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.

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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.

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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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Apologies, The Saga of the Impounded Car and New House Excitement!

Ciao a tutti!

Well this week I bring you a full gamut of emotions covering the excitement of house buying, the sheer glee of finishing teaching and the blood boiling frustrating of having your car stolen by the authorities. But firstly an apology!

Heartfelt apology

Firstly, an apology for anyone that I may have upset on the blog! WordPress informs me that my 2 year anniversary of MovetoItaly was only a week or two back. It’s been a positive pleasure writing it – it’s the only “diary” that I’ve ever been able to keep up and I never want to leave it for too long without writing an update. It’s become a bit of an addiction but a good one! But just like a diary, i probably don’t censor it as much as I should! So, I vent and whinge, I moan about school children, I post up pictures of “unique” bedroom lights etc. Alas, sometimes, the people that are involved in my whinging get wind of the blog (usually because I’ve been stupid and told them). Sometimes, I remember and quickly back-edit a post, sometimes I take down the offending item but more often I completely forget to take any remedial action at all. And the most difficult thing is – how do you apologise for potentially hurting the feelings of someone that may not have seen the offending mockery in the first place?!

I think the two most likely apology scenarios are as follows:

Apology 1: Sue: “Hey – did you er, read my blog post? You know, the one where I called your students little nightmares from hell?/ where I slagged off your furniture? / where I dubbed you ‘The Cheek Stroker’ because you won’t leave mine alone? Oh, you didn’t? Well, er, that’s fine, forget it, really”.

Apology 2: Sue: “Hey – did you er, read my blog?”. Innocent Victim (IV): “No, I’m sorry, I really must do that – what’s the address again?”.

So, I’ve decided to go down the following route: If you’ve ever read something insensitive about yourself, your students, your bedroom light or your penchant for stroking my cheeks, I apologise and am genuinely sorry. Please feel free to confront me so I can apologise in a cowardly manner.

I’ve decided to be much more sensitive in the future. Anyway, enough of that, let me tell you about the annoying police and car pound… ;-)

The Saga of the Impounded Car

Yesterday my car was taken. Yesterday morning, rather than my car being outside, there was a market. I like markets but on this occasion, I would have preferred my car.

So, I wandered around the market in despair asking people how I could get my car back (it’s not as though the thief could leave a note) and the only suggestion was “speak to the Vigili” (Vigili means watchers. Ha, if only they’d just WATCHED my car), who don’t actually have a phone number or an address that can be located through regular means on the internet.  I spotted two authoritative looking figures who told me I should go to a building up the road which turned out to be where the Polizia are. I arrived at the Polizia who had a sign outside saying they were on strike and to come back another day.

My laughs were heard by a nice policeman that was in the building who came out to see who was having an hysterical breakdown outside.

I had to pay a very specific 29.70 euros to them to give me a green piece of paper – taking people’s cars is a time consuming administrative business. There would be a lot more to pay at the con artist’s car pound to cover their strenuous efforts. Bless their cotton socks.

After continuous attempts by the nice policeman to phone the thieves car pound, he learnt that they were on lunch now from whatever time in the morning it was until 4pm so I needed to wait until then. The nice policeman then asked me if I knew where the crook car pound was. “No” I said. “It’s a long way” he said. “Great” I replied.  “Do you have a car?” he asked. “YOOOOOOUUUUUU HAVE MY CAR”. Hearing a trace of hysteria return, he quickly asked his boss to give me a lift to the shysters car pound this afternoon as he was not going to be there. The slightly less friendly policeman responded after some cajoling with a “s’pose, if I have to”.

At 3.45 I phoned the pilferers car pound to confirm that they were actually going to be open. “Yeah, you need to come immediately because I’m going out”. “Right. I’m actually in Falconara – I don’t know how to come immediately since you have my car and all but I’ll go immediately to the less friendly policeman and get a lift straight away”. Off I ran up the hill to the Polizia. The new shift of staff were really very friendly, lovely in fact, and spent a long time reassuring me that they would help me get my car back. So long assuring me that they would help me get my car back that the time for helping me get my car back came and went. I expressed my concern that far from being open at 4pm, they were now closed. They dismissed that notion with a wave of their hand and phoned the swindlers  car pound who confirmed that they had now gone but would be back “at some point”. The Polizia used all their contacts and confirmed that someone would be there in 40 minutes.

