The year has gone by exceedingly fast and I am afraid with that I lost my weekly updates to you all and I am sorry about that!! But winter is approaching and before I update on how the house plans are coming along I thought a few of you are waiting to see some of my little ‘finds’ from the house.
My neighbour asked me if I knew anyone interested in purchasing an old barn that she has for sale. It is not listed with any agents and she is asking 8000 Euros for it – I can’t tell you the exact size of the property I would guess 70sqm It is located on the edge of the town of Ofena and therefore easy access to services. It is a barn and may or may not be able to be converted to a living space.
Here is the link to some pictures I took – I apologise for the quality. The owner speaks French and Italian no English so if you are seriously interested you would need someone to liaise with her on your behalf – presently my Italian is not at that level to assist.
One thing about eating in Abruzzo is that you will be surprised and even embarrassed at the bill when it arrives at your table. Eating out in Abruzzo is cheap – cheap as in you probably couldn’t eat cheaper if you made it yourself – not compromised ingredients. Flavours are fresh, vibrant and delicious!!
Last Friday night I ate at a Pizzeria in Bominaco for the princely sum of €13.50, for which I received; 1 woodfired pizza, a large mixed salad, 1 litre of sparkling water, 1 non-alcoholic beer and 1 espresso! On paying I was rewarded further with complimentary chocolate liquor.
Saturday afternoon I hesitantly stopped at a touristy looking bar in Sulmona called Bar Centrale di Agostino Pierluigi in Piazza Annunziata for a quick bite to eat. I chose a bottle of water, bottle of Coke Zero and their Caprese: a generous plate of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (not the industrial variety) and chargrilled bruschetta drizzled with quality olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Total price €11!!
Ristorante Il Castello in Fagnano Alto, Abruzzo
A last minute invitation to dinner had me at this wonderful out of the way yet ‘close by’ restaurant in a town largely uninhabited since the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake. The restaurant is run by 2 husbands who were our hosts and their wives who do all the cooking according to methods handed down through their families.
We received 4 dishes comprising of the following:
Plate of charcuteries
Truffle salad: rocket, shaved truffle & shaved grana padano
Fritto misto: zucchini, aubergine, zucchini flowers, sage & cherry tomatoes fried in a light batter
Mozarella and bocconcini with grated black and white truffle!
I think there were 5 types to choose from and we were able to have half portions in order to try 2 types – we had no idea the portions would be so huge!
Ravioli – truffle & funghi
Spaghetti – sundried & pomodoro fresca
Gnocchi – saffron & local chickpeas
We struggled at the thought of eating any more but agreed we just had to TRY one!!
Chicken breast – almonds and saffron
Porchetta – calvados and roasted apple
Veal – vino bianco
Reaching the outer limits of what is possible for any person to eat in one evening we persisted scared of missing out on something wonderful!
Chocolate mousse with raspberries and mint
Peach torte with meringue and pistachio
Yoghurt semi-freddo and peach
I nearly exploded!! Generous portions, fantastic simple flavours and at a ridiculous price!! Including water and wine our meal came to €30 per head! I could not believe it – just 2 weeks earlier I paid €75 in France for a very nice but certainly of a similar quality meal of 3 courses, wine and water!
After reliving this meal I feel the need to rest and eat no more! Happy and content!
The Guitar - La Chitarra
La Chitarra or ‘the guitar’ is used to form a traditional Abruzzese pasta which is probably best described to you as a ‘square’ spaghetti. Pasta dough is rolled through the strings of the Chitarra to produce the unique shaped pasta. Traditionally this pasta is served with a ragu usually with a meat base.
