Pecora Nera’s Italian travel tips.

I will try to make this a serious post, I haven’t managed it in the past so please don’t hold your breath; summer is on the way and you will be wondering how you can fit in with the local and not stand out like a tourist.

So let us begin with clothing.

No matter how much you love your own country, it is not a very good idea to go shopping in the local Italian market dressed in an ensemble of your countries flag… Leave the flag at home….. the locals will know you are an american without wearing the stars and stripes on your hat, shirt shorts and probably your knickers!!!

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The art of naturally blending in with the locals

I snapped this photo while Mrs Sensible was buying some clothes and I was attempting to look interested in life.

I am adding the following clothing rule, although I fundamentally disagree with it.  FLIP FLOPS are for the beach, I know this because every time I attempt to leave the house in my flip flops the fashion police (aka Mrs Sensible) stops me. It has got so bad I keep a spare set in the boot of my car.

Englishman in Italy

I know, this is just an excuse to feature two girls wearing bikinis

If you scroll down you can read about the Brick Fetish of Vignale Monferrato and here is a wonderful picture of a pair of Brick Flip Flops, probably originating from Vignale.

Brick Flip Flops

Great for improving the calf muscles

Here is an Italian man walking through the shopping area of Casale Monferrato, it was a hot sunny day in May, of course I was wearing jeans, T-shirt and flip flops.

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Note the lack of Flip Flops

He will have paid more for his shoes than I paid for my best suit, pay close attention to his scarf, the scarf is really a medical apparel, its purpose is to prevent Cervicale. So don’t worry about the weather, bring your overcoat and look like an Italian.

Moving swiftly onto food

When you are sat in the pizzeria or restaurant, sipping a glorious glass of wine, please remember not to ask for your favourite Italian food that you normally eat at Toni’s Restaurant, near your house…

Because Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist, bolognese sauce is only ever served with torellini, tagliatelle, or gnocchi, amazingly Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese has not yet reached our supermarkets.

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The first Italian food I ever tasted came out of a can like this.

And if you ask for Pineapple and Ham pizza, they might just ask you to leave the restaurant.

pineapple and ham pizza

I know, it is delicious! But not in Italy 

Also, if you want to make the restaurant owner laugh, ask for a cappuccino after the meal. Italians only drink cappuccino before 10:30 in the morning, after that you have to grit your teeth and drink an espresso, or if you must have milk in your coffee ask for  a Macchiato, or better still a have a glass of grappa.

Flowers

How can anybody make a mistake with flowers? Just imagine, you meet the love of your life, a very pretty signorina, you remember not to offer her a cappuccino, because it is after 10:30, the evening goes wonderfully and the next day you arrive to meet her with a bunch of flowers in your hand. Unfortunately you chose a bunch of carnations.

Carnations

I know its a can, but I couldn’t find a bunch of flowers

She scowls and tells you, today she has to wash her hair and is too busy. You are left stood on the doorstep with a can of a bunch of white carnations in your hand. Why? Because we give carnations at funerals.

Travelling

I really didn’t want to upset you over the trains in Italy and I don’t want to over complicate the problem because, well it is complicated enough. In fact, I will write a separate post detailing the fun and games of booking a train ticket.

Driving

Remember to drive on the left, or is it the right? I can only remember when I get in the car and notice the steering wheel is not where it should be. In the ten years that I have been here, I have only driven on the wrong side of the road once, erh! and tried to go around a roundabout the wrong way. Mrs S had forgiven me and only occasionally has nightmares about it.

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A quiet Sunday drive

It wasn’t really my fault, the car-park opened up straight onto the roundabout, and I asked which way we needed to go and she said left, she did mean around the roundabout, but I just turned left.

I will try to upload a guide to Italian Trains later this week.

 

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

In the 10 years that I have lived in Italy, I have learnt a few things. These include my inability to learn Italian and the Italians inability to learn anything about customer service.

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Italian Customer Service

In 2013 I cried into my cappuccino with the Fedex Farce.  and of course you know about the fun and games with Mr Cretino and my driving licence.

I hate to tell you but TNT Express are as bad if not worse than Fedex. Mind you I have just found out they are now part of the same organisation run by David Binks their CEO. I did write to Mr Binks, but he didn’t reply to me nor did his organisation answer my questions.

So here we go… a little story book for you.

