Ciao a tutti,
How is everyone?! It’s been horrible weather this week – cloudy and always raining! I think it might have been my fault – in the heat of the week before I decided that I probably wouldn’t be using the stufa for the rest of the year and so I put the remnants of convenient stufa wood into the cantina. I should really move it back upstairs and release Italy from this non-stop rain.
I’ve got some visitors in the next few weeks: parents, my brother and sister-in-law (a special occasion indeed – it will mark I think the second visit in 15 years! ;-)) and then a group of friends in July. It’s spurred me back into the DIY. I have a big blackboard for my month goals in the kitchen and every single month, I tick off everything, but “finish the beams” is always ongoing to the following month. It’s such a life sapping task. However, this month I FINISHED THE BEAMS!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!! When I say finished, I mean “I am finished” rather than the beams are now finished per se. I spent an entire day up a ladder sanding them with a machine and by the end of it, I didn’t notice even a slight difference. So, I decided to oil and wax them anyway. Voila. Finished beams.
The rest of that week was spent painting and decorating the living room. I had grand plans to put lots of photos on the main wall in the living room which, you might remember from previous blogs I had blocked off a door-sized niche with wood and plaster. It turns out I am not amazing at plastering. You can quite clearly see where I blocked it off. So I’ve reworked my plans and put some big canvasses there instead! The photo’s are now on the wall by the stufa. In all, I’m reasonably pleased with how it looks at the moment bar a few finishing touches though it certainly looks “unique” and “rustic” what with the half painted beams, random rough plaster patches and a weird zigzag in the floor where there are no tiles (after the wall was taken down) .
I’ve painted one of the bedrooms too and have managed to turn what would have been quite a nice bright room if I’d have just carried on with the white paint, into another “unique” and “quirky” room. I have great reservations about it and I’m considering painting over it, particularly because at some point I was considering renting the room out. Let me know what you think in the comments!
The Blue Tits
In other exciting news, we have some Blue Tits that have been nesting in the roof. For several days Mr and Mrs Bluetit had been perching next to the terrace with great long worms in their beaks, eyeing me up suspiciously before flying off. I couldn’t understand why these birds weren’t obese. They seemed to be worm killing machines. And then eventually, when they disappeared under a roof tile a couple of times, I suddenly cottoned on that maybe they had a nest there and were feeding their young. The closer I got, I heard some tiny little chirps! Cute. My mother suggested I feed them…
I got myself an Italian ID card the other day. As far as I can see as general life goes, there’s no point to this card – it has a picture of me on with a description (brown hair, green eyes etc) and my address and cost 5 euros and 49 cents (that 1 cent extra to make it easier for everyone would have pushed it over into the realms of too expensive). Passports and driving licenses seem to be just as effective. However, I decided to go ahead with it because I needed it to open a bank account (my English passport and driving license didn’t cut the mustard) so I braced myself for months of red tape and bureaucracy and multiple visits to the Comune to attain this ID card. It took 5 minutes! I walked in with 3 passport sized photos and it was done. I recommend the process to everyone! So I have a nice ID card now and it makes me feel very Italian so I’m glad I have it, though it ended up being entirely useless in my quest to open a bank account. It turns out banks are annoying in Italy too, not just in the UK.
One of the oldest road races went through Sarnano the other day so I popped down and took lots of photos of old cars as they sped past. Here’s one…
Visit to the beautiful Ambro fraction of Montefortino
May is a special month for the Madonna here in Italy, being a predominately Catholic country. Jesus’ mother is big news here. In fact, not being religious or particularly well read in the bible, I was somewhat confused up until very recently. Town’s often refer to their churches by “Madonna di <town name> “. Not really thinking about it, I had assumed, that all of these towns had their own Madonnas and it was just a very common name (a bit like if you’re not sure of a man’s name here in Sarnano, you can call them Giuseppe and you’ll more than likely be correct!). The Sue of Portsmouth, is not the same Sue of Edinburgh for instance. However, I’ve been informed that there’s just the one Madonna and she does good works everywhere. Every year, a trip is organised for the Sarnanese (the people of Sarnano) to go and worship the Madonna at the Madonna dell’Ambro church in the fraction of Montefortino. The story goes that the Madonna appeared to a mute shepherd girl in the month of May just by the river and where the church is now, and was given the gift of words. It’s certainly a stunning place and it looks like there’s some nice walks there too. I’ll have to investigate.
