Doing the ‘Italian Thang’
Ciao Mateys

How’s tricks? You’re looking good, must be all that Blighty sunshine!

Well where to begin? At the beginning I guess! 

Italia, Italia, Italia well the coffee is great!! Just thought I'd get that in there. 
The people we met were friendly and welcoming. All fairly united in thinking their country is awash with corruption and going nowhere good! That said, the life for some is simplistic and good. In return for loaning some land to a Farmer you can be thanked with fruit, vegetables, lamb, wild boar and a friendly face to dig out your drive when it snows! Good people help out their good neighbours.

The idea of visiting my Aunt and Uncle was threefold really, firstly to see them, secondly to help out with a few chores and thirdly to experience a bit of the old 'Dolce Vita' 
Pleased to report twas mission accomplished on all three counts!
So here's what occurred. 

On arrival we were keen as mustard to get started and I think its safe to say we were up for anything. We were up for opening the pool (never done that before), we were up for gardening (sit on lawnmower swung it), we were up for stripping and varnishing shutters and doors (bit of a deja vu Stella Maris moment there). It soon became apparent that we wouldn't be able to do all of the the above in the time we had. 
Sooo the pool was the first to be crossed off the list,once opened it would need cleaning and constant attention. Swimming pools are so demanding! 

M started working on stripping/varnishing the doors, ever a stickler for doing things properly there was much ‘Ooooing’ and ‘Aaahhhing’ over his finished work! The window shutters were a slightly more challenging beast!
The idea was to start work on them and do as much as we could, they were to be an ongoing project. There were around 20 of the suckers oops I mean 'shutters' so we conceded that it would be unlikely (nay impossible) to finish them all. As time rolled on 'The Shutter production' line made good progress and we were spurred on by this! It was all hands on deck (old habits die hard) we dug deep and by the time we left, there was only one shutter left to varnish!

But it wasn't all work and no play (you know how we roll mateys).  Summer in Italia is the time of Festivals! Rude not to visit a few. Beer in Bibbiena (guess who chose that one?). Polenta festival in the village up the road (was really sweet, like a Village Fete at night). The Porcini festival was very good. Those of you who know me will know about my 'mushroom' thing! Well as I type here before you I have to confess, I really quite like those Porcini rascals! Having said this we opted not to buy any that were a snip at 75e a kilo! 
In the Porcini department we were more than sorted as a friend of my Aunts arrived bearing some of these yummy fungi. Apparently great care is needed when picking them as they look quite similar to a mushroom that can kill!! Everything crossed when we tried them, they were prepared in a variety of ways to give us the full Porcini experience!  

On the sightseeing front we visited a teeny tiny village nearby called Raggiolo, the houses are built on a steep mountainside. Walking up the tiny steep streets you wonder how the locals cope on a day to day basis. Must get really entertaining when it rains. Bibbiena is just down the road from my Aunts, it's a bit of an 'up' to get there, so the day we opted to cycle there, one of us wasn't sure they were going to make it!! 
Cycling to Bibbiena was training for visiting Poppi another small town close by. Again there's a whole lot of 'up' to get there. Once at the top the castle is worth a peek. 
Laverna, where Francis of Assisi is said to have received his stigmata is said to be a good place to cycle to. The downhill on the way back is reported to be very 'down' so you can go very fast! If for some bizarre reason that's what floats your boat! 
If its got a big 'downhill' that means it must have a big 'uphill'. So we opted for the car with a view to cycling there at a later date……Moving on swiftly, Arezzo is about half an hours away by car it’s a slightly bigger town with a lot of churches! Florence lived up to its reputation, beautiful, romantic (well one of us thought so), busy and very hot! We hope to go back when its a bit cooler in October. 

All these villages and towns are lovely to wander around, sit, take a coffee and watch life and the Fiat 500's (old style) go by!!
One of our nicest experiences was accompanying my Aunt and Uncle to a 'Wedding Celebration' I guess it was a bit like an 'Evening do' but it’s held the day after the Wedding. The rain and there was quite a lot of it, didn't dampen spirits or celebrations!! Young and old came together to celebrate. Family is key in Italy (see what I did there?) and so is Food! A finger buffet doesn't cut it in this country. I think you'll get the picture when I say the First course was an array of dishes including a Suckling Pig!! Only way to go after that is a big Vat of Polenta and Ragu!! In case your wondering, we ate very well. My Aunt (don't tell her I said this) is a master of making yummy scrummy (often quite large) meals! 

In conclusion (get me) La Dolce Vita is bueno!! So if you want a slice of it, remember  Go on you know you want to!

Anyway I'll let you go, you look like you could do with a cuppa! So off you go. 

Speak again soon. Next stop Crete. Take care of you and yours  

Varnishers Inc xx
Monday, 18 August 2014