friends, family and food

Having a home in Italy has enabled us to catch up with loads of friends and family coming over for short breaks. I know there’s a lot of hooha in the media about the effects that cheap flights are having on CO2 levels etc. But I think the no frills concept has opened up international travel like never before. I can commute easily and often very cheaply between Italy and the UK and our lives have been transformed. A generation ago they used to think my father was mad when he worked in Blackpool and lived in the little town of Poulton-le-Fylde about 3 miles away. I’m not kidding but I tell you what was mad – me spending five and a half hours a day commuting by car between Buckingham and London for decades. What effect did that have on the atmosphere? Now our friends can catch a Ryanair flight and are having some prosecco and prosciutto with us 3 hours later. And they haven’t robbed a bank to do it. There’s something wrong with that…?

Our earliest house guests were Simon who helped us move and our lovely daughter S and husband I who came over to help with the unloading etc. Simon drove the lorry over from the UK with all our furniture which arrived a couple of days after we’d moved in (see earlier blog about a home in italy…just). Simon was employed by the company KG; we hadn’t met him before the move but he was quite a character and great fun. The lorry only just made it down our narrow, steep driveway. Although it looked hairy, he’d had the sense to reverse it down. It took us a full day to unload – progress was slowed when we had to remove a window to get some of the larger items of furniture into the house. Simon’s many comments about the madness of living in a foreign country – especially one where they didn’t all speak English, kept us buoyed….but boy did he graft.

At the end of the day we were unloaded and kind of sorted with beds in bedrooms and sofa in the lounge etc. But we were whacked. Simon was going to sleep over (in the lorry) before setting off back. We weren’t up for cooking so we treated the guys to a meal at our local pizzeria restaurant. We got there and the place was jam-packed; our vendors were having a private dinner thing for their friends etc. Grim. But Gianni found us a small room which we shared with some of his family. The avargae meal at Gianni’s is at least 4/5 courses. Lots of antipasta, pasta, pizza, meat and fish dishes, fruit etc. And piles of wine. Verdicchio is produced locally and it’s usually very good. I’d never really enjoyed pasta before but there’s something about the way Italians prepare it which is just so appetising. We rolled home a lot happier several hours later.

Simon ended up staying several days with us helping with some electrical and plumbing jobs. It was then we discovered that in Italy washers are made from cardboard not rubber. Eh? This is the country which produces Ferraris for goodness sake. I’m not a plumber but surely a water-repelling device made from compressed paper rather than rubber isn’t going to work effectively for very long. Sure enough most of our taps start leaking after a few months and the washers constantly need replacing. Hey ho. Anyway Simon who arrived as a strict bacon and eggs man left us, reluctantly it seemed, as the pasta prince. Getting the lorry up the drive was an experience. Rain had made the slope slippery and as there was no weight in the back of the van, there was no grip. Simon suggested I and I get in the back and when he throttled it we had to jump up on down over the rear axle. Simon shimmied and slid his way up this narrow driveway inches from toppling down a hill into our olive grove. How he took the bend at the top I don’t know. Thanks for everything Simon.

Our oldest friends L and S were early visitors. They helped enormously with the garden clearing and olive tree pruning. They were incredibly generous in helping us get the house in the first place, so will always be welcome. Our other lovely daughter E and husband S and incredible grandson S arrived soon after. The weather was actually pretty grim for them but we had a great time splashing about in the pool all the same. Our grandson loves the bug hunting out there. There are some pretty exotic creatures and we were paranoid about him picking up scorpions and the like. They’ve been back several times of course – the family I mean. The scorpions disappeared at summer’s end.

J and D and the girls came for a week which was great. We could do the full tourist thing up to Loretto, on the glorious beaches over to Conero, where our favourite seafood restaurant is in Sirollo. J’s not a big fan of cheese or pasta or seafood; in fact most things on an Italian menu. But we managed to find enough things to pad out their slender frames. John also performed a standing dive onto the lilo in our pool which will live with me for ever.

G and M came after the San Marino Grand prix, where G’s company were heavily involved in building the Paddock club hospitality centres. Now G and M have no qualms about Italian food so we put a big dent in the food production levels for Le Marche region during that visit. Cafe Moretti in Ascoli’s main piazza was a particular favourite. As it was when my irrepressible dad B came out later in the summer. We were people watching over espressos/lattes in the same cafe although B somehow managed not to notice Jodie Marsh sat right behind him. Honest. It was brilliant to spend some time with my dad. Hopefully my mum will visit us one day too, health permitting.

The R family had a week with us too and were with us during the Chestnut festival period. Now MR can eat anything but even he baulked at some of the cooked chestnut specialities. But boy do the locals love the chestnut. Whole towns celebrated the delicacy with tastings, bands playing, socialising, singing and dancing. I think it’s just an excuse for a knees up but what the heck. It’s great fun to join in, even if we don’t know the significance. We had a brilliant day in the mountains with M and J, even finding the home of an old friend of theirs.

PS who used to work with me at BT and S and young T came over to see us during a family holiday. We had a great time although P suffered badly from insect bites especially on his ankles. We started to build a resistance to the bites by summer’s end although one or two of our visitors had a torrid time with them. C, who semed to attract the biters more than anybody, found a great Farmacia who produced their own soothing balm which worked well at easing the discomfort. We bought a lot of that aloe vera over the summer for us and our guests.

I think C’s brother C and wife L were our last visitors of the season. It was only a flying visit but we did the Basillica at Loretto and Conero and a detour to visit the world’s finest accordion museum (yes there is one) although it was closed!

So what will this summer bring by way of visitors? Maybe the deal this time is bring your wellies and be ready to help out in the garden and pruning/picking the olives etc. Working holidays sounds like a plan to me. There’ll be plenty of verdicchio and pinot grigio at day’s end to take the pain away.


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