We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a 2 week holiday touring round Italy. We did a big loop south from Lovere and visited places in the states of Marche (midway down on east), Puglia (the heel), Basilicata & Campania (south) & Tuscany (west).
Here’s a scintillating slideshow with caption commentary! (It’s a long one so get a coffee & some biscotti or a glass of Italian wine & some olives ready!) Hope you enjoy it…..
We’re back from holiday in the South of Italy to Lago d’Iseo in the North, where autumn has well and truly arrived. We woke up to the comforting sound of the heating system and emerged to an already sunny morning.
Ten minutes later, around 9.30, we were wrapped up and outside for a stroll through the old town to a delicatessen where we knew we could get bread on a Sunday morning.
En route was one of the larger churches in the town – I haven’t counted but there are at least 5 ranging from an oversized chapel to an undersized cathedral. Almost everyone around us was heading into the church: elderly couples, young couples, a mother and son. I like going into churches to see the architecture & frescoes but mostly to sample the atmosphere. We’ve not seen a ‘live’ service (“messa”) before so we entered as discretely as we could. Every seat was taken so we didn’t stick out, standing among the 20 or so who were also at the back.
Other than the odd Christmas carol service, I’ve never seen a packed church before. Here it’s a regular occurrence and it had a real buzz to it. Someone was already speaking from the pulpit but people continued to enter (and a couple leave). I’d expected it to be a solemn, head-bowed ‘prayerful’ sight but it had more of a relaxed, attentive, matter-of-fact feel to it.
At a changeover of speaker, we slipped out and continued to the delicatessen. We’ve become accustomed to shops being shut on Sundays and were expecting this to be the solitary open one. In fact the baker and greengrocer’s were also open.
As well as the chap from Napoli who runs the Frutteria there were a handful of customers in his shop, making the place feel full. Compared to shops in the UK, these shop fronts are half-width, some almost like little openings from the street little wider than a normal front door. We enquired about peaches but the season is over and instead we decided to try fruit called kaki which resembles a hairless apricot the size of an apple. (It’s a persimmon I’ve learned having gone online since.)
Our first encounter at this shop was when we’d come for peaches in the summer and we’d received a brusque “Tocate, prendete” (“You touch, you take”) when we’d tried selecting fruit. Although we’re now more accepted regulars, we still tend to let the shopkeeper do the selecting. Not so for an older woman customer who told us which kaki were ripest and got the shopkeeper to select the best for us.
From there we wandered down to the lakefront, had a coffee in the large square overlooking the lake, and headed back home.
Back in our flat, it was just gone 11am and time for breakfast… English style 🙂
Now that’s how to make Cath a happy girl!
The slideshow is a bit fast, just hover your mouse over the bottom of the photo and stop, forward and backwards buttons will appear….
|After a short drive north up the valley behind our flat yesterday, we arrived at a lovely local town called Clusone for a look around. Not long after arriving, we wandered into ‘Piazza del Paradiso’:|
|Piazza of Paradise is quite a claim but it didn’t take much looking around before I was completely sold on it…..Exhibit A, and for me, the most compelling piece of evidence:|
|mmmm…. can’t be off to a bad start with “house of cheese” being in prime position, but if this isn’t enough to convince you, we’ll move to exhibits B-D:|
|Having a coffee round the corner after our look at Paradise Square:|
|Returning through the same piazza at lunchtime we took this shot as a good example of the typical lunchtime ‘shut down’.. shops often close between 12:30-4pm and everyone retreats inside for a long lunch. All we could hear were the quiet clinks of cutlery, very different from the earlier buzz.|
|In case you’re interested in Clusone’s non-food related aspects, here are some more snaps from our visit (spot the GB mini!):|
Nights can be quite dramatic around lake Iseo and its mountains. I think while we’ve been here we’ve had more thunderstorms than I’ve had pizzas for dinner (which is quite a considerable amount!) They’re always dramatically good, the storms as well as the pizzas, but the storms are especially spectacular at night time.
Distant rumblings building to deafeningly loud cracks as the storm moves over head, wind that feels like it will rip away anything not nailed down and that whistles to a volume almost matching the thunder. The wind is usually a precursor to powerful sheets of torrential rain with huge drops lashing the windows and shutters, the accompanying lightning streaks light up the sky and clouds with blues, purples, pinks and whites… I’ve thankfully never been in a war zone but when one of these storms has moved overhead and is continuing over the mountains in the distance, it sounds and looks like a city the other side of the mountains is under attack from a savage and relentless enemy.
