Signs Italy

As you know I’ve neglected my blog due to my heavy workload, but I have been collecting odd signs to show you, and this post is some of the ones I’ve spotted here in Italy.

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The first one made me chuckle as it advertises a special service from Luca. I’m not sure what that service could be.

 

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This one translates as, house of cheese. Maybe not as appealing as the gingerbread house, so I can’t see Hansel and Gretel dropping by soon.

 

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This one is so clever. Here the shop owners have substituted the Italian word for shoe, scarpe into the well-known Latin aphorism carpe diem, that’s usually translated as, seize the day.

 

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This one found in the town of Orsogna is just odd. I’m assuming it’s meant to tell passers by that the hair salon caters for all members of the family.

 

 

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My final one is my favourite. It’s stuck up on the wall of a bar in the town of Palombaro, and clearly states that Ping Pong is €2 an hour. Ask yourselves, is Ping Pong a diminutive lady who’s travelled to Italy from Thailand, and if so, what do you get for your two euro that lasts an hour?

One Pumpkin Two Black Devils and Lots of Fireworks

100_7187I picked the first of my pumpkins two days ago and since then it’s languished on a shelf waiting for something to happen to it. So today as the iPod kicked in and Tilly and the Wall, play Alligator Skin, I took a knife to it and scattered it with chopped chillies, curry powder and cumin before roasting it until the flesh became soft. After it had cooled it was joined by an onion, some tomato puree, homemade stock and after seasoning, it was mercilessly dropped into the liquidiser and reduced to a thick paste. Some fresh cream and a little more stock was added to thin it down and the result was three and a half litres of spicy pumpkin soup.

Lunchtime arrives and as we eat warm focaccia and prosciutto we enjoy a bowl of the soup which has a kick of heat amid its soft creamy texture. It’s 38 degrees outside, but it feels hotter inside my soup bowl. I have to agree with myself that this was a morning well spent in the kitchen.100_7197

In the evening we pick up friends and after I give them a bottle of pumpkin soup, I drive to nearby Palombaro. We’ve been invited by our friends, Richard and Annie for dinner at their  magnificent palazzo. We’re welcomed with wine and I chat to Richard as Annie gives the others a tour of the three-storey property, complete with a sweeping staircase and marble columns. As we sit down to eat, fireworks appear in the distance and very quickly I realise i have the most advantageous seating position. Opposite me is a huge open window, so as I eat I’m entertained by the pyrotechnics in the distance. After a lovely evening of laughter, irreverent storytelling and random remarks about peaches we say our good-byes. We stroll back to the car in streets lit by ochre coloured streetlamps and as we descend back down towards Piana Selva another town is closing its festa with a magnificent firework display.

We arrive home at around 01.30, I let the dogs out for a mad dash around the front garden rough land at the front and then take them for a walk down the lane. When we get to our turning around spot, I clap my hands and like two black devils they race back up the lane towards home. When I eventually catch up with them, Alfie is sat outside the front door while Olive sits in the middle of the road, her eyes flashing in the light from my torch. I ask her to follow and together we enter the house and close the door on another Italian day. 

Pasta Festa in Fara

August is festa time in Italy and every town celebrates something, Altino celebrates peppers, on the road down from Castle Frentano it’s fish and chips: Invented by the ancient Romans of course, and obviously in Fara San Martino it’s pasta. A few evenings ago it was the time for the pasta giant, De Cecco to host the celebrations and myself being a pasta snob, I had to go and see what all the fuss was about.

We arrived early and took a leisurely stroll up to the school where the evening’s festivities were going to take place. We paid our €10, received a yellow ticket and joined the queue waiting for the food that was ready to be dished up. Our ticket entitled us to a first course of pasta, a second course including side dish and bread and a drink. The first course pasta options were, tagliatelle three meat pasta of lamb, veal and pork, seafood linguine or chicken and asparagus penne. I opted for the former three meat option and had a second course of sausages with chopped fresh salad, bread and a glass of red wine.

The school playground had lots of benches set up at long tables and easily could accommodate 500 people, at the far end was a stage and there was a man on a keyboard accompanied by a lady singing. We took our seats and over good food we chatted as the air cooled to a pleasant short-sleeves and sandals temperature. As the venue filled up with diners the evening became full of shouts and waving as neighbours acknowledged each other and families welcomed friends old and new. The tables were attended by teenagers in de Cecco T-shirts and the transition from food to festivities flowed well.