An Old Washstand & Basin - Un lavabo Vecchio e del bacino
On my last visit to Abruzzo my neighbour informed me that during strong winds the unsecured window shutters on my house would bang loudly keeping her awake at night or during her siesta. In order to rectify the situation with what little means I had I went around the house securing the window shutters as best I could. This included going into my ‘bathroom’ which has been filled with rubble from the terrace which fell in on it due to water damage and 40 years of neglect. I used the old terracotta bricks to stack behind the shutters on the window ledge to keep then closed as I had no other means of securing them. In the process I noticed some ironwork underneath my feet and decided to investigate further. The result was that I excavated the wrought iron washstand and enamel basin. A few days later I was introduced to some more neighbours and they have a very similar washstand but one that is more ornate and has a jug with it that sits in the bottom ring. I was impressed with theirs and my neighbour has offered to restore mine as a housewarming gift!
Old Bottles: Different Shapes & Colours - Vecchie Bottiglie – Forme e Colori Diversi
I found quite a collection of old bottles – not on my last visit but I thought I would share these with you. I found traditional wine casks in wicker (bottom shelf), old soft drink bottles, glasses a jug and storage bottles with stoppers on them. Some are clear, some blue, some green and some brown. I am not so sure of what I might do with these – maybe I will clean them up and display them somewhere as they are really quite pretty and they were part of my home before I arrived.
Old Keys – Vecchie Chiavi
I found some old keys around the house also – but what they unlocked no longer appears to be held within the house at all.
An Old Quilt - Una Vecchia Coperta
You will have to wait for a picture of this I am afraid. I was looking at the mess on top of the iron bed in the room that will be my master bedroom and I had previously thought the old bedding was completely ruined. At one stage there had been a small fire on the mattress, however I was surprised to find a hand made quilt in a very pretty red colour and as I pulled it out from underneath the other covers I realized that perhaps it would be possible to have it cleaned and given life once more. I will keep you wondering about this one as I need a few days to be able to give the quilt the attention it needs and to take photos.
Plans Coming together
Gosh it really has been TOO long since my last post!! Many apologies!! Well a lot has been happening. Back in April I thought my architect sent me his ideas for the renovation but I was mistaken he sent me the ‘current layout’ of the house and I was panicking about there being no bathroom!
Approximately a month ago I received 2 new plans – both with bathrooms! His ipotesi (proposals) were both very good. One was based on my own idea for the use of the space and the second was more his own thinking and an option I had not considered at all. Unfortunately at the same time I received the plans we were getting extremely busy on the yacht and it was only this weekend just passed that I was able to return to Abruzzo and meet with my architect.
We had a very busy 3 weeks with guests on the yacht and we worked 18-21 hours every day during this time plus the week leading up to and preparing was very hectic too! While our guests are fantastic and lovely they are on holiday and quite easily forget that you are actually working while they are enjoying themselves.
Our captain who had been a concern and a real problem for me had his employment terminated within the first 5 days of the guest trip. Therefore we had a new captain starting who was thankfully not new to the boat and I was charged with arranging 2 new crew members within a very tight timeframe. Needless to say we rose to the challenge and it was a virtually seamless transition with very happy guests!
We were in Cannes briefly during the film festival and with changed traffic conditions and the influx of crazed tourists I admit I had quite the job trying NOT to run them over as tempting as it was as they walked anywhere and everywhere with scant regard to traffic as I drove to the Fortville Market and the Boulangerie for early morning croissants and baguettes! We were also in Monaco for the Formula 1 Grand Prix and this was my first time there. We were in ‘lock down’ every day during the racing so it was a challenge whenever something was needed or I ran out of anything as the means of getting them (launching the tender and heading to Fontveille to markets) was a bit of an ordeal! We had several changeovers with various guests coming, going and returning but it was enjoyable despite the hard work! We had a few nights at anchor in St Tropez too which is nice except we have to do anchor watches which makes for broken sleep and adds to exhaustion.
After 3 weeks with guests and the changes in crew I spent last weekend in Italy enjoying a long weekend and taking a few more steps towards living my dream in Italy!!
I hope I can keep you updated more regularly but as you may be getting some idea of the way my work is it really isn’t always possible as sleep is the one thing one catches up on first given the opportunity!!