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I am sorry this is not as funny as my usual posts, but I am still a tad disappointed with TNT

All the best Pecora Nera

 

A Freudian Slip

It is a cold Sunday Morning and I have no intention of getting out of bed, well not yet anyway. Mrs Sensible has already ventured downstairs and prepared mugs of tea and slices of buttered toast. 

As I drink my tea, I flick through the news and come across the following article, Rome bans gladiators and rickshaws (again) The article

A collection of gladiators


Pecora Nera

Did you know, that the gladiators and centurions in Rome earn around €12,000 a month standing around charging tourists for photos!

Mrs Sensible 

€12,000 a month! You could do that, you look like a radiato…. erh gladiator

A collection of radiators


I quickly looked at her, RADIATOR!!!, was that a Freudian slip?

Mrs Sensible (grinning)

No, no, I meant gladiator, really.

Pecora Nera

I’m going back to sleep.
Happy cold December Sunday to you all.

Funny kind of week

It’s been a funny kind of week, I made another batch of limoncello lollies and to be honest, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but they were to die for.

I also tried to make some lollies using some cherries that had spent the last 12 months soaking in neat grappa, unfortunately the alcohol content was too great and they didn’t freeze, however they made great alcoholic slush puppies and the third batch did freeze. 

Mrs Sensible is less than impressed with my hobby of turning alcohol into fantastic lollies, to placate Mrs S I made some lollies using some apricots from the garden, Mrs S liked them but in my humble opinion they lacked something, namely a good shot of liqueur.

Also I came across an interesting article on the tinternet about a woman who hadn’t washed her golden tresses for 5 months….. allegedly she stopped using shampoo because it was expensive, not eco friendly and damaged her hair.

I have no idea how much shampoo costs, Mrs S is in charge of the shopping, but in the interests of science and because it has been a funny kind of week I decided to try going shampoo free.

Following the instructions on the tree hugger website, I put one tablespoon or was it one desert spoon of bicarbonate of soda in a bottle and added a cup of water. This was to be my eco friendly shampoo. I then took a bath and washed my hair.

The results were less than successful, my hair stood up on its own and I resembled Beaker from the Muppets show.

I will try the no shampoo experiment for another couple or days / weeks and I will  let you know how it goes.

Mrs Sensible’s Manky Cat

Mrs Sensible’s Manky Cat

Mrs Sensible’s manky cat is the only cat I know, who can purr contentedly whilst glaring at me. The cat loves Mrs Sensible to distraction and it hates me in an equal measure.

Mrs Sensible's manky cat

Look at the eyes on that cat, From day one I knew it was either a cyborg or evil.

Two months ago things came to a head when the manky ginger cat decided it would be great fun to pee on my beloved Mini. Every day it sauntered pass my car and peed on it. I googled cat pees on my car and found the ideal solution…. take the cat to the vet and have it neutered, in layman’s terms this means taking the cat to the vet and having his nadgers removed… I thought this was an ideal solution.  Oh! I didn’t tell you the manky cats name did I, Mrs Sensible calls it Toby (I think after her screen heart throb Toby Stephens) Before the cat visited the vets, I called it Ginger or that Bl%$dy Cat. Now I am happy to call it Pussy No Balls.

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I had just explained to the cat why he was going to the vets.

Mrs Sensible’s cat has spent the past month fighting with a rather large feral cat, so far he has come home with part of his ear badly chewed, various bits of fur missing and a tail that looked like it had been snapped in half and then passed through a mangler.

Mrs Sensible said enough was enough and something needed to be done to protect her beloved cat from the monster that was attacking it. I tried to explain to Mrs S that her manky cat was probably starting the fights and deserved the kicking he was receiving.

To be honest at least once or even one hundred and sixteen times I have wanted to kick Mrs Sensible’s beloved cat ….. and I like cats, with the exception of Toby aka Ginger aka Pussy No Balls.

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If Ginger was a human. “My Toby wouldn’t hurt a fly he is so sweet” says Mrs Sensible

We took Ginger and his mangled tail to the vet, the cat received two injections (that should have been more painful) and I received a bill for €20 and a rather large cage to catch the wild cat. The vet said if we manage to catch the wild cat he would drive the cat 20 miles away and release it so it could torment some other cats in another village.

Adding big game hunter to my other list of achievements was an exciting prospect, I donned my pith helmet, armed myself with the cage and set off to catch the wild and terrible cat.

