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

 

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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

 

 

 

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Conero Crafts is open for business!!!

Ciao!

Well this week has been really good! I bring you my new shop, Umbria visits and some new art bits & pieces.

Conero Crafts!

So after much deliberation, my shop is called Conero Crafts given my inspiration has come somewhat from the Monte Conero area. Click here to check it out :-)

Excitement isn’t the word! I sort of accidentally came across this selling driftwood strategy – I was just intending to post some of my stuff up on Etsy, a reasonably well-known internet shop specialising in hand made products, but Etsy wanted a shop name before I could post and now it’s made me ambitious! I had my first sale today and I’ve been bouncing around the house ever since. I even have compliments slips. Exciting, exciting, exciting!

Here’s some of the latest pieces…

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Umbria visits

In other news, for “Pasquetta” (Easter Monday) we went to Assisi & Perugia (the we is myself and I shall call him for the purposes of anonymity, Pane Caldo).

Both Perugia and Assisi are beautiful places to visit. There was a nice little market going on in Perugia and after a quick wander around the centre, we had a long lunch where I ordered a Napolitan pizza not realising that it had anchovies on until my friend picked me up on it, so in a rush, I changed my order to a Napolitan without the anchovies. Otherwise known as a Margherita. I suspect that caused amusement in the kitchen.

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Lots of eateries! I can’t remember which one I embarrassed myself in…

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Market in Perugia

Then we headed to Assisi of Franciscan monk fame. I’d already been there once before a few years back but it was nice to look around again.

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One of the main squares in Assisi…

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Assisi is beautiful – looks like something from a fairy tale when you’re driving up to it…

Then earlier this week, I had a couple of friends over from London to stay. It’s always nice to see people from back home here and show them around. We didn’t get to see too much – I was at work for one of those days and there’s a fair bit of things around here to try and squeeze in. On the first evening we headed to Sirolo for an aperitivo and then back to Camerano to attempt to go to the trattoria but I forgot it shuts on a Tuesday. Then on Wednesday we went to Offagna, a beautiful hill top town with a big castle and fabulous views with the idea of going to one of my favourite pizzerias, “Sotto la Rocca” which I forgot shuts on a Wednesday!

This has been my last weekend in the Camerano flat :-(. I have accumulated quite a significant amount of stuff. I think it’ll take a couple of car trips at least to get the stuff to the new flat and I’m a bit worried that I don’t have a parking permit yet so we’re not even technically allowed to park outside to even take the stuff into the flat.  

Right, onwards and upwards! Only 4 more weeks or so of teaching to go – woohoo!

Have wonderful weeks all.

x

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Easter Anomolies, Moving House and the Rip-off Notaio…

Ciao!

Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter!). Good news this week – I’ve found an apartment to rent! It’s in Falconara – which is a bit further north than I am now, just past Ancona. It’s closer to the airport but also unfortunately closer to a massive oil refinery. It’s been such a challenge finding anything suitable. This place has two bedrooms, is ok decorated, has three balconies and is a couple of minutes walk from the beach. It seems like a lively enough area which might make a nice change. However, I’m so sad to be leaving Camerano. It’ll have been my home for almost a year and there’s so much about it that I love. In summer it’s fantastic with things to do and weird traditions (see The Big Tray Race post), the view is fantastic and it’s close to all the places I like. Alas, there are new students coming into the language school here so it’s time to make space for them.

The Big Move Date is 2nd May. So now I’ve found somewhere the stress is off a little but a new string of bureaucracy will start! Every time you move, you need to tell the Comune where you’re moving to (I’m going to place a bet that it will take at least 2 months and 7 visits to fill out the necessary paperwork)!

The other exciting news of course is that it’s Easter! So I’ve discovered some things about Easter over in here in Italy:

  • The kids have a disappointing number of days off. They don’t have 2 weeks off like in the UK. They have 4 school days off. RUBBISH! And they don’t have half terms. They do, however, have a seemingly endless summer holiday (from the end of May to something like mid September). I’m not sure whose approach I like best. It’s nice to have a proper break in the summer but it does seem a bit relentless during term time.
  • The Easter eggs are not wrapped for efficient packing. They’re all in these big wrappers – they look quite glamorous but they’re expensive! Seem to start from around 6 Euros.
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There were aisles and aisles of these… Very impressive display but see what I mean about the packaging?

