Posts Tagged With: Sibillini

Urban Forests, Snow shoes and “Newphews”!

Buongiorno!!!

Well it’s been ages since I’ve written so in addition to buongiorno, I’ll wish you all a very Happy New Year too and I hope for those that celebrate it, you had a great Christmas!

So what’s new here? I had a good Christmas break. I was back in Blighty (I don’t know why England has that nickname?!) for three weeks or so. My favourite things about being back were as follows:

  • Seeing family and friends. It was one of my longest stints away so I was ready to go back for a visit.
  • Acquisition of a new nephew, a “newphew“ if you will 🙂  He’s less than a fortnight old and he’s my first nephew. I painted a mural for his bedroom which was good fun and very therapeutic.
  • Pubs, like proper pubs where I can drink…
  • Cider. Why doesn’t Italy have cider?!?!
  • English food and by that I mean, culturally diverse food! I’ve had various pub meals (goodness, it sounds like I’m obsessed, I’m really not!), an English breakfast, pie and chips and tacos.

But I did miss Italy. The things I missed most were:

  • My friends, neighbours, my cat and the house. Poor Batfink the cat must be used to me going away for long stints by now. Still, he gets the run of the house when I’m away as my neighbour lets him in.
  • The weather. When Italy has horrible weather, it’s proper horrible weather and then it goes. When England has horrible weather, it’s horrible for weeks at a time. So even though it’s warmer in the UK, I do not know how anyone can maintain a cheery disposition in what is otherwise a sea of oppressive grey drizzle or unrelenting rain. In fact, the poor North has had some horrible flooding this year.
  • Italian festivities… I literally missed them. One Christmas, I would like to experience the culture and traditions here.  They have “presepe” (nativity scenes) in many towns which they put a lot of effort into doing, sometimes using live people. I did get to one cool event before I left though – “Il Bosco Urbino” (The Urban Forest) at San Severino, a local town which I must revisit when it’s daylight as it looks lovely. Il Bosco Urbino consisted of dozens of Christmas trees all lit up in the main piazza which you could wander around and then strings of lights hanging from above. It was lovely. It was also very quaint but impressively so!
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This is il Bosco Urbano in San Severino. See how pretty it is?!

I also missed the scenery. A week or so before I came back I went on a guided “ciaspolata”, a snow-shoeing event in the mountains not very far away from my house at all. There’s lots of these events about. If you’re interested check out: Sibillini Web 

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Hare tracks… I call this photo “Here Hare Here” and I will give top marks for anyone who knows where that title comes (you’re not allowed to cheat!)

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Beautiful scenery…

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Part of our Ciaspolata group

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And these are the snow shoes. Not at all as I was expecting. I suspect the tennis racket model that I had in mind is a bit out of date!

Anyway, I am now back in my beautiful Sarnano and I have a hundred and one things I want to be getting on with. I shall no doubt be reporting back with progress!

Meanwhile, I hope you’re all having a good January!

x

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Crazy walks, Italian “Holiday” analysis and stunning waterfalls…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? I’ve had a great but busy week here.

I have, in no particular order…

1. …Been to see the lovely Cascate delle Marmore – the Marmore Waterfalls which are really impressive. It has the highest man-made waterfall in Europe (created in the 3rd century BC by the Romans). Its 9 Euros to go into the surrounding park area where you can do a number of walks around the waterfalls. It’s absolutely stunning and when there’s sun, I can imagine there being a perpetual rainbow because the air is always filled with a fine mist.  You have to be careful when you visit though as sometimes they turn the waterfall off (imagine!) because the water is needed for creating hydroelectricity and that’s done somewhere else. You can check a timetable online.

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2. …Been to see some cows! My neighbour and I popped over to a cow farm the other day to see the baby cows. (I’m sure there is a specific name for this but I can’t for the life of me think of it – answers on a postcard!) My neighbour is on a mission to get me educated in `country ways`. Last month she had me planting my own row of potatoes. Anyway, I was fortunate enough to see and learn about the ‘birds and the bees’ for cows (The vet rams his entire arm up the cows bottom, pokes around and then depending on what he finds up there, he gets a massive needle with er, well I’m sure you can work out the rest). The whole thing seemed rather indelicate and I felt a bit sorry for the poor cow. He didn’t even attempt to get her drunk first.

