Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meet Milly


What have we got ourselves into, we have been thinking for some time now about getting a dog, but I wanted to wait until I survived the winter here first!
Well, we took the plunge earlier and gave in and now we are in possesion of Milly a 4 month old German Shepherd. She is absolutely gorgeous and has a lovely temperament, but god I wasn't prepared for the possesiveness, she doesn't leave me alone for a minute, following me around like a shadow... I need my space at times you know!!! She has really attached herself to me and doesn't go loos for anyone else unless I take her, Domenico is overseas at the moment, but as soon as he returns I will be making sure that she knows that he is a great person to be around!


Catching Up

I can't believe my last entry was in June, where have the months gone!
One of my biggest frustrations at the moment is that we don't yet have a phone line and it looks like we are in for quite a long wait. So I am intermittently using the internet with an extremely slow GPRS mobile phone connection, at times I give in as I am waiting my life away as pages load. But... I thought I had to get my act together and as I'm having a lazy day in front of the fire I would just persevere and do some blog entries.
I thought I would do a quick catch up filling in on a monthly basis what has been happening.

June/July
This was the start of our house renovations, doing all the modifications and cosmetic work ourselves, from morning to night we didn't stop. We were exhausted by the end of the day and looked forward to collapsing into bed at night time.
All the old plaster was chipped of the walls to reveal the original stone, parts were replastered and parts were left as the original stone. It was a hell of a job and extremely dusty and dirty. We were on a mission to get the house livable before my parents arrived in September.


August
We trudged on, the weight fell of us and we became very fit, the kitchen was fitted and we started fitting out and tiling the bathroom.
Domenico hard plastering the kitchen to be

Nearly finished

The swallow chicks in the stalla hatched and the lambs were born in the fields next to us.
Newborn


September
My parents arrived mid September, the house still not ready though livable. It was their first time in Italy and they loved it.
The first 4 days were spent in Le Marche before we headed to Rome for 5 days, we rented a super
apartment (v.cheap) in Castel Gandolfo which was near enough to visit Rome and the sights.
Afterwards Mum and dad left Rome on a mediterranean cruise for 12 days and we headed home as my brother from Australia was arriving the next day.
October
Once mum and dad left we found it very difficult to get motivated to restart on the house again after a 2 week break. The temperature began to drop dramatically and we knew that we would have to get our act together as the roof needed insulating and heating had to be sorted out. We decided to buy a woodfired Termocamino which would also direct the heated air to other parts of the house through metal tubing. It is fabulous when it gets going and is really toasty, though our house is so open plan now after taking walls and ceilings down that it takes a hell of alot of heating.
We have had a few dramas with our driveway which was originally a whiteish road driveway leading down to the house, though over the years it has covered over.This poses a huge problem when it rains, we found this out on the day mum and dad were due to leave, it had poured the day before and everywhere was so boggy. Domenico tried several times to make it up the driveway with no luck, he just kept skidding. Mum suggested taking the fence down and cutting across the field, bad move! The field was just as bad and Domenico sat in the car as it slid right down the hill, he was about to bail out when it came to a stop. Dad and Domenico went to look for help from the farmer, and they turned up in the tractor and pulled the car out.
Never a dull moment living in the countryside!

Moving to Le Marche has been such a change to living in Frascati, everyone is just so friendly and helpful, everything is easy to do, and there is actually customer service in shops and with a smile! Its like a totally different Italy and so less stressful.

I'm going to try and catch up on reading some of your blogs now, I can't believe how many there are out there, alot of new ones too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Casa Nostra

After what has felt like an eternity we finally settled on our property in Le Marche and are now the proud owners of a piece of Italy.
I have to say that for Italy 8 weeks is pretty quick as far as a purchase goes especially as we had to have a mortgage approved. It certainly helped to have a bank manager who went the extra mile to get every thing in place for us, as usually you have to show at 3 years of business accounts or tax returns before applying. We have only been in business for a year, though he was able to pull a few strings!
The rogito was certainly an experience, every one had to be there,the buyer, seller, estate agent, witness, sellers translator, notaio and a banking official. It took 3 hours from start to finish as every single thing had to be read out from the deed and mortgage papers and for those of you who live in Italy already know, they just love paper!
Casa Nostra
Nearest Neighbour
As soon as the Rogito was finished we were given the keys and headed straight to our new home.
I can't believe how peaceful it is compared to Rome and sitting outside in the evening with the fire flies is amazing.
Today we are back in Frascati to start the packing and moving process though it is so incredibly hot that I have no energy to be shifting boxes. Hopefully by the weekend we will have everything sorted.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My First Italian Wedding

