Friday, 08 October 2010 10:16
Written by Gemma

I cannot describe how wonderful it is to be travelling in Italy. I simply love it -the lifestyle, the language, the smells of the coffee, the food...the clothes. Winter in Italy is freezing. I had forgotten what Europe is like with the winter - you know the fur when you speak. It was 3 degrees one day then 10 the next. Long johns are necessary for my nobbly knees. I just do not know how the homeless exist and there are many in Roma. My heart goes out to them sleeping under the bridge in winter. I always remember the story when I was learning Italian at the international school in Rome many years ago now about the Danish doctor who was studying with me. He went for a ride on his scooter at night and left his wallet behind. He ran out of petrol and had no phone etc or money and could not leave his bike as it would get stolen... 

He was near the bridge on the river and saw a group of people under the bridge. They were the homeless living there.  He had to borrow some money from them to make a phone call to a friend to bring his wallet.  He gave them his swiss pocket knife as a guarantee that he would come back and give them the money back.  They were very friendly to him and offered him some fish that they had caught in the tiber river to eat.  He kindly refused as the river is so polluted. He came to class that morning and recounted his experiences. It was very funny – the homeless loaning a rich man money – a beautiful world!

The children were shocked at the beggars and the gypsies begging all the time and the illegal immigrants selling stuff everywhere you go and then running and hiding from the police as they are not supposed to do it. They drive you crazy hassling you all the time.

Massimo our Roman friend came and taught the children how to cook spaghetti carbonara the correct way with the cheek of the pork and you melt the fat on the pork so it is clear and this gives the flavour to the sauce.  Great!!! Now they can cook it for me. Ha ha that is the plan (Massimo is such a fanatic Italian cook that he will not even let me add the salt to the pasta water as I do not do it properly). Ju said when she entered the kitchen of the villa, "I am going to do a lot of cooking here in this kitchen. I said "Marvellous! bring it on"!!!!

It is certainly an education for the children away from their protected life in Australia. I am very proud of myself . I managed to drive for the first from roma to Tuscany in the pouring heavy rain with no hassles. It was  a lot easier than i thought. Fear is always worse than the reality. Just keeping on the right side of the road  but roundabouts are a problem to look the right way and doing the gear change with the right hand instead of the left.  It is strange but it amazing how quickly one gets used to it.  The little village is like a maze  and has lots of one way streets so I will have to learn the road signs that are different from ours. Have already gone up the wrong way and the villagers are already thinking ‘Who  is the new idiot in town"?

The children had fun exploring the villa as it is three levels. They said it is like the house on the movie "The lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe".   The top level is the maids' quarters with about 5 deserted rooms (very spooky), then 5 bedrooms on the next level with the old fashioned big old iron bath from the 1920’s. Then downstairs is the living area with another  bedroom and 6 rooms. Down here the rooms all have hand painted frescos on the 4m high ceilings. Ju's bedroom, is massive with a king size bed fit for a princess. She is delighted. It was too big for me.  I prefer a smaller cosier room.  As ( there is a ghost here  but do not tell the children)  they say it is the great great great grandmother of the present owner. I met her the first time i stayed here before the owner even told me it was haunted but now I just tell her to go away and to leave me alone.  However it does give me the creepy crawlies at times expecially when i get up at 4.30 am in the freezing dark to work with Australia.

TALK ABOUT TEAR THE HAIR OUT with internet pens. It worked well in the villa last year. However the 20 cm thick stone walls in Italy prevent waves getting through. I sent Henry up to the maids' quarters with my laptop and he said that the internet works well up there. However this means working up there in the cold with the ghosts!!! Mamma mia!!! Internet or ghosts!!! Which will I chose???

Italy is in a bad way with the economic crises.  There is no work for the young people. It is like the depression in the 30s. It is absolutely terrible. The government should stop all their arguing and band together for the young people otherwise there is going to be no skilled workers in Italy in the future. The young are not being trained in work. Thousands of graduates cannot get jobs and have to be supported by their parents. Parents have to either keep working into their old age to support their adult children at home or support them on a pension. It is certainly a struggle for the average Italian family now just to live a basic life.