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This is a little 3 day old calf. She (I think she looks like a ‘she’ at least), has been separated from her mum whose milk is valuable and put in a small metal box and given a powdered milk solution instead. When she’s a bit older she’ll be transferred to a bigger and more overcrowded area. This, people, I think would be considered a 5 star resort in comparison to many other places. My visit to the cow farm has not made me rue my vegetarian lifestyle at all.

3. …Been celebrating Saint Giovanni (24 June) by bathing myself in water steeped in flowers (and alas, quite a few insects) so that I could be beautiful and free of disease (hmm).  Italy, and perhaps all Catholic countries, have quite a lot of saints that need celebrating and some unusual ways of doing it. In fact, I have an Italian calendar and I don’t think there’s even one day that isn’t dedicated to one saint or another.

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This was a ladle or two of flowery water prepared by my neighbour. I am devastated to report that is doesn’t seem to have affected my level of beauty and I feel about the same in terms of general health. Maybe next year?

4. …Been making bread. I think it all looks good here but those flat holey things are crispy and impossibly hard to eat for anyone that doesn’t have teeth made of diamonds. Thanks Mr Hollywood.

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5. Been playing with my neighbours kittens. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Unfortunately their fleas are almost as big as them poor little things (the kittens, not the fleas).

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6. Been on a stunning walk to Lago di Pilato which is nestled in the mountains under Mount Vettore, the highest mountain in the Sibillini’s. This walk beats the other crazy walk I did a few weeks ago that was over a river and up a near vertical slope. It was perhaps a tiny bit more of a gentle slope (89 degrees as opposed to 90 maybe) but went up for longer and  going down was more stressful than going up because the path was rocky and slippy. It’s the only walk I’ve ever been on where I’ve felt sorry for the “Old Sue”, my former self of a few hours before that had been walking up and who had been thinking the end of the path was nigh but actually having another 2 hours to go (my walking book helpfully doesn’t give you any details as to distance but it was just over 12km in total and with a 1km climb). Anyway for anyone interested in this walk: go to Foce and walk between the mountains. The path is clear and rather unusually marked out! If you’re like me (not a mountain goat) allow 3 or 3.5 hours or so to get up there and maybe 2.5 or 3 hours back the same way.

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The scenery in the mountains is always stunning but the flowers were amazing. At every different level there were different types of flowers. I’ve never seen wild pansy’s before but they were growing really quite high up.

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It’s not permitted to go too near or touch the lake. There’s some little red prawn type things in there you don’t find anywhere else. It was absolutely crystal clear.

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Beautiful!

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Quite a large portion of the walk was walking on glaciers! We walked along this one and then discovered it had a rather unsettling cave underneath.

6. …Been to Senigallia on a little vacation to stay with some Italian buddies. It was a lovely little break. Each time I go to the beach I realise how much I miss it. I think the need to search for sea glass is now an inherent part of my being. And this weekend I finally “got” the concept of Italian beach holidays. Let me explain. To my English eyes, this is a typical Italian holiday: Have one or two months off work and go to the same place you’ve always gone to stay in your “beach” house which is often only about 10 minutes from your “normal” house. Spend all day and every day lying on a sunbed, “taking the sun” as they say (or more accurately, burning themselves to a crisp), surrounded by millions (I jest not!) of other sunbeds and a beach so crammed with people it’s difficult to get anywhere. If they’re not at the beach, then they come to their “mountain” house and sit outside in big groups all day in a garden under a parasol and rarely venture out. For me, holidays have always been an opportunity to see new places; what a waste to do the same thing year in and year out when there’s so much to see and do in the world! How can they justify it?! As a result, I’ve secretly scoffed at this crazy Italian tradition and even pitied them a bit. But no, I had it all wrong…

What they’re doing is taking time out to spend quality time with their family and friends, the people they grew up with. They go to the same bunch of sunbeds (“stabilimento” – there are lots of little stabilimenti up and down the beach) where they know everyone. Every day is a reunion and opportunity to have a laugh and spend time with the people they love, care about and grew up with. Maybe because I’m out here on my own without my family and friends I hadn’t grasped the concept, but I can understand it now – it’s not where they are that’s important, it’s who they’re with. We miss this type of holiday in England to our detriment in my opinion.

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But honestly, do they really need THAT many sunbeds! It goes on like that for miles and miles!

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This was an empty day at the beach apparently! In July, you can’t move for people.

So I think that about sums up the last week or two. The next couple of weeks are going to be equally busy I think! Anyway, I hope you’re all having a good week. I’ll sign off with a pretty sunset pic taken from the terrace!

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Bull balls, Scorpion Dens and Snake Pits…

Buongiorno!

