orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

To book an informative and fun wine tasting whilst holidaying in Italy or arrange for a wild food walk in your area contact me on tuscanytipple at libero dot it or check out my Facebook page

Total Pageviews

Saturday, 31 January 2009

of computer problems and climatic anomalies

Well, again some technical problems forced me into a short break from posting on this blog. This time it was a virus on my computer. A pop-up claiming I needed to update my Google tool box turned up on my screen and couldn’t be clicked away. Alarm bells should have been ringing then, but foolishly I clicked ok, the only option that seemed to work and bang! there it was. I couldn’t access the internet for a bit. Our extremely helpful and friendly neighbour Marco came up with a solution though and everything is running smoothly again without any permanent damage. Thank Marco for that!

Talking about technical problems, my printer, a Canon Pixma IP 2000, was also playing up. A message told me that it’s ‘ink absorber’ was full and that I would have to take it to an authorised Canon service department. Marco did a quick internet search and also found a solution to this problem. All I had to do was press a few buttons in a specific sequence and, hey bingo, the printer works again. Is this some sort of scam by Canon to get their service departments some work? You take your machine to one, they tut and hah: “ooh, that’ll cost you mate…”, give it back to you the next day and charge you €30 for a 2 minute job. Sort of an inbuilt, pre-designed fault to make you spent some more money with their company? Sounds ridiculous to me.

Anyway, what else has been happening in the meantime I hear you ask. Well It has rained a lot. A hell of a lot! Shortly after the last post it started. Some villages along the rivers Magra and Vara were cut off from the outside world due to flooding. Below you see a photo of the Magra on one of the few days on which we had a break in the weather and judging by the rubbish stuck in the trees (which normally stand on dry land!) the river was up to about 2 ½ metres above it’s normal level.
This weather is being blamed by a wind called the Scirocco. It’s a south-westerly originating in the Sahara desert in Africa. Now you’d think a wind coming from the desert brings nice warm and dry weather to your shore, but unfortunately it crosses a fair bit of the Mediterranean on it’s way here, where it can pick up plenty of water. Once it arrives up here with us it meets up with a cold air sitting on top of the alps and northern Appenines and simply dumps half of the Mediterranean Sea over our heads.

And talking of climatic anomalies, our car appears to have developed it’s own micro-climate. Somewhere it has sprung a leak and with all that rain there are some serious puddles, if not to say ponds inside the car. This means, even when the sun is shining outside, it’s raining inside the car. It’s like a tropical rainforest. I need wipers more urgently for the insides of the windows than for the outsides! And with us transporting a lot of freshly cut wood in the car, we have introduced quite a varied wildlife to the car as well. In one of the ponds I believe the first signs of some primeval life form have started to evolve.

Enough of all that. Since about Wednesday the weather has finally improved again and the sun is back. We built a small poly tunnel as you can see above and will sow some early lettuces out in there this weekend. Today I sowed the first indoor seeds, namely various tomatoes, various peppers, aubergines, melons, cucumbers, chillies, basil, savoury, chervil, dill. And the best news of all, Mickey the kitten is finally over her period of being on heat and doesn’t miaow at us all night, nor do the toms outside.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Quiet winter days (and disturbed nights)

The weather since the last post has mostly been good, albeit cold at night. The exceptions were the 7th January, which was decidedly unpleasant with driving rain and a chilly wind and yesterday which was grey and drizzly. Other than that the sun has been shining with pleasant daytime temperatures, but quite cold nights. Little frost for us though. So we cut quite a bit of wood on our land, spending cosy nights by the fire with the cats.
Talking about the cats… well, Dot the mother has had her operation last week and is now neutered. She was understandably a bit groggy for a few days, but seems to be recovering fine. However, Mickey, the little one, has now started to display all signs of being on heat herself. The poor wee thing couldn’t be more than 4 months old and already all Toms out of the village queue up outside our window and give nighttime concerts. Mickey herself has her hormones going wild too and she’s been keeping us awake for the last 3 nights. So we’re starting to feel a bit under the weather ourselves.

