Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fat Tuesday in Offida

Spring? Vellurde in Offida, 40 years since the 1st man on the moon

26 Feb
Well, Fat Tuesday is past with the festival of the Vellurde in Offida. People start hitting the barrel early and by dusk are ready to dance and sing and light their 15 foot long bundles of dried cane and parade twice around the town. If they survive all that and the buildings haven't burned down, they place all the unburned cane in a big bonfire in the city's main piazza. Most of the locals dress up in the guazaro' outfit or in costume. I met a couple of young italian guys who love Texas and country music as well as many others who wanted to meet and pet Bacco.
I still remember when Buzz Aldrin and Armstrong walked on the moon for the 1st time. We watched it in school in what I think was 5th grade. It finally became old hat and we got tired of exploring places with people, so after the 1st moonwalk, I think the TV ratings went way down.
For those of you on facebook, you know I have given up cynicism for Lent or Quaresmo as they call it here in Italy. I was put to the test recently at the dept. of motorizzazione or the license bureau. I spent 3 hours waiting for the only official who can OK cars from out of the country for licenses in Italy with 1/2 of that time on the marble floor before another worker offered me a chair. I finished the book "museums of Rome" before he suggested I talk with the director of the office. He explained that "today is 'particulare'" and I should come back tomorrow. That I did, and met a really nice man who even gave me a bottle of wine as we talked about family, our country, my courage to quit my previous job and life to start anew and how I needed to translate all the documents I brought into italian before he could proceed. I headed back to the z4, which he had inspected and found in compliance with nearly all european regulations, to find the battery dead. Raffaele came to give me a jump and I headed to the Ipercoop for a battery charger.
Today, I go to the justice of the peace to get my translations certified and I can try again.
Above find some pix of flowers showing up around Nascondiglio di Bacco. The tree is an almond and the leaves are budding from our roses. Others will remain unnamed (there is a primrose) as I don't know them.
A dopo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back from BIT, Baggin Carnevale

Raffaele and I returned by train from Milano Centrale to San Benedetto, just 22 minutes late or 5.5 hours total. Be sure when you make those long train trips in Italy to select a Eurostar intercity instead of just intercity. You gain comfort, a plugin for your computer or ipod and a bit of efficiency in exchange for another 8-10 euros. We experienced the former on the voyage up and the latter on the return, no contest.
We had a great time seeing our old master's buddies including Michele and Teresa who were nice enough to put us up in style in the Loreto area, Angela, Silvia, Rebecca, Tim and Giorgio. Several of us visited the Cenacolo or "last supper" of Leonardo di Vinci near Santa Maria della Grazie with reservations for the 1st visit of the day, which was great! It is a really interesting story with all the restorations and rerestorations the painting has gone through. It was starting to deteriorate even 500 years ago, so the fact that anything is left is amazing. Donatelo's painting on the opposite wall is better preserved and of the crucifixion and is wonderful in its own right. So now, I have found another reason to visit Milan for you tourists who are reading. I am not sure it boosts Milan into the top 10 places to visit however.
Next it was on to the BIT travel fair which was really huge and while I got about 20 kg of literature, it was really more designed for travel agents than individual structures of our size. I marketed the best I could anyway. It is amazing the difference between countries and Italian provinces in their tourism budgets. The Marche is way behind with Sicily, Calabria, and Puglia leading the way for Italy. Greece had a huge exhibit and Switzerland, almost nothing. It is interesting to see all the "banned" (by the USA) countries with their travel booths. I got a hankering to go to Greece on the ferry with my car and see Corinth, Athens Meteora, Thessolanika etc. I am not sure I can do it this year with all the weeds you see on the photo above. There will be too much work outside, if it finally dries up.
Back to the ranch Friday, I picked up Bacco from the stall where he stayed with puppies mixed between chihuahua and dobermans, if you can imagine and cows. He was excited to come home, I think.
I missed the running of the bull as we arrived to late in Offida and today, I took Bacco for a walk through the country rather than go to the Carnival celebrations at Ascoli. The burning of the canes in Offida is a must see however and takes place on Fat Tuesday night. Expect photos from the 24th.
The pictures are of last year's running of the fake bull, a view of Nascondiglio from the south and Bacco on our walk.
Have a great fat Tuesday and be careful!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rome and Milan

17 Febbraio
I bused off to Rome last weekend and had a wonderful meal at one of the best, if not the best vegetarian restaurant in Rome. It is in via Margutta , just down the street from where Gregory Peck stayed with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Vacation. The name is appropriately Il Margutta Ristorante and the number is 118. I highly recommend it for those voyaging this direction. Sunday, I went to the church of St Andrew, a Scottish presbyterian church. After the service in english, they offered a cooking demonstration of Kenyan food and I made fried bread. I met some really nice folks there and hope to see them again either at the church or here at Nascondiglio di Bacco.
I later took a guided tour of Campodoglio, which is above the Piazza Venezia and here are some pictures of Castor and Pollux) with a fellow who had a few facts wrong, but ancient history is always subject to diverse interpretations. As I may have said, I am studying ancient Rome with the Teaching Company series on that subject.
It is finally sunny here, but temperatures are running much colder with lows in the 20's and highs in the 40's. I am hoeing the weeds whilst uncovering the trunks of the vines which were covered by the tractor when plowing and planting of the beans was performed.
Tomorrow, we are heading to Milan for the biggest tourism fair in Europe called B I T , pronounced beet. I am hoping to market extensively for the agriturismo, especially in the countries outside Italy, where I am hoping english will be the language of commerce. We have tickets to see the last supper by Leonardo di Vinci, which is a tough ticket. If you ever want to visit, make reservations a month before coming to Milan.
We are returning Friday for the beginning of Carnevale at Offida replete with the running of the (fake) bull, burning of the canes with a procession through the streets on Fat Tuesday and balls with and without costumes.
The pictures show a bit of snow towards Ripatransone from our hill, the spanish steps, Castor (close up) and Pollux and the stairs up to the Campodoglio from the Piazza Venezia.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Legal z4 after 14 months, snow at Nascondiglio di Bacco and Fiat "reliability"