I must apologise for jumping the gun on telling you about the architectural plans before finishing telling you about the rest of my trip to Abruzzo in March! It seems apologies are ‘de rigueur’ at present so I will try to resist my compulsion!
My last Sunday was of course quite hectic with the architect in the morning then a catch up and meeting with an expat in nearby Capestrano where we showed each other our houses. We then had an unscheduled visit to another expat couple who were suddenly setting the table for dinner with us and so it was much later than expected return to the house for a good night’s sleep!
Monday morning the weather turned quite cold and wintery, so with little I could do at the house and no pressing appointments I jumped in the car and went off for an exploration of nearby Santo Stefano di Sessanio a partially restored mountain village. At times it was attempting to snow but managed to avoid any contribution to the piles of snow littering the streets from the month of February.
Here are a few pictures of the town.
On my way back to the B&B I drove via Rocca Calascio and took a few pics there also.
After lunch with Jimmy & Francesca I headed to the Pasta Factory near Rocca Casale called Pastificio Masciarelli. Abruzzo has some of the very best pasta in Italy due to the fresh mountain water which is a key ingredient in all pasta production. I bought a 2 packets for myself to take home and a gift pack for my lovely friends and hosts at Abruzzo Segretto.
Tuesday was another busy day as I first went on a quick excursion to a nearby chocolate factory then headed to Ortona to meet with a friend for lunch. We had a superb 3 course meal and some very nice local wine to accompany it. Lunch consisted of some amazing home baked bread and olive oil, an array of antipasto dishes including mussels & calamari followed by a seafood pasta starring the famous chitarra pasta I spoke of in an earlier post and for dessert a tasting plate of no less than 4 treats each!
Feeling very relaxed and mellow after the leisurely 2 hour lunch I said my goodbye’s and headed north to Pescara to meet with the Architect. Maurizio had decided to rush through the paperwork for me so I could sign the planning permission requests before leaving. On arrival I met his wife and son, his 15 year old son had been called in as translator although surprisingly between google translate and my small understanding of Italian we managed to complete the necessary paperwork in about an hour. I was advised the planning permission for the commune (village) was a simple process but following the L’Aquila earthquakes there was another office that also required consultation and would take up to 8 weeks to complete.
I am so grateful for finding Maurizio to undertake the project – he renovated my neighbour’s house and I was looking to find him originally to complete the restoration but was searching for his details in L’Aquila where he was not. Sometimes things just fall into place – and somehow it seems that my landing in Abruzzo was more than serendipitous!
Wednesday morning I fare-welled my friends and picked up an expat also heading to Fiumincino for a flight. It was nice to have company on the just over 2 hour drive as it made the time go much quicker.
I returned to Beaulieu sur Mer looking forward to the next phase of the renovation process.
Today I received an email from my lovely Architect Maurizio. He has completed his plans and is meeting with the engineer to discuss it tomorrow. One slight problem no bathroom has been factored in so I sent a reply with the help of google translate to offer my suggestions. I also decided to flick a copy of the email to my friends to have a look at what I had sent. Unfortunately I was told it made no sense so have followed up with a very very basic email and hope he understands me.
I have a few sketches of what I was thinking to do that I will email him tomorrow and see what he thinks.
Wish me luck!
ps – apologies for the lack of a post last week a few dramas on the high seas as it were which I’ll tell you about soon… Thanks for your patience.
On today’s Good Friday I remember the people in the Italian province of L’Aquila who lost family, friends and homes 3 years ago. I hope another year does not go by where they are left without relief, where they are left in temporary housing, where they are left surrounded by the rubble of the city that fell around them on the 6th April 2009.
As you enjoy the long weekend with family, friends & loved ones and whether you do so as a religious holiday or as a hard earned holiday break take the time to think of all that you take for granted. Indeed too remember those in the USA currently also in the throes of homelessness following destruction by more of mother nature’s fury in recent days.
The symbol of Easter is the Egg, symbolising rebirth in Italy rebirth is called riniscita. Whether you are religious or not the opportunity for new a beginning is indeed a tantalising one. If you are not loving the life you are presently living perhaps now is the time to seek out what you love in your life. Dreams can become your reality if you take the steps to make them happen.
