Friday, 30 September 2016

Berkshire to Sabina

The garden at Kings Copse
I am writing this at the end of a sunny day in Italy sitting at a desk trying not to be distracted by the glorious view of the ancient town of Tarano. A view I can’t get tired of even now on our third visit here. But first rewind …
Misty morning across our paddocks (with deer)
Our last few days at Kings Copse in Berkshire were tinged with sadness as we have really, really enjoyed living in a beautiful piece of English countryside. Being almost neighbour-less, with vistas of the garden and woods from every window, and all the wildlife close by: squirrels, badgers, deer, moles (not so sure about this one!), red kites, woodpeckers, robins, and, and, and … So it is farewell to this stage of our lives (almost two years) and on to a transition to whatever happens next. But first a roll-call:
"Vicki's" chooks get a last treat (raspberries!)·   
  • The Boot
  • The Queens Head “lounge”
  • Anne and Alain
  • The “Kiwi Group”
  • Gail and Janos
  • Tim and Linda
  • Jane and Neil
  • Andy and Fiona
  • The lanes, hedges, fields, public footpaths and copses that make the countryside so attractive
  • All those beautiful old villages and towns
  • All those charity shops, especially Marlow
  • And a special mention to the chocolate brownies at The Pantry in Yttendon.

So with heavy hearts but full of excitement we flew off to Rome on September 14th. Our friend Pauline was there to meet us at Fiumicino Aeroporto and drove us to her cousin Anna’s house for dinner. Even though she had already eaten, Anna turned out five or more dishes for us plus wine and Sambuca. Sitting outside on a Roman evening soon reminded us of why we love it here.

Sant'Oreste on the slopes of Monte Soratte
We’ve now been here in Sabina (an area about an hour's drive north of Rome) for a week and here’s what we’ve been up to..... A trip to the Bunkers at Soratte. These were built by the Italians prior to WWII to protect officials and documents as it is a convenient distance away from Rome. But towards the end of the war it was taken over by the German army. Though heavily bombed, the Allies were very careful and only one person in the neighbouring village was killed, though the caution was as likely to do with an English spy in town. Later in the 1960s it was redeveloped to house government officials in the advent of a nuclear war. The bunkers have remnants from each of these eras and are fascinating, whether WWII German army memorabilia or 1960’s era control rooms. They are immense and housed over a 1000 at their peak. Their location, high on the slopes of the mountain, also provides wonderful views over the surrounding countryside.
You can squeeze one in anywhere
More Italian loveliness

There have been many thunderstorms lately with a lot of rain which has, unfortunately, cooled down the water in the swimming pool. At least the temperatures are in the low to mid-20s so, after doing some outside work (mowing and burning off olive cuttings), a cool swim is still worth it. Luckily on my first few laps Vicki pulled me up when she spotted a small snake in the pool! We rescued it and quietly deposited it next door. After Pauline bought this house the developer – despite promising not to – went and built a house in front of it which restricts views in that direction. It remains unsold after 10 years which is a good thing so we have no twinge of conscience adding further deterrents to prospective buyers!

For the record the wildlife list to date is: one snake (as discussed, in the pool), two black squirrels (spotted while having lunch at a friend's house), three big black scorpions (discovered while cleaning out the carport), and 10,000 mosquitoes. Unfortunately this rain seems to have brought the latter out.

Our days so far revolve around a few hours work, either in the garden, helping with Pauline’s iMac and iPad, and a couple of trips to the local shops to help with the shopping. The shopping trips always include coffee stops, indeed our favourite spot is Zanzi-bar at the local shopping centre. I couldn’t believe our first stop included three coffees and three pastries for only 5.40 Euros. A cappuccino or similar is only 80c.

Another shopping trip took us down to Porta di Roma – a huge mall on the outskirts of Rome.  Indeed the biggest mall I think I have been in, though Vicki has been to The Mall of America. Every Roman and her dog was there. Dogs in shops? Yep. And cafes.

As is the norm here, any work is interrupted by a big lunch that Pauline provides though - shock, horror – we’ve started turning down wine at lunch. Sometimes.  At King's Copse we had a routine of finishing work sometime after 4pm, having showers, and then wine'o'clock at about 5 (wine and nibbles).  Thanks to us finding a bottle-shaped plaque in Newbury,  at Casale Benedetti 5 O’Clock has been officially renamed “Prosecco O’Clock” and is when the nibbles and cards come out, with Prosecco or wine. Dinners have all been big affairs, usually accompanied by friends Gabby and/or Corrado, who often bring more dishes and wine. Late nights and more cards ensue. It is tough living in paradise.

Vicki and Corrado about to enjoy Pauline's world-famous macaroni cheese

Gabby, Pauline, Corrado and Vicki - playing Buraco

 All this bodily abuse has left us with bad colds. So today we’re resting at home while Pauline and Gabby have headed to the beach. We're disappointed to have missed out but we’ll see the sea again when we get down to the Amalfi Coast.

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