Sunday, 19 April 2009

Delusions of glamour

Every now and then in Italy I get a flash of La Dolce Vita, those moments when I suddenly feel as though I'm on the set of a classy film and something wonderfully romantic is about to happen. There was a drive along the coast last year, when everyone we passed seemed impossibly glamourous and carefree (and were they really all driving sports cars and wearing big hats?(maybe I'd had too much sun)). Anyway it happened again this week in the Garzoni Gardens near Collodi.

The gardens adjoin the Parco Pinocchio and our 'Biglietto Unico' admitted us to both. For the benefit of the daughter we headed for Pinocchio Land first. As theme parks go it is fairly tame, but the daughter loved it and there are some lovely sculptures and mosiacs telling the story of Pinocchio (although I suddenly realised I only knew the Disney version and felt a bit lost). There were pointed hatted grinning Pinnochio's everywhere including a giant 16m high one one that towered above us watching our every move.

After becoming pinnochioed out and foolishly eating our picnic in the midday sun (it's true what they say about Mad Dogs etc) we headed for the tranquility of the Garzoni Gardens.

They were designed in the 16th century and are heavy on marble sculpture, sweeping staircases and hidden corners. It was a beautiful blue sky day, which set it all off perfectly. It has been used as a film set and backdrop lots of times and I confess, in my vintage '50s sundress and big shades I had a Dolce Vita moment. I leaned against balustrades and gazed wistfully up at the muscled marbled gods on display while the daughter and Hubby reclined under the orange trees. Just think Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn and a young Judy Garland ;o).

Sadly it was the one day so far that we forgot our camera so instead of pictures of a pasty English family looking a bit sundazed and confused, and wearing considerably less clothing than any of the be-coated and be-mused Italians, I thought I'd share this with you instead (this is what it looked like in my head!)

In lieu of photographs I bought lots of postcards including the above and this one of some rather scary looking Spanish ballet dancers

The above pasted above my computer today has kept me jolly as I'm not feeling quite so be-glamoured anymore. Hubby and daughter flew back to England yesterday so now it's just me and the dog. And they even took the sunshine with them! Apparently they were frolicking naked on the allotment this afternoon (or maybe that was just the daughter) while here the skies have been an Eeyorish grey and threatening rain. Still I've got loads of writing done and have a whole week of only dogwalking and writing to come, so I can hardly complain.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Buona Pasqua!

Easter Monday is picnic time in this part of Tuscany.

Like everyone else we headed for the hills this lunchtime with a basket of goodies, which included, amongst the bread and cheese and tomatoes, an enormous panettone in the shape of a dove. Our destination was a large meadow, which when we last saw it was being used as a football pitch by a bevy(?) of nuns (sorry not sure of the correct collective noun). Today it was blanketed with picnickers including families with dogs and footballs and teenagers with sound systems. All a bit mad and loud but good fun.

Afterwards we stopped at a small mountain village intrigued by posters announcing a 'Sagra da Ouvo Sodo' - a Festival of Hard-Boiled Eggs. In the centre of the village, surrounded by stalls selling pecorino cheese, handcarved crucifixes and assorted funghi, the local priest blessed several large boxes of hard-boiled eggs. The eggs were then handed out to everyone in the crowd in individual paper bags each containing a pinch of salt . As everyone munched away a saxophone-harmonica duo struck up a tune and couples began dancing. As we watched we were approached by a clown who presented the daughter with a beautiful flower twisted from balloons.

As we were leaving I spotted a wool stall with a half price sale, and bought lots of gorgeous boucle wool (completely forgetting that a. I have no knitting needles with me and b. I would have to squeeze it all into my suitcase (along with the bottles of limoncello already stashed there)).

We've been invited out to pizza tonight at the 'Circolo' in a neighbouring village. It is basically a social club that everyone in the village contributes to annually, and which, in this case, has a pizzeria, bar, gelateria and dance hall - and also apparently serves up some wicked grappa! What more could you want? More and more of the local small bars seem to be closing, so the Circola seems like a good way of maintaining a social centre in a village.

Just like the Hard-Boiled Egg festival reminded me of our local summer fair, the Circola reminds me of the bowling club in a village near home which hosts various community events from Belly Dancing evenings to Whisky Tastings - not at all glamorous but providing a much needed gathering point for the community

West Yorkshire and Tuscany not so very different after all - except of course for the sunshine :o)

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Friday, 3 April 2009

It’s a dirty job but...

So, you know how I was moaning a while back about being snowed under with work, not having any time off blah blah. Well I may have forgotten to mention that I had a little reward planned for myself. Another job, of sorts, but ever so slightly less arduous. I’m dog-sitting in Tuscany. Well someone had to do it! And no-one else offered (although it may have slipped my mind to widely advertise the vacancy).

So here I am or rather here we are. The daughter and I have been out here for a week so far and it’s been gorgeous. We’re in a small village clustered on a hilltop looking across wooded valleys to several other similarly huddled collections of pan-tiled roofs and precipitous walls.

We’re having lots of lovely long walks in the woods, olives and cheese on the terrace and a daily ice-cream. We also seem to have the dogsitting bit sorted. We walk her (Eilidh, a sweet-eyed collie who thinks cars are sheep) a couple of times a day, water and feed her, play ‘Where’s the bone?’ and give lots of cuddles (the daughter’s particulalrly good at this). So far have succeeded in not losing her on aforementioned long walks, have remembered to save her some pizza crusts and stopped her eating next door’s cat. In return she has honoured us with choosing to sleep in our room and snore softly.

Hubby is joining us over Easter and then later I’m going to be here all on my ownsome for a week. Hoping to get lots of writing done, especially in that final week, but so far have been a bit distracted by scenery, ice cream and vino.

Our neighbours are lovely (and quickly forgave the near cat-eating episode). They don’t appear to mind my creaky attempts at Italian conversation (mainly lots of nouns strung together with smiles and ‘Si, si’). I lived out here for a year a while ago and was pretty fluent but most of it seems to have deserted me and I have left my trusty phrase book behind in England. I’m hoping that my fluency will start to return over the next couple of weeks as the neighbours do seem very keen to chat (hope they’ve not been trying to tell me anything really important).

Looking forward to tomorrow as it’s market day in the nearby town and I get really excited by the piles of fresh fruit and vegetables and the lovely shoes. Will also need to stock up on Tam Tams – little spongey chocolatey cake things to which the daughter and I are now addicted.

My internet connection seems a bit temperamental but I’m really enjoying catching up on blogs and news in the evenings when I can (and when I’m not being further distracted by the extensive DVD collection in this house – think I’ll have a bit of The Mighty Boosh tonight.)

Eilidh is now licking my leg – either she loves me or needs to go outside for a wee. I quite like our late night mini-walks – the view is very sparkly at night as all the other little hilltop villages are lit up like Christmas trees. Just hope next door's cat isn’t lurking behind a wall.