve discovered a lovely little restaurant called Il Sigillo in Camporotondo with a newly discovered ex-pat too. It was a really nice little restaurant in a quaint little town and it was surprisingly empty. They do a vegetarian tasting menu so I’m hoping to try that one day. Interestingly, the word the Italian’s use for “tasting” in their menus is degustazione which to me, sounds too similar to disgust to make it an attractive option. In a similar way, I find it very difficult to buy a packet of arachidi which means peanuts, but sounds like you’re buying a bag of spiders. Still, I’m glad I’ve found a new restaurant to supplement my tried and tested “Scherzi a Parte” which  all my guests get taken to at one time or another.

I’ve been cycling almost every day and at the weekend I cycled 16km! SIXTEEN! Which I know many of you will probably be thinking is absolutely nothing but it’s akin to a marathon for me! And it’s very hilly where I live. This whole exercise debacle means I’m permanently aching from head to toe but I think I’m getting better.

In other successful news, I also discovered that you can walk all the way around Lago di Fiastra (the biggest reservoir in Le Marche), a feat I’d previously thought was impossible because of lack of pathways. Despite going off the beaten track a couple of times, it’s not impossible by any means. The lake is beautiful. It’s crystal clear and I used to enjoy swimming in it up until earlier in the week when my friend told me that it’s dangerous, full of whirlpools and there are nameless things the size of dolphins in there. I have googled and I can’t find any evidence of these claims. Nevertheless, it seems less of an inviting prospect now!!! I did take some photos though.

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I would just like to say how annoying I find power lines in this country. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, and they stick power lines everywhere.

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Another highlight of the week was “Occhi negli occhi”, a piano and string quartet concert that was held in San Ginesio’s theatre (San Ginesio is one of the nearest towns to Sarnano where I live). The pianist and composer was Fabio Capponi. The music was brilliant, as were all of the musicians. Click here for one of the songs that I think was recorded whilst I was there. I was inspired enough to buy the CD and now I’m annoyed that I can’t find the sheet music anywhere to be able to play it myself! I’m hoping he’ll be famous soon so it will be downloadable. San Ginesio’s theatre was beautiful too – a lovely venue. As a “Sarnanese” (someone from Sarnano), I’m supposed to hate San Ginesio, a tradition going back to when all little towns in Italy seemed to be at war against all the other little towns, but I must say, their theatre definitely wins the “Dinky and cute and nicely decorated” award!

I think that about sums things up here. I hope everyone else had a good week 🙂

A presto,

x

 

 

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Welcoming committee, driving traumas and course enrollment!

Buonasera,

I hope you’re all well. I made it back in one piece! It’s been lovely 🙂 I’m back to wearing vest tops rather than jumpers!!!

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Sarnano looking sunny 🙂

Car rental trials and tribulations

I hired a car from Ancona airport. ‘Budget’ cars seem to offer the best deal so much so that there was absolutely nobody at any other car hire place and a massive queue for Budget. The others should up their game (or help out Budget so people don’t have to queue for hours).

In the UK our steering wheels are on the right hand side. In Europe and everywhere else pretty much, steering wheels are on the left. So I was a bit nervous about this and driving a new type of car as well but really, it’s only been mildly traumatic. I hit the window each time I want to change gears and I feel less comfortable being on that side for other reasons too – given the Italian’s have a penchant for driving at speed in the middle of the road, me physically being on the pavement side of the car used to feel safer (in the event of a crash, hopefully they’d just take out my passenger. Phew.)  Also, I suspect I might have been scathing in the past about how Italians sometimes just park basically where they are, rather than at the side of the road. But mystery solved! It’s quite difficult for some reason parking when controlling it from the left-hand side. I think me, the cars behind and all the onlookers were all thrilled today when I eventually managed to parallel park in the tiniest space imaginable in a car that seems to have blind spots in almost all directions. I am about as quick and reactive as a sloth. I wish there was a “Learner” style sign for people trying to work out how to drive new cars and on the wrong side. I can’t even point to my trusty old GB sticker by way of explanation.

House and feline welcoming committee

It’s been lovely catching up with the neighbours. I’ve been duly provided with eggs from the chickens next door, celery, herbs, several jars of preserved tomatoes, onions, grapes, peppers, courgettes… I hardly needed to go to the supermarket. I do have the best neighbours of all time.

Batfink the cat was here to welcome me when I arrived! He was very sweet and didn’t leave my side all day and meowed incessantly wanting to sit on my lap whenever I sat down for a second. Before I left for the UK he seemed to be having a thing with his auntie (despite frequent lectures on what’s right and wrong) and had almost ditched me entirely but I think they’ve fallen out because I seem to be his favourite again. He’s turned into a bit of a grumpy old man. I think he’s been emotionally scarred by the kittens who are naughtiness epitomized. To be honest, I think I will be scarred soon too.

