Posts Tagged With: lemarche

Making paper, earthquake update and flower power…

Buongiorno,

How is everyone? I‚Äôm thrilled to report that in this blog post there are no deaths to report or indeed bad news of any kind ūüôā I knew this day would come!

There‚Äôs not too much to report on since the last post. It‚Äôs been glorious weather so I‚Äôve been out and about in the sun. The flowers are out and it’s lovely to see.

The cats are enjoying the sunshine too and bringing in the world‚Äôs supply of ticks (thankfully they‚Äôre not biting them but hitching lifts ‚Äď neither me or the cats are enjoying the tick eradication sessions when they come in of an evening).

The main thing of interest this week has been a workshop with the lovely Natan and Catharina of Nightcloud Studio in the hills around Amandola for an all-day paper-making workshop. Like many of us, they were unfortunately hit quite badly by the earthquake in 2016 but their studio has remained in full working order!

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Natan and Catharina make paper out of almost everything – it’s a great way of recycling and when things don’t get made into paper, they get used in other ways! This was their blue bottle fence surrounding the veggie patch.

It was a great day out ‚Äď they started off giving us an overview of the history of paper and showing us some examples of papers made from different materials. It turns out you can make paper from almost anything: nettles, grass, jeans, t-shirts, wheat. I‚Äôd always had in mind, probably like most people, that paper is something that you write, draw or paint on but the papers we were leafing through there were pieces of art in their own right.

Since the workshop I‚Äôve been seeing the world in a different way ‚Äď everything I come across I‚Äôve been wondering whether I could turn into paper! It‚Äôs a wonderful way of recycling things. Natan and Catharina have clearly experimented loads with lots of different techniques and their workshop is full to the brim with artwork and papers. They have an exhibition in Amandola in May.

In other exciting news I saw the apartment in Sarnano that I will be moving into at some point courtesy of the government following the earthquake. It‚Äôs not finished yet ‚Äď there aren‚Äôt any doors and the electrical points and plumbing all need to be finished but it‚Äôs good to finally see it. It‚Äôs a reasonable size with a couple of good-sized bedrooms, a terrace and an open plan living room and kitchen. In Sarnano we‚Äôre lucky that we‚Äôve been offered the possibility of these apartments ‚Äď other areas aren‚Äôt quite so lucky.

That’s about it from me. Until next time!

x

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The Malocchio (Evil Eye)!

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? I have (as have many of the locals) had a challenging few weeks! The aftermath of the quake has been terrible. There are so many people without homes and who have lost love ones. The last count was 295 people dead. The damage here in Sarnano was obviously on a completely different scale but still substantial. There are 250 people here alone who have had to move out of their homes as they‚Äôve been classed as ‚Äúinagibile‚ÄĚ, basically unsafe to live in.

Alas this list includes my neighbour. I don‚Äôt live in a sort of abode that any English person has probably ever come across! It‚Äôs a very odd set up. Perhaps the nearest description would be a ‚Äúterrace‚ÄĚ. Basically it‚Äôs a large house divided into 4 separate abodes, one of them being mine. My house covers 3 floors and is over and under other bits of the other people‚Äôs houses. It‚Äôs certainly not a neat divide. In fact, to give you an example, one of my bedrooms was acquired¬†years ago by a previous owner who bought it from my neighbour. Any of you thought of selling your bedroom to your neighbour?!! Anyway, a dividing wall between my upstairs bedroom and my neighbour‚Äôs is now in danger of collapse ‚Äď and no matter which way it falls, it makes it too dangerous for her to live there so she‚Äôs moved out. Apparently to fix the damage it isn‚Äôt enough to rebuild the wall and the neighbour‚Äôs ceiling which has always¬†been rather weak.¬†The amendments will need to be made in an anti-seismic fashion. Alas, it turns out this is actually a lot of work and is likely to take months and cost thousands ‚Äď during which time I won’t be able to live here. Hopefully the government will pay for the repairs but it could take years for that money to come through.

After a week of aftershocks and not really sleeping very well, I decided to get away from it all and spend a couple of days at the beach up north in Rimini with a friend. Alas whilst there, someone stole my bag with my wallet, telephone and everything else in it so it wasn‚Äôt as relaxing as I would have liked! The hotel, Hotel Luigi deserves a medal ‚Äď they were so kind, helpful and generous. If anyone goes to Rimini, I would highly recommend them, not only for their lovely rooms and excellent location but for their sheer niceness! I would also recommend that you never leave your things unattended¬†anywhere in Rimini not even for a second. It seems dozens of bags are stolen every day.

