Non essential DIY, chestnuts and Batfink the adorable kitten!

Buongiorno!

How is everyone?

Busy here again (no surprise there then!)! I fear my updates lately will become a jigsaw of pictures soon, a sort of “guess what I’ve been doing from these snaps” puzzle. The DIY bits haven’t reduced much but have been getting slightly more interesting. Batfink the kitten is a massive distraction from anything remotely productive. I’ve also been attempting to write a novel – I feel a bit guilty writing for the blog when I’ve got a daily novel target to meet! Having said that, I imagine I shall get bored of it shortly (though I hope not – I’m sure I have a book in me somewhere!). Here’s a more specific run down of current events here in Sarnano.

Fai da te (Do it yourself!

We SHOULD be doing beams. The sofa is coming in a week and I can’t even begin to describe the amount of dust that the house is covered in. Ideally it would be nice if the house didn’t look like it was in the midst of a dust storm when it arrives so finishing the beams is top priority now. And with that in mind, we have:

1. Created a chalk board in the kitchen

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For someone that hated teaching, it’s odd how much I like this chalkboard! One can never have too many plans.

2. Renovated the kitchen table and chairs.

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Before… Not an excellent picture of the tables and chairs as they were before – this was mid-scraping off the wax/varnish.

After... the table now matches the chairs which match the kitchen units. Just need to get / make some nice cushions now :-)

After… the table now matches the chairs which match the kitchen units. Just need to get / make some nice cushions now :-) Ignore the recycling bin.

 

3. Created a coat/bag hanging device out of my treasured driftwood collection before Pane Caldo burns it in the stufa.

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Works alright! One can never find too many uses for driftwood.

4. Made a note board which everybody, but one person, thinks is horrid. I’m still on the fence!

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Ok….. fine, perhaps one can find too many uses for driftwood. But it has an attached DRIFTWOOD PEN HOLDER! Who wouldn’t love a driftwood pen holder?!?!

5. Put “seasonal double glazing” on the windows. We have only single glazed windows and well….it gets cold and condensation-y here in the winter! It’s like an elaborate sort of clingfilm that you stick on to the window frame forming a gap between it and the glass and then you use a hairdryer to get it taut. It’s a genius solution – cheap, easy to do and we’ve not had any condensation on the windows we’ve done already but lots on the ones we’ve still got to do. Today, I’m writing on a particularly nasty, blustery, rainy day and the house feels warm (compared to usual at least!).

6. Bought a dehumidifier. Previously we had bought a damp meter. The rationale was that our cantina seems to be a bit damp (in fact, it’s entirely off the damp meter scale). The bedroom and bathroom need regular de-mouldifying (for the Italians reading this – please don’t make note of any of these “new” words) and the bed covers often feel damp to touch. We also have a flat roof terrace above this bedroom which has a pool of water on it all the time from the rain water – a little water feature/reservoir if you will, so it was interesting to note that the bedroom ceiling was officially “damp” too. I’ve since been measuring the dampness of everything in the house but it seems elsewhere it’s not such an issue. The Damp Reduction Plan included the purchase of a dehumidifier and  also an extractor fan to install in the bathroom. We have yet to do the latter but the dehumidifier is quite the success – I think it’s already extracted a bath’s worth of water from various rooms and we haven’t even tried it in the cantina yet!  The electrician hasn’t come yet to fix the extractor fan because, despite organising a day for him to come, I didn’t phone him every day to nag him. It’s all so efficient here.

7. Acquired/bought some wood from the next door neighbour.

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Apparently we shall need another two lots of these “larger” bits of wood. But we have a wardrobe of small branches and…

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Now all these smaller branches too (our stufa is quite small so we can’t have anything massive anyway)

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This is the stufa. That pot had water in it bubbling away yesterday – I think we’ll be able to make some soups and stews on it. Or at least, that’s my cunning plan.

8. Done almost nothing on the beams. When I say done almost nothing – we have actually put hours and hours into it with absolutely little, to no visible sign of change. There’s definitely been no change in the last few days as Pane Caldo has been hit with a severe case of ‘man flu’ and well, I have no patience for the beams. For anyone else out there taking off paint from their beams, here are some tips: 1. Chipping with scrapers can work OK to a point. Do that first. 2. Manual sanding will make you want to hang yourself from the very beam you’re sanding. 3. Electric sanding? You’ll go through a sheet every two inches. 4. Wire brush? Seems to have only compacted the paint on our beams. 5. Wire spin-ny brush on drill – speeds up the paint compaction process. 6. Paint/varnish removal goo – works alright up to a point, combined with the scrapers it seems to have been the best at getting the top layers of paint off. 7. Heat gun serves only to lose feeling in your arm.

Other Miscellaneous Items

I’ve also been on various chestnut hunting missions which have been fairly successful although I was caught out by the Italian signage system that led me into the middle of the local forest following the `number 4` trail. It pointed me up what I can only think will be a waterfall when in rains and then the signs stopped. In fact, the only signs that I did see were “don’t come in here, we’re hunting”. By that point, I’d gone reasonably far into the unknown, with no mobile phone reception and a dwindling phone battery. Even then I couldn’t stop picking up chestnuts. I think it’s an addiction.

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Mmm…… chestnuts

Also, on a cooking note, it’s been excellent having a decent kitchen. I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent kitchen myself before – it’s much nicer cooking now and we’ve since expanded our repertoire considerably from pizza and pesto pasta.

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Some very nice chocolate goo-ey cakes

One of our lovely neighbours gave us a new leaf vegetable to try. It’s a bit like spinach. They call is rape – you pronounce it rap-ay. I cooked it with some potatoes and other bits and pieces the other day and thought it was nice.  I don’t know what it is in English but it’s meant I’ve had to change my recipe naming strategy which is usually on the lines of “cheesy potatoes”.

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This is the vegetable in question.

Remember my mushroom fascination? I found an organised bunch of people that go out on nature trails and mushroom hunts. There doesn’t seem to be anything coming up now until next year unfortunately but I’ll write and try and join them.

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They had a display of lots of different types of mushrooms, all labeled with “edible”, “poisonous”. My favourite label was “suspicious”. I made a note not to eat any suspicious mushrooms.

 

Festivals

We’ve been to a couple of autumn festivals – one somewhere near Smerillo and one in Sarnano. The one near Smerillo (I say near Smerillo because that’s where we were heading to until we ended up going to another villages’ festival because I’d got the date wrong. It was seamless though, I hadn’t even realised we weren’t going to the right festival). It was absolutely heaving with people and full of food. I’ve concluded from this, and all the other Italian festivals I’ve been to, the crux of what is considered a good festival in Italy is food. There’s stall after stall of food – either of the ‘hot off the shelf wild boar kebab’ variety or different cheeses, honeys and  breads. And people queue for hours and hours and hours to get their lunch. If you go to any of these festivals, I suggest you take a packed lunch with you while you queue (alas, I think then you’d be missing the point of the festival).

Wherever we were, it had good views!

Wherever we were, it had good views!

 

And insanely long queues.

And insanely long queues…

And a great little band...

And a great little band…

And creepy stuffed people...

And creepy stuffed people attached to trees…

Batfink

I’ll give Batfink (named after Batfink the animated cartoon character who has rather large pointy ears) his own section this week because he’s so cute. When he sees me he runs up to me for a cuddle (and food, but I’m positive it’s mainly for a cuddle). We’ve come clean to the next door neighbour and have admitted he comes in sometimes, and far from minding she seemed happy that he had someone to look after him. So given he and all his fleas like to come in and sit on us in the evening, we decided to deflea him using Frontline and I must say, it’s a miracle! I’d never seen so many fleas on a cat before. Batfink was the itchiest cat ever, and you could see why – the nasty fleas were crawling all over him, his eyes, mouth, ears… ugh. Poor puss. Anyway, no more. We managed to get 20 fleas off him (all the fleas seem to come to the surface) and I imagine there were dozens more. And then….now that we’ve made him all cuddly, cute and de-fleaified – the next door neighbour seems to have claimed him for her own in the evenings!

