Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Oil – The Travesty of Abruzzo’s Budding Tourism

Oil – The Travesty of Abruzzo’s Budding Tourism

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Tenuta Arabona

Tenuta Arabona

We are still drinking our box wine (Rosato and Pecorino) and have really enjoyed the bottle of Manus Plere Chardonnay from Tenuta Arabona which is run by a lovely friendly couple! It costs just 3.50 euros from their shop.

We also have a bottle of their organic olive oil which I'm saving for Christmas - I wonder if it will compare well with my friend Stefania's oil which we recieved last week fresh from the mill ! Lovely and peppery as you would expect after a hot Abruzzo summer.



“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”

love the quotation!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Holy Veil of Manoppello

I am not a religious person but my research into the history of our house keeps leading me back to The Church.Manoppello is known throughout Italy as the site of the VOLTO SANTO which houses the mysterious 'Holy Veil.' Catholics from all over Italy make a pilgrimage to the church to see this artefact which is housed in a specail room inside a frame studded with semi-precious stones.The veil is a piece of fabric perhaps linen? Or cambric.The image is of a young bearded man with his mouth slightly open showing a surprisingly healthy set of teeth considering the times.

Much controversy surronds the veil and recent reseach points to the image being a painting indded one researcher has suggested it was actually painted by Durer which given the quality of the image I find quite incredible!Devotees maintain that this fabric was actualy drapped over Christ's face when he was taken from the cross and the image (with teeth, beard and hair) is a form of miraculus imprint similar to the Turin Shroud.

It isn't just the creation of the Holy Shroud that is mysterious its also how it came to be in Manoppello.

In my post about San Peitro, later Pope Celestine V  I've reproduced some information from an article on the culture in Abruzzo web site.Many of the sites dedicated to the history of the Holy Veil completly omit the information regarding it being kept in the monastery of San Pietro di Morrone /Vallebona in the 12th century.This is what Roberto Falcinelli says about its history:

from  Roberto Falcinelli

Since the 12th century and until 1608 the Veronica in St. Peter had been a worship destination for thousands of pilgrims; then came the time when they couldn’t worship it anymore.   In 1608, after the chapel that hosted the Veronica was demolished and the veil disappeared, never to be found again. Father Pfeiffer’s discovery claims that the veil has been in Manoppello exactly since 1608. The story goes that a soldier’s wife sold it to a nobleman in the town for 400 scudi in order to bail out his husband from jail. This nobleman, De Fabritiis, handed in the veil to the Capuchins with a legal act. Father Pfeiffer’s research is based on the so-called Historic Report by Father Donato da Bomba, a Capuchin monk. But why,according to the scholar, was the veil hidden? Most likely because Pope Urban VIII had all the copies of Jesus’ facepainted on a veil destroyed, in order to eradicate the pilgrims’ habit of ordering and buying images of Christ. The Veronica was kept in a chapel purposely built by Pope John VII and decorated with mosaics in the year 705. Oddly, in the same year in Constantinople an important relic, the Acheiropoietos, went missing. The word Acheiropoietos is found in the New Testament and in the Byzantine legend of Camoulia in two different editions: the first in the emperor Diocletian’s period, the second during the reign of king Abgar of Edessa, who received the veil from Jesus. “As far as the imprint is concerned, the mystery stays, as for the Shroud. The images on the Shroud and the Veronica couldn’t have been made by any known technique. We might therefore speculate that an unknown energy source left some markson the veils, marks that the human eye perceives as an actual image”. One of the Capuchins, Father Donato da Bomba began some studies in 1640 and drew up a “Historic Report” (Relatione Historica) which is at present kept in the Capuchins Provincial Archive in the Santa Chiara convent in L’Aquila.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Some Local History -Vallebona

Ever since I found out about the ancient monastery situated at the top of 'our valley' I've been trying to find out more about its history and a possible connection to our house.Possibly some of the large stones used to create the original entrance to the Church may have come from the site of this monastery rather than San Libertore in Serramonacessca as we had been told.

The monastery is known as San Peitro di Vallebona and I assume that the Vallebona in the title refers to the valley/ravine that runs below our house? Bona was a Roman goddess linked to fertility and there are other references to her in the Manoppello area.There is the abbey of Santa Maria Arabona in Manoppello which is believed to have been built over a Roman Altar dedicated to Bona.