Some three hours later, waiting in the hot sun without water / snacks / firearms and staring at my car behind some annoyingly sturdy looking metal gates, the cheats car pound men arrived. I obviously need to remunerate them for their hard work so I gave them 96 euros. I just hope that it’s enough to cover the stress of stealing having to haul away my car when they’ve had such a busy day out of the office at the beach recovering other vehicles.

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I had considered jumping over the gates and trying to drive out but I was put off by this car on the right which had obviously tried something similar.

Anyway, I’ve totally learnt my lesson. I should be checking daily a sign a few hundred meters up the road to see if my car will be stolen if I park it next to the flat, on the road that I have already paid 50 euros for the privilege of parking on for 3 months.

 New House

Apart from that it’s actually been a good week! I went to see the house in San Ginesio again (this will change – it’s sort of between San Ginesio and Sarnano – it’s less that I’m fickly changing houses and more that I’m being inconsistent!)  and confirmed that I still want to buy it.

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Look at my view from the private terrace…

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And these are the Sibilini Mountains in the distance and you can just about make out the town of Sarnano too.

I wont lie, there are confusing bits that need sorting on the paperwork. In particular, there are rustic buildings where there aren’t rustic buildings, there are storerooms where there aren’t storerooms and the floor plans look like a child could have done them. The first official step is to get a “Compromesso” (interestingly translated as Compromise but is essentially an initial promise between the buyer and seller, after which there are financial penalties to pay if either party pulls out).  But there’s so much opportunity and it costs hardly anything. So hoping to do some decent floor plans and put together some ideas about how it could look. It’s so exciting! It feels like my first proper home! Move date should be mid August hopefully.

Teaching

I’m sure you can believe how devastated I am to have finished teaching at the schools this week :-) The finale was a disastrous show with the infants who forgot every single thing that we’d done in the last year in front of their parents and passers by on the beach front in Marcelli.

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This is me on stage with the kiddos. I think at this point they were all supposed to be holding hands and rhythmically swaying (not chatting to their friends and paying absolutely no attention to anything they’re supposed to be doing at all)

None-the-less it marked the end of an interesting year teaching school kids English so I was happy and I got a lovely bunch of flowers to say thank you.

Ok that’s me done for this week.

Ciao all!

x

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Travels up north, houses to buy and pretty sunsets…

Ciao a tutti!

Well……. have I got a lot to update on! I’ll try and be quick:

Falconara

Well, we’ve been living in Falconara for a while and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. I like it. I think Falconara might have some of the best sunsets of all time and it’s lovely walking along the beach in the evening. It is also the home of a small stretch of beach I’ve called “Seaglass Heaven” (I’m not being any more specific lest someone catches wind of it and takes all my seaglass!). The more I discuss Falconara with the people that dislike it, the more I decide that their rationale is not actually rational!

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Falconara beach – best sunset of all time?

Bustling festival in Jesi…

A couple of Saturday’s ago, we went to a bustling little festival in Jesi. I should have asked more questions about what the festival was in aid of but most people there didn’t seem to know either. There were people dressed up in religious outfits, parading up and down the streets but the best bit were the open tavernas which are basically private cellars, only open for a couple of days a year serving food and wine. Great atmosphere!

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Random guitar playing guy in the taverna!

Market in Montemarciano

I’ve discovered a new website (for me at least – I think it’s an old website!) www.marcheinfesta.it which promotes upcoming events up in the area. This, together with some festival posters dotted around, alerted us to a local town having a Festival of Spring. Montemarciano is only a 15 minute drive away (30 minutes for me who has problems understanding the cryptic directions of ‘Tom’ the Satellite Navigation Fool!) and was a pretty little town to wander around. The festival was characterised by loads of market stalls selling clothing (hmm, very spring like!).