12 Febbraio
Today, I am writing from the gommista (tire store) where I am buying 2 new front tires for the z4. I was finally, after 14 months, able to insure the car through my bank. If you can imagine a comprehensive policy in Italy costs about 2.5 times what we pay in the USA. I am paying about the same as my policy back home just for the basic, required by italian law, liability policy….ouch. The tires, as with many things here, like cell phones and computers, cost the same in euros here as they do in dollars back home, so I pay an additional 30% vs back home.
Yesterday was one of those days where you have to think it would have been better to stay in bed or otherwise just laugh afterwards. I started out in the vineyard, pruning and tying up our 1yo vines. Afterwards, our sage neighbor said it was a terrible idea to tie them up the 1st year as they get strangled by the cord during their fast growth stage. We will have to hash this out better with our agronomist before continuing.
Finishing up before lunch, we ate at La Fonte with our host Massimiliano serving us homemeade pasta. During lunch, the hail started. We then drove to the post office to pay the electric bill, but it was closed because all of Offida had lost power for work on the power plant. I climbed back into the wonderful Fiat Doblo’ and tried to leave, but the stickshift was completely broken. It moved freely without engaging anything and luckily Raffaele knew where to look to ascertain the problem. The "pot metal" which affixed the stick shift to the clutch below was broken. By holding the 2 pieces together, I was able to shift just well enough to get home. Later, at the Fiat dealership (who naturally said, "we have NEVER seen THIS happen before"), recounted the part would have to be shipped from Torino, wonderful home of Fiat or alternatively we could weld it back together. Luckily, Raffaele’s family business employs a welder who made everything better than before, but not before igniting the plastic housing of the stickshift for a minute.
On the way back to Nascondiglio di Bacco, the local police pulled me over for a routine check and my international license was in Raffaele’s car as I emptied out the F.ix i.t a.gain t.ony thinking we would have to leave it at the shop. No harm done as the Caribinieri actually knew everything about me, the B&B and all other things local. It didn’t hurt that Raffa brought back my license. Just remember, this is the company bringing its cars into the United States in a while and who bought a piece of Chrysler. As the italians say when you tell them your Fiat is broken: “E’ normale”.
From then on the day ended rather peacefully with roast chicken and a rosso di montalcino from Biondi Santi for supper.
I woke this morning to the 1st snow I have seen at Nascondiglio.
The pictures are taken around the place just after l’alba (the dawn)
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Beef stew, "ship wrecks", decapitated dolls and ski boots on the beach

8 Feb
Buon weekend! It is too muddy to hoe, tie or prune the vines, so Bacco and I took off for the beach this morning. We went to the "strange section" which is not tidied up in the winter and is free from people who might dislike being jumped by my wet flat coat retriever. He had a batch of fun fetching sticks and if you need a little joy in your life, just come on by and you can play with Bacco on the beach. He just loves to swim, jumps waves taller than he is and generally just has a ball playing.
You can see some of the sights from the zona Sentina including a poor doll's head who lost her corpo, the wrong kind of "ski" boot for the beach, and a boat docked in a mode I had a bit of trouble imagining as it was well above the high tide mark.
It was warm today, so hopefully our land dried out a bit and I can exercise my back and arms with the hoe tomorrow. We had our 1st guests of February this weekend and they seemed content with Nascondiglio di Bacco.
The pictures show Bacco leaping over the incoming wave (sorry it is blurry) and body surfing, a perspective of how far the Sibillini mountains are from the beach with horses in the foreground and the above strange sights.
Have a great week and don't forget Valentine's day is Saturday.
Finally, I am americanizing Raffaele with beef stew and a 99 Woodward Canyon Merlot, can't wait!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Entering February

5 Feb.
I am not dead yet. I am just bored of this rainy weather with not much to write about. Finally yesterday, even with the muddy, mucky ground, I ventured out into the vineyard to scrape away the mud from our vines. I finished 5 rows before wearing out. It is time to get back into work shape. After clearing the porto innesto which is where the american rootstock is grafted to the vinis vinifera, we will tie each one to its metal tutor, then later prune each vine down to one branch with 2 or 3 buds each. It will be a springtime full of work outdoors if it will just stay dry for a bit.
On a more fun note, we had a visit from our friends Rebecca (from our masters) and Marco on Sunday and had a nice meal near Ancona at a little osteria before returning to Nascondiglio di Bacco for another meal of gnocchi made with ricotta, the stuffed olives of Ascoli and pistachio ice cream and kiwi/champagne sorbet for dessert. It was great to see them and I expect in a year or less to be able to post information on Rebecca's new tourism business. She will be a great resource for anyone planning a trip to Italy or Switzerland!
Yesterday evening, we utilized our best modern winemaking skills to empty the stainless steel tank of the montepulciano wine to remove the sediment, then using buckets, we refilled it again after washing out that debris.
It is really tannic right now, but if our 2007 is any indication, after a year it will mellow a bit.
We are planning a Valentine's day package for anyone who wants to come over for the special weekend. Last year we had no takers, but we are hopeful our bribes will work this time. Check out under last minute for the details. The week following is one of the biggest tourism fairs in the world in Milan and we are hoping to attend. I am looking for a dogsitter for Bacco and think maybe he can stay with our agronomist for a couple of days.
Here are pix of our winemaking. Come try out the end result this summer! Sorry the second one it out of focus, but it was too funny not to put in there.