Welcome Everyone.

Welcome to News From Italy, my blog about our Italian Adventure. Although this blog has now ceased publication I will be continuing to blog and I am sincerely hoping that my many followers here will move with me to Travel Tales blog to follow my next adventures wherever they may take me. The links to my other blogs are:-

I look forward to keeping in touch with you via them, thanks once again for all the support you have given 'News From Italy' over the years.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Greetings.

Christmas Greetings.

Seasons Greetings, Happy Christmas, Buon Natale  and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year to Everyone.

Over the next few weeks, in fact until after Epiphany, we will be spending time with many of our loved ones, both family and friends.

I therefore do not expect to be blogging until after then, but you never know.

Take care everyone and I hope you enjoy our Christmas Decorations!



  I thought these Pomegranates would have made beautiful Christmas decorations.

 Persimmon tree at night!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Land Tax Demand

View of part of the land.
I think it is only in Italy that one would expect to receive a tax demand like the one we have recently had to deal with.

Just over two years ago we purchased a plot of land overlooking Marta with views of the lake. A bit of a folly but it was a sort of safety valve in case our next home turned out to be with very little or worst case scenario no outside space at all.

When you buy land here as one would reasonably expect you pay tax on the purchase price and we in fact did so.  Normally that would be the end of the story but not in this case. It seems that the land is valued by the Italian Land Registry at considerably more than we paid for it!

Therefore the tax office has decided to issue us with the demand for the amount of tax that we should have paid had we paid the going rate for the land!  Have you ever heard anything like it? Fortunately this tax only applies to land; otherwise imagine what chaos it would cause if the tax applied to houses.

We obviously sought professional advice firstly from the estate agent and then from a commercialista, (accountant). His advice was to pay up without disputing the amount. He is also of the opinion as is everyone we have spoken to that the price we paid was a bargain. The risks of questioning the amount requested is firstly that it would cost us to do so, probably 50% of the existing bill, then a slim chance of winning any reduction. In fact there would be a fair chance of it costing more.

As it is over two years since we purchased the land it has almost certainly gained in value since then. So the decision was to pay up. Thankfully even with these extra costs we still have a piece of land that we apparently paid too little for. Though it might be something of a folly it seems we have nothing to lose as land around the lake demands such a premium. Our gain is that we have our own supply of wood for our winter fires

View from the land towards Capodimonte.

The moral in this tale is be warned, if you ever buy a piece of land in Italy make sure you are paying the full value or if you think you are buying a bargain make sure you factor in a tax demand a couple of years later.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

La Bella Lingua arrives finally!

Some months ago now I discovered a brilliant blog about the Italian Language written by Diana Hales who has a passion for all things Italian. I am so delighted that she decided to share this passion with the world.

As I continue to struggle to try to learn more of this beautiful language I have found that this blog has encouraged me tremendously. Every few days or so a Blog is posted on a specific topic along with relevant words and phrases so one is able to learn a little more about the culture of this beautiful country we are lucky enough to live in whilst expanding my vocabulary.

When I discovered that Diana Hales had recently published a book entitled ‘La Bella Lingua’ in which she writes about the evolution of the Italian language I just had to order my own copy.

  http://www.becomingitalian.com/                                  La Bella Lingua

I decided that I could not wait until Christmas so I treated myself and ordered a copy from Amazon on October 22nd which finally arrived last week! Maybe I should have waited for Christmas after all?  The fact is that it took Amazon two attempts at mailing before my copy was delivered. The first parcel was sent out promptly but I only discovered it had been returned to Amazon by the courier SDA when the estimated delivery date passed by and I made enquiries. Tracking was available online and despite the courier claiming he had been unable to find the property I do not think the parcel had been anywhere near Viterbo! When I investigated and tracked the package online it had been handled distribution centres in Terni and Carpiano. These places are nowhere near us, so it is no wonder the courier claimed he could not find us and had the parcel retuned to Amazon.