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Batfink in a box

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Batfink on a lap

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Batfink on another lap

 

Right, that’s enough from me this week. Hope you all have lovely weeks!

xxx

 

 

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Sightseeing, kitten-napping update and mushroom identification

Ciao a tutti!

Well another busy couple of weeks here. Here’s a rundown….

Parental Check up

My parents came out for a few days to see the new house. Dad was the one that found the house on a website in the first place so I think it was interesting to see it in the flesh! It’s a pretty unconventional setup. The first couple of days were frustratingly dull and wet (the weather that is!) but it brightened up – it’s always nicer in the sun.

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Mum & Dad heading to a lookout point in the mountains overlooking Lago di Fiastra (Lake Fiastra)

 

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Last time I was there, there were lots of bright blue thistle type things. This time, there were some bright pink ones. The bees seem to like them too!

Then we visited Lago di Fiastra. Absolutely dead but still beautiful with crystal clear water.

Then we visited Lago di Fiastra. Absolutely dead in terms of anyone there compared to a month before when it was teeming with people still. I think I prefer it when there’s fewer people – much more serene.

 

Archery competition - it did look good fun though they seemed to treat it as very serious business!

We happened upon an archery competition in the lovely hill top town of San Ginesio – it did look good fun though they seemed to treat it as very serious business!

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One of the archery targets. Poor boar. I hasten to add this was a fake boar but still!

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My parent’s visit was characterised by me taking us to various festivals and markets that didn’t actually exist. This is Cessapalombo, a local town, where there was supposed to be a food festival. I don’t think we saw a single person let alone a festival. Then we went to Tolentino for a Farmer’s Market which just ended up being a small grocers store. Still, it was interesting to see the local towns!

 

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This is the Basilica of San Nicholas in Tolentino. It’s pretty spectacular – particularly the ceiling. It also has….

 

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… a lovely cloister (a sort of covered walkway around a square – I think!). But the best thing about the Basilica of San Nicholas is…

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…this huge nativity scene of the birth of Jesus. It’s a great scene – going from morning to night over the course of a few minutes with rousing music in the background. If you ever visit the Basicila, you have to go through the gift shop to find this – it’s hidden!

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We went on a nice walk between my house and Sarnano past some pretty scenery.

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This is a pic of Sarnano taken from my garden (Mum & Dad brought out my telephoto lens, thanks M&D)

Fai da te (DIY)

The kitchen is FINALLY done (ish!). The Ikea fitters came and managed to cope with the wonky walls and I’m thrilled to say we now have a working kitchen complete with non lethal cooker (the last gas one used to have a habit of burning off your eyebrows).

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Before (well, still “after” given we knocked out the chimney, filled the floor, knocked out the sink and had all the electrics done. After a week solid of plastering, myself and Pane Caldo were unable to move our hands or touch anything.

 

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But now it’s done :-) There’s still some work to be done on the tiles and we need to paint but it’s coming along. Alas, the hob itself uses all the electricity for the entire house so I need to phone the electricity company to talk to them about it and see what that entails.

 

Kittens

I have terrible kitten news :-( Three of next door neighbours’ kittens died this week after a bout of flu. Poor little things. There’s one survivor called Mimi who since his brothers and sisters have died, has been quite adventurous and always seems to want a cuddle or to play. I really hope nothing happens to him, he’s really quite adorable.

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Neve the deaf, blind, tailless cat has been trying to make more kittens.

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This is Mimi (I’m sure that’s a girl’s name?!) snuggled up on my lap. Pane Caldo has dubbed him Batfink because he has large pointy ears.

 

Funghi

I’ve been on a funghi identification mission recently and have even bought a book on it. I have hundreds of mushroom photo’s now to work through to try and identify. I think it’s probably a futile task given there’s absolutely no chance at all that I would ever eat anything that I picked, but still, it appeals to my self-sufficient ideals.

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It doesn’t inspire me with confidence in that the start of any mushroom identification article or book seems to have one sentence on what good fun it is to pick mushrooms and then several paragraphs dedicated to how dangerous it is. One article said that a number of people in 2010 died in Italy mushroom picking. However, they all went at night and fell off cilffs. Not quite as damning then for the funghi identification but I’m still not going to eat any!

 

These next few weeks should be a bit calmer – there’s no more visits planned and no deadlines to meet so the focus now will be on less DIY related things and more on creative things, at least up until Christmas.  I’ve been socialising a bit more with the neighbours which has been really nice so hoping to do a bit more of that too. My house is 100 years old. I’m actually in only a bit of it – 4 separate people own the full house it turns out. I had thought it was 3!

Right that’s enough from me for now. Have good weeks & buona serata!

xxx

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DIY updates, friends coming to stay and local fly analysis

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? Apologies for my absence! It’s been a bit full on these last few weeks trying to get the house in order and I’ve had some friends from the UK out to stay too. It’s been really good to show them the new house and area and they seemed just as enthusiastic about the place as me so that was good!

Me & my friends looking out across Lago di Fiastra

Me & my friends looking out across Lago di Fiastra. Thank you for coming girls!  :-)

I’ve been feeling quite unproductive these last couple of weeks as far as the house is concerned however, writing this post has done wonders for my sense of achievement – things are happening, albeit slower than I’d like.  I’m definitely going to keep up with the “stuff done” list if only to keep up my moral!

So we have…

  1. Built a wall where the fireplace used to be. It has been a largely inefficient process involving several trips back and forth to OBI, the hardware store which is a 2.5 hour round trip and pizza away (going there seems to always involve eating out) to pick up more cement, more render (“malta bastarda” in Italian – I can confirm that the name is apt) and more plaster (the top coat – “malta fine”). (DIY TIP: DON’T LEAVE CEMENT OR PLASTER ON YOUR HANDS FOR TOO LONG – YOUR SKIN WILL TURN INTO SCALES AND NO AMOUNT OF CREAM WILL RESOLVE IT).
We ran out of cement so have a hole in the top!

Step 1: Building. We ran out of cement in building the wall so we had a “ventilation” hole at the top for a while.

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Step 2: Chucking malta bastarda at it from a distance. Following a later skype with my father, it appears unless you’re building a mud hut in Africa, this is not how to apply it. Worryingly it was my builder who recommended this technique.

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Step 3: Top coat (ish) of plaster. We still need to do a top top coat. As er, all professionals surely do. None of the regular tips to make sure your wall is straight apply with this wall. Nothing about the kitchen is straight.

2. Filled in floor holes where various walls and fireplaces used to be using special floor filler. The below is the fireplace hole. I’m about to do a cunning paint job on the living room filled hole to make it completely indistinguishable from the surrounding tiles. Yup.

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Before….

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After… (a bit blurry – I think that helps it looks a little neater in fact so that’s good!)

 

3. Painted the bathroom and bedroom doors so it doesn’t look quite so unwelcoming going to bed/to the bathroom. I’ve done three coats now but it still needs another and all the paint is cracking at the sides. I think I must be painting over some sort of special paint dissolving lacquer (I hasten to add that I did a thorough sanding job of it first). We’re using “odourless” paint – it smells disgusting!

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Before…

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…and after: Much less gloomy eh? The doors were quite badly made and so it also serves to hide that a bit!

4. Painted a picture for the bedroom to give it a bit more colour and then promptly moved it to the living room to give that a bit more colour instead. I think it works well with my scavenged green bottle, rope and stick masterpiece.

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The locals couldn’t have been any more curious / scathing about my stick acquiring mission.

5. We put up an impossibly difficult mosquito net over the bed. I got ratty with it. Stupid mosquito net.

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Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid mosquito net…

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How it’s supposed to look…

6. Pane Caldo dug up some more tree stumps from the garden and we’re now splitting that up because it’s apparently good for fruit trees (we’ve been saving our plum and peach stones for growing – at the moment they’re in the fridge so they think it’s winter and then apparently that will encourage them to flourish when we finally take them out).

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7. We bought a TV.  And then we got it back and realised we don’t have an aerial. That was an expensive realisation because then….