How is everyone? It’s been lovely here! I had the first evening without the heating on yesterday. As much as I love the stufa (woodburner), it does get a bit tiresome lighting it and cleaning it out everyday so that was a nice break.

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This is near Macerata, isn’t it pretty? Now that the yellow flowers are out, I’ve established that the bitter veg that the neighbours have given me is actually oilseed rape.

I’ve been trying to make the most of the sunshine. Here’s a run down… If you’re interested in this week’s exciting “Property of the Week”, skip to the end!

Walks – Lame Rosse

I’ve been meaning to go to Lame Rosse for months after seeing some photos of some weird and wonderful rock formations online. Last weekend, I finally decided to do it and printed off some instructions for the walk. True to form, the walk instructions bared absolutely no resemblance to the actual walk, and in fact, were positively misleading. I had to ask directions from an old guy who kept on looking me up and down and said how I couldn’t, as a woman, go on my own and it was dangerous (he couldn’t be specific although I did ensure it wasn’t because the route was frequented by rapists and murderers). It’s not like I was wearing stiletto’s and an evening gown for goodness sake! In the end he gave me the directions but said that he wouldn’t be accountable for anything that happened to me because he didn’t approve of my going!!! So, the red rag had been waved and I decided to do it anyway. When I parked up, I joined a little group (two disabled guys and their girlfriends no less!) that were also doing the walk. The path is all up hill for an hour and a half but it’s not too steep and it’s a nice wide gravel path with limited options to make mistakes, unlike all of the other walks around here!

Anyway, Lame Rosse was spectacular and well worth the up hill journey. Don’t let any old guys put you off – apart from the incline, it was a breeze.

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My next “big” walk is going to be to locate the Gola di Fiastrone (the throat of the Fiastrone river) which is again, only a few minutes drive away and the photos I’ve seen online look amazing so I’m looking forward to that.

Sightseeing in Visso and Frontignano

My lovely neighbour and her sister took me to the heart of the Sibillini mountains on Sunday.  It was a spectacular drive and not too far away at all really. We had a wander around Frontignano which has ski slopes up Monte Bove – I definitely want to try out those slopes next year. On the way back we stopped in Visso, a beautiful and brightly coloured little town in a mountain valley.

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It has some ruins which I believe you can walk up to – I’ll do that next time I’m there.

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Visso taken from a very majestic war memorial on the hill side.

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Sunday in Visso is market day and there were lots of cute little crafty stalls.

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And this was taken by Frontignano.

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This delicacy, in a butchers in Visso, can literally be translated as “Balls of Bull”. I’m assured that it’s not the real thing but I’m not convinced.

DIY progress

DIY continues at a steady pace. There’s a door sized niche in the wall behind the sofa in the living room. We’d been wondering what purpose it served. Anyway, whatever it was, I didn’t want it there. I have grand plans for a ‘photo wall’ on which to display my pictures, so I dismantled the niche this week (it was blocked off with wood) and it turns out that it did indeed once be a door. Now it has a floor to ceiling waste pipe in the middle. I felt slightly less guilty about blocking it off having acquired this new knowledge. So, I put some wood up and have plastered over it. However, I doubt the resilience of my blocked off wall. It bends when you poke it. I’m hoping the top layer of plaster will harden it a bit and make it less of a flexible wall!

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First plastering attempt of my Flexiwall! I hasten to add, there will be a top coat of plaster!

I made some headway in the Scorpion Den / Cantina this week as well and cleared out several bin liners of stuff. There’s nothing in there now that I don’t know about (I inherited a mass of junk) so at least that’s a decent start. It does need a lot more work though. I need to clear out the Snake Pit too (this is a little room under the steps to get into the house which has the water stopcock. If any of you remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it resembles the hidden passage that the leading lady finds in her room but hopefully without the booby trap skeletons). I do not want to clear out the Snake Pit even slightly. However, the neighbour has said that it needs to be done otherwise turning the water on and off will be even more traumatic than it already is.

I also painted the bathroom ceiling because it was all flaking off. After prodding the flaky bits, whole chunks of plaster came off too so I’ve had to do a bit of plastering there as well. As soon as I had finished painting, the paint started flaking again.  I think I have a special “anti-paint” ceiling.

And finally, I have constructed a garden masterpiece out of some old bricks, a sink and a Christmas tree.

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Just what every garden dreams of… The bricks are occasionally moved around the back garden because I don’t want to get rid of them in case we want to build something with them in the front garden. And the sink is impossible to move so I think it’ll be a permanent fixture!