Site of the ruined monastery looking down to Manoppello and the Pescara Valley

The existence of the monastery belonging to the diocese of Chieti, there are various historical sources (for further discussion, please refer to the contribution of Dr. Daniela E. White in SANTANGELO, Manoppello. Historical and artistic guide to the city and its surroundings, pp. 104-108): the first statement is 1140, then the foundation of the same is certainly prior to this date.

In 1285, to mention only the main dating, the Abbey of St. Peter's congregation joined Celestine employed by the Holy Spirit of Morrone and was then placed under the same Pietro da Morrone he bought this monastry

. In the period from 1320 to 1350, the monastery enjoyed a renewed splendor which ceased in 1383 when resumed from the incursions of predators causing a state of decay and neglect. Only in 1645, the building was restored by the University of Manoppello after a miraculous apparition of a crucifix in the church that attracted a multitude of the faithful.

This is the last statement that we have historical and hence the name of the Church of the Crucifix which is commonly called the site. Other titles with which is mentioned below in St. Peter Vallebona, which is the foundation are: Santa Maria di Santo Stefano and Vallebona Vallebona or Wolf. The first name is linked to one of the two historical artifacts that come from this sacred place: it is a witness to the cult of the Virgin, or the so-called "Madonna of the Snow", stone sculpture preserved since 1855 at the Basilica of the "Holy Face Manoppello "and now placed on an altar in the backyard, the name Vallebona instead could be linked to the cult of the goddess Bona, as the pre-existence of the abbey of S. Maria Arabona.

The head of the Vallebona close to the monastery now the bottom of the ravine is very overgrown and impossible to walk along -the lowest section which comes out on the road leading to the Volto Santo is used by a local Shepherd and several people cultivating small vegetable plots and the path continues to the area below our house in Contrada Foce. Possibly a track may have lead from Manoppello up the valley/ravine and to the monastery and up onto the mountain?
This view of the ruins show just to the right the area of the spring (you can make out some willows) The commune have put up some new signs so people can at last walk to the monastery.
new sign


Such tracks were used by shepherds taking their flocks up onto the mountains in the drier summer months.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Festa in Lettomanoppello

At the beginning of October there's a 4 day Festa in Lettomanoppello.We are not huge Festa fans but the weather was good and it felt wonderful to be out in the town in the evening still wearing our summer clothes and enjoying the 'end of summer' atmosphere.We tried the Pesce Fritta which at  6 euros seemed a bit pricey  but it was a great big pile of different types of fish and shellfish all deep fried and crisp.

At Mario's Bar we had our favourite drink of Campari Proseco and Ice!Mario is a great fan of London and has a corner dedicated to London and his favourite bands.

For Pete there were interupted nights as his little apartment was situated in the main Piazza just by the stage!Some bands were better than others!

These are 'Homosapiens'

Recent Trip to Abruzzo

Finally we are home after our trip out to Abruzzo - on the way back our newly bought Citroen Berlingo broke down and we had an enforced 3 day stay in Luneville France! The weather was a good 15 degs below what we'd experirenced out in Abruzzo so we shivered in our summer clothes.The car did smell rather ripe by the time we got here as I'd stocked up on local Pecorino cheeses in Lettomanoppello as well as some very strong French goat's cheese.

Pescara Beach in October!

Anyway this time we had Pete working for us again getting the final coats of lime plaster onto the upstairs bedroom and a unified coat onto the kitchen which is still not in working order and wont be for some time yet.At least it looks as if we'll leave the floor down now as it seems less of a problem than we'd thought at first.

Wall prep takes ages if you want to ensure a good dust free surface

We sieved loads of local sand to get a finer top coat and Pete also added sieved marble and stone dust to the mix.We didnt have anywhere near enough lime putty made up and I think wemust have used about 5 wheelbarrow loads as well as what was in the buckets.

Time off - we do let our workers have the occassional day off

Sunday, 5 August 2012

and more

According to Chef Giorgio Locatelli Italians only really pick Porcini funghi but in Abruzzo I've certainly heard of other types being gathered.

Not perhaps those I've photographed though.

