17 February 2009
News From Italy
The waiting game is over and from around 7pm on Monday 9th February the new project has been offically ours. I would not normally write an update so soon but we have had so many phone calls and emails asking how it is all going, that I thought I had better do so.The extra couple of weeks we had to wait for completion was in the end time well spent as it gave us plenty of opportunity to do lots of research for ideas. Maybe we have now seen too much though, as I think we have probably visited every showroom in the area. We have walked around vast showrooms of kitchens, bathrooms and tiles and have piles of brochures to pore over, alongside the plans of the house. As the house at the moment has no internal staircase, no kitchen, ancient flooring, bathrooms to move, electric and plumbing to do etc, we have, with a few limitations a blank canvas to work with.Once we had the date for the Atto confirmed David went to the bank to order the bankers draft cheques which we would have to hand over to the vendors at the completion on Monday evening. This was to give them plenty of time to get organised, however he might as well have not bothered as when he went to collect them on the Monday morning as arranged, the note was still on the clerk's desk. He had to wait an hour for them, but that was nothing to the length of time the Atto itself took that evening!At 3pm on the Monday afternoon we had an appointment to meet with the vendors at the house so that they could make sure we understood how everything worked, water, electric, gas etc. The house has been in the family for many years and the daughter in particular was very sad to be selling, but realised that if they were not using the house they had to do so, as its condition was deteriorating standing empty for so long. The garden also needs some tender loving care to restore it to the garden she told us her mother loved. From the house we all drove directly up to the Notaio's office in Montefiascone for the Atto/Completion at 4pm. In attendance were the three vendors, two of us, the estate agent and our friend Manuele, who with his fluent Italian (Italian father, English mother)was there to ensure we completely understood everything if there were any complications. We had decided that although our understanding of Italian is generally fine, it is if problems arise that it can help to have a native speaker who also speaks English present. As it happened although there were no major complications as such it was still a very long winded affair and things that maybe one, (certainly we did), would have been expected to have been sorted out in advance were actually dealt with during the proceedings. For example it had to be calculated how much tax had to be paid taking into consideration that we had sold another property and were buying another straight away. Without Manuele to explain we would have maybe been a little confused as to what was actually going on! Also the property we were purchasing is currently registered as two and although we are turning it into one house and registering as such, in case we do not do so, more taxes had to be calculated. That had not been done either! In Italy you pay less taxes on the purchase of your Prima Casa/First House and higher tax on any additional properties you own. So we have had to lodge a refundable tax cheque with the Notaio, in case we do not re-register the house as one within a year, then this cheque will pay the tax we owe. This is all because the taxes were due on half the purchase and the Notaio who was very thorough wanted to make sure he had the right figure. Just strange to our British way of thinking as to why these calculations were not done in advance!!! By the end of all this we were mentally exhausted so went out for supper in the only restaurant open in Marta, it was a Monday evening, Otello's one we had not tried before and it was delicious.The next morning much to our disappointment it was pouring with rain and continued to do so for much of the day, which meant our first day of full ownership was dismal, maybe just as well as it made us realise that living somewhere with only an external staircase and no kitchen is just not on, especially at this time of the year. We have decided therefore that it is pointless to camp up there trying to live in the middle of a renovation project when we have the use of 'Casa Piccola' to come back to every evening to eat and sleep! We have a lot of work ahead of us to turn this somewhat ugly house into a comfortable and attractive home but we are confident that we can do so, David has certainly found the project he was looking for. We are determined not to rush the work in our haste to move in, as well as work we want to ensure we find time to enjoy life in Marta, where already we feel accepted as part of the community. We have lots of contacts lined up to help us with various aspects of the work and our friend Nick is going to be working with David on the project, his wife and I helping where we are able. This week so far has been all about destruction, on that first day it was a case of clearing the house of all the furniture that had been left behind, nothing decent only woodworm riddled wardrobes, chairs, tables, beds etc. Having broken up all the old furniture on Wednesday a considerably brighter day we were able to have the most enormous bonfire, which kept burning all day, having had fun throwing all the old furniture off the upstairs terrace and out of windows, destructive people aren't we!! By the end of that afternoon with help from Viv and Nick with all the rooms cleared the place was looking much better. The house was now ready for further destruction, this time of the actual walls, floors etc ready for the renovation. First we needed to rearrange our stored furniture to make these tasks easier, so with this in mind on Thursday we cleared the buildings that will eventually become workshop and carport. We also took time out from clearing to pay a visit to 'Scala Mondo' 'Stair World' in Viterbo to look at the various possibilities for staircases, yet another thing we keep changing our minds about. By Thursday afternoon David with Nick's help was able to start taking lots of measurements for not only staircases, but for doorways and beams as well. Friday morning found us moving 'stuff' such as bicycles, tractor, trailer, garden furniture and David's tools etc out of the garage into the cleared buildings. I think we will be moving possessions from A to B and back again for many months to come! Later that afternoon we went up to Montefiascone, as David and Nick were ready to go to both the woodyard and the builders yard to order the first of the essential materials. Feeling we had deserved a few hours off we spent the evening with them and went out in Montefiascone for a Pizza. On Saturday we moved into the cleared garage more furniture from the annexe, to free up space there for work as this area is to be incorporated into the house and will become our kitchen and dining room. Once again we were grateful for the help of Viv and Nick with this. On Sunday we spent the day at the house and I had a sort out of the one currently useable room in the house, which will be our bedroom, into almost a bed sit is the best description. It is a large room and with the bed up, when we have found the legs for the rete/base we will maybe spend some nights up there, maybe not, we shall see! Everything was now ready for the real work to start today which it did with a vengeance. A week into the project and the cantina which is to become our soggiorno/living room has the two new doorways started, loads of holes and trenches for wires etc.So as you can see we will be busy for the forseeable future, do not be put off coming to see us though! Accommodation can always be found for willing volunteers!!Meanwhile we are hoping for lovely mild and sunny weather in the UK this coming weekend when we will be there for the wedding of Layla and Darren. As here in Italy since the rain stopped last Tuesday the Tramontana has been blowing. It has been blowing actually for the last three weeks with a break of a couple of slightly milder days when it has rained. The only good thing about the bitterly cold North easterly Tramontana wind, is that it keeps the rain away while it is blowing! We also get generally bright blue skies with an intensity to the light that means you can see for miles, the snow on the mountains and the sun gleaming on the sea.Not a bad place to be living even if it has been an intolerably bad winter this year in Italy as I know it has been in the rest of Europe also!
News from Italy February 2009
Having moved out of 'La Fenice' two weeks ago today, we are now playing the waiting game. Not one we are particularly good at in these circumstances, when we know there is so much we want to get started on at the new property. Completion on the next house should have been last Thursday, but unfortunately one of the vendors has been involved in an 'incidente' and is in hospital. Under the terms of the contract and Italian law they have another two weeks at least, before pressure can be applied to complete. At the moment the vendors do not want to consider taking out a power of attorney to complete as they still have possessions they wish to clear from the property themselves.
So it seems like an ideal opportunity to write a newsletter while I have some time! As I left off last time we were hurriedly organising as many aspects of our forthcoming move as possible, before leaving for the UK to spend Christmas and New Year with family and friends. It was not all work though as we went out with friends for a couple of early Christmas celebrations. On the first Sunday in December we went into Viterbo for the evening to visit the Natale Mercarto and then had supper at Il Lazzaretto, an old church and fever hospital, quite a history! The next day was an Italian Bank Holiday for the Immaculate Conception , which we spent packing boxes. On December 10th we had the 'compremesso' similar to exchange of contracts on the new property. This is held in the offices of the estate agents handling the deal along with the vendors and the buyers, after the business was completed we all adjourned to the local bar for a celebratory drink. From this point we had as promised a key to the garage, not small 28sq m and part of the house, so dry. With the help of Nick and Viv we were able to make a number of journeys up there starting the process of moving our possessions from one property to the next. On the Friday evening before we left for the UK we went to our language school's Christmas Party held at Antico Casale a restaurant just outside San Martino overlooking Viterbo, a great location where we enjoyed the most delicious five course set menu. We will certainly be going there again!
The weather in early December was absolutely foul and certainly the wettest we have had since we arrived. At one time we had almost continuous rain and thunderstorms for forty eight hours with lakes appearing in our garden and the surrounding farmland. It was during this period that we were without Sky and the telephone was out of order for sometime! When we were in Marta one day around this time, flood waters from the river had broken across the road and half of it had collapsed.
It was due to the weather being so foul and the forecast for it not to get any better, that we decided to take an extra day to drive up to Calais, after all there was only so much packing up we could do in advance for the move, so we left on 14th December. Although we encounterd snow from northern Italy well into central France we managed to stay ahead of the worst of the weather that seemed to be following us north, spending the first night in Bellinzona, second in Auxerre and the last in Calais making it easy for our Channel Tunnel crossing on the Wednesday morning.
By Wednesday lunchtime we were in 'The Woodman' in Ashtead having something to eat before going to Ashtead Hospital to visit Moot who was unfortunately once again spending sometime there. Thankfully she was well enough to return home for Christmas on the Saturday, prior to that we spent as much time as possible visiting her or spending time with Dad. Thursday we stayed overnight with Tricia and John after having spent an enjoyable evening with them, joined by Maggie for supper, unfortunately not Bob as not so well at the time. On Friday we spent another couple of hours at the hospital before driving down to Salisbury early afternoon, where we were going to be staying at Aimee's for the rest of our trip. We arrived on the day that Julie, Alan and the boys left to spend ten days ski-ing, staying at their appartment in Bulgaria, so did not see them until after Christmas, but we were able to spend lots of time with Mum. On Saturday David drove back up to Surrey to be on hand to help when Moot returned home, meanwhile Aimee, Mum and I went shopping. Unfortunately when David got back to Salisbury he succumbed to the nasty 24 hour virus that was doing the rounds over this period, Aimee and I also went on to suffer ourselves before Christmas! After a busy few days preparing for Christmas, delivering and collecting presents for friends in Italy, doing some DIY at Aimee's and coping with the infamous Vomit Virus we were ready to go and spend Christmas in London with Selina and Chris.
We had planned to leave Salisbury early on Christmas Eve with time to visit Moot and Dad in Surrey en route but as I had hardly slept the night before due to the V.V. we decided it would not be wise to do so! Aimee had to work that morning so came up to London Bridge on the train later, but the rest of us left Salisbury two hours later than intended at 11.30am. We were at Selina and Chris's two hours later after a very easy drive up from Salisbury and went straight out for lunch in Southwark at 'Fish' next to Borough Market. With perfect timing Aimee arrived off the train at London Bridge, just around the corner from the restaurant just as we were leaving, so we met up very easily. Just a disappointment for her that we had all been out for lunch while she had been working until 1pm! Mum, Aimee, David and I then went and checked into to our appartment in Empire Square, just a few minutes from Selina and Chris's, It was very well appointed accommodation on the fifth floor with views of the Millenium Wheel and the Post Office Tower, once sorted, unpacked etc we went to S and C,s for the evening. They had only got back from their trip to Australia a few days previously so they had lots to tell us and we viewed a fantastic collection of photographs. Watching them on the widescreen television for us was like going back to when we viewed slides as a family on a screen, just a somewhat more 21st century version!