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I suppose there wasn’t a great deal to Montemarciano but it did have a cool church and it was nice to wander around

House purchasing in Italy…

The next bit of exciting news is that I *may* have found a house to buy here in Italy. There, now I’ve jinxed it! The good bits first:  It’s advertised as a 3 bed house (potentially more) and has got fabulous views.  It also has a great cantina (cellar) which I think could be turned into a living space, a private little terrace on the roof and a cute little garden. Bad things: It’s somewhat in the middle of nowhere, the kitchen is decidedly small, and it’s not ACTUALLY a 3 bed house at the moment as the “upstairs” rooms can’t officially be classed as bedrooms and THERE’S NO BATH! Still, it’s at a very good price indeed so I’m planning to put an offer on it and we’ll see what happens. If you could all have your fingers crossed I would appreciate it! It’s set right next to the Sibilini mountains, it’s near Sarnano and the ski pistes in the winter so that’ll be a complete change from where I am now. Scary – but quite exciting! I’d love to have a home that I can finally do stuff to make it actually feel like home.

Touristy San Marino

I’ve finally ticked off something I’ve been meaning to do since I got here over a year ago – visit San Marino! It kick-started my birthday weekend away. San Marino is about an hour and a half  further north than Falconara, still in Le Marche. It had a very quaint historical centre spanning across three towers/castle type set-ups, while the outskirts basically consisted of a winding road with weird road markings, set between car showrooms. It had some amazing views and it was nice to wander around the shops. However, the shops were very touristy and sold exactly the same stuff – Leather goods (boooooo – why can’t people see that genuine leather is a bad thing?! Poor cows…), general tourist tat and rather curiously, guns, knives and swords!

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Quite a good view!

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Rare tourist free castle glimpse…

Handy gun shop

Handy gun shop. I’ve also been able to expand my samurai sword collection.

Surprisingly Alright Rimini

Rimini is a beach town. It’s alright – I’m not really that fussed by beach towns often so I’m surprised I quite like it. They often seem to have a lack of oomph about them. But Rimini has quite a nice historical town centre complete with castles and ruins but it’s quite young and lively too. The beach front has got long, sandy, wide beaches (alas, with back to back sunloungers and umbrellas). The drinks are expensive and even worse, seaglass and driftwood is non-existent! However you can walk into the sea a little way and stand on a sand ridge so that goes part way to make up for the lack of seaglass.

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Moody beach scene. It was misleadingly stormy looking – it was actually very warm and sunny! What do you reckon this wooden construction is?!

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Lifeguard house.  Ah-ha! Maybe the wooden construction in the last picture is the bottom of a lifeguard house?! All becomes clear….

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Arch leading to the town centre

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Nice large piazza numero uno

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Nice large piazza numero due

Pretty San Leo

San Leo is one of my favourite places. It’s a cute little hill-top town with a big fort. It’s nice to just wander around the town but it’s probably worth the 8 Euros to go into the fort too. The fort has some amazing views and there’s a torture room which was amusing at first (until you think that they actually used this stuff)…

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Taken from the base of the fort

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Sleepy main piazza in San Leo

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Majestic looking fort growing out of the mountainous outcrop

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I like this chair a lot. Very accommodating looking.

The photo below is of Cagliostro. He was kept prisoner at the fort…

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Was EVERYONE horrible looking a few hundred years ago? I mean, I understand that fashions change – but faces? Why do all portraits of that era show bulbous eyed, no-necked, flabby mouthed people? Did they have an influx of evil portrait painters or did people actually look like that? Who would have ever let this portrait see the light of day?! I can only imagine his confident smirk here showed him before he viewed the portrait. I suspect the ‘after’ portrait would have been of a depressed alcoholic.

School – the end is nigh…

The end is nigh! I’ve got another two weeks. The grand finale is a show with the Infants. Following on from the successful hit of the Christmas show with them in December, I’ve been allocated a 20 minute slot for an all singing and dancing English extravaganza. It’s going to be a disaster. The first song is a particularly monotonous guitar piece called “hello, how are you?” created by my good self and which the children have been screeching “singing” for the last year. Can they remember what it means? Despite going through it every single week? No….. no they can’t! They can’t even remember the words. They are only 4 years old but still, that’s poor isn’t it? I blame the teacher. Ahem.