Over the years we have had many experiences of courier deliveries and if you live in a rural location in Italy it is quite normal for a courier to phone and arrange to meet you in a local bar, such places seem quite used to these arrangements. In fact when our Wii arrived we arranged to meet the courier at a bar in Vetralla, by the time we arrived he had already left. We have also had loads of parcels, particularly books delivered successfully to our new address by Poste Italiane; I was therefore pleased when the second copy of La Bella Lingua to be sent out by Amazon was via Deutsche Poste and the Italian postal services and it arrived very quickly.

So far I have only dipped into La Bella Lingua, but I know already that I will enjoy  it, now saving it to read on a forthcoming journey.

Postbox update

Italian Postbox
Originally uploaded by se_kwien


Sorry but I have only just realised that the update I promised was never blogged.

What a surprise we had just five days after my last post on the situation to get up one morning and find the postbox had gone. Moved back to its original position by the main owners of the land it is positioned on, early that morning before we were even awake.

The argument rumbles on though as the cousin was far from happy and had ignored the fact that action would be taken if he did not restore the postbox back to its original position himself!
Well he didn’t so it was done for him, so disgusted was he that he called the carabineri out, yes to complain about his own cousin! Anyway they were far from interested when they realised that the post office were involved and that they had stated emphatically that the postbox could not stay where the objecting cousin had placed it.

It seems to be stalemate at present.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Our Persimmon Tree

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is celebrated on 8 December in a number of countries including Italy where today has been a Public holiday.
I do not know much about the celebrations but assume that the church has special services. There is a widespread misunderstanding of the term immaculate conception: many believe it refers to Mary's conception of Jesus, a confusion frequently met in the mass media. In the sense in which the phrase "Immaculate Conception" is used in Roman Catholic doctrine, it is not directly connected to the concept of Mary's "virginal conception" of the Incarnation of Christ. The Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December, exactly nine months before celebrating the Nativity of Mary. The feast of the Incarnation of Christ, also known as The Annunciation, is celebrated on 25 March, nine months before Christmas Day.
Many Italians took advantage of todays holiday by taking an extra day off yesterday, therefore creating a bridge (ponte) for the long weekend. Certainly Marta and Montefiascone have been very busy for the last couple of days with the Camper vans out in force.

Not really connected but I felt a suitable post for today as they look so special at this time of the year is the Persimmon Tree which I mentioned a few days ago as part of our Olive Oil tasting menu.  http://lindyloumac.blogspot.com/2009/12/olive-oil-tasting.html

As some of you will already therefore realise we have our very own Persimmon tree just outside the kitchen which provides shade on our terrace during the summer. During the summer the fruit was hard and looked very similar  to a large green apple, not good when they dropped off as part of the natural process, narrowly missing those seeking shade by sitting under the tree! The fruit gradually softens and changes colour from pale orange through to an almost tomato red orange colour. The redder they are the softer they are and you need to pick them and eat them at this stage as they do not seem to store for long. The done thing is to pick and enjoy for pranzo or cena straight from the tree. Despite loosing what seemed like hundreds during the ripening process it is still covered in what are now Orange Balls, just like Christmas Decorations.   The art is in picking them before they drop on the terrace or a passing person if you are unlucky, by now a rather messy process. We have had some near misses but no direct strikes yet!
As you drive around the area you see lots of these trees now bare of leaves adding a Christmas feel to the landscape.
We know our neighbours enjoy the fruit and eat them regularly at this time of the year but wonder how many of those free Christmas Decorations are left on the trees as like us Italians generally find they are a fruit which is of very acquired taste, not something everyone enjoys by any means. We are still searching for the ideal use, so all suggestions and recipes welcome.
Meanwhile the birds enjoy the fruit and we appreciate its attractiveness!
This was  what the fruit looked like at the end of August
Below is how the fruit was looking by October.

November showed the Persimmon tree in all its Autumn glory.

