December Means; Nutcracker, Nasty Bills, and New York…

The fav music, a must to singalong la la la la etc.,
The Snowflakes…my fav music, a must to singalong with…la la la la la etc.,

I was very excited to go to Pescara last Thursday 12th December and see a live streaming of the Royal Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. A great way to get into the Christmas spirit. It was a wonderful experience and I loved the way you could hear the audience taking their seats in the auditorium of the Royal Opera House and the orchestra tuning up – what a buzz it gave me! Sadly the cinema in Pescara was virtually empty with only about twenty seats taken up. I don’t understand why that should be except that maybe the Italians are not that enamoured of the Royal Ballet or perhaps it is just not advertised enough locally. I wonder if they attend the opera productions, which are also live streamed once a month at this time of year.

My two friends and I clapped heartily, soaked up the beautiful dancing, costumes, scenery and music, it was magical. I danced out of the cinema at the end truly inspired, I probably looked a right idiot but I didn’t care. I think I’m going to pop down again in January and catch Giselle, it’s just over two and a half hours round trip, but worth it, I do love the ballet.

It was back to reality with a bump on Friday morning when we residents of Petritoli received our rifiuti,  rubbish disposal bills. I couldn’t get to the PO on Friday as I had to collect paperwork for two friends who are in the UK but the bills had to be paid by Monday, (today) not much notice then! If you don’t complete the payment on time then there’s a fine.

Poste Italiane...Happy Faces (NOT)
Poste Italiane…Happy Faces (NOT)

So, off I trek on Saturday morning to the post office with all three lots of paperwork . Surprise, surprise the other 1500 residents are also trying to pay. So the place was rammed to the gunnels. Ridiculous. Everyone mumbling, grumbling, no proper queue, no ticket to take for a turn a typical Italian experience which I’m normally happy with because I love living here and so accept that this is the way things are. However, I tried to be patient and wait but I gave up after an hour and decided to return on Monday

Roman Soldiers...we had no  javelins in the PO though...thank goodness!!
Roman Soldiers…we had no javelins in the Post Office though…thank goodness!!

I went back this morning and it was same thing a ton of people standing very close together like phalanx of Roman soldiers but with no possibility of advancement within the foreseeable future. I waited for twenty minutes then went AWOL to do some other chores and return at 1pm. The post office closes at 1.30 and the Italians all have lunch between 12.30pm and 3.30pm so I thought I pm would be safe bet. Yeah! It was a little less crowded but difficult to keep my place in the heaving throng of locals all trying to sneak in front. I had been waiting for a while when it was explained to me by a helpful neighbour that if I was paying by Bancomat card then I had to go ‘into the office with the director’, she spoke confidentially and I was reminded of Les Dawson. Anyway, I joined the other slightly shorter but equally haphazard queue outside the Postmaster’s office.

This queue moved very, very slowly, one person every 10 minutes as opposed to one person every five minutes. I tried to rejoin the first queue but, ‘No signora, devi attendere la!’ No, madam you must wait there! So patience. Patience, really is a bloody virtue and thank goodness I have plenty of it. Eventually I entered the exclusive office with the ‘director’ who to me, looked about 17 years old and just out of school, his wispy beard telling all. I had torn off the ‘tear off’ slip, as I thought I was supposed to but, alas, ‘No signora, non dovresti avuto fatto quello’ you should not have done that…I was duly told off. I had done it with all three bills! Ah well, he fiddled about and tried to put the two halves of the paper onto another plain sheet and push it through his machine. It took a bit of time, probably 15 minutes in total. I kept saying, ‘mi dispiace’ I’m sorry. He raised his eyebrows, sighed heavily and looked at me the way young people look at old people sometimes. Despairingly. Thank goodness I was in the room with the ‘Director’ and this little scenario didn’t take place in front of all those other people waiting their turn. Imagine how I might have felt then! Job done, I scurried quickly through the main PO hoping not to be seen and out into the fresh air, free at last!

Olivespastavino is off to New York on Thursday for Christmas, everyone is sooo Jealous. I’m looking forward to going but not looking forward to the journey. I can’t wait to see family, especially my lovely grand daughter 8 months old now! I’ll be blogging from the Big Apple….can’t wait to visit Sahadi’s and get some of those double choc malt balls…yum yum.

Double Choc Malt Balls..YUMMY!
Double Choc Malt Balls..YUMMY!

Festa De Le Cove… harvest festival Italian style…

Oxen – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani

There are an inordinate number of festas (street parties/festivals) and sagras (usually to do with eating) happening all over Italy for most of the summer months. Wherever you go there will be people eating, dancing and drinking in small towns and villages all of them offering something traditional and steeped in history. In Petritoli we have several of these and the biggest is the Festa De Le Cove. It’s a harvest festival celebration of sorts. A whole weekend of fun.

Posh Mum and Dad
Posh Mum and Dad
Posh Daughter
Posh Daughter

The basic idea is that the people from the surrounding countryside, the ‘contadini’ (peasant farmers) come into the centre of town with offerings of grain for the ‘aristocracy’ the corn is blessed by the priest, the rich people leave the town giving the farmers the run of the place for the weekend. They have a ball, dancing, eating and drinking. Until they have to leave on the Sunday evening. I may not have got this exactly right but I’m sure someone out there will correct me if I’m widely missing the point. Today it’s symbolic the people don’t actually leave town – everyone joins in the festivities.

Contadini Family
Contadini Family

The festival culminates with a procession of floats which have the most amazing sculptures made from straw and corn. This year the procession was led by a magnificent pair of oxen pulling a cart full of sheaves of straw. (Cove is the word for sheaves.) Other floats included a scythe, a ladybird (lucky symbol here), a 10 lira coin and a model of the wonderful Petritoli Tower. There was also an old threshing machine on show, many stands selling local crafts. Here you can see a video of the procession and dancing. I hope the quality is okay…it took me about 4 hours to put it together and it’s my first attempt so don’t expect too much!

Food stands sold, pizzette (deep fried pizza base I think), roast goose, pasta, polenta, bruschetta and much more. Oh and plenty of wine of course!

A side street in the town
A side street in the town

The town is beautifully decorated and each year there’s a different theme, this year it was poppies and sunflowers. At the roundabouts and road junctions they put life size dummies made of straw – I love them!

man with fork Mr and Mrs

These two look like they've had a row!
These two look like they’ve had a row!

Everyone can dance the traditional Saltarello, they dance behind the floats, they dance in the square, the children and teenagers perform on the stage it’s a lively dance and it’s great fun but they never, never change the music! it’s the same from around 10am in the morning until they finally close down after midnight. By the end you cannot get the song out of your head and it inhibits sleep and stays with you for days! The vocals are interesting, if you can understand them! They make the words up as they go along. Often the lyrics are risqué, sung in the local dialect and directed to passers by and people sitting at tables. A couple of years ago I was the victim of the song and my Italian ‘friends’ fell about laughing, raising their eyebrows and thoroughly enjoying the joke of which I was obviously the centre but sadly, or perhaps gladly, I couldn’t understand one word.

Ladybird – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani
Scythe – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani
bell tower
Petritoli Bell Tower – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani

Thank you Giancarlo Fabiani for some of the photographs this week. Giancarlo has an old printing press in the centre of Petritoli, it’s been in his family for many generations. I may blog about it one day as it’s very interesting.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this week’s blog and looking at the photos and video. I’m going to take a well earned rest in the afternoon sun. 🙂