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Batfink with a kitten sneaking into the background.

Every time I open my door, Batfink comes in followed quickly by 4 kittens, Batfink’s ex/aunty, his mother and his father. Eight flea-bags is just too much. So I shoo the cats out, and the adult cats go. But the kittens remain. Nothing at all scares these kittens. So I pick up a kitten in each hand and put them outside, close the door and then go to get the remaining kittens. I pick up those kittens and as soon as I open the door to put them out, the other two kittens come in. So I close the door to get the other two kittens. Guess what happens when I put the other two kittens out? Yes, kittens number three and four come in. It’s relentless kitten removal. I’ve had to resort to using the handheld kittens as sort of bowling balls to knock the others out of the way so I have enough time to close the door.

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Sometimes, they all manage to squeeze onto my front door mat. So from left to right: Pellosina (“Hairy”, Batfink’s Aunt/Ex), Felixa (I’ve dubbed her this, I don’t think she’s been named), Scaredycat, Naughtiness, Batfink, Grigia (“Grey”, not particularly imaginative name but this is Batfink’s aunt), Neve (“Snow”, Batfink’s dad. They hate each other), Sole (“Sun”, or Naughtiness 2). I could write a book on the life of these cats. There’s everything you could ever want in a story: forbidden love, fights, illicit children, the devastating effects of favouritism, bullying… If I wrote it without people knowing they were cats perhaps people would even read it (maybe that could be an incredibly unsatisfying final revelation/ twist at the end)

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The kittens are more persistent than even the most frustrating cold callers. I’m going to have to start exiting the building from a window.

I was also welcomed by a giant scorpion, a massive spider occupying most of the terrace, and several dried up ants. They were less cute but expected nonetheless.

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This spider is roughly 5 foot by 8 foot. I’m too scared to even remove it. I imagine this is how Frodo felt in Lord of the Rings when Shelob comes to get him.

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So this scorpion was dead which was initially a relief but now I’m worried about what killed it. Shelob?

Course enrollment

Well I have enrolled in my art course – I’m quite excited!!! It wasn’t a simple enrollment process. In England, my usual method of course enrollment goes: Look at the prospectus either online or paper copy. Decide on the course based on course information (syllabus / dates and whatnot) and complete / download the enrollment form and send it off with a cheque. Receive confirmation with details as to where and when it is.

So there’s some information online about this course but for the year 2013/2014. I downloaded a form and attempted to complete that but it’s out of date. Not to be put off, I went to the school itself. The conversation went thusly:

S: Help me! Is this the right form for the course I want to enroll in?

Guy (G): Meh, looks like it <glances at it briefly>. You need to go to the bank and send us some money.

S: But is there space for me on the course?

G: There’ll be space.

S: And this form, I’ve filled it in ok?

G: Hmm. Yeah I reckon so.

S: So I can just send you money and then come back with it?

G: Yeah.

S: It’s just I wasn’t even sure this was the right form because it seemed old and for another course.

G: Hmm, I guess you could use this form <hands me this years form, an entirely different form in fact which requires a passport photo and tells me the course is actually 100 euros more expensive>.

S: Ok. So I fill in this form and do the money thing and then what? When does it start?

G: November.

S: Any specific date?

G: Thursday.

S: The first Thursday?

G: Usually.

S: And like, when?

G: Usually afternoon.

S: Right.

He seemed thoroughly bemused about the level of information I was asking for. I do wonder how people here usually enroll for courses. Perhaps they fill out random forms and then just sort of hang around hoping to come across the course. In fact, there were a few people loitering outside…

So to enroll in the course you can’t just send in a cheque. You have to:

  1. Go to the post office and pay some money (I wonder what the post office do with this money…?).
  2. Go to the bank and transfer some money (to the school I presume).
  3. Go to the tabaccheria and pay for a very expensive stamp which gets stuck on the application form (for tax purposes I was told).

Anyway, despite all that, I’ve done it!!! It wont be long now until artistic fame and fortune rolls in, I’m sure.

That’s about it so far apart from a quick excursion to Lago di Fiastra yesterday (photos below). Car buying is in full swing. I’m seeing some at the weekend. Please keep up with the vibes!

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A presto,

x

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My new favourite place, visitors and an ant infestation…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? I’ve had a string of visits! My parents, Pane Caldo’s parents and my brother and sister-in-law all came over from the UK. It’s been lovely to have people from home here and it seems a bit quiet now they’ve gone, though the next set of visitors are out in July so not too much time to feel lonely! It’s been really good to do something other than house related activities too and see some local sights that I’d not been to before. Firstly though…

Happy 750th Birthday to Sarnano!

