Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Songs to renovate an Italian house to!

I thought I'd share with you the songs that were playing non-stop during my visits to check on the builders in Puglia last year, as a little flashback.  I'm sure they will always remind me of this process.

Sadly, particularly for the odious but catchy Blurred Lines, some are still omnipresent here this summer!

Sunday, 22 June 2014


So it seems I got it wrong in yesterday's post.  Last night before dinner together, our friends showed us the one point in the town where you can see the sunset, and we just caught the last minutes.

So pretty: I can see this becoming part of our early evening stroll.

Sunset in Monopoli

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The old world charm of Monopoli, Puglia

I sometimes worry our guests won't see the appeal of Monopoli.  That they'll be critical, ask why it is so run down, and see only plaster crumbling off old walls, doors and shutters seemingly on their last legs and paint that hasn't had a recoat in decades.  If so, I'll tell them there's so much business done here senza fattura ("without an invoice" i.e. without being declared as income), that apparently it's common practice to do up the inside of your home but leave the outside as shabby as before so the tax man doesn't come knocking to ask where the money came from to pay for it all when last year's tax return says you earned so little!  Or perhaps I'd point out that this is an old fishing town in a traditionally poor part of the country in a recession so there isn't a whole lot of money around.  Or that the salty sea air and humidity just means nothing stays looking new for long (one look at the flaking paint on our home will attest to that!).  Whatever the explanation, our little town isn't what I'd call glitzy or glamorous (unlike its neighbour up the coast Polignano a Mare - there's a post all about it coming soon) and most of the buildings look rather "ready for gentrification" but still, these are real centuries-old stone homes in the sun-baked south of Italy: to us, all the above just add to the charm and we love it!

New piazza, dreamy old run-down building

I mean, you don't get this kind of art at the front door of a church in just any town!

Very avant garde for Monopoli!

Focussing on the positives, yesterday was a lovely day.  After a productive morning problem-solving for the house, Mr RR and I headed to the beach for a couple of hours.  For him, it's the perfect way to relax - for me, it's a real project trying to make sure every inch of my super-pale skin is covered in SPF 50 before being exposed!  However, once there, the weather was just right and the sea wonderful.

Never tire of looking at the clear turquoise sea!

Later, we went for a passeggiata ("evening stroll") round the centro storico ("old town") where we live.  Being on the east coast, we don't get the dramatic sunsets over the sea like other parts of Italy, but the colours of the sky were beautiful.  Of course, my iphone can't do it justice but you get an idea.

Il Castello di Carlo V looks out to sea

Characterful archway leads to the port

P.S. Today comprised more house stuff followed by the beach.  Being Saturday and another perfect day for weather, there were lots of yachts and sailboats out - seems there is a bit of money around after all! 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

(Not such a) very English barbq?!

Well that was dramatic!

Yesterday evening we held a little party to show off the house and say thank you to those who have played important roles in getting us to this point.  My parents and Mr RR's parents were there, the architect and engineer (lovely married couple who we now consider our friends), Italian friends we have known for 5 years now who hosted me, translated for me, stood up for me in meetings with the builder and so much more, plus the most wonderfully smiley elderly couple I have ever met who live just across from us and have been unfailingly friendly and welcoming whenever we see them.  It was quite a mix but Monopoli is a small town and most of the Italians seemed to know each other or have friends in common.

Anyway, I had been cooking on and off for 2 days (for the record, mum and I had made a quiche, onion and blue cheese tarts, coronation chicken, curried prawn and melon salad, burgers, thai rice salad, garlic bread, caramelised onions, plus banoffee pie, white chocolate and ginger cheesecake, and cupcakes in lemon and chocolate!  Excessive maybe but I wanted to show there was a whole world of food out there that didn't revolve around pasta, tomatoes and olive oil!).  I'd been keeping an eye on the weather forecast, as there had been showers on and off for a few days, but as of Sunday afternoon it was still 0% chance of rain after 12 noon on Monday (yesterday), so nothing to worry about, right?!


