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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Annual Pig Celebration Lunch

As we live in a rural location many of our neighbours are smallholders not just growing fruit and vegetables for the family but also providing meat, from the chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows and pigs that they all seem to own at least some combination of.
Our neighbours Annunciata and Bruno usually just breed  chickens and rabbits but at the end of every summer they obtain a pig especially to provide the family with pork over the winter months.

It was soon after our return from the UK that we were told that the annual slaughter would take place any day and that we would be attending the Celebration Lunch. It was of course given as an invitation but it was also made very clear that we were expected and that they would be very upset if we were unable to do so. For obvious reasons the slaughter takes place on a cold dry day most often in this region during the month of January. The first date planned was postponed due to the pouring rain, but the next day dawned bright and sunny so we were hurriedly informed of the re-scheduling early on a Sunday morning three weeks ago today.

We were expected at around 1pm but just before noon we were summoned by their grandson, who came running round the corner of our house shouting “The pig is dead, come quickly!”
“Il maiale e morto, vieni presto!”  For some strange reason only known to little boys he thought we should see the gory part of the process from live pig to lunch. Duly summoned we went at once, not to return home again until 9pm that evening.
Ten of us for lunch and no English speakers, apart from the daughter-in-law who has her school girl English, better than she realises and our dictionary that also goes next door with us on such occasions. Plus the fact that the older locals all speak an almost incomprehensible dialect makes for a lively few hours, amusing for the Italians and exhausting for us, keeping up the pace with the conversation

The whole pig slaughtering ritual is special because of what follows after. All the members of the family work together to prepare the food for the meal and those to follow over the next few months.  Lunch that day consisted of, so we were told the very best parts of the pig which are considered great delicacies and the most delicious part of the pig.  Not too sure about what we were actually going to be eating I did not enquire about the details, as I decided it was best not to know precisely although I of course have my suspicions. I would not buy such parts myself but as guests we were prepared to try.
Well here is our lunch cooking in the traditional way over the open fire and it was we readily admit absolutely delicious!


A simply prepared and tasty dish of fagioli (beans) prepared with oil and garlic preceded the meat which was eaten alone apart from freshly baked bread.
Why is it the simply prepared fresh food is often the best?

That afternoon after lunch the family set to work butchering the animal as that evening we were going to be eating the very first pork steaks grilled over the open fire. We have never before eaten pork so fresh, tender and flavorsome. Again simply served alone with lemon and afterwards a salad.

Preparing the intestines which are used for the sausage skins

So an interesting introduction to an ancient Italian tradition that still seems very common certainly in this region amongst the contadini. An Italian word used locally for the small holding farmers whom are certainly not the peasants that the dictionary translation suggests.

The following day I went next door again to see the finishing touches being made to the sausage production.

As soon as the sausages were considered ready for consumption we once again joined the family for the ritual first tasting of both the ‘bianco’ ’white’ and ’black’ ‘nero’ home made sausages. The former were some of the best sausages we have eaten, I am sure the latter were as well but similar to the English black sausage in content they were not to our taste.

We are so well looked after by Annunciata and Bruno with constant invitations to eat with them, produce from the garden, food she has baked ( a simply delicious sweet pizza most recently)and lessons in how to carry out various tasks. We are constantly in their debt and wonder how we are ever going to repay such kindness? Ideas welcome as inviting them to join us in our home for more than a drink just does not seem to be part of the equation, but we are working on wearing them down on this in the hope that one day they will say yes!
Maybe they have a dread of English food or just ours in particular. We will have to introduce them to our cooking gradually, however that raises the problem that our diet is Mediterranean and far from English.  Cooking them something we would not normally eat ourselves does not seem right to us!
Maybe we should just cook something traditionally English and deliver this to their door as a first step?

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Although we have been home just over two weeks, not much blog worthy has been happening.  Due to the cold and often somewhat damp weather I have been doing a lot of hibernating. If nothing else a good opportunity for me to catch up with lots of outstanding indoor chores, in an effort to keep warm. As I have already mentioned previously the house was feeling rather damp and unloved when we got home and it is taking a long time to warm up again as it dries out.  Having been empty for over two years until we purchased the place last year this is no surprise! Also some of the rooms had not been lived in for years. We are on the last stages of our internal renovations and once completed I will post some before and after photos here, meanwhile there are lots of work in progress photos to be seen on Flickr in the set titled Renovations.
This year our major projects will be outside ones where as well as sorting out an overgrown garden and orchard, there are terraces to build, carport to build, fences to install and the major task renovate and paint the outside of the house.

At the moment when the weather has been amenable to carrying out such tasks pruning is the on going task which I have been helping David with on the occasions I have emerged from hibernation! Some of the plants are new to us so we have had some lessons from Bruno, in fact he has been here this afternoon advising David and giving us fruit and vegetable supplies. Blogs on the pruning and the Annual Pig lunch to follow shortly but not today as I am off to tend to the fire and curl up with my book for awhile. Hibernating is not so bad.

