Posts Tagged With: sferisterio

Uncovering Italy’s lakes, my time on the big stage and fun in A&E…

Buongiorno a tutti,

Greetings all! How are you? Where has the summer gone?! There’s definitely a chill in the air here at night these days. I’m hoping it’s an anomaly and it’ll go back to being warm again tomorrow. I’ve had an eventful few weeks – highlights include lakes, opera and A&E! I’ll start off with the good bits…

Lago di Scanno

I went to Lago di Scanno back in April/May and had a great time. I wrote up a blog about it which I never got around to posting but I’ll do that in a week or two as it’s a lovely place to visit. Meanwhile these are a couple of my favourite photos from that trip…

 

Lago di Trasimeno

Next up on the tour of local lakes, myself and my family who were over for a couple of weeks went to Lago di Trasimeno, Umbria. I’m used to sleepy towns and villages but Lago di Trasimeno was busy, particularly in the evenings with lots of nightlife. There are ferries which take you to the islands in the middle of the lake: we went to the only inhabited island in the lake called ‘Isola Maggiore’ for a wander around and some lunch. It’s very pretty. The lake wasn’t very enticing for swimming which was a shame but there are lots of little villages around the lake to visit. Castiglione del Lago was particularly nice with a castle to investigate too and even an open-air cinema if you’re there in the evenings.

 

Lago di Piediluco

Lago di Piediluco has been my final new lake this year. That was much more pleasant to swim in, though it seems to be relatively frowned upon by the lifeguards that kept whistling at me to come back every time I got more than 3 meters out from the shore. Italians are very anti lake swimming and I haven’t really established why; the most valid concern seems to be the presence of eddies that can suck you down into the lake. I haven’t actually seen or read of any evidence of this in the local lakes to back this up but one poor  23yr old died a week or two back swimming in Lake Fiastra which has somewhat dented my argument that they’re perfectly safe. There’s been no explanation as to what happened so the mystery continues. Anyway, apart from swimming in the lake, there are lots of lovely places around Piediluco to visit. We went to Narni (CS Lewis based the name of Narnia on this town, though it has no other similaries!),  Leonessa (very quaint but a bit too patriotic for my liking – Italian flags were plastered everywhere and I felt a bit like an intruder!) and if it’s definitely worth seeing the Marmore Waterfalls, Cascate delle Marmore (the highest of which is the biggest man-made waterfall in the world at 165 meters). Unfortunately I couldn’t visit the waterfalls this time but have a look at an earlier post about them here for photos.

Walks

I’ve been on some lovely walks this year too using Cicerone’s Sibillini National Park Guidebook. I’m hoping to write up some of the walks for their blog. It’s been a bit of a challenge going for walks here this year to be honest. Many of the walks, refuges or routes are still damaged from the earthquakes in 2016. However, things are getting repaired, albeit at a snail’s pace. There’s still plenty of walks to go on and even where paths have been closed, there are sometimes other routes. Here are some photos from some of the walks…

Castelluccio

Monte Priore

Cascate dell’Acquasanta

Cascate dell’Acquasanta – just before this the several meters of path had fallen away due to the earthquake so the path is closed. I *may* have bypassed the fallen path.

Towards Forca di Presta and Monte Vettore…

 

Opera

This year I have been performing in the opera on the very big Sferisterio stage at an amphitheater in Macerata. The production was “The Magic Flute” directed by Graham Vick, an English director. It’s been quite a roller-coaster this opera experience, I must say. I’m still not sure what I think of it all!

It’s worth noting, that I don’t like opera. What other form of entertainment requires you to have subtitles to follow what’s going on and even then, half the time it’s still a mystery?! I’ve seen a handful of opera’s now and apart from one or two ‘arias’ in some of the well-known operas, as far as I can tell, there’s no discernible melody to hardly any of them. Contrast that with a good musical like Les Miserable where all the songs are immediately catchy, you can hear the words clearly and you don’t have to stop and ask your Opera-buddy what’s going on all the time… for me there’s no contest! Anyway, I do really appreciate the skill of the singers but all in all, opera is not my cup of tea. Having said all that, I go to the opera most years regardless because a) our local city, Macerata, hosts one of the biggest opera festivals in Europe every year b) I love dressing up and c) just to double check that I still don’t like it.

So what was I actually doing in the opera? My friend heard they were looking for extras and wanted to be in it and wanted me to do it with her. It’s rare I say no to something that seems like it could possibly be fun so I signed up. There were 80 or so extras and our mission was to do various things on stage to build on the storyline.

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This is the Sferisterio – isn’t it spectacular?!