I'm happy to stick to the ones that I know mainly chanterells and ceps but also a fungi called 'chicken in the woods' in the UK and a big sulphur yellow fungi that grows in trees;in fact the biggest amount that I ever picked was growing in an old willow tree by the banks of the River Cam on one wet August afternoon.My sister's husband who is Moroccan had to get it for me as it was growing too far up the tree.He didnt like the idea of us eating it!It tasted wonderful!

Friday, 27 July 2012


This wierd thing is actually a funghi


We found this Gecko in the bathroom.They seem to be fairly common in our part of Abruzzo.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Food in Abruzzo

This website has some mouthwatering recipies -try mint pancakes and little 'cheese pasties'! Fiadoni!

One of my favourite is for strawberries with lemon juice and fresh ricotta-just mix and sprinkle with sugar then leave at least 3 hours.


Traditional Lime Plaster: Myths, Preconceptions and the Relevance of Good Practice

Very interesting article about historical lime plasters.I was surprised to see that the 'softer' lime and clay plasters are longer lasting than the harder plasters made from lime/aggregate.

Traditional Lime Plaster: Myths, Preconceptions and the Relevance of Good Practice

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

One of the most beautiful villages in Italy

This village is really close by to us and one of a number of beautiful and lively villages in the area.The new plans to promote an ecological approach to local tourism appeal to me greatly.The is definetly the way forward for Abruzzo but there is so much still to be done.

Lands Consortium Abbateggio - Province of Pescara - Abruzzo - Abbateggio ... one of the most beautiful villages in Italy


Paper wrapped artichoke fritters on Via Corsa Rome 3.50 euros

Not only fritters but also cones of handmade crisps!And sorry to say chicken nuggets (but they probably invented them here)

Who would be mad enough to attemp to make these fritters in a house with no kitchen? Me of course -they were on the menu when our friends came to visit us from Lazio.The weather had got so cold we ate them inside with our coats on.

You need the tiny purple artichokes that are sold for about 2 euros a kilo in Abruzzo!Waitrose are selling 1 head for £1.99 today!!!!!!Lucky for me I grow these in my garden in Cornwall.
You slice these raw and dip into batter then deep fry for about 5 mins.Wonderful

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sheila, Billy, Monty Don and Monty Dog 4 strays in Abruzo

Sheila and Monty dog always thirsty!

All four hooligans playing together after the sheep and Roberto's dogs have left

Buyer Beware

With house that have a 20,000.00 euro price tag or less is it any wonder that so many of us are tempted onto Italian Estate Agency sites we find online? Of course I don't mean true Italian sites; these offer new appartments and ugly concrete boxes on the side of a road. I'm talking about sites that cater for English visitors with plenty of pretty stone ruins amongst the olives.

Here is one such 'bargain' on offer currently:

We bought our house for very little and have been in a position to do lots of work ourselves but there have still been many problems that have meant we've needed professional help.Unfortunately in Italy this can mean spending may thousands every time.

Check wood work for signs of infestation -this is a Capricorn Beetles hole!1.5cms across

In an old stone house thats covered in stucco its tricky to see what deteriation may have occured until you take the stucco off.In our house we have found holes as big as 1metre across filled with earth.Some internal beams were simply wooden branches which in time have rotted or been eaten by insects.Metal joists have been attacked by water and needed replacing and earthquakes over 100's of years have taken their toll on floor tiles.

upstairs floor with slightly damaged metal strap- tiles set into clay

How many people spending 20,000.00 euros bother to have a survey done? But if you buy a house without knowing the full extent of the problems do you have enough money to pay for the work, which could cost many times more than the house itself? If you can't afford a survey at least take a builder with you and get them to remove plaster, lift floor tiles, inspect wood etc and discover what may need to be spent.Otherwise your purchase could turn out to be a liability!

One thing you should not do is to install damp proof course or any dpm into an old stone house or you will be causing yourself future problems.If you concentrate on removing any cement and also cleaning block drains and clearing earth that's piled up in front of walls outside you may well need to let the house 'dry out for a couple of years' but from then on you should have no more damp problems without spending huge amounts of money.

Cheese Shop in Lettomanoppello

In Lettomanoppello, Abruzzo there is a wonderful cheese shop where the cheese is made on the premises.The milk comes from sheep and goats kept on the green slopes of the Maiella mountains.