By mid November the leaves were dropping

Finally our very own Christmas Persimmon Tree

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mushrooms, Toadstools, Funghi.

At last I have posted this blog that was intended for posting during November but somehow with no internet for four days, I forgot about it. I thought I had better post today before it became too irrelevant

Mushrooms, Toadstools, Funghi what ever you chose to call them we have an ample supply on our land but not one single edible variety, certainly not that we can ascertain with any certainty. We did not have an opportunity to ask for advice from Annunciata and Bruno, but next year we most certainly will.

When we lived in Vetralla this was the time of the year when we ate mushrooms from our own land with just about everything, harvesting them every morning. The lack of edible mushrooms here is actually therefore somewhat of a surprise and maybe even a little disappointment as they were delicious.

The photos here are just a selection of the funghi that our land had to offer this year during November.
What an interesting specimen!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saint Nicholas Day

The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, usually on 6 December, is a festival for children in many countries in Europe including Italy related to surviving legends of the saint, and particularly his reputation as a bringer of gifts.

I have read two  very interesting and different online blogs on the subject of St Nicholas today which I thought I would share with you. The first is just a sheer delight to read and the second is an interesting historical account. If you are not already familiar with these blogs I do hope you will be able to find a minute or two to take a quick look at them.http://thekeepingtime.blogspot.com/2009/12/i-believe-in-santa.html   This first one is about a little American girl who lives in Italy as her Dad is in the navy and her Mum writes a great blog about their life in Sicily. She questions the existence of Father Christmas and todays blog is her mum's wonderful reply. Worth reading as so beautifully put.

The second link is to a factual but fascinating historical account about Saint Nicholas.

Did any of you celebrate Saint Nicholas today?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Olive Oil Tasting

On Sunday evening last week Viv and Nick came round to join us for the official tasting of this seasons Olive oil. David had arranged a blind tasting of four oils, which we had fun sampling and trying to guess which ones they were. The choices were this years oil, first and second batches, last years oil from Vetralla and a sample from a small bottle that we had been given as a gift from the mill. The latter was actually the most tasteless and I was a little concerned it might have been our Vetralla oil but thankfully it wasn’t. The two pressings of this year’s olive oil were absolutely delicious as we had hoped they would be. The only difference between the two is that the first press, earlier harvest which has had longer to settle by a couple of weeks is also more peppery.


We had a very enjoyable evening as David had prepared, with a little help from me a delicious supper. After the oil tasting we had Calabrian cheeses with honey, pear jam (homemade) and walnuts (homegrown), also fennel(Annunciata and Bruno’s), orange and walnut salad as starters. Since living here I have developed a liking for walnuts and I even managed to eat a little fennel as it worked well with the orange flavour.

The next course was roast chicken, roast rosemary potatoes, green beans, carrot and turnip mash with gravy. A flavoursome roast indeed which we simply followed with fresh fruit from the garden in the form of persimmon and kiwi. The persimmon has a strange taste, difficult to describe, a cross between tomatoes and oranges but with a dry aftertaste. Definitely an acquired taste but we all ate at least some and the kiwis were scrumptious and cleared the palate perfectly afterwards!


After supper we played word games around the kitchen table as no sitting room ready to relax in just yet.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Kiwi Harvest

Last  Sunday afternoon it was time to pick our Kiwi’s as we had been advised  by Annunciata that they were now ready.

They are now harvested and we have stored them in smaller crates than those shown in the picture so that hopefully they keep us supplied until early summer next year. 

Kiwi’s were one of the first gifts Annuciata and Bruno gave us in the spring. They were delicious, nothing like the ones you buy, certainly those in the UK, so really looking forward to enjoying our own crop.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our wonderful neighbours.

