After a smooth journey by taxi, plane and train it was good to be met at the local train station by two of my sisters-in-law and to be driven to the village and our Italian house. It had been locked up as usual over this last Winter. There are locks on each internal door. The inside shutters on windows that work on a pulley system to open and shut them as much or as little as needed had been completely closed. We're grateful that a relative who lives not far away and who looks after the grape vines in the garden frequently checks over our place, but due to the bad weather, the need to work on his own property, being elderly with health problems he can only do so much and, therefore, we're never surprised at the amount of work we need to do ourselves when we arrive. After the usual housekeeping with the electrics and water supply we were ready for a rest and the invitation to an evening meal at a sister-in-law's home.
After a good night's rest we got the paperwork admin done so that we could get the car running again and then did some food shopping at our nephew's deli shop and the local supermarket. The condition of the inside of the house was as we had left it six months before, but once opened up the challenge with the dust started! It takes a few days each time for us to settle in and get over the journey. Mr P continues to have his painful back and hip problem, but the warm weather was helpful and uplifting. We decided to do what we could and rest in between and I'm glad to say Mr P voluntarily sat down in an afternoon. (By the second week we had Spring rain showers most afternoons so that put a stop to work outside anyway). There had been a suitably dry day for the man with the tractor and cutter to come and cut the long grass. This essential task done was a relief and it meant that Mr P could concentrate on other gardening and maintenance work.
Of course, with the warmer weather we didn't need to use the wood burning stove or bring up wood to the top terrace and into the living room on the second floor of the house. The ground floor rooms are empty and locked up and we continue to use the upstairs as an apartment. The warm Spring weather, in contrast to the experience of the unbearable heat of last Summer's visit, energised me and I started on some sweeping and cleaning. I opened the door of the wood burning stove to clean it as this job didn't get done the last time we had the fire on in March 2017 and I found a lot of dead hornets on the floor inside. The ashes had been cleared out ready to lay a fire when needed. It was rather strange to see these dead creatures, but realised that a swarm must have come down the flue and being unable to fly further into the room because of the glass door they had been trapped. I'm scared of hornets although wasps and hornets are attracted to the mature grapes hanging on the vines on the pergola and to the other fruit in the garden so they're around the place especially at certain times of the year. Eventually Mr P decided to make sure the flue was not blocked and on inspection found that they had constructed their papery nest inside the top of the flue even though the chimney stack does have a cap on it. It had obviously been made over the last year when it had not been necessary to burn wood in the stove and the nest was now empty and redundant. Mr P unblocked the flue with a long stick and then burnt some twigs in the fireplace to make sure the smoke could escape and not into the room!
Here are some photos of that first week's progress around the house and garden.
the grass had reverted back to being a meadow
The supports for these white jasmine bushes had broken loose during the windy weather. They had grown too big and although they were pruned last August they needed more pruning to half the size.
It's always worth getting the man with the tractor and cutter to come and cut the grass. He's very good at manoeuvring around the obstacles of the fruit trees and has a safe method when driving up and around the sloping ground at the back of the house.
Old branches that were lying about in the long grass under the pergola from when the brother-in-law pruned the vines were gathered and stacked away for our wood burning stove. He had left a bundle of flexible branch cuttings for tying in the new, growing vine branches onto the support wires.
It's good to see the developing grapes and the new leaves on the vines and, of course, we were able to enjoy last Autumn's wine that brother-in-law had made after gathering our grapes and putting the crop with his larger quantity from his vineyards. The white wine is a i Castelli Romani type of wine. The best known one being from Frascati in that area although ours has a distinctive flavour of wine produced in our village vineyards as all wines do according to the type of grape and the soil in which the vines are grown. We drank the white wine as we prefer it. The red is better for drinking in the Winter months.
A selection of cheeses from the nephew's deli with some bread and butter made locally went down well at lunchtime. A sister-in-law gave us a pot of her home made cherry jam which was enjoyed at breakfast time.
Of course, it was not all work as we were invited to a birthday party and went on a coach trip with the local abbey church group and their families who had been invited to sing at a well-known church in Pompeii. More about that another time.
Meanwhile, I wish you a good day,