Posts Tagged With: marches

Happy New Year!

Buonasera a tutti!

Happy New Year! How is everyone?! Well it’s been AGES since I’ve written. There’s not been a lot to update on to be honest!

At the end of November I went back to the UK to sort out a few bits and pieces and only came back to Italy a week ago.

I must say, I was thrilled to wave goodbye to 2016 which saw a pretty relentless stream of, let’s say ‘challenges’.  My usual ‘end of year summary’ (you can take the girl out of project management but not the project manager out of the girl!) wasn’t as life affirming as it usually is. The comparison of ‘What went well’ (e.g. June was quite sunny) against, ‘What could have gone better’ (e.g. earthquakes, deaths, illnesses, taxes, ‘Brexits’ and things broken & stolen) wasn’t too favourable if I’m being totally honest. So I would just like to take this opportunity to welcome 2017 and may it be less depressing than last year!

It’s been lovely to be back in Italy. My new temporary home in Ripatransone looked very pretty this week with a dusting of snow.

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One of the vineyards near the house

I had some (good?) news about my home in Sarnano. Although we’re still awaiting a second lot of engineers to come and assess the damage following the earthquakes it appears it is not likely to be knocked down and rebuilt but fixed up instead. Whether that’s ultimately good or not from a strategic or logical point of view, I don’t know. I suspect a shiny new anti-seismic block of concrete would have been the more sensible option if there was a choice in the matter. However, from an emotional perspective I miss my little pile of rubble with its odd quirks. Either way, I imagine it’ll be years until I can move back there so I’ve started looking at alternative options so watch this space!

I popped up to Jesi to see some friends at the weekend. We went to see a great exhibition in Palazzo Bisaccioni which was an ex-bank building. It’s well worth a visit – it’s free to get in. At the moment there’s an exhibition called “IL SOGNO LIQUIDO” by Andrea Crostelli which runs until the 29 January 2017. Crostelli works in oils and has a very diverse range of art but this exhibition had a very dream like feel to it – in fact, in English the exhibition is called “The Liquid Dream”. It was great talking to the artist too; he’s a really nice guy and very encouraging when I said how I’d love to have my own exhibition one day.

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Thanks to ‘Il Polemico’ for photo provision! Mine didn’t save!

On another floor there’s an exhibition dedicated to art from the 1500’s to the 1700’s – it’s nice to wander around and marvel at how bulgy eyed and horrible everyone looked (see my theory about this here).  On the ground floor there’s another exhibition dedicated to art from the first part of the 1900’s and a small exhibition dedicated to the lira. I’m glad they don’t have the lira here these days; I don’t think I could work with such high numbers! On the ground floor there’s still the safe for the bank which was fascinating to see. You’re free to wander around the building on your own but there are a couple of curators that are available to provide information and are really very knowledgeable.

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Italian’s always call each other “Tesoro” (Treasure) as an affectionate term. It made me double take seeing it above this vault!

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy doing some painting over the Christmas period. My objective for this year is to be able to call myself an artist without cringing  with embarrassment at having the audacity to declare myself so! For that, I think I need to sell artwork. With that in mind, I offered portraits for £15 (or 15 euro such is the current exchange rate – thanks a lot Brexit) on my Facebook account. I have had three commissions so far and let me tell you, painting a commission is an entirely different ball game! There’s a lot more pressure. Anyway, we’ll see how that develops. If you want to see the latest check out my other blog and/or follow me on Instagram (@apaintingocassionally).

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This is one of my paintings from last week’s local watercolour class. I wish I could take all the credit but it was a copy from my very talented teacher, Terry Banks!

On another note, my parents had my decent camera repaired as a Christmas present. It broke during the Walk of Doom last year. I like taking pictures for the blog and it’s been difficult to get enthused about my phone camera photos so I’m thrilled about my fixed camera. Here’s a “got my camera back” blackbird photo that I took in the back garden…

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Anyway, that’s about it from me. I hope you’re all well!

A presto,

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 🙂

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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Painting attempts, Lost Temples and Cat Sagas

Buongiorno a tutti!

Well it’s been another busy week or so. On my way back from the blog tour a couple of weeks ago, I finally stopped at a few places that have been on my list to see for ages. Firstly there was….