Under difficult circumstances on Christmas Day Selina and Chris produced an excellent meal for us with all the usual trimmings. Not only had they prepared all the catering and organised Christmas in the short time after their return to the UK but on Christmas morning they discovered the whole building was without water!! Apart from a standpipe it remained so for the next forty eight hours or so, luckily they were able to come round to our appartment for showers! We spent Christmas Day very quietly even a planned walk along the embankment was cancelled due to the bitterly cold wind. We did manage a little exercise during the day though as Aimee had given S and C Family Ski a game for the Wii Fit which we had fun trying out. On Boxing Day still no water and bitterly cold weather we left London around midday and called in to see Moot and Dad very briefly on the way back down to Salisbury, Selina and Chris were going to see them a few hours after us.
The rest of that week between Christmas and New Year passed by as quickly as it always does, with us as usual never seeming to fit as much in as we had hoped in the way of catching up with family and friends. It was lovely though to see June and Sue on Sunday when Sue drove down to have lunch with Mum, David and I. Sue has started learning Italian since her trip to stay with us last year and we are looking forward to her coming out to stay again later this year, this time bringing Laura with her.
I had a shopping session with Mum as we both had Christmas money to spend. Also one of the days David designated as our shopping day together, insisting we did it all in the one session. We did as well, shirts for him, jeans for me, various food treats we take back to Italy, this year we also had a list for Viv and Nick, plus the most important of all books!! On the Tuesday David did in fact agree to a further few hours shopping in the afternoon, this time strictly to help Aimee with some purchases, including a printer/scanner. On the way back to Old Sarum we called in to wish Mum a Happy New Year to find the entire Esnouf clan there, safely back from ski-ing having had a great time.
On New Year's Eve we drove down to Sandbanks to stay overnight with Tricia and John who were down there for a few days R and R and had invited us to see in the New Year with them. Apart from a brisk walk along the beach we had a very relaxing time with them, good food and wine, music and watched the fireworks at midnight. On New Years Day we had a breakfast meeting to discuss the Canal du Midi trip we are taking together later this year, very excited about that! After lunch together in the restaurant at Branksome Chine we drove back to Salisbury having been invited to tea at Luke and Kerry's. It was the first time we have seen their appartment from the inside anyway, very impressed and in a good central position, walking distance of the city centre. That evening and Friday we spent time with Julie, Alan, Mum and Aimee as on Saturday morning it was already time to leave Salisbury. We tried a new restaurant in town with Aimee on our last night, Italian called 'Strada', food was good but it lacked atmosphere.
We stayed overnight on Saturday in Effingham so that we could spend time with Moot and Dad,also saw Lucy, Layla and Darren who were down on Sunday morning to go to church. Layla and Darrens wedding is later this month at Effingham Parish Church. We left Surrey at midday on Sunday and drove up to London to see Selina and Chris, we walked from their appartment to a restaurant overlooking Tower Bridge, Dim Ti. As the name may suggest we had a selection of Dim Sum, delicious! We spent Sunday night at Ashford International Hotel having decided it was easier to be as close to the Channel Tunnel as possible for our crossing on Monday morning. When we woke the next morning to find Kent covered in snow, we were really glad we had done so!
We had quite a journey home as apart from waking to snow, the landscape remained white all the way to Firenze, which we did not reach until Wednesday, our travel being somewhat disrupted by the weather! On the Monday we reached Metz and the roads remained relatively clear except for a stretch between Calais and Reims where we were forced to stop as it was snowing so hard! Traffic was hardly moving so we took the opportunity to leave the motorway and have some lunch. On Tuesday there were not so many snow storms to contend with but it was exceptionally cold, minus 5C on the car thermometer at one time! As we drove through Switzerland it got slightly warmer and the snow started to come down heavily again. David predicted that as the weather was coming from the north-east that once we were the other side of the Gottard Tunnel that conditions would improve. We were very surprised to discover that it was in fact the complete reverse and we found ourselves driving in increasingly snowy conditions and the lorries were stopped from driving on the autostrada, as the snowploughs struggled to keep it clear, just one lane usable. We were very pleased that we made it as far as Como Grandate that day, came off the autostrada to find 8" of snow and the roads impassable without chains! That was not a problem as in Italy it is a legal obligation to carry chains in your cars if you drive in certain areas, between November and March. We had expected to wake on Wednesday morning to find conditions somewhat improved but instead it was to discover there had been another 12" overnight and it was still snowing heavily! Apart from in ski resorts we have not seen so much snow for a long time,(although those of you reading this that live in certain regions of the UK have seen rather a lot of snow yourselves this last week!!)and David had to dig out the X-Trail. The drive from Como to Vetralla was inevitably much longer than normal as the road conditions were almost impassable at times, especially in Milano, where we crept round the ring road which had not been cleared and was covered in icy ruts, not easy driving! It seemed strange when the snow suddenly disappeared south of Firenze, we were certainly glad to get back to La Fenice that evening after that drive!
The weather had been very wet while we were away, as mentioned earlier, so it was no surprise that the house felt very cold and damp after having been shut up for so long, especially as we had already started packing before our trip. We were glad to hear the day after getting home that the buyers were keen to move ahead with completion as soon as possible, as to be honest although we knew a tremendous amount of work was ahead of us, we couldn't wait! We did our utmost to try and link the sale and purchase together but this is very difficult in Italy; although at one point it looked as though we might have been able to do the purchase within forty eight hours or so of the sale, as you already know circumstances conspired against us. This is jumping ahead a little though, in the days leading up to the Atto on La Fenice we were very busy with the organization of the move, packing and moving load after load of our possessions. Fortunately for us the house we are buying is empty and the vendors have been very accomodating in that they have given us access to both the large garage and another couple of rooms for storage. So when we were not packing, we were moving all sorts of 'stuff' with the help(could not have managed without them)of Viv and Nick, we seem to have accumulated a lot more things again in five years!! Having access to the house it seemed to make sense to move a lot ourselves, although we did have a removals firm for the furniture and all our books, yes they were once again horrified we had so many!
Two weeks ago today Gino and friends from Centro Traslochi turned up at La Fenice at 7.30am, four men and two vans, left fully loaded two hours later and two hours after that everything was safely unloaded and packed like a jigsaw for storage! An incredibily efficient and experieced team. The next morning we had another early start as met Viv and Nick in Viterbo, to collect hire van from Amico Blu, as with their help we moved all the garden/outside stuff, bicycles, tractor, plants etc up to Marta.
Since Thursday 22nd of January we have been offically 'Senza Tetto' 'Without Roof' although luckily for us we have been able to move temporarily into 'Casa Piccola.' The Atto was at 5.30pm that evening in Roma, we left Tuscania at 3pm with Manule not getting back until 9pm, two hours drive each way and nearly two hours with the notaio!
These meetings are not a quick affair in Italy, fortunately we will only be going to Montefiascone for completion on the next property.
We will now continue to play the waiting game at Casa Piccola, our friends have been very supportive and provided us with meals and hospitality. We have also enjoyed visiting some of the local restaurants without having a long drive home afterwards. The other day we went to a wine and cheese tasting in Montefiascone and it was so much more enjoyable knowing it was ten minutes drive afterwards rather than fifty minutes. Already we feel we belong here more than we ever did in Vetralla, as much as we loved La Fenice, the locals were certainly less welcoming than they are in Marta! While we have time we are also trying to do a lot of the paperwork involved with the move and researching kitchens, bathrooms, staircases etc. Pouring over the plans of the house we keep changing our minds about how we are going to rearrange the accommodation. Final decisions will obviously not be made until after we have moved in. Not sure exactly when that will be although we have had confirmation today that the Atto/Completion will be on Monday 9th February at 4pm, can't wait.
News from Italy December 2008
Exciting developments in our life; so it is time for a Newsletter update. Regular readers will know that we have always had a five year plan to improve La Fenice, sell and move on to another project.
It will be five years in the early spring of 2009 since we first found La Fenice so we are very pleased to report that we have achieved our original aim. Both deals are safely underway with completion anticipated by the end of January. In Italy once signatures and deposit cheques are exchanged sales become legally binding. Unlike the UK, where buyer or vendor can back down up to exchange of contract, try to wriggle out here and it becomes a very costly business!
Finding a buyer for La Fenice only took months which by Italian standards is very fast. With so much property available it can often take a number of years for the more rural properties to sell. We actually first had a prospective buyer back in May. It was a shock to have them back out when they and therefore we also discovered that the continuation of the local super-strada, which we thought we knew all about, had shifted its planned route. It is now actually going to be built in the valley between La Fenice and the neighbouring farm, with an intersection at the entrance to Dogane, less than a kilometre away. We did not think that this in itself would pose a great problem as once built it will be very convenient. However our concerns were that if we were not able to sell within the next year, before work commences as planned, it would be difficult to do so once surrounded by road works! Work on the previous section has just started having been waiting for twenty years!
We went on to lose two more prospective buyers both of whom got cold feet about the road. Finally on the 8th of November a young couple from Roma looking for a weekend, holiday home in the country fell in love with the property and they are not at all phased by the road plans.
Once a buyer was confirmed we were able to consider our options. We have always had a pretty good idea of what is available on the local property market having kept in touch with the local agents and occasionally doing property viewings either for our selves or for prospective clients. Having had a short list of properties in mind for some time we considered them all more seriously. It was very important that we found something that would enable us to have a project to occupy us. As property management work has now virtually dried up due to the economic climate David in particular feels the need of something different to get involved in. I am of course 100% behind him but I find it easier to do nothing than he does!
Anyway our dream for sometime now has been for this move to take us to the area around the Lago di Bolsena some thirty miles away, where we have Casa Piccola used by family and friends for holidays. Over the years we have found that we wanted to spend more and more time in that area so it is no surprise that our short list of properties were all near the Lake either in Montefiascone, Capodimonte or Marta.
While browsing the internet to see if there were any new properties on the market that we should maybe consider along with our existing short list we came across an interesting but ugly looking property in Marta. Marta is our definite first choice so this sounded promising, however the photos online were appalling and we at first rejected it on those alone. However after some discussion we decided that as its description met so many of our requirements we should at least take a look. What a good thing we did as fate was about to provide just the project that we have been looking for. A building that at the moment does not look much, particularly from some angles, has been somewhat neglected as only used as a holiday home and infrequently at that for the last few years. It is a very traditional old house in the local style with original living accommodation on the first floor accessed by an external staircase. On the ground floor there is the original cantina with a more modern single story extension plus a two storey extension. With some imagination and work we feel that this property can be turned into a hopefully attractive and comfortable home.