Since we moved here back in the spring we have been showered with gifts from our wonderful neighbours Annunciata and Bruno. Fruit and vegetables from the garden, delicious home cooked meals when we have been invited to join the family, a beautiful indoor plant on my birthday and bottles of their new season’s white and red wines.
The produce from their orto is always in vast quantities, look at the photo of last weeks offering. They always insist that we should be asking for produce as and when we need it as they have plenty to share. Every time I tell her that they are so kind and that it is much appreciated but that I would never ask. She insists I am far too shy, meanwhile she continues to supply us on a frequent basis, despite our efforts with our own orto. They obviously think we are not producing enough, although we were actually pleased with our results this year considering what else we have been doing. We will make every effort to do better next year when we will have more time for the garden, with the major renovations finished. I have a feeling though that we will continue to be looked after!

These are just the physical gifts that Annunciata and Bruno have given us. Despite neither of them speaking a word of English and with a strong local dialect which we often find difficult to understand they have given their Inglese vicini the gift of friendship. They are extremely patient with us and have guided us through the seasons, teaching us how to deal with all the fruit, nuts and other produce that our land produces. They have advised us on what varieties work the best on this soil, when and how to plant, pick and cook them. Bruno even came and rotovated an additional patch of land when Annunciata decided our Orto was not big enough!

Although not that much older than us, they have led a very different life, Annunciata certainly never even having ventured far from this area. They both work so very hard on their land to ensure that they are virtually self sufficient, not just the two of them but their son, daughter-in-law and grandson who live in the larger part of the house. They certainly never seem to have much relaxation and sitting down usually means it is either mealtime, or time for ‘una pausa’ in a shady spot in the heat of the sun. During the summer months one of the most important times of the day for Aunnciata was the early evening ‘passegiata’ with which ever neighbours were around at the time, myself included, a brief respite from her chores, time for a gossip and a laugh before returning home in time to prepare ‘cena’. This is a lifestyle that has mainly disappeared from the UK, certainly in the south east where we have spent most of our lives. How much less stressful it is to be in harmony with the rhythms of the seasons.
This is a lesson that David and I have really been trying to learn since moving to Italy.

Garden in November

What a storm last Friday! The after effects were that we had no landline phone for forty –eight hours and even worse, for me anyway was that the storm damaged a radio mast somewhere locally. This meant that I was unable to connect to the internet until late yesterday afternoon! I am now trying to catch up with my computing including post the blogs I had planned to write over the last few days.

The sun is shining this morning but the garden is looking rather soggy. During the last couple of weeks I have taken quite a few more photos of the garden so I thought that I had better post a selection before autumn turns to winter and they are no longer relevant.

More photos can be viewed here.Nature Campo delle Rose Sept-Nov 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009


Sue and Steve
Originally uploaded by DavidandLindaPhotoAlbums

I was rather pleased to discover this evening that this photograph which I took a couple of years ago has been added to a Gallery on http://www.flickr.com/

It appears in one of the galleries of Tuscania compiled by Marco Quarantotti and is called Turistia Tuscania.
I am glad to have discovered these as Tuscania is one of our favourite places. Do go and take a look at these photographs if you get an opportunity.              http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcoquarantotti/galleries/72157622760187391/

A very brief potted history of Tuscania with the help of Wikipedia.

Ancient times
According to the legend, Tuscania was founded by Aeneas' son, Ascanius, where he had found twelve dog pups (whence the Etruscan name Tus-Cana, cana begin similar to Latin canis for "dog"). Another legend attributes the foundation to one Tusco, son of Hercules and Araxes.
Evidence of human presence in the area dates from the Neolithic age, but probably the city proper was built around the 7th century BCE when the acropolis on St. Peter Hill was surrounded by a line of walls.
There are no record of Tuscania being involved in the battles that led to the Roman conquest of the Etruscan northern Lazio (280 BCE), as the city probably entered into the Roman orbit in a Pacific way. The agricultural development and construction of the Via Clodia, further boosted the economic situation of the city. It became a municipium in 88 BCE.

