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.

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?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Olive Harvest Phase Two

The Olive Harvest is complete for us at least, for this year. Although generally in this region you will come across olive harvesting for maybe another two months.
With perfect timing we were able to complete our harvesting in two sessions of good weather.
The first four day session produced 574 kg of olives and gave us a return of 90 litres of oil.
The weather broke that final weekend in October and we decided to wait to resume the harvest until the weather became more settled. There is nothing worse than completing a harvest as the weather breaks and getting soaking wet cold and miserable. Been there and done that!

The sunshine and milder more settled weather returned at the beginning of this last week, so on Tuesday we commenced the second phase of our Olive Harvest.  We finished on Friday afternoon after four days of working outside in the sunshine, no longer hot but warm enough to be pleasant and we were even able to eat outside once again!

Our crop this year was particularly bountiful, as the trees left to tend themselves for the last few years had grown enormous. This is fine for commercial purposes and power driven pickers, but even with the tallest ladder our trees were difficult to pick. We pick all our olives by hand, using plastic rakes similar to a child’s beach toy, which causes minimal damage to the fruit. As we wish to continue harvesting by this method then we have to lower the height of our trees. Hence the enormous piles of olive tree prunings you can see in the photographs.  This will also decrease slightly the trees crop in the future but we will still produce more than enough oil every year for our needs! It also makes the picking more pleasurable if you can reach the olives.

After finishing work on Friday we went directly to the mill, Oleificio Fratelli Bracloni on the Via Verentana in Montefiascone where we were once again made to feel welcome. Just our second visit and they are already treating us as familiar faces.  Particularly the old man who insisted I take his photo with his friend as he took delivery of his oil, as you will see in the photograph! We were extremely pleased with the results of the second phase of the harvest as we produced another two large crates of olives which weighed in at 500kg.  The mill was much busier than it was two weeks ago but as we had now completed our harvest and many other people were still picking but storing their olives, we were offered a slot for pressing immediately. We had time to go to Viv and Nicks and to the Ferramenta’s (Ironmongers) for containers and still get back before our slot. We were there for over two hours but at least this time it we were all able to view the process from start to finish.

Last time they were unable to return for the pressing as it was Halloween and they had guests for supper that evening, yes including us, but I never got a chance to blog about that. It was a delicious supper, with a pumpkin inspired menu, the remains of which made a fantastic lantern.

I included a series of photos of the process last time but just to make this more interesting I have posted some more. It was fascinating to note that the pulp as it went through the pressing process this time was very much redder looking than those pressed two weeks ago. Different varieties of olives maybe, as we have quite a mixture, also the fruit was much riper. It will certainly be interesting to see if the two pressings taste different when we have our first official tasting when the oil has settled. After that second pressing we came away from the mill with another 80 litres of oil.

1,074 kilos of Olives producing 170 litres of oil, is an exceptionally good percentage yield of 15.82%.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peacock Butterfly

Butterflies love to bask in the autumnal sunshine. This beautiful specimen of Peacock Butterfly settled long enough  to allow me to take this photograph while we were harvesting olives.
Note the olive at the bottom of the picture!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Olive Harvest October 2009

Four days of Olive Picking after which we took the first batch of olives to the mill. Photos show the process our 574 kilos of olives went through to produce 90 litres of olive oil.

We commenced our olive harvest at Campo delle Rose last Tuesday and had high expectations of completing the task by Friday evening. It was therefore something of a surprise that by the end of the first days picking by four of us, we had only picked five trees. These five trees had produced six crates of olives; at 20 plus kilos per crate this was way more than we had anticipated.

For those that do not know from previous years we harvest all our olives by hand, just using little rakes something like a child’s sand toy. This method ensures that there is very little damage to the olives during the picking.
The weather remained fine for the whole week making it pleasant working in the sunshine with the temperatures creeping up to around 20C.

With the sheer amounts of olives we were harvesting it soon became obvious we were not going to complete the task in one batch. We decided that we would therefore take the harvest so far to the Olive Mill in La Mosse, recommended by our neighbours, early Friday evening. On our arrival there with two cars packed with crates of olives we unloaded into the larger crates used by the mill. The olives were then weighed in at 574 kilos, impressive results considering we still have another fifteen or so trees to harvest.  We have a similar or slightly less number of trees than at La Fenice so it will be interesting to see if we will match our best ever record there which was 865 kilos.   I will of course report the final results here, once the second phase of the harvest is completed.

An appointment was made for the pressing of our olives on the Saturday morning, for which we returned with our containers to watch and of course photograph the process where we were able to. We came away with 90 litres of oil, a very high yield!

For any of you that would like to view the full album of the process from olive tree to oil posted on Flickr.com, let me know if you would like an invitation to access.


Our Olive Oil!!