San Gimignano

San Gimignano
Beautiful city of San Gimignano, where we spent last Sunday afternoon.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Home in Italy-Colignola

I must confess that when I created this blog I thought I would be better about writing short, concise blogs to help family and friends get a sense of what our life is like in Italy.  Alas, that is just not the case.  Days and weeks go by and more and more happens and I just don't manage to get it down in to words.  It's like all those photos you take and they keep amassing and multiplying until finally it is just overwhelming because you don't know where to begin organizing them all.  I don't even want to hear from all of you have have volumes of scrapbooks neatly labeled and on the shelves :-)

So, I am starting a simply posting here showing and explaining where we live.  We live right outside of Pisa in a small little Italian village called Colignola.  It is right outside of Pisa but you would never know it from walking down the main street.  I will post pictures of some of the shops on main street soon ( pesceria/fish shop, pizzeria, salemeria/salami shop, fruit and vegetable shop and of course the normal shops like hardware, etc.).  When we drive home we turn off the main street on to a one way street right by the only Pizzeria in town.  If we meet another car we have to pull over or they have to pull over to let the other car pass.  Sometimes we have to reach outside our window to tuck in the side mirrors :-)  This road quickly turns in to a pot holed dirt road for about 1/3 mile before we turn left and then we are at our drive way.

We lease our house from Mr. Franco and his family.  Mr. Franco is 80 years old and from what I can gather has always lived in this area.  He lives with his son, Marco and his wife and their 5 children in a two story home.   It is surrounded by their olive orchard and fruit trees. Mr. Franco has a HUGE garden where he raises artichokes, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, all sorts of fresh lettuces and a variety of other vegetables.  We are fortunate to enjoy the abundance of this garden too!!  He also raises chickens and we enjoy fresh eggs frequently.  At least every day or too he calls over the fence or rings the bell at the gate and is bringing over a basket of goodies to me.  It is wonderful!  Mr. Franco does not speak English and I speak little to no Italian but we manage to carry on a rudimentary conversation with a lot of gesturing, pointing and good will.  He has taught me the Italian names for most of the vegetables, taught me how to prune my fruit trees, how to dig for potatoes, how to trim off the lettuce as soon as it is cut from the garden and I'm sure there will much more to learn this year. I have a lot to learn.  I looked yesterday and there must be hundreds of tomatoes green and going to be ready on the vine within the next 2-3 weeks.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to learn how to put up tomatoes, maybe?  There are a LOT of tomatoes in that garden!

Marco his son speaks English very well and is the one we go to for our questions about Italy.  If we need to know where to go to get something repaired, where to go for something, why Italians do something a certain way, an explanation for anything....Marco is who we ask.  Although his Italian is very good he still has to frequently ask us about slang words we use or to repeat what we've said.  Our Southern accent gives him some difficulty, imagine that LOL!  He repeated a word after me a few weeks after we moved in and he spoke with a perfect Southern accent complete with about 10 syllables (it was quite funny) and I told him he could NOT learn to speak English from me :-)  The Profetti family has been just wonderful to live next door to and we could not have asked for a better landlord or neighbors.  It has made living in Italy a more enriching experience than we would have had if we just lived without having daily contact with an Italian family.

Our house is very modern and nice by most Italian standards.  They built it to lease to American families at Camp Darby however they likely will have their own family living in the house at some point in the future (they have 5 children ages 21 and under).  Most Italian children live at home until they marry which is usually close to 30.  Our house while not having that old Italian charm has many of the amenities you would not find in a typical Italian home.....i.e. we have air conditioning, showers with good water pressure,  a kitchen with built in cabinets, etc.  Those things would not be in a typical Italian home that you go to rent.  We also have a solar hot water heating system on the roof as well as a fire place with hot water heating.  Excellent windows and shutters (to keep out the heat and let in the cool breezes) without using that VERY expensive AC.  Utility costs in Europe are extremely expensive so anything to keep from using gas, electricity, etc. are used as much as possible by the Italians AND by the Browns too lol   We gladly use our clothesline to hang out our clothes rather than the clothes dryer every chance we get or we would have a 500 Euro electricity bill (about $600-$700).

Mr. Franco and Marco built us a new patio right after we moved in complete with lights.  We have really enjoyed spending cool Italian evenings outside, grilling out and watching the sun set.  The sun doesn't usually go down here until around 9 p.m.  Unlike in Alabama, around 7 -8 the temperature begins to get noticeably cooler here and once the sun drops it is sweater cool outside and very pleasant to eat outside, sit and talk.  There is a cherry orchard right behind our house that I enjoyed watching the cherries come to fruition.  About a month ago they covered the whole orchard in netting (it must be 7-10 acres at least) to keep the birds from eating the cherries.  They began to pick the cherries in early June.  I posted a picture earlier of the bright red cherries.  They are delicious and you see them everywhere now, in the markets, grocery stores and being sold almost everywhere we go.  I don't see them over in our orchard now so I think the cherry season must be about over.

Right beside our house and in our yard we have our own fruit trees!  Mr. Franco has tried to tutor me in how to take care of them (in Italian, yikes!) and they are now all getting ripe.  We have peaches, apricot, nectarines, plums, prunes (yep, that's what he said), figs, and a couple of things I'm not sure what he said they were. It's really been fun to watch the trees leaf out, the fruit bud and grow and now we can begin to pick an eat it.  Lyra, our English Springer Spaniel has great fun going around picking up the fruit on the ground and eating it.  How she keeps from getting sick from all the fruit she eats I do not know, but so far she's good.   Steve went out today and picked all the nectarines because they are ripe and needed picking so tonight we eat peeled nectarines with our grilled vegetables for dinner :-)

I am going to post some pictures and will attempt to put descriptions with each picture.  We'll see how that goes :-)

Mr. Franco is explaining to me back in the spring about his herbs.  He speaks no English and I speak little to no Italian.  We do a lot of gesturing and smiling but we manage to communicate and have a good time :-)   His garden now is lush and just full of so many beautiful vegetables!

This is the front of our house.  The tiled roof and stucco is very typical of most Italian homes.  All the windows except the 3 small ones you see have shutters that can be opened and closed, for privacy and for letting in the cool breezes.  The fruit trees are on the right side of the house.

This is the side entrance to the house, walking in from the parking and covered carport area.  The little pine tree pictured is very unusual and beautiful with gold and red foliage.  The solar heating panel is on the roof and my clothes line is on the left :-)

The bushy vine on the left is a grape arbor and is full of tiny clusters of grapes. Grapes are harvested in the fall.   In the rear you can see the net covered cherry orchard.  8-10 acres completely covered in netting to keep the birds off of the red, red cherries. They are delicious!  We spend most nights eating on the patio since it doesn't get dark until about 9 p.m. and gets much cooler after about 7 p.m.

Steve is picking the nectarines which are ripe now.  Peaches are on the tree to the left and are almost ripe.  There are peach orchards about 200 yards in front of our house that were picked last week . Lyra, the dog loves to eat the fruit that falls on the ground.  That habit is left over from her years in England and eating the apples off the tree :-)

The first picking of the peaches.  The trees are heavy with the peaches and we will have many peaches in the next 2-3 weeks.  I'm thinking peach pie, peach shortening cakes, peach ??  Alas, no homemade peach ice cream, since we did not bring our freezer :-(

My geraniums and basil....along with Lyra coming out of the backdoor of the house.  The doors also have shuttered doors that let the breezes in but keep the bugs and the sun out.

Peaches hanging on the tree!

And Lyra eating her fruit.  She is a happy dog!