In early part of the month we ventured off towards the east coast, missing a huge storm back home. Our first stop was for coffee at Sanspolcro where we raided a Penny market and the shop next door gaining lots of needed bargains. Onwards we arrived in the Republic of San Marino having passed by Santa Agata Feltrina with sired tower and nearby a castle of San Leo. San Marino is a small tax have, much like Jersey is to the UK, chocolate, liquors and jewellery are discounted and the hoards of people thronging the town made it a very popular stop off for all nationalities. We found a super place to eat next to the Christmas shop (bursting with German, Italian and imported traditional items) called the Christmas café. A mother and daughter team made us wonderfully fresh cheese and ham toasties, a local paddini (folded over flat bread) with mozzarella and tomato heated up and a bacon roll. Although we had passed by many food places the cost of pasta and pizza was much higher, starting at 11 euros for a small plate, than we are accustomed to and we planned on eating out at night so the snack was perfect and reasonable by local rates. We found that the Republic has its own stamps, coins and number plates and bought a centenary stamp for a friend who is a collector. It is a lovely place with a great atmosphere and if it was relocated to a lower altitude it would be a place we’d consider living at.

Driving on we found Rimini and eventually our budget hotel, clean, with our designated parking space and helpful staff. It’s like a cross between Blackpool and a Californian beach resort. Families crowed the beaches, mile upon mile of loungers each with an umbrella of designated colour for each zone. Small areas with children’s rides were dotted along the beaches and restaurants and kiss-me-quick type shops abounded. Music blared from some of the hotels, live, disco and Italian pop. We ate at the Zodiac bar, very good service, lovely food and very popular with all age groups from tiny tots upwards.

At breakfast it was raining so we cancelled the idea of going to see Italy in miniature further up the coast but by the time we had finished, packed and paid, it had stopped and the hotel were happy for us to leave the car for a few hours to explore. We opted to take a ride on the tourist ‘train’ that toured up the coats and one street inland doing a loop in about 40 mins, stopping off regularly for visitors to get on and off and at just 4 euros not having to drive in the mayhem was well worth the experience. It was amazing to see some beautiful old properties, elegant and well appointed now surrounded by hotels, apartments, campsite and markets.

We took the A14 motorway south towards Ancona but left to turn westwards and visited Urbino. As it was all ready after 1 we went for lunch. Being a university town there’s lots of choice but we ate with the students selecting a Chick-n-fries take out. The portions are huge. We two shared a standard box of chicken bits and a medium chips and were full. There is a little train that trundles around the city costing 5 euros for the half hour ride but as we were near the Ducal palace which is why we were visiting we didn’t do the ride. For 6.80 entrance we spent over 2 hours admiring works of art across 80 rooms in the earliest renaissance palace ever built. We particularry liked ‘the ideal city’ by Luciano Laurana, ‘the mute’ by Raphael her hands are wonderful and Raphael’s nude. The dukes study is an astonishing work of wood inlays giving a 3D perspective. While admiring all the tapestries and other finery we missed the pouring rain and only got a little damp returning to the car.

Then we endured a terrible experience. Driving on to Frontino, in a storm on narrow winding roads that took the best part of 90mins to the Hotel Rocca dei Malatesta. Where through your web-site we had 2 db rooms ensuit booked for the night and where we hoped to enjoy a warm shower before celebrating a 70th birthday and our anniversary in this particular place over a quiet dinner with our friends.

We arrived about 5pm, but with nowhere to park by the hotel we stood in the rain knocking on a closed and shuttered property trying to gain entry. A passing gentleman said the hotel was closed and led us to a paper notice stating that from the 5th September to the 8th the hotel was closed for the fiesta.

He was sympathetic about our plight but said there were no other hotels in the area and suggested we head towards Sant' Angelo of the vale and try there. An hour later we still had no accommodation, or cell phone service to ring for help, and we had no idea if we were to be stranded for the night in the car. We made the decision to head for Perugia as we knew the mountain road down from this region was going to be difficult. That was an underestimation of the conditions we endured, 2nd gear most of the way up and then down the tricky helter-skelter switch backs in fog and driving rain. Having eventually gained the valley and the E45 we tried for home. We made it home after 10pm having been on the road without food or comforts for 7 hours. Why on earth did the hotel accept our booking through you knowing they were closing at that time?

What if we had no home here and 4 persons were stranded in the back of beyond over night?

Booking,com took this matter seriously and strike the hotel from their books as they are possibly the most unprofessional hostelers we have (not) encountered. The hotel tried to say they had first lost our booking due to computer failure then said we hadn’t shown up and we must pay. Fortunately Booking.com were interceding between us and they agreed to drop the charges. We were extremely glad not to have paid in advance as it seems unlikely we would have had our monies returned.