A couple of weeks ago marked the 750th anniversary of Sarnano being an independent comune so the Sarnanese celebrated in style over the weekend. Alas, I missed a few of the celebrations but I’m pleased to say that I made it to see our local celebrity band, La Racchia. Along with more traditional instruments, their party trick is to play various household items like colanders, drainpipes and toilet cisterns. And what band would be complete without the customary colourfully dressed band leader with a dummy in his mouth wielding a wooden spoon?

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Sightseeing!

In no particularly order, these are a few pics from the last two or three weeks of sightseeing around the area…

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Penna: Beautiful hill top town just a few minutes away with a little park at the top and amazing views across Le Marche.

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View from the top of Penna at sunset

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This was on the way back to Sarnano from Penna.

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View from Montefortino – another quaint little hill top town.

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Pretty little square in Montefortino

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Madonna dell’Ambro nestled in the mountains

Santuario di Madonna

This is the Santuario di Macereto near Visso

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Crystal clear lake in Visso

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Castle in Visso – only the ruins remain but you can walk up to them for a good view. We went on a little round trip from the town. Mind the snakes!

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Visso

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There’s quite a few trout farms in the mountains it seems – at the base of this valley in Visso is one of them.

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Pretty little church in Visso

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This is near Casteluccio, my new favourite place.

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At Casteluccio there’s piano grande – a massive field of cultivated flowers. It’s not quite ready yet but the flowers should be out in the next month or so.

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The poppies were out though 🙂 That’s the town of Casteluccio up there on the hill

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They even had a little wood in the shape of Italy!

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Casteluccio closer up. As you can see, I like Casteluccio! This is the last picture, I promise.

Treia

I also went to check out Treia – you guessed it, a hill top town! This is one of the churches.

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And this is taken from just by the main square where last weekend they were holding a ravioli festival!

Lago di Fiastra

This is Lago di Fiastra. The ginestra (broom) is out at the moment so it’s looking very colourful.

San Ginesio

This is a little cloister in San Ginesio. San Ginesio is definitely worth a visit – it’s known as the “Balcony of the Sibillini Mountains” and for a good reason. There’s a nice restaurant called Terra Nostra in the piazza which looks fairly small from the outside but is larger when you get inside, is nicely decorated and has nice food. And we got a free limoncello so that’s always a bonus.

And this is the cloister at Tolentino outside the Basilica di San Nicola.

And this is the cloister at Tolentino outside the Basilica di San Nicola.

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Sarnano has been a bit thunderstormy lately and mid mountain visit we saw this one approaching!

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This was taken near me in Sarnano, looking very dramatic with the approaching storm.

I think the visits all pretty much went without a hitch apart from the last night with my brother and sister-in-law. When we first moved here myself and Pane Caldo tried a restaurant that was recommended to us by our old landlord. It’s called Scherzi a Parte. It’s brilliant – lovely food, great location, fab service. As a result, we’ve been going there ever since and taking all our visitors there. With any visitors that come back, they’ve been keen to go back to the same restaurant. But there are OTHER restaurants!!! What if we’ve all been missing an even better restaurant?!?!?! So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to go somewhere new with my brother and sister-in-law, a place recommended to me on a couple of occasions. It was a terrible mistake!!! The decor was like something straight out of the 1970’s. The pasta was dry and hard – not even al dente but like it was made the day before and heated up. Terrified of offending anyone we tried our best to eat our meals but the pasta didn’t diminish, only multiplied before our very eyes. We’d still got a large selection of anti-pasta to work our way through too. As typical English folk, it’s just inconceivable for an entire table to order starters and main courses and leave almost everything. Oh the embarrassment, the shame…….until I remembered I had two plastic bags in my handbag. Our moods shifted as we stuffed the bulk of our food into the bags. My sister-in-law refused to lower herself to that but she’d done a better job of eating her food than we had so fair enough. I did feel slightly guilty when the waitress came over later and chastised her for leaving more food than we had! Anyway. Scherzi a Parte next time it is.

Animal / Insect watch

It’s been a while since Animal Watch and goodness me, there’s been some unwelcome ones! My bedroom, bathroom and terrace have been somewhat overrun with ants. I’ve had to become a specialist in ant elimination which is really not something that I’m proud of being an animal-loving vegetarian! Anyway, I seem to have resolved the issue (bicarbonate of soda and sugar seems to do the trick. Poor ants).

The next intriguing development has been fireflies – I’ve never seen fireflies before but they’ve suddenly appeared at night. Apparently it marks the start of summer so that’s good! I managed to catch one in a jar for a closer look but it promptly stopped lighting up as if in protest. It was released shortly thereafter. They only live a day or so anyway poor things.

My favourite animal update though are the kittens. I’ve been trying not to get attached because last year’s litter all died apart from my Batfink. However, they’re all doing really well, although three of the five are still really tiny. Those ones belong to Batfink’s mum so I’m sort of encouraged that at least he did quite well! (The other two have a different Mum). I’ll put in a photo next time!

