Pasqua (Easter) A Time for Family…New Beginnings…

wall artIn Italy Easter is a pretty religious affair and why shouldn’t it be?  I’m not religious but I can appreciate the faith of others. There will be processions and church services as well as eating and drinking. The people have put out some decorations in the town and Easter eggs are abundant. There isn’t the same variety here as in the UK but they do go in for big!

Easter Eggs

For us, as we tuck into our Easter Lunch this Sunday with our friends I know I will be thinking about all my family. My children are scattered all over the world, New York, Sydney, Cardiff and London. My husband’s two girls are in England. We miss them all during festive occasions.

Easter is a time of new beginnings, vivid bright colours break out through the dull misty mornings as daffodils, primroses and the fresh grass push up and burst into life. It’s a reminder of the cycle; birth, life and death. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you are in, we all start in the same place, proceed along the same path heading towards the same destination. It’s what you manage to achieve whilst you’re travelling that can make a difference.

I am lucky, I have had many diversions en route so feel that even if it all ends tomorrow I will have achieved some good stuff. But, at the same time, there are many things I still want to do. The Bucket List I think they call it! I want to write a novel (or two), see the Grand Canyon, travel around more of Italy and Sicily with my husband, spend more time with my family and well…there are tons of other things.

Easter lunch this year will be taken with fifteen friends who either live here in Italy, or who are frequent visitors. We are going to Parco Galeano, a local Agriturismo, which is a sort of farm holiday place where all the food seved is home grown or bought, I believe, within a ten kilometre radius. Parco Galeano is well known for its organic pork, the food will be delicious and very reasonably priced. There will be at least five courses! I’ll post the menu on Monday!

We’ll raise a glass to all our children and think about how lucky we are to have such a talented bunch. We’ll be thinking particularly of my son Thomas (Tosh) who left us in January 2011. We’ll be appreciating how much he achieved in his 27 years.  I feel sometimes I shouldn’t mention him, as people can feel awkward.  It’s a bit of a taboo subject, the loss of a child, but don’t be shy of speaking to anyone you know who’s lost their child at whatever age.  Generally the bereaved parents like the opportunity to speak about their son or daughter because it keeps the memory alive and close.

Finally, and most important of all, we’ll be looking forward excitedly to the birth of the first grandchild in just over two weeks! The new addition to our family, our very own new beginning! I cannot wait…


bunny1Happy Easter Everyone

Did You Say…Cheese Rolling Competition…?


Whilst out driving with some friends on Thursday we negotiated a hairpin bend only to be faced with, not a car coming towards us in the middle of the road, (see last week’s blog) but what looked like a wheel of cheese!  Being inquisitive, we slowed right down and waited. We then watched a man chuck the cheese as far as he could, uphill, using a rope with a wedge of wood, it as the launcher. We were intrigued to know more and it transpired he was having a sneaky practice before the National Cheese Throwing competition this weekend. Emphasis on the word National…







We live in a small town in a country area of Le Marche in Italy and I am often surprised at the National and International events that take place in my town or in other small villages close by.

My husband and I (sounds rather royal doesn’t it?) decided we would be spectators at this unusual Cheese Rolling event so took ourselves along to Monte Giberto, only a few kilometres down the road from us, in time for the afternoon session.  I asked a lot of questions and took a great many photos. Everyone was jolly and having a thoroughly good time. There seem to be about six or eight teams taking part and the competitors were very enthusiastic, the usual hand waving, raised voices, shouts of encouragement and possible insults.  An Italian gathering often reminds me of a farmyard full of turkeys, ducks, geese and chickens all trying to be heard above each other.

I have to say an hour was just about long enough for us, I think you would need to be a real enthusiast to watch for the whole weekend. Unfortunately (or not) we won’t be able to go back and watch the finals tomorrow as we’re off to Bologna for the day. Also, rain is forecast and soggy cheese may not cover the ground so well. I was pretty staggered to see how far some of the men could launch the cheese, uphill as well!

Today were the qualifying heats. I can’t possibly explain it all in detail and I’m sure you’re not that interested so I’ll just give you the facts as I ascertained them.

Flags are set out along the road about 20metres apart and the cheeses are thrown from the bottom of the course uphill. The distance they had to travel was not specified (read that as nobody actually knows) but they had 8 throws to get a 20 kilo Parmesan Cheese from the bottom to the top.  At the end of each throw, the road was marked with the number of the competitor and how many throws, then the next throw went from that spot.  The competition tomorrow will be slightly different with sizes varying from 1 to 22 kilos. The course is longer for the smaller cheeses. How long? About as long as a piece of string……

numberin road

The competitors were very serious about their cheeses, taking care to clean them of any road debris before each throw, picking out bits of gravel, wiping down. My husband said it reminded him of the pits at Le Mans.  We did ask, as a joke, if they ate any of them after they’d finished the competition to which we were told, ‘only if they break!’ Seems an awful waste of cheese to me.

You may think I am being cynical but I don’t mean to be, not at all. It was fun and I love the Italian enthusiasm for this crazy type of event. I believe they also do cheese throwing in the UK. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on that?

In the photos the cheese is actually running uphill…..although sometimes it looks as though it’s going down.

Apron info

cheese uphill



Italian Drivers? – We Love ‘Em !

The weather here has been, changeable, I think the word is. The temperature has ranged from 20 degrees last weekend to -1 degree this morning. We have had sunshine, showers, snow, hail, clouds and blue skies.