The property is on a plot of around two acres with outbuildings, olive grove (yes no escape for Linda from pruning) plus various other fruit and nut trees. It looks as though at one time it was an attractive established garden, so plenty of scope there as well. It will be far more interesting and easier to cope with; than the five acres of meadow and olive grove at La Fenice.
It was also very important to us that we moved closer to a village and had other properties close by. The house is one of a rural group of developments just five minutes from both central Marta and the lake beach. Just ten minutes from Montefiascone and closer to Viterbo than we are at present. So we are pretty pleased with the location and as for the neighbours we have already met some of them. They already seem friendlier than the contadini we are currently surrounded by in Vetralla where as stranieri we have never been accepted by our immediate neighbours. This house may not be the walking distance of shops that we promised ourselves for this move but after serious reflection we decided that we are far too young to move into the sort of property that would entail. We are not ready to give up either privacy or a decent garden.
We are very excited at the forthcoming move and I expect next time I write we will be there or imminently there. I will certainly have plenty of new material to write about in the foreseeable future.
As I am sure you can imagine we are now fully focused on the forthcoming move and are busy sorting and packing. We still seem to have far too much stuff; surely we did not have all this when we packed up ‘Chadhurst’ five years ago! Oh yes we did and more!
My last Newsletter was written before the Olive Harvest but as promised I did let those interested know the results of the Harvest and posted some photos of the harvest online at both http://www.flickr.com/photos/mctumble and www.facebook.com
Do let me know if you are unable to access either of these and would like to see them.
The harvest was average, almost identical to last year in fact, with 286.5kg of olives producing 41 litres of oil. The big difference this year was that due to having another couple helping us the work was done in half the time, much more enjoyable. There is no doubt that it is hard work for the returns but there is nothing with as good a flavour as ones own oil!
We choose to harvest our olives early as we like to produce for quality and flavour rather than quantity. However the harvest continues from late October until well into January in this part of Italy as many people prefer to let the olives swell fully on the trees before they harvest.
We have had some very stormy weather over the last couple of months with plenty of torrential rain and thunderstorms. One particularly severe storm at the end of October took our phone line out and we had to manage without a landline for two weeks. Thank goodness for mobile phones and I was for once grateful that we depend on a mobile connection for the internet. However slow it might be at least I was not completely cut off and was able to stay in touch with family and friends. It was not a good time to be without the landline though as during this period David’s mother was in hospital. It has not been a good year for her and sadly she has been in hospital a number of times recently. In fact as I write she is yet again although I am hoping by the time she reads this she will be feeling much better. David made a brief trip to the UK to visit her while she was in hospital in early November.
Since his return we seem to have been involved with not much else but our pending move. The time between our buyers’s first viewing, their offer and first stage contract has all happened within the last month as they have the cash to buy the property, no mortgage to wait for. Just the sort of buyers we needed in the current market.
I do not think there is much else of interest to report at this point so I will finish this letter and go and do some more packing. The theory is the more we do now the less we will have to do in the few weeks before completion after we return home. Also next week we will hopefully have access to the Marta house and the plan is to move some of the things that we are moving ourselves and will not need again up there, mainly from one garage to another! Heavy things and furniture we will definitely not be handling ourselves but leaving to a removals firm.
We are now looking forward to our forthcoming trip to the UK where we will be based most of the time in Salisbury but driving up to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in London. Selina and Chris are cooking Christmas Day Lunch this year, having invited us, Aimee and my Mum. They are in Australia at the moment visiting Chris’s sister who has been living there since January of this year and they will only be returning the weekend before Christmas, so it will be a lovely opportunity to hear all about the trip.
Meanwhile Seasons Greetings to one and all.
News From Italy October 2008
It is the fourth week of October and three months since my last Newsletter. The autumn flowers are in bloom, natures colours are starting to change and the grass is green. We are keeping a careful eye on the weather forecasts at the moment because of the imminent Olive Harvest. These first three sentences are almost a direct copy of the start of the newsletter that I wrote almost exactly a year ago!
The pattern of life here remains the same and we are enjoying it. As it is late October we are preparing for the Olive Harvest and have spent the last week clearing the trees ready for picking. This involves removing all growth from around the base of the trees, so that the nets do not snag on anything. Also we have been removing any branches from the inside of the trees that may hamper picking.
Without meaning to point out the difference, we hear it was not a good summer in the UK. Italy after an unsettled but warm May had three very hot months without rain. With the arrival of September came a few fairly dramatic thunderstorms and the tramontana, north wind blowing continually for two weeks. We thought that we were going to be in for an unusually long winter but thankfully this has not proved to be so. Since the wind dropped we have been enjoying exceptionally warm temperatures for the time of year with plenty of sunshine. The downside of course as there always has to be one is the lack of rain. We are just hoping that this mild and dry weather lasts until after the Olive Harvest.
We have had a very pleasant summer with plenty of visitors and socialising with our local friends to keep us entertained and busy. We always enjoy visitors so remember us next time you are planning a holiday. The only disappointment this year has been the lack of guests at the little house at Marta. Julie, Alan and Scott have been the only people to use it this year!
They drove down in their camper van this year, spent some time at Casa Piccola and then headed home again minus Scott, who stayed on for a few extra days with us, before flying back to the UK. We spent time with them here at La Fenice, they stayed over one night and also up at the lake. It is at such times that we realise once again how much easier it would be if we did not live quite so far from Marta. It is a 54 mile round trip up to the lake!
Selina and Chris arrived for the weekend on the day in September that we had the first storm of the season, it was a spectacular one! Torrential rain and strong winds just before we were due to leave for the airport to collect them caused havoc in our front portico with deckchairs buffeted across the tiles and wooden plates wrenched from the wall! The front drive was awash and we got drenched just getting in the car.
As we left we also noticed that the tractor trailer had moved from in front of the garage, to edge of drive area in front of the house. It must have been quite a surge of wind, as further movement that we did not discover or retrieve until the next day, were chairs from the back terrace that had been blown across the garden, only stopped fortunately by the long grass near the gas tank. The drive to the airport was spectacular as far as the skies were concerned with lightning the full 360 degrees. It was also very windy with the occasional downpour in places. No surprise therefore that Selina and Chris’s flight was a somewhat bumpy ride! On the Saturday morning it was wet first thing but it brightened up considerably later on, staying that way for the rest of the weekend, similar weather to when they were last here in early May I think. Pleasant but just not swimming weather! Never mind we had a great time with them and we ate out on Saturday evening and Sunday lunchtime. A short and sweet visit.
Two weeks later Julie was back this time bringing our Mum with her, so a very special treat for me. It meant a lot to us all that Mum was able to make this trip, her second visit to La Fenice and she was very happy to be here again. It was very special for me to be able to spend quality time with both my Mum and my little sister. We visited Marta and Capodimonte. Went out for supper at our local Pizzeria; also visited our friends’ house in Montefiascone for Sunday lunch. We went to the woods in Vetralla to see the carpets of pink cyclamens. I think Mum and Julie probably went home for a rest as we certainly were busy when they were here.
While Mummy and Julie were here the tramontana was blowing for some of the time, so the lake was very rough. The wind kept the temperatures down somewhat for the time of year, though it was probably just as well as more comfortable for Mummy. In fact this is when we thought we were in for a long winter; as on the Saturday after they left temperatures plummeted and we had a freak Ice storm! The hailstones settled against the walls around the house and a good three inches of ice remained for most of the day!!
Thankfully by the time Steve and Sue arrived on October the 9th summer had returned and the entire time they were here the temperatures were around 25C. It was their sixth visit to stay with us since we first came to live in Italy, so it is all very familiar to them. They must like the area I suppose? Sue certainly likes the shopping, well what female wouldn’t? We were able to visit some of their favourite places Tuscania, Marta, Capodimonte, Blera and Viterbo as well as introducing them to some different restaurants that we have discovered since their last visit, or maybe just never got around to taking them to before! A fish lunch at Ernesto’s in Marta on the Friday. Meeting up with friends in a wine bar on the Saturday evening followed by a delicious meal at TreDiciGradi a Wine bar with a kitchen where you eat what the chef has prepared for that evening. Last but not least, as the food was excellent was Tre Re one of the oldest and smallest restaurants in Viterbo.
Yes, as usual it is all about eating and drinking with friends! We did go for a long walk while they were with us though, in an effort not to drop behind with our exercise routines.
It is a great excuse though isn’t it to be able to try out different restaurants, because you want somewhere new to show friends on their next trip?
Now can I think of anything else that has happened that might be of interest?
Certainly one significant date was September 3rd , a very important date in the local calendar when the transport of La Macchina di Santa Rosa takes place every year. It is apparently an event unique in the world; the existing Macchina is approx 100 feet in height and weighs around 5 tons. The legend as to the existence of the Macchina is fascinating, in brief Santa Rosa was a young girl who lived in the first half of the thirteenth century, whom thanks to her abilities and prophesies was made a Saint. The cult of Santa Rosa saw the creation of an annual procession which re-evoked the removal of her body from a church in Viterbo to the convent.
The memory of this youthful Saint is perpetuated by the unique ceremony held in her honour on the evening of September 3rd every year. This event consists of a procession in which the “machine” dedicated to Santa Rosa is carried on the shoulders of hundreds of strong young men of Viterbo, along the streets of the historic town centre for about half a mile. The Macchina sparkles with the lights that decorate it, the large watching crowds line the streets, where they are wide enough and applaud it. It is a touching and important annual spectacle for the locals. It is impossible to describe properly, you need to see for yourself and be there to get caught in the emotion of the moment. This year we were lucky enough to have the most fantastic view of the proceedings thanks to an invitation to view from a friend’s family owned shop. Understandably the town is heaving with humanity for this event and one needs to get there early( we arrived at 5pm and did not get home until after midnight), to get a good viewing point and find somewhere to park outside the city walls. This year there was noticeably increased police activity because Viterbo was honoured with the presence of Berlusconi. We read in the newspaper the next day that he received a ‘standing ovation’ when he promised the commune that Viterbo Airport will definitely be going ahead.
It is a long evening but well worth the time waiting, just for that fantastic emotional sight when the Macchina passes by your viewing point! The atmosphere is one of a party. The procession is supposed to start at 9pm but this year, thanks to Berlusconi did not get underway until after 10pm! I took lots of photos and if you are interested some can be found on www.facebook.com and www.flickr.com. Let me know if you would like an invitation to view.