I had to buy¬†a new mobile phone to replace the one that was stolen. I use the term ‘phone’ loosely as it turned out that once I got home it couldn’t receive or make calls or messages apart from within the bounds of the shop where I bought it from. The shop owner was incredulous and thinks I‚Äôm insane. Anyway, we agreed he‚Äôd send it off to be repaired and he gave me a totally different replacement phone. Such was my luck, it had exactly the same problem!!!

……And the bad things¬†continued:¬†The car passenger window has broken, the car steering wheel freezes randomly, the spark plugs have been a problem¬†even though I‚Äôve just replaced them, and the tax man (well I don‚Äôt know where to begin with that but suffice to say it‚Äôs a good job I‚Äôm not a suicidal sort of person) health issues (that are all resolved but I can confirm that the Italian Health Service seems to be about a million times more efficient than the English health system on the face of it) etc etc etc…

It was also a horrible few weeks on the cat front. Two of Pelosina‚Äôs kittens went mysteriously missing. Pelosina died during the local ‘Slug Pellet Cat Massacre of Spring 2016’. She left behind 3 adorable little kittens. Two of them went mysteriously missing and a few days later I discovered a cat shaped body floating in a water butt. I put two and two together and decided they must have fallen in. Meanwhile, the remaining kitten, Pepper, wouldn‚Äôt leave my side. I missed her¬†brothers and I think she did too and we snuggled up each night watching TV with her kneading my stomach and giving contented little meows. Then a week or two back, I woke up and found her dead outside where she‚Äôd been hit by a car. I shouldn‚Äôt get attached to these cats, bad things always happens but she was such a character and was so affectionate that she really wheedled her way into my heart. I do¬†miss her.

So all in all, there has been an unwieldy amount of misfortune. I‚Äôm not remotely superstitious but in the event that it was due to the mirror I broke a month or so back, I set about researching methods of how to resolve a curse, just to cover my bases! And there is nowhere better to resolve a curse!¬†The Italians, it turns out, are quite a superstitious nation. I bought a keyring with a four leaf clover and a red squiggley horn thing which they call a ‚Äúcornetto rosso‚ÄĚ which fends off bad things (although not that well in my case unfortunately). And the other week¬†my friend doused me in¬†oily water to fend off the ‚Äúmalocchio‚ÄĚ (the evil eye!)¬†and¬†muttered something under her breathe. Apparently she can‚Äôt tell me of her mutterings until Christmas Day which is the only day where the tradition can be passed on. I can‚Äôt wait!

Anyway, perhaps because my friend actually managed to lift the “Malocchio” (!) or simply because life has temporarily run out of ways to be spiteful, things are on the up again now and I don‚Äôt feel quite as blighted with bad fortune!!! In fact, the turning point was when I discovered that our two missing kittens were alive and not in the water butt after all, albeit 3km away having found another English couple to take care of them. Alas, my neighbour didn’t want them back so they’ve been relocated to another home which is sad for me but great news for them, so I’m really pleased about that.

So good things have started trickling through again ūüôā

  • I went away for a couple of days to Passo Corese. Nobody will have heard of this place but it’s not that far from Rome. I went with a friend who was studying for an exam and whilst she prepared for it, I painted. It was a lovely couple of days really and I feel I’m gradually developing¬†my own “watercolour” style. And to say thank you for keeping her company, as if she needed to thank me, my friend¬†gave¬†me a lovely replacement purse to replace¬†the one that was stolen (I think she got fed up of me fishing around in the bottom of my backpack for loose coins!). However¬†it wasn’t all good – I’ve just received¬†a massive speeding fine and three points taken off my license (I don’t know quite how that works in conjunction with the English system where you gain points if you’re bad rather than the Italian system where you start off with¬†points and they take them away. Perhaps I’ll end up in a better situation!!!).
  • I‚Äôve bought a digital piano which is just excellent ‚Äď I‚Äôm trying to learn the song from The Piano which is a bit tricky but very absorbing!
  • My parents have been here which has been nice¬†so we’ve been doing some¬†sight seeing. We have been to,¬†Civita Bagnoregio which is a very attractive little town,¬†perilously perched on a large hilltop and can only be reached by a footbridge.img_20160917_150728096_hdr-effects¬†And Assisi

 

And then, given that Dad is very interested in photography, we did some photography sessions around Sarnano. These are my attempts but my father’s will be significantly better!