Art

In other breaking news this week, I’ve made the heaviest object known to mankind. I found a round wooden table top downstairs in the cantina and have stuck a mirror onto it and used up most of my sea-glass as a mosaic around it. I think it looks quite good but I can’t take a picture of it that shows it at its best as I can’t actually move it from the floor so I’m going to leave that photo out until I can somehow get it hung. I think I’ll have to get a crane.

Property of the week – Church of the “Madonna di Loreto”

I walk past this church regularly on some of my favourite walks from Sarnano – it’s in a beautiful location and right next to a waterfall. Here’s a picture and some information, both taken from the Presitigious Building website which has more photos of a stunningly painted inside as well as other properties in the area.

Madonna di loretto

The church of the “Madonna di Loreto” was  constructed in the XV century by the “wool guild” constituted by craftsman of the textile, weaving texture and colouring cloth mill.

In 1619 the church was in part reconstructed and restored as it now appears, for the devotion of the Madonna, in relationship to the promenade from the south that where going on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the “Madonna di Loreto”, situated north and in the direction of Assisi in Umbria.

The building is constituted of a single central nave in a rectangular form of approx. 17.30 m x 7.30 metres and approx. 8.00 metres in height, orientated with its principal axis north – east,  south – west; the entrance is exposed south – west while on the opposite side is situated the sanctuary constructed in a heavy vaulted ceiling in spider – formation probably built in the XVI century.

On the side adjacent to the stream is positioned the priests residence home developed on a two – floor layout.
The church nave is covered with a barrel – shaped vault constructed of a cane and gypsum chamber supported to the wood truss – beam roof being the main constituted part of the supporting roof structure. The higher part of the walls and the vaulted ceilings are decorated of relative paintings of the Madonna di Loreto,  paintings that dates back to the XVII century and of valuable exquisite workmanship of its perspective.

In the centre of the vault is a configuration of the holy home of Nazareth of Loreto with the Madonna and the Angels, a glimpse partial view of the arcade open gallery is positioned in front of the “holy home”.

The paintings cover an area of approx. 175 sq.m. of  remarkable importance to emphasize the partitioning wall of which contains the altar painted an architectural structure in a canopy form with six red Verona marble pillars, giving a splendid perspective of the perfect elements of a remarkable architectural effect.

The entire building is constructed of masonry brick – work in red cotto externally left as it appears.

If you’re interested, please let me know!

Have good weekends all!

x

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Paying in forward, naming your wind and dissolving hands…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone?

I found a great blog recently of a fellow expat from New Zealand…KiwiGirlAttemptingItalian and I was inspired by her recent “Pay it Forward” post. It’s basically a scheme to get people doing more nice things for each other. Here’s the blurb, sneakily copied word for word from KiwiGirl!

“I’m participating in the “Pay it Forward” Initiative: The first five people to comment with “I’m in” will receive an absolutely brilliant surprise from me at some point during the calendar year of 2015  – anything from a book, a ticket, something homemade, a postcard, absolutely any surprise!

There will be no warning, and it will happen when the time is right and I will find something that I believe would suit you (after reading your blogs) and make you laugh (or smile).

But there is a catch – you must make the same offer to five other people. :)”

So is anyone in? Write “I’m in”  in the comment box below!

Visit

I had friends to stay this weekend – I had a lovely time with them and discovered a new walk and a little garage museum! We were just passing in the middle of nowhere (it’ll be interesting to see if I can locate this place ever again) and a guy invited us into his garage to see his Beetle and wow, this man collects everything. Not only was there a perfectly preserved Beetle, but farming equipment from decades ago, motorbikes, cameras, radios, clocks, gramophones… It was all perfectly laid out and he enthusiastically went through most of it!

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Some of the farming stuff…

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One can never have too many clocks and we even had a demonstration of the gramophone. It was great – and nothing like listening to a crystal clear and somewhat un-atmospheric CD!

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The Beetle looks in better condition than my Nanmobile.

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Beautiful landscapes

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And more beautiful landscapes….

 

Le Rocce

I think it’s called Le Rocce at least- who knows?! Nobody seems to know about it, but for ages I’ve been driving past the mountains wondering what the rocks are that are sticking up – it looked like an old ruin. So this week I went to investigate.

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It looked like they might be doing some work in there… I feel though it’s a bit of a challenging restoration project.

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It does look majestic though. I would love to have seen it back in its day.

