Daylight Savings has ended here and we gained an all-important extra hour of sleep yesterday morning. Anything that will help the jet-lag is very welcome. So for all of you reading this in Adelaide, we’re now 9 and a half hours behind you. Actually, I’m feeling quite adjusted to the time zone now but Chris still feels very tired and wakes up at weird hours during the night. Incidentally, we found out about this time change from the nice Italian lady who invited us in for coffee. Can you believe we understood “turn your clocks back one hour because daylight savings is over” from a conversation entirely in Italian? Yeah, neither can I.
For the last 2 days it has been raining non-stop. Not torrential, noisy, bucketing rain; but rather a more gentle and persistent rain. Tuscany even rains beautifully! The temperature has been cool but not freezing, and high up on our hill we are enveloped in a cloud. It’s quite a sight to see the trees in our backyard occasionally disappear, only to loom dimly in the white fog moments later as a shadowy outline in the mist. Such weather has kept us mainly indoors and we’ve passed the time in the usual way as we would back in Adelaide: Wii, computer, housework and TV.
The TV here is very interesting actually. There are about 1500 channels and it seems there’s one for everyone! Lots of religious channels, home shopping, news, movies, kids shows and some bizarre channels that you sometimes stumble across and have NO idea what’s going on (eg. a guy with a big white beard dressed in robes holding what looked like a maraca in his hand gesturing wildly towards a guy wearing t-shirt and shorts who looked quite chuffed with the whole exchange. It was hard to look away). All of this occurs mainly in Italian, but there are plenty of other european languages to hear: Russian, German, French etc. Lots of middle eastern channels too, we even get Al Jazeera! Unfortunately there are only 2 english speaking channels: BBC news and another french channel (it’s French but it’s in English.) Not to worry, we are improving our Italian language by watching TV. The boys were engrossed in an Italian kids movie last night and I wonder whether any of it seeped into their brains?
Despite the rain, we have ventured out a couple of times. Yesterday we drove to Aulla, a small village about 20mins drive south. It was almost completely bombed flat during the war, so it’s not a particularly pretty village, but it has some larger shops and we visited the supermarket there: Conad (NOT Gonad…. stop the immature laughing!) We got some DELICIOUS olive foccacia from the bread counter there. The bread lady was very nice and helpful, as is everyone we have met here. Chris thinks he has discovered the trick for international relations. He always starts off with “sono Australiano. Capisco solo un’ po d’Italiano” and then they are impressed with your effort to speak Italian and the fact you are from such an exotic place as Australia (a country they mostly know nothing about, but have the vague idea it’s a nice place). He then throws in random “grazie tanto”s here and there and any other words he knows and suddenly they’re his best friend. It seems to be working for him, so I’ll leave him to it 🙂 We had a reasonable amount of success finding the things we needed on our list, with the exception of a toaster which I did not know the word for and explaining it as a “bread cooker” only got me directions to the bread counter. Oh well, next time I will try asking for a “tostato macchina” (toast machine). That might work.
Whilst on the topic of the supermarket, I want to take some time to gush about the food here. The best way to explain it is to consider that everything you’ve eaten your whole life (with the exception of anything your Mum has cooked!) is just a poor imitation of food, a cheap copy of the real thing. Then you come to Tuscany and your taste buds go “oh! so THAT’S how food tastes!” I mean I bought some tomatoes and they tasted like REAL tomatoes: fragrant, juicy and tasty. Foccacia is bready, salty and has a texture that is not quite chewy but not quite soft. Coffee is smooth and creamy, not bitter or burnt. I’ve had many a coffee from “Italian” cafes in Australia that taste nothing like these coffees. Mortadella and salami are perfetto! Parmesan (parmigiana) cheese is outstanding and 10x better than the versions on offer in Australia. I have some black plums which I’ve been eating for breakfast which need nothing to accompany them, they are excellent on their own. Even the chicken breast I bought came thinly sliced so that a quick panfry in something as simple as butter with some basic herbs produced a succulent and tasty meal which I doubt I could replicate back home. Yes, the Italians are famous for their food and now I see why. I expect we’ll be quite fat before this year is through!
The rain has been constant and little rivers have started to form down our extremely narrow driveway. They run down to the road below us and then onward down the hill to Bagnone. We took a drive down there this afternoon and ignored the rain to explore a little of this wonderful village. The river is a raging torrent, gushing noisily under the stone arched bridge into the village. The houses are built right on the banks and look precarious as if they might topple over into the torrent below. We walked up and down the narrow cobblestone streets, discovering little laneways with ancient arched doors and shuttered windows randomly placed into the stone walls. The houses are so tall that they give the impression of being in a canyon when you are amongst them. One little street looked like Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films, very cool. We wandered down some stairs into a stone passageway. There was a sign which said “ponte vecchio” (old bridge) and then some writing about medieval times. We walked through the dark passage which looked very ancient and came out to another stone arched narrow bridge spanning the torrent. How amazing it would be to live in one of the houses there!
Enjoy the pics xx