For the past 3 days we have been soaking in the remains of Spring….literally! Storms of a rarely-seen magnitude descended over the entire valley and lashed the land with rain, wind and lightning. The clouds that sometimes hang over the valley below, crept up and engulfed us in a white haze for days, blocking out the light except for the sudden bright flashes of lightning that struck a little too close to home on occasion. The thunder was deafening and seemed to shake the house with its booming, made louder by the echoes off the mountains. One storm went for 5 hours, then subsided only to recommence a couple of hours later at the same amplitude. It was pretty cool actually. On one occasion, all of the lights in the house suddenly flashed brightly (none were turned on at the time) and I thought they must all be damaged, but they’re fine. Of course we lost power too, for 11 hours in fact! Despite the inconvenience, the storms provided much-needed water for the gardens and a nice break from the heat of early summer.
The past weeks have been very busy, filled with home schooling and many social occasions. We have been catching the boys up with English, in preparation for school in Tassie. I have enjoyed doing lesson plans, assigning them work and teaching them everything from maths, story writing, history, geography…to lessons on social etiquette. Every little boy needs lessons on that! We’ve also been taken out to lunch many times. It’s been both joyous and sad to catch up with our friends. It’s hard to say goodbye, but we know it’s not forever and the internet has made parting so much easier. Of course I have photos……..
We were invited to a "picnic" style lunch one Sunday above Filattiera. It was held in a beautiful forest setting with a little hall. Trestle tables and chairs were set up all around the lawns and the food was brought out, course after course: pasta, cold meats, sausage, roast meat, gelati, coffee and much vino! It was a really lovely atmosphere with kids running around playing near the stream and much laughter and conversation. A beautiful afternoon! These were the ladies in the kitchen who were preparing all the delicious food.
Laughing with the ladies at the picnic
The men's table at the picnic
The boys making friends (with girls!) at the picnic
The lovely Sheila of the Ciao Lunigiana blog was very sweet to invite us all up to lunch at her beautiful house in Malgrate. She and her husband, Guy, had prepared some delicious lunch treats which we enjoyed on their terrace (with amazing views of the valley below!). It was a delightful afternoon and we very much enjoyed meeting them both in person. Thanks Sheila! xx
With Sheila and Guy outside their home in Malgrate
The annual walk for peace from Bagnone to Villafranca was a great night. Here we are with Giusi at the start of the walk wearing our bandanas.
Balin was chosen to carry the torch for the first part of the walk. He was very proud! So were we 🙂
The boys of Bagnone! Some of Balin and Denver's school friends all dressed up in traditional costume at the Festa.
Giusi and Gianfranco (Mayor of Bagnone) with a group of Nigerian refugees currently staying in Bagnone. Giusi has taken on the role of their "Mother", teaching them Italian and helping them to adjust. We often see them around the village.
Riding a 4 person bike along the wall of Lucca. It was great fun (even if a little sweaty!). Photo taken by Balin from the back seat.
We went to Christina and Enrico's house in Lucca for the last time to say goodbye. We bought her a gift while we were in Venice: a cat mask to go with the rest of her cat things. Where on earth will she fit it??
The kids bookfair at Pontremoli. Balin and Denver sitting on Lucia's lap in the VIP row. It was a very interesting event to watch, with a panel of kids on the stage judging books and finding a winner. This is part of the lead-up to the main book festival of Pontremoli (which is nationally famous) called "Bancarella" in July.
My Uncle and Aunt: Leigh and Jan. They came to visit this area for a couple of weeks and just relax. It was nice to see relatives!
A couple from South Australia: Wayne and Helen, who paid us a surprise visit one night.
Curry night at the Shann house! Trevor cooking his famous curry. Nice to see a man in the kitchen. The food was great by the way 🙂
Curry night. Patiently waiting for the delicious smelling food!
Exploring the caves at Equi Terme.
Another dinner in Filattiera we were invited to. It struck me as odd that it consisted mostly of men, but the food was great and the company was fun.
We went for a drive one day and stopped off in a little mountain village called Terenzano. As we were wandering around, I saw this faded drawing of a Nazi soldier that had been done on an old wall. It looked as if it had been drawn using some sort of tar. I don't know the significance, except that it was very likely that village was occupied at some time during the war. We found it interesting enough to take this photo.
Bugs! So many bugs! Every night Chris goes around with the "wicky wacker" (a name coined by Denver when he was younger) and kills any bugs he finds inside. Mozzies, scorpions, spiders, ticks and anything else that has found its way in our house is quickly killed. Check out the size of this bug! The only thing that is spared is the AMAZING lightning bug, which comes out in the garden at around 10pm. Awesome bright bobbing lights floating through the air and in the bushes like christmas lights. Next blog I promise to have a photo of them!!
