Archive for June, 2011

Bill and Terry’s doppelgangers

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

To celebrate us both hitting 60 we are planning a trip to Hawaii and the highlight will be a helicopter ride. So when our families asked what I wanted for my birthday I suggested some dollars which can go towards the helicopter flights. However, in addition Bill’s ever thoughtful niece, Sam, bought us some rejuvenating skin products – not working yet. His equally thoughtful nephew, Michael bought us something for the garden as when he saw them he thought immediately of us – almost our doubles he said. The two good looking scarecrows and now in the garden and enjoying the Italian “dolce vita”.

Reaching 60

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

nut tree restaurant
This year I reached the great 60 and decided to have a family party. We went back to the UK for a couple of days and on the Sunday we had lunch at the Nut Tree Restaurant/Pub at Murcott near Oxford. Not too far to travel for Bill’s family who come from Oxford but slightly further for my family who live in North London. Bill and I met just over 29 years ago and it is the first time the two families had met. There was no particular reason but it had just never happened. With a mix of English/Irish in Bill’s family and Northern Irish/Philippino on my side the day was bound to be a success.

On the day there were 20 adults plus 1 two year old and the day was great. The food and wine were good and everyone enjoyed themselves and each side seemed to like the other. Maybe I’ll repeat the event on my 65th.

nut tree party nut tree party

Crodino and Rabarbaro

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

crodinozucca rabarbara

Next time your in Italy and want to order something you have never had before then try a crodino and rabarbaro.

Last night we were out having a drink with a couple of friends and they ordered “Crodino and Rabarbaro”. Crodino is a non-alcoholic aperatif which we have had before but we had never come across it with rabarbaro. In fact we had never heard of a drink called rabarbaro. Rabarbaro is the italian for rhubarb but I have never seen it for sale in this area and I wondered if it had another meaning. Searching the internet today I discoverd that the drink is called Zucca. Although Zucca is actually the italian for pumpkin the drink was created in 1845 by Ettore Zucca. It has Rhubarb as a base ingredient and so its gets it common name Rabarbaro Zucca. It is combined with zest, cardamom seeds and other herbs. After 10 days the drink is bottled and it has, according to the adverts, a delicate and pleasant bittersweet taste and has a 16% proof.


Thursday, June 23rd, 2011


This is Mattia who started learning English with me 4 or 5 years ago. We would met at Katia’s (his grandmother) house where she would make me a cup of coffee and then we would start revising what he had done in school. At the beginning this was English grammar but then we moved on to studying his english course books which were on electricity, electronics and also literature such as Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Last Wednesday was the end of an era as Mattia and I had our last lesson prior to him starting the Matturita – the equivalent of A levels. Yesterday, 22nd June, was the first exam – Italian. Today, 23rd he will have the second exam. As he goes to a scientific institute the exam will be in mathematics. After this there is a short break and then another written exam which will have questions on 5 other subjects they have studied, including English. The whole process will finish with an oral exam where in front of a board of teachers and outside assessors students must answer questions on various subjects including English.

So during our last few English lessons Mattia has been explaining to me, in English, “the difference between AC and DC power”, the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power in relation to Italy”, “what is the Cold War”, “in Animal Farm how did Napoleon obtain and maintain power” etc. He explained them all with no problems and so, at least, in the English part of the Maturita he should do well.

Osteria della Vipera

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

osteria del vipero
Last week three of us (Bill, Michael and I) went to a new restaurant in Fossombrone. It’s called the Osteria dell Vipera and is found at the far end of the main street in Fossombrone. The entrance is a small bar area which leads into the main room which is bright and welcoming. (There is, apparently, another room upstairs and so there should be no problem getting a table). We had a plate of “antipasti della vipera” to start. It was meant for 2 people but was sufficient for 3. There was a good mix of cold meats, grilled vegetables and cheeses. For the main course I had a Ravioli stuffed with asparagus, Bill had a green pepper steak and Michael had a tagliata. All three were good. We passed on dessert although the lemon and almond tart looked very appetising. We had been going to order a bottle of house red but the owner recommended, for a couple of extra euros, a bottle from a local vineyard near Stacciola which turned out to be very good. Coffee to finish and a bill for 26 euros a head. Certainly a place I would go back to.