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I told my neighbor about my latest adventure

I baited the trap with very expensive cat food and set it in the front garden, I then retired to bed. At precisely three o clock in the morning I was awoken by a terrible commotion. Mrs Sensible said “quick it will be the Gattoni, the trap has caught it!!!” I noticed she didn’t say YOU have caught it..I tried to roll over back into my dreams by suggesting it was probably just my stupid cat Mishmash in the trap.

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The terrible, wild and to be honest angry Gattoni

I looked out the window and it wasn’t Mishmash, it was the Gattoni who was caught in the trap. The trap appeared to be walking across the garden as the cat tried to escape. To subdue the animal I covered the trap in a blanket.

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Mishmash  and Ruthie inspecting the cage and captured cat

Now that I had captured the cat, the decision was whether I should drive the cat 20 miles away and release it, or take it to the vet who promised to release it on our behalf. I had a little nagging doubt whether the vet would take the cat for a drive or if he would give it a little injection and send it to sleep.

After debating the problem with my friends over a beer, I decided my son and I would take the cat for a scenic drive through the countryside.

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Famous last words

Driving back from the vineyard my son told me about a film he had watched called Homeward Bound, it is a soppy film about two dogs and one cat that traveled halfway across America. I think he was trying to tell me 20 miles was not far enough. I pointed out that movies are one thing, real life is something different.

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The cat returned

Now either somebody has a great sense of humour and has  brought the cat back to my garden or the cat has found his way home. He either wants to finish his fight with the Ginger cat or his love for Mishmash has not been satisfied yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter is nearly here!

Wood situation

The wood situation is critical

This morning on Facebook I noticed that MM from Multifarious Meanderings has just had her winter wood supply delivered. We on the other hand have been burning the wood that Mario the woodman delivered since the beginning of October. This is a little worrying as winter doesn’t officially start in Italy until the 21st of December and it is doubtful that our current stock of wood will last us through the winter. After all we only bought 26 quintali (just over two and a half tons of wood!!)

The red arrow will become clear later.

The reason for the red arrow will become apparent later.

When the wood arrives you need to stack it somewhere dry and in such a way that it won’t fall over. When I ordered our wood I gave Mario clear and simple instructions, I asked for dry wood that would fit my little wood burning heater. I also asked him to cut the logs the same size so that a girl in a frock or even an Englishman could stack it.

The fun way to stack wood

A girl in a frock stacking wood.

Either Mario didn’t understand my version of Italian or he has a great sense of humour, because amongst the pile of wood he dumped on my lawn were twigs, sticks and several bits of wood that looked like the hind leg of a donkey.

Thanks Mario

Thanks Mario

Mario realised that I was English and had probably never before attempted to stack two and a half tons of wood. To be honest he was almost correct, last year when we needed wood I simply wandered down the garden with my chainsaw and cut a tree down.

The previous two year, I had the wood dropped into the garage and just left it in a big pile. When we lived in Borgo San Martino, we only had a little courtyard and I (with the help of Mrs Sensible) stacked 10 quintale (one ton). I know a wife shouldn’t really help with the stacking of wood, but the delivery man had dropped the wood in the middle of the road completely blocking it to traffic.

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Good old Mario showed me how to stack the wood by laying the first four pieces. As he drove away in his tractor I went off in search of a glass of wine.

It took me two exhausting and pain filled days to stack the wood thankfully it didn’t rain on me. I would like at this stage to show you a picture of my wood stacking. This will be valuable information for MM, unless of course she is just going to leave the wood in a heap or dump it in her garage.

Interlocked

Interlocked to perfection

 

MM, look how the wood is all interlocked. It is absolutely amazing!! You will notice that I chose a very small area of my wood pile as an example of my fine Italian wood stacking. This is because the rest of the wood pile is a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And please notice how I managed to incorporate an object d art.

A very important box

A very important box

I know all of you think I am just a little eccentric as every Englishman should be, or maybe bordering on madness.  But may I remind you about the red arrow in the second photograph? It points to a hole in the wall where the scabby cats enter their little house. Yes our cats live outside in a little three by three apartment.

My wonderful wood pile was going to close off their doorway so I inserted a wooden box and a secret tunnel for the cats.

Here is one of our cats, the terrible Headache.

Headache a beautiful looking cat, superb mouser but has a couple of strange idiosyncrasies….

As you can see, it didn’t take long for Headache to find the new entrance to his house. If anyone want’s to adopt Headache please leave me a message below and we will send him via Fedex anywhere in the world.