Well it has been a busy couple of weeks entertaining, our guests have all gone into Rome for the day so I am left alone to catch up on a few bits and pieces.
Domenico 's brother Renato arrived last week with his wife Debra and four of his six gorgeous daughters.
Sophia
Olivia
Stefania & Manuela with DJ.
We had a wedding to attend in Napoli (my first in Italy) and it was going to be a big affair with Arianna being the first of the children to marry.
We arrived just in time at the family apartment which had been transformed into what resembled a jungle, as well as all the bouquets of flowers, the outside of the apartment right down to the ground level had been decorated with different types of palms and other greenery, this was for the first 'grand exit' of the bride with her dad.
As soon as they got into the car and headed to the church all the greenery was packed away in a matter of seconds and carted away.
We got a bit lost on the way to the church so arrived half way through the ceremony which was being undertaken by a very 'gay and flamboyent' Neapolitan priest.We were terrified to walk in thinking it would be very rude to be late, though the ceremony itself appeared to be very casual with people coming and going off the street and some not dressed up at all.
Arianna & Gianni
After about another hour of standing and sitting and having water sprinkled on us it was all over, lots of 'auguris' later we headed to Villa Lucrezio at Posillipo where the reception was to take place. This was a beautiful venue overlooking the bay of Naples, towards Vesuvio and the Sorrentino Peninsula.
It was lovely to catch up with family members before the bride and groom finally arrived, that is when the feast began. Two huge buffet tables were set up on the outdoor terrace, one with every type of Fritti possible, as well as proscuito sliced of the bone and various types of cheeses from buffalo mozzarella to the creamiest ricotta I have ever tasted. The other table was overflowing with seafood, whole octopus had been cooked up and chopped and dressed to order, baby octopus' in a rich tomato and olive sauce, grilled prawns..... the list goes on, it was very impressive.
As we had left Rome without eating breakfast we were all ravenous by 3 in the afternoon, so we really let loose on the Antipasti and were all pretty full. This was a huge mistake! We were then told to make our way to the dining room where dinner really started. Over the next 6 hours we were fed two pasta courses, two secondo (one fish and the other meat), and a fruit course. It was all fabulous, though far too much, we had to stagger from the dining area back to the outdoor terrace where the buffet was set up again with Neapolitan desserts, I wish I had room to indulge but my body was crying out to stop!
The wedding cake was cut, toasts were made and then there was gelato and liqueuers.
After the handing out of individual photo albums and bonbonerie we all said our goodbyes and headed off. It was certainly a lavish wedding and an awful lot of money must have been spent, but that is how it is in Italy, it has to be a big show.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Private Apartment For Holiday Rent Frascati




Well it looks as if the purchase of the house in Le Marche is going to go through which means that we will be spending the summer months over there renovating.
We have decided therefore to rent out our apartment in Frascati for the months of July, August and the first 2 weeks of September.
It is a beautiful apartment on the top floor ( see photo, top 3 windows) in the central piazza of Frascati, the views are stunning, and as the sun is setting you can see out to the sea.
There are 3 bedrooms each with double beds, large lounge and dining area, kitchen, bathroom, laundry and terrace.
Frascati is the main town of the Castelli Romani and is an excellent base for visiting the other towns of the region as well as Rome as the station is just 2 minutes away, with a train to central Rome every hour, taking 25 minutes.
The price we are asking is 800 euro per week which is negotiable for anyone wishing to rent on a monthly basis.
So if any of you know of anyone looking to spend some time in Rome this summer please let me know.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Lazy Afternoon at Portonovo