The day after this event is a local public holiday for Viterbo and the streets of the city are host to the largest street market I have ever seen. It seems to sell everything you could possibly need or want, plus all those things you do not need. We went along as also on show is the ‘Macchina Santa Rosa’ at the Monastery, well worth viewing close up. It looks so different in the daylight.
Paling into insignificance in comparison but none the less amusing was an interesting Supper by Candlelight one evening in September when friends came over for supper, nothing unusual in that, but it was an unusual evening! About an hour before they were due to arrive we discovered that we only had a very limited power supply. Apparently we have a two phase supply for our 6KW of electricity and only one of these was functioning.
Luckily the limited power that was available was in the kitchen so we were able to cook, no water though as the well pump had no power.
Our evenings entertaining was centred round the kitchen table, often only in candlelight as once ENEL arrived to investigate they had to keep turning the power off completely. At least we had been able to provide food and vino and instead of a session on the Wii which we had planned we played Visual Brain Storms. It is a card game of Brainteaser questions, we played men versus women and it was interesting to note our different approaches to the questions. The men won but only by one point!
Having been without power all evening it was eventually restored about 1.00 am our friends had left and we were on our way to bed. In fact David had to go out on our bedroom balcony in answer to a car horn as the ENEL men arrived to tell us all was Posso! (OK!)
The next morning while I was hanging out some washing I was interrupted by a car hooting its horn, to attract my attention as it drew up outside the house. It was a salesman for an all singing and dancing vacuum cleaner, normally such callers do not get beyond our gates. It is an advantage having electric gates and an intercom making it easier to discourage such callers, especially as we are ‘stranieri’. This salesman must have thought it was his lucky day when he found our gates wide open, they had been left open last night as ENEL had required access to the poles on our land and we had not yet been up the drive this morning to close them. Never mind all extra opportunities to practise our Italian should be welcomed, yesterday ENEL engineers and today a salesman!
The only other event out of the ordinary which I think is worth a mention is connected with my great interest in books and membership of an online community at www.bookcrossing.com where I am known as LindyLouMac. On October 17th I organised a Bookcrossing lunch at La Fenice. I was very pleased with the result, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and plenty of books changed hands. This, after all was the point of the exercise! The last time we had got together to exchange books had been back in July and only three of us had been able to make it then. I decided to try and make it into more of an event this time especially as the main reason was to welcome some Australian bookcrossers. I invited all the bookcrossers I knew of within an easy drive and was pleased at the turn out. None of the younger ones were able to come as they were all at work, so it was a 50 plus gathering!
On that note the fifty plus youngster having a great adventure in Italy will sign off until next time. I will post online, write an email or let you know when I next speak to you; whichever is most appropriate the outcome of the forthcoming Olive Harvest.
A Presto! Till next time.
13 July 2008
Latest News From Italy
I have been writing these letters for over four years now, yes it really is that long! If I am honest each time I find it more and more difficult to think of something to write that will be of any interest. To us it all seems rather mundane to be writing about and then I remember how much I enjoy hearing from friends and family with their everyday news. So I will keep thinking and writing.
The business of day to day existence still keeps us occupied, so much so that it was April that I last wrote a Newsletter. It was only yesterday I realised just how long it had been, when I noticed that our resident swallows have just had their second clutch fledge. At the start of my last letter they had not long been back in residence, lying claim to their nest in the garage. Spring did evolve eventually into summer, after a very unsettled start, but it was a long time coming this year. The birds certainly enjoyed the unseasonable weather and the garden is a bit like living in a bird sanctuary as there are more than normal of every breed. The swallows are even confident enough to use the swimming pool when we are in it and one of the magpies follows David when he is cutting grass issuing instructions!
Our wildlife visitors remain pretty much the same this season, with two additional sightings. In May when my cousin Sue was visiting she asked if we ever had trouble with rabbits. ‘No never even seen any, since we have been here’ was our response. Just a few weeks later a new visitor arrived; every morning when we threw open our bedroom shutters a Hare would be sitting in full view on the drive close to the house! He was around for a few weeks then fortunately without discovering the orto disappeared as mysteriously as he arrived. The second sighting was of two porcupines that lumbered, it was almost a waddle down the track to our house in the headlights of our car as we returned home one evening. Thankfully they turned right into our neighbours Olive Groves as although it was fascinating to see them at such close quarters, we do not want them taking up residence on our land.
Work of any sort has virtually ground to a halt over the last few months with no sign of more on the horizon. We still have our existing clients but they are all visiting Italy less often for various reasons, but amongst those reasons are the poor exchange rate for the Euro and the dramatic rise in fuel costs which has already had an effect on flight costs. Tourism has generally been hit hard this year and so far everywhere is much quieter than expected for the time of year. Not that anywhere around here gets particularly busy anyway, certainly not with foreigners.
We do not really mind the lack of clients as we have plenty of interests to keep us occupied but we will still be keeping a look out for a new project to get our teeth into. This is our fifth summer here at ‘La Fenice’ and we have really done all the improvements that we wanted to. David in particular likes to have something practical to work on and there is only so much he can do here at La Fenice, apart from regular maintenance and gardening. It has proved impossible to establish the sort of garden we enjoy here, it is just too dry and exposed, however the grass, the orto and the olive trees keep us busy. We have also managed to add colour with roses, bedding plants around the olive trees nearest to the house and lots of pots, the latter of course which give us another job, watering them!
Our major task in the garden at the moment along with grass cutting is to clear all the new growth from the base of the olive trees, otherwise they may take moisture and nutrients that the olives need.
A slow task as we only do a few every morning before it gets to hot for much in the way of physical effort. The olives are forming well now so keeping our fingers crossed for a reasonable harvest again this year.
David’s practical project this summer has been to restore the Mirror Dinghy that my brother-in-law Alan towed out here some years ago. He has made a great job of it and we are now looking forward to making time to go up to the lake for a sail. If we do not get a chance to do so before the family arrive for a holiday in the little house at Marta, hopefully we will do so then.
Our social life here seems to revolve around eating and drinking, which is great but we do have to make sure we do enough exercise to compensate for all the lovely food. This is easier in the summer with the swimming pool and we continue to walk and even cycle sometimes. We have also had since I received it for my birthday a Wii Fit programme which has proved to be fun and effective!
So what have we been up to since April that is worthy of a mention apart from our regular meet-ups with friends either in each others homes or local restaurants. On my birthday in early May we met up with friends in Tuscania for lunch, it was a Friday and that was just the start of a weekend of celebration because that evening Selina and Chris arrived to spend a few days with us. It was also the weekend of the San Pellegrino flower festival so on Saturday evening we went into Viterbo early enough to have a walk around the displays, before going on to supper at the oldest restaurant in town, Tre Re. The festival was disappointing this year but Selina and Chris found the medieval quarter attractive, not having walked around that quarter before. On Sunday the weather was warm enough at a pleasant 25C to opt for a day’s relaxation here at home, followed by supper in Vetralla at our local pizzeria. On Monday their flight home was not until the evening so we were able to go to Tuscania that morning and enjoy yet another meal out. A very enjoyable Birthday weekend!
Our next guest arrived just nine days later, my cousin Sue, whose daughter Laura had surprised her with a flight out here for her Christmas present. Like Selina and Chris earlier in the month it was only a three night trip, but once again we managed to fit in plenty of eating and drinking while showing her a little of the region, visiting Viterbo, Montefiascone, Marta and Tuscania.
At the end of May we made a trip to the UK just Friday to Monday so that we could attend my Aunt Elma’s Memorial Service in Dorking on the Saturday afternoon. Although obliviously in some ways a sad affair it was very interesting to meet the many people that attended the service apart from family, old friends and neighbours, reaching colleagues and a surprising number of ex-pupils. My cousins Kim, Mandy and Wendy contributed to the service with their beautiful singing and Kim played the piano for the service. A close friend and work colleague of Elma’s spoke of her fond and amusing memories of Elma and my sister Julie read a poem written by another cousin Andrew, unable to be there himself, about his memories of her. There was a selection of photos of Elma’s life on display and after the service it was fascinating talking to various people about their memories. Many of those present were delighted to spot themselves in old school photos!
The weekend also gave us the opportunity to spend some time with family. On the Friday we were able to spend the afternoon with Moot and Dad and that evening ate with them at The Plough. On Saturday we called in to see Moot and Dad after the service, with my Mum before driving down to Salisbury. By the time we dropped Mummy home and drove up to Aimee’s, we just had time to unpack quickly and change into more casual clothes before it was time for the three of us to meet up with Julie and Alan for supper. On Sunday morning Mummy and I went shopping and enjoyed spending my birthday money on some clothes, good job I had intentionally left space in my suitcase! Meanwhile David spent the morning with Aimee doing things like researching which mower she should buy before meeting up with us for lunch in town. That evening we had a family gathering, nine of us, round at Julie and Alan’s house. On Monday morning we left Aimee’s, drove to Bristol caught the lunchtime flight to Rome and were home early evening
The only significant event since then has been a trip two hours north of here in Tuscany to San Quirico d’Orcia to meet up with friends Tony and Helen for lunch. Yes more eating and it was delicious at ‘Al Vecchio Forno’ a restaurant we discovered in an attractive courtyard setting in this delightful walled Tuscan town. I have posted some photos online of this outing at www.flickr.com which if you are a friend on the site, or you ask me for an invite you may view.
That is all I can think of to tell you for now, friends arriving shortly for a swim, then staying on for a BBQ with us, so I must go and get final preparations organised.
A Presto, until next time
05 April 2008
Latest News From Italy
Here in Italy Primavera has definitely arrived. The weather is slowly warming up the swallows and hoopoes have been around for a few weeks now and blossom and spring flowers are in full bloom, certainly one of our favourite times of year. Winter seemed to us to pass very quickly this year but maybe that was because we were away for some of the worst weather here. Having spent much of last December in the UK when it was particularly miserable here we then timed our recent trips to apparently miss much of the spring rains which were torrential. It has not been particularly cold for any length of time this winter with few frosts and no snow until last month; only on the surrounding hills though not a flake settled here unlike some of our previous winters. The worst thing about this winter has been the frequent bitterly cold and penetrating winds that seem to have been much stronger than normal. One night in February the temperature dropped to minus 6C one of the coldest on record!
As usual the weeks seem to have flown by since I last wrote and the business of living seems to keep us busy from day to day, as well as the additional treats of a ski trip and a visit to the UK over Easter. When I last wrote January was drawing to a close and we had just started the Olive Pruning, which I am pleased to report we finished on schedule before the end of February. It is a major task with the number of trees that we have and although some people seem to make a concerted effort and complete the task over a few days, sometimes with professional help, we prefer to do it gradually when time allows. This usually meant that over a period of about four weeks we could be found on most fine afternoons pruning! Once you get into the rhythm and recall all you learnt the previous year it is a fairly enjoyable way of spending some time in the fresh air. It is rewarding to see the finished trees hopefully looking almost as good as those of our neighbours. Fortunately it is almost impossible to over prune an Olive tree although we probably err on the overcautious. Now we have to sit back and wait for the blossom which will hopefully set and ensure a reasonable crop again this coming season. Our major work is done until the autumn but it is still necessary to keep the area around all the trees clean and tidy throughout the summer months which will keep us occupied.