Urbania

I’ve heard good things about Urbania. It’s near Urbino, in north  Le Marche, which is a beautiful town well worth a visit. Urbania is less quaint than Urbino. Still, I was glad I had the opportunity to go there and have a wander around. Here are some photos…

Gola di Furlo

Now, you’re probably reading this and pronouncing Furlo like, well, an English person would pronounce it. You’re wrong. There is no way of pronouncing this word that an Italian person will understand. You actually have to spell it out (and even that’s traumatic because I must have told you before how the Italian’s spell? They just say the word very slowly and consider that spelt! It clears up absolutely nothing.) Anyway, the Gola di Fuuuuurloooo, is a beautiful gorge between the mountains where a river runs through. It’s difficult to get a good photo – the gorge also has a road but that’s closed to cars so you need to either walk or cycle through. However the road is lined with trees making it impossible to get a good view of the river. In the end I had to jump over a fence to take a picture and even then it didn’t do it justice!

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Tempio del Valadier

The next stop was Tempio del Valadier in Genga, built in 1826. I’ve been seeing photo’s on the various tourism websites for this temple for ages and was curious to see it in real life. It was just as impressive as it seemed from the photos and I’m just awed that we have it in Le Marche. In fact, Le Marche really is in my opinion one of the best regions in Italy (the world?!?!?!) – it has such a mix of different things to see in terms of the landscape, towns and history. Really I don’t think you could ask for anything more!

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It looks like a model here but I assure you it’s not! It’s absolutely massive.

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Here it is from the other side.

But, beware the snakes…

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Genga

Then I popped over to the town of Genga. Genga is a pretty little hilltop town but seemed quite deserted when I was there. They do have a museum which looked like it might be quite interesting, talking about the history of the local area but I didn’t have time to go in. The buildings are interesting – they seem to be half carved out of rock strata. It’s very pretty. There was also a room open in what seemed like an old church that had a very impressive picture made of various seeds and grains. It seemed so much like a painting that I had to touch it to check  – I thought the seeds must be glued down. They weren’t. I made a big hole which I hastily tried to cover up.  If any of the artists are reading this – sorry guys!

The weather this year has been generally rubbish on the whole – we have a couple of days of glorious sunshine and then it’s followed by thunderstorms. I took this rather daunting looking picture on the way back from Genga. I did manage to miss the rain though so was pleased about that!

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Walking Group!

I had my third trip out with the CAI (Clup Alpino Italiano) walking group of Sarnano. We were supposed to be going to Monte Bove (still in the Sibillini’s but more central than where I live). It would have been an impressive walk but we had to cancel that because of the storm due that afternoon. Instead, we went out locally, walking from a part of Sarnano called Bisio and then up to a refuge called Citta di Amandola and then on a bit further to the lookout point over Santuario dell’Ambro, a church set in one of the valleys. Our little offshoot of CAI isn’t very well supported (a lot of areas have their own CAI that appear to have more active members). In fact this week, there were only 4 of us. The group don’t appear to have embraced technology to publicise the walks, so I might look into that on their behalf! The Club President is one of the more interesting characters I’ve met here – a sort of hairy naked dude that eats all the plants as he’s walking along but he’s a lovely guy and knows every single path in the area. One of our group was wearing head to toe expensive specialist walking gear…whereas the President was (periodically) wearing a holey vest and shorts and the sort of shoes used for protecting your feet when you’re doing DIY.

I was a bit taken aback hearing a story of some poor paraglider that made a simple mistake and ended up killing himself on that rock face in the pictures below (right hand side). Poor man, I think that was years ago but as an ex-paraglider pilot myself it put the wind up me a bit!

Cycling

On Saturday I decided I would try and make it up to Sassotetto on my bike. Sassotetto is one of my nearest mountains. I packed a sandwich and lots of water and set off at about early morning. Wanting to do a circular route, I went via San Liberato first, a beautiful monastery set in the woods about half way up the mountain. I mistakenly thought that it might be the easiest route. In fact, it was exhausting. I had to get out and push on a number of occasions. The road was empty other than every time I got off my bike, within seconds you could guarantee a troupe of cyclists would come along (all sporty looking men in sporty looking outfits – in fact, there are simply no cyclists that wear normal get fit stuff here, they all seem to have proper racing gear like they’re all doing the Tour de France – they take their cycling very seriously! I don’t think they were particularly impressed by me with my general keep fit gear, a big backpack and a cheap bike!). Anyway, 6 hours and 40 kilometers later and with legs that refused to work anymore, I was back home again. Guess how quickly one of my CAI walking companions does that same route? An hour and a half. I don’t think I shall ever ‘cut the mustard’ as a cyclist!

