Living in Italy

August 22, 2008 16 comments

The house ‘immersed in greenery’ as they say here

Italy has been our home for 12 years now, and the house in the photo for most of that time. This blog documents the joys and problems of our existence day by day.


We have our difficulties. My husband, Clive, returned to Italy in August 2015 after 9 months in French hospitals where he recovered first from a coma and then from an operation to remove a massive bowel tumour. He is undergoing chemotherapy at home, where he is unable to move from the sofa he inhabits. The Italian health system has been promising assistance but so far has not delivered.


Despite all these difficulties, and many others, I love living here. Clive is more circumspect. By reading about our daily life, perhaps you will be able to tell whose view is the more accurate. Does the pleasure outweigh the pain? Or will my writing betray a less rose-tinted reality?


You can also see the books we’ve written and published by clicking on the image below:


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Still hoping

February 10, 2016 Leave a comment
Some things do make progress

Some things do make progress

This is what three weeks does for a wisteria seedling. Look back at the photo on January 19th to compare!

On that day we were promised various things by the Italian Health Service which haven’t as yet materialised.

Today I phoned the technician who seems to have a handle on things.

“I had it in mind to phone you this morning,” he said (he promised to phone me yesterday). “Good news. Next Tuesday a bed, mattress, wheelchair and walking frame will come to you by courier. Then the next day a hoist, plus manpower, and Clive will be moved off his sofa.”

“It certainly is good news if it happens,” I said. (It was due to happen yesterday.)

“Oh!” He sounded quite offended. “It will happen. We had another meeting and it’s all been arranged …”

We shall see!

Not for the faint-hearted

February 9, 2016 Leave a comment
Nashi twig with a white flame of leaf emerging

Nashi twig with white flames of emerging leaf

Only the love of pruning could keep me in the orchard today – not even the duty by itself.

The wind is like a steel blade, slicing you through the midriff.

I’m pruning two trees a day so as hopefully to finish within February. Today it was the big apricot (arguably the finest tree in the orchard) and the nashi (oriental pear) next to it. One difficult and one easy.

I had a lot of sawing and lopping to do above my head for the apricot, while the nashi branches are comfortably accessible.

If our Tunisian handiman were doing this, he’d make much faster progress, but I don’t miss him. He wanted reliable work when he phoned at the beginning of last October, and I said we could offer it if he helped me with Clive at the beginning (setting up contraptions and aids so he could manoeuvre himself about). He declined and we haven’t heard from him since. Such is the wintry blast of illness and disability.

So I bash on, queen of the garden.

The photo is a close-up of a nashi bud which is so far advanced that it’s actually showing little frills of leaf. The shot went horribly wrong because I had to hold the twig to stop it dancing in the wind, but I rather like it as it is!

Patience of Job

February 8, 2016 Leave a comment
Help-meets on my desk

Help-meets on my desk

A week ago we were promised that tomorrow Clive would be given a bed and a hoist to help him get away from the sofa where he’s lain now for almost six months.

This morning, seeing as we hadn’t heard anything, I phoned the technician who made the promise.

“Ah. I had it in mind to phone you. It won’t be this week, but maybe next. I’ll phone you tomorrow with a new date.”

I don’t know what a statue of Job would look like, but my Buddha paperweight exudes an air of calm and my ‘worry sheep’ offers its compressible body to be squeezed in moments of frustration.

A few things are rooting for us.

Spring indoors

February 7, 2016 Leave a comment
A new shoot

A new shoot

Our grown-from-a-pip grapefruit tree didn’t get its normal summer airing last year.

Which is a shame, because it probably looks forward to getting the stove ash blown off its leaves and exchanging one sort of parasite for another.

It doesn’t seem to have disheartened it, though.

We’ve given up on it producing any flowers let alone fruit, but there’s still a tremendous life-force in it giving rise to little shoots like the one in the photo.

Spring has happened indoors ahead of outdoors.

Galileo mystery dog

February 6, 2016 Leave a comment
An inscrutable Galileo

An inscrutable Galileo

Galileo will only go out of the house during daylight hours if he’s accompanied. By which I mean the human being only has to be just out of doors, and he will then range widely, sometimes several hundred yards.

Night-time, however, is a totally different matter. He clamours to be let out well after dark, sometimes in the wee small hours, and then disappears entirely for half an hour or so before clamouring to come in again.

Last night it was obvious he had company. He and one other were making strange yipping noises although I couldn’t tell if they were playing or fighting.

I shot outside with a torch to see if he’d caught a hare, or was squaring off with a cat, or was gambolling with a wild boar piglet prior to being gored by its mother. Or, indeed, had joined up with another midnight-wandering dog.

I never saw anything. The torch illuminated vegetation and a rather self-satisfied-looking Galileo zipping back to the house where I shut him in a bit smartish.

But I did hear an animal of some description go all the way up the hill making little sounds to itself at intervals.

I called to it in a soothing voice, wondering if it was wounded, but it paid no attention and melted away into the night.

Today the neighbour phoned. She had no idea what it could have been either, but confirmed my thought that it wasn’t a lady friend seeking the unneutered Galileo. Juliet would never come around after Romeo.

All I can do is keep a careful watch out tonight.

Stirrer in a wine glass

February 5, 2016 Leave a comment
The first bud to open

The first leaf bud to open

Pruning a tree, I find, is all-consuming. I walk round it, trying to see how to give it balance and grace.

In Italy, pretty much all fruit trees are trained to the wine glass shape, variously described also as vase, goblet, or open centre shaped.

It’s a truly lovely shape, as well as being practical for the tree (allowing light and air to pass through) and for fruit-picking.

The Reinette du Canada apple tree in the picture has a long trunk and ambitions to be tall, but year by year it’s being made more wine glass shaped and accessible.

It has a defiant air, though, somewhat accentuated by the little tuft of leaves – unique in the whole orchard at this time – sticking up above the rest of the tree like a flag. Or a stirrer in a wine glass!

It got trimmed, of course.

Sticky patch

February 4, 2016 Leave a comment
The patch of snowy land

The patch of snowy land

Leaning out of the kitchen window this morning looking at the sprinkle of snow on the mountains, I caught sight of a strange patch of white.

For some reason the snow has stuck on one piece of land and nowhere else.

It looks like a plot of coppiced woodland, but why would the snow stick there and not on woodland proper, or pasture, or ploughland?

It must be something to do with the exact texture of the terrain, or the temperature of the ground as governed by the texture.

Intriguing, though.