Twittering

In other exciting news – I’ve decided to try and make a go of Twitter. I still can’t understand it but I suppose it satisfies my egotistical craving to constantly update people on what I’m doing all the time. Please feel free to follow me @suzzec.

What’s a bit odd?

Less what’s a bit odd and more what’s a bit creepy… here’s some graffiti in Falconara that I quite like.

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Creepy.. creepy… creepy!

And a road sign in San Leo…

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Sign indicating the potential dangers to your lorry if you take this road…

Right, that’s about that then. Have good weeks all :-)

x

 

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New Flat, The Biting Insect of Horror and The Return of Sightseeing

Ciao all!

This week I bring you a new home update, the saga of the mystery bites/stings and some photos from a lovely day out around Le Marche.

My New Home!

Well the move went OK last Friday. It’s fair to say, my new town, Falconara, does not have a good reputation I think mainly because it’s right next to a large petrol refinery and there’s a busy train line which runs alongside the beach. It’s a town that looks a little bit unloved to be honest. However, from what I’ve seen so far, I really like it.

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Beautiful eh?!

The beach, which is a minute walk from the flat, is nice (though I fear it’s going to be covered in back-to-back sun loungers and umbrellas in less than a month). It’s sandy, which is unusual from what I’ve experienced around here and the water is nice and clear.  There are little promenades which you can walk along to get out to some rocky bits which protect the beach. It’s quite surreal walking on rocks a few hundred meters away from the beach.

The town itself has restaurants, lots of gelaterias, cafes and a few other bits and pieces.  Monday was my year anniversary here so I celebrated by exploring Falconara a bit with Pane Caldo and some friends. We went to a couple of nice bars and then a restaurant on the beach called La Vela (The Sail). I’m particularly enamored with my local gelateria which has the most amazing looking ice-cream and tastes great too. Seems to always have a little crowd outside.

Monday is market day here and our road is closed off for it which means we have to park elsewhere. The landlord had warned me about that and said I’d have to clear the car away by 8.30 Monday morning. Come 6.30am, I poked my head outside the window to check on the car and there was an angry looking man with a van walking incredulously around my now lone vehicle. I spent a good couple of minutes whistling at him to get his attention so I could tell him he didn’t need to walk around it any longer and that I would remove it forthwith but he didn’t look up so I had to run downstairs pretty smartly. That was a prompt Monday morning start.

Yesterday there appears to have been some sort of Bouncy Castle Festival in the park behind the flat. Alas it was only for children (why are bouncy castles only ever for children?!?!). And then there was a religious procession around the streets – I’m not sure what that was in relation too but was quite interesting to watch.

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Bouncy Castle / Slide Festival

In terms of the flat, I have mixed feelings about it. Things I like about the flat:

  • It’s nice and airy. See Exhibits A, B and C
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Exhibit A: The bedroom is nice and light with a balcony which seems to get the sun most of the day

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Exhibit B: The very wide hall…

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Exhibit C: The spare bedroom…(soon to be the Conero Craft Studio)

  • It has really cool shutters which completely block out the light. See Exhibit D.
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Exhibit D

  • You can see the sea and walk there in a minute. Handy for the supermarket too. See Exhibit E.
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Exhibit E. View from the living room

  • It has a gelateria opposite that I think has the best cherry amaretto flavour and an excellent tiramsu flavour too.
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Exhibit F. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • It’s close to the train station.

Things I don’t like about the flat:

  • You can hear trains all night! Exhibit G below.
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Exhibit G. One street away from the apartment

  • The bedroom monstrosity ceiling light!  See Exhibit H.
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Exhibit H. Ugliest light of all time?

  • We have to buy a bombola (a gas canister) for the gas just like we’re camping. I love camping, but not in the flat.
  • We have to turn on the hot water and wait an hour and a half for it to get hot and then it only manages to fill an inch in the bottom of the bath.
  • There is dark imposing shiny furniture everywhere. I prefer lighter furniture. And I prefer bathroom doors that aren’t so dark that you headbutt them because in the middle of the night they look like they’re open but in fact they’re shut. And I prefer that they’re not so shiny that if there’s background light, it looks like there’s someone walking full pelt at you.
  • None of our neighbours appear to have left their wifi unprotected. Suspicious lot. We’ve had to buy a dongle.
  • We’re overlooked. I think there’s at least 20 other flats that can look into every room in our flat. I might be forced to get net curtains. See Exhibit H below.
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    Exhibit H. Slightly overlooked.

