Posts Tagged With: Tolentino

Winter wonderland, attack dogs and cultural evenings…

Buongiorno!

How is everyone? It seems a while again since I’ve written so here’s a quick update.

I went back to the UK for a flying visit. Everytime I go back I never seem to be able to catch up with everyone I want to.  Anyway, before I get to UK stuff, let me tell you about my airport stresses! My weather app had been threatening snow the day before I was due to fly but I didn’t believe it. It had been far too sunny and lovely the proceeding days. And in fact, as I went to put the cat out at 3am (after he insisted that my neck was the only comfortable place to sleep in the entire house), there was no snow to be seen. Four hours later, there was a foot of snow which kept growing throughout the following day.

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Winter Wonderland… I cleared this road.

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And I cleared this road… and there’s another road….

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I did not have my coffee on the terrace that morning.

Now, apparently the snow clearing guys do clear the roads but the day came and went and there was no sign of them. My wonderful neighbour, phoned up everyone that she knew in the comune to get the snow clearers out the following morning so she could drive me to the airport. They did not come! In the end myself and my amazing neighbours cleared the snow from my house to the main road in a joint “get Sue to the airport” effort (hmm, that doesn’t sound like they like me but I think their intentions were good rather than wanting to get rid of me!). Just as we finished, the snow clearer came! Anyway, suffice to say I made it to the airport in the end.

The first couple of days of my visit were spent tirelessly teaching my parent’s new puppy to bite, bark and chase people. It was a slow and laborious job but someone had to do it. (I don’t think I’ll be invited back anytime soon).

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This is Molly the Attack Dog contemplating her next move.

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And this is Molly the Attack Dog in action. Who needs toes anyway?

Then I was in Leamington Spa (henceforth known as L’Spa) to check how Pane Caldo has been getting on in his new non-Italian habitat and how he’s coping with having to get up before 11am.  I’m going to have to review my stereotyped opinions of things north of London that aren’t the Lake District or Scotland. L’Spa is nice with lots of green spaces and shops. It has a large bowling green which makes me want to take up bowling. We popped up to Lincoln for the weekend and went to the beach too before heading to Warwick, a few minutes drive away from Leamington Spa.

 

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One of the many parks in L’Spa

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Erm, somewhere on the East Coast (I admit my geography is bad. However, did you know 85% of British people don’t know where Sheffield is?). Twas windy and cold but lovely!

 

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This is a pretty bit of Warwick. Warwick is an odd mix of absolutely beautiful, and brutally ugly.  I can’t remember what was surrounding it but it could very well have been a block of ugly unkempt flats.

Back in London my DIY mettle was tested when I had to re-hang a door and fit a bath panel in my flat there. I quite like DIY I’ve decided. It’s nice to feel a bit “handy” and all you need is a few YouTube videos and equipment. Having said that, I would not be remotely surprised if the door and bath panel have since fallen off. Luckily I have nice tenants that don’t like telling me if there’s problems. Result.

So now I’m back in Italy. The plan for the next couple of weeks is more DIY – painting the kitchen and finishing the beams (oh the beams).

I made a terrible mistake – I accepted the offer of “free wood” which was basically the remnants of a few small trees. I really like getting wood – it appeals to my hunter/gatherer instincts I think (less hunter, I’m a vegetarian). I even bought massive secateurs for the occasion and everything. However, after maybe 3 hours of chopping up branches, I now resemble Pop-Eye, only the bulging muscle is on my lower arm instead of my bicep.  And whereas Pop-Eye can lift trucks, I can’t even lift a pen without yelping. I ended up with just a wheelbarrow of wood. I could get a wheelbarrow of better and dryer wood without ruining my arm in about 10 minutes wandering up the road. Still, never look a gift horse in the mouth (Italians reading this – good luck trying to work out what that phrase means!).

I’ve been planting things too – the neighbour has given me a number of apparently difficult-to-kill plants so hopefully I can keep them alive. I’m attempting to grow peach and plum trees too – I don’t hold out a lot of hope!

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Yesterday my friend invited me to watch her perform some aria’s (opera songs to you and me) which was interesting. It’s not my kind of music but it was very impressive and I’m really proud of my friend, she was brilliant. After, we went to a restaurant here in Sarnano which I didn’t even know existed! So all in all, a good night.

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It was a good opportunity to see Castello della Rancia in Tolentino which is a bit of an unusual castle to be honest (it’s stuck in the middle of nowhere, not even on a hill)

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The castle is a museum and the upstairs was dedicated to theatre… this is a mask from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”. You’d have to pay me a lot of money to wear that. I think I’d have to boil my face after.