 

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As pleased as I was to finally see these ruins, I was much more thrilled to see this little creature – a black squirrel! In fact, the woods here are devoid of squirrels in general –  contrary to UK woodland, so what a pleasant surprise!

 

It’s definitely moving towards Spring – the weather has been a bit warmer, and you can hear the scuttle of lizards now when you walk anywhere outside. Having said that, it’s due to snow tomorrow and Friday so perhaps the last week or so has been an anomaly!

Garbino Winds

I’ve been learning about wind this week. It’s been windy here before and the neighbours call it the “Tramontana wind” but a couple of days ago, it was a different league entirely. It was scarily strong. There’s been trees knocked down, landslides and avalanches.  They called this one the “Garbino wind” because it was warm. I thought it was a cute local thing; naming winds for goodness sake. But I’ve researched it and it’s a real thing! The Garbino wind comes from Africa which is why it’s so warm.  Anyway, it was an interesting, blustery and slightly nerve-wracking day as I waited inside to see if my roof would stay on! On the plus side, my washing dried in about 15 minutes as opposed to 4 days sitting on a clothes horse upstairs (Admittedly I had to go and collect the washing that had been dispersed within the surrounding area)!

DIY

I’ve been continuing on the DIY streak but have had to take a short break whilst my hands recover! The stuff you use to plaster with has some sort of skin-eating nastiness in it and I’d spent all day with it on my hands trying to build a corner to my wall and fill in some gaps above the beams.

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I’m quite pleased with it. It’s quite difficult to build a corner.

I think that about sums up the last few days! I hope you’re all having good weeks.

x

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Chicks, pizza and TV watching cats…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? All good here…

Cutie chicks

I’ve been feeling very rural. The next door neighbour has been rearing cutie little chickens. I’ve been watching them hatch. It’s like `One Born Every Minute` but for chickens (and with less screaming, and instead of an epidural my neighbour gives the mum sherry or vino cotto which I think is basically the same thing!).

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These chicks are a few hours old.

Bread & Beans

When there’s a quiet moment here (most moments), my thoughts turn to bread. I am in the process of making a sourdough ‘Starter’ and I’ll have a go using that later this week to try and make some bread that doesn’t have a massive hole in the middle like my last attempt at bread making. But regular bread has been going very well. Today’s efforts look reasonably professional (at least one of them does, the other two are completely burnt – note to self: don’t put bread on the top shelf of the oven)…

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Look at my “crumb” (that’s what the professionals say!)

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And what a pretty loaf I made!!!!!!!!

In other bread related news one of the neighbours brought me some of the dried yeast I’ve been searching for here, though it says on the packet it’s only for pizzas and focaccia (how does the yeast KNOW that?! If you put it in a normal loaf will it stubbornly decide not to rise?!). The pizza went reasonably well I think too.

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Apparently the base wasn’t crispy enough and the tomato sauce was too sweet. Some people can never be pleased. I very much look forward to Pane Caldo’s efforts.

I have produced a reasonable interpretation of Heinz Baked Beans. They have to import the genuine article here and it’s a rare find and only ever in the big supermarkets. They’d be more readily available and probably cheaper if I hired an actual Heinz Baked Bean chef to be on permanent stand-by, hence trying to make them myself.

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Not very Italian this dish…

The Science of Happiness

I’ve found a course! Continually doing courses is something I’ve missed greatly about not being in the UK so I was thrilled to find this font of free online courses at http://www.edx.org. I’ve picked what seems like quite a fluffy course: “The Science of Happiness” but it’s founded in years of research and studies and it’s absolutely fascinating. So now, in between thoughts about bread, I’ve been posing myself in-depth philosophical questions.

Walking

It’s been miserable weather here pretty much all of last week – overcast and constant rain. Yesterday there was a small break in the clouds so I went for a walk. One of my new year’s resolutions was to write up my walks – and so I have. I’m  hoping to translate it into Italian and see if the local Tourist Information Office would be interested. Some photo’s from the walk…

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It’s quite a remote path, demonstrated by the cute little birds nests in the hedges along the path.

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Beautiful countryside. This house has a couple of dogs outside in a not very clean cage all day. I’m considering mounting a “Free Doggy” campaign.

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Pretty woodland

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And pretty mountains.

Monte San Martino Forgetting that I’ve already been to Monte San Martino, I decided we should go to Monte San Martino. It’s a quaint little hill top village with beautiful views of the local area. Unfortunately we went there during one of the constantly rainy days so we didn’t see as much as we’d hoped.