As we welcomed in our last guests, the rain started coming down, heavier than I've ever seen it here before.  A river of water started pouring under the external door to the balcony into Mr RR's office - first lesson learned: closed doors with open shutters won't always stop the rain!  Towels hastily thrown down, I went to the kitchen where my mum suggested that I didn't look outside at the roof terrace!  The swing seat and parasol, put up just 3 days before and so admired, had been caught by the wind in the first minute of torrential rain and broken!  The parasol was only stopped from going over the side of our 4-storey building by catching on the TV aerial support and my dad's valiant efforts to keep it on the ground (like any umbrella in a storm but 10 times the size!!) - second lesson learned: shut the parasol before the storm comes rather than thinking you'll have time when/if it starts!  All that plus the doors to the terrace had stayed open while Mr RR and our dads tried to get the situation under control so there was water everywhere on the top floor - third lesson learned: buy a mop!

So, 3 day old fancy terrace furniture destroyed, every towel in the house on the floor soaking up rainwater, nowhere to sit and eat except on the rain-soaked terrace and I have a house full of hungry guests!  Che dramma!  (What drama!)

On the plus side, we seem to choose our friends well and everyone made the best of it, congregating in the kitchen, the women in their 70's perched on the stairs, all appreciating my joke that it couldn't be an English barbq without rain and chatting away while I came up with a plan B (serve food in the kitchen then head back up to the terrace to eat as the heat dries everything pretty quickly) and it all worked out in the end.  One guest even emailed me today and said nonostante il brutto tempo, ieri sera รจ stata proprio una magnifica serata (despite the weather, yesterday was just a wonderful evening).  Aw!

We heard later from a friend who had been driving towards the area in the storm that it looked like a twister!  What on earth?!  Well, it's always good to have stories and it's certainly the first party I've attended, let alone hosted, with a tornado thrown in, so a pretty memorable house-warming for all!

P.S. Also, how fortunate are we?  Showing just what incredible friends they are, we received these absolutely spot-on gifts:

Beautiful white fruit bowl for our predominantly white
(and lacking a fruit bowl!) home
Beautiful white lantern for our predominately white
(and always loving more candles!) home
Incredible you-can't-call-that-a-plant-it's-a-tree
from our lovely neighbours which is literally as tall as me
but which they insist is just a small token and a typical house-warming gift!

When in Rome...

2 weekends ago was nothing but finishing touches ahead of our first guests - tidying away boxes, putting up shelves and mirrors, making beds and so on, so a few days in Rome last week with Mr RR's family ahead of their visit to Puglia was a lovely break.

Seemingly we picked the hottest week of the last 10 years to visit so probably looked a bit more hot and bothered as we walked round the city at a snail's pace than we would have chosen, but still we saw
the Pantheon...

... the Sistine Chapel and Colosseum,

... and even caught the Pope's address at St Peter's, so we're feeling suitably blessed now!

Honestly though, I'm more of a town girl than a city girl, so it was a delight to come back to our own home in little Monopoli and go to sleep to silence as opposed to the never-ending honking horns and sirens of Rome, not to mention the cooling sea breeze.

But there were some sights other than the architecture that warranted a cheeky picture, as you just don't see the like in our little town or perhaps, anywhere else in the world!

Kid size loo in the mother and baby room!
Priest pin up calendar!
Biggest thistles ever!
Rainbow pasta
Words that make this ragazza very happy!
Still counts as 3 of my 5 a day, right?!
Lilac aubergine?
Pink beans?  
Novelty Italy-shaped bottles of limoncello
All the tourist T-Shirts you could wish for!
Stylish shop displays
Stylish shoe displays
BDSM advert: "Recession? Tonight let's stay in..."!
Authentic gladiator smoking a fag!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

It's summer and we're opening our doors!

I'm so looking forward to welcoming our first guests to Il Palazzotto.  My and Mr RR's parents are the trail blazers coming out next week and some good friends will be with us a few weeks after that. 

Looks like they will just beat the rush: check out which unassuming town is featured in the current issue of super-fancy Conde Nast Traveller magazine!

Fancy hotel in centro storico, MONOPOLI!

A taste of Capri and St Tropez in the 1950's but for a smidgeon of the price

Incase anyone needed any more convincing:

Sun sun sun!
Check back soon for more good reasons to book a break in our wonderful little Monopoli!