The latest fruit and vegetable offering from our wonderful neighbours whom you often read about here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Road Trip to UK Part Five

Homeward Bound
January 4th 2010.

Olive Oil distributed to family and friends, Christmas and New Year behind us, it was time to start the long drive home.
We had decided on the journey northwards that this trip we would take an extra day and not have to cover so many kilometers each day, therefore making the journey not so tiring.

Having booked hotels in advance we did the journey in reverse, in easy stages Calais- Nancy-Como. We left Suffolk mid morning and were in our hotel in Calais before it got dark that afternoon, leaving us with time for a walk, then relaxing in the bar for awhile before supper. We both had the days special some deliciously tasty lamb chops, a meat we do not eat much of these days, as here in Italy it only tends to be available at holiday times such as Christmas and Easter.
On Tuesday morning we did not leave until 10am and with plenty of stops during the day we were in our hotel in Nancy by mid afternoon. On our way home at this time last year we had the most horrendous journey as there was rather a lot of snow. Luckily this year it seems we were just a day or so ahead of the worst snow northern France has seen for some years.
There was evidence of snow hanging around all the way, no wonder it had not melted it was bitterly cold and remained below freezing all day.
There is a stretch of motorway in northern France that has roadside art, which I have always thought rather interesting, so this year I actually took the time to take some photographs.

Northern France also thanks to its vast acres of space seems to have in recent years embraced the idea of wind farms. There are certainly many more than we first started driving this route. I think they are rather impressive.

Once again we ate well in the hotel restaurant in Nancy, both enjoying buffet salads followed by a steak dish with rice, green beans, a stuffed tomato and one of those rich sauces that the French have a way with!
On Wednesday morning we had an earlier start as the journey from Nancy down to Como is a more mountainous one, the first part from Nancy was a rural cross country route before re joining the motorway then through Switzerland, through San Gottardo Tunnel then on past the lakes to the hotel just south of Como, back in Italy for our last night on the road. I will gloss over that nights meal as we were very disappointed, not for the first time at this hotel, but we had decided to give it another chance because of its convenient location on our route. Last chance we will not be staying there again.
More photos of that days journey through France and Switzerland for those of you that are not yet fed up with snow photos, just joking not all snow by any means! The first one is of flooding near Metz, presumably after the snow they had earlier had melted.

Mistletoe was in plentiful supply in that part of France

Snow in Switzerland

Frozen Waterfall

This next photo is of a power station we always pass on the way from the San Gottardo Tunnel and every time I wonder why such a building comes to be decorated in such a way.

Afternoon light on the Lago di Lugano

We had an easy journey home on Thursday, snow still hanging around until near Firenze. As we drove south and on into Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio there was more and more evidence of  excessive rainfall over the last few weeks causing flooding. We were unable to come home via our normal route through the village of Bormazo ( must visit the monster park again so that I can Blog about it) as the motorway exit at Attigliano  was closed due to flooding. I managed to get some photos, it was pretty serious.

The final photos are of the flooding between Orvieto and Attigliano.

Finally Madonna at Attigliano Motorway Exit 

We were home by mid afternoon as anticipated, generally everything was fine considering how much rain had fallen while we were away.  The house was unsurprisingly very cold and damp in places that this time last year were not even habitable rooms.

Since getting home just over two weeks ago we have been busy getting ourselves organized and settling back into routines after our twenty-six day road trip.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Road Trip to UK Part Four

New Year

On New Year’s Eve we left Salisbury and drove up to Surrey to spend a few hours with David’s parents before driving on up to Suffolk.
We were to spend a few days with our friends Steve and Sue our most regular visitors to stay in Italy since we moved out six years ago, as fortunately for us, they either enjoy our company or like us have fallen for the area, hopefully both. They were last out with us in September for the first time driving down. http://lindyloumac.blogspot.com/2009/09/september.html. When we visit the UK by car we usually visit them, unfortunately circumstances last year meant we were unable to, so we were delighted to be able to chill out with them in Suffolk and recharge our batteries before the long drive home.
We had a very relaxing time with them starting with a delicious meal for the four of us that evening followed by the London Fireworks on television, plus some locally and the bonus was it started to snow. It seemed pretty and somehow fitting then but I know that some of you reading this were soon to have had more than enough of the sight of snow!
New Years Day 2010 was spent very quietly relaxing in the comfortable home that Steve and Sue have made from a barn conversion. We did make the effort to take some exercise though by going for a walk.

On the Saturday they took us to the Suffolk seaside, Southwold a typical English seaside town where I loved the beach huts! Unfortunately my photographic efforts were nothing like the postcard I sent to my Blogging friend, Anne in Oxfordshire for which she gave me a lovely mention.   http://anne-arnott.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-did-postman-bring-me-today.html
We took a walk out on to the pier and then along the promenade to Gun Hill. By the time we had eaten lunch and strolled around the town doing a little shopping, it was getting rather cold again.  In fact as we left the coast and headed inland it started to snow again. A couple of inches overnight meant we were able to enjoy another snowy walk on Sunday afternoon having spent the morning with the Sunday papers, a treat for us.