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This is the one I wanted…

  •  On the Thursday before Good Friday, and I’m not sure if this is just Ancona or whether it spreads further afield, but there seems to be a tradition to visit an odd number of churches (not just one – I checked!). Having said that, I couldn’t find any information about it and I was teaching my adult group unfortunately so didn’t get a chance to experience this one.
  • On Good Friday, something odd happened! Everyone put candles on their balconies and then just after 10pm, there was a procession of people singing a very mournful song along the streets. Quite moving really. I saw on the news that they’d done a similar thing in Rome led by the Pope so I assume that might be a “thing” across Italy.
  • They call Easter Monday “La Pasquetta” – means “little Easter”. Cute!

 

RIP Off Merchant / Notaio

I have other good news this week. I had an offer accepted on a house in Portsmouth so that seems to be going ahead, albeit at a snail’s pace.  I had to get my identity confirmed by a solicitor or a notary (notaio). For that, they needed to fill in a one page form and sign a photocopy of my passport. A whopping 5 minutes work. So I eventually found a notaio that could speak English (my local one refused on the basis that she couldn’t sign off an English document if she didn’t understand it), in Osimo. I asked how much this would cost and she said “just come along and we’ll discuss it”. So they led me into a room and then the Notaio came in, signed off the bits of paper and then said “that’ll be 120 Euros please”. 120 Euros. I could fly back to the UK and get the thing signed off by my own solicitor for less!!! I haven’t paid them yet. On moaning about the extortionate price, he did drop it down to 100 Euros. That’s 20 Euros a minute. I should totally become a Notaio.

Teaching

Well, I’ve been taught a lesson in responsibility this week. My actions have come back to haunt me. I had no idea that by calling in sick or going on holiday, that it meant I didn’t actually get out of going to work and that I had to make up the time! It’s not like calling in sick at my old work – they never made me go in on a Saturday or at Christmas to make up for it!!! This depressing turn of events unfortunately means I have to make up 2 hours with the Class of Evilness. Ugh. UGH.

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Not ALL the kids at school are evil though… :-)

What’s a bit odd?

Last week I mentioned about some of the challenges of finding a house to rent/buy, in particular, locating decent pictures of the houses. I retract it all…

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This picture of a jug was complimented by two pictures of doors and a further two pictures of ceiling lights, thereby covering all of the essential features that I look for in buying a house.

Ok, over and out! Buona Pasqua tutti :-)

xxx

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Hunting for houses, implementing my new motto, and latest art updates

Ciao a tutti,

Well, well, well! These last couple of weeks have been challenging somewhat! I can understand why house hunting is called that now and not simply house finding. I include below an illustrated account of just some of the house hunting hurdles here in Italy…

  • House Hunting Hurdle number 1: Estate agents rarely put prices of apartments/houses in their windows. They’re also rarely in the office so you can’t even ask them. If you email them to ask, well, suffice to say I have NEVER received a response from them.
  • HHH number 2: I’ve been using www.subito.it, a general buying/selling stuff website. People don’t put even the most basic information on their advert. Some of them just say “phone me”. Why? Why would I do that?! Is it a mansion you’re letting or a bedsit and where even is it?! WHY WOULD I PHONE YOU TO FIND OUT???
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Or maybe it’s a bird house they’re letting. Who indeed knows.