Susan has stared her teaching in Borghetto Vara this week. It’s only once a week, but it’s a start, because we desperately need to earn some money. Borghetto and it’s neighbour village Brugnato are two picturesque quiet villages in the valley of the river Vara, behind the Cinque Terre. The old centre of Brugnato is shaped like a key seen from the air. Yesterday (the drizzly day) we went to Aulla for a spot of shopping. Aulla is not a pretty town, having been destroyed during the war and not very sympathetically rebuilt, but it does have some hidden gems. We walked up to the castle yesterday. The path leads through a woodland with a botanic garden. From close up the castle actually looks much nicer than from below, where it looks squat and ugly. Inside is the Lunigiana Museum of Natural History. We’ll have a look at it next time.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Happy Epiphany contd.

On Sunday we went on a long walk with a view of finding a route which incorporates Vezzano Ligure for the guide I’m working on. For unknown reasons we have in the over 4 years we’ve been here so far only fleetingly visited this village although it stares us right in the face from across the valley and we kept saying we must go and see it properly sometime. The only previous visits have once been to a party in the lower part and the second time at night, going out for a meal with friends. Vezzano lies right opposite Ponzano, the upper part slightly higher than us overlooking the confluence of the rivers Magra and Vara. Now so far I have always maintained that our village has one of the best views possibly in all of Italy (and I have seen a few), but now I have to concede that the view from Vezzano is even more spectacular. Not only can you see just as far along the Tuscan coast, you have a less restricted view of the Gulf of La Spezia, the Apuan Alps and the Vara and Magra valleys. It’s breathtaking! Below is the view from the ruins of the castle at the top of Vezzano onto the lower part and beyond towards Ponzano and the Apuan Alps.

There is also plenty to explore within the village. Apart from the castle ruin, there are various interesting churches, a pentagonal tower, like the one in Arcola, and numerous little alleyways with beautifully restored old houses.
Unfortunately, because it is situated at a steep promontory, it is not served by a network of footpaths. We walked up to it from the railway station, which is a narrow winding road with little traffic, first leading through the modern and bland part, but soon climbs steeply through olive groves and some beautiful stone houses. On the way down again we followed a footpath, which appeared to lead in the right direction. As we descended the mountain further and further the path became less and less obvious until it finally fizzled out completely in some bramble thicket only a few yards above the road along the valley. Having just descended some 200 metres and having the road so close we were not about to give up, but instead we proceeded to cut our way through the brambles, which took us a while, but was finally achieved. However, I obviously can’t recommend this path to readers of my book with the advice to bring a machete with them… But I do recommend a visit to anyone in the region. I find it surprising that the council of Vezzano doesn’t make much more of a song and dance about the virtues of their place to attract tourists. Well while they don’t it remains a bit of a secret tip.

Happy Epiphany

It’s the time of year again, where witches are abroad and some villagers lead their donkeys through the streets and alleys of Ponzano Superiore collecting money for charity and bringing all good children presents of sweets and other little surprises. Last night Piero and his donkey, accompanied by Mauro with his bag pipes and a couple of witches called at our door and brought us a calendar with photos of the village. This morning, after mass at the church, another villager brought his 3 donkeys up to our terrace and presents where given to all the children. The baby donkey was particularly popular as you can see and imagine.
continued above

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Above you see some pictures of the traditional New Year’s jam session at Pegaso bar in Arcola (http://www.pegasolive.it/). This year they did it the more informal way around a table rather than on stage and included musicians of the Irish band the Tullamores, including our neighbour Marco on banjo and guitar and the proprietor of the Pegaso Andrea on guitar, vocals and mandolin as well as members of Tandarandan(http://www.tandarandan.it/), playing traditional music of the Lunigiana, including our neighbour Mauro on accordion. I put in a stint of traditional “freestyle” Irish dancing à la Michael Flatley of Riverdance! It was a great night again as usual, but my legs are still a bit sore….

I hope you all got into the New Year ok. We celebrated at our neighbours Marco and Susanna. Somehow we where still eating when the clock struck 12. The weather since the last post had been mostly very nice, albeit cold, except for New Year’s Eve itself. As darkness fell a cloud enveloped our hilltop village, making for very unpleasant damp weather, and did not lift until morning. That meant that whereas we normally get a prime view of all the firework displays for a 100 miles around, all we saw this year was the odd hint of a flash in the fog. Well never mind.

The festive season now coming to an end (still Epiphany to come up on the 6th) we started get stuck into some work again today. I’ve had the chainsaw fixed and it works better than ever before. The old chain that I had to replace was as blunt as, as, as… as a really blunt thing, and the new chain cut through the cherry tree which needed felling like a hot knife through butter. We filled the car to bursting with wood. I really should have it registered as an agricultural vehicle to pay less.