8. We had an aerial put in.

9. We have a bath! The bathroom was a challenge mainly because the plumber didn’t want to be tied down to pesky dates and times. And who would? “Ci penso io” he said when asked when he’ll turn up which is basically akin to “yup, I’m on the case”. I should have tried that tactic in my old job. The job needed to be coordinated with having the builder here. In Italy, they like to cement your bath in. I did try and raise the prospect of a more English type installation but they dismissed me as crazy. I hope I never want to take that bath out and I particularly hope there are no issues with the waste pipe. He needs to come and put in the washing machine now. I have a rigid set of dependencies for the kitchen to go in and he’s decided that actually he wont come today after all. Maybe tomorrow at some point. HMM.

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Admittedly it doesn’t look at all special here (and it’s probably not) but it’s a functioning bath and I’m thrilled about it! Just need to sort the sides of the bath out now.

10. I’ve tried to tidy up the bathroom walls a bit – they were riddled with screw holes and chips and cracks from the paneling which was up before.

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Hole.

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No hole. From a distance, I think my patch job is amazing. Better even still if you’re standing outside of the bathroom. However, if you look at it in a slightly different light, it looks like I’ve patched it with another completely unrelated colour. I’m going to investigate tile paint to paint the whole lot. Has anyone used it?  Any tips?

11. We’ve started taking paint off the beams. It’s soul destroying! I think it will take years to do using my current hitting it with a mallet and scraping bits off strategy. It’s so demoralising I’ve not touched it for the last couple of weeks!

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Before (sort of). When the wall was taken down, this beam in it’s natural wooden glory was underneath so we were hoping to restore the others to a similar style. However….

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…this is the result of HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS of work on the other beam. I might have to resort to less manual methods.

12. We’ve bought a sofa. I’m really really excited about having the sofa but it doesn’t come until the end of October! Meanwhile we’re sitting on horrible armchairs and there’s only two of them.

13. I have put up a bookshelf. Not just ANY bookshelf but one in a niche which didn’t have a single straight line. It was made perhaps even more challenging because in an effort to do things cheaply, I’m using only stuff that’s already lying around the house/Scorpion Den (cantina/basement).

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Looks like a bookshelf eh? I don’t think I did too badly for a first attempt.

14. I am in the process of giving our living room tables a makeover.

Before....

Before….

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After: strategic troop planning table for local area

15. I haven’t made a decision about heating yet. We’ve had the stuffa (wood burning stove) on a couple of times and it does do a very good job at heating the stairs area. Perhaps we’ll need to sit on the stairs and just use the sofa for special occasions during the winter!

On a non DIY related note, I’ve been trying to acquire some kittens from the next-door neighbour. It’s going slowly but it is working. So far named kitten characters include: Neve (“Snow”), a two year old white male whose ear seems to be falling off and only has half a tail and Pellosina  (“Hairy but cute”!) a black and white female that’s just had kittens. I don’t know what the others are called yet but I shall endeavor to find out!

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There’s 5 kittens – this is Pellosina and her kitten. Cuties!

I met up with one someone I met through the blog recently too and had also bought a house in Sarnano a while back. It’s lovely to meet someone that’s bought in the area and has been having very similar experiences though alas, she’s only part-time here. Her house is stunning and significantly more finished than ours which has given me a bit of kick to get things done!

In rubbish house news, I completely forgot about the Estate Agent fee’s. There’s a minimum fee we needed to pay and because the house was cheap, even with a discount it’s ended up being about 10%. Very depressing!

We’ve been exploring a bit – this was a walk that started from the quaint little town of Acquasante to the top of a mountain nearby…

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From the panorama point of our walk, you can see lots of mountains. Apparently. We had somewhat of a big cloud so we just saw the base of them!

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It’s been very mixed weather of late – it was glorious sunshine when we left and it started getting increasingly ominous looking throughout the walk. Made for some good atmospheric photos though.

Wildlife watch

Deer watch: The deer have increased to an impressive five deer at the same time now. I’m thrilled Deerdrie has friends and family. It’s rutting season coming up apparently so I wonder what that will mean for the field out the back where Deerdrie and her herd spent their time. Interestingly the Italians are very specific with their deer names. Our ones are not simply “cervi” (deer) but “caprioli” (roe deer). I’m disappointed we’ve not seen any wild boar yet though. Next month the hunting season starts and they start shooting them so in a way I’m pleased that they’re keeping a low profile to be honest.

Flies. We have flies that come into the house when the doors are open – there are mainly 3 types (listed here from least to most annoying):

  1. One that clings desperately to the wall and doesn’t move. Ever. Even if you poke it.
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Does anyone know what this is?! It seems to be the least intelligent fly imaginable. You can pick them up by their wings and escort them out the building but I don’t think they enjoy that method of removal.

2. One that flies around in hexagons in the middle of the rooms.

3. One that flies around and lands on things.

I’ve been doing research on fly friendly methods of getting rid of / repelling them which include clear bags of water and I even created a (entirely unsuccessful) fly trap from a coke bottle. The house needs a lot of airing – it gets quite a lot of condensation in the mornings so one of the first things we do is to open up all the windows and doors and then we’re overrun with flies! I need fly screens!

What’s a bit odd:

I must have mentioned the issue with plugs before now. The plug sockets in this country are nothing less than absolutely infuriating. There are MULTPLE types of sockets. One requires an exhaustive supply of plug adapters and Krypton Factor style thinking in order to produce a satisfactory result. For instance, our kettle, bought in this country, requires 4 adapters in order to be used in the kitchen.

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Exhibit A

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Exhibit B: Box of plugs. Even with all these things, I sometimes have to give up on the concept of getting electricity to some things.

Right that’s it for this week – I’ll try not to leave it quite so long next time so there’ll be less of a bombardment of DIY updates and photos! Have good weeks all…

x

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Renovations, aliens and comic conventions…

Ciao a tutti :-)

Come stai? I hope you’re all well. There’s been lots going on in the last couple of weeks… including an array of exciting house developments:

Furniture

The Ikea people came! As predicted, they couldn’t find the house so I drove to meet them at the local school and led them back. It means we finally have a fridge! Cold, not gone off food has been such a joy. And we have a bed! It came without slats – surely that’s rather integral? Turns out we had some in the cantina (basement) left in the firewood pile so after studying them for a while to ensure they weren’t riddled with something nasty, we’ve used them. Lucky!

Bedroom

Now we have a bed, we’ve moved bedrooms to the larger one on the main floor rather than a smaller one upstairs. I think it was Klaus The Scorpion’s bedroom before so we’re marginally more paranoid than usual. However, it was my “make at least one room look ok” cunning plan. It just needs a bit of colour now but I’m on the case with that. I’ve “renovated” the wardrobe that was already in the house so it fits in a bit better. I’m about to renovate a rusty old chair for putting clothes on. I’m going to have to be a neater person – my current strategy of tipping everything on the floor whilst trying to find something to wear and then leaving it there is not conducive in this house (see the new regular “Wildlife Watch” section at the end).

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Bedroom as it was… (note dark brown wardrobes – the single one is now a scorpion proof tool chest in the cantina, and the other one has been turned into, well, a wardrobe)

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Bedroom as it is now. It needs a mirror and finishing touches and a bit of colour but it’s a lovely room now I think and the renovated wardrobe doesn’t look too bad I think.

Scavenging

When we moved in and chucked a few things out, somebody had riffled through our bin bags. I think that’s a bit odd. However, I have a confession. I scavenged a glass bottle at the bins the other day (thought it’s not the same as rifling through someone’s rubbish eh? It was sitting prettily outside the glass bin). I bought it back for cleaning and I hadn’t quite realised exactly how disgusting the cleaning process would be. Thirty minutes of gagging later whilst I tried to get out congealed wine (I really hope it was congealed wine at least), we now have a beautiful bottle! I’m going to do something with it. Probably I wont put wine in it. In fact, wine for me has forever been tainted by said cleaning experience.

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I like my new old bottle. I have exciting plans for it.