  • HHH number 3: Well let me tell you why you would phone them to find out. It’s because people seem to have a morbid fear of email and will not respond. Or if they respond then it’s to ask you to phone them. I don’t like talking to people on the phone at the best of times (I’m more of a face to face person rather than an unsociable person). I especially don’t like phoning people when I’m still terrible at speaking Italian! Charades does not work on the phone!
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Erm. Perhaps not the most realistic sketch of a terrified person. (I’ve drawn him in a sleeping bag jacket though so that’s at least true to life)

  • HHH number 4: The photos on the adverts – you should SEEEEE them (that’s if there are any, there aren’t often!). To sell and rent their houses, they put up photos of their moth-eaten 10 year old sofa, a wall, sometimes a scooter, perhaps a kitchen table covered in the remnants of their last meal… It’s a very rare occasion indeed they’ll put a picture of their actual house/flat up there! And the estate agents themselves are no better. I think there’d be a market for an estate agent who took decent pictures of the ACTUAL house/apartment and then, you know, RESPONDED to people who were interested in it.
  • HHH number 5: Everything is about square meters here. I can’t picture things in square meters. I want a two double bedroom place, not a 80 square foot place. Still – I’m actually getting used to the meters now and it is admittedly useful. It would just be more useful if they described how it was divided up too!
  • HHH number 6: When they say something is unfurnished, and half of them are, they literally mean it’s an empty shell. Nothing. Just rooms with some pipes sticking out of the wall. In any circumstances I think that’s insane, I particularly think it’s insane when you’re renting. It seems crazy to get a kitchen fitted complete with work surfaces and everything and then take it with you into a new place with undoubtedly an entirely different layout. C.R.A.Z.Y.

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  • HHH number 7: Once you’ve located a place that’s furnished, well, I don’t wish to be picky or anything, but OH MY WORD! Suffice to say that modern looking furniture does not seem to be the style here.
  • HHH number 8: Hardly anyone seems to have a bath anymore. And yet they all have bidets! You can’t relax with a glass of wine and candles on a bidet!!!   I WANT A BATH!!!
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I imagine this is what I will be reduced to doing shortly…

So, we’ve seen lots of places (I’ve a friend staying with me at the moment) and there’s one place that doesn’t seem so bad but it’s next door to huge oil refinery. It’s only going to be for 6 months or so whilst I hopefully find somewhere to buy here. In terms of buying,  I can’t get much for my money in any of the towns. I’m now thinking of venturing further into the countryside which could get a bit lonely but I think I’d prefer a nice house and some potential to make some money as a B&B or doing something with the land too in the long run.

Teaching, teaching, teaching

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks – it might be because there’s an end in sight. I’ve got 6 weeks left! I lost my rag at the Evil Class last week again and told them I’m only going to do colouring in with them from now on (which I think they’re all thrilled about). I told the teacher that too. She said that I shouldn’t lose hope and that she thinks that on some very deep, deep, deeeeeeeep level they might have actually been listening. Ha!

I do have a lovely bunch of adults that I’m teaching though so that’s good!

Art progress

I should stop making stuff now and get on with putting it online to see. I’m still struggling to find some decent deep frames and now some packing material so that I can send stuff to people. I think that will be this week’s task. And I need to try and take some decent pictures of these things too – how I’d love to have a proper studio!

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Driftwood Harbour

Village harbour

Driftwood home sign – now all I need is to find a home!!!

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Driftwood Hamlet

 

Spring is in the air…

In other news, spring is definitely in the air and it’s lovely! The daisies are out, the jasmine is blooming (I’m back to sneaking “cuttings” off the local jasmine bushes to bring back to the flat because it smells so nice!) and I’ve seen a few poppies now too. I can’t wait until I’ve stopped teaching and can get out and enjoy it a bit more!

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Looks almost snowy!

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Places to see in Le Marche, the Trials and Tribulations of aperitivos and the delights of iced coffee

Ciao!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a couple of weeks – it’s been a bit non-stop here for a while!

This week I bring you more places to see in Le Marche, the trials and tribulations of having an aperitivo and the delights of iced coffee.

Investigating Southern “Le Marche”

Last weekend I went to stay in a new friend’s house in Curetta, a little village by the Sibillini Mountains (still in Le Marche). The house is absolutely gorgeous and set in beautiful countryside with rolling hills, a snowy mountainous backdrop and little villages to look out onto.

