The Engineer of Colledimezzo

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The past week was exhausting, but happily productive. My daughter did an amazing job in Italy. She signed the deed on our new home. It took three hours to read the deed in both English and Italian. I was on stand by here in the US, to send any documents they needed, but on the whole, everything went smoothly.

Since then Joanna has worked with a non-english speaking builder to arrange to have the stairs finished in wood and a non-english speaking carpenter to get a quote for the kitchen. She’s driven all over the Chieti province choosing appliances, opening bank accounts, arranging for taxes to be paid and generally making the house a home. When we arrive in March we just have to start buying furniture.

Our realtor Monia, with Abruzzo Rural Property, is amazing. She referred Joanna to amazing folks. Gave contact info for the only English-speaking person in the village (Nino), and introduced her to the Engineer.

I met the Engineer in August, when we were viewing houses. Super nice guy. I understand he’s an engineer, but I’m not sure what that means in Italy. This man is taking care of everything for us. He has a couple of keys to our house. He’s removing some of the building materials that were left. He’s fitting a bigger boiler for us, letting folks into our home to make deliveries and work on the house. I wonder if each village has an engineer that takes care of things. I still have a lot to learn, but one thing is for sure, I’m going to enjoy learning it.

Roll on Retirement!

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Cappuccino and the Rooftops of Rome!

DSC02995Thou shalt only drink cappuccino or any milky form of coffee in the morning, and never after a meal.

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The first time I tasted Cappuccino was in the early seventies. My mum and crazy aunt took me to Italy, Rimini to be precise. It was one of those package tours that were so popular in England back then. We stayed in the Hotel President, by Piazza Tripoli and just a couple of blocks from the beach. I’d dreamed of visiting Italy for as long as I can remember. Not sure why, but it was (and still is an obsession) of mine.

I’m at home in italy, it soothes my soul.

Now, even though I live in the US, I return as often as possible and have travelled from north to south. I have favorite cities and towns of course. Breakfast at Hotel Vittorio on the banks of Lake Garda is wonderful. An ice-cold glass of champagne overlooking the Amalfi Coast in the Beautiful Hotel Villa Maria is heavenly. Tasting wine at one of the many Tuscan Vineyards with good friends is amazing.

However, one of the most exciting, exhilarating places to drink Cappuccino, is on the rooftop of the beautiful Marriott Hotel ‘Grand Flora’ at the top of Via Veneto in Rome! One cup is not enough as you sit and anticipate the day ahead. I never tire of it and I never will.

 

Roma – Anticipation

Three weeks from now I will be re-discovering Rome. The anticipation is overwhelming. Its been five years since my last trip to Italy. Memories of happy times and wonderful people flood back, particularly in the Grand Hotel Flora. Can’t wait to check in. I’m sure the staff will have changed, but the charm will still be there.

The excellent staff

The excellent staff

Giggling Policeman – Driving Tips for your Italian Vacation!

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Whether you are driving your own car or a hired vehicle it is most important that you carry your driving license and the car’s insurance with you at all times. The Carabinieri and the Police do spot checks of both vehicles and drivers’ documents all the time. If uniformed policemen bristling with machine guns and self-importance wave lollipops at you, don’t panic, but please, do stop! They will want to see your license, log book and insurance. They may kick your tyres and check your lights and brakes. The younger and prettier you are, the longer they will spend discussing your motor car. They are generally very polite and friendly. Naturally the armoury induces a polite, even servile reaction from all but the most audacious driver! Speed limits are nastily in force with ruinous fines. Even if you are driving a hired car such fines will eventually catch up with you. These speed limits change depending on the day of the week and the type of road. They also change without much warning from one season to another. This helps the Italian government to collect some of the taxes it loses from the income tax declarations of its native population and assist in holiday funds for its politicians. Currently the speed limits are:

On weekdays, on non-motorway roads (including link roads such as the Firenze – Siena) 100 kms per hour. However, since the local authorities forgot to apply for ‘Superstrada’ status in time, this road is now reduced (temporarily??) to 90 km. per hour. It helps fill the coffers.

On weekdays, on motor ways (Autostrade):

130 km. per hour.At weekends and holidays, on non-motorway roads: 90 km. per hour. At weekends and holidays, on motorways: 110 km per hour Watch out for elongated holiday weekends, short stretches of roads with 50 km. limits, hidden little cameras and giggling policemen, and sudden changes in the law, especially when there is a tax crisis. Fines start at 100.00 euro and go up fast.

And this is why I love the Italians……..giggling policemen? Can’t wait!

Cappuccino – All about the Microbubbles

I only drink cappuccino, nothing else hits the spot. I must have at least one cup every morning. There’s nothing better than breakfast in Italy washed down with a huge foamy cappuccino. Unfortunately I don’t live in Italy so I have to make my own. For the last ten years or so we’ve had a La Pavoni coffee maker. The first one was the Romantica.

RomanticaThis wonderful machine produced excellent cappuccino time and time again without letting me down. When I had my kitchen remodelled, I went for the stainless steel look and of course this beautiful machine didn’t match my new decor. My daughter inherited it. When I visit her house I look at it longingly.

We replaced it with a stainless steel Pavoni.

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A beautiful coffee maker, and at first it made beautiful coffee, until June 2013. Then it became temperamental. For a couple of months it simply refused to make microbubbles. We all know a good cup of cappuccino is dependent on the microbubbles. We replaced parts, took it apart, put it back together, tried everything to make the damn thing consistent. It would make perfect cappuccino for a month or so, and then for no reason, the pressure went crazy and it was impossible to get a lovely frothy top.

