Exclusive – Local Experts Baffled Some strange objects have been seen appearing, albeit briefly, in the sky above central Italy. Local experts are completely baffled by this phenomenon. UFOs have been ruled out because the objects look too wispy and no small green men have been seen looking out of them. So too has some kind of military operations as all flyovers and manoeuvres are suspended in the summer months. A local newcomer did suggest that they might be some form of a thing called a “cloud”. When this was voiced however, some people just looked at him in disbelief. Others just looked wistfully at him whilst shaking their heads with a small smile on their faces. National phenomenon experts are being called in to help with identification. Have you seen them where you are? Perhaps they are more common in the northern climes. If you have and you know what they are called – just keep it to yourself. Thanks.
Piggies in the orchard La Duchessa and I were sitting outside last night after the sun had been down for about an hour, our candles flickering romantically, even the citronella ones that I have to have lit. I seem to be a sort of MacDonalds for biting flying insects. They also flock to me whilst leaving La Duchessa well alone – no further comment on this. Yes it was very romantic even allowing for the heavy scent of lemon. Anyway, we had had a lovely light Italian salad and were just sitting listening to some pleasant background music, Christian Death/Thrash metal or was it Rammstein with some Industrial Rock? I can’t really remember, but I think I had closed my eyes just settling in to a lovely relaxing moment when I heard some crunching and grunting noises from way down the garden. I looked up and noticed that La Duchessa wasn’t in her chair. My immediate thoughts were that we hadn’t had enough to eat and she had just popped down the garden for a few apples or pears. Then I realised that neither the apples nor the pears were ripe enough and she wouldn’t have gone there anyway she would certainly have aroused me from my reveries and despatched her L’uomo qui fa to get them. After all, as she is keen on quoting, “Why have a dog and bark yourself?” I am never sure what this means, but I do know that we did have dogs and I’m sure that neither of us used to bark, even when it was a full moon. Maybe she just misses them, I know I do. However, I got up out of my chair and la Duchessa, said “Quick, come over here”, she was only down at the edge of the patio, well OK rubble. I saw her and made my way over. “Listen” she said. Sure enough there were more grunting, crunching and movement through plants noises. It was the pigs. No. not the carabinieri, real ones. They call them cinghiale here and they are hunted reasonably often. Now we have heard them before. One night a couple of years ago, my youngest son heard them at about midnight. We went outside and there was a field of maize opposite the house and you could see the whole field in the beautifully moonlit night. We could see the tops of the corn swaying about as they made tracks through it. Think of the film Signs and you get a good picture of what the scene looked like. We have also seen the damage they do as they root around the trees looking for dropped fruit, apples, pears and olives. But we have still to see one. From pictures they look quite nice, but I believe they can be a bit anti-social. They are not the sort of aperitifs and canapé type animals, more on the Taz front (remember Taz the Tasmanian Devil cartoon?) We did wonder whether they were in our bit of land, but when we inspected this morning we couldn’t see where they had been. I think they were farther away than we thought. Although they did sound close. Just suppose they were far away? In that case they might look like this. Help.
More rellies on the way this week and then for the next three weeks. We have a little break and it starts up again. Will keep you up to date. Ciao, mantenere la fede
A Night at the Opera It was our 10th wedding anniversary back in June. We wanted to celebrate but at the time there was nothing we particularly wanted (could afford more like) to do, so we booked to go to the Sferisterio in Macerata last week. In July and August, it is the venue for an open-air Opera festival. The Sferisterio is recognised as the second best open air opera theatre in Italy after Verona and the third best opera venue overall after Milan (La Scala) and Verona. We went to see Tosca by Puccini.
Before the performance, we went and picked up our tickets – good old Internet – and found a small café to have an aperitif, well, all right a beer. The café had some tables under cover and some which spilled onto the piazza in front of it. We chose to go under cover, a) because it was cooler and b) no one else was there, they were all out in the piazza. We had just sat down at a table and I had put down a little street map we had of the city when, plop, a great big pigeon pooh landed on the table just beside the map. The proprietor had seen this and rushed out being very apologetic – I don’t think it was his pigeon somehow - with his arms waving and yelling at the flying rat to go away which was perched high up towards the ceiling. It did. Now we know why the rest of the customers were sitting in the piazza. We then went off to grab a pizza. We had found out the name of the best pizza restaurant in Macerata (San Silvano). I think about 3000 others had found this out too. We had a lovely pizza there. First rate.