Cat update

It’s just been an awful year for our little community of cats. A few posts back I mentioned how one of them was at the vets apparently suffering from the same slug pellet poisoning as before. Unfortunately he didn’t make it which was terribly sad. He was less than a year old and had a lovely character, always wanting a chat, albeit the conversation was a bit ‘samey’ after a while: “Meow?” “Meow”, “Meow!”, “Meow?”. Then last week, the lovely Pellosina died. Pellosina was just the sweetest little cat and was about 4 years old. She was really quite shy and didn’t like to be stroked but had such a gentle character and she was a fabulous climber – always high up on some post or other. She had three kittens a couple of months ago and though she didn’t like to be stroked, she was so content with motherhood that if you approached her with her kittens she would roll over onto her back with the kittens still suckling as if to say “look at my little family” and she’d let you stroke her and the kittens. She was the girlfriend of Neve the Evil Cat (he’s constantly attacking my cat Batfink) and it was him that led us, Lassie style, to Pellosina when she was convulsing behind a shed. Slug pellet poisoning is absolutely awful; it’s an agonising way to go and poor little Pellosina died in my arms outside the vets office. That’s 3 cats that have died now and it feels like I’m on a countdown until Batfink is struck down again (he’s already survived one bout). So, I would like to urge everyone – please don’t put slug pellets down. Have a look here for alternatives. Here’s my little photographic tribute to them 😦

And Sole, one of the survivors from the last batch of kittens has an awfully sore nose from something or other. Here he is having a cuddle from Batfink. It’s never a dull moment with the cats at the moment unfortunately!!!!!!

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Poor little nose!

Lion King!

On a less depressing note, Sarnano had a theatrical production of the Lion King the other week! It was an amateur production but still a lot more impressive than the amateur productions I used to be a part of. I was rather amazed to see that some of the costumes were akin to the ones used on the London stage!  The only problem was, it seemed to go on for a lifetime. The trouble in Italy is that everything is just too late. The show started at gone 10pm and there were little children in it! Why they don’t begin their entertainment events in the late afternoon or early evening, I will never understand. And yet, the Italians don’t appear to be perpetually tired so who knows, perhaps the country just doesn’t need to sleep?

Painting

I’ve been having fun with the watercolour class and painting. There’s a real technique to it. Watercolour is completely different to painting with any other medium. I can’t say as I’ve ever been particularly enamoured with watercolours as I have traditionally veered towards bolder paintings with quite a lot of texture: I discredited watercolours as “painting-lite” for those who just want to paint quaint, dreamy village scenes and flowers. That was until I started my watercolour course a couple of months back and in fact, I really like it. Far from it being a “quaint” form of painting there are some really amazing techniques and it needs a lot of practice even to do what seems to be the simplest of things. The course focuses on landscapes but I’m absolutely inept at those, though perhaps getting marginally better. Portraits seem a bit easier. There was talk about us students having an exhibition. I quite like the idea of that – something to work towards. I think I’ll dedicate July to producing a couple of reasonable landscape pictures. Anyway, specifically for my Uncle Richard who has pointed out on a few occasions that I never post photos up of my paintings, here are some of my least embarrassing efforts to date.  I’ve specifically embedded these pictures in small so don’t look too closely and don’t judge me, I’m still learning!!!!

And to help with the inspiration, I decided to create a little ‘studio’ where a bookcase used to be. I like being up there and it’s good for watercolours because I can pop them out to dry on the terrace. All in all, I’m quite pleased with it.

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I’m looking forward to the weekend – I’m going to be staying in Senigallia (coastal town) with my friends this weekend and then I’m straight off to Puglia (southern Italy) with another friend visiting from the UK. I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!

I shall leave you with my tagliatelle making efforts from yesterday. I hope you’re all having good weeks!

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x

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Monster mice, uncouth statues and cuteness!