I think that about sums up the last few weeks. I’ve been doing a bit of DIY as usual but I’ll update on that in the next post.

Have good week’s all 🙂

xxx

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Sightseeing, kitten-napping update and mushroom identification

Ciao a tutti!

Well another busy couple of weeks here. Here’s a rundown….

Parental Check up

My parents came out for a few days to see the new house. Dad was the one that found the house on a website in the first place so I think it was interesting to see it in the flesh! It’s a pretty unconventional setup. The first couple of days were frustratingly dull and wet (the weather that is!) but it brightened up – it’s always nicer in the sun.

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Mum & Dad heading to a lookout point in the mountains overlooking Lago di Fiastra (Lake Fiastra)

 

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Last time I was there, there were lots of bright blue thistle type things. This time, there were some bright pink ones. The bees seem to like them too!

Then we visited Lago di Fiastra. Absolutely dead but still beautiful with crystal clear water.

Then we visited Lago di Fiastra. Absolutely dead in terms of anyone there compared to a month before when it was teeming with people still. I think I prefer it when there’s fewer people – much more serene.

 

Archery competition - it did look good fun though they seemed to treat it as very serious business!

We happened upon an archery competition in the lovely hill top town of San Ginesio – it did look good fun though they seemed to treat it as very serious business!

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One of the archery targets. Poor boar. I hasten to add this was a fake boar but still!

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My parent’s visit was characterised by me taking us to various festivals and markets that didn’t actually exist. This is Cessapalombo, a local town, where there was supposed to be a food festival. I don’t think we saw a single person let alone a festival. Then we went to Tolentino for a Farmer’s Market which just ended up being a small grocers store. Still, it was interesting to see the local towns!

 

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This is the Basilica of San Nicholas in Tolentino. It’s pretty spectacular – particularly the ceiling. It also has….

 

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… a lovely cloister (a sort of covered walkway around a square – I think!). But the best thing about the Basilica of San Nicholas is…

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…this huge nativity scene of the birth of Jesus. It’s a great scene – going from morning to night over the course of a few minutes with rousing music in the background. If you ever visit the Basicila, you have to go through the gift shop to find this – it’s hidden!

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We went on a nice walk between my house and Sarnano past some pretty scenery.

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This is a pic of Sarnano taken from my garden (Mum & Dad brought out my telephoto lens, thanks M&D)

Fai da te (DIY)

The kitchen is FINALLY done (ish!). The Ikea fitters came and managed to cope with the wonky walls and I’m thrilled to say we now have a working kitchen complete with non lethal cooker (the last gas one used to have a habit of burning off your eyebrows).

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Before (well, still “after” given we knocked out the chimney, filled the floor, knocked out the sink and had all the electrics done. After a week solid of plastering, myself and Pane Caldo were unable to move our hands or touch anything.

 

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But now it’s done 🙂 There’s still some work to be done on the tiles and we need to paint but it’s coming along. Alas, the hob itself uses all the electricity for the entire house so I need to phone the electricity company to talk to them about it and see what that entails.

 

Kittens

I have terrible kitten news 😦 Three of next door neighbours’ kittens died this week after a bout of flu. Poor little things. There’s one survivor called Mimi who since his brothers and sisters have died, has been quite adventurous and always seems to want a cuddle or to play. I really hope nothing happens to him, he’s really quite adorable.

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Neve the deaf, blind, tailless cat has been trying to make more kittens.

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This is Mimi (I’m sure that’s a girl’s name?!) snuggled up on my lap. Pane Caldo has dubbed him Batfink because he has large pointy ears.

 

Funghi

I’ve been on a funghi identification mission recently and have even bought a book on it. I have hundreds of mushroom photo’s now to work through to try and identify. I think it’s probably a futile task given there’s absolutely no chance at all that I would ever eat anything that I picked, but still, it appeals to my self-sufficient ideals.

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It doesn’t inspire me with confidence in that the start of any mushroom identification article or book seems to have one sentence on what good fun it is to pick mushrooms and then several paragraphs dedicated to how dangerous it is. One article said that a number of people in 2010 died in Italy mushroom picking. However, they all went at night and fell off cilffs. Not quite as damning then for the funghi identification but I’m still not going to eat any!

 

These next few weeks should be a bit calmer – there’s no more visits planned and no deadlines to meet so the focus now will be on less DIY related things and more on creative things, at least up until Christmas.  I’ve been socialising a bit more with the neighbours which has been really nice so hoping to do a bit more of that too. My house is 100 years old. I’m actually in only a bit of it – 4 separate people own the full house it turns out. I had thought it was 3!

Right that’s enough from me for now. Have good weeks & buona serata!

xxx

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