 

My bread making continues… This time burger baps…

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With a bean burger – burgers are one of those things I miss from the UK. Italy still has some work to do on their veggie burgers so I made an ok attempt at bean burgers. I can’t wait until it’s BBQ weather!

 

Today, I’m going to be experiencing comedy at the local theatre.  Now, I don’t wish to do myself down but I’m not going to understand a thing – I think it’s all in dialect! I’ll report back.

Meanwhile, I’m off to get ready.

Buonasera a tutti and have wonderful weeks!

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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Earthquakes, the Rain Shoes and bureaucracy…

Ciao!!!

This week’s been packed. This not working malarkey is exhausting 😉

We’ve had earthquakes this week. EARTHQUAKES! Just small ones – 3.9 on Thursday and 2.9 Friday and I’m sure there was an even smaller one today but it hasn’t been reported so perhaps not. I’m not sure how I feel about earthquakes. “Fearful” seems to be the consensus with the Italians and they’ve had such terrible earthquakes in the past that have killed a lot of people and caused a lot of damage that that’s the rational response. Me, however, being a complete novice to earthquakes and these being minor, have been lying there with the bed shaking thinking “wow….. cooooool”. It’s really very impressive – this natural force that can shake buildings. I hadn’t really thought about what it would be like to be in one before. Anyway, on reflection, I think getting under the bed would be more productive than just lying there in a state of awe.

I had some success at the Comune on Tuesday morning, albeit limited. It turns out there’s a secret hidden entrance that’s not the large official looking set of doors at the front of the building. Thank goodness for random passersby. I wondered if there might be a secret knock as well but no. The office I needed was closed, as of course, all good offices are on a Tuesday morning. I had a challenging conversation with the information folk there about what I needed to do to live here. Nobody wants my dichiarazione di presenza so I’ve given up on that. It’s all about getting an Iscrizione anagrafica dei cittadini stranieri now. One of those is basically a sort of foreign person registration.  I need to prove that: I have some income, that I’m a student (or that I’m working which I’m not), and that I have health insurance so that I don’t become a drain on the Italian health system. According to the Comune, my European Health Insurance Card isn’t enough. And I’m not sure my travel insurance is either despite it having medical cover. I think they’d be content with an expensive private medical insurance but I don’t understand why I would need that –  we’ve an agreement between the European countries that we’re entitled to a level of healthcare I thought? Nobody seems to be able to enlighten me. Websites all offer differing advice. I’ve emailed the Italian Embassy in the UK and the UK embassy in Italy – hopefully I’ll get a response next week.

So, that will be next week’s task. And then after that, I might be able to get a codice fiscale and a carta di residenza but that’s only 3 months after I’ve been here. I think I can change back to my actual date of arrival in Italy now that there don’t seem to be any implications of not having declared my presence earlier.

I didn’t get around to seeing the neighbour’s place last week – I popped around on Sunday morning and spoke to the guy’s mum who was absolutely lovely but the son was still asleep. And then the son came around later in the week with some more battered courgette flowers and some stuffed courgettes and invited me around to dinner whenever I want again but I didn’t have time to see the house. So, I’ll hopefully see the house tomorrow and maybe get a dinner 🙂

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Battered courgette flowers – underneath there were some stuffed courgettes – lovely 🙂

I had a new teacher this week, Laura, she’s very good and I like her a lot but the sessions were exhausting. I have massive difficulties getting my head around the fact that some things are swapped around in Italian e.g. “he told me” is “mi ha detto”, literally translated as “me he told”. I think I react to pronoun quizzing “how would you say, ‘they gave to us?’” in the same way that people react to being tortured.  By the end of Friday I had both hands in my hair and was rocking back and forth in the chair. The other thing they swap around is the nouns and adjectives – “the sea blue”, not “the blue sea” which seems alien to me. I raised it with Marco earlier in the week claiming that the English way was clearly more logical. Look at that car….? What car?! The blue one? The red one? Why the unnecessary delay in describing things?! His argument: When someone’s on their deathbed and says “I have to tell you one last thing…our family has a really big <dramatic pause whilst final spark of life is extinguished>…..”, what good is the adjective?! Admittedly, I can see that it *might* just be more useful to get the noun across first in deathbed scenarios.

We did a few nice school trips this week. By a week or two into being in Italy, I’d already been to more churches than I’d been to in my entire life – this week has seen my church attendance sky rocket.

  • Ancona – around the old part of town by the cathedral at the top of one of the hills and then along by the port. Another interesting trip – Ancona has a lot of history, some of which has come more apparent following an earthquake a few years ago. A lot of buildings were destroyed, and because of that, they found an old roman amphitheater underneath apartments. Very interesting.