Middle Ages
In the 5th century CE Tuscania became one of the first bishopric seat in Italy, maintaining it until 1653.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it fell to the Lombards in 569 or 574. In 781 it became part of the Papal States. In 967-1066 it was a fief of the Anguillara family and then of the marquises of Tuscany. In 1081 it was besieged by Emperor Henry IV.
In the following century it became a free commune with authority over a wide territory including numerous castles. The inner struggles within Tuscania led to a loss of prestige, in favour of the nearby Viterbo, which was elevated as diocese in 1192. In 1222 St. Francis of Assisi soujourned to the city. During the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, it was captured by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen on March 2, 1240, and provided with a line of walls.
A failed military expedition against Pope Boniface VIII (early 14th century), led to the submission to Rome, with the pejorative name of Tuscanella. In 1348-49 a bubonic plague struck Tuscania very hard. Shortly thereafter, in 1354, Cardinal Gil Alvarez De Albornoz definitively returned the town to the Papal States. In 1421 it became a county under the condottiero Angelo Broglio da Lavello.
In 1495 it was ravaged by the French troops of King Charles VIII during his march towards the Kingdom of Naples, much thanks to the destruction of the walls ordered by Cardinal Giovanni Vitelleschi in reply to the continue inner struggles and riots of the citizens. The city lived thenceforth a long decline which lasted until the annexion to the new unified Kingdom of Italy in 1870.
Modern Times
On February 6, 1971 an earthquake caused 31 deaths. The town has been meticulously restored since, and the historic quarter is substantial, completely surrounded by the medieval city walls that offer excellent views over the surrounding countryside and the church of St Peter.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcoquarantotti/2787778674/ This link courtesy of Marco Quarantotti shows some local damage.

A fellow blogger has recently written an excellent blog on Tuscania which can be found at

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Indian Summer

Sunshine and unusual warmth in early October is often referred to as an Indian summer in the UK. Having just experienced such weather here in Italy during November, after a particularly cold and wet spell early in the month, it set me thinking. Do Italian’s refer to such weather by any particular name? After some research by asking around and checking various online sites such as ‘Wikipedia’ I have discovered that they do.

According to Italian folklore we have just experienced St Martin’s Summer (L’estate di san Martino)an almost expected occurrence in fact during the first weeks of November.
Indian summer or in Italy St Martin’s summer is an informal expression given to a period of sunny, warm weather in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere typically in late October or early November.
The generally accepted use of the term is when the weather is sunny and clear, and above 21°c (70°F)

November 11th is the feast day for Saint Martin whom I have discovered was born in a Roman province in what is now Hungary, a Roman citizen whose father was an army officer and himself became one, later giving it up to become a monk. He is the patron saint of soldiers and wine-makers!
Historically the story goes that while he was riding at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers, he met a poor, freezing beggar, cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with him. That same night he dreamt of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given to the poor man and thanking him for his compassionate gesture. It is also said that at the moment he shared his cloak, the sun came out and that is why what in the UK is known as Indian summer, in Italy, is called Estate di San Martino:
November 11th also happens to be the day when festas are held to celebrate the vino novella (the new seasons wine)

Interestingly enough I also came across this fact that St Martin’s summer- in English folklore is a period of fine, calm weather, similar to an Indian summer but occurring in November. It is called that because St Martin’s Day or Martinmas falls on November 11th.

So there you go what ever we chose to call it, it was a lovely and welcome spell of weather that will hopefully make winter seem a little more bearable when it arrives any day now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Autumn Snapshots

We are enjoying some glorious weather at the moment with clear blue skies and temperatures of around 20C.

Yesterday afternoons sunshine encouraged me to go out for a walk, of course taking my camera along, when I really should have been finishing the ironing.

No contest, it was much more fun to be out exploring the hedgerows and taking these snapshots of autumn, than being at home ironing shirts!

This is just a selection of the 50 + photos I took yesterday afternoon, if you are interested in viewing the full set, please ask me and I will send an invite for you to do so via my account at www.flickr.com

What do you think of the guy guarding the persimmon?