Monday, 17 October 2016

Close encounters

My turn to get up first this morning, open the shutters to the sunshine, feed the cats and make a pot of tea.  I could hear dog activity in the olives below our house, the hunting dogs wear bells so they owners know where they are as do we and the cats.  The noise got nearer, the cats came indoors and I wandered onto the terrace still wearing my dressing gown to see a man with a gun coming up the steps into our garden.  I shouted good morning, I think he was as surprised as me, returned my greeting, apologised and turned back into our orchard.  I asked if there was some animal in the orchard but he didn't answer.  The dog activity, barking and howling, continued in the orchard for a while, then receded down the slope until there were three shots.  I have no idea what the man was hunting but after that he seemed to disappear and silence returned.
We are in a region designated for hunting wild boar and last Sunday there was much shooting on the mountain above us.  We took a late afternoon walk to the village and were passed by two pick up trucks, one of which had a dead boar in the back, a massive creature with large tusks.  The hunters drove through the village blowing their horns as they do at a wedding, obviously wanting everyone to see their success.  My neighbour told me later the creature had been killed just above us.
I hope this mornings hunter wasn't on the trail of a boar, we have had evidence in the past of them rooting in the orchard and on our lawn, I don't want to meet one face to face.  Rumour has it they are becoming more confident around property in the way of urban foxes and more aggressive too.  Life in Italy, it certainly has its wild side.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

About time

It was confirmed that I am the worlds worst blogger when I had an email from Canada asking if I was OK as I hadn't posted since the earthquake.  I haven't posted as I'm not sure you want to hear more about the lovely weather, delicious food and local wines straight from the vineyard, one of which has been crossed off the list since their large German shepherd dog attached our car and scratched it down to the metal.  A pity as their wine is good.
In fact we've had many car problems and at one stage I didn't leave the property or see anyone except Mr FF for two weeks.  At first I enjoyed the solitude, all our neighbours had moved back to Rome but after a week I started to go a bit stir crazy.  Two days after our car was repaired in a nearby village taking several days and costing us 250 euros the exhaust pipe came loose fortunately in our own village so we limped to the little garage here with Mr FF driving slowly which I crawled alongside holding up the dragging pipe with a golf umbrella.  The mechanic confirmed the problem was caused by the previous work and fixed it temporarily, ordered a new clamp, installed that and charge us 20 euros.  We would have used the village garage in the first place but he was busy and recommended the other place. Big mistake.
We've done all the usual things, enjoyed many festas in various little squares, made new friends, visited and been visited by old friends, been for a weekend at the sea and loved having our little kitties around, two are asleep beside me on a chair the other tightly curled up in the waste paper basket.
Today we are off to the airport as friends are coming out from Yorkshire for a few days, unfortunately the forecast isn't great and it's been raining, it will be such a pity if for the first time in three months we can't have breakfast outside.
We are eating much of our own fruit and veg and watching the olives start to turn black.  Another year where everyone is complaining of a poor harvest, fingers crossed we have enough for a mill run but I rather doubt it which means we shall need to find someone with an equally small crop we can
double up with.
So there you are, things are much as they always are in Italy which suits me just fine but doesn't lead to much interesting blogging but I will try harder to keep you up to date in future.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


We knew nothing of the quake in central Italy until we saw the news this morning,  as the crow flies we are not so far away.  A few years ago the L'Acquila quake about the same distance away shook some pots off the kitchen shelf though the people in the house at the time managed to save my precious teapot.
We have the Italian news on the tv it's dreadful to see the devastation and we feel so sad though deeply touched by the texts and messages we are receiving from friends and family at home, thank you for caring it means a lot.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