May this Easter be the beginning of new joys and passions and may the pains of the past diminish leaving only the sweetness of fond and treasured memories.
On my return to France I found that there had been little progress onboard the yacht and it remained inaccessible to all crew and would remain so for at least another week! As there was not really much that I could do work-wise I checked whether I could get to Abruzzo again to ensure momentum on the house was not lost. When one has opportunity one must seize it!!
So I booked flights to Rome and car hire for the 9th returning on the 14th and advised the architect I would be available to open the house for them to complete the measurements they needed to get the ball rolling.
As always I stayed with my lovely friends at Abruzzo Segreto in Navelli and as I was arriving late we decided to meet at a local restaurant called The Crocus where they were meeting other expat friends. I arrived at the restaurant close to 9:30pm after a few glitches with picking up the car and heading out of Rome in peak traffic. It was nearly 10pm by the time we were seated in the restaurant and we ate very well on a selection of local products – everyone having something they enjoyed mixed bruschettas, pizza, mixed grill, veal escalope and pasta with cinghiale the local wild boar. The two new faces I met were professional photographers from Ireland – one has a house in a town called Carapelle and another in Capo d’acqua to be restored and the other was experiencing Abruzzo for the very first time! We talked late into the evening and I was more than shocked as I glanced at my watch to see it was nearly 2am as I headed to bed!!
The next morning Maurizio called and advised he was still in Rome on business but would head to the house Sunday morning and start measuring and taking photos. I was quite happy to have a quiet day after the late night out and spent the morning reading. In the afternoon our expat friends arrived and we had a few coffees then headed to the house to be restored in Capo d’Acqua. I looked through the property eagerly as it also needs quite a lot of work done to it and as yet there are no immediate plans for the restoration except for an idea of what will be where.
As we surveyed the outside of the building and were surrounded by many Italian hounds with the longest ears I have ever seen on a dog in my life we were waved over by a neighbour. The neighbour Toni or Antonio insisted we come inside and sample his wine. We were overwhelmed by his and his wife Angela’s hospitality and enjoyed homemade orange cake and espresso as well as a very nice vino rosso. It was a little hard to leave as they enjoyed the company as we did their’s.
We headed up to my village and I showed them my ruin. Both photographers armed with their professional cameras immediately took to the house photographing different aspects which caught their artistic eyes! As the light was slowly waning we headed up to the Bar Aufinium for a quick drink before returning to Navelli and then another meal at The Crocus which we proclaimed would be pizza night! There we bumped into another expat living in the nearby town of Capestrano and invited them to share our table for some further conversation. Another late but interesting night, I was grateful for a good night’s sleep and a not too late start.
Arriving at the house I was met by Maurizio’s lovely wife and assistant as she sketched the outside of the house and I found Maurizio next door on top of the winery taking photos of the house. I unlocked the house and set to tidying the garden further and removing rubbish from the garden. Then I sorted through the beautiful collection of old bottles left in the house and put them neatly away in a cupboard so as not to be damaged should renovating commence in my absence!
As I fossicked (kiwi for rummaging) under the stairwell for any other ‘treasures’ I found an old sack and was surprised I had not noticed it before. Inside I found a traditional Chitarra for making a traditional pasta a square shaped ‘spaghetti’ for lack of a better description. I showed the architect and his wife and they were very excited by my find and suggested I keep it and rewire it for future use!
We stayed at the house together until around 12:30 before parting ways happy to have completed the measurements to be able to complete the next stage of the process the planning permissions. We agreed to speak before I returned to France and I offered to meet them in Pescara.
Stay tuned for updates and photos tomorrow!
Apologies for not updating you over this past week as I had an unexpected trip to Paris and returned only yesterday. Be assured there will be an update tomorrow afternoon and another on Friday.
Have a wonderful week whatever you are doing – life is too short not to!