Friday, 22 February 2013

The pope resigns, the election's next week, but I'm English, so first, the weather!

February is Italy's coldest month.  Up north, there's snow and putting chains on car tyres is obligatory but not in Puglia.  It does occasionally get snow but not in my new hometown where they haven't had snow settle in over 25 years.  I am so loving that!  Can't imagine I'll miss it at all!

Here it's typically 5-10 degrees, but still it feels a little like Puglia is in hibernation: bars shut early, pools wear covers and people submerge in huge coats or stay home feeling ill.  (Italians take their temperature a lot - doctors are obliged to make a house-visit if you tell them you have a fever!)

Nature isn't hibernating however.  The mild weather and bright colours feel like spring to me.

Mandarins are in season

Flowers are blossoming

Puglia is the greenest I've ever seen it
In fairness, although today is bright and sunny it did rain a bit yesterday evening and was unusually foggy which everyone describes as come Londra (like London).  Well it's nice to be known for something!

And the other stuff?  There are a million places online better than this blog for informed discussion of politics and religion in Italy, but in short, it seems to me they don't respect the pope's decision to resign as being pope is not just a job and they despair at the upcoming election as the politicians are all as bad as each other (sound familiar?!).  Well, almost all: the mere mention of Berlusconi's name amongst my friends guarantees an outcry about the latest ridiculous story - his ex-wife gets €100,000 per day, his girlfriend is 49 years younger than him, the endless plastic surgery, hair transplants and make up (the guy's 76 years old!).  Certainly, to my friends, Berlusconi is a major embarrassment for Italy.

So how does this man, awaiting 4 years in jail for tax evasion, charged with paying underage girls for sex at his bunga bunga parties, more gaffe-prone than our own Prince Philip, how does he have any chance of being forgiven his misdemeanours and getting back into power?  There are some interesting intellectual theories.  For example, psychiatrist, professor and author Massimo Fagioli says it's a Catholic thing to tolerate such scandalous behaviour: "Sin at night and confess in the morning".  To me it seems to come down to 2 things.  Firstly he owns some of Italy's biggest TV stations so he has strict control over content and pumps out his message to the masses.  Secondly he is a charmer!  While other candidates studiously answer an interviewer's questions, Berlusconi turns and tells a joke to the camera!

The intense frustration of some over the inability of others to see Berlusconi for who and what he really is, is best summed up by a story I was told by a doctor.  He was with a patient in hospital following her surgery and she said she liked Berlusconi.  When he countered with all the scandal and corruption, she replied, "But doctor, he's so funny!"  The doctor finished his story: "I should have let her die"!!

P.S. Is anything more lovely than a hand-picked posy from a child?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Allow me to introduce you to my wasps' nest!

Being involved in a project with people who speak no English sometimes proves too much for Google Translate.  This was the case with the mysterious vespaio.  

I was told it would be fitted after they had dug down on the ground floor in order to prevent damp.  Literally translated it means wasps' nest which wasn't much help!  With a few drawings by the project manager I came to have a better understanding, but still I hadn't quite visualised this:

The wasps' nest in situ
Little black plastic igloos!  I'll sleep better at night knowing these little guys are on the front line in the war against damp!  I've never seen anything like it!  Do we have this for damp proofing in UK?  
Wasps' nest covered in conrete
Renovation Ragazza - making sure you never look foolish on an Italian building site again!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Italian drivers

The idea of driving in Italy makes me nervous.  I'm not a confident driver at the best of times, the roads in centro storico (the old town) are ridiculously windy and narrow and Italian drivers are not known for their sensible driving.  The fact that so few of the ex-pats I know drive just compounds my fear.

Then I saw this video!  It is my worst nightmare made real!  Look at the unbelievable scene that ensues when this guy can't park his car!  Mamma mia!

P.S. Thank you Tiffany Parks for bringing this video to my attention.  For an insight as to how it perfectly sums up Italian life, check out her blog at The Pines of Rome.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The beauty of tufo stone revealed

It's the end of the second week of work on our new home in Italy and I am thrilled to see the tufo stone exposed in the holiday apartments.

Firstly, because it has been hidden under plaster and like any good period detailing, I consider it a feature and want it on show.  And secondly, because it has been hidden under plaster, so you never really know what it's going to look like 'til you get the plaster off!

The local tufo stone is a creamy to sandy brown colour, but some buildings have as much as 20% in a darker, terracotta brown colour and in my friend's house you can even see fossils in some of the stone.  Being so close to the sea, I wasn't sure just how much brown (or dead things) I was going to get!

Truth be told, this renovation ragazza likes pale neutral creams and greys and wasn't excited at the prospect of orangey brown in her home, so I'm loving the fact that 99% our stone matches what I hoped we'd find.  And the other 1%?  Well that just serves to highlight the beautiful imperfection of nature!

Plaster removed to reveal beautiful barrel vaulted ceiling in tufo stone

I couldn't wait to share it with you as the effect is so soft and earthy, quite different from the perfect red bricks we see so often in UK.

Exposed stone, double height rooms and vaulted ceilings = a big learning curve so I'm still gleaning all I can regarding optimising the use of space, lighting and interior design, but they also create such an exciting exotic blank canvas!  I love my tufo barrel vaults!

Wall seamlessly curves into the vaulted ceiling