The opera was brilliant. The arena is amazing. As you will see from the photos, it is like half an oval, straightened up a bit at both ends – OK, I didn’t study architecture, so I don’t know what the correct architectural term for the design. The stage stretched along the straight, back wall is therefore very long. The audience sits along the curved side opposite and consists of stall, a sort of low circle and above that many, many boxes separated by stone columns. The acoustics were fantastic. No microphones were used and you could hear every part of the songs from the quietest notes to big, full on arias which of course are the ones most known. The orchestra was excellent. As usual over here you can wear what you like. Some of the audience were dressed up to the nines whilst others (ourselves included) were very casually attired. It all made for wonderful relaxing and enjoyable time. Just sitting there at 11:30 at night, in shirtsleeves, the clear half-moon and stars way above with this wonderful entertainment in front of you was pretty magical actually. The way the arena was built allowed for no noise from outside to penetrate. Extraordinary really. Driving home we both thought that this would be great place to celebrate next year too. If you want to see more information on the Sferisterio you can go to: www.sferesterio.it They do have an English “button”
Cuddle – Italian Summer Style
The summer here continues to be hot and dry (as in rain, not humidity which can be very high). Now the Duchessa and I are very partial to cuddling. We do like a good hug now and then. However, recently the thought of any bodily contact with the consequent rise in body temperature is a bit of anathema to both of us. A big hot hug is something we could not pursue right now. In fact, we have decided that the best thing we can do is to constantly play the game Statures. I bet you remember playing this. You have to stay as still as possible. The first person to move is out. The game starts again and so on until there is only one person left and they win the game. Admittedly this is not a very adult game, but so what, it illustrates the problem extremely well. It works. It works so well in fact that there has been no winner yet. Unfortunately, very little gets done. So a slight re-think might be in order, or an alternative. Individual walk-in portable fridges perhaps? Anyway, back to the cuddles. We have come up with a solution. Not a great one, but a solution nonetheless. We call it the Italian Summer Hug or ISH for short – see the picture below. We can hug like this for, ooh, about 20 seconds before our fingertips glow with heat and get so wet they just slip off each other. I am thinking of taking out an Italian patent on the idea, but I will need to brush up on my EU/Italian patent laws first.
Where has he gone?
I did some strimming the other day. As we have mentioned before any manual work really needs to be done by mid-morning or else something terrible could happen. I was a little bit late going out to do some strimming. It was getting hotter and hotter but there was a piece of ground I really wanted to finish so I pressed on a bit longer than I perhaps should have. I arrived back at the house in my strimming gear – you really need to wear long trousers and wellies to avoid flying bits of green vegetation attacking your legs. I obviously looked warm as the Duchessa said, “I hope you not thinking of coming into the house like that and dripping all over the floor and furniture. Just go and sit down and cool down first” “But it’s quite warm out here. Where am I going to get cool?” ”Just do as I say and you can come in later” she ended the conversation. So, being the compliant l’uomo chi fa, I did as I was asked and, well, you can see the result for yourselves. This was how she found me two hours later.
What a spectacle. We went down to the Quintana in Ascoli Piceno which is one of the five provincial cities in Le Marche and the most Southern (this doesn’t sound like good English to me). It is an extremely lovely town not far from the next region down, which is Abruzzo. The Quintana is a collection of pageants that have been staged for centuries held in honour of the city’s patron, St Emidio. The whole shebang goes on for about a month and we went down for pretty much the last main event. It is a parade through the city of over 1200 Ascolis dressed in medieval costumes that represent the city’s “sestieri” or boroughs, which can probably be traced back to clans or families, although I don’t think there is any association with other Italian families, particularly in Sicily. Each sestieri was fronted by a lady in the families’ colours, most with little children holding up the trains of their dresses. The parade ends in the field of games where a modern joust takes place between equestrians representing the sestieri. This starts at about 17:00 and concludes near midnight, when the winner takes his colours back through the city. We only went for the parade because the joust is a ticket only event and it gets sold out quicker than you can say “Michael Eavis”. Unfortunately, you can’t buy them online.
