We'd placed an order with Amazon but had it sent to Forward2me who carefully stored it and let us know as things arrived by email, they were incredibly helpful even photographing an item we couldn't understand the description of to ensure it wasn't a mistake, they combined 58 items sent in 27 deliveries into 8 boxes totaling over 75kg for a reasonable charge and then they dispatched it all as one consignment with DHL so it could be traced. Even with the extra delivery charge, combining and insurance it still cost less than getting Amazon to ship some of the order that could be sent directly to Italy and getting the rest dispatched separately to a UK address and then sent on.

So what can we say....In the past we've relied on friends, family and bribes (blackmail) to get those items not available here, or at reasonable prices e.g. Epsom salts on UK 1.40 per KG here 14.90, so it makes sense to import some things and this new service is like the USA version we've used previously.

So for a tiny fee of £2.00 plus vat you get a UK address (P.O. Box number of sorts). They email you to confirm your address ( with -a if you want to have additional insurance when forwarding your order – depends on what you buy). Be assured its easy, we've never ever ordered anything from Amazon before so if you can do that this is a doddle and we could have ordered stuff from anyone willing to deliver to the “UK address” and forward2me would have managed it. They offer lots of help (with same day response on emails and nothing we asked phased them), and services, some are charged for like buying on your behalf or re-wrapping items and all at very reasonably prices, but what sold us was they are really hands on, before we got our address with them they were willing to email us to answer our queries, then they “held our hands” when we discovered although we'd bought what we needed through Amazon as 1 supplier there were 21 suppliers! OK there is a charge to combine the orders into a single consignment it was cheaper than having Amazon deliver just half the order (as the rest could not be supplied to us here by the suppliers e.g a combi-microwave that weighed 7kg and a 100m coil of coax cable, don't ask about the rest of the order!).

Options: 1) 22 items posted direct to Italy from Amazon 155.00 plus additional 36 items, that could not be sent to Italy by the suppliers, sent to the uk address £54.00 inc combining by forward2me £36.00 then the cost of getting those items here by DHL insured £ 68.50 = total postage £313.50 2) All 58 Items on standard delivery to the UK address (FOC + those that charged) £54.00 plus forward2me combining charge of all items to 1 consignment £36 plus insured DHL delivery £70 =£295.00 Not only did we save at least 100% on the cost of the items purchased we also saved by not having to meet the courier here 23 times for each consignment sent from the UK. The boxes arrived on Tuesday, just after Easter, in time for Mikes birthday and everything was well packed so no damage including a glass sweet/oil thermometer.

OK its not all perfect, Forward2me do state they will not ask the carriers to transport things they would not normally collect (glass, liquids, proscription drugs, batteries, printer ink, explosives etc) but also you must check the country's restrictions ( e.g Italy will not allow honey products imports plus other items), so for pet supplies like liquid wormer and tick treatment and they do not accept deliveries from outside Europe so watch where the supplier is located, so your friends and families are still needed. They now offer a service for UK foodstuffs bought on line can be delivered to them and shipped out and there's a promotional discount from Waitrose currently on offer.

We took a week to repair the fallen fencing, all but the bit Max needed to toss the cuttings into the hole, as we split each day between grass cutting so it didn't get out of hand then Mike started muttering about varnishing the South and West doors and some of the southern facing windows on the outside and I tackled re-cementing the tiles that had fallen off the paving edges before the weather got too hot. We burnt the old fence pieces so we got a bath every night to ease the aches and pains.

We asked Mr Sofia about the repairs to the drive it was supposed to have been done last spring but due to circumstances he left it too late, then there was the deluge in the November and he helped the church repair their section and now we were heading into summer at the gallop and no mention of a start. It turns out that he'd decided to mothball the project next-door so didn't want to reconstruct the road until he was ready to sell, understandable, but said he'd send his chap and some stone to fill in the rain damage.

The trees burst into leaf over night and the cuckoo went on and on then out of the blue we had a hailstorm that dropped an inch of ice all over the plants devastating the blooms and the rain, we think about 4 inches in 4 hours. As we couldn't do gardening we shopped, cut fabric for cushions and joined Ann for a pizza and she told us that we missed the armed raid on our post office by around half an hour, poor Angela and her assistant were in a dreadful state, unhurt but deeply shocked.

Had the strangest coincidence happen. We were speaking with Stephanie over lunch about putting the house on the market and who with etc....anyway went to Sarteano to see about my coat repair, (long story but here's the quick version) anyway there was a chap who offered to translate as things were getting a bit complicated for us and in the conversation it turns out he's the husband of Diana who is on the top of the list to contact so he gave us their new business card which only arrived from the printers yesterday. The when we returned home we got a call from an agent in Malta asking if we'd got their email replying to the cost of rates and rubbish tax in the country (none!) and when would we be visiting so they could show us around? Fate perhaps? So decided at the end of the month when we go to see the airplanes, microlights and such on display at Castiglione del lago we'll go and see Diamante who sold us this place and contact Diana at the same time.

Celebrated Easter with friends over for lunch in the sun, so we were able to eat outside, the previous day was blowing like mad and the following day was been damp and over cast with sunny spells so we were very lucky. Managed to make a surprise checkered B'day cake for Mike but tried to set fire to it (no not 58 candles) with a novelty candle that in the light breeze set its self alight whilst playing happy birthday (and the crew played on as the ship sank), great excitement all round. Annie also brought a wonderful bunch of orchids for the table, the hoopoes did a display on the fence and the cuckoo sounded like a demented wind up toy, the peace and quiet of the countryside?

Mike couldn't resist assembling his birthday present, 2 days early, in case there was anything that needed attention, but was delighted by the size, and quality, only now to test it in flight. His birthday treat was to go to the old airport and see the planes and other flying machines for sale, with out cheque book in hand. He's quite taken with the idea of a micro-lite but not without life insurance!

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