Below I have posted just a selection of photos from our weekend in Suffolk. If you are interested more can be seen at My Flickr Account.      More Photos of Entire Trip

New Years Eve Dinner Table

New Years Eve Snowing

View of Southwold from the pier

Model ships in the pier shop.

Beach huts Southwold

Gun Hill Southwold

The last few photos are scenes from a snowy walk

Sunset at the end of another snowy day in Suffolk.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Road Trip to UK Part Three


After a busy week of pre-Christmas preparations, on Christmas Eve morning we drove up to Surrey to spend a couple of nights at Bookham Grange Country House Hotel a small intimate hotel on the edge of Bookham Common. We know the hotel well as historically as David and I often spent time there before we were married, not staying but at YC meetings. Yes I know what you are saying but there were not many other clubs/organisations to meet and socialise with others in those long ago days!  In fact we first met there and went on to hold our wedding reception there, 38 years ago later this year.

Having stayed there last February whilst attending a niece’s wedding locally. We decided it would be a suitable venue for us to spend Christmas, along with youngest daughter and boyfriend yet be within a few minutes from the parents.
Arriving in Surrey mid morning on Christmas Eve we spent sometime with them, before heading over to Dorking to have lunch with close friends. Our daughter and boyfriend drove up that afternoon from Salisbury and after visiting the grandparents later met up with us at the hotel. 

The hotel was comfortable enough though possible a little quiet, especially for the youngsters, as although there were plenty of guests, none of them were exactly young. The plus side was the excellent food we were served during our stay.  Christmas Eve Supper, Christmas Day Luncheon, a very well attended affair, not just residents and a Buffet Supper that evening for residents were all delicious and thoroughly enjoyed by us all. We were also very impressed with the plated lunches that the chef kindly prepared for the parents, as they were unable to join us, lunch went to them and was very much appreciated.   

On Christmas Day morning the four of us along with four members of David’s sister’s family all met up at their parents home for Champagne and Canapés.  It meant a lot to them both to able to have so many of the family together, even if it was only for a short time so as not to exhaust them completely. We toasted the absent grandchildren our daughter in Hong Kong and a grandson in Australia.
A long and leisurely lunch back at the hotel followed and later for my husband another visit to his parents. That evening we exchanged presents with the youngsters and as they would say chilled out  in the lounge area, a few drinks, a buffet supper, then ending the evening playing The Game of Knowledge.  Maybe not the liveliest of days but it was for the parents and it was appreciated.

Christmas Pudding served with brandy custard

Pears in red wine syrup served with clotted cream.

On Boxing Day after a full English Breakfast (what a treat that was) Aimee and Martin headed off to the New Forest to spend a couple of days with his parents, while we went to spend a few more hours with David’s parents. Early that afternoon we returned to Salisbury and spent the rest of the day at my sister’s house, with her family plus our Mum.
We were only in Salisbury until New Years Eve and those last few days were spent spending as much time with family as possible. On Tuesday evening Aimee and Martin took us out for a meal at Cactus Jacks a Mexican restaurant in town, a good evening. On the Wednesday we had a family gathering at my sister’s house and were joined by one of our Mum’s sisters and her daughter. Not often we all get the chance to get together! 

That evening we were out again with Aimee and Martin this time we met up with his parents, grandmother and sister for a meal at The Fighting Cocks Public House where I would recommend highly the food.

 A pleasant evening rounding off  a busy but enjoyable last few days in Salisbury.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Road Trip to UK Part Two

Lantern Procession Salisbury 17th December 2009

Market Square Salisbury

On 17th December 2009 the Annual Lantern Procession to Salisbury Cathedral from the other side of the town, through the market square and on to the cathedral took place.  It was a freezing cold evening, certainly much colder than we had expected it to be.

Plus myself, the photographer, these were the other hardy family members that braved the cold!

The procession was much larger than we had realized and it took a long time for the parade to pass by.  Very impressive were the efforts that had been put into the making of the lanterns. Our only surprise was that they were lit by torches presumably for health and safety reasons. We had rather expected to see real night light candles used!

 Although we were all well wrapped up we froze and after the procession were jolly grateful to dive into a nearby shop for hot chocolates all round.

The week that followed was a whirlwind of  Christmas shopping, general Christmas preparations and spending quality time with family and friends. The latter included a day trip up to Surrey to see the in laws and have lunch with friends. Unfortunately by this time both of us were suffering from a nasty cough and cold that seemed rampant in Salisbury and Surrey!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


With thanks to my cousin Jennie who originally spotted this as graffiti near Nottingham railway station.

I just wanted to share with you all.