Our social life in Italy over these winter months has been more about staying in than going out very much, though this will change again now the weather has started to improve and the longer evenings are coming. We have entertained friends here and we have been to friends houses but have not tried out any new to us local restaurants recently, something we definitely enjoy! We did visit one of our favourites Il Molino in Viterbo, with our friends Viv and Nick and his parents, at the end of February. His parents were here for a first visit and for us to meet them it seemed an ideal venue for one of our three hour lunches! I also met friends for coffee and to swap books, a mini bookcrossing meeting, also of course the winter does not stop us attending our regular Italian class. A part of our social life now as the teachers and other pupils have become friends over the last couple of years. In fact in February we held one of the regular classes at La Fenice, then they stayed for lunch afterwards which was fun and we plan to do this again in the summer, possibly with some of the other students and staff joining us. We also had a visit one afternoon very recently from one of our neighbours Vincenzo, not a resident but the owner of a neighbouring vineyard and olive grove. Last autumn he had promised David that he would be bringing him some wine, specifically from the first two rows! Well it is a strong red wine, Nero di Nero that Viv and I both found rather unpalatable when we tried it last weekend. Maybe it will taste better drunk chilled in the heat of the summer, as is normal here. David and Nick both drunk it but did not really pass verdict, by the time we have finished five litres we may have a better opinion. Anyway it was an extremely kind gesture of him and much appreciated as he is really the only one of the local ‘contadini’ who actually wants anything to do with us! Since moving here we have been told time and time again by Italians from elsewhere that the Vetrallese are not easy people to become friends with, certainly none of our Italian friends are from the immediate locality.
Apart from the routine chores of day to day life we have also had some work to do for clients and David has helped a friend with some electrical work. We have a couple of potential new clients in the pipeline both already property owners here who we may help out in the summer when they have rentals. We have also managed after I think it is around a year to get the gas meter installed and gas turned on at another clients house, not that an unusual a time wait either it seems! We have also done some property viewings both for clients and for ourselves as we still hanker after living closer to the Lago di Bolsena one day which is why we purchased our land at Marta last year. We will wait and see how the economy goes over the next few months before deciding but we have been here nearly four years now and our intention was not to stay in this house more than five. Anyway will keep an open mind for now before deciding what our next life adventure should be.
Guess what, the transfer of the X-Trail to Italian plates is still not fully completed which I seem to say in every letter. Although it has had Italian plates for a year now, the final paperwork is still being compiled. The latest requirement involved us needing our ownership signature verified by a Notaio which we duly did. First we went to the Notaio as suggested by Sandro, our friend who is dealing with all this and introduced ourselves. A phone call to Sandro to confirm our request was made, various documents photocopied and we were given an appointment to return to collect the verification a few days later. Which we did they were all ready so it took all of five minutes to collect when it taken ages to organize, typical. Paperwork now all with Sandro and we await further developments. At this rate we will be thinking about changing cars again before it is all done as we have already had the X-trail for three years. Although we like and enjoy the X-trail with the recent vast increases in fuel prices we are no longer finding it economical. We now use the Smart car much more, even going as far as Viterbo, can’t you just see us pottering along the superstrada
During March we were lucky enough to be able to take a ski-ing holiday. We drove to Switzerland to spend a week in Wengen joined by our friends Tricia and John form the UK. The normally easy drive up to Switzerland was not quite as it should have been due to problems with the car. They turned out to be pretty major and we were lucky to have made it at all! Although we did not know it at the time it was a major problem with the turbo, it had to be replaced. We had driven to Giswil on the Saturday where we had booked a hotel to stay overnight, the problem had slowed us but not considerably as most of the journey was on motorways and the car was fine cruising, the problem of extreme lack of power only occurring if it revs of over 2500 were needed, sorry if this is technical, I don’t understand it either but hills were a real problem and guess what the first part of our journey consisted of on Sunday morning, a climb over a mountain pass. Goodness knows how we made it, yes very slowly, other cars just loved us that morning! Anyway without the boring details the X-Trail spent most of the week in a garage in Lauterbrunnen and we collected it the following Saturday when we left to drive home. It was not as expensive as we had feared because the part was not long out of warranty so we were given an 80% discount by Nissan, sounds like admission of a weakness to me. Car troubles aside we had a lovely week in Wengen with our friends who are always great company and we thoroughly enjoyed our ski-ing although neither of us were at the peak of fitness this season. We were only B and B at the Berghaus so had plenty of opportunity to revisit some of our favourite restaurants both up the mountain at lunchtime and in Wengen in the evenings. We were also invited one evening to a fondue at the home of our good friends Hans Peter and Ursula, Trix was also there looking blooming, her baby due in mid May. Wengen is one of our favourite places and I always feel rejuvenated after a few days in the mountain air, maybe not physically this year but certainly mentally. It is a pleasant break from normal routines and we always look forward to returning.
With a newly repaired car the journey home was a breeze in comparison to the trip north. Just as well as our time was limited to just five days in Vetralla before departing again and we had a busy few days with some business commitments to fit in as well as household chores.
Easter consisted of a flying visit to the UK the main purpose of which was to be there to celebrate Moot’s 90th Birthday. A fantastic achievement and we were very happy that everything went according to plan and was a great success. Especially as much to the consternation of us all Moot has had at least a couple of ‘episodes’ requiring hospitalisation in recent months. She is a wonderful lady and although we understand that it is not easy for her she is continuing to make the most of things despite feeing particularly frail. We love her dearly and look forward to celebrating more special occasions of one sort or another with her in the future.
We left home on Good Friday morning and were surprised to find the roads and airport much quieter than anticipated. Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy so maybe that was why. Despite the plane being about an hour late departing and the traffic on the M3 being appalling we were still at Aimee’s by around 4pm. Having unpacked we went to Mums for a much looked forward to Hot Cross Bun! We including Aimee spent a couple of hours with her plus Julie and co who came round. We took Aimee out to supper later just at her local pub where the food is adequate, though maybe a little unimaginative. At least we were able to relax with her and a good bottle of wine after a long days travelling.
On Saturday morning with strong winds and snow showers forecast we left Salisbury in plenty of time for our lunch date at Effingham golf club. Enough time to meet briefly with Selina and Chris before going on to the Golf Club. The occasion was a Celebration Lunch Party for the family for Moot’s 90th birthday on March 24th. It was a very enjoyable occasion with eleven of us present, including all the grandchildren except Layla who is still travelling. We took photographs and I hope that those of you interested have been able to look at them by now. As well as making a disc of them for viewing on the DVD player they are posted on www.facebook.com where the youngsters have viewed them and on www.flickr.com so that other friends and family not on Facebook have also had a chance to see them. The meal was excellent and the golf club certainly did their longest standing members proud, Moot and Dad have been members since 1948! The time passed all too quickly and late afternoon we were all going our separate ways again. By the way the weather was foul and it snowed most of the time we were at the Club and on the way back to Salisbury though none of it settled! We spent a quiet evening as Mum, Julie and Alan had gone off to Weymouth today visit Mum’s sister and family who had rented a house down there for the Easter weekend.
Easter Sunday was another family birthday, Luke was 20. Mum came round this morning to spend some time at Aimee’s with us then late afternoon we went to Julies for Birthday cake. In the evening we met up again for a Birthday celebration supper in Salisbury at the Slug and Lettuce, after which the youngsters went off tenpin bowling. We spent what was left of the evening with Julie and Alan and it was pretty late before we got to bed so we were delighted that were able to spend Easter Monday quietly well relatively though we did do a few things with Aimee, including a visit to see Auntie Elma, then later went down to Julies to say our farewells to everyone.
Tuesday morning Aimee left for work and about an hour later we left for Surrey where we had a couple of pleasant hours with Moot and Dad before we were due at Gatwick for our flight home late that afternoon.
Since getting home just over a week ago the clocks have changed, the evenings are getting lighter and the weather is feeling spring like. We are getting down to all those jobs that we have not felt like doing over the winter months, or need doing before the summer such as cleaning the swimming pool and preparing it for the coming season. It may just be warm enough for Selina and Chris to take a quick dip when they are here early next month, depending of course on the vagaries of the weather!
So that should bring you up to date with our news. The sun is shining and I need some fresh air so I am off for a walk now, taking my camera to take some shots of the beautiful spring flowers.
A Presto! Until next time.
28 January 2008
We are well into the New Year now and Christmas Day was over a month ago. We have been back in Italy for just over two weeks and have quickly settled back into our daily routines. Having been away from home a month we certainly had a lot of catching up to do.
Our biggest concern was that we would have forgotten our Italian, especially the grammar. Not that we were that brilliant anyway, however we were pleasantly surprised when we went to an Italian lesson the very day after we got home! It seems that we have now reached the level where we have actually retained some of what we have learnt. Our problem is that apart from our weekly classes we are actually getting very limited opportunities to use our spoken Italian often enough for any continued improvement. Unfortunately having a house in the country with no immediate neighbours, although peaceful is not the greatest way to make Italian friends. Slowly and surely we are building a network of Italian friends but none that we see on a daily basis. Never mind we are happy enough with our language skills for the time being and seem to be able to make ourselves understood and understand what is being said in most situations now. The rest will come in due course, though neither of us is ever going to be a natural linguist. Meanwhile we will continue to go to conversation classes as it is important. We have also met and made a number of friends through meeting them at school and feel sure that this circle will continue to expand as new students are arriving all the time.
Our next major task is the pruning of our olive trees, which takes place over the next few weeks. The pace of the completion of this task depends on firstly the weather and secondly how much time we devote to the task. We actually started early last week on a beautifully sunny but cold day, but then the weather changed with torrential rain arriving. Apparently there was very little rain during December and early January so the three days of rain was much needed, though not good timing for our friends who moved in during the worst possible weather, but more of that later! With the weather meaning we have only completed a small percentage of the pruning I decided it might be sensible to write a Newsletter before we get down to the really hard work! As the weeks pass so the pressure to complete pruning increases as it needs to be done before the sap starts to rise. This probably means we have till the end of March but for a number of reasons we are aiming to finish by the end of February. Will let you know in due course, but meanwhile lets catch up with what has been happening since my last missive!
