Summer in Italy

08/29/2012 - 16:44

Well, we've got to drive home either tomorrow, Friday or Saturday, as our ferry sails from Calais on Monday 3rd. After 5 weeks at our apartment a few miles from the Tuscan/Ligurian coast, it's time to leave. Reluctantly. The weather has been fantastic, sunny, hot, breezy, stormy, but always great for sitting in the garden and contemplating the withering apple tree, (for lack of rain), and the ever changing mountain ranges that appear and disappear according to the amount of cloud in the sky. There have been fairs, festas, and sagras, in the neighbouring hill villages. We have been to as many as possible, and enjoyed seeing Italy and the Italians as they are. We've had a few visitors from England, and they have shared our enthusiams for the area and nearby towns and villages. We wish we had more language skills to communicate with our friendly neighbours who have shared produce from their ortos, introductions to visiting Italian family members from Milan and beyond, and their cheery morning and evening greetings. They always want to know where we have been that day, how our family members are that they have met on previous visits, and if we are well and happy. When I had a cough they sent cough medicine and honey for infusing with hot milk, (a whole jar from a neighbour's bees), and concern and well wishes conveyed in genuine smiles, waves and gestures. I've heard them arguing, I've heard them singing - sounds like opera; one sings something and the other sings back their response, no inhibitions. Dance music emanates from their open window at 11.30am along with the aroma of soup on the boil, and I get the feeling they are 'smooth dancing' around the kitchen table. In contrast, my mum and dad at home in the UK would be awaiting the BBC midday news on tv! We won't be back for a few weeks, but I know my neighbours will water my geraniums, potted by me only a month ago upon my arrival here, and the plants will be blooming when I return in October to shut our place up for the winter to await our return at Easter 2013.How fortunate are we?



Glad you have friendly neighbours, - it does make a difference. Ours are an elderly couple who always greet us when they are out on their top step. Rosaria is often there hanging out washing and watering her flowers and herbs, and her husband Nicola feeds the cat. Every night they stroll up and down the street with other elderly neighbours- the famous 'passegiata'. Some of the older people speak only dialect- this is Grottole, in Basilicata - so Rosaria translates. They have given us wine from their own vineyard- white and frizzante, not unlike prosecco - and have ordered wood for us so that we we will be warm when we come out in winter. I was initially startled at local people's level of interest in our activities. One day I went for a walk down in the valley, and a neighbour leaned out of the window to ask where I was going! But their interest is friendly, and compared to some people's experience reported on this forum, with spiteful and obstreperous neighbours, we are lucky indeed.  

With my post, 'the legality of building a shed' it may seem we don't have any nice neighbours. But, apart from the one mentioned, they are a delight. They have always been friendly when we used to visit for  1 or 2 months every summer, but since we have moved here they have been even more generous. We have woken to find huge bags of tomatoes and zucchini flowers tied to our gate, we have had suppers cooked for no apparent reason and they are always interested in what we do and where we have been. They think it so funny my partner can't speak Italian and tease him that after so many years he only knows 5 words, but they love him too because he is always friendly and open and will help any one of them out if he can. Elderly neighbours have let us use some of their land, at no cost, to grow vegetables; keeping a watchful eye at every turn. They didn't want any of the produce - just canny enough to know if we used the land we would keep it clean and free of weeds and save them the cost of clearing it every few months! Our 'star' neighbour tho' must be Franco who lives across the way. Tailor by day (although officially retired) and theatrical entrepreneur by night he has taken us under his wing. Our relationship is quid pro quo - we drive him to the shops when needed and Dave is forever making/mending things in his 'laboratorio' and house. Last year we helped him with the show, by making the scenery,getting shop-keepers to stick-up his publicity posters, putting out chairs and generally running around after him to make sure everything was in place on the night. He paid us the highest accolade by having our names on the programme and giving us a special thank-you at the end of the show - welcoming us as part of the town rather than 'stranieri'. He has cooked for us more times than I care to remember, put on dinners when we have had visitors and always thanks us with a "un bel caffè" for our time. So we may have one horrible neighbour, but he is eclipsed by the rest, who our now true friends as well as neighbours!  

Hi Karen maybe i missed your post,did you resolve your water supply problem with your neighbour.             What a wonderful feeling from your holiday,definatley "For lovers of all things Italian"

Jane, when I read your post about the shed and obnxious neighbours, I felt sorry for you and glad that our place is about a kilometre from the nearest village and a couple hundred metres from our nearest neighbours (who are very nice people). Reading your post above almost made me regret that we don't live in a village with a neighbour like Franco. For the little it's worth, my advice is that you continue to make yourself a part of your community, get yourself a little pre-fab shed on wheels to cover the motorcycle and then strive to very pointedly ignore the prats next door. If you do it correctly - and I suspect we northern Europeans might find it a lot easier than many Italians - the fact that you obviously just don't care about the self-important gits will probably irritate them far more than anything else you might do. Al

In reply to by Allan Mason

Thanks Al - your post really cheered me up and yes, we are lucky enough to have plenty of friendly neighbours aside from the prat. And my partner arrives back this evening having done the long drive over form the UK (in the van this time - Harley safely with me) so we shall takle our 'shed problem' with renewed vigour - I like the idea of a shed on wheels! Will let you know how we get on.....  

Enjoyed the post FNO. Well observed & well written. Shame you'll be separated from your source material soon. Maybe though, you'll have a decent store of memories with which to keep the keyboard busy. You being on the Tuscan/Ligurian border are no more than an hour & a half drive from Bolgheri & Castagnetto Carducci. When you manage to visit again, take a drive to Castagnetto Carducci & find the little corner Enoteca/Bar in the centre where the lovely barman, if he's still there,  gives you tasters of top flight Bolgheri wines for a small handfull of euros. An experience worth a few lines/pages. Pilch 

We visited Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci earlier this month while staying for a few days near the Gulf of Baratti. A beautiful area worth visiting. We bought some of the wine mentioned above and wish we'd bought a lot more it was so good. The Gulf of Baratti, a bit south of there,is  a gorgeous bit of coastline with the Etruscan port of Populonia perched on a cliff and lots of fascinating museums. Also worth visiting is Massa Marittima. People ask us why we dont get fed up of going back to Italy. I just fret that there aren't enough years left in my life to even explore my own bit of Liguria properly, never mind the rest of Italy. New places to discover and an ever increasing list of favourite places to revisit. We go again in October and will be there on the first anniversary of the huge floods and landslides which devastated that area on Oct 21st last year. We visited Monterosso this month and you could hardly tell there had been a disaster, but there is still a lot of evidence in the inland villages that suffered. The completely new road to our village was at the last stages of being dug out and the new bridge is in place but we are still waiting for the road to be tarmacked. Just hope it will all be finished soon . The evacuated residents moved back only at the beginning of June and have had to use a very rough, partly temporary road, that would be dangerous in winter. They say they are going to have a festa to celebrate when all is complete and want us to be there, so hope it will be in October.