Xmas in Italy

31 Dec

This week seems to have slipped by rather quietly but we were always occupied. We spent lots of time on Xmas Eve talking to friends and family in NZ via Skype or Viber. In general it actually sounded like our weather here was better than in Auckland due to the aftermath of a tropical storm near Fiji bringing very humid and wet conditions over the upper North Island at least.

On Xmas morning Leanne made us a nice cooked breakfast before we headed for the Sibilini Mountains to find some snow. The route passes through Sarnano. We got to Sarnano at about 1145 and were totally surprised by how many people were around and how many shops were open for business. It was like peak time. So we stopped and explored for a while.

This was an ideal spot to soak up some warm sunshine after a walk around Sarnano.

This was an ideal spot to soak up some warm sunshine after a walk around Sarnano.

We have never seen so many fur coats around until Italy.  Faces have been disguised to protect the innocent.

We have never seen so many fur coats around until Italy. Faces have been disguised to protect the innocent.

Bank heist getaway vehicle!  14hp diesel.

Bank heist getaway vehicle! 14hp diesel.

In the centre of Sarnano on our way to the Sibilini Mountains to play in the snow.

In the centre of Sarnano on our way to the Sibilini Mountains to play in the snow.

The scene at the top where we took photos a week ago of the ski area covered with snow was now quite different.

Compare this to the same view a week ago… it has been so (relatively) warm that last week's snow has largely melted.

Compare this to the same view a week ago… it has been so (relatively) warm that last week’s snow has largely melted.

So we continued on and turned right just past the sign and went up a road that was totally blocked by snow last week. Up there we found at least some patches to play in.

Xmas Day playing in the snow.

Xmas Day playing in the snow.

Just to prove that I can exist in front of the camera, for short periods of time at least.

Just to prove that I can exist in front of the camera, for short periods of time at least.

Leanne's snowman.  He didn't stand out on the ground so she transported him up on to the car.

Leanne’s snowman. He didn’t stand out on the ground so she transported him up on to the car.

We had a look around the ski village of Sassotetto but there wasn’t a soul to be seen. So we set off towards home but on the way decided to keep going and visit the hilltop village of Penna San Giovanni, about 8km past Carole’s place. It is a beautiful village but lighting and haze made it very difficult to capture it well on the camera. Most shots had either very harsh or misty haze that detracted from just how picturesque it was.

View from Penna San Giovanni across the hills.  There is always some mist around so photos do not look that great.  I guess it is the time of year.

View from Penna San Giovanni across the hills. There is always some mist around so photos do not look that great. I guess it is the time of year.

This panorama is from the lookout point at the top end of Penna San Giovanni.  It was taken with my iPhone 4 using PhotoSynth.  You will need to zoom and pan to get the best look.

This panorama is from the lookout point at the top end of Penna San Giovanni. It was taken with my iPhone 4 using PhotoSynth. You will need to zoom and pan to get the best look.

Also dotted around this lookout point were these artists workstations.  I thought they would also work well for a musician like a flautist.

Also dotted around this lookout point were these artists workstations. I thought they would also work well for a musician like a flautist.

For Xmas dinner we had roasted chicken and roasted vegetables with some traditional Xmas music on the laptop – Snoopy’s Xmas (Royal Guardsmen) and Hey Santa (Kevin Bloody Wilson). Lovely!

On Boxing Day we had lunch with Gina and Gilbert at a very good restaurant out in the sticks past Fiastra.  On the way we stopped to admire the view, again!

On Boxing Day we had lunch with Gina and Gilbert at a very good restaurant out in the sticks past Fiastra. On the way we stopped to admire the view, again!

Polly is Gina and Gilbert's 9kg cat!  She is seriously big and very friendly.

Polly is Gina and Gilbert’s 9kg cat! She is seriously big and very friendly.

Several mornings this week have started out foggy but it is always below us. So we have a nice sunny day overlooking the valleys of fog.

Looking across to fog to San Ginesio.  Ten minutes later it was almost completely gone.

Looking across to fog to San Ginesio. Ten minutes later it was almost completely gone.

On Friday morning we got our act together and drove to Ascoli Piceno which is renowned for its marble tiled square. The drive there was slow, as are most drives around this area. You are lucky to average 60kph.

To quote from Wikipedia… "The central historical part of the city is built in marble called travertino, a grey-hued stone extracted from the surrounding mountains. Its central Renaissance square, Piazza del Popolo ("Square of the People") is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy. According to traditional accounts, Ascoli Piceno was home to more than two hundred towers in the Middle Ages: today some fifty can still be seen."

To quote from Wikipedia… “The central historical part of the city is built in marble called travertino, a grey-hued stone extracted from the surrounding mountains. Its central Renaissance square, Piazza del Popolo (“Square of the People”) is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy. According to traditional accounts, Ascoli Piceno was home to more than two hundred towers in the Middle Ages: today some fifty can still be seen.”

Meletti Café in one corner of the square

Meletti Café in one corner of the square

Café Meletti is one of the notable establishments on the Piazza del Popolo.  Stopped in an had the most expensive cappuccino we have had in Italy including Venice - €3 each!  The 'normal' price elsewhere is €1.  I guess it was a privilege!

Café Meletti is one of the notable establishments on the Piazza del Popolo. Stopped in an had the most expensive cappuccino we have had in Italy including Venice – €3 each! The ‘normal’ price elsewhere is €1. I guess it was a privilege!

Another view of Piazza del Popolo.

Another view of Piazza del Popolo.

We stopped at Pizzeria Da Marino in Sarnano for a late lunch on our way back from Ascoli Piceno.  The Quatro Stagioni was to die for!

We stopped at Pizzeria Da Marino in Sarnano for a late lunch on our way back from Ascoli Piceno. The Quatro Stagioni was to die for!

Saturday morning was frosty and in the shade it never cleared. It doesn’t seem that cold but each day the frosty bits get a little bigger because they never get the sun now. By Sunday morning a bucket of water in the garden had 25mm of ice on it still at midday.

Back to Saturday though; this was the day that the hot water boiler decided to stop working. It was fine on Friday evening but on Saturday morning we had no hot water and, although we had not used it yet, no central heating. I checked all the things I could and decided it was the boiler unit itself. To cut a long and complicated story short – Mario the boiler guy arrived just before 8pm and had the system working in 20 minutes. It seems to have been a blocked water flow sensor. Once he took it apart, poked the crap out of the small holes and put it back together it was all OK. That was a relief but it was now too late to go to a highly recommended local restaurant, La Torre in Sant’Angelo, for dinner. Bugger.

Sunday was really ugly for me. I awoke at 4am with a blinding migraine and in spite of swallowing half a pharmacy, couldn’t get out of bed until after 6pm. It was the worst one I have had in 15 years. The full routine of vomiting and flashing lights. I am so glad I hardly ever get them these days. And I have no idea what triggered it; before you ask or suggest, it was not substance abuse of any sort! 😉

Chiara and Stella out in the sunshine on Saturday.

Chiara and Stella out in the sunshine on Saturday.

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One Response to “Xmas in Italy”

  1. David Grant December 31, 2012 at 20:04 #

    Italy envy! Happy new year to the Karls!

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