Foggy mornings/Sunnyafternoons

Just a few pictures taken in and around Monte San Savino


In the fall, here in southern Tuscany, mornings often start out foggy, misty, dampish.  But then that sun bursts through and it is a beautiful day.


As the day ends, it seems as if this building in town is ready for the holiday season, outlined in lights….



But no, it is just a strong shaft of the setting sun hitting just the edge.  Did the lady walking by even notice?  Or does it take someone who knows they are moving away to see the beauty in this small Italian hill town?



What not to do when someone is moving

It hasn’t happened yet, but years ago when we moved here at least three people gave us books!  Some, after we had packed and shipped things.  Yes, nice heavy books.  I’m just waiting.

So this morning, I had staggered awake because Ben had an appointment in Arezzo and we had to get ready.  I was in the kitchen struggling to produce something that could be called breakfast.  When up roared a new, giant, big-ass Range Rover.  I’m looking out the window, watching, as this man who might be familiar, gets out and starts frantically unloading boxes.  Now I haven’t had my tea yet.  That blend of caffeine and sugar that makes me into a semi-nice, reasonable person.  I’m watching this man, realizing that I am probably going to have to go out there in the cold and break the news to him that whatever he is delivering most probably does not belong here.  I’m pondering if I should be nice and go out now and stop him or just let him continue to unload, when I see Lorenzo, one of the boys who lives upstairs, and his father hanging around.  So the light dawns that maybe this does belong here and I don’t need to do anything.  By now, the man has found the box he was looking for, a case of wine.  Dripping wine.  Really dripping wine.  I am amused that this has happened in is whoop dee doo car.  The man disappears into the garage and comes back with


At this point I am beside myself.  Totally unbelievable!    He starts to rip the box open.  Well that was too much.  I fling open the window and yell NO!  THAT IS MINE!   ‘But I need the carton.’ he whines.  At this point, my Italian fails me.  I want to say ‘I don’t give a flying fig what you need,  you don’t go in to my garage and take out a box that I have packed, sealed and labeled for moving!’  So I just scream NO again.  I stomp through the  house, pick up an empty wine box, stomp outside in the cold and thrust it at the man.  Much bowing and scraping.  Blah blah.  Back inside.  The car roars off.  I see that my box has been returned, the dripping box left in the gutter and Lorenzo is coming inside.  I go out to speak to Lorenzo, because I want him to know that I am not angry with him, only with the friend of his father’s.  And then Lorenzo and I have one of those truly ‘in Italy’ moments.  Only in Italy, on a weekday morning before 10 AM would a 14 year old be offering you a selection of slightly moist bottles of wine as a peace offering because he knew his father’s friend had been a jackass.  The wine really smells but I take a bottle and send Lorenzo off.

Ben and I go off to his appointment and while driving I remember  years ago after my mother died and I was in Florida packing up her house.  My brother was there too,  being totally useless, so he arranged for his wife and her mother to come and ‘help.’  I think I remember that the first day went well.  It was maybe the second or third day that I walked into a room and found  both women sitting on a couch, unpacking boxes that I had already packed, sealed and labeled.  I think someone carefully took me out of the room and gave me a nice cold beer and told me to just sit down for a bit.

So back to today.  Ida  (la Mamma) comes home this afternoon, asking about Ben’s appointment and then she starts in on ‘how the father had dropped Lorenzo off this morning.  But the agreement had been that Lorenzo would be dropped off this afternoon.  And Ida didn’t know that he was here alone.  And she didn’t know if he had a key.  But she did know that we were gone.  And that a phone was broken. And on and on.”   So I said, yeah and did Lorenzo tell you what they did?  “Yes, I can’t believe it”.  Well, come in here with me and look. So into the garage we went and  I showed her where the packed box was and how a BIG TWO FEET AWAY IS A STACK OF EMPTY BOXES!     We stood there shaking our heads at the whole situation.  And Ida turned and said ” you know they only gave us wine because the labels on those bottles were ruined”.

I am holding out hope that no one will give us any books.  And for those folks who have questioned why several times a week I load up the car and take the things we are moving away to another location for storage, this morning’s episode would be why.  Some people I won’t miss at all.  And don’t even look at my boxes, much less open them up.





I started this blog in 2008 as a way to keep our friends in the US up to date with what we were doing in Italy.  And, I like to write, take pictures and tell stories.  Originally I was just sending emails with a picture or two in the email.  Friends began asking permission to share my emails with others so that is when I started my blog.  I really wasn’t trying to attract the general public but I didn’t mind if they dropped by for a visit.  I started using categories as a  way to keep the blog organized, so that I could go back and find a picture of a menu at a festa or whatever.  Then I discovered ‘tags’.   I think that ‘tags’ are used by search engines and ‘tags’ steered more folks to my blog.  I began to get more comments from folks I didn’t know.  And all of this is a round about way to introduce you to Alyssa and her family.  A few years back, Alyssa found my blog.  Dropped me an email. We traded emails and I gave her links to help them prepare for their move to Italy.  And they have finally made it, arriving in August.  So we arranged to meet them for the polenta festa in Rigutino.


Here’s Alyssa on the right, across from her are her delightful, well mannered, bright children, Anna, John and Luca next to their father Jeff.  (That is George and his guests at the rest of the table.  We were a big group as always)


(photo credit Alyssa Biolchini)

The man across from Luca had ordered stinco, which is a portion of pig’s leg.  He had generously shared with Luca and somehow Luca ended up with the bone which he cleverly realized was very spoon like so he was using it to eat the rest of his meal with.

After lunch, we all returned to our house to chat and see the garden.  Since they moved with only a suitcase each I had selected a few items to give them (some arts and crafts supplies, so hard to find here) and they took a few plants.