Knocking down walls

The most exciting development has been the destroying of the walls. A couple of local builders came and knocked down the walls between the sitting room and the stair area and I love it! I should add they weren’t load bearing so the rest of the house is still standing. It’s so much bigger and lighter yet feels a lot cosier at the same time. I’m so pleased with it.  If I’m in another room I sort of pop in just to have a look at it. It only took a couple of hours and has made such a difference. Not only that, in knocking them down it exposed one of the beams and it looks actually quite easy (famous last worlds) to get the paint off the others now (they’re painted white at the moment) so that’ll be a fun evening task.

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As it was…(taken from the “stair well” area… it was a weird little space – too small to do anything with but took up an inordinate amount of space).

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Mid demolition…

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The finished lack of wall! You would only have been able to see the back of that armchair from this view originally.

 

Chimney

An Ikea kitchen is being delivered and fitted on the 1st October, I hope. But, first we need to get rid of a fireplace which takes up most of the kitchen, move the plumbing around a bit and get some electricity into bits where there isn’t currently. Lots to do! But, we’ve made a good start (the royal “we”, I had nothing to do with it really). Next week hoping to block it off with something or other.

Before...

Before…

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After…. well there should be another “after” photo coming soon with it looking like a white wall, fingers crossed.

 

Bathroom

I’m desperate to have a bath in the house somewhere. We bought one from the local “edilizia” (an edilizia seems to be a place where you get house stuff from). We were given a choice as to whether we want to pay 10% or 22% tax on it. I went for 10%. I feel like it might be a trap. Anyway, to fit the bath in, we need to take the shower cubical out and get rid of some wood panelling at the sides of the bathroom. I was worried about what we would find underneath the panelling but it was just tiles. They were painted though so we decided to scrape that off. WHAT A MISTAKE! It took ages, I can barely use my thumbs for using the scrapers and it still looks like an ugly bathroom! I think I’ll cross the re-tiling bridge later. I hope I can get the bath in shortly.

The bathroom... it doesn't look bad here actually. There's a shower next to the bidet, behind the camera.

The bathroom- as it was. The paneling needed to come off to fit the bath in.

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This is what was under – the tiles were painted a cream colour. That was a nicer colour than the blue original tiles but it was patchy so needed to come off.

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And now it’s just blue (after HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS of work)

Garden

We spent some therapeutic time in the garden getting rid of weeds (and almost a century old rose planted by the next door neighbours beloved granddad), raking, digging up tree stumps and marking out where the lake, forest and orchard will be going. Despite a few hours work, the garden looks almost identical to what it did before. I’ve decided that gardening, though therapeutic has the potential to be very unsatisfying.

Heating

I can’t express how confused I am about how to heat the house and get hot water. At the moment there’s a wood burner (called a stufa in Italy) which is basically in the stairwell and used to heat, er, the stairwell and little else. It’s poorly located and after testing it, doesn’t seem to emit much heat. For hot water we have a boiler that runs off electricity. It’ll be cold in the winter and we need a better heating system. We seem to have multiple options for heating water and the house all varying in price from the absolute fortune in the long run to well, an absolute fortune initially. My confusion is not aided in that the Italian’s call almost every mode of heating “gas” as far as I can establish.You can get your own gas tank thing which you can just attach your oven to, a bigger one outside, or you can connect to a methane gas only I don’t think I can in my area, or you can get gas oil maybe which is something else again and I don’t even know if I can get it…… some of them you can use for cooking, some you can use for water, some you can use for heating… CONFUSING! Then there’s a wood pellet stufa (Wood burner) debate. It seems to be nothing less than absolutely extortionate to set it up but cheaper in the long run. On a separate note, I hadn’t realised that pellets looked like cat litter – I thought the Edilizia was diversifying into pet toiletry requirements. Anyway, I think my winter heating strategy might involve a lot of blankets at the moment.

Non house related news

In other news, I’ve been interviewed for an Ex Pats magazine – have a look here. Fame and fortune is surely not far off!

We’ve been exploring the local area…

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This is Lago di Fiastro. It’s massive. I had thought we could walk around it but despite its size, there are also sheer cliff faces on one of the sides!

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And…. it had a “beach”. It seems odd calling it a beach given it’s nowhere near the sea but there were people sunbathing and swimming. So, a beach. It was a boiling day – could have done with a swim myself! I think it would make good snorkeling too – there seemed to be a lot of fish.

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This is Aquasante. There seem to be a few walks that start off from here. Hoping to do one this week and then one of the others “for experienced trekkers” at some point soon too.

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This was a really interesting place – I think it’s called “grotto di soffiano”. There’s a couple of chairs and a little garden up there. We wanted to walk further on having heard there’s a waterfall and lake but I wimped out; the “walk” down seemed to be akin to throwing yourself off a precipice.

Back in Falconara, we found a Comic Festival which was a bit of a surprise. Quite interesting though, particularly as they had people drawing in “comic book style” at some of the stalls. It’s inspired me to want to have a go at drawing some comic-style images. They even run courses in Jesi, one of the local towns. It’s a shame I’m moving further away from that, it would have been good!

Comic convention in Falconara...

Comic convention in Falconara…

What’s a bit odd?

The local people we buy things from are absolutely not at all worried about getting paid. The bath people have delivered the bath and weren’t at all concerned about me paying them despite my special trip into town to get cash an hour before (everything needs to be paid in cash in Italy it seems. There are no receipts. Poor Tax Man). The wifi man came, spent a couple of hours crawling around on our perilous looking roof and said we could just pop in and pay him whenever. It’s lovely how trusting they are and obviously if people weren’t paying then they’d probably stop that strategy but it does seem unusual to the “pay up front” general English strategy.

Wildlife Watch

This week’s exciting bedroom discovery was a “House Centipede”. A house centipede looks like one of the particularly creepy aliens from Men in Black. Here’s a picture I’ve borrowed from the ApartmentTherapy website (check out the website here, it’s very informative!).

House Centipede

Apparently they run at the equivalent of humans running 42mph. I can confirm, they are quick.

Nice discoveries now… We have a deer frequenting our local field. She eats breakfast and dinner when we eat ours which is nice. Her name is Deerdrie.

Where's Deerdrie?

Where’s Deerdrie?

And in other exciting news, it turns out that lizards like dead flowers…

Cutie...

Cutie…

That’s it from me for this week.

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What do I love about Italy?

Ciao all,

I have exciting news (for me at least!), I was asked by Cathy on the AnItalophile blog recently to do a guest blog for her ex-pat “what do you love about Italy” series. Writing it made me realise that there’s so much and it was difficult to pick specifics. I think I’ve gone off the beaten track a bit with the ones I ended up with…

Have a look at the post here.

xxx

 

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Summer Jamboree, festas and house update…

Ciao all!

How is everybody? It’s been a busy week or two here again – in fact, I feel like it’s going to be busy until Christmas at this rate! Exciting busy rather than stressful busy so that’s ok.

So – a quick run-through of what I’ve been up to…

Summer Jamboree

My long standing readers might remember that I never made it to Senigallia’s Summer Jamboree last year (one of the biggest rock & roll festivals in the world) because I took the wrong train taking me two hours south instead of 25 minutes north where I was supposed to be going. But this year, I’m thrilled to report that I made it! And it’s such a great event – a night of great music and lots to see and do and the atmosphere was buzzing. I’ve never seen so many people in one place in Italy. Everyone makes a real effort and dresses up in 50’s kind of gear. I had a great time dancing, and would have loved to have done a bit more (stupid headache). Strangely though, despite the amount of effort everyone had gone to to dress up, nobody else was dancing!

 

Summer Jamboree

Summer Jamboree… nobody is dancing! Perhaps it was still too early (midnight though?!?!)