All in all, I’m glad I did it. Being up on the stage at the Sferisterio is something to behold and it’s not something I’ll forget in a hurry. I met some lovely people that have become friends and who I’d never have met otherwise. It was also great being part of such a big production. The director and his team are well-known in the world of opera and it was interesting to see how they work and see the opera develop. I really liked the production itself – it’s a shame I haven’t actually seen it myself but from the outskirts and behind the scenes it had all the components of a good show – funny, sexy, there were goodies, baddies, bombs, fireworks. As opera’s go, I think I might have enjoyed our one. It certainly got some attention, even in the English newspapers. It turns out our version of the Magic Flute is like marmite – you either love it or hate it.

However, it did have it’s challenging side! In total it was 150 hours of time over a period of 2 months, 45 hours in the car (half of which was down lonely windy roads well past midnight), £££’s petrol and meals out in-between breaks. I’ve driven 30,000 km since the beginning of May. My mechanic thought I was some sort of agent travelling across country for business.  I missed out on every festa and almost every gathering of friends and family this year and I’ve been riddled with colds and bad backs which I think can probably be put down to the lack of sleep and lack of recovery time!  Which leads me onto…

Accident & Emergency Fun

So on the bad back front, I had my first experience of Italian A&E last week. In January, I sneezed whilst carrying some wood and I hurt my back. It never got better; it just goes through phases of being bad and bearable but it never stopped me doing anything so I largely ignored it apart from moaning to friends and family. A month or two ago I went for a walk up our second highest mountain, Monte Priore and since then it got a lot worse. An x-ray confirmed it was arthritis and a reduced gap between some of my bones. I needed an MRI to get a diagnosis but before I could get one done, I woke up with agonising shooting pains down my leg and couldn’t get out of bed without collapsing in a screaming heap. In the end I was whisked to hospital in an ambulance. Anyway to cut a long story short, I probably have a herniated disc. I’m awaiting some MRI results. I’m not in any pain anymore but then again, I can’t really feel my leg much! Much to my frustration I walk like a very slow robot and teeter on slopes. I do very much hope to be back walking in the mountains soon.

On the plus side of all this, it’s been really heart-warming to see how many people care 🙂 Without my family here and an inability to move, things could have been a lot more challenging but all my friends have really rallied around to make sure I’m alright and have everything I need. If any of you are reading this, I can’t thank you enough!

Painting

I’ve not been doing anywhere near the amount of painting that I’d like to be doing! I had grand plans to produce a calendar, gift certificates, postcards etc. I exhibited some of my paintings earlier in the year at a festival in Sant’Angelo in Pontano and sold a few paintings to some friends recently so in that sense it’s been successful! I was hoping to do a workshop in conjunction with a lovely local B&B called Il Picchio Verde in Sant’Angelo in Pontano, however I think that might need to be next year now following a rather busy summer! I might have an opportunity to sell some paintings at the Montefalcone Sapori d’Autunno festival in October though so fingers crossed!

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This was at Cupra Marittima a few weeks back during a weekly art group excursion.

There’s not much other news to report. I’ve moved out of ‘home’ for a couple of weeks (nothing is happening on my home in terms of rebuilding work or an alternative flat which I was told would be available back in Spring!) or so whilst they’re doing some work so I’m staying nearer the coast. It’s another new area so new places to visit! I’m down to the Amalfi coast in a couple of days too for a week so I’ll report back on that soon. Meanwhile, I hope you are all well!

x

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Discovering the local volcano and other things…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Apologies for being a bit quiet for a while! I’ve been having issues with WordPress who host my blog. Anyway, it’s all sorted now (at least for the time being!) and I’ve got quite a bit of updating to do from the last month or two. I’ll try and summarise!

The first update is that my poor Batfink lost his fight a day or two after the last blog post. It’s been horrible. We were a good little team. It’s always heart wrenching losing a pet; they’re like members of your family aren’t they? But I think we had quite a special bond, us two in particular given everything that we’d been through together in the last year or so. I miss him.

A few days after Batfink passed away, I heard meowing coming from a hedge by the gym. I eventually located it to a tiny black kitten. To cut a long story short, I ended up adopting her, despite my better judgement. She’s not got a name yet – I’m a bit nervous to give her one lest I get too attached and something happens to her. In fact, she went missing for 4 days a week or two back and I was convinced she’d died too but I was thrilled to be proven wrong.  Anyway, I’m pleased to report that her and Rusty Carrot (he’s gained a name) have finally bonded after an initial settling in period which involved a great deal of hissing (Kitten isn’t much attuned of social cues and so didn’t let it upset her).

So that’s the cat update. I’m very much hoping further cat updates will be less traumatic, at least for a bit!

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Rusty Carrot and Kitten

Meanwhile I’ve been out and about as ever. There’s a continuous string of festas here during the summer and it’s difficult to justify being at home when I could be seeing jazz, or blues, or dancing or seeing medieval games, or going on walking excursions or painting excursions or eating cheap pizzas etc. I used to think London was hectic with things going on all the time but I don’t think it’s a patch on Le Marche in the summer months.