It has been consistent in its inconsistency for over two years now and I’m ready to invest in a new machine. The problem is, every time I throw up my hands and say “that’s it, I’m getting a new coffee maker,” it works again. I guess all the best things in life are temperamental. Italian cars, Latin men, and now apparently, Italian coffee machines.

Anyone got any advice for me?

Once Upon a Time in Italy

In 1973 when I went to Italy for the first time. It was one of those ‘all inclusive’ package tours. I went with my mum and my crazy old Aunt. The minute I stepped off the plane I was in love with the place. I was fifteen. I spend two weeks wandering along the beach, basking in the sun and enjoying the atmosphere. I explored the streets, always turning the corner to find something new to delight me. I returned the following year, and the one after. I was hooked. Italy 1973

In 1977 I got married and money was tight for my young husband and I. We were happy to be anywhere, as long as we were together, but Italy was on our bucket list! In 1983 we could finally afford the trip. My husband, a British Soldier, was stationed in Germany and we drove through the Alps, what a lovely way to get there. Did he share my love of the country. Yes, he was hooked right away.

We drove through the Alps to Italy in our very own Alfa Romeo

We drove through the Alps to Italy in our very own Alfa Romeo

I gave birth to my beautiful daughter in 1984 and soon after we moved back to England. With only one pay check, vacations abroad were out of the question and it was 1993 before we could afford a vacation in Italy again. Lido de Jesolo this time. My daughter was seven years old. She took to the country and the language like a fish to water.

Once upon a time on the shores of Lake Garda

Once upon a time on the shores of Lake Garda

We moved to the USA in 1995. Lots to see and places to visit. San Francisco and New Orleans became my favorite cities to visit. I Loved shopping in New York, enjoyed trips to Mexico for sun, sea and sand, but yearned to return to Italy. Long way, lots of money, would we ever be able to afford it? Eventually in 2010, we could stand it no longer. We needed an Italy fix and booked a trip to Rome. Two weeks in that Eternal City were not long enough. We took the train to Frascati, rented a car and drove to Sorrento and Pompeii, but mostly enjoyed walking the streets of Rome and mixing with the locals.

The Eternal City 2010

The Eternal City 2010

I’m getting older now, I can’t wait another ten years before I see Italy again. In a couple of months my husband and I fly to Rome, but this time for three weeks. Rome, Milan, Lake Garda, Siena, Ravello – I can barely wait! My daughter and her new husband will be with us too, how special. Life evolves, things change, but Italy will always be a part of me. Hope you enjoy the photos!

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La Pavoni – My Temperamental Italian

I’m on my second La Pavoni coffee maker. My daughter inherited the first one, a beautiful brass plated machine. Its a work of art. The one I have now is stainless steel, I changed it to fit in with my new kitchen. I bought this one in 2010, they last forever, and they make the BEST cappuccino and espresso in the world, but boy are they temperamental. It stands to reason, they’re Italian. I had a couple of Alfa Romeo cars when I was younger. Same issue, fantastic, but only when they felt like it. For me, the only coffee worth drinking, is cappuccino. That means froth, micro bubbles to be exact. When we first got this particular machine, you just stuck the nozzle in the milk and hey presto, micro bubbles. Well now its older and likes to do its own thing, which means I have to play along with it. 

Instead of just thrusting the nozzle into  the milk any old way, I have to judge the mood of the machine.

Sometimes the nozzle needs to be gently placed half in and half out of the side of the milk, with the container tilted back.

Next I listen to the noise the pressure makes as the hot steam blows into the milk, and adjust it to get it just right for micro bubbles.

The milk has to swirl around the container at a certain speed before the bubbles form.

There is no doubt that La Pavoni makes the best coffee in the world, but just like the beloved Italian (men) it does its own thing and its mood changes at will. Wait a minute, it sounds just like my husband…..but he’s Jamaican!

My first  La Pavoni

My first La Pavoni

 

My current Pavoni

My current Pavoni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at these beautiful machines, who wouldn’t want one. Its a classic Italian espresso/cappuccino maker, and like everything Italian, stylish and beautiful…..and very TEMPERAMENTAL.

 

 

Italy is in my heart and in my blood!

My first trip to Italy was when I was sixteen.It was 1973. I went with my mum and my eccentric Aunt. It was love at first sight and I had the time of my life. My dad took us to the airport and waved us goodbye. My aunt and my mum were like giggly schoolchildren, even though they were in their mid fifties. It was the first time my mum had left England.

The first smell of Italian air intoxicated me. I was hooked before I even left the airport.

We arrived at our hotel ‘Hotel President’ on the Piazza Tripoli, just one block away from the beach. I could smell the Adriatic.

The room in that hotel was very basic. There was a bathroom and three single beds, but it was all we needed.

My mum and my eccentric aunt did their own thing, trips, dances and sight-seeing and I wandered the cobbled streets of Rimini and enjoyed myself. I loved the sun, the beach, the bars, the restaurants, but most of all, I loved the people.

The beaches were pretty crowded, but that was OK, because as I said earlier, I loved the people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know Rimini is full of tourists, mostly from Britain, but I was blind to anything but the Italians and their way of life.

I loved the food, the wine, the smell, the atmosphere. I loved everything and I knew I would be back again soon.

I was right. I returned every year for the next three years.

It was the start of a romance that would last for the rest of my life.

Now, almost forty years later, the attraction is as strong as ever.

I think about Italy every day. I look at my photos and remember.

I have visited Rome, Sorrento, Frascati, Capri, Verona, Lake Garda, San Marino, San Leo, Lido de Jesolo and Rimini as well as several small towns I don’t remember the name of.

Where next? Maybe Positano and the Amalfi Coast. After a brief visit to Sorrento in 2010, I know I need to see it again.