Tag Archives: Aperol Spritz

Soundtrack Of A Holiday

Brando Lives On! Florence,Rocking Dog

Brando Lives On! Florence

Having just arrived back from Umbria I still haven’t been able to rid myself of the soundtrack of the holiday! Do you find that there is always a tune that is playing whenever you jiggle radio stations, or step into bars or cafes? Often these songs are slightly annoying or indeed very annoying. In years to come you hear the tune again and it immediately transports you back to the holiday destination where you couldn’t help humming or singing it at full pelt. Our soundtrack this autumn in Umbria was somewhat embarrassedly Bruno Mars’s “Versace on the Floor”! Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” takes me to my teenage French exchange trip and to a cafe with a juke box. Newquay, “I’m In Mood For Dancing” by the Nolans, and my first holiday with Andyman in Umbria (1981) Barclay James Harvest’s album “Eyes of the Universe”. There were holidays with The Proclaimers “Lord, I Want To Be a Christian”, All Saints with “Never Ever” and The Bangles “Eternal Flame”etc.. I expect it will be a few days before I lose Versace from my head. Very hopefully I won’t lose the memory of our girls dancing around the Umbrian kitchen with baby Doug’in arms!

We found our Umbrian garden incredibly parched and somewhat resembling Little House on the Prairie. We have been reassured that our “grass” will somehow green up again. The poor Italians have had a scorchingly hot year and it has had a devastating effect on the crops. Vines hung heavy with fruit which I photographed last year tell a very different story this autumn. It has been difficult for the locals to irrigate crops and many wells have completely dried up. In our garden we are lucky to have some olives to pick when the start of November comes. There was leaf clearing to do and a pomegranate and fig tree to plant. Thankfully heavy rains came on our last day and watered those tender new trees. Alas with all the botanical tidying there was no hammock swinging, no sitting in my oak leaved reading nook and no star gazing. One day!

Wonderfully there were little toes in the pool, an inflatable avocado, some luxuriating, and serious lengths done in the cool of the pool.

There were vintage linens to launder and dry in the sun, a chimney to chat about for the woodburning stove, and lovely food to eat both at home and away.

Liv’ and I ventured to Florence and we all loved the lake (Trasimeno) especially the bonfire set up for a wedding. There were delicious custard filled Aragosta’s (lobster claws) to eat, thank you Michele, and refreshing Aperol Spritz’s to drink at Bar Gallo in Panicale. There is the small matter now of working off all that delicious Vongole and Scampi Gnocchi eaten at da Massimo’s! Why is Umbrian food just SO delicious?!

It really is lovely to be back to the green of England in September, with fresh inspiration for new projects.

Have a great week Rocking Dog x

PS Happy 30th Birthday to our boy Alex’. Have a wonderful time celebrating in France. At least there is no embarrassing cake today Alex! In a year gone by (16 years ago) I was seriously inspired by a trip to Amsterdam, in particular a visit to De Taart Van M’n Tante (My Aunt’s Tart). Many of their cakes were bold and risque. What possessed me to think it was appropriate to send a boxed cake with Alex on a geography school trip which was topped by a rubber gimp doll?! Sorry Alex.

Apartment In The Sky,Rocking Dog

Apartment In The Sky

Tiny Toes,Rocking Dog

Tiny Toes

On Dry Land,Rocking Dog

On Dry Land

Vintage Laundry,Rocking Dog

Vintage Laundry

There Will Be Oil!,Rocking Dog

There Will Be Oil!

Chimney Chat,Rocking Dog

Chimney Chat

Down At The Lake,Rocking Dog

Down At The Lake

Cake Break,Rocking Dog

Cake Break

Planting For The Future,Rocking Dog

Planting For The Future

Feeling The Heat In Umbria

Umbrian Sunset, Rocking Dog

Umbrian Sunset

We certainly did feel the heat in Umbria over the weekend. With temperatures in the high 30’s and tipping into the 40’s, it was meltingly hot! I certainly feel more in control of my complex heat regulatory system in the spring or early winter in Umbria. A siesta is an essential part of Italian life, shutters close, shops close up, streets empty, market stallholders pack up, and the nation sleeps or eats, converses or rests.

After a truly delicious lunch under a leafy sun dappled pergola with our hosts, we sought refuge from the searing midday sun. Lloyd Loom chairs in a cool stone portico allowed us to stay outside, but inside. Incidentally, the lunch platter was amazing and included grilled lemon leaf wrapped Scormoza (a smoked mozzarella style cheese). Tomatoes, Parma ham, Ligurian olives, melon, figs and other Italian yumminess made the 4.30am dash to Bristol Airport absolutely worthwhile.

The landscape of Umbria in summer is so very different from that of the beloved olive picking season (late October/early November). The noise of happy and busy Cicada’s fills the air from the time the sun climbs into the sky until the air cools after dusk. Umbrian gardens’ are filled with fragrant lavender, Oleanders, Jasmine and showy Agapanthus. Meanwhile, fields are burgeoning with crops of towering Sunflowers, maize and wheat. Vegetable crops depend on lavish and frequent watering, and tomato plants do not require the protection of glass houses. Swallows swoop down over the pool refreshing their busy sculptural wings. Lizards bask in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth of the thyme frilled paving. Any interruption, and they dart into cool dark crevices seeking solace and protection.

