Cocktails, Tattoos and Turtles

Today the October weather was glorious, the sun was shining and with just a whisper of a breeze we donned our sunglasses and headed off out for an adventure. The lovely Annie; who was having an adventure of her own, coming to Italy alone and driving a ‘wrong way ‘round car’ arrived as the iPod played The Idol (all Gods Fall) by Marc Almond. We quickly secured the mutts inside the house and clambered into my car and headed off to Roccascalegna. The journey gave the step-son a chance to see some of the terrain around these parts as all he’d seen since arriving was the motorway and our local town. The drive up to Roccascalegna is a nice one, you pass through the small town of Altino; its narrow streets giving it a stepping back in time feel, and as soon as you leave Altino you get spectacular views galore. The roads wind their way ever upwards and you can see for miles, down over olive groves and patches of wild fauna and over towards the lake at Bomba, that amid the greenery looks like a splash of mercury today.

We collect Mark and head down the other side of the town towards the lake. We stop at a small cafe that has been recommended but sadly the doors are locked and there’s no signs of life, we pose for a couple of photographs with the sun on our faces before making our way further downwards and around the lake, the surface of which, when kissed by the breeze, quivers like a plucked string. “Turn right here,” Mark says directing me the wrong way up a strada exit, luckily nothing is exiting towards us and I cut across the road. Minutes later we are entering what looks like another typical Italian bar, but this one was very different. The walls are covered with signs for Guinness and other English beers, the wood is stained dark and the pictures are similar to what would be found in a public house in the heart of England.

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A man who looks shocked to see us there appears behind the bar and we order beer and panini, which when they arrive are huge slabs of bread filled with cheese and meat. The five of us grapple with our surf-board sized sandwiches and share the two bottles of beer between ourselves before I pay the man and we make our way towards Villa Santa Maria, the home of the great Italian chefs. The very first professional culinary school was founded here in the 16th century by Prince Ferrante Caracciolo of Naples. Just before  Villa S. Maria is a town with a name that appears longer than its main street. We stop here in Pietraferrazzana and head off towards our intended destination, a relatively new bar on Corso Giuseppe Mazzini. The reason we’re here is cocktails. The bar is renowned for its selection of drinks made up of multiple beverages. The waitress comes to take our order and I spot an intricate tattoo on the underside of a forearm, I’m about to tell her it’s a nice tattoo and my brain shuffles and the only Italian word I can recall is tartaruga, and even I’m not stupid enough to say to her, “You have a nice turtle.”  I’m drinking my blue drink that looks like shower gel but tastes delicious when the correct word for tattoo; tatuaggio, makes itself known to the inner workings of my brain.

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As we chat a handsome man arrives with a guitar and starts to play, Mark asks him if he knows any English songs, he responds in broken English, “No, I know not any English songs.” Stefano, as we discover his name to be, then plays and sings, Save the Last Dance for Me, which sounds very English to our ears. Later the barmaid brings us all another drink telling us they are from Stefano, we thank him and afterwards just before we leave Mark gets an impromptu lesson in Italian pronunciation from the barmaid and she shows me her tattoo in detail, telling me I need to have the tattoo on my wrist changed as it’s too small. “Maybe I’ll have a turtle added to it,” she looks at me perplexed, “personal joke,” I respond and somewhat more confused she then goes back to giving Mark more pointers on his pronunciation, which in jest he deliberately gets wrong.

Cocktails and House Guests

Saturday, we had a pleasant afternoon on the beach at Casalbordino, there was a small group of us and we sipped prosecco and ate our picnic as the warm September sun shone down.  No matter what time of the year it is, I cannot go near the sea without wanting to swim in it, so we also took a dip. Being blokes we naturally couldn’t resist the urge to pee in the sea which was disguised as swimming. We were chatting when the subject of house guests came up, those friends and family wanting to come out to stay. As some of our party have self-catering accommodation, they have to explain to those friends that want to come for a ‘free’ holiday, that they must come out of season. The point that was raised, was that when visitors do come, they expect their hosts to show them the  sights, take them to the best restaurants and spend days lazing on the beach. Is this unreasonable, was the question asked of our group and we all said, although we’d expect to indulge our house guests, they on reflection never consider that. 1. You have to do this for every new guest, and 2. you’re not on holiday and have to continue with your daily routine.

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Early evening at Casalbordino

The biggest issue apart from the disruption to daily life is the added expense. Is it appropriate to ask house guests to contribute towards their stay, especially if you have to take time off to look after them? In my case, days out with guests would eat into my writing time and eventually would cost me my income, so I guess it would be acceptable to ask for a contribution. Most people said that their house guests would often take them out for a nice meal to say thank you. But when you add up the cost of petrol, utilities and lost revenue, is a meal really compensation? I had friends come over to stay for a week and they were the perfect house guests. I collected them from the airport and the first thing they said was, “We don’t want to disrupt your routine, we’ll fit in with you.” Throughout the week they insisted in paying for the petrol used to take them out, they contributed 50% to the weekly shopping and during the day when I was working they did their own thing, either around the local area or by borrowing the car to explore further afield. When I wasn’t working we enjoyed local sights, the beach and pizza at the local pizzeria. At the end of the week as I dropped them off at the airport they slipped me an extra €100. saying “Put this towards our stay,”

One of our party said after she noticed how much it was costing her in time and money when guests came out; fired up in holiday mode, she set a fixed price per person per day, and that has worked for them. One thing guests don’t realise is, that the previous week another set of guests had been staying and you have to repeat the previous week’s activities for them.

After packing up, we strolled over to a new cocktail bar that had opened and after perusing the (IMO far too extensive) menu, we all sat and enjoyed our drinks as the light faded over Casalbordino and the only sound to be heard was the laughter of chatting Brits and the soft lapping of the waves.

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Swanky sofas overlooking the sea