Here are a few examples of thunderstorms by night along with some daytime storms to show the rain and clouds more clearly. There’s also a more tranquil night time image. All taken from our balcony where if you can handle getting buffeted by the wind and drenched by the rain, the shows are amazing.
Maybe we’ve got just enough words under our belts, or maybe we’ve just realised the trick we were missing, but when we’re trying to say something and we don’t know the Italian word, we’ve found that we get a pretty good hit rate by Italianising an English word. So here’s our Bluffer’s Guide to Speaking Italian in 10 simple steps.
Finally there’s the pronunciation. You don’t need it perfect but you need it close enough or you’ll get a wrinkled forehead looking back at you. All those ‘o’s and ‘i’s that you need to add have to sound authentic. Here’s all you really need:
But just before you jet off to Italy (or go down to your local hairdressers) to try out your new-found skill, a few cautionary words about false friends:
If there’s bad weather ahead, don’t talk about the incoming “stormo”. The Italians may look at the sky but they’ll be looking for birds. “Storm” is “temporale” whereas “stormo” means “flock”.
The Italians are famous for their fresh, organic produce so it’s understandable that at a meal with Italian friends you might remark how great it is not to use preservatives. But be careful to say “conservativo” not “preservativo” or you could be stating a dislike for safe sex. A “preservativo” is a condom.
And here’s a bunch more!!!
Of course, a picture paints a thousand words, so if these rules fail you just resort to gesticulating wildly – you’ll be in good company as the Italians are famous for expressive hand gestures.
Many Italians we’ve spoken to over the last few months had been following news of the royal wedding much more than we had. Each time we were quite surprised that they knew all about it and each time they were quite surprised that we knew less than they did! But just because the big event is over now, it doesn’t mean that it’s all been forgotten about here…. we were out a few days ago in a local village and Paul spotted this stuck to a lamp post (“oggi sposi” means just married)!
And just to be patriotic and to make up for my past lack of interest, I’ve found the real thing!:
p.s. I did actually go online briefly to watch a bit of the wedding live, Kate and Will that is not Mino and Luciana, but got thwarted by the internet crashing as so many people were trying to watch it online
Ok, so we didn’t get spring bank holiday on Monday but we do get Festa della Repubblica today! It’s the anniversary of the 1946 vote by the Italian people where they chose to ditch the monarchy in favour of a republic….. although with Silvio Berlusconi in charge, maybe the royals should come back for another go?! ;o)
And what are we doing on this day of celebrations? Instead of doing what others who can get away with it might have done and had a break from getting up at the crack of dawn (Italians are well known for getting up very early), we have got things in reverse and today got up at 6am and went walking in the hills behind our flat. We’ve so far spent the rest of the day working on our computers! We haven’t so far heard a hint of a military fly-by but we’ll get out and about this evening and see what’s going on in our area. At the very least I think it’s only right to go and eat a bowl of ice-cream – any excuse! In honour of today, I think I’ll break from my tried and tested favourite gang (chocolate, pistachio and nut cream) and have a celebratory coloured trio of pistachio, white chocolate and strawberry!
Now we’ve moved into a bigger apartment, and one that’s in a town rather than half way down a hillside, it’s easier to invite our Italian friends over for dinner. We did this last weekend and decided to cook what we feel is a very traditional English dish… Indian curry! Everyone enjoyed it but at some point during the meal all of our 3 guests hit a mouthful which caused them to struggle a little bit with the chilli level, which to our tastes was really pretty mild… I’m talking maybe a level 2 on a scale of 1= korma and 5= madras.
Compared to eating out in Bristol, which has about 100 Indian restaurants as well all sorts of other types, when you eat out in Lovere (and come to that other bigger towns and cities we’ve visited in the past also) you will mostly have the choice of Italian food, Italian food or Italian food! I’m not complaining as I LOVE Italian food and when we eat out, the food is usually fantastic but the lack of other types of restaurants might go some way towards explaining why our friends’ were finding things a little too hot to handle!
After dinner entertainment was a language lesson of a different kind. As everyone probably knows, Italians often talk with their hands as much as their mouths. Being from the less demonstrative UK, we can always use a bit of encouragement and practice with this. We already had this great book to use for the lesson:
and here we all are putting things into practice: