We spent a lot of time, effort and angst finding our home in Italy.
We were quite forensic in our search criteria, demanding a gorgeous view, with neighbours (but invisible ones), no further than an hour from Rome, less than 500 metres above sea level, with easy access to trains, motorways, shops and doctors etc etc. One thing that we didn’t consider, however, was access to friends, and to a social life. We hoped to make a few Italian friends, but assumed that, apart from occasional visitors from Rome and from home, we’d be alone most of the time.
It turns out that our corner of Sabina is literally full of people who also need a social life, many of whom are prepared to speak slowly, and behave as though they understand our wonky Italian. Much to our surprise, we are also surrounded by native (or near native) English speakers. Some mornings, I even get to practice my rusty French on our immediate neighbour, who does her very best to pretend that her ears aren’t bleeding.
So just in case you have the idea of us living all alone in our building site, and slowly but surely running out of conversation, I thought I’d tell you what we’ve been up to socially of late. Obviously, this being Italy, most (all) social activities have food at their core, so we are increasingly grateful that we have 400 olive trees to act as a daily workout at the gym!
First things first: olive harvest season is VERY sociable, especially at weekends. Towards the end of our harvest, we invited folk with the promise of lunch, and spent a day chatting, harvesting, chatting, eating, chatting and drinking in the sunshine.
Somehow, we managed to produce lunch for 13 from our “penthouse” kitchen, and thankfully it was still warm enough to eat outside, as we still don’t have a table to sit at inside. Harvesting has to be finished by sundown, and sundown calls for gin, in order that the sunset can be fully enjoyed. And the sunset was fully enjoyed by all!
A week later, and the weather was rather less kind for a visit to Canadian friends who have just purchased a holiday home in Sabina. Despite the weather, we managed to enjoy a delicious lunch outside, and enjoying their stunning view – thankfully, they have a gorgeous covered terrace. However, the “shine” of the day was rather tarnished when, having battled our way home through flash floods and around landslides, we found our gorgeous new living room floor under an inch of water, the roof in the “penthouse” leaking, and our bedroom flooded …
By now it was November, and being British, that can only mean a bonfire and fireworks on the night of the 5th. And so we went to a bonfire party in the next village, hosted by British friends there. Thankfully, we got through the entire fireworks display without any of the neighbours summoning the carabinieri, and munched our way through a delicious dinner of “proper” bonfire food, including an extraordinary ginger cake, that was Bonfire Heaven!
We then entered the Italian phase of the month: first, the night of the hundred arrosticini, in a barn, by the light of a generator, then Remembrance Day, with an enormous lunch in Montebuono, which I talked about here: https://olivehillsabina.com/2019/11/11/the-first-time-i-ever/
The following Sunday, we had a lunch date at the home of a delightful couple that we had met at the Montebuono ceremony. On arrival, we were dispatched for a tour of Cesare’s workshop, as Lilli was busy cooking the biggest meal I have ever seen. Cesare makes lutes. Now my Italian is improving all the time, but I would struggle to find appropriate vocabulary to admire a hand made lute in English. I deployed a series of enthusiastic “wow” and “che meraviglia” to convey my astonishment at the beauty of his work, which I hope sufficed. On returning to the kitchen, we found that we had been joined by only one more guest: the retired village priest, who had eaten almost nothing at lunch the previous week. We nervously took our places at the groaning table, and did our very best to do justice to an epic meal of antipasto, two pasta courses, a meat course, dessert, and biscuits with coffee, followed by homemade digestivi. After a mere four hours at the table, we stumbled out to the car, and didn’t eat another thing until supper the next day!
By now, November was half way through, and that meant that it was time for us to do a bit more hosting. But we still didn’t have a table, or chairs, or heating (and it was blooming freezing), so after prinks, we all headed down to the gorgeous restaurant at the end of the road, for a lunch that only lasted three hours, but was (as always) stunning, and washed down with the Italian equivalent of Beaujolais Nouveau, vino novello.
And today (December 1st), we’re both sitting on our little train, heading into Rome, to attend a book launch! I feel sure that this will be mentioned in a future blog post, but for now, I’ll just say that, rather unsurprisingly, it’s a book about food …