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Look what a beautiful vista there was from the house…

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Nice little patio area for eating

On the way, I stopped off at Civitanova. I’d heard it’s quite good to go out there in the evenings but from what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced. Having said that, everything by the beaches is always dead before June so I’ll go back before making a final judgement on it. On the plus side, the beach was excellent for long flat pieces of driftwood :-) I suspect I could map out quite a few beaches now in Le Marche in terms of their beachcombing value!

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Church tower in Civitanova

INTERLUDE TO PONDER ABOUT THE ITALIAN APERITIVO

We had an aperitivo and dinner in a local town I can’t remember the name of. Almost a year into my living here, I’m still completely flummoxed by the notion of an aperitivo. WHAT ON EARTH IS IT?!  Is it a drink? Is it a drink with snacks? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? (sorry, that felt like a Superman moment). So, here are my various experiences of having an “aperitivo”:

  • You order a drink, you get loads of nice little nibbly treats given to you with your drink. Not just crisps and nuts, but olives, little pastry things, some salads and other bits and pieces etc. The price you pay is for the drink alone. All this extra stuff is free.
  • You order your drink and then you can get some extra nibbly treats from the bar like a buffet and sometimes you end up paying a couple of euros more. You can obviously choose what you have if it’s on the bar.
  • You order your drink and you just get a drink. This is oddest one for me – if you go somewhere and you ask for an “aperitivo” – surely it should mean something more than just a drink otherwise you’d go in and just ask for a drink?!

It’s completely hit and miss what you get. If it’s the first option where you get given a plate of food, then they’ll often bring out a selection of dead animals. I’m vegetarian so that doesn’t work out well for me and I feel rude leaving things that they’ve prepared on my plate untouched. However, I feel ruder asking them “er, will you be providing me a selection of free food and if so, could you go one step further and provide me a vegetarian selection?”. Though I love having free food with my drinks, I do find the whole thing a bit stressful! I’m so caught up on the food element that when they ask “what would you like?”, I start blabbering about being a vegetarian when they actually want to know what I’d like to drink! ARGH!

Anyway, I digress. This “aperitivo” ended up being just a drink. He asked what we’d like, I plumped for wine. This bar, however, didn’t have wine (a bar not having wine?! A bar in ITALY not having wine?!?!). Only prosecco. I hadn’t realised I’d sort of opted for prosecco for my friends too. And then the guy brought out an entire bottle. Does that mean we were now paying for the whole bottle? Anyway – it turned out that’s exactly what it meant. We were the only people in this bar apart from the barman and an old lady (his mother it turns out) who both came to stare at us, standing a foot away open-mouthed and aghast for what must have been about two minutes before saying “you don’t come from ‘round here” (in Italian).  That was my oddest aperitivo experience so far! Lovely prosecco though.

Southern Le Marche continued…

Then we popped into a local trattoria for dinner and headed back. No scary experiences there. The next day, I helped out a bit in the garden. My host had a couple of gardeners in to help maintain the land a bit. They were a husband and wife team – a lovely guy called Fabio and his wife (with an unpronounceable name that sounds like a sneeze). A thoroughly lovely and incredibly generous couple. I ended up taking home lettuce, fennel and home-made oil that they’d given to us. They come from Albania. I definitely want to go to Albania now after speaking to them. Every sentence started with “In Albania, we have the best <insert food, wine, grappa, countryside, coastline here>. He bought along some Albanian grappa for us to try on the last day. Very sweet of him and everything but he insisted we try it as soon as he got there – 8am! I generally maintain a “not before noon” alcohol policy. I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done shots before I’ve even had breakfast. And goodness was it potent… I wouldn’t like to be up a precariously placed ladder operating a chainsaw after that – but yet he was!

Whilst I was there, I did some exploring of the local area. First stop was Monte San Martino which we could see from the house. Very cute and quaint but not much to do there.

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Excellent views from Monte San Martino

Next up was Amandola which was positively bustling in comparison and had quite a lot of young people around (that tends to stick out in these hill top villages – usually there are just gangs of old men!). Quite pretty little roads, just narrow enough to fit a small car, which were cute although became considerably less cute as my sat nav kept leading me around and around them!

