The friendly natives

Life in Tuscany has finally settled into somewhat of a routine for us. Our day starts very early at 6:30am with getting the boys ready for school. They are out the door just after 7 and off to school on the bus. Chris and I then get stuck into our day. Sometimes we do a bit of work with our software company (conference calls, reviews, strategic planning etc) whilst chatting to friends and family in Australia using Skype.  Sometimes we have to go into Bagnone, Villafranca or Pontremoli on various errands and we usually try and get in a bit of sight-seeing at the same time. We also try and get in a cappuccino or a hot chocolate, the latter so thick and rich here that you can stand your spoon up in the cup!  Almost every day, I fit in some Italian language study (I think it increases my confidence if nothing else). We fetch more wood for the fire in the afternoon and go down to meet the kids at the bottom of the driveway at 4:45pm.  We get a full report of how their day went before we turn on the news (BBC or Al Jazeera) and I make dinner.  After dinner there’s bathtime and warm milk for the boys and I fill the hot water bottles to pre-heat their beds.  The kids go to bed at 8 and Chris and I watch the latest “The Daily Show” feed or a movie or TV show from one of our hard drives (connected up to the TV).   That’s it really.  Pretty mundane, but I’ve included it for those who were wondering what we get up to these days.   Actually, we have several projects this year which include converting Chris’s Mom’s short stories into a book and working on the images for the Lunigiana photography book.  I don’t think we’ll ever be bored here!

As the title of this post suggests, I want to tell you about some of the people we have met here so far.  I’ll list them in no particular order, just randomly as I think of them.

  • Bianca and Aidan – owners of this house and a very nice English couple. I met Bianca online originally, and it turned out to be quite fortuitous. We are very happy with the house and both Aidan and Bianca went out of their way to make us comfortable here and are always on hand to help with all sorts of things.
  • Andreina – already featured in many blog entries. She was born and raised in England, but has spent her adult life in Italy. Combined with her extensive local knowledge and speaking perfect Italian and English, she is an excellent translator and the one to call upon when things need to be “sorted”.
  • Gabriella – friendly neighbour and hospitable resident of Groppo. One of the first people we met here. Only speaks Italian.
  • Franco – along with his wife Maria and daughter Roberta, he is our closest neighbour. Franco’s kindness and generosity of spirit transcends the language barrier.  He’s always there when you need him and (as Bianca said when she introduced us), seems to magically appear like a Genie at such times.
  • Bruna – Cachi fruit lady. She lives along the track that descends from the bottom of our garden down to the piazza of Groppo.  She grows lots of fruit (even has a Kiwi tree) and is always busy working in her yard.
  • Mary, Trevor and Laura – nice English neighbours who live about half way down the mountain towards Bagnone. They had us over for morning tea last week and are very helpful.  They have been here for a few years now and can relate to our odd predicaments.  I’m looking forward to having them over when Chris stops being contagious (I ALMOST got through an entire post without mentioning Chris’s health!)
  • Marco – the school bus driver. Very friendly and apparently quite a good driver. Doesn’t come on ice/snow days though.  I found out that he lives in La Spezia and probably has to get up at 4:30am or something to make it in time for the bus run.  That’s dedication!
  • Giovani – the bread guy. Drives up our very narrow driveway 3 times a week to deliver our bread order, then REVERSES all the way back down again.
  • Lucia – The super headmistress! VERY helpful and well-connected. Nothing is too much trouble for Lucia. She genuinely seems to care about the boys and goes to Bagnone school to check up on them regularly. Always has time for a chat in her office in Villafranca.
  • Alice – Italian Melanie 🙂 Lovely girl who comes with us sometimes on our various bureaucratic excursions. Is learning English and teaching us about Italy at the same time. Alice also spends time with the boys at their school some times and helps them with their Italian.
  • Lucca and Joozy – Proprieter and waitress at the Iceberg cafe in Villafranca. I don’t know if I spelled her name right, but in Australia you would probably be quite insulted if I called you “joozy” (especially if you had big hair and were of Italian descent).  It is very easy to smile when you say hello to her.   Iceberg has the BEST gelati around and is home of the most amazing white Lindt hot chocolate I have ever had in my life. I practically licked the cup clean! I still think about it sometimes when I’m day-dreaming……mmmmm……
  • Stefania and Katuscia – Proprietor and gorgeous waitress at the Big Ben Pizzeria in Filatteria. Stefania speaks perfect english and Katuscia understands english, however she will always be remembered for giving us a pizza covered in capsicum when we ordered a Pepperoni pizza.  We’ve learned to ask for salami now.
  • Nikki – mother of Balin’s english friend Jolie. Very friendly, must get together with them soon.
  • Sarah and Alex – a funny story actually. We were browsing the markets in Pontremoli last Saturday (where it actually began to snow…but I digress) when a lady came up to us and asked if I was Rini.  She had recognised me from this blog! Her and her husband (Alex) live nearby and she had been reading “Tuscan Tales”, being from Australia herself originally.  It was very nice to meet them both and a bit of a thrill to be recognised on the street. If you’re local and reading this….please come and say “Hi” if you see us out and about!!  (Alex also has a blog which you can read here)
  • Monika and Dorinel – originally from Romania, Monika is our cleaning lady and Dorinel is the gardener/general handyman.  They have 2 boys the same age as ours: Stefan and Valentino. Monika is the best cleaner I’ve ever had, extremely thorough and hard working. I can’t really understand her Italian as it must be heavily accented, but we make ourselves understood most of the time.
  • Craig and Alison – parents of Denver’s friend Beth. Craig and Alison have been living in these parts for a couple of years now and are originally from England. We got together for Dinner last weekend and they chose a really cool restaurant in a little medieval village called Filetto which is just down the road from Bagnone.  Filetto is one of those little walled villages which you can drive through (from one direction) and is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and ancient “hole in the wall” houses.  The restaurant was tucked away in a side street and you’d really have to know it was there to find it.  It had such fantastic atmosphere and really nice fresh local food. The pizza chef was the Italian Billy Connolly and entertained the kids from time to time with various gimmicks and treats.

Dinner in Filetto

Denver and the Italian Billy Connolly

The little streets of Filetto at night time

It was a good night and we’re going to come back to Filetto later on to explore and really do it justice photographically.

So there you have it. Just some of the people we have met during our travels here!

I’m very excited for this weekend, as we’re going to be spending my birthday in Florence. Actually, we’re spending time in Pisa, Siena AND Florence over several days as the boys have most of next week off school. I don’t know why they have days off, these things just occur randomly and we’ve learned to accept it. Anyway, we’re taking advantage of the break and have planned a bit of a ring route going down south and then back to Bagnone. I’m really looking forward to doing the touristy thing and seeing our first big cities in Italy. I’ll be sure to upload MANY photos of our adventures when we get back.

I’ll leave you with the ever-creeping snow line on the Apennine mountains, viewed from the road leaving Groppo down towards Darbia.  Very beautiful I think!

Snow on the Apennines, gorgeous against a vivid blue sky!

Ciao xx


About missrini

Global citizen. Travel blogger. Eccentric dreamer.
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2 Responses to The friendly natives

  1. Deanne says:

    Very cool post, its nice to read what you guys have been up to and what a normal day looks like for you. Love the expression on Denver’s face with Italian Billy Connolly! I say again, you are all going to be several kilos heavier by the time you return with all that eating, and especially with that very divine sounding hot chocolate (I expect to drink copious amounts when we visit next year! :P) Weird too reading how cold it is there for you guys – its darn hot here today!

    • Deanne says:

      By the way you should set your blog posts up to feed automatically into Facebook – I can help you if you’re not sure!

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