Buongiorno a tutti,

Well it’s been a mixed bag these last couple of weeks. My friend came out to see me which was lovely! We met in Bologna and had a day there wandering around the city. I like Bologna. It’s young and vibrant because it has quite a big university there. It feels very much alive compared to the sleepy little town in my area. However, the weather left much to be desired. The thing that Italy really excels in is it’s ability to enable its patrons to relax in glorious sunshine in piazzas with glasses of prosecco and nibbles. It’s not as  entertaining when it’s overcast and raining. Half in an attempt to get out of the rain and/or warm up, and half in an attempt to appease my church-adoring neighbour, we went into the churches and so I saw a new side to the Bologna that I’d seen before.

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This was a memorial dedicated I think to just the pilots of one of the world wars.

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And we discovered this sort of library / museum which I’d never been into before. The building was nice in itself but they also had a lovely collection of illustrations and prints which was quite inspiring.

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This  was taken in the Basilica of Santo Stefano. The Basilica looks relatively small from the outside but it’s well worth going into as it goes a lot further back and contains a little museum and erboristeria (like a chemists with just natural stuff). This was taken inside one of the connecting rooms. I think it looks rather majestic! I shall have this in my palace when I get one.

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This delicate little lady forms part of the Neptune sculpture in the main piazza. Even the pigeon looks shocked.

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What is the consensus on this building?  It’s the main cathedral. There were at least a couple of other churches in the same style. I’m not sure I like the tatty, unkept brickwork design!

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And these are some terrapins in the Giardino della Montagnola. The lake there was absolutely full to the brim with them! Very cute.

Then we went back to Sarnano. The previous week, sitting on my terrace in beautiful sunshine, I’d imagined all the things I could show her. And then there was just torrential rain, and it was cold and there was fog. We did do a bit of sight-seeing but not very inspiring. By the end of the trip I felt like I should give her a refund on her flight! And the SECOND she left, the sun came out.

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The moment my friend got on the train, the blustery cold overcast weather turned miraculously into this… This was taken on Monte Conero overlooking the lovely towns and beaches of Sirolo and Numana.

Later that day, I went to the fishing lakes in Montecosaro which I’d heard about a while back but were always closed when I wanted to go. This time they were open and they were lovely to  have a wander around. Not only that, just before we were about to head home we came across a group of nutria. Nutria are basically big mice that like to swim and hang out near the water. Really very cute.

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This was one of the fishing lakes. Each lake has a different selection of fish (victims!). The fish need to be thrown back in when they’ve been caught. I was wondering if they become increasingly difficult to catch. If I’d been merrily eating away and then had my mouth pierced before being hauled out of the water, I simply wouldn’t go back near the edges of the lake again. I imagine there’s a survivors group in the middle.

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Look at this nutria’s little hands!!!!

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Isn’t he adorable?!

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They don’t make the most elegant swimmers but they go like the clappers! I want a nutria!!!!!

My other ex-pat friend is here for a couple of weeks and on Thursday we went to watch a man playing blues in San Ginesio. It was a nice evening, great food. Not as atmospheric as some of the other similar events I’ve been to but then I think that was mainly because we needed to see our food!

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This is Pierluigi Petricca, a very talented guitarist!

In terms of events, I did go to one in Sarnano’s theatre a couple of weeks ago to hear about how the local spa waters were discovered. It was good, though perhaps a bit technically challenged with the lighting and sound! I was keen to take lots of photos but my abilities weren’t up to it with the lighting. Anyway, in summary, the guy that discovered our special thermal waters was a very talented and interesting man, and the water itself  is full of minerals and drinking them will cure almost everything. This year, I shall get some!

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In other exciting news this week I’ve had my first watercolour painting lesson. It was great – lovely setting and with lovely people. I felt like I’ve already learnt a fair bit after just two hours and can’t wait to get started properly. A while back my strategy was to do a “painting a day” which just never happened. It’s remarkable how life just seems to get in the way and I don’t even have a job as an excuse! I’m still keen to do something along those lines though so I hope this will give me a bit of a kick start.

It’s all go in my little hamlet this week! We’ve had 3 kittens and lots of little rabbits born and we had 7 little chicks born a week or two before. In summary, it’s all very cute here at the moment.

I think that’s about it from me for now. I hope you all have splendid 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?!