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The square in Amandola…

Then there was Servigliano which was actually not a hill top village – more a valley village. It had an interesting layout, one that I’ve not seen before. It sort of had village “walls” and then some quaint little terraces inside with a big square. Nice to wander around and I hear it’s nice at Christmas as well so I quite fancy going back there then.

 

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Here’s a pic of some of the houses surrounding the square…

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And here’s the square.

My friend came back with me on Sunday to check out my own patch around Camerano. We went via Porto San Giorgio – a new beach for me, on the way back there.

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The Le Marche stretches of coastline, apart from my own Monte Conero area, seem to be much of a muchness. Large stretches of coastline varying between shingle and sandy beaches and in the summer, covered in umbrellas and sun loungers. Seeing other beaches always makes me appreciate my own local beaches which, because we’ve got Monte Conero, offer I think a more interesting coastline with bays and woodland and because some of them are difficult to get to, end up being a lot less commercialised.

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San Michele, one of my favourite local beaches

And we found a new bit of Portonovo whilst we were walking around… Makes a nice circular walk…

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The coastline around Portonovo

House hunting

My parents have been doing a sterling job at investigating houses for me to let out back home and I’ve been putting in offers and getting them turned down! Pah! Meanwhile, I’ve been investigating some new areas around here for houses which I hope might be a bit cheaper than Camerano. I’m currently looking at Polverigi and Offagna. We went into a couple of estate agents and organised a couple of viewings which took place on Thursday. Visiting them made me reconsider my requirements! The most I seem to be able to get for my money around this area seems to be a small 2 bed flat with little outside space. Selling houses here seems to take years so I don’t want to buy something that I can’t see myself living in for the next 10 years at least. The flats were all very well but not my “dream” home by any means. I either need to change area or amend my criteria a bit to something that requires work but could eventually end up being the place I want to live in. So, I’ve asked to see a couple of other places a bit further south which is a cheaper area and perhaps now I’ll look at more of a “country house” type of property.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be homeless come end of May so I need to try and find another property to rent whilst I find something more long term. I’ve got some feelers out but it’s a bit unsettling and I’ve grown to quite like this place!

Iced Coffee

In other news, I quite like iced coffee! I’ve discovered a less faffy way of making it based on this enthusiast’s recipe… It’s very nice and very refreshing! I think I’ll have to take some to school with me to keep me awake :-)

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Iced coffee on my newly acquired driftwood stool/table…(one can never have enough driftwood eh?)

Ok, onwards and upwards. This week is another busy week with school – in fact, tomorrow is a nightmare 12 hour day extravaganza. 12 hours of teaching. ARGH!

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UK Tour, Best Self Controlled Teacher Award and Appropriate Clothing…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? Well, I hope! I’m sorry for the silence. I’ve been out and about doing a speedy tour around the UK.

So, the tour started a week ago last Wednesday and I headed up to the Lakes to spend some time with a good friend and her new baby (well new to me at least), then onto Harrogate in Yorkshire for an annual “girls weekend” and had a great time. Then I headed down south to see friends and family in Hampshire and then a flying visit to London before coming back to Italy on Sunday.

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Harrogate – that’s Betty’s Tea Room on the corner. It’s a bit pricey but absolutely lovely!

Meanwhile, I put in an offer for a house in Portsmouth which was rejected (pah!). Why are you buying there and not Italy I hear you ask? Well, I have a cunning plan which involves buying a house to rent out in the UK so I get some more rental income coming in every month and then I can retire from my much loved teaching career.

