Sunday, 14 July 2013

Paradise found?

After nearly a week in Italy it is time for some initial impressions. After showing us the ropes, Sue, the owner of the property we are staying at, has departed with her friends on a road trip back to England, leaving us in charge for three weeks. 

We’ll start with a brief description of where we are.
Sue’s property is at the end of the road, about 250m above sea level in the Canelli valley. There are other houses dotted around the hillsides and these are mostly accessed by other roads running along the ridge line. As it is so steep the place is heavily terraced with large stone walls holding the levels up. Mostly growing olive trees, there are several vegetable patches and various citrus, stone fruit, and apple trees, along with a few figs, a kiwi vine, and tamarillos. Needless to say one of our main tasks while here is to water everything except the olives – they only get watered later in the year nearer harvesting.

While the house and outbuildings look ancient, the old stones cover a modern interior and a very big kitchen – Sue is a foodie and her shelves of recipe books and the stock in her cupboards attest to this. There is a large solar array at the rear for hot water, though I haven’t seen any signs of solar installations anywhere else yet.

Given the temperatures we’ve had so far (high 20s, low 30s every day) we’ve eaten almost every meal outside and our favourite spots other than the pool are: sitting outside the kitchen at the big table in the shade under the kiwi vine, enjoying dinner at the other table on the patio with the outside ovens overlooking the valley, or at “my office” – a chair under an olive tree where internet reception is at its best!

Now if you thought this was perfect, the other major task we have is to look after the pool. A beautiful 9m pool perched on a terrace overlooking the valley. “Pool Boy” duties include scooping insects and leaves out, cleaning the filters, topping up the, and an occasional scrub to keep the algae at bay. Oh, and the best bit, switching Fatos the robotic pool cleaner on, then watching him wander seemingly randomly along the pool bottom scrubbing away. A stressful day’s work indeed!

Whilst Sue was here she took us on two outings: the first was up the neighbouring valley to an ancient hill town. We explored the back alleys and it would have been a photographer’s dream – but we didn’t have a camera with us! We’ll have to find a bus to take us back. Our second big trip was to Sanremo, the largest town in the vicinity and a very wealthy one too judging from the size of the boats in the harbour. Apparently its casino is second only to Monte Carlo.  A very smart place indeed and another bus trip beckons.

We did manage a walk along a hill track yesterday morning but we didn’t leave early enough and the heat made us turn back after an hour. Long enough to peek over into an adjacent valley and spot another hill town to be explored. I can see our biggest issue here is a lack of transport. Tomorrow we’ll have to walk down to Taggia to get a few more supplies and then stagger back up the hill. Hiring a vehicle would be an option for getting occasional supplies and seeing the local sights, but the road is really too rough. Maybe a scooter is the answer, as long as it is powerful enough to get up this track!

Anyway, pool duty calls ...

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