Lettomanoppello Cheese Shop

Percorino (fresh)

This dish was first made for us by an English couple who run 'villasfor2' and it is made by combining riccotta (in this case sheep's milk) with fresh strawberries and lemon juice then sprinkling with sugar

I love the Pecorino 'morbido' which is just 6 euro for a whole cheese.I cant think its possible to buy such a wonderful hand-made cheese in the UK for this amount.

I discovered a Belgian couple in the shop one day who were buying 300 euros worth of large Pecorino cheeses to take home for friends!Quite a good day for the little cheese shop.

Shop opened daily (not Monday) inc Sunday morning until 12 noon.Follow Passo Lanciano road and the shop is on the bend.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Noble defends Hadrian's villa from Rome's rubbish | World news | The Guardian

Noble defends Hadrian's villa from Rome's rubbish World news The Guardian


There really is no city like it.If you have just one day or one month in Rome you'll never be able to explore all of its treasures!

lunch!cones of artichoke fritters

fritters of every kind and beer-perfect

outside the Pantheon with Guides

Che Bello!

For me The Pantheon is up there in the top 5 sights to see.I'd not relised that the painter Raphael has his tomb there and its easy to miss with the crowds pressing in.

What I love about th Pantheon is that it makes it possible to understand what the buildings on the forum must have looked like before their marble was 'looted' by the various Popes to enhance the Vatican!The colours of the different marbles mut have presented a truly amazing sight when you entered a building.

If you are inside the Pantheon when snow is falling through the circular opening the effect is said to be very moving .we missed snow by 10 days and it was clear and sunny when we visted.


Dont get lost in Tivoli when you go to Harian's Villa.Once you come off the autostrada you drive along a grotty drag with supermarkets, garages and shops and hundres of advertising boards.You'll need to keep your eyes open if you dont want to miss the smaller brown and white sighs for Hadrian's Villa.Look out for a right turn down a busy and narrow pot-holed road.As usual you'll find mad Italian drivers turning without indicating and overtaking!Just keep on until another T junction and a right then you'll be there.Fortunately the villa is just outside of Tivoli which is a real dump.

Talking of dumps Rome City Council has had an incredible idea to open a giant landfill in a quarry just beside the villa complex! The smell in July and August should be unbearable.Join the campaign to oppose this dump. Actor and prince Urbano Barberini leads fight against emergency dump as capital fails to recycle 80% of its waste

Recycle or dump at Hadrian's Villa?? Rome City Council Must decide only recycling 20% is a national disgrace


Fantastic Rome break - we've been almost everywhere and even after my third trip I found places in The Forum that I'd not seen before ,like The House of the Vestal Virgins.

My musr see in Rome is in The National Museum near Termini Station( closed on a Monday)-this room of fresco wall paintings taken from Livia's Villa and depicting scenes of a wonderful garden with birds and plants.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Incredible picture from Il Centro in Abruzzo!

Shelia likes snow -it was thawing at 15 degs!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Nest Boxes by Species - Hornet

Nest Boxes by Species - Hornet

In case you don't have enough Hornets a nest box can be bought for just £99!
I couldn't find a hornet so this is another strange insect.No idea what it is?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Low Point

There have been many highs and lows since we first bought the house but this year it looks as if things are going to be particularly difficult.

I have to put everything into context and to remind myself that I'm never at my best this time of the year.I hate cold weather.So perhaps my pessimism comes from the temperature outside(0 degs.)

The 2 trips out to Italy each on lasting a month are getting more and more costly and with the need to earning money here in the UK its not all that practical.We decided after Christmas to use a big chunk of our ever dwindling savings on trying to get the house finished this year.

Part of the budget included a very efficient and 'green' heating system, running on wood but with the option to add some solar thermal panels later.Before installing this system we'd need some preparation work in the hallway and kitchen.Once you need to co-ordinate tradespeople it all goes a bit pear-shaped in Italy due to the fact that no plumber,electrician or builder is capable of showing up at the date and time they'd agreed with you!

DIY skills are in great demand! I must have cleaned 100's of these bricks.

We got around this last year by asking a plasterer from Devon, Pete Mold, to come and stay for 10 days-with me collecting him from his accomodation each day we weren't going to have any problems! It worked out really well and we learnt a great deal about lime and earth plastering from Pete.

Things this year are a bit more complicated so its possible unless we finish the whole plastering job ourselves (another 5 years) that we'll need to find someone in Italy who can do it.

more soon