Much loved teaching career

ARGH I HATE IT!!! One 6 year old swore at me yesterday. I think he was hoping I didn’t know what it meant. Little did he know that I have an Italian friend here obsessed with learning English swear words which has resulted in me acquiring a reasonable grounding in the Italian equivalents. Anyway, in the last 6 months, I haven’t seen this child without ‘disgustingness’ encrusted around his nose. I’ve tried being nice to him which does work occasionally but when he’s actually punching me, it’s a struggle to be nice. I don’t want to ‘big myself up’ at all but I should definitely, DEFINITELY be nominated for some sort of prize for not punching him back (I’ve just checked – there are genuine Teacher Awards. Who knew? I think you have to be nominated by your pupils. Booooo!). I only have 10 weeks there left. I’ve informed the school who contract me out that the mental torture isn’t worth the money and I’m not doing it next year. They seem to have been alright with it and even offered me another teaching job every Thursday to “young adults” which I’ve accepted. It doesn’t sound quite so emotionally draining and apparently there’s a syllabus (not that I’ve seen it, still plenty of time before this Thursday eh?!). These young adults will be working in hotels and restaurants so I really hope this means cheap/free food and drink over the summer period. I’ve another private regular teaching job coming up too.

Fermo

I’m going to Fermo (a region in Le Marche further south than where I am now) on Friday for a couple of days to catch up with a friend of mine and to see the local area. I can’t wait! I don’t think I’ve been there before and it’ll be great to see some new towns and get a feel for a new area. My friend is then coming back  here with me so I’ve been trying to make the flat look acceptable. Another friend has very rudely dubbed my spare room the “sh*t tip” because of a rather large collection of driftwood and various beach-found materials stored there for artistic purposes. Pah! However, all the great artists were misunderstood and unappreciated when they were alive aren’t they? I suspect it’s just not my time yet ;-)

Spring is here!

The weather has been amazing since I got back – hot and sunny. The flowers are out and everything is green and pretty. People had been asking last week whether I was looking forward to going back to Italy and I have to admit that I wasn’t that fussed this time because it meant going back to work! However, I’m thrilled to report that I still love being here. I was on the beach the last couple of lunchtimes and it’s difficult to imagine a nicer place, for me at least (mainly because I’m surrounded by seaglass and interesting rocks and shells for the artwork!).

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Look how nice and sunny it is around Monte Conero!

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And the nice sunsets are back too :-) This is from my balcony.

Artwork

Well, let me tell you. Nobody (that I saw at least) is using dry brush as a technique for portrait painting in London. They seem to be using charcoal. So the new plan is to do that. I still need a lot of practice on the portrait drawing front. My friend in Harrogate was stroppy for a whole hour after my portrait of her (nobody ever poses for me – they’re always watching TV, or looking at their laptop so everyone always looks a bit gormless. ON THEIR OWN HEADS BE IT!). I need to get better at making everyone look pretty. There’s not been much else going on unfortunately on the art front because I’ve been out of the country but hoping to do some more next week.

What’s a bit odd?

It’s been a while since I’ve had a “what’s a bit odd!”. This one cropped up when I got here last year but it’s worth a repeat because it’s such a weird cultural difference. You can ALWAYS pick out a foreigner here. Today, it was 21 degrees. A beautiful warm and sunny day. I even got a bit of a tan. I, Ms English, was wearing a vest top, cotton trousers and some slip-on shoes. To sum up, I was wearing weather-appropriate clothing. The Italians, also wear a vest top. But on top of that they might wear a long sleeved t-shirt, a jumper and then to all intents and purposes, a sleeping bag. They’ll also probably have heavy jeans/trousers, definitely a scarf, sometimes a hat, and a large percentage will have big boots on. And let me tell you why – it’s simply because it’s not June yet. In Spring and Autumn, the Italian’s wear jeans and jumpers and sleeping-bag-coats REGARDLESS OF THE ACTUAL WEATHER. We English folk will look outside at the weather, see that it’s sunny and warm and go immediately to a beach/park and strip off, lest we completely miss “Summer”.

So, I struggle with this one – I generally try my best to fit in with the Italian culture (mainly by eating pasta, pizza and drinking wine all the time) but I think I would just expire if I attempted to wear the excessive level of clothes that an Italian does. The weirdest thing of all, is that they genuinely don’t seem to realise that it’s hot. It’s not like watching dogs trapped in cars in the summer – they’re not panting and there’s no visible sweat marks (I suppose you’d never see it through the sleeping bag anyway). I think they’re actually just built differently.

Ok, onwards and upwards. Have a good rest of week everybody!

xxx

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