Mange cat......yes he's still alive. We almost put him out of his misery with the car a few days ago, but couldn't bring ourselves to do it. Still, the look on his face just screams "PLEASE kill me!"
Afternoon tea at our place. Just a few friends and neighbours sitting around enjoying home baked goodies and a lazy Saturday afternoon.
The Shanns and us. From left: me, Mary, Trevor, Laura and Chris.
One morning we awoke to the very loud noise of farm machinery. We went outside to find this "lawn mower" accompanied by some neighbours (including Franco). The lawnmower at our house is broken, so we had mentioned to Gabriella that we needed to hire someone. She arranged for the ultimate ride-on! That thing whipped around the yard quickly, cutting the lawn nice and short. Good money for the Uni student driver and a good solution for the ever-growing lawn.
At the post office in Villafranca, sending back big boxes to Australia. We've sent 2 pretty big ones which cost a small fortune in shipping. Just hoping they actually make it to Australia now! (I was not reassured by the laughter of the post office worker when I enquired as to the time it would take to arrive)
Many of these types of fields can be seen around Lunigiana at the moment. The rolls of hay look quite sculptural.
Denver's clay animals. I think one of them is supposed to be a kangaroo.
Amazing feat of engineering. The autostrada spanning the Valle di Verde near Pontremoli. It's sooooo tall!
Balin's butterfly friend. Can anyone name that species?
Castelnuovo di Magra has one of the last castles for us to see in this area. It is mostly a ruin now, but still a very impressive and beautiful structure. The images Chris got are AMAZING! Some of the best castle images I've ever seen (will be in the book)
Castelnuovo di Magra (and Balin!)
I seem to have many food shots this time, so I thought I’d group them all together. Want to know what we’ve been eating here lately and why we’ve all put on weight?
Antipasto! Our friend Manuela Dviri took us out to lunch before her return to Israel a couple of weeks ago. We went to a delicious Trattoria right on the piazza next to the Villafranca Post Office. The food was amazing! This antipasto plate was something else, with lots of fried goodies, some with chestnut flour.
Fried sage from the antipasto platter. It was moreishly addictive!!
Manuela's meal. Steak with a creamy sauce. Tender and juicy. I also had a steak which was one of the best I've ever eaten....anywhere!
Ravioli. Balin's favourite dinner.
Desert: Chocolate torte. Yum!
Torte di Mela (apple cake)
Giacomo Pinelli and wife outside their family Trattoria in Montelungo. We went there for lunch to eat al fresco one lovely afternoon.
Part of the antipasto at Pinelli's, a soft cheese with chestnut honey on top. Interesting taste!
Main course at Pinelli's: I admit that this does not photograph very well, it doesn't look particularly appetizing.....but...it was amazing! Succulent pork with such a delicious flavour, we made real pigs of ourselves 😉
This was lunch at Christina's. The meat is "arristi" which is a type of pork and the veges were roasted in herbs and olive oil. Delicious!!
Focaccia at Bagnone Bakery. Oily, salty, crispy, chewy....carb heaven!
Testarolo, the local specialty of Lunigiana. It's a cross between pasta and a pancake. It's usually served cut up into squares or strips with pesto. I don't mind it, but Chris is not keen at all!
We taught our final class of English in Aulla to the Italian school teachers. As it was a special occasion, they brought in "party food". Lovely little Italian cakes, all exquisitely made and very tasty.
I made these! Finger buns and butterfly cakes for the afternoon tea at our house. I also made chocolate cake and cookies. They tasted great and were very popular, even with the Italians 🙂
A gelati sundae from Iceberg cafe. This was for Chris.
Creamy gelati frappe (milkshakes) at Iceberg cafe with our favourite waitress: Giusi
Co-owner of Iceberg Cafe, Sonia, serving me the BEST cappuccino in all of Italy
Some of you may already know that Tuscan Tales is going to be the basis for our new book. Our intention has always been to publish a coffee table photo book about this gorgeous region of Lunigiana, but it has evolved to include more of our personal experiences and anecdotes of daily life here. The popularity of this blog has helped to shape the direction of the book, so I want to say a big THANK YOU to my subscribers and everyone who reads this blog! I’m very excited to be working on the book over the next 6 months in time for it’s release next year, just in time for “Premio Bancarella” – the Pontremoli book festival. It will have many more of Chris’s beautiful images (never before seen) as well as stories, maps and information. I can’t tell you more than that….you’ll have to wait and see!