Castrum Sarnani

The next day we headed back inland to the Sarnano house and went to a medieval festa (“party”) called Castrum Sarnani in Sarnano. That ended up being a good evening too – lots of people dressed up in medieval costume and plying medieval trades in a medieval fashion. All Italian events seem to generally focus on food and this was no exception – there were lots of tavernas selling `olde-worlde` food which you could buy with denari (old Italian coins that a guy was making as part of the medieval trades).  We caught a “fire guy” display (I’m not sure how else to describe him) – he set things alight and waved them around energetically –  and to good effect. For once, I had access to a decent camera rather than my phone camera (which is sometimes actually depressingly better than my expensive decent camera) so I had fun playing with some effects for a change. I think I’ll take the decent camera out more often.

Fire Guy doing fire related things

Fire Guy doing fire related things

Due Sorrelle

Next up was a long walk to a beautiful little bay back around Monte Conero with Il Polemico, his friend and Pane Caldo. We left from Sirollo….

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That speck in the distance on the right hand on the hill is the little village of Sirollo. We walked to the point where the photo was taken, a beautiful look-out point and then….

 

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…we walked down to the little speck of beach you can see… The two smaller rocks sticking out of the water are the `due sorelle`(the two sisters).

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This was the view from the beach looking back at where we’d taken the photo on the top of that cliff

We went at a bad time of year – in every other month other than July and August, it’s usually empty because it’s a very steep, long, dangerous and usually forbidden, walk down to it. However, because it’s summer and the Italians are all off school and work, ferries run to and fro so it was jam-packed! It was lovely all the same though and the sea was really refreshing after the walk down. Then came the walk back up – it took 3 days for my legs to work properly again.

Urba Salvia

Then…. Roman ruins! We keep driving past these on the way to the Sarnano house and it’s always intrigued us so we finally stopped after a rather unsuccessful trip to buy garden furniture in Civitanova though we did find a good sized mall there so that was good to discover at least. Urbs Salvia is a lovely little park to wander around with an ancient roman theatre to look at and lots of cute little picnic spots with fabulous views. There’s an amphitheatre and a tower too (I think?) which we didn’t get to see because I was too cheap to buy a tour ticket. We must do that one day when I don’t feel like I’m about to go bankrupt (see House section).

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Part of the roman theatre – it looked more impressive in real life (and there was a fence hence the odd angle)

Sassotetto

We attempted to go to another festa in Sassotetto following our Roman ruin trek and though we didn’t find it (unless it consisted of a priest doing an outside mass), I’m so pleased we went. Sassotetto is a ski resort so it’s quite high up – 1624 metres and wow, what amazing views. It’s only about 20 minutes down (up?!) the road (in the winter, with my current car, I think it will be about 3 hours, if we arrives at all). I think it’s one of my favourite spots in Italy so far and you can even see Monte Conero from the top which is comforting! I’m pleased because I’d sort of developed my “favourite places” tour for visitors which was all around Camerano so now I’ve got a tour all worked out for around here too.

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Warning: Do not approach these flowers with flipflops

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Pretty pretty pretty….

House Update!

The house developments so far seem to be limited to buying everything in Ikea and OBI (the Italian equivalent of the UK’s B&Q). I am not naturally a spender – I am a saver. If I do reluctantly spend, it’s generally for the purposes of existing or to enable me to save more money for a long term plan or project. So it goes against my very essence to go into a shop and buy stuff. But buying stuff is necessary, particularly if I want to have a nice house with a fully functioning kitchen and a comfortable bedroom reasonably quickly, as I do.  So my recent extravagance is giving me a prolonged panic attack. Things should be delivered from Ikea at some point during the week of the 28th August. Note I said ‘week’. In the UK, I used to get annoyed if I had to stay in the entire morning or afternoon because companies couldn’t be specific about when they’d deliver. In Italy, you seemingly have to take a week off work to wait patiently for them to arrive. Also, I don’t know how they’ll find the house. Even I still struggle to find it. I will be nothing less than gobsmacked if my Ikea delivery arrives.

Wifi is being connected shortly too – we currently use an internet dongle to access the internet which is painful so wifi will be amazing. With any luck by the end of the week I’ll be able to Skype people again!

In terms of upcoming work on the house, I’ve been very organised and produced a floor plan and highlighted where we’d like changes and produced an accompanying spreadsheet going into more detail. This has been sent off to the Estate Agent who sold us the house (an American) and who also does renovation work with local tradesmen. I’ve also got the names of other local trades people. Going with them may be cheaper but also inevitably scarier because of the language barrier. I can chit chat in Italian but I can’t yet go into detail on building/electrical and plumbing requirements. So that’ll be entertaining.

We’ve also been doing some gardening, focussing on the terrace. Pane Caldo came up with a pot recycling scheme with some of the old things left by the previous owner that we were going to throw out. They’ve now been turned into stunning plant pots. Visiting the garden centre proved to be rather amusing with our conversations go thusly “What’s this do you think?”…… “hmm, It’s definitely a plant”…….. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Shall we get it?”……… “Yeah”.    I’ve decided our conversations should include more by way of gardening vocabulary. Anyway, our garden centre visit has resulted in, I think, a rather unconventional strawberry plant hanging basket, a pretty plant that we hacked the roots off in order to fit into an old kettle, and two random flowering plants of which one looks mostly dead. Still, I’m pleased with the results!

Ok, well I know we have rosemary, a chilli plant, some herbs and some strawberry plants. Does anyone know what the flowers are?

Ok, well I know we have rosemary, a chilli plant, some herbs and some strawberry plants. Does anyone know what the flowers are?

You may have seen the impressive selection of veg we received from the neighbours in the last blog. Well, I have plans to share our impressive harvest with them...

You may have seen the impressive selection of veg we received from the neighbours in the last blog. Well, I have plans to share our impressive harvest with them…

I am thrilled, THRILLED to report that Klaus the Scorpion hasn’t reappeared although I did see his young nephew in the cantina (which is the general stuff storage area so hardly surprising). I happened to mention the scorpion to the previous owner in an email asking about some house bits & pieces. He reported that I shouldn’t worry about them; their sting is just like a bee sting. However, I should worry about the deadly vipers. Excellent.

Ok that’s enough rambling for me! I hope you all have good weeks.

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New house, new neighbours and Klaus the unwanted house guest…

Ciao!

Well! It wasn’t all a con as I suspected, it turns out I have an actual house! :-)

The house - in fact, our bit of the house. It's split into 3 abodes in a rather odd and random fashion.

The house! I should say “Our bit of the house”. It’s split into 3 abodes in a rather odd and random fashion.

`Moving in` day was Tuesday last week and it was a bit full on. I say moving in day but we’ve got the flat in Falconara for another couple of months still so it’s going to be a gradual move.

Tuesday morning we headed to Gualdo, a little town close to the new house, to finally meet my lawyer. My fears of being conned weren’t helped by the fact that she’d forgotten to bring us the keys. However, a quick call later and it was arranged that we pick them up from a Tabaccheria in another local town.

On successfully locating the keys, it was time to locate the house. We had a house number and a road name to go by but Sat Nav didn’t recognise either so we navigated ourselves to the house using only our sixth sense. “Erm, does that patch of grass look familiar?” “That hill rings a bell eh?”, “We didn’t pass a farm before did we?”, “Were there this many pot holes last time?” (I swear one of the pot holes on our road is big enough to swallow the entire car if approached incorrectly. It might even be one of the natural sink hole phenomena). Still, after several wrong turns we went straight to it.

So we parked up and headed in and the place looks pretty much as we were expecting but for some reason rather than excitement, I was just overwhelmingly daunted! I think I was expecting to feel instantly at home and it’s well, not very homely at the moment. However, the house is habitable and in fact came fully furnished which was handy given I have no furniture in Italy.

The first day there consisted of cleaning things and sort of getting our bearings. There are odd little characteristics we hadn’t spotted before, including a sign on the plug socket saying that it shouldn’t be used under any circumstances. I really, REALLY want to see what happens when you plug something in. (If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know what’s happened).

Anyway, let me show you around…

Main floor (ground floor)

It’s not really a `ground` floor but it’s the floor that you walk into. You actually go up some steps at the front of the house to enter it and you walk into the kitchen.

