On the 14th April 1796, Napoleon and his troops, having already been victorious at Montenotte, simultaneously attacked the Austrians and Piedmontese to continue their campaign in Italy. The Austrians were holding their position at Dego but after suffering 350 casualties and 1,500 men being taken prisoner by the French they were forced out as the French moved in to pillage the small town.
Translated as ‘We’re waiting …’ I’m referring to the numerous fruit trees that are dotted around our garden. Everything has got signs of the growing fruit on them so we’re preparing for a glut – even if my vegetables don’t come through (due to us planting everything two months too late) I’m sure we’re going to be over-run with fruit.
Well the first two months in our home in Italy have flown by … and what have we spent most of our time doing whilst we’ve been here? Building dry stone walls, of course. It’s true, we’ve built loads of them – and why not, when every inch of soil that we’ve dug into contains at least three or four rocks or slabs … it certainly saves a trip to the local builders’ merchant for materials!
With the wood oven being fired up for a roast chicken, and the bread cupboard looking decidedly bare (not that our caravan came with a dedicated bread cupboard – we’ve just repurposed the microwave which we never use), Marcus was preparing to make another loaf of bread.
It was only the other day I said to Marcus … ‘since when did lizards become the norm?’ In England it used to be blackbirds or sparrows, but now its lizards. They’re everywhere … if they’re not scuttling out from under your feet in the long grass (and giving me small seizures every time due to the shock) then they’re leaping off the first floor roof onto the ground two or three metres below (and giving me small seizures due to the shock).
With Spring well under way, and Summer just around the corner there’s signs everywhere of nature taking over. We’ve got tiny green peaches on our peach trees – plums, cherries and walnuts are all making an appearance, and the figs already look good enough to eat – but they’re not, they’re still hard, I tried one!
I’d read about the postal service in Italy before we arrived here – it is not painted as the most reliable of services but it somehow works, like most things in Italy. However there’s a twist that they don’t tell you about, no matter how much you search on the Internet – we’ve since found out that it’s not so much of a service, more of a ‘fai da te’ or a ‘do it yourself’ system.
We’ve cracked it – Marcus has managed to get our outside wood oven temperature up to 475degrees Celsius – perfect for the ideal 90 second pizza cooking session! Up until now we’ve been floundering around the 200degrees mark – with falling heat, probably warm enough to thaw an ice cube, but we definitely weren’t in pizza territory. But with research, and advice from a couple of friends and a neighbour we learned that the bricks on the inside walls and the dome need to be white – only then is it hot enough throughout the whole oven and only then will pizzas be a success.
I’ve finally found them! I sorted through a dozen or so boxes with the word ‘Kitchen’ scrawled across the side and in ‘Kitchen Bits Misc’ I found our two Mucky Mugs along with a butter dish, a couple of colanders, a fruit bowl, two huge cappuccino cups and my baking items – icing bags and nozzles, bun cases, biscuit cutters and a rock solid slab of black fondant icing (best check the ‘use by’ date on that one). I think ‘Kitchen Bits Misc’ perfectly sums up that atrocity of a packed box (although everything was, of course, bubble wrapped!) And the funny thing is I was actually looking for my icing bits and not the Mucky Mugs.
Last week we made another leap forward in our bid to become ‘Italiani’. We had two things to sort out with the Comune, now that we have the house, so we headed down to the village to see Cinzia in her office – she’s the bins and water lady.