I have been to Ancona airport twice this week, once on Monday to drop off and once on Wednesday to pick up. It’s a three-hour round trip, but I don’t mind because it gives me the opportunity to think up lots of writing ideas during the phase of the journey when I’m alone in the car, or to listen to a CD or radio programme of my choice, although most Italian radio is hard to follow. A ‘listening book’ is always a good option.

Anyway, on my way back on the Monday, I had to negotiate a massive hailstorm, it was so bad that even the Italian drivers slowed down and put on their hazard warning lights. For those of you who are not au fait with Italian drivers, they always drive very fast on all types of roads and road surfaces and in all kinds of weather conditions. They overtake on bends; they drive in the centre or the wrong side of the road, so that it is common to meet a car hurtling towards you on your side of the road just after you go round a corner or even on the straight!  They are always on their mobile phones, they have children sitting on their laps on the front seats, flash their lights when they are ‘coming though’ and not intending to stop. They drive only a metre’s length behind your boot on the motorway, tailgating until you move over, which, by the way, you are expected to do immediately even if you are half way through passing a lorry! They also have a colossal number of hand gestures, which are often self-explanatory! Mind you, I have learnt a few of those myself…..


Then there is PARKING…well….I’m not sure I have the vocabulary at my command to express my true feelings about Italian parking! I have no idea why they bother with parking bays, because they are completely ignored. Double parking is totally accepted, especially while the guilty person enjoys his cup of coffee and croissant, reads the paper and leisurely passes the time of day with the patron of the bar! Parking on the pavement, parking right in front of the supermarket door, parking across two bays, parking in the middle of the road, parking very close so that you have to squeeze yourself flat to get back into your car which, by the way, you had left parked with ample space for others each side.

Fiat Panda 4x4Having mentioned the high speeds at which the Italians drive I should also point out the other end of the scale which involves drivers who go extremely slowly, less than 20k an hour. These drivers are often elderly and do not have mobile phones but, they are always deep in conversation with their passenger, engaging with them eye to eye and not watching the road. They are usually driving an ancient Fiat Punto 4×4 with thin wheels. We have wondered if these little cars are given out by the Government for retired people over 85 and speculate what the criteria might be to qualify.

Feel free to share your Italian driving and parking experiences with me!

Tuscany to Visit Friends

Last Saturday we went to visit friends who live in Tuscany close to Cortona. I love the idea that we can get in the car and drive to places in Italy that hold a certain magic. Rome, Florence, Siena, Venice all these beautiful places are within a few hours drive from our home in Le Marche.

Even though it was still early March the weather was warm and for once the wind was not too blustery. On other occasions when we have visited our friends in the Tuscan hills the wind has whistled round the house keeping us awake by making the shutters bang and whipping the trees into a frenzy.


We were able to take our lunch outside and were served cold meats, cheeses, bread, olives and delicious tomatoes in our host’s own olive oil.  From the terrace there are views across to Cortona on the opposite hill and looking towards the west is a massive valley, my imagination allowed me to think of Hannibal and his huge army marching across here on his way to Lake Trasimeno.  Actually, I don’t know any of the historical facts about this battle or the surrounding area but the landscape permits me to drift into a past world and picture people in earlier times, how they lived, worked and ultimately died. I love envisioning history. Pity I’m not more knowledgeable, fortunately my husband is so he can often conjure up a good story for me as we drive through the Italian countryside.

On Sunday we drove to Arezzo a wonderful town with an historic centre full of twists and turns and paved streets. The main square is an eclectic mix of architectural styles and on this particular Sunday the monthly antiques fair was taking place.


The square and surrounding streets were full of stalls selling furniture, clothes, machinery, linen, art, artefacts, jewellery…..the list goes on. I saw a few lovely pieces and would have been tempted had the coffers not been so low!

We love visiting Tuscany but look forward always to returning to Le Marche where the locals welcome us and the dog of course is always pleased to see us return!

Food and Drink….Cibo e Bevanda

aperitiviWe’ve been in Italy for a few years now and it’s beginning to show around the waistline and other parts of the anatomy. The thing is, the food here is so good and the wine is excellent and it is all very reasonably priced. It is so hard to say ‘no’. Pasta is the staple diet and eaten every day here in various shapes and sizes and with a variety of sauces. It’s delicious.

I do try very hard to have a coffee without a croissant or a ciambellone (it’s a kind of doughnut) but I usually give in. Evening aperitivi at the bar is a must and they very rarely serve you a glass of wine without nibbles which can vary from crisps to intricate miniature sandwiches, pizza, pastries and the like. (see photo).  The Italians by the way cannot understand a culture where you just drink and don’t eat.

This morning I indulged in a cappuccino made from orzo, which is ersatz coffee made from barley. The Italians drink a great deal of it as well as their regular espresso. I had a cornetto integrale, which is a kind of brown flour croissant, with the emphasis on the brown flour, it has to be better for me surely?  For lunch we had ham and bread with tomatoes and pickles and this evening I am making a curry. All this is while we are supposed to be on a diet day!

I sat down yesterday and thought about all this eating and drinking.  I thought about all the things we say after Christmas every year and wrote this little piece. I hope you enjoy it!

They said they would get fit, lose weight, reduce wine intake, go easy on the carbs.
They said they would finish all chocolate in the house and then buy no more.
They said they would go walking, eat salad and enjoy every moment of the day.
They said they would take more fish, less red meat and stop with the cheese!
They said they would go organic, drink lots of water and learn yoga.
They said they would not watch telly but play cards and read aloud to each other.
They said they would not use their car unless absolutely necessary.
They said that it would help the environment.
They said they would be more ‘green’

That’s what they said.