Jan 2012 - What happened to Winter?
The New Year was started with a bang as usual, fireworks in abundance. From our vantage point we can see 4 towns worth and several private properties who set them off. We get the advantage of enjoying the spectacle without freezing or suffering the noise and keeping the cats company. In actual fact the weather has been astonishingly mild and dry. We were watering last month and the only rain, drizzle really, happened on the 2nd of January. The days have been cloudless blue skies and temperatures peaking at 20 degrees but anything from 12-17 degrees C has been the norm. Having said that the wood burning heating is on as after 4pm when the sun starts going down so do the temperatures, -7 to –9.
Our computer suffered a double whammy. Mid way through doing something the external hard drive just stopped. This has 600gb of information on it which we were planning to burn onto disc in the event the drive ever died, too late. We dismantled the unit and put in a spare drive and the computer couldn’t see that one either so we knew the interface board had blown. No too surprisingly as the 45 degree heat of the summer had cooked the motherboard and the following electrical bounces caused by the builders next-door took out the UPS letting a spike from the mains through the system. It took 4 weeks to get parts but eventually we did get access to the information again. So we started the long process of writing it to disc before fate took a hand again.
Epiphany ( 6 January) is the day they celebrate with the stocking for the children in Italy and several other European countries and Russia too. Traditionally it is the day the 3 kings arrived bearing gifts and special foods are eaten, its one long food festival here.
Here's something to try: Bread Halo’s Prepare 1kg of bread dough.
Break off 2/3rds and roll out to form a very large thin circle. Cube cheese of choice over base, scatter blanched pistachio's over, ground pepper and top with Parma ham to cover.
Roll up like a Swiss-roll and curve to form a halo, pinching the ends together. Grease a round tin and place halo within. Make deep incisions from middle top to bottom outer edge to divide into equal parts. Use a water wash over and leave to rise with a damp towel over. When doubled in size cook in 200c until crisp and golden.
With the remaining dough (you thought I'd forgotten) pinch 1" ball sized lumps and roll into circles. Place cooked ham in half, top with a lump of mozzarella, seasoning. Tuck filling in as you fold over dough to form a half circle, pasty like, and fork the edges together. Don't bother waiting for them to prove, Fry in hot deep corn oil until golden on both sides.
Pinch smaller bits, roll into balls and fry till golden brown and dip into nutella.
Naturally you'll devise your own fillings. I suppose you could use a ready made pizza base dough or foccacia one and achieve almost the same effect The theatre season is in full swing with Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s nights dream this month, poetry readings at the library, exhibitions of paintings in the old palace and so on. They are already planning for next moth when carnival season starts.
Petrol hit 1.9 euros a ltr for high octane and 1.8 for normal use which is £8 a gallon! Coupled with a 4.8% rise in electricity and 2.7% in gas hit the pockets deeply. Having said that and despite the huge taxes here the quality of life is still good. Eating out isn’t too expensive, a huge Pizza costs from 6 euros to 9 depending on what you have on it, pasta ranges from 7-11 euros a plate, truffles and wild boar sauces being the costly end of the range, also expensive surroundings explain the variations. Meat, veggies and fruit are still cheaper than many other European places too.
Friends who were moving from the South side of us to the Northern limits have had their plans thwarted by a new ruling that states "the plans of the property held by the comune must reflect accurately the property in actuality." and in many cases they don't. This was a huge surprise to us but 2 couples we know on the point of selling have been caught out. One was selling a relatively new house and the builder hadn't installed a window in a room as per the original design and the second had a terrace where the authority thought it was a roof. All fun and games getting these issues sorted without anyone taking blame, saving face is a national past time here. The out come was the pictures were fudged, plans back dated and approved and the owners ended up footing the geometra’s bills, the comune planning charges and endured a lot of running around with their moving plans scuppered or delayed by months. We're fortunate that our plans seem to be OK, although we will have to jump through hoops to get the property re-registered and we still have only the vaguest ideas of costs as the taxes keep moving and no one is keen to put their neck on the line to give us an end figure. Still in the end it has to be less than the costs of running a business and all the hassle that it has been in the past.
The end of the month has brought cloud covered skies and plummeting temperatures with the threat of snow, winter has arrived.
Michael & Peggy Hunt moved from Pembrokeshire to Italy two years ago. They now live on the Tuscan / Umbrian border in Locanda Delle Rose among 300 olive trees, enquiring neighbours and over-familiar wildlife. "Oddly, it is not so different from Pembrokeshire at all, " they say. "We have felt at home from the very beginning. "