Friday, 10 July 2015

pics from June 2015

 New stone added

lazy afternoon

1960s Chair from Portabello

Temporary (ha ha) kitchen

New hallway bricks

My birthday marble table -£38 at Mercantino

Agapanthus from Cornwall -will it survive the summer

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Part 2: Proper Application of Limewash

Coloured Limewash Step-by-Step

Limewashing Woes

We like limewash because its cheap, natural and doesn't cause dangerous fumes.We make it on site from well matured lime putty adding water to putty in a 1.5 to 2 part ratio.

Colouring limewash is very tricky.I use a mix of powdered pigment with some dye compatible with lime.Natural pigments are more attractive to me but in order to mix a stronger colour the cost is much higher.

This is someone limewashing a wall on a SPAB work day in an old church -thank goodness my walls are not that high!

There are many methods of painting a room.Some people like to put on 3 coats of white lime then colour a final coat which is thinner.For darker shades it is better to start with a neutral wash as I have here using a mix of ochre,brown and black.

Limewash changes according to the light 

The next coat is a pinker shade which is a little too dark so in the last 2 coats I will add more lime putty and water and some more yellow ochre.

limewash always looks darker when first applied! To the right of the ladder is a dried coat of the same mix as that on the left of the ladder!

Stone Step

I've written before about the relative low cost of having steps,stairs,worktops etc made in Abruzzo.We needed a new step for our front door and another sill for an upstairs window as well as some odd pieces of stone around the place.

Our local stonemasons 'Aceto Marmi' in Scafa were brilliant and as promised after 10 days our stones were ready.The total came to 230 euros so of course I asked for a 'sconto' which every Italian does and it was reduced to 200 euros - about £150.

We collected it but it was far too heavy for me to lift with my partner so our builder friend lent us some muscle and thinking of how we would get it into its final resting place we came up with the idea of placing it in line with the door on 2 lengths of wood then by using greased plastic sacks we were able to slide it in! Simples!

Here is the area before the step was put in. 

The new step made from our local limestone quarried just a few miles from us

On the way to italy

This year we decided to take our time on our route and stop over in a few new places.We took the ferry from Dovver to Dunkerque and drove straight out into Belgium where I'd booked us into an Air bnb place.

Before I continue I must say a few words about Airbnb which is relatively new but is a great way to meet new people from across the world.Not always,but mostly you will be staying in someone's home -a bit like a bnb in the UK but more intimate as you will often be expected to share bathroom and kitchen facilities and also be prepared to live with the owner's children and pets.

The first one in Belgium wasn't great.The owner, a single mother who was a really lovely woman was using the room rent to help ends meet and was pretty disorganised.her two children had just been swimming and we had to use the bathroom after them which wasn't ideal.The room was fine just a bit uncomfortable and filled with the owner's possesions.Basically if you book a 'cheaper' room (under £25) you'll need to prepare yourself to rough it slightly!

The next day we drove into Ghent and had a wander around the city, stooping for a hot chocolate of course!

The drive down into France was very tedious with long queues around Brussels and in Luxembourg but arriving at our next Airbnb was a joy as the sleeply little French village near Metz was a perfect place for a stopover and we both slept soundly only hearing a single nightingale singing during the late evening. The couple running the bnb were great and had been doing this for a few years so things were much more organised and more pleasant for us. 

In the village there was a beautiful French Chateau which unfortunately was closed to the public but the following day we took the back roads into Luneville (the town we were stranded in for 3 days 3 years ago when our car broke down) . Arriving in the town we looked for signs to the famous Chateau which had been so hard to find the last time we were here. Driving over the old bridge into town all of a sudden the chateau appeared on our left ! It is actually right in the center of town which was unexpected but also a nice surprise for us.

Sadly very little of the Château des Lumières de Lunéville  interior has been preserved and to worsen matters there was a fire more recently which brought down one of the roofs.That room has been very well restored and now acts as a concert hall.If you do visit the Chateau look out for the fossils that can be seen easily in the limestone used to make the steps and floors.

My favourite part of the visit was the garden, which although needing slighly more care and attention than funds allowed was impressive in the grand style of Versaille.

We left Luneville and followed the familiar route up over the Vosegs Mountains and on to Colmar were unlike on previous occasions we had time to explore the old town center.

Monday, 27 April 2015

great article

There is a great article in The Guardian -short but promoting the highlights of Abruzzo and publicising a new glamping set up!

The glamping is

The article about Abruzzo can be read here;

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Villas for 2 Blog

Our friend David Brenner has written this interesting blog post on Roman Sites in Abruzzo and visiting the archaeological museum in Chieti.