It was my birthday on Saturday so I decided to have a party. I don’t like the idea of having parties; if people show up then there’s all the pressure of having to make it fun with food everyone likes and if people don’t show up then it’s a bit depressing isn’t it? It’s a lose, lose situation! However, I wanted to do something just as a gesture to my neighbours to say thank you for being so welcoming to me in the last year or so, so I prepared an English-style buffet (sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad, pastry nibbles etc.). In the end, not that many people came but it was really good! I must have them over again – they were positively overflowing with compliments about the house and food.
The celebrations continued with a virtual online Eurovision Song Contest party that evening with my friends and family back home which was very good. It could have been a bit of a miserable day being away from everyone but in fact, it turned out to be a good day all around!
My immediate neighbour gave me a ‘massage experience’ at the Sarnano Terme where she works. Terme means spa/thermal baths in English. It’s not like a beauty spa though – everything is geared towards health. There are three springs within the Terme – the waters are all used in various different treatments: Inhalation to treat allergies etc, hydromassages to treat aches/pains and water retention etc. and if you drink the water from one of the springs it has amazing diuretic properties (I didn’t even know this was a good thing but it apparently is). My experience started off with a hydromassage first with a lovely man who explained about the terme and was very patient whilst I laughed my way through the first 5 minutes. It’s an unusual experience! You walk up some little steps to a big metal bath filled with this special thermal water and then the masseuse uses a reasonably high powered hose to massage you under the water. Once the initial ‘surrealness’ had passed, it was actually very relaxing. Then I had a more conventional massage which was lovely. All in all, a great birthday present and a unique experience. If you’re coming to Sarnano, it’s definitely worth checking the spa out. In fact, the grounds themselves are lovely and it’s free to go to them. Take an empty bottle with you and fill it up with the thermal water (and when you drink it, make sure you’re near a bathroom).
The Hunt for Wild Boar
Apparently the area is rife with wild boar. Rife. However, in almost a year, I’ve not seen a single one (apart from perhaps the bottom of one running into some trees being chased by dogs during the hunting season but I can’t be sure). I have seen evidence of them though (they sort of nose around in the soil looking for food and churn it up) so I’m sure they exist in the area. My neighbour has taken it upon herself to show me the local wild boar so we’ve been on a few wild boar searches of the local area. We’ve seen some from a distance which look strikingly similar to bushes so I still don’t feel I’ve really experienced seeing a wild boar. Still, the hunt continues so who knows, I might have some photos for the next blog.
Notte dei folli
A week or two back was Notte dei folli in Sarnano – Night of madness. People dressed up in costume and there were lots of people performing: lots of bands, singers, dancers. And I’ve never, ever seen so much alcohol available here, or so many people in Sarnano. The Italians are somewhat boring drinkers – most of them seem to have one glass of wine and call it a night (unless they’re driving in which case they’ll have a bottle or two). Even if they do drink, they hold it remarkably well and you wouldn’t particularly know. It’s not like in the UK where past 9pm all the pubs are full to the brim of people being loud and stupid and then later photographed sprawled across pavements. So I was shocked to discover at this festival there were actually DRUNK people, it was like being back in London :-) I’m definitely going next year. There was an absolutely brilliant performance from a group called DuMadet. I don’t think I’ve actually seen two such talented musicians before. It was a guitarist and a violinist doing wonderful and quite elaborate versions of modern songs. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
I think that about sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having a great week.