Kitchen: The oven and hob run off an eyebrow scorching gas cylinder, the fridge / freezer which we spent ages cleaning suddenly stopped working (fuse?), and the sink leaks. There is a fireplace that takes up half the kitchen. A whole new kitchen needs to be put in and I hate to say it but I think I’m going to get rid of the fireplace.  

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That cooker on the right hand side has a tendency to burn your eyebrows off.

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The other side of the kitchen looking towards a wall which will not be there for much longer! The fireplace on the left takes up half the kitchen wall!

Living room: Small at the moment (hoping to knock down a wall to make it bigger) and  it has chairs I can’t bring myself to touch with my bare flesh.

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Chairs….

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Other side of the living room… Bit basic you see.

Random other area: This is where the `stairs` to the upstairs is. By stairs I mean perilous wooden steps.

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Warning: Alcohol & these stairs do not mix. In the bottom right corner is the wood burning stove. And I’m going to do something exciting to that wooden table. Mwahahaha.

Bathroom:  The bathroom is small and a bit ugly and it’s so dark at night in the shower that I have to sing to myself to not be scared. Better for everyone’s sakes if I have a shower in the morning I think. Or get a decent light. I’m planning to overhaul this bathroom as a priority – why does everyone these days get rid of their bath!!!

The bathroom... it doesn't look bad here actually. There's a shower next to the bidet, behind the camera.

The bathroom… it doesn’t look bad here actually. There’s a shower next to the bidet, behind the camera. The cistern takes roughly 5 hours to fill up (slight exaggeration. Maybe like 4.5 hours).

Upstairs `Soffitto`

There are two bedrooms, a bathroom and the terrace up there. The two bedrooms are technically doubles but very small. I forgot to take photos! One has a very slanted roof. It would be nice to put in a couple of bay windows up there so that one could actually stand up in the slanted roof bedroom and in the bathroom.  I think my favourite thing about the house is the terrace. It’s only small, and slants and has a leaking gutter right next to it causing a little stream of water to flow across it when it rains (water feature?), but I love eating out in the open and I love our view.

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View from the terrace to next door’s place.

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This is the terrace with a very pretty view…

Downstairs `Cantina`

This is quite a big space – there’s potential to create a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom down here. However, I break out into a cold sweat every time I think about amount of work required! I think we’ll tackle that one after the other floors have been done.

Camera 360 Camera 360 Camera 360

Garden

We have two garden spaces – a front garden which is opposite the house. I reckon you could fit maybe 6 cars on it (we haven’t measured it) and there’s a back garden which is about two cars big. Pane Caldo has been very enthusiastically planning it – we’re going to have a forest, orchard, lake and picnic area.

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…….

We were introduced to the neighbours. Our immediate next door neighbour is possibly the nicest person ever. She paraded us up and down the hamlet shouting “look what beautiful young neighbours we have!!!” until one by one everyone within a 5 mile radius came out and said hello. Everyone is very friendly. We have enough vegetables from their gardens to start a small grocery business.

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The vegetables happy in their new home…

I made shortbread for them…

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They actually came out exactly like shortbread. That never happens!

My favourite thing about the next door neighbour is she has kittens! And she offered to give us one. I think that means I can say hello to a specific kitten when we occasionally see it. I imagine the neighbour would think I’d gone insane if I let the kitten inside the house.

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Two of the cats – they were having a cuddle on the drive. Awwww.

And then, there are the OTHER neighbours……… housemates if you will.

I now completely understand why the previous owner had a net over the bed and on all the windows. Mosquito’s are the last of our worries. After spotting this on the way to the bathroom……

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Klaus the Scorpion (less scary with a name eh?)

… on our first night we did a bit of research. There are indeed scorpions in Italy. Boooooo! Mostly they only sting one month of the year. Yaay! August. Boooooooooooooooooo! And they like warm bedding apparently. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

The next day the neighbours knocked (and came straight in) and wondered why we’d been shut up inside all day. I reported back about Klaus the Scorpion and said from now on access to the house would be closely guarded – no more open unsupervised doors and windows. In fact, I might build a moat as well. The neighbours laughed and said that we had just been unlucky, that they don’t really make an appearance ever and it was just because the place had been shut up for a while and we should have just trodden on him. What we actually did was to put a glass over him. Neither of us could cope with moving him so we left him there until we were feeling more emotionally resilient the following morning (note: emotional resilience is not improved following a night of scorpion infested nightmares). The next morning we were both feeling sad and guilty because Klaus had died….

But it was a trick! A trick I tell you! Scheming scorpion! We splashed a bit of water on him and bam! Back to life! Never trust a scorpion. He was subsequently released into the wilds of the front garden.

Anyway. I realise the scorpion fear is irrational. Why do I like these…

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Aw, cutie. He was only the size of my thumb. See, he doesn’t even need a name, he’s so cute.

But not these….

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Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was a dead one that just sort of appeared on the terrace out of nowhere. I think I’m just as worried about what killed it as the thing itself!

But I have grand plans to address the problem….

Now I know why the previous owner had a random golf club in the cantina.

Now I know why the previous owner had a random golf club in the cantina.

So I have mixed feelings on the house – there are good bits and bad bits. We’re back there today after a trip to Ikea. I’m excited about that – it will be the first time I’ve been `extravagant` since I stopped working (if extravagance includes buying saucepans and crockery). I’m hoping to bond with it more in the next week or so when it starts to become more homely and after we’ve re-homed some of the wildlife.

Tune in soon for more an update on how it’s going and some photo’s from the very cool Summer Jamboree in Senigallia.

Have good weeks!

x

ps. Apologies for any spelling/ grammatical mistakes – my editor is on holiday! Pfft!

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Roadtrip back to Italia via France, Germany & Switzerland

Ciao!

How are you all? I wanted to give a quick run down on our very scenic roadtrip back to Italy – it feels like a long time ago now but in reality we only got back on Monday.

So, the first leg of our journey was from Portsmouth to Cherbourg…

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View from the ferry towards Cherbourg

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Rare non-child head occupied view of the window. We had good seats.

Not particularly fascinating photos but it’s evidence nonetheless! The ferry was fast – only 3 hours as opposed to over 6 hours on the trip back to the UK. Then we had a few hours drive down to a little town called Olivet near Orleans in France. We’d had a long day and couldn’t drum up the necessary motivation to take photos but it was pretty and we camped up just by a river. The campsite, Camping Olivet had the makings of a good one but it was let down because they didn’t have toilet roll (indeed, no toilet seats – that seems to be a typically French thing???) or soap and you either had cold water or warm water (either good for showers and bad for teethbrushing or vice versa!).

Then onto Freiburg im Breisgau (I’m just going to call it Freiburg) in Germany for a couple of nights. Freiburg is really lovely – I thoroughly recommend going. The town is pretty with quaint little cobblestones and little streams running through the streets and the houses and apartments are all well kept and pretty. It’s right next to the Black Forest so there are some great walks too. We went on a 4 hour walk up the local mountain (I do not recommend doing this in flipflops) which had some great views and then took a cable car down and then a couple of busses/trams to get back to the campsite. The campsite itself, Moslepark, was one of the prettiest I’ve been to. Lots of flowers and the facilities were all very swish. Our pitch was alas, right next to the children’s play area – we had refreshing early starts.

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Look how pretty the cobblestones are!

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School buildling – very pretty but with irritatingly non symmetrical brickwork.

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This was taken from halfway up our mountain walk (Schauinsland) for anyone wishing to do the same – 1284m

The streets were wide, the pavements were wide, lovely well kept houses, lots of cyclists...