As the temperature soared into the 30's we decided to head to Portonovo in the Conero Regional Park on the Adriatic coast to have a long lazy lunch beside the beach before the long drive back to Rome.
After an amazing seafood lunch at La Capannina and a bit too much to drink we were ready for a nap, so plonked our selves down on the restaurant loungers and lazed away the afternoon.
This is truly a beautiful piece of coastline, unspoilt and not too busy (yet).
I have had a hard time getting used to the Italian beaches after being spoilt for choice in New Zealand and Australia which has some of the most amazing coastline with miles and miles of uninterrupted,clean white sand and sea.
I absolutely refuse to pay to lie on a beach which seems to be the normal practice here. Lido after lido, some charging 40 euro a day for the privilege of an umbrella, a sun lounger which will be a metre or so from the next person! I need my space and if anyone comes within 2 metres of me with their towel, they get glared at! Sometimes whilst driving along the coast roads in Italy it is hard to even see the beaches as the rows of lido's block the view, such a shame.
Portonovo
Lazy Afternoon (fully clothed as we didn't have our togs with us!)

Giro D'Italia

We awoke this morning to a Frascati that had been transformed to accommodate the 5th stage of the Giro D'Italia.
Our apartment is right in the centre and I reckon we had the best view despite not quite being able to focus on the finishing line!

The leaders
A happy finalist, not sure if he was the winner!The rest of them

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nats Is Getting Married!


Domenico received the call from our daughter Natalie on his mobile and thought heck what has happened, she would only phone the mobile in an emergency!
A bubbly excited voice on the other end said that Chris had proposed to her whilst they were having a romantic picnic on the beach with the sun setting...aww, he is so sweet. She said she was crying and laughing at the same time and it all felt quite surreal.
I feel so old, our first born getting married !
Chris and Nats have been together for 5 years now since she was 17, we stumbled across them one evening after Domenico and I arrived home after a night out. Domenico walked in on them as they were snuggled up on the sofa, he turned to me with a very concerned look on his face and said 'there is a boy in our house with Nats !' and being the protective father, felt a bit strange. There was nothing to worry about though as Chris is lovely and they are perfect for each other.
So it looks like we will be heading back to New Zealand for the wedding this time next year.
The first thing Domenico said though was 'no bambino's before I'm 50!'

Monday, April 16, 2007

Easter Weekend

We had a lovely Easter weekend this year, Sunday was spent cooking,eating and hanging out with our friends, Nigel and Isalena. We have known N & I since 1985 as they were customers in our first restaurant in New Zealand. Nigel who had just finished his Architect degree took on the job to design and oversee another restaurant we had just bought and when it was finished we bought himself and his girlfriend Isalena an airline ticket to Italy. That was the last we saw of them though we heard that they were living in Rome!
We decided when we arrived here to look them up in the phone book and were thrilled to hear that they were still here after 17 years and with 3 beautiful children. Even after so long it is nice to be able to pick up where we left off, though with Nigels busy schedule (he has just finished working on the controversial Ara Pacus museum project) it is hard for him to find free time.

Easter Monday was spent with friends who were visiting from New Zealand, the girls Madeleine and Frances have been friends with our girls since primary school.
After lunch in Frascati we all trooped off into Rome to show them some of the sights, it was a fabulous warm day and they were in awe at all the History around them (the perfect tourists!).
We finished the day at 'Gusto' our favourite pizzeria, absolutely exhausted.

House Hunting

Sorry for not posting for so long, the past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride mentally.
We decided a year ago that we wanted to move over to Le Marche, so the past couple of months have seen us going back and forth on a house hunting expedition. I think we have seen every farmhouse possible.
We eventually found one that we loved on top of a hill with 360° views, though when we went to put in an offer we were told that some English people had offered 20,000 euro more than the asking price.
On one of our expeditions which was during a very wet weekend we got bogged down twice in the muck whilst looking at properties,our jeep was proving to be a very unreliable 4 wheel drive!! Another lady in a jeep came to our rescue as we couldn't find a tractor and I think we ended up burning her engine! It was very embarrasing and especially checking into the B & B covered in s****t!
The worst was yet to come, as we were driving back on the autostrada there was a very bad noise coming from the back wheels, Domenico kept telling me not too worry it was nothing! Oh yeah!....3 hours later when we arrived at the toll booth the car behind kept beeping at us, so we decided to pull over. I was in shock to see that we had lost all of the bolts except one holding on the back wheel. I think there was definately someone 'up there' looking after us that day.
After several more weekends we finally found and put an offer on another property which has been accepted subject to us getting finance through. I'm not getting too excited until we have the keys in our hands as I am sure there will be beaurocratic hoops to jump through. One of those being having to change my surname back to my maiden name to satisfy the Italian laws. When we were looking to buy a place in Sicily 2 years ago the Notaio insisted that I couldn't use my married name as it made Domenico and I look like brother and sister,I am sure there must be a way around it. So I am not posting any pics yet until everything is 'cento per cento!!'