  • You need a parking permit to park anywhere near the flat. Pfft!

Conero Crafts

Conero Crafts has gone a bit quiet of late – I’ve been chatting to someone on the Etsy website that has suggested I try and produce some smaller, easier pieces to send through the post. I completely agree. I sent one of my items to Canada recently. The conversation in the post office went thusly:

Sue: I’d like to send this box to Canada please.

Post office worker: That’s difficult.

Sue: OK. I’d still like to send it.

Post office worker: It’s not easy.

Sue: Huh. Erm. Well, I’m sorry about that.

And it went on a bit like that before finally costing 30 Euros to send so I made a bit of a loss on that.

Mystery biting / stinging creature in the car

I’ve been stung! Or bitten. And down my dress too! And whilst I was driving. The Italian public were very nearly subjected to a screaming stripping girl at the side of the motorway (but they did get subjected to a screaming girl just flapping about like a lunatic). It got me 4 times! I spent the entire next day sensing things on me but assuring myself I was being paranoid (after all, yelling and running to the bathroom to strip off manically to get rid of a non existent bug can’t be sustained in the long run)……..Only then I found that one of the “sensations” was indeed a wasp on my neck.  I’m considering getting myself one of those suits that bee-keepers have.

Out and about around Le Marche

I was invited to a university school outing yesterday by one of my language swap buddies who’s a university professor in Ancona. I had a lovely day out. It reminded me of when I first came here, investigating new places. We went for a nice long walk in a couple of pretty little villages around Arcevia – Piticchio and Montale. The trip was linked to some work Regione Marche are doing to boost tourism in the area. I’m bursting with opinions so I’m going to write to them to offer my services as an enthusiastic and somewhat full time tourist here!

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View of the main archway in Pittichio

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View from Pittichio where we started our walk

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Pretty view from the walk

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We walked to Montale on our walk, another hill top town nearby

What’s a bit odd?

When there’s a baby born they put ribbons up outside the house. In Arcevia they put massive “So&So has been born” type signs and the entire street seems to be decked out with ribbons! Quite sweet really.

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Blue for a boy…

Right, that about sums up this week.

Have good weekends all.

x

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

One Year On: An exclusive interview with myself…

Ciao!

It’s my year anniversary of moving here today! So, what better way of marking the occasion than interviewing myself…<first sign of madness?>

Sue: So, a year on Sue….did it go as you expected?

Sue: Well Sue, let me tell you. No it did not! Before I came out, my plan was basically to do a month at the language school, become completely fluent and proficient in Italian, buy a car, move out of the language school accommodation after 2 months and then find somewhere to rent whilst I look for somewhere to buy. In my free time, I would spend my time doing artistic things and writing a novel. It didn’t happen quite like that! 

Sue: Mmm…. So what DID happen?

Sue: Well…….I didn’t become remotely fluent in Italian in that month. It turns out I significantly underestimated how long it takes to become conversant in a language (by several years). “Immersion” is not the miracle language learning environment that it’s cracked up to be. I stayed on a further month at the language school to improve and it served as quite a nice social base for meeting new people and for visiting the local area. Eventually I ended up staying at the language school flat for 3 days short of a year having initially been exasperated at the sheer complicatedness of trying to find somewhere to rent, and then actually becoming quite fond of the place. As for buying a car here, you are required to be a resident and that was a long-winded process taking months longer than I think it should do. And it’s difficult to buy a car without having access to a car to travel to find one! So I bought the ‘Nan-mobile’ (my grandmother’s car) back from the UK. With regard to the artistic things, I accidentally committed myself to working as an infant and primary school teacher which has taken up an inordinate amount of time and effort.

Sue: And was that a good idea Sue?

Sue: No Sue, it wasn’t.

Sue: Oh really? Why ever not?

Sue: Well Sue, it’s because the children are happiness-killing nightmares. 