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Narrow cobbled streets…

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And wider cobbled streets…

 

Animal watch

I know animal watch has been a bit quiet of late. Here’s the resident animal watching the film ‘Ice Age’ (ignore the mess!). He doesn’t usually watch TV but I think he quite likes animations!

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The cat took a liking to Ice Age and spent a few minutes doing his meercat impression. I think if he was a cinema goer, he’d go straight to the front seats.

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We gave him his own little chair so he could get up close and personal but not so much he would feel inclined to jump on the TV

 

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And then it got a bit scary so he retreated to the sofa for comfort.

I think that about sums up this week. I’ll report back next week – probably with with more bread updates !

x

ps. it’s been rather pretty here in the last week with our first “snow” (or at least that we’ve experienced). Here’s a picture…

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Snow, sunsets and surprise nordic walking races…

Ciao a tutti,

How is everyone? I don’t have a great deal to update on but I do have a ton of photos! My DIY motivation has taken a severe dip so I’ve done absolutely nothing on that front. However, Pane Caldo has been making some headway on a hatch for our perilous stairway to stop the heat from downstairs escaping upstairs, and he’s been drilling holes in the walls for vents. It appears to be challenging. So far, he’s broken a drill and snapped a chisel in half.

Walking around Sarnano

I, meanwhile, have been out on lots of lovely walks locally with my neighbours. It’s thanks to this that this week’s blog is photo heavy.

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This is the beautiful San Liberato monastery

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Taken from around the Sarnano area.

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Taken from a neighbours house

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Taken on another walk from the house…

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It’s snowy!!! I’ll need to work out how to put on snow chains soon.

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Sarnano and the snow capped mountains.

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Sarnano from below

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Taken from my neighbour’s garden

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Pretty snow 🙂

Random Nordic Walking Event!

Last weekend something weird happened. My neighbour asked me if I wanted to go to a `festa` in town. It would involve a bunch of people dressed as Father Christmas racing around the town. Who wouldn’t want to see that? So we got up early and headed down there……….and then I don’t know quite what happened. Suffice it to say there were no Father Christmas’s. I ended up being enrolled on a 7km race as part of a Nordic Walking Team. (Presumably this was the racing around town part).  I have never Nordic walked! It turns out that it’s actually quite difficult and by the end I was still nowhere near doing it right. However, it was a good laugh and I met some lovely people and I’m pleased to have learnt a lovely new walk around Sarnano. I might even consider joining the Nordic Walking School. Even better, I got a bottle of wine and some pasta as my “prize” (despite our team, which started pretty much first, coming pretty much last… it’s the taking part that counts!).

House History

I’ve been learning a little more about my house and have even met a couple of people in the local area that lived in the house decades ago. Apparently the bathroom used to be a small bedroom as there was an outhouse for the bathroom, the floor used to have lots of holes in so you could see the cantina (I dread to think about the horrors that could have come up!), and my personal favourite, the upstairs bedroom used to be for pigeons! I had never thought about having a room for pigeons before!

Animal Watch

Animal watch in the last couple of weeks has been reasonably active. I’m back in the UK now so I’m missing Batfink the cat. My neighbour has been sending me some photo’s though 🙂 Meanwhile these are some other animals from the last couple of weeks.

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This is Pippa. He belongs to one of my neighbours. He was adopted after just turning up one day. I don’t think he’s a duck because he’s gigantic but I don’t think he looks very goose like.

 

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We have a donkey farm a few miles away – who knew?! All the donkey’s are slightly different breeds. Apparently this is obvious (they all look pretty similar to me).

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This is Drago my neighbour’s dog. He hates his photo taken so this is a rarity!

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These are some rogue sheep ‘guard’ dogs. They’re called Pastor Maremmano and according to my neighbours they’re quite vicious because they have to defend the flock against wolves. They’re certainly big but I think they look quite cuddly. My neighbour insisted we take refuge behind a gate. The sheep come down from the mountains in the winter and they’ve been doing a tour of our local fields for a few hours at a time.

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Sheep on tour. I’m considering mounting Operation FreeSheep (they’ll get eaten at Easter) but I haven’t worked out where to hide them yet.

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Now I’m home for Christmas so animal watch will be less exotic for the next month. So. Here’s my Nan’s dog 🙂

I think that about sums up the last week or two. All that’s left is for me to wish you all a lovely Christmas break and a Happy New Year and thank you all so much for your support and feedback over the last year! It’s much appreciated! 🙂

x

 

 

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Sightseeing, kitten-napping update and mushroom identification

Ciao a tutti!