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Ancona – the port

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Looking towards the cathedral – where that carpark was, used to be a building but it was destroyed in an earthquake and people didn’t have the money to rebuild…

  • Abbadia di fiastro –  is a lovely nature reserve set in the midst of some beautiful countryside – it used to be a monastery and in fact, I think there are still monks living there.  It’s free to look around – there are a few shops and places to eat and a church of course and it’s interesting to walk around the buildings there. The monks used to / still make wine, and they’ve got a whole secret underground passageway thing going on where I think they used to keep it and hide from their enemies. I suspect that took the edge off hiding eh?

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Abbadia di Fiastra

  • Tolentino – is a little town around Macerata (province of Le Marche) with two giant cathedrals. One of which I think is the most extravagant cathedral I’ve seen so far. They really went to town with the gold leaf. We’d just been to see the church in Abbadia di Fiastro which was completely plain – the monks wanted to be poor and would give everything back to their community (nice bunch really). This cathedral seemed to have the opposite approach. The ceiling alone had life sized figures of important people – it took apparently 5 years to finish the ceiling and it cost an insane amount of money to do. It looked very impressive but perhaps a bit over the top. And there’s a museum underneath the main cathedral – if you go to the cathedral, it’s definitely worth having a look at that. They have this sort of theatre style nativity lightshow scene going on… it puts every other nativity scene I’ve seen to shame.

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The altar at the cathedral in Tolentino

  • San Severino – this is a town in one of the valleys around Macerata though actually I think it extends to a couple of churches on the hill too and a viewpoint looking over the main town. It’s unusual because it’s got quite a large oblong shaped piazza – most piazzas are square here. Went to see a church close by on the basis of it having some interesting frescos, and it did indeed. The artists at the time were experimenting with different ways of painting people.
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This picture of the boy exposing himself whilst kicking another boy in the bits, was in a church! Certainly not your usual frescos of the Madonna…

  • Monte Conero – Every week there’s usually a walk with the school as well – this time around the top of Monte Conero to Belvedere Nord where there are some spectacular views of the sea and coastline. Monte Conero is great. Great, great, great.
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From Belvedere Nord (Monte Conero) The bit sticking out is Ancona.

  • Beaches – I’ve been to San Michele beach in Sirolo a couple of times this week – the first time, I’d walked a couple of hours through blistering desert conditions dreaming of lying on the beach and having a dip in the sea. It was ROASTING. Barely a cloud in the sky. And then the moment I sat down exhausted on the beach, the skies opened! Grr. And it was a Sunday so the buses only ran 3 times a day so I had to wait an hour and a half for the bus. I have this pair of shoes – they have magical powers, as well as very holey soles. Whenever I wear them out, it will rain. Without fail. I should donate them to a drought ridden country. The second time was with my new housemate earlier in the week – I’d left the Rain Shoes at home so finally sat out on the beach and had a swim. The water was a bit nasty – rammed with detritus. Apparently that’s what happens this time of year and then because it’s got lots of vegetation in it, it attracts jellyfish (or medusa’s if you’re Italian – what an apt name). I think the sea will be a more attractive option in a month or two.
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Taken from a road that never ends near Sirolo on the way to the beach – see how lovely the sky looked? Until I put on the Rain Shoes that is.

The new housemate is now old housemate! She left this morning. It was nice to have her here. She was lovely and massively enthusiastic (particularly about Sirolo, she didn’t fancy venturing anywhere else after the first visit there), but I must say, communication was a bit of a challenge. She was starting out from scratch with Italian really and her English was a similar level and my Russian, well, I’ve let it slip to be honest (knowing only how to say “niet, he beat me, give that man his money” from the film Rounders in a dodgy “Russian” accent. Alas she hadn’t seen the film). So conversations were conducted in Italian and went thusly:

Sue: Do you want to go to the bar?

Housemate: Yes.

Sue: Or we could stay in?

Housemate: Yes.

Sue: You don’t understand anything I’m saying do you?

Housemate: Yes.

And you know the coffee that goes into those espresso machines that you put on the hob? Well, that stuff doesn’t dissolve. It’s not instant coffee. But she’d have a spoonful or so in hot water every day. I wouldn’t have imagined that would be drinkable.

This week there’s no school! My first week of no school! There’s not even an option to chicken out when I get bored and go to some lessons because there’s no other students at school this week either.  I seem to have a lot of bits and pieces to do so hopefully I should be able to entertain myself reasonably well. It’ll give me some time to do some self study – I hope.

What else? I might be sailing to Croatia beginning of July with the bunch that I went out with last week but I’ll see if there’s space.

I’m having a quiet Saturday today – I think there’s some event on in the piazza today so I might pop up and see what that’s about!

Buonasera all and hope you’re all well 🙂

xxx

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