Olives are tiny, they have four long months to plump up, blacken and ripen. The promise of a plentiful harvest is the hope of the entire nation. Nets will be unrolled and laid out, rakes and crates will be gathered, and the camaraderie of another olive picking season will begin.

Monday and Tuesday bought unrelenting heat. The only tangiable escape was to stay in the pool… or to retreat to the house.

A late afternoon stroll in the local hill top town of Panicale took us through shaded winding streets. I loved the tiled orange Madonna and child gracing one of the towns’ houses, its colours seemed to echo the heat of the day. Aperol Spritz’s were enjoyed in the town square- Umbrian sunshine in a glass!

Monday evening and with temperatures gently dwindling, we ventured out to a Lakeside caff’for food. Knowledge of the ordering system was preferable, if not essential. Pull ticket, await number call, hurriedly select food from a large covered glass cabinet. Steak, Calimari, battered vegetables, torte and non battered vegetables chosen, most were given a fiery baptism over charred wood. Another counter, another function, order and collect wine. Other counters, other functions, puddings, cheese, gelato. Pay. Head out to a Pine canopied lake view, tear your own tablecloth from banqueting roll. Eat, chat and watch the sun go down. Total cost about 45 euro’s for the four of us! Sunset truly beautiful and priceless, no digital retouching whatsoever required.

Fleeting visit, hospitable friends, lovely food and gorgeous scenery, molten temperatures and heat filled lethargy!

Welcome Lunch, Rocking Dog

Welcome Lunch

Seeking Shade, Rocking Dog

Seeking Shade

A Dip Perhaps?, Rocking Dog

A Dip Perhaps?

Orange Madonna, Rocking Dog

Orange Madonna

Orange Drink, Rocking Dog

Orange Drink

Busy Bees!, Rocking Dog

Busy Bees!

Lakeside Transport Caf', Rocking Dog

Lakeside Transport Caf’

Golden Veg', Rocking Dog

Golden Veg’

Moonlight Dip Anyone?, Rocking Dog

Moonlight Dip Anyone?

Arrivederci Italy- Missing You Too Much Already!

Tribute To Canaletto, Rocking Dog

Tribute To Canaletto

Indeed Arriverderci Italy- Missing You Too Much Already! The sunny alfresco meals, the cooling Aperol Spritz’s, ancient terracotta buildings bathed in winter sunshine and the tremendous olive harvest are alas a luxuriant memory. In the space of two short weeks England has emerged damp, leaf fallen and on the gigantic treadmill that is Christmas

Italy as ever was truly wonderful and the weather blissful- how I love November holidays! A few days spent in eye shot of San Gimignano was followed by days harvesting olives at our friends house near Castiglione del Lago. Finally we ended up in Venice, with our lovely girls flying in to enjoy our stylish yet bijoux Airbnb. Their trip started with getting a Harrod’s Christmas pudding (a gift for our Venetian host) swabbed for narcotics at the airport!

The Umbrian olive harvest was amazing this year. The garden last year yielded no olives whatsoever, in fact there was very little oil to be had anywhere in Italy. A very small enthusiastic group of us picked for four days in a seriously blue skied grove. We harvested 550kg of olives of various hues which were taken to be lovingly processed into the most wonderful organic single estate olive oil. It is truly sublime on lightly toasted bread, smeared with a garlic clove, a drizzle of THE oil and a pinch of sea salt.

Olive picking was interspersed with alfresco meals, trips to Medieval hill top towns (both Andyman and I will have the topic as our Mastermind subject!), markets and generally soaking up Italian life. We bade arrivederci to our gorgeous Umbrian hosts and travelled onto Venice in our hired Fiat Cinquencento.

Andyman and I had our first ever holiday in Italy, travelling in an ancient Volkswagen Fastback which had lain idle in his parents garden for years. We drove through Germany, over the Alps and wended our way down the Italian Riviera. We camped in a two man tent, feasted on frozen Calamari and drank copious amounts of Lambrusco! Homeward bound we headed for Venice. The drive leading to the city was very flat and industrialised and I must admit I didn’t have huge expectations. We camped up and then took a water taxi out onto the Grand Canal at dusk. I remember being totally in awe of the twinkling lights, bridges, gondola’s and water lapped eating places- truly magical.

I have a photograph of me dressed in a white pirate inspired pantaloon suit (we are talking the age of the New Romantics) sat at the gondola station with the gondoliers clad in their iconic striped tops and straw boaters. We certainly didn’t have the money to take a trip out in a gondola, so a photograph was the best we could muster! After a couple of days we eventually headed back into Germany where I was based. We had to drive VERY slowly to make the petrol last as we had not a single pfennig to our name! Eventually back at the base we found a kind soul to buy us a drink in the NAAFI. Sweet memories of the summer of 1981!

Venice 2015 equally lovely and so special to spend sunny moments with our girls.

Room With A View, Rocking Dog

Room With A View

Blue Skies In Umbria, Rocking Dog

Blue Skies In Umbria

Olives To Pick, Rocking Dog

Olives To Pick

What A Workhorse!, Rocking Dog

What A Workhorse!

 Good To Be Back- Venice, Rocking Dog

Good To Be Back- Venice

Laundry, Venetian Style!, Rocking Dog

Laundry, Venetian Style!

My Girl & Fritto Misto, Rocking Dog

My Girl & Fritto Misto

Other Girl, Alfresco Nap!, Rocking Dog

Other Girl, Alfresco Nap!

Venetian Mist, Rocking Dog

Venetian Mist