At the end of November we visited the properties of all our clients plus Casa Piccola and made sure that everywhere was packed up for winter, especially as no one was planning any visits until around Easter now we don’t think. We also started our Christmas shopping although we did not have a great deal to buy locally as we find shopping online so convenient for presents, especially this year when I was able to have things delivered to Mum’s in Salisbury, knowing we were going to be there in plenty of time before Christmas to do the wrapping! Suddenly it was nearly time for our trip to the UK and we found ourselves rushing around canning the oil, planting out our winter Pansies, writing Christmas cards, visiting the dentist (David yet again poor chap), clothes shopping for David, (the moths got his winter woollies, plus I shrunk one, whoops) and of course haircuts so that we would look vaguely respectable. We still managed to find some time to socialise though with friends we would not see again until after the New Year. We had lunch with friends over in Canino one day and on another occasion we met up with a group from Progetta Lingua at Il Lazzaretto, a restaurant new to us for a pizza. An interesting building for a restaurant as in previous incarnations it has been not only a church but also a fever hospital! Great setting and great food and we will definitely be going there again.
The big local news only made official since my last newsletter is that Viterbo has won the bid for Rome’s third airport. This is due to be operational in 2-3 years and apparently handling six million passengers a year by 2020. It will have an enormous impact on the region in so many ways and the Viterbese generally seem thrilled about the result. So much so that a free street party was held to celebrate, unfortunately we were unable to attend. We will now watch further developments with interest, the first of which will have to be the completion of the superstrada to Civitavecchia. The next stage of which was due to be started in November, last week there was still no visible sign of any work having started!
We set off for the UK on Monday 10th December, leaving home at the respectable hour of 8.30am; a long day’s driving found us in Mulhouse overnight. The next day was a much easier drive and we were in Calais by 5pm, so were able to relax and have a good nights rest before taking the Eurotunnel the next morning. Once in England where thankfully the sun was shining, we headed to Suffolk to spend three nights with Steve and Sue in their wonderful new barn conversion. Last time we were here it was just a building site, now it is a warm and welcoming home. While there we visited Norwich with them and took time to wander around the cathedral and the old part of the city. Sue and I even found time to visit an official Bookcrossing zone; somewhere where one can exchange, leave or pick up Bookcrossing registered books, this one was in a Health Food shop. Yes of course we both came away with a book! On the Friday which was rather cold and grey we wrapped up warm and went for a circular walk before lunch taking in the local church and popping in to the village pub en route, only for a coffee though. That afternoon we visited Diss their local market town, again in Norfolk, though they do actually live in Suffolk it is obviously very near the county border. They seem to have settled in very well here and are enjoying the slower pace of life in this region of picturesque little towns and villages.
On Saturday we drove down to Wiltshire stopping en route in Surrey to have lunch with Moot and Dad. Later that day we descended on Aimee in Salisbury with all our paraphernalia for Christmas, suddenly making her little house feel very full. On Sunday we got straight down to work with Aimee on preparation and planning the course of action for the decorating that we had promised to do while we were here. We were hoping to get the vast majority of the house redecorated before Christmas so we had our work cut out for us! With that in mind that very afternoon found us in B and Q while Aimee made her final decisions on paint colours. Paint purchased we were then able to go and say hello to Mum, Julie and family. Monday am first thing saw us starting on the living room, our very first day of decorating and I crept off for a couple of hours in the afternoon because Mum’s sister June and one of her daughter’s Wendy were visiting and I wanted to see them, not often getting the chance to do so. Aimee let me have the use of her car while we were staying which meant I had the freedom of getting out and about on my own without having to drive the left hand drive X-trail. I do not like driving it on the wrong side of the road, though it is OK on motorways or dual carriageways. That week before Christmas flew by with us working every day, painting away like fury, though we did escape briefly now and then, on Wednesday afternoon one of my cousins Kim, her husband, daughter and her family were passing through Salisbury and calling in on Mum, so of course I wanted to see them as well. Ruth lives in the USA with her husband and two gorgeous little girls; it is many years since I last saw her, though we have been in contact a fair bit recently since I joined Facebook. I also went Christmas shopping with Mum that week, meeting her from the hairdressers, shopping and having lunch together in town. By Friday afternoon we had finished painting the living room, hall, landing and stairwell, so with the vast bulk of the work done, we were even able to go out shopping together before collecting Aimee from work.
That weekend we had a break from painting and went up to Surrey on Saturday to have lunch with Tricia, John, Maggie and Bob. It was great to be able to relax and enjoy a catch up with both couples. Had hoped to be able to call in on Moot and Dad as well but unfortunately the timing was not right as they were off to a Carol Service. So instead we drove back to Salisbury and spent the latter part of the evening with Julie and the rest of the family. Sunday found us back at work as David had the hall floor that he wanted to finish laying before Christmas, Aimee and I helped where we could. Aimee also decorated the Christmas tree and we finished wrapping presents, I also took Mum to visit Elma that afternoon. On Christmas Eve while David was finishing off the floor Aimee and I painted the kitchen. It is now a Warm Terracotta which Aimee is a little unsure about as more pink tones than she anticipated however at least it looks fresh and clean and I hope she will come to like the colour more. That evening we delivered presents to Julie and Alan’s though we decided to delay opening until we were altogether on Boxing Day, when the whole family gathered again at their house.
Christmas Day was spent in Wimbledon with Lucy and family and Moot and Dad, a lovely day especially as it is many years since we have all been together for Christmas. Aimee, Leon and Jack were there but not a complete set of grandchildren as Selina was in Cheshire and Layla in Australia. Layla is the reason I joined Facebook, we have been enjoying viewing the photos she has been posting there while on her travels. The latter part of Christmas week was mainly spent working at Aimee’s putting the finishing touches to the rooms already painted, such as new light fittings and rearranging furniture etc. Aimee has taken the opportunity of having a good clear out during this makeover of her little house! Aimee and I did find time for some sale shopping though and David and I went out for a meal with Julie and Alan one evening. By the weekend we had virtually finished with just the second bedroom to paint which we would have plenty of time to do after the New Year.
On the Saturday after Christmas we drove up to London to spend some time with Selina and Chris who not long before Christmas moved into their apartment in London Bridge. David helped Chris finish building a wardrobe unit, which meant we were then able to help unpack the boxes still piled everywhere. It was far from all work and no play while we were there though and it was fun being able to do some tourist things with them. They live in easy walking distance of the Thames and we walked along the riverside walk from to Tate Modern where we viewed some of the exhibits including the current one in the Turbine Hall Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth or The Crack as it seems to have become known! We ate and drank well while with them sampling some of their local eateries in particular ‘Hiba’ a Lebanese restaurant and ‘Black and Blue’. On Sunday we visited Camden Lock and Camden Market which was fascinating and absolutely heaving with people, mainly tourists from the languages being spoken around us. New Year’s Eve we headed for Surrey where after having lunch with Moot and Dad we were over in Dorking to see the New Year in and stay overnight with Tricia and John. We were to have been babysitting for their gorgeous granddaughter but as Natasha and Tim’s friends were ill they joined us as well. A very relaxing and pleasant evening with good food wine and Trivial Pursuit! On New Year’s Day we lunched with Maggie and Bob over at Chadhurst Farmhouse before heading back to Salisbury again.
With just less than a week before our departure and plenty we still wanted to do we were straight back to work the next day. Julie and Alan came up to the house that morning and helped clear the garden, which had become a little overgrown, where Aimee had battled unsuccessfully with the grass growing up through the gravel garden we had designed for her! The rest of our stay flew by but we did get the painting finished, loft sorted (there were still things of ours up there that needed clearing out!), family visited, shopping done etc. So January the 7th found us heading homewards, leaving Salisbury early morning, we had a coffee break in Surrey with Moot and Dad before taking a Eurotunnel crossing at around lunchtime. We were checked into a hotel in Reims by 6pm that evening, Tuesday we drove as far as Granate on Lago di Como and we were home mid afternoon on Wednesday a month since our departure. A long time to be away but then we had promised Aimee that we would give her house a make-over. It was definitely worth the time and effort as she is so pleased with the results.
As I mentioned earlier the torrential rain arrived along with our friends Viv and Nick the week after we got home. They could not have picked a worse few days weather-wise to complete their transfer to Italy. They left the UK very early on the Tuesday am and arrived at their new home in Montefiascone at 4.30am on the Thursday morning, just a few hours ahead of their furniture. Not the easiest of drives with the rain and the fact that they had their cat on board! Having made it to Dijon the first night, finding themselves nearing Genoa on the Wednesday evening, they decided to drive on, as had they stopped overnight they would never have got here before the furniture! Anyway at least they were able to get a good few hours sleep when they did arrive, as we had taken the bedding up to the house for them a few days previously. We had promised to help them on arrival day with the unloading, unpacking of the furniture etc, so were all prepared to go up to Montefiascone straight from our Italian class that day.
We had an irritating start to that day ourselves; the electricity had gone off during a storm overnight and came on again two minutes before we left for Viterbo! You can imagine what a bad mood I was in having to get up and get ready not only in semi-darkness but with only kettles of hot water for washing, Yuk! Even our water supply depends on the electricity as it is pumped from our well. Anyway I got over that bad start to the day and after class finished we went up to Montefiascone, weather still misty and constant rain though fortunately not heavy all afternoon. Got cold and damp but not too wet, did not do our colds much good and we were mentally and physically exhausted by the time we got home that evening. It was a long day! If we felt like that think how they must have been feeling.
The furniture unloading itself was far from straightforward, par for the course in Italy. Having told the removal company in the UK that access to the house was not easy, narrow and up a hill, they still provided a lorry that was far too big. It even had tremendous trouble accessing their property in the UK, so it was no real surprise when the driver informed them he could get no closer than the main road some 500 yards away. A smaller vehicle would have to be found and everything off loaded in to that! Thankfully with the help of a neighbour and Yellow pages (yes, it is called the same in Italian, Pagine Gialle) this had been organised by the time we got there. A van and three men were on their way. So of course when the unloading did eventually start it took no more than a couple of hours with all the labour there was available, eight of us in all! The only difficult item was a wardrobe that would not go up the stairs and was manoeuvred over the balcony, interesting! The men were very friendly and chatty, not a word of English so good practice for our Italian and another useful contact made if we ever need any removals done in the future.
Have spent the last two weeks since we got home trying to shake off the coughs and colds we both came back from the UK with. Feeling rough has slowed us down a bit as far as catching up with chores, etc, though we have had some friends over for supper and another for coffee. Also Viv came over one day last week to use the washing machine and the computer, both items still to be sorted out at their house, she stayed for lunch.
However pleased to say that for the last few days we have both been both feeling much better.
Good job really as we now both need all our energy to do the Olive Pruning.
So back to work it is then!
A Presto! Until Next Time!
21 November 2007
Latest New From Italy
As promised I am back with an update rather sooner than you would normally expect, so that I can report on the Olive Harvest.