  • And my¬†painting is going alright! I’m just on the cusp of starting a new blog called “A Painting Occasionally”. When it’s ready / I build up the courage, I’ll add the link! I’m still procrastinating at the moment ūüôā

Next week I’m on a Blog Tour “Buonvivere 2016” to the wonderful town of Forli¬†so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, here’s a picture of a cinghiale – a wild boar, my first ever close up and I thought he was rather sweet!

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x

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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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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‚Äôll 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 ūüôā

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 РI 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 ūüė¶ ¬†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 ūüė¶

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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Successes, disasters and pasta making!

Buongiorno a tutti!

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

I’ve had a productive week here…

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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My beetroot ravioli making efforts

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And the green spinach blobs are my attempts at tortellone

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

xxx

 

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

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mmmmmmmm chocolate…

 

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

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

Anyway, I hope you all have an excellent week.

Buonaserata!

x

 

 

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Photos, photos and more photos…

Buonasera!

How is everyone? I feel like I have been thoroughly unproductive these last couple of weeks so I don’t have a vast amount to update on. ¬†I have been taking lots of photos though so this update will be more photographically orientated than normal! Apologies for the sheer number of them but I’ve had fun taking them and wanted to share! ūüôā

We had snow! I went with Pablos to Sassotetto, our local piste (in fact, Maddalena) for some snowboarding which was great fun. It was absolutely heaving with people as it was one of the first days the pistes were open this season.

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This was taken from the field just down the road from my house.

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The same field also offers lovely views of Sarnano

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One can never have too many pictures of snowy fields at sunrise eh?

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This was taken near to Penna, 20 minutes drive from me.

And I went to Lago di Caccamo to try out a new filter which I’m not sure I got the most out of (it’s a 10 stop NDR filter for anyone that would like to offer advice and tips on how to use it!!!) and then popped along to a little hill-top town I’ve been meaning to go to for ages called Pievefavera. I do not recommend Lago di Caccamo as a photographic location – I had to scale a wall and traipse across a bog to get anywhere near to the water.

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These swans came a bit too close for my liking!

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Lago di Caccamo

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This is Pievefavera taken from the lake. Can you see why I’ve been wanting to go there? To me it looks like it’s taken directly from a fairy tale.

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And this was the church in Pievefavera

Today I went to Castelluccio. You might remember I went there quite a lot in the summer because around the end of June/ beginning of July, they have the most amazing display of flowers. It’s a massive plain amidst the mountains. I wanted to see what sunrise would be like there so myself and my next door neighbour got up insanely early to check it out. It was stunning, absolutely stunning. Totally worth the early start. And as demonstrated below, I’ve finally worked out how to use the panoramic photo setting on my camera!

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And then we went for a walk to a look out point by Forca di Presta. I wanted to go to the Pantani lakes but there were, of course, no signs and I think we went the wrong way.

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My neighbour and her dog

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And another lovely panorama taken from our walk

 

So I think that’s probably enough photos to be getting on with! Oh no, there’s one more. The cats are all feeling amorous at the moment. Pelosina, the neighbour’s female cat is getting a bit fed up with all the attention and I thought had quite a good way of dealing with it…

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“Leave. Me. Alone”

Ok, hope you’re all well. I shall give an update on my upcoming holiday in Trentino the next time ūüôā

xxx

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The Nine Circles of Hell, Sightseeing in Ravenna and Photo Expeditions!

Buongiorno a tutti!

How’s everyone? I’ve had a very good, though largely unproductive, few days!

I shall tell you what I’m supposed to be doing – I’m supposed to be editing my book. And yet it seems I’ve spent most of my time doing more interesting/inspiring¬†things instead. I’ve only managed two editing days in the last fortnight. I must, must, must finish!!!

The¬†weekend before last I went to see “Dante’s Inferno” in the caves in¬†Camerano where I used to live (to be clear, I used to live in Camerano, not the caves!). It was probably one of the most unusual plays I’ve seen – rather than sitting in one place it was a sort of group walking tour of the 9 “circles” of hell. As a quick summary, Dante and Virgil (of Roman poetry fame), take a tour of hell which is divided into 9 circles with increasing levels of torment in line with the increasing seriousness of the sins committed. In each larger cave (they’re all connected by small candlelit passageways), there were two or three actors that would recount what was going on in that specific circle of hell.¬†Anyway, it was very good, though in a very difficult form of¬†Italian (passato remoto – it’s not very common and more often used in the written form!) so I had to fill in the gaps with trusty Wikipedia after the performance.