From sheep we know

I've always enjoyed hearing the sheep, their bells tinkling, as they are brought early evening to graze amongst the olives and happy, if a little wary, to see the large white sheepdogs that accompany them.  This year the shepherd has been bringing his large flock to the olive groves immediately above us, I spoke to him briefly one evening telling him his animals were beautifully, to which he agreed.  Then one night two of the six dogs were on our drive, I like to think guarding my geraniums and other pots of flowers at the back door because the sheep were down on our road with the shepherd.  We asked him where he lived, not far away, and if he kept the sheep for milk which he did.  He said he made ricotta and sold it on Saturdays to our neighbour Anna, I said I would speak to her about it as I was interested.
On Saturday morning I saw a vehicle down at Anna's and then a car horn outside our house with shouts of ricotta.  We went out and I bought a beautiful mound of soft snowy white  ricotta, which I'm usually not that keen on.  Then the man asked if we'd like some cheese and showed us huge wheels of pecorino and smaller ones of a soft salty cheese.  I ended up with about 1.5 kilo of pecorino a staginato, a firm salty and slightly open textured cheese.  Both our purchased are completely delicious, the ricotta really needs to be eaten straight away, it was wonderful that evening after dinner with peaches but is became a little tasteless and was finished off on bread with jam for breakfast.   We have give away slabs of the pecorino and eaten lots ourselves, it is so delicious, and everything was exceptional value, delivery included.
The shepherd is coming back this Saturday and we shall buy more, fresh local produce, about one food mile involved and we know the sheep personally, what could be better. I plan to give the man some of the cheddar we brought from home, most of our Italian friends love it and we've given lots away, mass produced mousetrap,  I wonder what he will make of it.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The gigolo is back

nine days later I was just giving my pots at the back door an early evening water and putting the rubbish out when Marzio walked down the road, tail in the air.  He's skinny and far too interested in food for much cuddling, let's hope he isn't just hear to refuel.  Everyone who said he'd return was right, I obviously have a lot to learn about the Italian male.

Marzio is missing

Late Sunday evening over a week ago Mr FF sat out on the terrace under the stars with Marzio on his knee, I would say cooling down after another hot day but you probably don't cool much with an adult cat sat on top of you.  He said Marzio was very relaxed, purring and happy,  eventually around midnight he had to carry him to the bed under the garden table where all six cats sleep and Marzio hardly woke.
We didn't see Marzio next morning but didn't think much of it, we haven't seen him for nine days now.  We no longer get up expecting he will be at the door waiting for food with the other five. We've called him and searched as much as is possible on the side of a mountain with heavy undergrowth, we've checked with neighbours and driven round.  Everyone says he will have gone off looking for a girl friend but I can't imagine any male missing out on two square meals a day for love.  He can't  be locked in anywhere as the two sets of families in our road over the weekend had left long before we last saw Marzio.
It's heart breaking that the funny little kitten that arrived a year ago survived all the perils of predators and falling off high walls, that managed six months without us, albeit fed by Mario and the automatic food dispenser, should just disappear.  He was strong and capable from the start, hated being fastened in the cellar overnight snd was happy to sleep out tucked between his mother Lisa and Theo our very timid black cat.  He was definitely an outdoor creature,  he was friendly with us but wary of strangers, he was gorgeous and and we loved him, this not knowing is dreadful.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Been a while

Yes I know, we've been at the house two weeks now and not a word from me.  Even Mr FF who likes to keep me off the iPad has complained about the lack of blogging.
After the trauma in France when we found it hard to find words to express our sadness, we had the most wonderful welcome into Italy.  We stayed at an amazing little three star family run hotel in the hills above Portofino, somehow we always get attracted up above the main drag.  Swimming pool, lovely room, gorgeous modern bathroom, tea and coffee, slippers, pre dinner drinks with enough snacks to make a meal, generous to a fault the owners couldn't  do enough.   We dined amongst noisy tables of large families and tourists, four courses and after each one we were offered second helpings, wine was red or white nine euros.  After dinner kids went off to play table tennis and football, adults chatted on a terrace bright with candles, we felt so content and delighted to be back in Italy.
Of course our house was very dusty, full of cobwebs and dead insects as usual, the garden full of weeds but over two weeks that has been sorted and we are enjoying our usual dolce vita.
And I know you are wondering, yes Theo Lisa and Marzio are all here ...... wait for it ........ with three kittens about four months old so now we have a family of six.  The kittens Grigio Rosso and Crema are becoming tame and delightful, all in good condition and loved by our neighbours who along with Mario have kept them fed for us.
It's hot, into the 30s and we are not fully acclimatised yet so we haven't ventured far.  The August holidays begin this weekend and we have three days of festa in our village concluding on Sunday evening with a beauty contest and male strippers in the piazza, this in a place with seven priests, many nuns and on a Sunday.   Welcome to Italy.