Let the packing begin


Written on November 16, 2016

I waited until November 1 to start packing.  We have a lot of pictures…..  Everything is going into suitcases or totes and being hauled up to John and Richard’s, stored in their garage until we leave in December.


Now on the 16th, I feel like we are in good shape.  I have one case of ‘stuff’ left to pack in my room.  Four suitcases of clothes which will be all the clothes we have for at least one month or maybe six (depending on how we chose to store things).  One trunk of pots and pans in the kitchen.  And then there is Ben’s room.  But he knows that he has the same amount of space that I used, one trunk and one suitcase.

Unfortunately, we still have a lot of furniture that needs to be sold.  I can’t believe that some things have just not sold.

Next week Ben’s daughter, Annalisa will be here for a last visit.  (Do you think she might get to help her father pack?????)  We will celebrate Thanksgiving.  Grace is hosting, I am cooking the sides.  (The pots and pans are still here, but not the china or tablecloths)  Then around the first we are leaving down here in the valley and going back to where we stayed when we first arrived here.  That will give me a chance to clear this place out and to finally finish packing.  Our friend Enzo will pick us up there on Sunday, December 11 and we will start our trip to the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton, England.  Sailing away on Thursday, December 15.  Landing in New York City on December 22.  We will be spending the holidays with my very gracious cousins in Ocean City, NJ and will finally make it to Raleigh, NC after New Years.  Work starts on our condo on February 1 and I hope to know soon how long that will take.   So the next few months will be a very exciting time for us.

This is probably the last post you will see on this blog.  Because our time here in Italy has come to a close.  But there is a new blog!!!!!!!!!  Click below to see more adventures with Ben and Martha


Catchy name huh?





Just as we are physically moving my blog will be moving too.  I hope that you will come along to it.

I have to pay for linking this blog to my new blog and I didn’t get around to doing that so you will have to do a little sleuthing.  The name of the new blog is all one word carolina in my mind and it is hosted by this same group.  And if you subscribed to this blog you will have to subscribe all over a again.  There is one post now that is ‘sticky’, that means it will remain at the top.  New posts will start tomorrow.  Hope to see you there.


My last bottle of fizzy pink Italian wine.

Moving to Italy was one of the best things that I have done in my life.  I hope that moving back to North Carolina will be as enjoyable.  CHEERS!





I’m in France

By and large when I am not trying to handle an international move, I am a happy person.  When I am happy and relaxed little snippets of songs tumble out of my mouth or I whistle.  I have an uncle who does this  and my friend Jim will burst into song (mostly hymns).  I know that not everyone does this.  And that it can be annoying.  I do try to control it.


(Just some of what needs to be managed.  This is my space in the car.)


In the musical that is my life (You know the one that runs in your head that will become a movie.  You have one of these don’t you?)  the same  song happens every time I land or cross the border into France.    It has happened for years.   Not overly involved lyrics.  The tune ( yes, George I know I can’t manage to carry one in a bucket) is lifted from The King and I.

I’m in France  Ta da da Boom!

Soon as I realized on December 11 that we had crossed the border, the song just came out.



Ben, Enzo and I drove up through a part of Italy that we had never been to before.  The Piemonte and the Val d’Aosta.  I thought the Piemonte was very pretty country and remarked on it.  Enzo immediately replied that ‘it is awful. Not pretty like Tuscany.  It is all farming, poor people are here.’  I realized that I liked it because it reminded me of ‘Down East’, the eastern part of North Carolina.  Soon we were to the Val d’Aosta and the Alps.



Icy trees

I have flown over the Alps and seen Mont Blanc (yeah, the pen people)  from a plane but this time we drove through it.  Really cool.  And then boom


I’m in France!  Ta da da boom !

Well, since I was in France it was time for a glass of wine, which I had carefully stored in a used plastic water bottle.  And all in all it was a pleasant trip.


Enzo is a wonderful driver and companion.  Very helpful with Ben.  We are so fortunate that he agreed to come along with us and our moving circus.




(moon over the Alps)

Today, December 12 is foggy and dreary, but not raining, thank goodness as we drive from Bourg en Bresse (on the eastern side of the middle of France) northwards and then west to Calais.  Making a wide arc around the northern part of Paris.   This eastern part  of France is country  that we have not seen.  Tomorrow morning we will take the Eurotunnel over to England.


But for right now


I’m in France!   Tadada boom !


I’m in France!


I’m in France!




(In the movie, I’m taller and thinner, can sing and spin around so that my skirt (Martha in a skirt?) whirls out as I throw my arms up triumphantly)

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 https://friendsandfamilyinitaly.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/nice-the-senior-tour-april-2013/  )


(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.