I was also invited to Ravenna last¬†weekend by my lovely neighbour to stay with her just as lovely family. I think it’s probably my most ‘full-on’ Italian language experience to date. I think I have a sort of weekly brain usage quota and as a result, I feel pretty brain dead – I’m unable to string more than a couple of words together now. Ravenna is absolutely spectacular though. I didn’t know anything about it before I went but it’s in Emigia-Romagna, the region north of Le Marche (the region where I am), and on the coast. It’s well-known because it has an extraordinary number of mosaics, some of the oldest in the world and most of them are in the churches. Ravenna is basically built upon a massive lagoon. If they hadn’t filled it all in over the years and sucked out all the water, it would have been like Venice. As it is they’ve had to keep building Ravenna up because it seems the entire city is suffering from subsidence! As a result, when you go around the old historic¬†sites, you kind of walk down to them. It’s got a fascinating history; all recounted by my neighbour, her niece and niece’s partner.¬†This sort of knowledge and patriotism about the area you live in and its history and artwork is something I love about Italy. Alas¬†I have a terrible “in one ear, out the other” tendency for all things of historic importance, which is un-reflective of my level of interest so apologies for my lack of educational¬†information on this blog but have a look here¬†if you want to look into it!¬†If you visit Ravenna yourself¬†it’s well worth buying a sightseeing ticket which will get you into the main sights (tombs and churches mainly!) for just under 10 euros.

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Mosaic somewhere in Ravenna – I should have made a note! Perhaps we can call it an interactive, “guess where this mosaic is?” sort of competition. The winner gets credited in the caption.

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Now…. this is in the tomb of Galla Placidea. I was thinking about having my tomb decorated¬†similarly. There is solid gold in all of these mosaics. SOLID GOLD!

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SEE THE GOLD!!!!!! GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is the Mausoleum of Theoderic. He was a big deal in Ravenna. He was worried about getting captured so there’s rumours of a secret tunnel that goes from one of the churches in Ravenna to this mausoleum (they liked to build their mausoleum’s whilst they were still alive – I guess if you want to make sure something is done right, do it yourself!) and at that point, it was right on the seafront so he could have made a quick get away. ¬†It’s very difficult to imagine how Ravenna must have looked a few hundred years back!

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And here there were a collection of mosaics dug up from around the area…

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And, you guessed it, more mosaics – this mosaic covered a massive area in a large church… all telling the history of Jesus.

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And this is in the crypt of another church. I said how Ravenna was built on a lagoon – well you can see here how it’s been quite difficult to keep the water out!!! There’s actually fish swimming around in it!!! It makes me feel better about the¬†damp problem in my¬†house at least.

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And there’s a little ferry that takes you across the river to get to the harbour…

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And this is the harbour…

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And this church is still in Ravenna but further out. It was my favourite – nice setting (you have to pay 5 euros to go in. The churches in Ravenna must make a fortune). The mosaic around the altar was amazing. Still with solid gold – the churches in Ravenna it seems are wealthy!

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This is a close up of above the altar. All these mosaics must have taken decades!!!!

On a different note I was up in the mountains taking pictures of the stars last week. It’s a lovely idea in theory – it’s absolutely stunning up there at night. But there is NOBODY around and the problem with star pictures is that you have to leave your camera out taking photos for half an hour (because it’s so dark you need to have a long exposure so that you can get enough light in). So I ventured into the pitch blackness, set up the camera, waited in the car and then started worrying that there might¬†be¬†an axe-murderer on the loose. Next time I’m going to take a photography buddy with me!

Nightshotsassotetto

I also got up at the crack of dawn the other week to take photos at the beach in¬†Civitanova. It feels like I’m always awake¬†at the crack of dawn but I usually stay in bed willing myself to go back to sleep. But the sunrise was so lovely it inspired me to actually get up early again (for all of about half an hour).

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Yesterday I was very cultured and went to a Schubert and Chopin piano concert in Macerata. Very good indeed.

Finally, it’s chestnut season!!!! I’ve been having a great time harvesting stuff this month. My friend who has a house nearby has been visiting¬†for the last week or so and we found a great spot a couple of days ago¬†for¬†chestnut picking. So, inspired by none other than Frank Sinatra, I have been roasting my chestnuts on my (non)open fire. They’re EXCELLENT!!!! I still have to perfect the timings but the recipe largely goes: 1. Score the chestnuts, 2. Put them in a tinfoil little parcel with a spoonful of water, 3. Chuck it¬†in the stufa/wood burner for 20 minutes, 4. Peel and eat them. I think Mr Sinatra would have been impressed. Mmmmmmmm.

I think that about sums it up.

I hope you’re all having an excellent week. Buona giornata da Sarnano!

xxx

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