Monday, March 19, 2007

Early Days

Domenico is probably going to kill me for posting these pictures which I came across recently, but I think they are so cute and really take you back in time.
This one was taken on the beach at Napoli, probably 44 years ago Domenico is the one with the blonde curls looking towards the camera with his brothers, sister and mama (very proud of her offspring).

This is an early school photo, Domenico is to the right of the teacher. I just love the smock dresses they had to wear, I don't think they did though, as they don't really look like a very happy bunch. Real 'Scugnizzi'!



And here he is 3rd from the left in the second row

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sunday Lunch

Today I am still recovering from eating too much yesterday, I feel like a real glutton.
Our friends came to Frascati and insisted that we try a local restaurant, I'm so bad I can't even remember the name of it, I just remember it was a very basic place, you know the type, family owned, Nonna, Mama, Papa and Figlie all working, no menu, you get what you are given and the TV is on full blast in the corner.
The food was in my opinion very basic, the type you eat when you are really hungry and need to fill the stomach, and well we certainly did that.

We started with antipasto consisting of cured meats, fagioli, ricotta and olives. Then a soup of Pasta and Fagioli arrived, I thought this would pass as the pasta course but no, immediately arrived a plate of Fettucinne Bolognese, at this point I was really struggling when arrived yet another pasta course of Bucatini Carbonara. Unbelievable 3 pasta courses ! Domenico had to beg them to slow down and to let us have a rest.
When the Secondi arrived it consisted of Involtini, Scaloppine con Carciofi, and an Osso Bucco type of stew, all served with roast potatoes. At this stage I just looked at all the food and wish I had the nerve to ask for a doggy bag as I knew it would all go to waste. I just couldn't understand why there was so much.
To finish we were served, two types of sponge cake and a frizzante white wine to add to the 2 litres of red wine we had all ready drunk.
Unbelievably the bill only came to 20 euro for each of us.
So I have decided this week I'm going to try and eat healthy and try and get back on to my low carb diet.Story of my life! As much as I love pasta it really doesn't agree with me, I'm left feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not A Good Week!

I'm having a really lousy week this week, sadly may friend Ross died after his fight with cancer, I will miss him so much he has always been there for me and we spoke often, even though we were so far away. I did write a post a few months ago (below) about Ross, I know he will be around in spirit. Before he died he managed to set up a website ( in my links) of his stories and publications over the years, his 'Spiritual Journey' is very inspiring, (you will need to scroll down to read.)

As well as this I've had an awful hacking cough the past few days, I reckon its the warm weather breeding the bugs. If it was cold they would be dead by now! and its been raining the last couple of days which hasn't helped my spirits. Role on next week....

(I’m having a sad weepy day today after having spoken to my dear friend Ross in NZ who was diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago. Unfortunately the cancer has spread rapidly and has got into his lungs so his breathing is difficult and he is in alot of pain as antibiotics no longer work. By the sounds of it he doesn’t have much longer left to live.I think he is slowly coming to terms with his mortality though I’m having a tough time accepting it.

I came to know Ross about fifteen years ago when he applied for a job in our restaurant. We hit it off from day one and have had many days of fun and laughter. After my husband, he is my best friend who has been my mentor in my personal and business life and has always been there for me. We are so similar in the way we think its quite scary, maybe it is to do with the fact that our birthdays are only a couple of days apart.

Ross has experienced a lot in his life, he is a very passionate conservationist and has done a lot of work with the preservation of whales and dolphins in NZ. Through out his years he has travelled the world, travel writing and photographing for several NZ publications, his love of Italy brings him back year after year, though he is upset at the thought of not being able to see any more of Italy.)