The streets were wide, the pavements were wide, lovely well kept houses, lots of cyclists…

Then our final stop was in La Fouly, Swtizerland. I like Switzerland and I’ve stayed in a couple of beautiful places in the past – Interlaken and Lake Lucerne, I tried to book a couple of nights around the same places this time around but they were booked out or needed us to stay more than 5 nights. Unfortunate I thought at the time, but actually I’m really pleased they were because the campsite, Camping des Glaciers in La Fouly where we ended up staying is set in the prettiest environment I’ve ever stayed in. The campsite was set between majestic glacier capped mountains, a trickling stream teeming with wild flowers and a quaint little village. Alas, after setting up camp and successfully drying out the sodden tent from a wet last night in Freiburg, that’s when the rain really DID come. At this point we were in town  so found a little bar to wait until it stopped. On and on it went so in the end we had a very nice 80’s style dinner at the bar – fondue (even me, an avid cheese eater, was cheesed out by the end of that meal). Anyway, these are some of the photos…

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I quite fancy having a log cabin like this…

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Pretty flowers…

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The mountains…

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And more mountains…

Then it was back to Falconara in Italy, Again, the stark difference in driving styles between the Italians and the French and Germans was noticeable! However, we learnt something – when it starts to rain, admittedly this was a downpour of biblical proportions, the Italians all start to drive sensibly and use that strange extraneous ‘slow’ (inside to you and me) lane on the motorway. Some even stop on the hard shoulder under motorway bridges until this phenomenon has passed. Hardly anybody uses the 3rd (outside overtaking) lane meaning that if you do, because you’ve spent most of your life driving in those type of conditions,  the traffic runs miles better and even though it’s raining, you can make much more headway. So my tip for motorway driving here – do it during a downpour! Otherwise be prepared to stew in increasing frustration and incredulity as everybody clogs up the middle and outside lane and nobody uses the inside lane even though it would benefit everybody.

Right, that’s it for this post – tune in shortly for another post on the new house and the scary uninvited houseguest…

 

Ciao xxx

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House buying – Italy vs UK!

Ciao!

Well, well, well! Sorry it’s been an age since I’ve written! It’s been an extraordinarily busy month and a half back in the UK sorting various things out. I’m back in Italia now as of yesterday. So, let me tell you what I’ve been up to. I’ve been a bit cagey about it in the blog because writing it makes me seems like a property mogul. I’m honestly not, it sounds more impressive than it is!

Property Numero Uno

Before I moved out to Italy, I’d worked out my budget and what I could live off comfortably and I had saved some money for a house in Italy too. It was quite finely tuned. I would live off rental income from a flat in London and bolster that with earnings from something more creative (still working on it!). However, as soon as I went to Italy my finally tuned budget required an upheaval because now over the next 5 years, I have to find a significant chunk of money to repair the lifts for the flat I’m letting in London (I think I could hire dedicated people to carry my tenants up to the flat for less).

What to do? Well, I taught English. You’ve probably all read about how successful that was ;-) I can confirm I’m not a natural! So, I decided to chop the savings I was going to use for a house in Italy in half and buy a place in the UK for letting. It was a better option than buying a dream house in Italy but still having to teach!

So the flat I bought was a bit of a mess to start off with but the price reflected that and it had great potential. It completed the day I got back to the UK. It couldn’t have been better timing! The next month or so was focussed on painting and putting in a new kitchen and carpets etc. (Thank you Mum and Dad – I couldn’t have done it without you!) and now I think it looks really nice! I have tenants due in on Friday so fingers crossed that all works out!

Meanwhile….

Property Numero Due

I have an Italian House! :-) I think! After a week, I still have not a scrap of documentation confirming that! So, what useful titbits can I impart to you all about buying a house in Italy? I really don’t know! I think I’ll be able to give you more insight on that in a week or so when I’m physically in the house (or not!). At the moment my advice is balanced 50 /50 on “just run with it and accept that the Italian house process is massively inefficient, it’ll all work out in the end” or “don’t do it – they’ll take your money and you won’t even have a house to show for it”.

UK VS Italy – Who has the best house buying process?!

So in the absence of being able to provide a decent set of lessons learnt yet, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the key differences between buying in the UK and buying in Italy having done both in the last month or two. Please note, this is all my own personal experience – perhaps other people have found it a bit easier! In fact, if you’ve bought somewhere in Italy yourself, please let me know in the comments below how it went for you! :-)

Finding a house

UK: 99% of houses for sale will be advertised on the internet. Every estate agent has a website. Every house advert has photos of the house.

Italy: Maybe 30% of houses for sale are on the internet. To find a house, you have to physically go to the location you want to buy and trawl the streets looking for yellow ‘vendersi’ signs which often have no details of the house itself, only a phone number. House adverts that do make it onto the internet rarely have a photo of the house. If they do have a photo, it will be of a lamp or a scooter the owner is proud of.

Estate Agents:

UK: Once you’re ‘registered’ with an Estate Agent, you’ll get email updates and phone calls from agents whether you want to be notified or not. They are generally expert sellers – they’re really very keen to sell you a house, that’s how they make their money. 

Italy: Once ‘registered’ with an Estate Agent, nothing will happen at all. They don’t email, they don’t call and they don’t reply to emails or calls either. They often don’t go into the office. If you manage to get an Estate Agent to take you around a house, they make you sign something first to promise that you won’t try and buy the property without including them. My Estate Agent for the Italy place was American. It was a coincidence that I ended up with an English speaking Estate Agent; I wasn’t looking for one. He was simply the only estate agent that responded!

Surveyors

UK: When you purchase a house it’s a wise idea to get it surveyed and in fact, mandatory if you’re buying it with a mortgage. In the UK, the surveyors job is to ensure that the house you’re buying is what you think you’re buying. The surveyor will have a look at the property and give you a very detailed lengthy report on the roof, damp, structural stability etc. If you do something to the inside of your house, generally, people in the UK don’t care.

Italy: They have ‘Geometra’s’. The Geometra seems to be similar to a surveyor but also has a key role in terms of comparing house /property plans with what is actually there. If you change something to the inside of your property, it matters and the authorities need to be aware of it. In my experience, you don’t receive any documentation from the Geometra and it was me drawing attention to the discrepancies in the plan rather than vice versa. As well as providing thoughts on how the property could be renovated (genuinely useful), they provide useful suggestions on how to resolve issues like doors being where there shouldn’t be doors – simply pile some breeze blocks in the doorway and voila – no door! Change the plans?! Pah!

Notary

UK: What’s a Notary?! They serve no purpose in the English house buying process.

Italy: Qualified lawyers are not enough for the Italians. As with many things in Italy, there needs to be an additional and costly level of bureaucracy. I was buying the Italian house whilst I was in the UK so I needed a Notary to give `Power of Attorney` to my lawyer in Italy so she could sign off the documents. Then I had to get something called Apostille to authenticate the Power of Attorney form to verify that the Notary was indeed a Notary and not a con artist (ha!). You can save a bit of money by doing that yourself by sending it to a Government office (££’s). THEN, I needed a Notary in Italy to read through the documentation and sign that off. That was 2250 Euros. Apparently this is an excellent deal, negotiated by my lawyer (I am still in the process of summoning up enough gratitude to respond). My UK Notary had a really lovely antique looking embossing device, beautifully intricate stickers, an infra-red marking device and a signature so elaborate it must have taken months of effort to devise. The only thing I’ve seen of my Italian Notary is an invoice. It’s not embossed. There’s not even a sticker. In fact, it’s not even signed. I feel hard done by.

Deposits

UK: We pay a deposit but I think there’s still a danger of “gazumping”. Until you exchange, having the house you’ve been planning at night when you can’t sleep being pulled from underneath you is always a risk.

Italy: You sign a contract to say that you’re committed to the purchase of the property – if you go back on that as the buyer then you lose your deposit and if the owner does, they have to give you your money back and pay you the same amount again. I quite like that.

Lawyers

UK: Your lawyer works for you. They will make sure that you’re not going to get fleeced even if you’re not that bothered yourself. They’ll hold up the entire buying process if you haven’t had a drainage report for instance, so keen are they that you know what you’re getting into. Any concerns were addressed with a detailed response outlining options and a considered recommendation.  

Italy: I think my lawyer could have also been working for the owner as well. I also suspect they’ve not even heard of a drainage report. Concerns were rebuffed with “don’t worry, it’s not a problem” even though all evidence indicates that it was. My thoughts at the end of the process was not to ask for advice but to do my own research and just state what I would and would not accept. That worked a lot better.

Contracts

UK: The paperwork from the UK property may have made a significant dent in the Amazonian rainforests.