It was another scorcher weather-wise and we got there early and had a Panini in the Piazza del Popolo – the people’s square. It is really a fabulous spot. A wedding reception was going on at one of the restaurants in the square, which seemed to add to the festivities somehow. After lunch, we stationed ourselves in one of the other three main piazze, Piazza Arringo, to see the parade. It was a nice wide piazza that offered some shade – it is the one where Ascoli Piceno’s Duomo or Cathedral is situated, along with the baptistry, the town hall and art gallery. We heard the drummers and trumpeters and then we saw the head of the parade coming into view. It really was a remarkable sight. We took over 160 photographs which when we looked at them later that day we whittled down to about 70. I am afraid we can only include a couple here. I don’t know how some of the people survived in the heat, I guess they are just used to it. Some of them would have been standing or slow walking in full sun for about three hours. Not only that but the costumes were very real. Men wearing metal breastplates, others in velvet cloaks. Some were in tights, some even in woollen tights. The colours were wonderfully vibrant. The Duchessa was busy snapping away as I looked after bags and things. Before we set out, I got some spare camera batteries in case we needed them, and popped them into the Duchessa’s bag. I was going to put them in pocket, but batteries are a bit heavy. It was a good job I did. I was watching some flag throwers; they were really brilliant to watch, in fact one of the early Quintana events in July is just for flag throwing. Anyway, above the general din of the crowd and drums and trumpets of the pageant, I heard “Oh no, the batteries have run out! Quick, quick, I need some new ones” The Duchessa thrust the camera into my hands and turned back to view the spectacle whilst she waited for the camera to become operative once more. Something she thought could be done in about 2.5 seconds. I need to explain at this point that I had not been wearing sunglasses as a rogue cloud had appeared and temporarily blanked the sun, so I had taken them off to get a better view. Just as I grabbed the camera, the sun burst into full 100% mode again making it slightly more difficult to see for a few moments. I realised time was precious here if I wanted any dinner later on, so I removed the battery cover, tipped out the used ones and put them in my pocket, to keep them separate. I took up the Duchessa’s bag and rummaged in the corner where I thought I remembered putting the spare ones and came up with four double AA sized things. I quickly put them in, more by feel than anything else - I had changed the batteries loads of times before - as my vision was still not very good. They all fitted in alright and I kept glancing up to see what was happening with the parade. I closed the battery compartment and hurriedly gave the camera back to the Duchessa, who by now was foot-tapping, yet I’m sure I hadn’t been more that 6 seconds, at the outside. She swept the camera up to her eye and prepared to take more pictures as I put the bag back down on the ground and resumed watching the spectacle. “It’s not working, it’s not working!” she thundered. It was once said that Helen of Troy had the face that launched a 1000 ships. Well, the Duchessa’s look at that precise moment would have sunk them. I took the camera and turned it upside down to remove the battery cover, thinking, I know what has happened, I just threw those batteries in and I bet that at least one has gone in upside down, a negative end when it should have been a positive, or vice versa. Imagine my surprise, no, not surprise, horror more like, when as I pored out the batteries, three double AAs came out along with, a very personal item of women’s hygiene. My face reddened, but the people around me would not have noticed it was through sheer embarrassment, because of the sun. I snatched up the Duchessa’s bag and groped frantically around the bottom until I felt absolutely sure that what I had in my hand was the fourth battery. It was. I put them all back in and powered up the camera to make sure it was working before, rather meekly, handing it back to the outstretched hand that was twitching impatiently. Phew. I discretely returned the unwanted item back to the depths of the Duchessa's bag and got on with enjoying the show.
The Duchessa was able to snap away to her heart’s content until the last of the parade had passed.
Learning point? Keep your spare batteries where you know they, and only they are, namely, in your pocket.
It was a great spectacle and we were very pleased we saw it. We hope to go to one of the other events of the Quintana next year. If you want to learn a bit more about the events, there is quite a lot on www.comune.ap.it or www.le-marche.com/Marche/html/ascopic.htmr
We have started our 4th year here, living in beautiful rural, central Italy. Where has the time gone? It's still a little bit scary but exciting too. This blog will continue to provide a record of a good life in the slow lane. My sister painted our house and as it was so good we thought we would use it here. Thanks Liz.