(photo credit Alyssa Biolchini)

I was delighted that they wanted some airplane/spider plants.  I got my airplane plant from 2 little bits that I scooped up from a plant at the hostel that we stayed at in Nice with our friends Jim and BK in April, 2013.  ( How can I remember that?  Well I just used categories and tags to search the blog)  (click here if you want to revisit that trip  )


(photo credit John W. Biolchini)

Here are Alyssa and I in my garden.  Don’t we look like we are up to something?

I am sorry that they moved here as we are moving away.  And I am sorry that they live so far away.  I know we could have had a lot of fun together.  And I am so happy that Alyssa found my blog and reached out.  Even if half of my old friends don’t read my blog ( I can tell by the questions that you ask….go figure)  I have made a wonderful new friend.  And my blog brought her to us.

Fall Lunch at Menchetti

Reading this blog it would be possible to think that all we do is meet folks for lunch or to party.  We do boring things too, like wash and grocery shopping.  But who wants to see pictures of that?


prosciutto with the last of the good melon.


A cheesy omelet with vegetables


Some of the other diners, enjoying the sun.


American Graffiti

Before our Canadian friends, Dinah and Allen scampered back to Canada we had an enjoyable lunch with them at American Graffiti in Arezzo.  I think that it is similar to a Johnny Rocket Restaurant.


Very American Rock and Roll interior.


There were milkshakes which Allen and Ben enjoyed.  And there was…..


Dr. Pepper!!!!!! Lord have mercy I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  So good.  Can you tell I might miss an occasional Dr. Pepper.

The hamburgers and fries were good but we all agreed that we have been spoiled by the place that we went to for my birthday, La Toraia.  It was nice to have one last lunch with Dinah and Allen.



Recently, I made a drop off of clothing at a nearby charity shop.  Since I was there I decided to have a look around.  (Yes, I know I am moving soon.  But there are commemorative wine glasses from Arezzo that I am looking for and for any other small items that are very ‘Italian’.)  I found these.



Three pieces of beautiful hand work.  They must be telling a story of something….


The faces are painted on but the rest is beautiful, time-consuming work.

Go back up and look at how teeny the woman’s feet are.  Look at the  black flare, the almost Greek military style uniform the man is wearing.  Look at the little flowers, the hills in the distance, the homestead.  What is the significance of the blue and black scarf that is flowing from the woman?  What was she doing while he was off being a solider?   The three pieces just spoke to me with questions, mysteries and untold stories.  I just could not leave them in the shop and had to have them.  I would be interested if anyone has ever seen anything like this.

Happy Halloween!

One of my favorite days of the year.  It is catching on here more and more.  This year for the first time, in the Esselunga, I saw candy packaged for Halloween, right beside costumes!  And Lidl has a big Halloween offering too.

I should make an effort to get a pumpkin since I will be cooking/eating Thanksgiving here and by that time most of the fresh pumpkins are gone.  But I have not done that yet so a fall squash picture will have to do.


Party! Party!

There comes a time of year here in our little corner of Tuscany when you really have to beat the bushes to find a year round American, Canadian or British resident.  Like the snow birds of cold northern states in America they all flee somewhere.  Lots of reasons.  Their holiday letting season is FINALLY over and they can go somewhere on vacation themselves.  Olive harvesting is FINALLY over and they need to go sell that oil.  They just have to spend the holidays with their family back “home.”  “It’s just too cold and damp here.”   So before the exodus began Grace collaborated with Nancy and gave us a going away party.


Grace’s long table was set.  John and Richard came to pick us up so that I could have more than one glass of wine.  Everyone (except us) contributed to a seasonal menu.


The very tasty puree of chickpea.



George sang, songs about North Carolina and an original that he and Jules wrote.



Thanks everyone.  We are going to miss all of you but hope you will come to visit us in beautiful North Carolina.  (photo credit, George Hardy)


Plant of the year

Cooler temps and a little rain signal the start of the beauty pageant, also known as the garden in fall.  This year’s competitors….


The super confident Four Seasons Hydrangeas (known as Endless Summer in the US).  (They were over heard boasting about how “we’re just so pretty all the time.  That’s why they call us Four Seasons.  Of course we’re going to win.  Blah blah blah)


“We had to struggle to get where we are” group, who wintered over in the garage and with a little help burst forth to fill this space nicely.


The very dependable, exuberant, perennial lobelia (I think)  which had to be restrained to allow the elephant ears a chance at some sun and air.


The elephant ears,  whining, “that lobelia!  No one even notices us!  We’re not coming back here next year!”


The very scantily dressed crape myrtle, but so many blooms this year.  I don’t know what happened to all its leaves.  It will be much happier since it is moving to a pot and a sunny terrace, away from the butterfly bush.  The butterfly bush will probably remain and will receive the full “Costo” haircut I’m sure.


The inpatients, now that the chickens are gone and no longer nibbling on them they are doing well.  They use some trick of light when being photographed.  They are not this pink in real life, much more red.  The hosta are not participating in the competition this year but are merely observers.  (a tragic slug invasion dampened their enthusiasm.)


And always a contender, the coleus.

Well, the jury is still out, but I think all of them were beauties.



Steak and Porcini

Well, the first Sunday in October we managed to get a crowd together for lunch at the Porcini sagra in Noceta, a little town outside Castiglion Fiorentino.



Ben and I each had a steak, fried porcini, one salad, water and wine for 50 some odd Euros.  Some of the steak came home with us and we had two more meals out of it.  Steak and mushroom quesadillas and steak with broccoli in oyster sauce.


The calm before.  It is a very popular one.


Well organized and managed.  Always decorated inside and out.  This one where you get a sense of the community,  that folks worked together to make this happen.


Our rowdy group of expats.  They wisely put us at the back of the tent.


What we came for, fried porcini.  Very tasty!