Italy: So far, the paperwork has amounted to less than 10 pages. Not that I’ve even seen the final contract.

Timescales

UK: In the UK there’s maybe a 10 week average to house buying but you can do that any time during the year.

Italy: You must get your house all signed off before August otherwise Italy as a nation goes on holiday and you can’t get the documentation done.

Weighing things up, I think it’s safe to say that my buying experience was a lot less stressful in the UK than it was in Italy.  I feel a bit like I’ve been over so many barrels that I can no longer stand upright. Alas the UK property is not set in the Sibilini Mountains.

So that’s my thoughts on the buying process!

Next up, I’ll report back on my lovely return trip to Italy in the Nanmobile via Orleans (France), Freiburg (Germany) and Somewhere-in-Switzerland (Switzerland).

A presto!

xxx

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Sticky Tape Car Windows, The Roadtrip of Searing Heat and Buying a House in Italy

Ciao a tutti,

Well I’ve been a bit quiet of late I know – I’m back in the UK for a little bit and have been manically doing up a property that I’m hoping to rent out so it hasn’t left much time for anything else!

We drove back to the UK a week or two back. Why drive I hear you ask? Because I have to get the car MOT’d back in the UK so that I can get it taxed and insured. It’s an expensive undertaking when you take into account petrol, road tax, hotels and eating out (or buying food which immediately melts, whatever it is, in the heat of the car). Having calculated it and I think I could have gone to the Maldives instead by the time I drive back to Italy too!

Having said that, to buy a car last year was too stressful and potentially too expensive because I didn’t have a “residenza” (Residency. In fact, I’m still not entirely sure I have it. I would have liked a medal as proof). So I think I did the right thing sticking with a UK car.  But I’m going to dedicate the next few months to trying to resolve the car buying/insuring in Italy issue as I’m going to need a four-wheel drive to get to and from my new house in the winter. Anyway, let me tell you about the roadtrip!

Roadtrip

The roadtrip prep commenced a couple of weeks ago when the passenger window slid down into the car door. It did this 2 days before the last roadtrip too. The car has a sixth sense. Without any time to fix it, the first part of the roadtrip was characterised by whoever was passenger having to hold the window in place.  The second half was considerably better following a sticky tape mission. This at least was slightly less embarrassing when it came to paying the road tolls – at least there was an obvious excuse for opening the door and not the window like normal people.

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Sticky tape – what every car window needs…

Despite my misgivings about the cost and the sauna like temperatures resulting from the lack of opening capability for the passenger window, it was good nonetheless.

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Melted dairy milk bar. The heat was overpowering but I must say, we discovered something AMAZING. What you do is buy a bag of Maltesers, leave it in a searing hot car for 3 days, put in a hotel minibar fridge and an hour later – voila, the best chocolate bar of all time.

And anyway, you don’t get to appreciate the countryside by flying over the top of it (apart from the alps always looking very majestic from the air). The route back took us past:

Genoa: We were actually outside of Genoa really so didn’t get a good feel for the main town. In fact, all we got a good feel for was the commercial centre. I didn’t even take any photos. Poor blogging effort I know.

Monaco: Wow! Very impressive sky-line and water. I was upset I didn’t bring my swimming costume. I’m not into the F1 particularly but it was interesting to see the road/race-track. I can imagine that would be good to watch (for 5 minutes).

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The stunning Monaco…

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And the sea front – this was taken from the race track

Cannes: The harbour was nice – full of flashy boats and it looked like it had a nice shopping area. Alas by this point we were hot, sticky and grumpy from a stressful drive out of Monaco (stupid sat-nav) and into Cannes (stupid road signs) so I think it might require a revisit at some point. :-)

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Lots of jealous-making expensive yachts in Cannes…

Avignon: Historic town in France with a very grand cathedral with holes in the walls to shoot your enemies with arrows (in a churchly manner of course) and had some nice piazzas or whatever they’re called in France! It’s definitely worth a visit.

Avignon

Pretty cathedral in Avignon…

Nimes: We thought that it would be too expensive to stay around Avignon so I randomly selected a nearby town, Nimes, to stay in. Alas, Nimes had the most expensive hotel of the entire trip and thieves in the car park to boot! Two poor people had their cars broken into overnight. Little did the thieves know all they needed to do was to tap my passenger window to gain access. To think – they could have swiped my Malteser bar!

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The Forum in Nimes

Between Nimes and the Middle of Nowhere Near Limoges where we were staying, there was the Millau Bridge, designed by Norman Foster. A very impressive bridge indeed – I recommend a visit!

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The spectacular Millau Bridge

Middle of Nowhere Near Limoges: I booked a B&B in the middle of nowhere in Limoges. No matter what setting I put in my Sat Nav, if there is a small one lane road through the countryside, it will insist we take that road rather than the much more direct motorway. So instead of the 4.30 hours it was supposed to take, I think it took about 8. And then we didn’t have an en-suite. I should never be responsible for booking accommodation. Gorgeous countryside though.

Somewhere Near Le Mans: I knew Le Mans sounded familiar. It turns out it’s where they have an endurance race around a track for 24 hours. It was the same weekend we were there so very good timing. We’d booked a lovely random hotel – Hotel De France, in an area not even particularly near Le Mans and it became apparent that it was the hotel where the drivers/owners/other famous people stay (I wasn’t responsible for booking that one). The Nanmobile, with its sticky-taped-up window fitted in beautifully with the other cars in the car park (Lamborghinis / Ferraris).

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This is the hotel. You can see that outside the hotel there’s a very flash car which everyone is admiring. In the car park are other flash cars. In the corner of the photo is my sticky taped Fiat Panda. I’m a bit upset that it didn’t draw the same crowd that the other cars seemed to. Carist! Pfft.

 

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Pretty little village where Hotel De France is…

Caen: And then we finally got to Caen for an hour or two before the Ferry left.

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And back to the UK :-)

Crazy Italian Driving

What was most noticeable about the trip was the almost immediate difference between driving in France and driving in Italy! The Italians all drive in the middle or the fast lane. If they see that you’ve left over a cars length of space between yourself and the car in front, they’ll do a risky overtaking manoeuvre to fill that spot, and give you a look / hand gestures for being too slow (and then they’ll drive at exactly the same speed just in front of you and seemingly attached to the bumper of the car in front). Italians don’t realise that the “slow” lane is for driving in when you’re not overtaking. I on the other hand will always drive in that lane unless overtaking. And not wanting to undertake, if I want to overtake one of the Middle Lane Drivers, I’ll then have to go across two lanes to overtake in the fast lane before going back across two lanes to where they were supposed to be driving in the first place. In Italy – they don’t get the hint. In France, not only do the majority all drive in the correct lane to start with but if you do the above “training manoeuvre” with them then they’ll soon get the hint and move to the slow lane. I wonder why the driving is so different in Italy to other places?!

House Progress?!

The house business in Italy is coming along really quickly! I’ve transferred my deposit to the owner and signed the first contract (Compromesso).  There’s no going back now (or not without a significant cost). Completion is set for 30th July. The whole thing just feels a bit odd though – the house plans still do not represent the house we’re buying. At the moment we’re still buying the  neighbour’s property according to these plans and there is still a rustic building represented which doesn’t exist. My solicitor ensures me that because of what she thinks is a comforting line in the contract: “the owner will ensure the plans represent the property when it comes to the final contract”, all is ok. So whether I’ll get a rustic building or whether the plans will be updated, and whether I’ll be getting the neighbours property or not – who knows?!

In response to my question “erm, the plans here show that the cantina is split into 3 completely separate bits – not that it’s open plan like it actually is – can we change that?” was met with “if you want, we can get the owner to stack some breeze blocks in these doorways”. Well yes, that’s EXACTLY what I was after. Loosely placed breeze blocks. Much better than up-to-date and accurate plans.  The whole process at the moment seems odd – and I’m half expecting the owner to run off with my money. Cross your fingers please everyone!

Right, that’s it for today. Hope you’re all having good weeks.

x

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