Roman Abruzzo

Detail of the Capestrano Warrior

Lettomanoppello in winter

You'd think that it would be quiet here in a cold March evening but no such luck! There were still groups of very loud men chatting and arguing in the square until after midnight!

Then there are the bin men who start around 5am.Still I really do like this little village and would not miss the Sunday morning market with a trip to Bar /Café Vittorio for a coffee and cornetto.

The bar also have 2 small apartments for rent at very reasonable rates.And there is a mini bus service up to the Ski Slopes over the winter.

Nothing keeps an Italian indoors!

The stairs

Nearly there now, at least we have our wall constructed to divide the hallway so that we can make a small boiler room. The construction rapidly progressed due to the use of the lightweight cement blocks that have little air bubbles making them very easy to cut.

We've used the rock/gravel infill to create a breathable yet insulated floor which will later be compacted by tamping down a few inches of road base onto the gravel. We used this method in the living room and it seems to be working very well with any damp earth being kept well away from the base of the floor bricks. In times of very wet and cold weather some damp will come upwards but rapidly evaporates and does not cause a problem by rising inside walls and forcing bubbles in plaster a common sight in Italian houses.

Rush Hour in Lettomanoppello

A Week in March

Over the last few years I've made a short trip out to Abruzzo to check on things after the winter .I've written before about the heavy snow in Abruzzo and how it has damaged so many roads and homes.

The road to our house rises along the edge of the ravine so I wasn't surprised to find more landslides close to the road. It was actually quite scary driving up and down !

Much to my disgust last year some local 'farmers' had dug up quite a few old olive trees across the road from us leaving what once was a lovely area of old trees and wild orchids just bare soil.

I was delighted this March to find signs of some of the lovely Orchids growing out of the bare clay and hopefully even the rarer ones will survive.
The dogs were really happy to see me again!
In order to prevent more slippage by these old trees I have piled up cut branches and soil from the floor of our hallway.I will have some more soil left here and later in the spring it will be planted up with some ground cover plants and in the autumn some trees that will all hopefully firm up the area.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


Abruzzo was hit by a spell of severe weather last week and now many roads are closed due to land slips and rock falls.

This is the second winter where roads around Manoppello have been closed for months while the council clears the blockage and repairs road and pavements. Its hard to see how all these repairs will be paid for?

Surely as these type of climate events become more frequent areas like abruzzo will need to allocate more funds ?


No More Olive Oil?

Its sad that so many of Italy's ancient olive trees may have to be felled due to the emergence and spread of the Xylella fastidiosa disease, which spread to Italy from the Americas, has infected up to a million trees in the southern region of Puglia.The disease is carried by aphids and there is a strong possibility of its spreading to other parts of Italy and Greece.

Last year in Abruzzo was a disaster for Olive farmers as there were very few olives worth picking. A very wet summer meant a poor crop which was then attacked by the olive flies. These pesky creatures lay their eggs in the developing buds and the maggots then hatch out in the autumn. Our trees were badly effected and  will try to collect and burn all the fallen olives this year -the only problem with this is that the Long Tailed Tits and Nuthatches love to pick the maggots out of them as they lay on the grass.

As well as being an important part of the Italian landscape these old olive groves shelter a wide range of wildlife including Little Owls, Wrynecks, Shrikes, Woodpeckers and many different warblers.

woodcut by Andrew Wddington

Shrike by Andrew Waddington
Redstart by Andrew Waddington

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Camping in Italy France and Switzerland

Not everyone is a fan of Italian campsites: They tend to be organised along the lines of maximum convenience for shopping and eating rather than for the appreciation of nature! Anyone who has ever been to an Italian beach will be familiar with the regimented lines of tables, chairs and umbrellas all close enough to a bar to allow frequent trips for a coffee or beer and campsites are very similar.

It was good therefore to hear of a campsite that has opened fairly close to us in Serramonacesca.The site called Kokopelli is more of a natural camping ground that tends to be popular with British campers and I hope that the couple that run it will be successful. The area was totally lacking in this type of tourist accommodation and its good to see that the campsite also organise hiking trips.

Another very useful online site for campers and those driving from the UK to Italy is which allows you to view a large number of 'garden campsites' often way out in the wilds and very peaceful. Looking at sites along our route through France Switzerland and Italy I came up with 3 sites that were all close enough to our route to be worth trying.

You need to sign up to take part and then you can email an owner to ask them if they have space.Prices are very reasonable compared with large campsites.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Italian Cinema

What is your all time favourite Italian Films?

my top ten are  in no particular order: