Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On to the Umbrian Hills...

Old post May/June

It was nice having a relaxed morning on the day I left Rome, my train wasn't till 1pm; unlike many other days where it's a 6am start to make sure you arrive at your next destination at a decent hour. I stepped off the train 2 hours later in the afternoon sun and was greeted by Paddy on the platform and a little puppy clutched under his arm; Jack.

We sped round the hills in his tiny old-school run about, through small villages and fields till finally arriving at a hillside property that looked over the valley. The property is made up of 3 houses close together which originally would have been a few families living and working together on the land. (I can't remember the term for these kinds of properties).

I was only staying here for a few days before moving to Bruce and Jan's place, as they were still returning from their trip to Spain and had put me in contact with Paddy.
Pictures: The car, my bedroom (the helpers had there own house to share!), Jack the jack russell, the courtyard, one of the old houses, peacock, the living room

The night I arrived - Family dinner; Phyllis & Neaghn, Chris, and our hosts Paddy and his wife Tita
I spent the 4 days painting the side of the house, watering, and helping prepare some pot plants, and then I was given the day off, pretty easy! Paddy is an Englishman and moved to Italy many years ago where he met Tita. After creating his own beer and building a brewery he sold it on and now does the odd plumbing job in the area. 

One of the evenings Jovan (A helper from Serbia) took us up the hill to watch the sunset and taught us about a practice he believed in called Sun gazing or 'Solar Yoga', which just means staring at the sun. It's believed to increase energy levels, help eyesight, and  if you're committed enough; the sun will decrease you're appetite and you'll be able to feed off the sun alone. (Not for me though, I'm too fond of my tuna pasta). Don't Wiki it, as it's a bit scientifically bias. A beautiful sunset none the less.

Jovan, Phyllis and Neaghn 
Phyllis and her daughter Neaghn were fantastic people to be around. They jumped the ditch from Canada to farm hop in Italy for 3 months. They cooked delicious healthy meals, shared recipes with me (written on their own recycled paper!) and had an amazing outlook on life. We made wild fennel tea and ate wild rose hip that grew everywhere. All of us had a similar idea on food and enjoyed an abundance of fruit and vegetables for breakfast lunch and dinner (Kirsty, you would have loved discussing food with these guys). All very conscious about nature, growing organic, eating healthy and living sustainably. It would have been great if I could have stayed longer and learn't some more, but the team would be splitting up in a few days anyway, so I just appreciated the time I did have there. I hope to learn some more about edible wild plants, something very exciting being able to identify edible plants as you walk down the road; or the plants you would usually pull from your vegie garden. 

Monday bought farewells at Paddy's followed by a long tractor ride where I was crunched up behind the drivers seat bracing myself against the cabin and trying to not let me feet hit the gear stick. 
Soon I had arrived at the Help-x I would spend a month at, Jan and Bruces. Bruce is a landscape Gardner for many properties in the area, so our job was to help him maintain the gardens and fields. (Many of which were owned by very wealthy people who spent only few days/weeks a year at these properties in summer).

The house, bottom floor was for the helpers
Hours and hours spent strimming banks in scorching heats wrapped up in my overalls..I'm a pro now, but never again will I touch a strimmer.
The first couple of days I developed a cold, and unfortunately it was also going to the busiest part of my whole stay. Bruce and Jan were leaving for England at the end of the week so we had only a few days to plant 150 Olive trees. Two 8hour days really took it out of me, but had a few days to relax as I house sat while they were away. 

Whilst busy mowing the long grass, Rory accidentally chopped the head off a snake (He didn't tell me at the time). Later that afternoon when rummaging in my bag for the apartment keys to let us both in, I see a silky, scaly rubbery like tube thing coiled up in the front pocket. As I slowly begin removing it, I realise what is it, and before anything can hit the ground I'm already turning and heading for hills. I never did manage to get Rory back for that, I just helped him skin the animal so he could somehow incorporate it onto his guitar.

Pictures: Rory, another helper from Aussie who stayed for a few days before going to Paddys (where I'd just been) Poppy flower, a small hilltop village nearby called Montone, having Pizza and wine in Umbertide.

I was by myself for almost 2 weeks between helpers, in that time I attended many dinner invitations with Bruce. One of which was at Montone village where an American couple lived in an amazing 3 storied apartment right off the main Piazza. It had an amazing view over the valley and looked back across over the town. They offer private cooking classes in the summer in Italy, spend the winter in their downtown New York apartment, and also have a house in the mountains near Salt lake. We had a wonderful dinner; a leek and mushroom pasta, (the mushrooms were a special kind that have a very short season in the region called Prugnoli) followed by glazed quail, salad and vegetables, washed down with Prosecco and red wine from the vineyard down the road. For dessert we wandered into the piazza and had a big glass of grappa (a spirit made from grape skins/leftovers).

Me with the wall I painted and a glass of bubbles
Paddy held a big party to celebrate the the Help-xers, (Even though all his had left) I was the last original remaining so I got to enjoy the festivities.

Me and Laura
One of the perks; when the owners have gone back to work, we can use their pool!! B2 and I