However before I write about the last four weeks in Italy I have some family news. Most of you will know that for the last few years Selina has been working with DTZ in Manchester as a graduate surveyor completing her training. I am very pleased and proud to report that she has recently passed her finals and is now a fully fledged surveyor, MRICS. Her boy friend Chris was transferred to London by Price Waterhouse back in June and has been living there in a company flat, with Selina remaining in Manchester, as her London office transfer depended initially on her completing her qualifications before starting a job in the London office of DTZ. However the situation has changed somewhat as she was put forward for a secondment to another company. It was a position that she was in fact extremely interested in and to her delight after interview was offered. So although still being employed by DTZ she is now on secondment to Invista real Estate working in their retail dept. she has been in London for three weeks now and she and Chris are hoping to move into their own apartment early next month.
Meanwhile Aimee is still living in Salisbury with at the moment no romantic attachments. She says that for the moment she enjoys this single status! She is still studying for her GNVQ level 3, taking a little longer than she had hoped, though through no fault of her own. The company that were running the course with government funding went bankrupt! We will be staying with Aimee on our winter trip to the UK and have plans to help her decorate her little house. It is nearly four years since the house was purchased so it is need of freshening up and it is not much fun for Aimee to have to do this on her own. Three of us working it should take no time at all! I will report how we get on in due course.
Back in Italy and life over the last four weeks has been busy again. It would actually be rather nice to have a quiet time with not much demanding our attention, a time for contemplation. Somehow do think that will be for awhile, but never mind it is hardly sunbathing weather! The weather has been very mixed with the strong cold winds that we had in October not doing much good to the olives and we were worried about the amounts that seemed to be dropping from our trees. The mill opened on October 22nd and our olives were much riper than at this time last year so an earlier harvest was planned. However with the wet and windy weather that week we had to wait for a good weather window whilst anxiously watching the daily drop!
During that same week we heard from the estate agents in Marta that the paperwork was at last ready for the atto/completion on the land we were buying to go ahead. We were unwilling to confirm the date though as when we went to check the boundaries that week the rusting fiat 500(sadly beyond reclaiming) had still not been removed. This was a sticking point as the contract clearly states that the land must be free of all such things. We were able to keep an eye on the situation as we were in the area more than once that week getting ready for clients coming out to Piansano and Marta for the half term holidays. Fortunately by Thursday there was no sign of the vehicle, we had been concerned that as the vendors still own land bordering ours it would just be dumped there, however it has disappeared completely. Tecnocasa’s confidence in arranging the atto was therefore justified and it went ahead that Friday evening at 6pm, 26th of October, so David only had to wait three months for his birthday present. Not trusting us to find our own way to the Notaio’s office in Montefiascone we had to meet the vendors and agents Elena and GianPierro in the latter’s office. At 5.30pm closing the office for the day, at least two hours earlier than it should have been we departed in four separate cars, despite suggesting otherwise for Montefiascone. By Italian standards this completion was a very straight forward and quick affair as we had finished by 7.30pm. most of the time is spent waiting for ones documents to be checked at least four times and signing papers, first when we arrived to see if all present and correct, then again as contract paperwork is actually prepared. Once the contracts are prepared you move into the presence of the Notaio who then checks your documents himself, before checking the contract, which is then returned to the outer office again for further alterations. Once the Notaio is fully satisfied that everything is as it should be the atto goes ahead with a reading out loud of every word written in the contract. Only after that and when he is sure that everyone fully understands does the signing o the contract go ahead, in this case as only a short contract only twice per person, as every sheet n the contract has to be signed. After this we still had to return to the outer office again for payments to be made and yes our identity documents were checked yet again! We have yet to receive the final documents showing our ownership, it will be a few months before they arrive, but we are now the owners of just over an acre of Monte di Madonna above Marta. Our celebration consisted of a pizza for supper at La Babba in Vetralla before returning home.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny and with the forecast promising for the next few days we decided to make a start on harvesting our olives. All picked without the aid of machinery to produce our high quality Early Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil. For the next four days we dedicated ourselves soul and body to harvesting the crop, from 9am to 4pm only stopping briefly for food and drink. By the late afternoon we were very relieved to be able to take a dip in the hot tub to relax our tired muscles! We were very lucky as the majority of the olives were picked in mild and sunny weather, making it a pleasant task. We have also pruned the trees to much more manageable heights making much of the branch combing accessible from the ground. Unfortunately the fourth and final days picking was not such a pleasure, we dodged showers all morning and with heavy rain setting in early after lunch we were soaked to the skin by the time we finished the last tree just as it was getting dark. David was loading the X-trail with the boxes of olives while I was literally picking the final few branches so the harvest could be taken to the mill immediately. It is important to get the olives to the mill as soon as possible and with so few left to harvest at this stage we had no choice but to finish, or give up and waste the crop, not an option we considered. Obviously the larger farmers can split the harvesting and take different batches to the mill for pressing, however with only 50 mature cropping trees this is not a possibility for us. We actually picked 303 kilos of olives this year, a great improvement on last years figure of 167 kilos, especially considering we lost a fair percentage during the strong winds a few weeks previously. We were extremely pleased with our yield this year which was very high at 15.15% giving us 46 litres of Olive Oil. We have had our first tasting now and are very pleased with both the taste and the clarity.
We were just finishing harvesting the last olive tree, when with perfect timing our friends Viv and Nick arrived! They were staying with us until November 7th which on previous year’s dates should have been perfect timing to help us with the harvest! They arrived in Roma at the weekend and have now completed the purchase of their property at Montefiascone, which sometime early next year will become their permanent home. During the week they were with us they spent many happy hours sorting out various aspects of their forthcoming move such as connections for electricity, gas, water and telephone; discovering various retail establishments, choosing light fittings, designing a new kitchen and even some clearing in the garden. We were able to provide we hope a comfortable base, with no catering to worry about, advice when needed with regard to what at first can seem like the endless Italian bureaucracy and most importantly friends to relax with after a hard day!
We of course had normal chores to do while they were staying and some work for clients both up at Piansano and in connection with the gas meter still outstanding on one of the Montefiascone properties that we look after. However we did spend a couple of days with them early on much needed relaxation after our olive picking! The day after their arrival Viv and Nick took us up to see the house named Il Melo, the apple tree, though the tree itself is no longer there! It is a very appealing two bedroomed property with more than adequate space as it has the benefits of a large sun room and two enormous useable caves accessible from indoors. Having been a holiday home previously all it needs is some loving care and attention. Viv and nick are also going to move the kitchen and create a second bathroom which will also improve the property. That first day they were showing us around we had obviously been clocked by neighbours as the Carabineri turned up wanting to know what we were doing in a supposedly empty house! Discovering we had the right to be there and with nothing else to do they decided to check our car documents, yet again, this was the third time in the last couple of months. Firstly near Monte Romano, then in Marta and finally Montefiascone. Not once were they bothered that we were at that time, (actually some more paperwork arrived last week, but that is another story) still awaiting outstanding documents for the X-Trails transfer to Italian registration! What was even more amusing was that they asked nick how much he paid for the house! The neighbours whom we suspect were the ones that actually reported that people were around were then extremely friendly, it turned out that their daughter lives in Vetralla. The following day, November the 1st was a public holiday for All Saints Day when traditionally the Italians visit the graves of loved ones and leave chrysanthemums, which is why you must never take chrysanthemums as a gift to an Italians home. We again spent the day at Il Melo with Viv and Nick helping with some clearing and removal of light fittings; however as it was a holiday we did go out to lunch. Managed to get a table, the last but one I think it was, at Paulo’s Miralago in Montefiascone, where the had roast lamb on the menu cooked on the open fire. A speciality for the holiday and as lamb is not often available in Italy this was the choice of Viv and I, though I do not recall what David and Nick had! It was absolutely delicious.
We also went out on Saturday evening going into Viterbo early enough for a passagiata before supper. We had not realised just how busy it would be, but due to the public holiday on the Thursday the Italians were out in force in their camper vans for a long weekend, there must have been 50 plus in the car park at Porta Faul, unbelievable! Anyway we were lucky enough to find a parking space in the old quarter and after a glass of wine at Sub Rosa had supper at one of our current favourite restaurants, Tre-dieci Gradi. On Sunday evening feeling lazy after a busy day for us all we popped down the road to our local Pizzeria for supper, it was very quiet as now the summer season is over they get very little passing trade.
The day for Viv and Nick’s departure came round very quickly but I think they were pleased with the amount of things they have managed to sort out while they were here and at least this time they know they will be back soon to their very own Italian home. They set off for the airport at 6.30am from here and yes we did get up to see them off, but did go back to bed again until 8.00am. No sooner had we done a few household chores than it was time to go to the station. We met our nephew Luke and his girlfriend Kerry at Vetralla station from the Roma train. They had arrived in Roma on Monday and after a few days there were spending the rest of their short break at casa Piccola in Marta. We came back to La Fenice with Luke and Kerry and gave them lunch before taking them up to Marta in the afternoon where they spent the next three nights. We met up with them again on Saturday and took them out for lunch at Ernesto’s before driving them over to Orte to catch the train to Roma Termini. To avoid an extremely early start the next morning to get to the airport they had decided to stay in Roma overnight. However if we had known what was going to happen, we got home at 5pm that Saturday afternoon to find keys in the boot of the car! Not only were they the keys to the house at Marta but also Luke and Kerry’s car and house keys for the UK. They were not going anywhere with out them; due to the vagaries of the train timetables by the time we got hold of them it was too late for them to come back, the only option was an early morning drive to Ciampino with the keys meeting them in the departure hall! David in his kindness insisted that I stayed in bed and I have to admit that I was so sleepy I hardly noticed him slip out of bed that morning, so he was back before I knew it. He actually said it was probably the quickest time he has ever done the journey in, so we now know that early on a Sunday morning in November is a good time to drive on the GRA!!
After all the activity of the last few months we are hoping that life might start to slow down a little now, but I do not think there is much chance of that this side of Christmas. We seem to have a very long list of tasks that we want or need to achieve. I mentioned a few paragraphs back that we finally have official documents for the X-Trail. David was very pleased to get a phone call from his friend Sandro to go and collect these only a few days ago. It appears though that we might now have to have the transfer to Italian plates formalised by a Notaio, a new government initiative apparently since the last transfer Sandro documented. Still we now have the documents and just have to wait and see if a decision is made to officially rubber stamp them. We will be informed in due course, with apparently no great urgency if this is what is decided! We have lived here long enough to know that this is all quite normal. David also last week met a Geometra from Mondo Convenienza at Viv and Nick’s house up at Montefiascone to check and confirm measurements for the kitchen they have ordered. In fact David was at the showroom on Monday afternoon for further discussions as it appears that slight alterations to the design have to be made. Again par for the course nothing but nothing is ever straight forward, so David was on the phone this evening to discuss this with them along with the fact that Telecom Italia have been in touch again about connection of the phone!