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Typical lesson. I’ve taken on board advice from my editor (thanks mum) than “happiness killing nightmares” is a bit strong. I’ve decided to keep it in ;-)

Sue: So are you going to do it next year?

Sue: No………. No I will not be doing it again.

Sue: Sounds like a fabulous decision there Sue. So, the teaching seemed like it was a bit of low, but did anything go well in your move to Italy?

Sue: Loads went well. I’ve had a great time this year. In fact, I would say that it’s been my best year yet! Admittedly, the biggest factor in that was giving up “proper work” and allowing myself the freedom to do stuff I actually like doing…

Sue: Er, the teaching Sue….

… was a terrible, terrible mistake. Anyway. I really, REALLY like not having to go to a 9-5 office job. Then there was the move here… I’ve loved living in Camerano and I think this region of Italy is beautiful. I’m really pleased I chose the particular language school that I did – they’re a great bunch there and that definitely helped me with the “transition” to Italy. I’ve also  had lots of visits from friends and family which has been lovely too.

Sue: What has been the most difficult thing for you being in Italy?

Sue: People warn you about the bureaucracy here but it never prepares you for what you’ll face. Every tiny thing takes several months longer than you anticipate it will. And I miss my friends and family. Technology has been a life saver – without regular contact with friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and email I’d have felt isolated and depressed but I feel just as ‘in the fold’ as I was before. What has been difficult is when I feel like my friends and family at home have needed my support and I’ve not been there in the UK to give it.  I don’t like that I can’t be there in person and that I’m not as readily on hand for things like that as I would have been in the past.  Having said that – now that the teaching will be done in a month or so I’ll be a bit freer to go back and forth to visit.

Sue: Are the Italians really the insane drivers that we think they are?

Sue: Yes. Driving here has been traumatic and characterised by frequent near death experiences. However, it has got better. I worry that’s because maybe I’ve become an insane driver too rather than their sudden appreciation of life. I hope not. I take heart in that it still scares me when they drive at speed until they’re touching my rear bumper and then overtake 5 cars around a blind corner.

One example of insane driving...

One example of insane driving…

Sue: Does anything shock you about Italy?

Sue: I have to confess to spending a great deal of time light-hardheartedly poking fun at my new countrymen and I’ve been shocked on a fairly regular basis. This has been the source for a good 6 months worth of “what’s a bit odd” material to include in my weekly blogs.

Some of the ‘shocking’ highlights have been their terrible driving, their bureaucracy, their weird seasonal dress sense  (thou shalt not wear flipflops before 1st June even if it is 30 degrees celsius) and their weird dress sense full stop (thou shalt wear a mismatched pastel-coloured chino and shirt combo). They have awful TV – it seems to be back to back terrible game shows with big bosomed blonds prancing about in 10 inch heels. And oddly, Italians don’t really do “greetings”. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a hello out of someone when you walk past which I think is odd for a small town or if you’re on a walk in the middle of nowhere. And the custom of asking people you know how they are doesn’t seem to exist here at all unless it’s an official visit!

However, the truth is I feel I can say all that because in my heart there’s so much great stuff about the country and the people here. I should mention it more often. They’re friendly, generous and kind, and they’re helpful if you have problems. They are always interested and eager to hear about people. They organise weird festivals in the summer (the three day Festival of Fish is coming up in the next town in a week or so). They give you free food when you buy a drink.  It’s been really interesting living in a new country and there is lots that’s really not like we do things back home. Having said that – when I’m here chatting to new friends and we laugh about a joint experience it serves as an excellent reminder that we are all essentially the same – regardless of upbringing, culture and climate! 

Sue: You’re rambling a bit Sue… you should ramble less. So, is there anything you really miss?

Sue: Curry. English Breakfasts. Reasonably priced baked beans. Gravy. Decent tea. And reasonably sized coffee. And of course friends and family :-)

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Sue: But it’s offset by?

Sue: Italian Yoghurt, ice-cream, piadinas, peaches, tomatoes, oranges, grissini.

Sue: So you had planned to do arty stuff and write a book – did any of that happen?