The weather has been absolutely roasting too and the countryside has been spectacular with sunflowers and hay bales stretching across landscapes as far as the eye can see.

 

In other news…

  • I had a lovely evening with the Dezi family who are a big name locally in the wine industry. They are only a couple of minutes up the road from me. It was lovely to meet some of the locals, and their wine was great! If anyone is interested trying the wine, they run some good value tasting events.

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  • I went on a long walk in the mountains with a friend that’s not from the area. I’d been meaning to do this walk for a long time and I was quite chuffed I managed to get us where we were supposed to be going within the timescales I was supposed to! There’s lots of scope for error and there are hardly any sign posts but I’m beginning to know the local mountains quite well so it’s not the daunting prospect it once was!
  • There’s an organic farm, Indaco Foods in a town very close to me called Monsampietro Morico. They run what they call a “Dining club / Social Event Organisation” offshoot called La Bibioteca. Some friends of mine have been keen to go for a long time, as have I. I thought the food was great with some very original recipes. They run a variety of courses too in things like Sourdough breadmaking and I’m determined to do their beekeeping course.
  • I’ve been on a few painting excursions to Torre di Palme (Towers of Palms),  Lago di Gerosa (Lake Gerosa), Lago di San Ruffino (San Ruffino Lake) and Montefalcone Appenino. All are worthy trips with or without painting equipment! I’d certainly recommend Torre di Palma, a hill top town overlooking the coast. It’s very quaint with lots of little restaurants and nooks and crannies to explore.
  • I saw the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian equivalent of the Red Arrows. I was really pleased as I seem to always miss airshows so I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.
  • I went to a concert to see Paola Turci in the  mountains organised by RisorgiMarche, a set of concerts dotted around the Sibillini’s to show solidarity to the people of the area and help breathe life into some of the villages hit by the recent earthquakes. There’s a lovely vibe at the concerts. Paola Turci is a big name in Italy and is often in the charts. It was just her and her guitar, singing a few meters in front of us with us sitting on our picnic blankets and singing along to all the songs. It really had a great atmosphere and it felt quite special to be a part of it.
  • I went to see one of my favourite festa’s of the year, “Artistrada” at Colmurano. It was sad to see some of the town blocked off presumably after the earthquakes but we still had a great time.
  • Then there was the Opera ‘Turandot‘ at the Sferisterio in Macerata. The Sferisterio is a spectacular building so it’s always special seeing something there. It was the first time I’d seen Turandot. I wasn’t bored stiff like in my first attempt at opera last year. I think what helped was just how very odd it was – the princess was writhing around in a glass box filled with ‘blood’ after getting off her polar bear (I told you it was weird!!)  It did have the song Nessun Dorma in too which helped.  Alas, now I understand the context,  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to that song again without getting annoyed at how pathetic the character who sung it was.

I finally went to see the Roman Theater in Piane di Falerone. It’s just 10 minutes down the road from me so it’s been on my list a while. It’s difficult to get to see it – it’s open Sunday’s between 4pm and 6pm (sometimes) and costs 3.50 euros.  You can organise a private appointment to see it by asking a woman in the local newsagents who knows a man who knows how to get someone there to open it. There are events there occasionally and so I’d recommend trying to tie in your visit with that so you get more out of it and there’s slightly more chance it’ll be open!

  • Then there was the Sibillini Swing Festival a week or so back. Riccardo Foresi and his band were playing the night that I was there. They were great and played for two or three hours solid! Sadly none of the Italians are big on dancing to swing so the dancefloor was taken over by about 15 English people. I suspect they thought we were nuts!
  • I’ve been to 3 plays in the last month or so in various places. A couple were in dialect resulting in a rather challenging hour or two trying to understand exactly what’s going on! Thankfully my previous neighbour has given me a good grounding in dialect words so I wasn’t as lost as I could have been!
  • In other news, near the house there is a volcano. I’ve been meaning to go and see it for ages and finally a couple of weeks ago I went with a friend. I warned him it might be a bit of a walk – I’d seen the trail outlined in a tourist map at the parking area. So we put on our walking shoes and were done about two minutes later! The volcano is less of a volcano and more of a muddy patch and there were no trails! If you would like to attempt to find a trail yourself and learn more about the patches of mud, visit this site for more information.
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The Volcano (admittedly I’ve since discovered it’s called Vulcanelli di Fango – little volcanoes of mud, but still I think even that’s a bit of an overstatement)

So that sums up the last couple of months. Sorry it’s been such a long update, hopefully the blog issues have now been resolved and I shall be able to write a bit more frequently!

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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