While sitting out we saw an enormous bat sized moth fly into the trumpet of our angel trumpet flowers. Two days later our friends were winging their way home and we discovered a short cut. Some parts for the pool robot arrived but one package went missing so pool cleaning was done manually. We said we were unhappy with the quality of the machine as it had fallen apart after just 6 weeks use but the supplier said it would send more spares but not replace it. Friends offered a smaller machine that doesn’t climb walls for under 600 euros so we took it to keep going which was just before a series of storms arrived filling the pool, to ovrflowing, with sand, bugs and leaves.

Friday the 9th, Pa’s birthday and he’s in hospital with arrhythmia in Como. They had gone there to catch the Bernina Express train tour in Switzerland, and the lake too. He was kept in until the following Tuesday when they were sure the treatment had worked and he could fly home on the Wednesday. He said the food was a bit odd but the care excellent. Poor ma was taxing from the hotel but they got to play a lot of scrabble. Driving home from Cardiff airport he said he felt peculiar around Port Talbot ( a common reaction) so they diverted and he was taken into Morriston Hospital in Swansea to clam his racing heartbeat. Ma came home to get a change of clothing before being driven back. The rest of the family were back sitting by phones and computers on tender hooks for news. After 2 weeks of rest and care he was home safe and sound much to everyone’s delight and relief.

Discovered a parcel service to get goods back to the UK reasonably. That was until we filled in the registration, box size and weight then the price shot up, we asked why and were told the home page was an estimate, but that’s not what it says we moaned. In the end we found another company, a bit more long winded but the price stayed as per the quote. And we had to print copious forms despite the website saying no printer needed. TNT collected, a day later than emailed, to deliver to Milan where the parcel company shipped it to the UK partner and then on to be delivered roughly 8 days.

Our woodman’s big lorry broke down so he couldn’t move the gravel for the front of the house but did deliver our winter wood in his smaller vehicle, after the storms had passed. We’d ordered less than normal because we had the wood from the big tree we had felled earlier in the year in storage. It took 5 days to stack between pruning the fruit trees and mowing.

Mid month we caught up with friends just before they drove back to the UK. They having taken care of 3 hectares of grass, sawn up their delivery of 120 tonne of trees into logs and stacked them (we have our cut to size but don’t own a band saw) and catered to visitors. They also managed to care for their UK home by flitting to and fro regularly but are finding running two places getting a bit much so are selling the Italian property. Then we caught up with other friends who live here and they had been visiting, exploring and entertaining family and friends over the summer but with the autumn chores were refocusing on life here.

We discovered a wonderful twist on apple crumble that is very simple to make. Heat oven to 180c or 350f and butter a 9 inch backing tray/ dish.

Take 1 ½ cups of plain flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of baking powder , ½ tsp salt, 4oz melted butter, 1 egg and using an electric beater whisk to a crumb consistency. Stir in 3 peeled, cored cubed (1/2 inch chunks) cooking apples, and spread into the greased tin.

Make topping with ¼ cup dark brown sugar, ½ cup chopped walnuts/pecans, 2 or 3 tsp cinnamon (to taste), 2oz melted butter. Mix well and spread, blob evenly over apple mix. Bake 50-60 mins until skewer is dry when removed from centre. Cool before cutting. Excellent with ice-cream, cream or custard. Its called a cake but my mix was too crumble to hold together, larger egg needed perhaps? Still it’s the eating that counts and it went down well = end of cooking apple glut !

Our days seemed to be spent chasing couriers. The main one here took it into its head to leave our parcels at either the garage or bar without telling us. Our new mattress, our joint anniversary present to ourselves, languished for a week in the garage while we tried to discover where it had gone to. The pool robot parts went missing, replacements went to Terni and then we’re abandoned in the bar. Terse emails back and forth eventually got things delivered but it was fight to the end. The pool robot sat on the table for a month while we got replacement parts in dribs and drabs and the pool closed before it was repaired and tested. We asked for a replacement as it has bearly had 5 weeks use in a year (1 weeks last year and 4 this) but they offered us a 50 euro credit for our inconvenience. We were insulted so emails were dashed off to both supplier and manufacturer stating the EU regulations on “fit for purpose” and the consumers rights. They did come back and offer a full refund, as they didn’t have another to exchange, providing the robot arrived in good order so lots of photos prior and after packing in the original box so if its drooped or damaged enroute it’s the couriers who get hit not us. Oddly family and friends also said this had been a very difficult month for many varied reasons too.

The change in leaf colours, early morning mists herald the coming of autumn, away will go the shorts and t-shirts soon and out with the long sleeve and trousers to work in.

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