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

Parental Check up

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Fai da te (DIY)

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

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

 

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

 

Kittens

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

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

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

 

Funghi

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

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

 

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

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

xxx

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Apartments, Cars and Traps…

Ciao a tutti!

Hope you’re all well – for those back in the UK I hear it’s been as sunny and hot there as it has been here! News this week:

I went to see the owners of the apartment I saw last week. After meeting the family, I decided I definitely wanted to move there – they’re lovely! And they seemed to like me too – they didn’t want me to go, offered me glasses of wine, showed me pictures of their various relatives that live in London, invited me to dinner etc. and said they hoped that I would become like part of their family. Lovely eh?! We discussed the nitty gritty: costs, how to check the gas etc., dates… and on the dates front they wanted me to talk to the school (who currently let out the apartment). I asked if that was a good idea – the school presumably taking a cut of rent and all. But they said I needed to just to confirm who was in the flat for when. The following day one of the family phoned to confirm the details again and told me to go to school to check dates. So to school I went. Meanwhile, I’d been imagining myself in the apartment and how lovely it would be to have my own space again. Can you guess what’s coming?

It’s all fallen through…  Apparently the family don’t want to let out the apartment on a long term basis.  Why wouldn’t they tell me that?! Why would they go through the hassle of inviting me to look around the apartment on the basis I wanted a long term let, then invite me to theirs to discuss the details, say lovely things about having me stay, phone me the following day to confirm everything is fine and tell me that I should go to the school to discuss dates but then get the school to tell me that they don’t want me there!

It’s exceedingly odd. A bit too odd. The school had an alternative suggestion ready to hand – I could stay in their own flat paying them rent all throughout the winter instead. Indeed.

On a less irksome note, there is an astounding amount of cool, free things do in Camerano at the moment. I’ve been very impressed for such a little village. Tuesday’s event was an open air cinema in one of the piazzas to watch “La Migliore Offerta” (or “The Best Offer” in English). I think it’s a great film – very good plot and nicely put together. But I must say, I’m a bit confused by how they’ve gone about releasing it. The Director is Italian (Giuseppe Tornatore – he did Cinema Paradiso too). It was set in Italy and filmed there (as well as Vienna and Prague) and it has only been released in Italy and other non-English speaking countries. But yet the actors are all English speaking (including Geoffrey Rush and Donald Sutherland). Even though the dubbing was well done, it’s not ideal is it?! If you’re Italian and directing a film that’s set in Italy, and will be released only in Italy and other foreign places, why not use Italian actors? If I was Italian, that would annoy me.

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“Sotto le stelle” (“under the stars”) open air cinema event in Camerano – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so was a brilliant night for star gazing and even spotted a shooting star towards the end of the night.

I had my first Italian lesson for ages last week too which went well. I told him I feared that I might have some kind of grave learning disability preventing me from becoming even partially fluent in Italian. He didn’t seem to think I did. For my homework, I’ve been writing a diary in Italian – it’s sometimes easier to use my smartphone because it’s got a dual language spell checker and you can easily find the accented letters that you need. But I’ve found a reasonable solution using the laptop that involves an Italian online word processor with easy access to the various letters/accents and then you can copy and paste it into another tool for Italian spell checking. Long-winded by works.

Let me tell you about this week’s bureaucracy quest. First off: Car. I went to a car garage and asked them what they needed for me to buy a car. They need a carta di residenza or proof of domicilio. I’m still annoyed about paying for private healthcare insurance for the carta di residenza and I still don’t know what the impact would be in paying taxes in the UK if I did that so this domicilio business seemed easier. So, along I went to the Comune and asked them if I could get one of those things. They said proof of domicilio was an abstract notion that didn’t exist. So back to square one. I’ve since been looking at buying a car in the UK and driving it over – I can get it insured, with breakdown cover for a year and can pay UK tax. After that I think I’ll need to come back to the UK and get it MOT’d etc. After 3 years, I think I have to get it registered in Italy but that process seems to make people suicidal so I’ll probably dump it after 3 years and by then, perhaps I’ll have worked out how to buy another here.

In other frustrating bureaucratic news, I went to the bank to open up an account – it costs 6 euros a month! Apparently everyone pays that, it’s not punishment for being foreign. I’m peeved about paying for the account so I’ve not set one up. It might just be cheaper to pay the cashpoint fee’s. I’ll have a think.