I feel so angry that a life can be taken so quickly from someone who has had such a love of life and has always looked after his health, it is so unfair. I’m just hoping he can hang on.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nonna

This week 'Nonna', Domenico's Mum came to stay. She is getting on a bit now and finds it hard to get out and about, though it suprises me how, when she is at home, she still manages a daily trip up and down 4 flights of stairs to go to the park to feed the pigeons, despite her having a hip disability.
It makes me laugh when she comes as she always brings a bag of treats for Liana and I. This time it consisted of a couple of pairs of huge bras and girdles, four pairs of elastic waisted trousers that don't sit on the hips but go right up to the boobs and a pair of fluorescant pyjamas! Liana and I look at each other in disbelief, though we have to say that they are lovely so not to offend her. The crunch comes when she tells us to try them on to see if they fit OK, it is so hard to try and keep a serious face. I have a special drawer now which is full of Nonna's special gifts to us, I just hope she doesn't go snooping one day and finds them all!

She loves coming to Frascati as she finds it so peaceful compared to Napoli, though most of her time is spent sleeping, she reminds me of a cat, eats and sleeps, eats and sleeps!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Buon Anniversario 22 Anni


This week Domenico and I reached our 22nd wedding aniversary.We have known each other since I was 16 years old, 26 years later and with 3 children thrown in along the way, I'm still crazy about him!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Linguine Con Vongole


This is one of my favourite pasta dishes, light, quick to make and slightly picante.

You will need:
Vongole (Clams) make sure they are very fresh
1 Onion
1 Garlic Clove
Pepperoncini
Fresh Parsley
A few salted anchovies
Linguine

1. Cover the Vongole in salt water ( a good handful of salt) and leave for a few hours, if the vongole are still alive they will open up and spit out any sand still in the shells.
2. Sauté finally diced onion with the garlic, pepperoncini and anchovies.
3. The anchovies should melt to add to the seafood flavour.
4. Cook the pasta
5.Drain and rinse the vongole and add to the simmering onion mix. Add a dash of white wine, chopped cherry tomatoes, salt, cracked pepper and a little water then cover, leave until the shells have opened.
6.Drain the pasta well and add to vongole sauce, I usually make this dish in the Wok so I have the depth to toss everything together.
7.Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.



Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Austria- Christmas Holiday 2

Before returning to Italy we decided to stop a few days in Austria, as soon as we reached the border into Austria the skies cleared as if on cue and before us we could see the Alps where we were heading. We decided to go to the Gastein Valley near Salzburg as it wasn't too far from our route back to Italy and luckily had a substantial covering of snow considering the rest of Europe was still waiting. We hadn't booked any accomodation though did leave an email with the information centre for any vacancies to be texted to us. Luckily we found one of two self contained apartments (Hausebengut) in an Austrian families house on the mountainside at Bad Hofgastein.
Hausebengut

View up the valley from our terrace

Domenico, Liana, DJ & I
It was just perfect and had everything we needed and at 45euro a night for four of us it was a real bargain. The Wallner family were extremely hospitable greeting us with a glass of Schnapps and then bringing us some homemade christmas cookies.
The next day we headed to the ski resort for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The conditions were perfect, DJ took off with his snow board and we didn't see him for the rest of the day, whilst Liana, Domenico and I tried to stay together. It didn't take long to get the hang of it again, though Domenico had a bad fall at one stage and lost his confidence so spent the rest of the time cautiously snow ploughing down the pistes.
After yet more sausages (yes we are all sausaged out now!) and a couple of mugs of hot mulled wine we were on our way again, our skiing suddenly improved with some alcohol in our systems! and we had a fabulous time meandering through the forest on a 7km run. I was exhausted by the end and my legs were like jelly, though it was a great feeling.
The following day we spent around the town of Bad Hofgastein and Bad Gastein which are part of a thermal area full of health spas and underground caves reknowed for there therapeutic qualities.
We really loved this area in Austria and will certainly return one day for a longer stay.
Bad Hofgastein

Though a bit of advise to any one travelling with their car, make sure you buy the road tax sticker for the autostrada and expressway 7 euro. After travelling through the rest of Europe ( apart from Czech Republic) we didn't realise it was necessary and got a whopping 120 euro on the spot fine when crossing the border back into Italy. No amount of pleading helped and they said they would take our car if it wasn't paid!