Still feeling fired up from our community day on Friday, and a weekend pushing on with the tidying on the upper terraces, Monday saw another day's work up at the top. Our dear friends David and Sarah had offered to come and do another day's work with us, so in return we offered them lunch, dinner, and a bed for the night so that we could all relax at the end of a hard day's work without having to worry about driving anywhere.
The day saw two more bonfires, with Sarah and me burning through piles and piles of debris, more raking, the construction of a leaf/compost bin so that the smaller, leafier rakings could be tipped into that to start a long composting process, and of course more chainsawing and wood cutting.
We worked until the daylight had not only faded but actually disappeared, finally picking our way carefully down the terraces by the lights of our mobile phones.
The physical efforts of Monday, combined with the 3am bedtime, left us all feeling somewhat bleary-eyed on Tuesday - which turned out to be a wet day, the first in a long time. After joining us for a damp tramp around the woods with Reggie, David & Sarah headed home, and we took the rest of the day at an easy pace, glad to have an excuse to stay indoors.
Wednesday saw more eating and drinking - after a group Italian lesson with David & Sarah at their house in Vellano, we all headed down the road to their favourite restaurant in the village, Maneros, for a celebratory Christmas lunch with our teacher Johnny and with Donatella joining us as an honorary member of the group.
As usual at Manero's, we ate in style (huge antipasti plates followed by pasta, followed by an enormous plate of mixed grilled meats for the table to share), and had a great time in great company.
|Such a great bunch of people.|
Thursday was back to a little more normal, with work in the morning for me, and our Italian lesson with Samantha in the afternoon. Stuart surprised me after Samantha had left with the creation he had made while Samantha and I were going over the finer points of the use of the congiuntivo in Italian. He had only gone and knocked together a Christmas tree for us - from a pallet.
We'd seen similar pallet-creations around and about recently, but I don't think any of those we saw were quite as beautiful as the one Stuart made. It's not quite a real Christmas tree, but it's very beautiful - and it's Reggie-proof!
On Friday, after various chores and errands, we hit the supermarket for our 'Christmas' food shopping. It was certainly busier than usual at lunchtime on a Friday, but not unbearable - we definitely did well to stick to our lunchtime slot, and it was with a sigh of relief that we exited the car park and headed home, knowing the most painful of pre-Christmas chores was out of the way,
On Saturday - Christmas Eve - we started the day by calling in at our neighbours' house on the road below us. We have met Valerio and Rossana on a few occasions and they have always exuded warmth and friendliness - and had repeatedly asked us to pop in to their house for a coffee some time when we were passing. So we finally got around to popping in to see them on Christmas Eve.
As a Christmas gift, we took with us a small bottle of the mirto liqueur that we had made:
We were invited straight into the house (it was a cold morning - frost still at 11am covering the entirety of their garden, which sits in the shady bottom of the valley), plied with coffees and biscuits (befanotti: biscuits made for Befana, the day on which the benevolent witch, Befana, gives biscuits and goodies to the good children and coal to the naughty ones - which isn't until the 6th January, but Rossana assured us befanotti are biscuits 'of the season'), and together we talked for nearly two hours. Our Italian held up relatively well, although the speed at which Valerio and Rossana occasionally slipped into had us struggling at times - nevertheless our hosts and kind neighbours were patient and nothing but warm and welcoming, and by the time we said our goodbyes, we were leaving with arms laden: two bottles of wine (one white, one red) to try, to see if we like the wine they buy in bulk, a beautifully wrapped Christmas present for us, and an enormous bunch of beautiful holly from the tree in their garden!
|Christmas greenery on the gate/outside of the house seems to be something of a tradition in these parts, so we decided to join in.|
We came away from Rossana and Valerio's house feeling full of Christmas spirit and really happy to have found ourselves with such lovely neighbours. We resolved not to leave it so long before our next visit.
In the evening of Christmas Eve, we headed over to Castelvecchio. We first called in at our friends Paul & Kathy's house, where we were treated to Christmas drinks, and where their neighbour Kelly joined us, before we all drove over to the village where they were having a 'living crib'.
Not only was there a living crib (real people acting out the parts of the nativity story), but the entire village had been transformed into a medieval village, with cobblers, blacksmiths, people spinning wool and weavers, a tavern selling medieval food, the old bakery with the bread oven fired up and making hot breads, chestnuts roasting on open fires (what could be more Christmassy?) and all the locals walking through the streets dressed in period style.
We spent a delightful couple of hours walking around the village, sampling vin brulee, hot chestnuts, the food in the medieval tavern and pieces of bread hot from the oven, before finally saying our Christmas tidings and heading home to light the fire to try to get some warmth into the house ready for the "big day".