One of the best things about Bagnone, besides the gorgeous foliage and breathtaking mountainous panorama, is how friendly the locals are. I know I wrote about this in the “friendly natives” post, but bear with me. Before we left for our little jaunt to Pisa etc, we attended the local Christmas market: an annual event in Bagnone where little stalls are set up through the streets in the village centre and everyone gathers for social entertainment. We went at night and the Christmas lights and decorations on the main street were so charming!
It was very cold, but we walked around for a while with the kids and visited stalls selling all kinds of things, such as knitwear, home-made produce, perfume, christmas decorations and antiques. There were also food vendors and the smell of roasting chestnuts, hot chocolate and other assorted delicacies wafting on the frosty night air was something uniquely Italian. We stopped in one of the Piazzas and met a lovely English lady named Catherine serving apple fritters for a community stall. While the kids ate, we chatted and she introduced us to Matteo from the local Commune (council) who offered to help us with suitable locations to photograph around Bagnone. We agreed to meet on our return from Florence. Fast forward to last Thursday morning when Chris and I turned up at the Commune to meet Matteo. There was another lady in the office on unrelated business, but Matteo grabbed her and introduced her to us as speaking very good English. Indeed, she does! Her name is Giusi and we got to talking with her for a while. She was very knowledgeable about the local area and kindly introduced us to the Mayor of Bagnone, her friend Gianfranco. He is also very nice and is right into history and architecture just like Chris is. He offered to help us out with some local sites for the book. Giusi also kindly offered to show us some hidden gems of her own and we ended up following her in our car to Castiglione del terziere, where she showed us Il Giardino della Luna: an old converted convent/church which is now a resort. It was built in the 1500s, based around the discovery of a painting of Mary in a field nearby . The painting itself is said to be a bit of a miracle (ie holding spiritual power) and we were lucky enough to photograph it up close and personal. In fact, we sat down in the restaurant and had coffee with the painting sitting on a chair right next to us!
After coffee (and some really delicious biscotti made by the chef there with wine and cinnamon), Giusi took us on a tour and we were very impressed with the renovation that has mixed the old with the new in such a tasteful way. It’s not expensive to stay there either, so if you’re thinking of coming to Bagnone or the surrounding area any time soon, then this would be the pick of the bunch for accomodation (not to sound like an ad or anything!).
It was really a very enjoyable morning and, from a chance meeting, we made a new friend too! Giusi speaks English very well and keeps up with it by reading lots of English books and travelling to other countries. In fact, she is off to San Francisco next week.
The weather has been so incredibly gorgeous here lately: clear blue skies, sunshine and crisp cool days. Perfect! We have been making the most of it by being outdoors as much as we can.
Last weekend we went down the road to see our friend Lesley and her horses. She was holding a workshop of sorts for local horse owners and we took the kids to watch. Erin and Casey, I hope you enjoy these pics!
After we had watched the horses doing their thing, we drove over to Malgrate. We always see Malgrate perched high up on it’s little hill as we drive in and out of Bagnone, and we always say we are going to drive up there one day and take some photos. Well we finally did!
Malgrate is a cool little Medieval village which was built around a fort which developed into a castle in the 14th century. It really has all you’d ever want such as battlements, traces of a drawbridge, a keep, a walled village, towers…..no princes on white horses though (sorry Deanne! I’m still looking for you.). Unfortunately, the castle was not open on the day we were there, but we plan on returning so that we can also explore that. In the meantime, here are some pics:
On the way back to Bagnone, we drove through Filetto (the road goes through there) and took this pic:
We spent the rest of the weekend just hanging around Groppo and relaxing. Here are a random assortment of pics for your viewing pleasure 🙂
As much as I LOVE having friends around here that we can speak English with, I also quite enjoy challenging myself trying to communicate with the Italian speaking folk. The neighbours in Groppo are good like that because we are forced to speak Italian, likewise with the various service providers in the area such as the post lady, the bread man, appliance technician, electrician and builder. I have assumed the role of the “speaker” in such situations as I speak and understand much more than Chris (however, I am by no means fluent!!). I have noticed something very funny though: in my absence, Chris will speak English to these people, but with a very heavy Italian accent!! It is hilarious to listen to. I heard him try to explain to the builder today why we need some gravel around the house: “My-a carrr-a…..it-a get-a bogg-a”. Hand gestures and all. I mean, it’s almost like he’s taking the piss, but he doesn’t even realise he’s doing it. As if they’re going to understand English all of a sudden because he’s saying it with an Italian accent!
Christmas will be upon us in just 10 short days, so I want to wish you all a very happy holiday season (in case I forget later!). I miss home at such times, but am looking forward to some Skype calls on Christmas day.
Buon Natale! xxxx