Sue: Not as much as I wanted but I’ve just got my online shop up and running now so I’m really pleased and enthusiastic about that. I do like making stuff out of things I’ve found on the beach. It’s fun, it’s free and I feel all environmentally friendly. I put off writing a book because I wanted to get better at Italian and writing in English all day wouldn’t have helped that. However, I’m sort of resigned to my level of Italian at the moment. I do really want to get better but I’m going to give myself less of a hard time about it and maybe it’ll just come. 

Sue:Has it been difficult moving from London to a rather tranquil village essentially in the middle of nowhere (according to UK standards)?

Sue: Not at all. I loved London but it is a rather hectic place and I definitely made it more hectic for myself by trying to squeeze in as much as humanly possible. I like this new quieter pace of life a lot. If I lived the life I do now in London I would have felt I was missing things – too many people to see, places to go, courses to do etc. But here, it feels as if even if there were the exhaustive list of things to do, by doing those things I would be missing out on doing Italian things like appreciating the scenery, drinking and eating nice food, relaxing and sunbathing ;-)

Sue: Good. And have you made any friends here Sue? 

Sue: Well Sue, I’ve met a bunch of new people, and I hope at least some of them will be life-long buddies. It’s difficult making new friends. The language barrier adds an extra complication and the Italian’s can be quite private sometimes, keeping themselves to themselves. I’ve made a couple of friends doing language swaps which has been good. Friendships are difficult between men and women here – they keep to their own sex usually. A perfect example is when you drive through any village in the summer and there’s clumps of old men on one bench and clumps of old ladies on another (that’s if the ladies are not back at home cooking dinner…if only that was a joke!!!). Having said that, it’s been hard in particular meeting females though and I’m thrilled about stumbling into my new best friend here in a hotel last year, a New Zealander with a fab sense of humour. That’s made a big difference.

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Old Lady / Old Man Clumps. Scene in ANY piazza across Italy in the summer.

Sue: So do you think you did the right thing moving to Italy? 

Sue: Yes! In April last year I couldn’t even picture my life at the point where it is now – there were too many factors completely new for me to even imagine. But I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I do occasionally ask myself if I moved back home (because the UK will always be “home”), where would I live and what would I do? I’d love being near my friends and family again but is that enough? Particularly when I probably speak to many of them as much, if not more now than before.

We spend the bulk of our adult lives working. It tends to end up defining us – what we do, where we live, who we associate with. When you remove the job, it’s easy to feel a bit lost – the reason for waking up everyday has gone and there’s often no reason to be where you are anymore. Given there’s not much of a reason for me to be anywhere……. then well, I’d like to be here in Italy :-) 

Sue: Aw Sue, that’s sort of sad that you don’t feel like you “belong” anywhere isn’t it?

Sue: No, it’s OK. I definitely have feeling “lost” moments but it’s more liberating than scary. Returning to the UK would feel like clinging onto the past rather than taking a step forward. I’d have to start out all over again when I’ve only just got myself on my feet here. I think I’ll feel a bit more settled and a bit more “at home” when I have my own house, with my own stuff in it. I can’t wait for that. 

Sue: So what’s the new plan?

Sue: Well Sue, good question. I’ve just moved into a new flat by the beach this summer. I intend to have fun, snorkel, sunbathe, do art, write, improve my Italian, make new friends, go out more, travel a bit and I hope before the year is out, to buy a house here. Then, who knows?

Sue: Do you think Italy has changed you Sue?

Sue: Yes, I think it has! This will make me sound incredibly smug, I almost don’t want to say it, but I’m so proud of myself! I set a goal to ‘up-sticks’ and come here by myself and I did it. I thought maybe I was just all talk –  but I wasn’t, so I’m happy about that <takes a moment to pat self on back>. So that’s a nice confidence booster and I feel a lot more self-sufficient than before.

Sue: OK, final question – do you have anything to say to your wonderful loyal followers?

Sue: Writing this blog has been excellent! Coming here on my own has been somewhat of a journey of self discovery but I’m a sociable soul at heart and it’s been sharing my experiences on this blog and getting feedback from friends, family and people I’ve never even met that has made my life here as good as it has been. So, a heartfelt thank you to the people who have been following my blog all this time! 

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Sue: Sue, you’ve gone all soppy and philosophical. Put the wine down.

x

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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