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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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Hibernation, Wholewheat and Action Planning…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? I’ve been quiet, I know!

I’ve been suffering from a lack of inspiration and general loss of motivation. The weather in Italy for the first half of March was unbearable, in fact, reminiscent of the UK 😉 I think I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder although that doesn’t seem quite accurate. It’s more Dreariness Affective Disorder. I can cope with weather if it’s “proper” weather – rain is fine if it’s raining properly, but if it’s grey outside and there’s a general life-sapping drizzle, then I would rather just stay in bed until the sun comes out.

So I hibernated for at least a couple of weeks but it wasn’t a complete write-off. My lovely Italian friends came to visit one weekend which cheered me up.  They’re big walkers so we went on a couple of nice long walks and the weather for that weekend was positively beautiful!

I even managed to have lunch on my terrace for the first time this year just before I left so I think my hibernation phase can finish as Summer is coming (in direct contrast to the situation in Game of Thrones for anyone that watches that).

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Exhibit A: Proof that I had lunch outside.

In other successful news, I managed to locate wholewheat flour; somewhat of a difficult substance to find in the shops here (or at least, at a reasonable price). Instead the shops are stocked with thousands of different brands of white flour. There’s a mulino (mill) in Gualdo, the town up the road, which sells wholewheat flour and semi-wholewheat and it makes for tasty bread so I’m pleased about that. The shopkeeper seemed equally pleased to have a “beautiful” new client!!!  I conducted many bread making experiments and now the freezer is full.

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I also made some hot cross buns 🙂

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And this was the wholewheat loaf…

Just before I left to come back to the UK for Easter, my poor cat got an infected leg. I entirely blame his father who chases him every time he leaves the house. If he’s been inside, I have to give him a lift to a secret location before I put him down otherwise he’s set upon immediately. It appears traditional local methods of curing an infected cat’s leg involve smothering him with a towel and poking his leg with a sharp implement whilst he screams in agony (who knew cats could scream?!). This methodology didn’t prove to be effective (hmm) and I ended up almost as traumatised as my poor cat. He was issued with antibiotics in the end but as I’ve been back in the UK, I’m slightly concerned the antibiotic regime has taken a knock. Anyway, I’m very much hoping that I return to a full operational four-legged cat.

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This is Batfink the cat feeling sorry for himself on an upturned box I was trying to air.

I always look forward to coming back to the UK to see everyone and it refreshes the batteries a bit. I return to Italy each time with a list as long as my arm of things I want to get on with. Here’s a cut-down sneak preview for the next couple of months:

  • Join Cai – the local walking association. They go out every Sunday in the mountains but I think it’s probably still a bit too early in the year. I did get invited to a local cycling club meet as well, I came across them at the top of a mountain. I think they overestimated my abilities. Before I left, I could just about make it to Sarnano and back without having to get off and push the bike like I have been!
  • Join a watercolour painting class – my new ex-pat local friend has introduced me to a teacher and I’m hoping to start lessons later this month.
  • Start swimming lessons or join the aqua gym class.
  • I’ve also been inspired to make more effort with my cooking following a stay at my friend’s house. I feel a bit stunted on ingredients in Italy. Italians do Italian food excellently of course but if you’re trying to make anything else then it’s more of a challenge.

    Dinner

    Lovely dinner!

 

  • I started a “Human Origins” free online course a couple of weeks ago. It’s actually very interesting and I think I’ll be able to impress everyone with my extensive knowledge of fossil dating and paleoanthropology. I would like to finish that but it is a bit heavy going, I must say! It’s only a 6 week course. There are loads of other courses on http://www.edx.org if anyone is interested.
  • Take more pics! Now the weather has improved I’m hoping to get out a bit more to take some photos. There’s a few big touristy places in Le Marche I’ve not been to yet and I’m keen to go soon!
  • I’m also hoping to become a bit more green-fingered. I want to turn the front bit of my garden into a drive and get a few flowers for the terrace. The problem is, my gardening efforts will be very much on public display. I imagine the neighbours will set up chairs outside to watch and provide helpful instruction (“Why don’t you get a man in to do this?”.

Now let’s see if I actually do any of it! I’ll report back of course.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have an excellent week.

x

 

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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 🙂

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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 🙂 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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