I went to fetch a couple of bottles of wine for our table and my friend, Vivienne, introduced me to a man with no bottom teeth; he turned out to be the local dentist, we exchanged pleasantries and when the bill came for the two bottles of wine and one of water, the dentist nodded knowingly and we received a discount of €3.50. Other friends from the neighbouring town of Palombaro had joined us and as the wine flowed the urge to dance grew. We watched the locals doing some elaborate group dance and fuelled by bravado we decided to give it a go. Needless to say we failed miserably. I whirled Vivienne around the dance floor in a mish-mash of ballroom, tarantella/improvisation style of dancing. But we didn’t care as we were here to have fun, not be scored on our technique.

More wine was consumed, more jollity at the table was shared and the toothless dentist joined us at our table and handed me a De Cecco T-shirt, apparently Seppe had asked him if he could get one for me. That made my night, could it get any better? Yes, the music changed from traditional to pop and nothing could stop our tableful of Brits from rising from their seats and moving across the playground with haste to join the throng of Italians dancing to the Village People hit, YMCA. Well what did you expect it was a party after all, and a splendid one it was too.

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My De Cecco T-shirt.

Supporting New Ventures

The date is Saturday 13th July 2013 and I’m having a coffee as Siouxsie and the Banshee’s play Voodoo Dolly, from Juju, one of my favourite SatB albums, as I sit and enjoy my hit of caffeine I reflect upon the previous night and my invitation to attend the open evening at the Hotel Vittoria in Palombaro.

I think it’s important to support local businesses so whenever possible I buy locally, I’ve previously mentioned before that I frequent the same baker and fruit shop rather than use the supermarkets, I favour our local independent supermercato, Scriz over the multi-national one nearby. So when I heard a few weeks back that the closed and shuttered, Hotel Vittoria was about to have some life breathed into it again, curiosity took over and I had to have a nose around. I was granted a tour of the then unopened hotel by enthusiastic entrepreneur, Pat Sanders who has leased the building and  pretty quickly I see it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. On first impressions I’m taken aback by the sheer size of it, Palombaro is a mountain town in the Chieti region of Abruzzo, approximately two and a half hours drive east from Rome. The town has everything you’d expect, winding alleyways, narrow vinco’s, breath taking views down over the countryside and local flavour. Opposite the main church is a popular bar where the town’s population drop by for a coffee and an update on the local gossip: no need for local newspaper’s in Italy. There’s a smattering of local shops selling everything from pasta to plastic buckets and salami to soap powder, making it a self-contained community.

I’m shown first into the reception area, it’s been tastefully redesigned, a bright, welcoming space which leads into a small dining room with views out over the valley, down to lake Casoli. A beautifully, decorated day room for residents, with comfortable sofas is situated opposite the dining room entrance with a corridor leading to the bedrooms on the right and to a small intimate bar to the left. Just off the bar is the door to the hotel’s first of two kitchens and further on is a staircase leading down to the ground floor. I descend and am shown into an enormous open space, “This is the function room,” Pat says. It’s a huge space, easily adaptable for conferences, performances and social gatherings. This floor has another kitchen, a cooking space of gargantuan proportions with everything required to prepare future banquets. A door leads outside to a pool area and terraces for the relaxation of future guests.

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The upper floor houses bedrooms ranging from singles, to doubles and twins; some even have shared balconies so that families and friends can book next door to each other and share the same private outdoor space. From this high up it would be impossible to be unimpressed with the views, to the east is the valleys that roll down towards the Adriatic coast a mere thirty-five minutes away by car. To the south-east is the medieval mountain town of Casoli, overlooked by its fortified castle and just south-west is the friendly mountain town of Fara San Martino, which boasts spectacular mountain treks and views that even the greatest of cameras could never replicate.

The opening party on Friday evening is blessed with good weather and people arrive suitably relaxed as the car-park fills up with cars, registration plates indicate a mix of owners, Italian, English, a Dutch and a German car slot in between a couple of Fiats. The opening is well attended by over two-hundred guests, all eager to have a look around and see what changes have been made during the hotel’s dormancy. A three-piece band play in the corner of the function room with a double bass slapping and keeping time. A dressed table becomes a makeshift bar, complete with barman serving glasses of prosecco and local montepulciano d’abruzzo and opposite people fill their plates with the buffet spread out courtesy of local restaurant, Dal Pagano.  Everyone is clearly enjoying themselves, and I suspect Pat feels the evening has been a success.

I hope this venture is as successful as the first evening, there’s been a tremendous amount of work gone into getting the hotel ready, with many people giving their time up for free to get it ready for this Friday evening.  Anyone looking for a hotel in the area can do so by contacting Pat at the hotel website: Click this link to go to Hotel Vittoria

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