I have myself been busy this week with a task that is taking me many months to do, sort and edit all our digital photos. I am making good progress and now have the folders titled rather than dated and have loaded some photos on to a photo storage site, in addition to our computer. This is an ongoing task and it will be a few months before I am totally finished, as I want to title each photo and make DVD’s etc, just a little something I work on over the winter months. I did actually start last winter, but the lack of a broad band connection tends to make some of the things I want to do, extremely slow going! Worth it in the long run to make it easier for family to view our photos, just sorry it is not possible at the moment to include photos within the content of this letter.
Still attending our Italian class but only once a week and making very slow progress. It would be strange now to stop going though as it does force us to keep up with our grammar and do homework inbetween classes. It was our teacher Katia’s birthday last Thursday, our lesson day. It was a very lively morning as the other teacher’s had organised a surprise party for break time with Prosecco and Pastries. There were four classes so with four teachers, including Katia, her sister who is the administrator and about twelve students, English, Dutch, Norwegian and Tunisian it was quite a party. We are getting used to singing Tanti Auguri to the tune of Happy Birthday.
We have also found time in the last week to have our haircut, make a dental appointment, start our Christmas shopping and have our friends Janet and John round for lunch on Saturday.
All this just goes to show that our life here is really no different or more exciting than anyone else’s just we are doing it in Italy!
Oh yes, it also gets jolly cold here, though still preferable to rain! Last Friday morning we woke to a sprinkling of snow on Monte Cimini behind Viterbo and on Monday morning at 8am it was minus 4C with a thick white frost. It was sunny though and blue skies so we were still to sit outside with a coffee after lunch, ok with a fleece on!
On that note I will end and go and put another log on the stufa.
A Presto! Till Next Time!
23 October 2007
Latest News From IItaly
It is the third week of October and over three months since my last letter. In the last couple of days it is becoming noticeably autumnal with heavy dew and early morning mists. The autumn flowers are in bloom, natures colours are starting to change and at long last the grass is green again. We have still not had much rain to speak of and consequently the neighbouring farmers are still watering their crops heavily. Two of our neighbours, both farmers have had new wells sunk in the last few weeks. Surely a sign that water levels generally are much lower than they should be, with new sources having to be found. Our well apparently is exceptionally deep so we are just hoping that our meagre domestic usage is not a strain on our supply! I expect that rain and winter will arrive with a vengeance when it does put in an appearance. In fact we have been forecast a dramatic temporary drop in temperatures from 23C to 13C over the weekend with strong winds. This is supposed to improve again next week and to be much warmer again, however this might mean rain. We are keeping a careful eye on the forecasts at the moment because of the imminent Olive Harvest. Last year we harvested from November 4th to the 9th but it looks like it will be earlier this year as the olives are ripening fast and some drop is already occurring, hence the concern over the strong winds forecast. We were hoping for a somewhat better harvest than last year!
When I last wrote the summer season for our property management clients and Casa Piccola was well under way, which kept us occupied, in fact continues to do so. Half term holidays are now fast approaching and our clients with children will be arriving.
Our friends Viv and Nick will also be arriving at the end of the month to finalise the purchase of their own house in Montefiascone. They found it when they were staying at Casa Piccola in July and are very excited as this is a big step towards their ultimate plan of a permanent move to Italy.
The potential new clients that I mentioned last time have accepted the quote that David got for them for some work to be done early next year and we are now key holders for them. Julian and Dawn have now returned to the UK after a five month sabbatical here, but we got to know them during the summer. They have also through us made friends with another friend of ours due to a musical connection, both knowing of the same people back in the UK. It is certainly a small world!
In line with our long term plans of probably not spending more than five years at La Fenice before moving we have been looking at properties and land closer to the Lago di Bolsena this summer. With Casa Piccola at Marta and the majority of our friends and clients living in that direction it makes sense to consider that area ourselves. For many reasons we think our next property should be something within walking distance of civilisation! As for land, while both of us agree that we do not need anything like us much as we have here 5acres; we still have the desire for wild land of our own! With this in mind we have found an acre on Monte Madonna at Marta which I am buying David as a Birthday present. It will not require intensive looking after as it is not cultivated apart from enough olive trees to provide a little oil. On the north western hill above Marta it will provide outside space of our own, with wonderful views, including of the lake itself, when we are living in a smaller house! Unless Italians live in a property like ours out in the country, they tend to own small plots of land separate from their homes; which are either houses with small gardens or apartments with limited outside space, if any! David and I are certainly not ready for apartment living yet, but with land of our own elsewhere we could cope with a small garden. Especially if it was a proper garden, something we do not have at La Fenice. Meanwhile we will continue to enjoy life at La Fenice until the time is right to move on.
On David’s actual Birthday we had a day out exploring some of the region to the south-east of us, namely Nepi and Civita Castellena. Not much to see really, just closer to Roma and therefore felt suburban. We did find an excellent restaurant where we enjoyed a long lunch, which we would definitely visit again if we happened to be in the area. August continued in the same vein as July with work, socialising and relaxation the latter two taking priority of course! On the evening of the festa of San Lorenzo, 10th August, the night of the shooting stars we went to a Mexican party. Unfortunately although it was a very clear night we were not lucky enough to see any! The party was held by English friends of ours who live in Canino. As it was a joint party with her daughter and Italian son-in-law there was a good mix of nationalities. We met a very pleasant Italian couple from Marta whom we have since been able to meet-up with.
On August 23rd we suffered a very brief but incredible storm. I suppose somewhat similar to the great storm Surrey suffered in October twenty years ago, except this was during the day time. It moved very quickly through the Viterbo region causing a tremendous amount of damage to trees and houses but very fortunately only a few people were hurt with no fatalities. It was called a Trombe d’aria (a tube of air), now have a better understanding of how terrifying it must be to be caught in a full blown tornado or hurricane that lasts for hours. This had passed us by within twenty minutes, but wow what an experience it was. Fortunately we had just arrived home and were eating a very late lunch around 2pm, when everything went black and we could watch this solid bank of cloud approaching fast from the coast. Horizontal rain and wind so strong it was throwing stuff everywhere, table, umbrella, chairs, sun beds, plant troughs and pots were all tossed around in the air! The lid blew off the hot-tub, plus one of the side panels, also the roof blew off the pool pump house and crushed our outside shower. Three tiles off the garage roof were the worst damage we suffered, so lucky! The farm beyond us had the corner of its barn roof damaged and a huge metal lean to was blown over two hundred metres!! Fortunately this had all happened in a short time and within a few hours it was bright and sunny again. Weird!
September arrived with us still enjoying some exceptionally hot weather without the storms and rain that one can normally expect. It was also the month when we had more visits from family and friends, than any other time this year. Lovely to see everyone but it felt like we blinked and September was over, we were kept so busy. Aimee and Alice arrived first and as well as ‘chilling out’ at La Fenice we introduced them to the delights of a passagiata in Viterbo on a Saturday evening, took them to a Mushroom festa, visited a number of our favourite restaurants, Capodimonte, Tuscania and the Terme were also on their itinerary. One day they went off to Roma by train and took the Open Air Bus Tour plus the Coliseum, Aimee commented later that she has now done Rome! They returned to the UK and the following Friday evening Tricia and John arrived, having driven down in John’s beautiful, (yes, you can apply this adjective to this car!) Aston Martin. Their visit was sadly far too short as they left again on Monday morning for the return drive, but we packed a lot into a short time! A walk to Norcia, early Saturday evening shopping in Viterbo, followed by supper at a new restaurant (to us and the city) Trediecigradi in the medieval quarter. In fact it was so good we ended up there again on the following Tuesday evening with Lucy and Jay. The Sunday Tricia and John were with us we spent up at Marta, where with some sweet talk I managed to get us a table at Ernesto’s for lunch. I have had to promise that I will remember to book next time we want Sunday lunch though.
The day after they left we went to our Italian lesson in the morning(yes, still going once a week, slowly learning a little more)then afterwards drove directly to Vetralla station to meet Lucy and Jay off the train from Roma, where they had spent a few days. Had a late lunch and a relaxing afternoon at home then in the evening as already mentioned ended up at Trediecigradi having had an early evening walk around the Medieval Quarter of Viterbo. Unfortunately their visit was even shorter; literally overnight as the next day they were moving on to Firenze, we took them to Orte to catch the midday train.
A day later we were off to Ciampino airport to collect our final visitors of the month, Sue and Steve. They have been to visit us a number of times now and the Viterbo region has become very familiar to them. We are so pleased that they seem to like the area almost as much as we do and find it relaxing to come and spend sometime with us so that we can revisit some of our favourite places together. Again on their itinerary were plenty of restaurants including at last our local Pizzeria! It has always been a standing joke with them that every time they have visited previously it has been closed for holidays! We also found time for retail therapy in Viterbo and Tuscania. Sue found a beautiful little clutch bag to complete her wedding outfit, their youngest son Tom is getting married next month. We went to Marta one day and another to Tarquinia both the beach for a walk and the town.
Sue and Steve departed on October 2nd and later that week we departed for a long weekend in the UK. We arrived in Effingham on the Friday afternoon and spent the rest of the day and Saturday with David’s parents. The four of us had supper at The Plough which we always enjoy, and then Saturday evening a meal at The Fountain Garden, a Chinese restaurant we have been going to for many years. On Sunday morning we drove down to Salisbury collecting Aimee and my Mum we went to The Rose and Crown Hotel in Harnham for a proper Sunday Roast Lunch. A real treat for us as it is something we rarely have in Italy! After our leisurely lunch we all went round to my sister Julie’s house to catch up with rest of the family, apart from Marc who had gone back to university. Later David and I spent the evening quietly with Aimee. On Monday leaving David to do a few DIY chores as promised for Aimee, I went into Salisbury for some retail therapy with Mum, first we met Julie for a coffee. Having had a successful mornings shopping we met up with David for lunch and were later joined by Aimee who had the afternoon off work. Later that evening ten of us gathered together at Julie and Alan’s. The next morning by 8.30am we were on our way to Bristol airport to catch the lunchtime flight back to Italy. A short and sweet visit and it was lovely to see everyone, it had been too long as this was unfortunately the first trip we have been able to arrange since January!
At least it will not be long till we see everyone again, as we will be driving back in December with the oil from this years olive harvest! We will be around for about three weeks this trip as we have promised to do some decorating for Aimee!
So that just about brings us back up to date. We have settled back into our regular routines and are keeping our fingers crossed for a better harvest than last year. The Olive Mill is due to open next week, so hopefully we will be able to plan our harvest soon. Will of course let you know how we get on.
A Presto! Till next time.
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