The last bit of bureaucracy was Thursday. I went to the Questura (seems to be a branch of the Police) in Ancona to attempt to register my presence here in Italy again for the umpteenth time. They’re not interested because I’m European (despite the wealth of official police type documents from their own websites that say that I need to regardless). So that’s fine, as long as if it eventually does catch up with me, all of these organisations I’ve been to don’t turn around and say that I should have done x, y and z and why didn’t I let them know! On the way back, someone pointed me to the wrong bus stop so I missed my bus, and subsequently missed the school trip this week which was annoying. I spontaneously decided to do my own trip instead and took the train to Fabriano…

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Not the most interesting picture. I’ve merely added it as proof for a later date that I was here and at least tried to tell them I was here!

Fabriano is in a valley further to the north of where I am in Camerano. The train journey is spectacular – lots of mountains (or if not rocky looking hills) on either side of the tracks and it was less than 6 Euros for the ticket for over an hour journey. I’m very impressed with the cheapness of train travel here. I’d heard Fabriano is a nice place to look around and is famous for paper-making. I thought I could buy some art materials there so I got off the train all excited about my own little school trip. But see this sign below? It’s a trap.

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TRAP!!! Don’t believe it. The centre is the OPPOSITE direction. It takes 5 minutes. If you go the way it suggests, you’ll end up in Sicily.

Lesson learnt: Don’t be scared to ask the gangs of scary old men loitering around street corners staring at passersby in an unwelcoming fashion for directions. It could save you hours of time and sore feet. And I’m beginning to know some of the individual scary old men in these swarms, and they’re actually very nice.

When I eventually made it to the centre hours later, I was so peeved, tired and hungry and all the shops were shut that I sat in a bar, had a coffee and then headed back to the railway station again (actually takes 15 minutes if you don’t follow the Trap), senza art materials. I might give Fabriano another go at some point. Looks quite pretty – here’s a picture:

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Fabriano

Also went for aperitivo in Ancona and headed to the cinema to watch “The Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp (not WITH Johnny Depp you understand. He was busy that day). They could easily have reduced that film by half.

Every week there’s usually a walk somewhere with the school. This week’s was around Camerano. The sunflowers are out so everything is looking very pretty at the moment…

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I Girasoli – The Sunflowers

Next week I’ll be in the Sibillini Mountains for a bit with a friend. I’ve booked a B&B through Airbnb – Airbnb is a bit frustrating. The first place was booked out (it hadn’t said on the website), the second place wanted double the price that was advertised on Airbnb and seemed insulted that I even thought it could be so low, and the third place was finally a go-er so I shall hopefully report back on some places to visit down there next week. So in summary, the website is frustrating but the prices are really very good. Much cheaper than other B&B booking websites.

What’s a bit odd… This week’s feature – cemeteries!  This might sound morbid but they’re actually nice places to wander around! Bodies aren’t generally buried here in Italy, they’re kept in drawers. Albeit large stone un-penetrable drawers. Given a choice of rotting in dank dark coldness 6 feet under and being put in a drawer, I’d go for being put in a drawer every time (to be honest, I’m banking on there being some medical breakthroughs soon that mean I can stay alive for eternity). It’s much clearer to see people’s names etc, they aren’t worn away like in our graveyards. There are fake flowers next to all of the drawers (seems odd calling them drawers but they’re not really “graves” either) and a little electric lamp on all the time making the whole place really pretty (and surely expensive to run) rather than depressing. And there’s often a photo of the person as well which is nice to see. In fact, I think the experience could only be improved if they gave a brief account of how the person died next to each one to satisfy my curiosity!

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Camerano’s cemetary

You pay once for the tomb and that’s it. However, if you’ve bought a family “tomb”, then once you’re full up, you can elect to either pay for a new tomb or you can move the family members you don’t much like and that have been dead for ages to a communal bone store which is a big stone tomb filled with other old bones. Initially it seemed a little unceremonious but I’ve since decided that after years of rotting in my own drawer, I think I’d be craving the company of other people’s bones (ooo we could play pick-up-sticks).

Marco was telling us how he used to play around in the cemetery when he was a kid – jumping from tomb to tomb. One of his mates fell in the communal bone store. I don’t know how you’d get over that. I would probably die on the spot if that happened to me (convenient!).

Blog Spot: I’ve decided to introduce a blog spot! This week’s interesting blog is from someone that’s moved over from Texas to Ancona and doing a similar thing as me: http://elefantini.wordpress.com Have a look!

Right, onwards and upwards… Have a lovely week all.

xxx

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