Osteria della Vipera
61034 Fossombrone
0721 714181
Closed on Mondays

Genital showers

Sunday, June 12th, 2011


On Friday went to the giometti multiplex at Fano to see the new X-Men film. Having read that the film was 130 minutes long decided to visit the gents. Approaching the urinals I noticed that the floor was wet. Italian men, I thought. However, when I stood in front of the urinal the infrared light noticed I was there and the automatic flush system came into action. In this case not an automatic flush but an automated spray which was not regulated properly. The result was a fine spray of cold water onto the genitals, onto the trousers and onto the floor.

Finished with the urinals I went to the washhand basins and pressed the tap. Yet even here the water came out at a  great rate of knots, splashing into the sink and onto my shirt. To avoid further drenching I made a perfunctory hand wash and retreated, dampily, out of the gents. Dread to think what happens if you have to use the cubicle.

Our first pomegranates?

Saturday, June 11th, 2011


About 6 or 7 years ago the local council  had a day when foreigners were invited to meet local people and to get to know each other. By chance we were here on holiday and were fortunate to meet our neighbours Norma and Umberto. They invited us for tea and they showed us around their garden. There was a small tree with the most beautiful orange/red flower. It’s pomegranate we were told and we decided that it would be one of the first shrubs we bought for the garden.

The following year we planted one but since then we have had only one or two flowers and never the hint of a fruit. But this year it is covered in flowers and hopefully we might get our first pomegranates.

When we had commented to Norma about how lovely the pomegranate flower was  she promised to bring us one of the fruits. This she did and told us that we had to keep it as tradition says that it will bring weatlth. The dried pomegranage is still sitting on the fire place but the wealth hasn’t arrived. Perhaps it will finally arrive with the first fruits.

Tax evasion

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

When you come to live in Italy it doesn’t take long to arrive at the conclusion from Italians talking about Italy that the north of Italy is hard working and more law abiding; the centre of Italy is less hard working and less law abiding but still has acceptable standards; the south is not hard working and is not law abiding. Reports of government money spent on new hospitals etc which are never finished or where finished are not needed are commonplace. A higher percentage of people in the south do not pay TV licence fees and the highes levels of disability benefit are claimed in the south etc.

So it a came as a surprise that recent research showed the highest level of tax evasion by small business is in the centre  rather than the south. The level of tax evasion by falsifying income was 7.9% in the south, 14.8% in the north and 17.9% in the centre. According to the research an identikit of a typical tax avoider would  be male, 44 years old, resident in central Italy and self employed as an owner of a restorant, bar or hotel.

When buying a drink or a meal in Italy you must be given a receipt and on occasions the financial police will stop customers leaving bars etc to check if a receipt has been given. However, we have been in bars and shops where no receipt is given and so the money goes straight into the pocket of the owner. We have also been in a restaurant where customers have been warned that the financial police are in the vicinity and so receipts are rigorously given. Finally, we have heard of cafes where a receipt is given but the wrong one. So if the bill is 9 euros you get a receipt for 90 cents. If it gets queried then its “an honest mistake, gov”.

San Giorgio – the perfumed village

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

lime blossom

At the moment San Giorgio is full of perfume. The jasmine on the garden fence is out and particularly in the evening its scent fills the air. Leaving the house and walking onto the main street you can’t avoid the heady, intoxicating scent of the lime trees which are now in full bloom.

Katherine’s 30th

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

katherine’s birthday party

If you ever wanted to hear renditions of “Happy Birthday to You” in English, Italian, Cantonese and Dutch then the place to be was at Tavernelle on Sunday where Pam and Michael were hosting their daughter Katherine’s 30th birthday.  Katherine and boyfriend David had flown from Hong Kong to be at the event. To this was added sister Naomi, friends and family from London, Scotland, Hong Kong, South Africa, Holland.

If you ever wanted to experience what you imagine expat life in Italy to be -long tressled tables weighed down with food and wine in the shadow of the trees but looking onto the sun drenched hills beyond – then once again the place to be was Tavernelle on Sunday.

Pam had worked her fingers to the bone preparing a great range of salads for our delight. Michael acted as chief sommelier and just kept opening the bottles. All this meant that  a great time was  had by all.  
katherine’s birthday party