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Benventi to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

The new ice-rink in Certaldo. La Nazione

The new ice-rink in Certaldo.
La Nazione

Here in our little bit of the Chianti hills, life generally moves at a relaxed pace, the most exciting and busiest time of day being morning coffee at a local bar.  Down in Certaldo last Monday, I heard that a new Ice-rink had opened in the Piazza next to the post office.  I was in the central piazza at the time reading the papers and as the rink did not open until 3pm, I elected not to go and visit it there and then.  Anyway, it is the evenings that offer the most interesting spectacles, what with the Christmas lights being on and all that.  But I did find a picture in the local paper for you!  My grandchildren love the ice-rinks here and for years they have been going to Siena, where you will find a huge one.  It seems that most cities and towns are now having ice-rinks over the festive period, which is really great.

Bianco the big white puppy. Photo J Finnigan

Bianco the big white puppy.
Photo J Finnigan

In Bar Solferino, Bianco the big white puppy was fidgeting on his owner’s lap.  Only three months old but already enormous and likely to knock everything flying if put down on the floor!  A little later he and his owner were outside and Bianco obviously needed something to chew as he was having a go at one of the wooden benches!  We have very fond memories of our dogs chewing through the furniture and still have a tooth marked bamboo coffee table in our sitting room.  Now we have grand-dogs, and always carry dog chews in the car, so we gave one to Bianco.  His owner was more than grateful as he could now spend the next hour or so watching the world go by without having to occupy the teething puppy!  Bless.

Winter sun in the valley below. Photo J Finnigan

Winter sun in the valley below.
Photo J Finnigan

On returning to our little villa, the winter sun had turned the countryside into a gold and bronze wonderland, it was enough to take one’s breath away.  It is difficult to really capture the colours without a good camera, but I just had to try to send you some pictures that would demonstrate this.  All I can say is, you will have to visit Tuscany in the winter to really appreciate it.

Winter sun on our terrace. Photo J Finnigan

Winter sun on our terrace.
Photo J Finnigan

Naturally, it is the time of year for log fires.  It is the one thing that makes the dark evenings tolerable.  We, like most Tuscans, live and eat outside for the best part of the year.  If there is no cold wind and the sun is shining, you will even find us eating Christmas lunch in the garden!  But snuggling up in front of the fire is so lovely and cosy.

Cosied up to the log fire. Photo J Finnigan

Cosied up to the log fire.
Photo J Finnigan

Last Thursday, my daughter and I took time out from our busy schedules to meet for lunch in San Gimingiano, the city of towers.  We had the most delicious gluten-free spaghetti I have ever tasted and now you are going to ask me where we went and I have completely forgotten the name of the ristorante.  It was in the Piazza Sant Agostino, and as there is only one ristorante there, I’m sure you will find it!

Next weekend we will share our Christmas tree and decor with you, just so you know that we do enjoy the festive season in much the same way as we did in England all those years ago.  The Italians celebrate things in a rather more religious way, but the feasting and family get togethers are very similar to our own.  I’m really looking forward to it!  Send me pictures of your trees!

My Goodness look at the time!  I must go and make myself beautiful as we are off to Ristorante C’era Una Volta for lunch.  Grilled sliced polenta topped with cannelloni beans and swiss chard will go down really well, perhaps followed by tagliatelle and white truffles.  Yummy…..

Have a great week and do drop me a line.

Oops, nearly forgot!  As a festive treat you can now download the book ‘My Father, The Assassin’ for just 99p, but only up until next Saturday!  Go to http://www.amazon.co.uk

Salute June x

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Benvenuti to all my Loyal and New Followers

Well, this last week has been a busy old-time, what with the house hunting, writing, working and eating out, it disappeared in a flash.  So here we are chatting away again and talking about our little bit of Chianti in Tuscany.

Paolo's Chanterelle Harvest. Photo P Finnigan

Paolo’s Chanterelle Harvest.
Photo P Finnigan

Last Sunday my man and I popped into C’era una Volta Ristorante for sunday lunch.  ‘What again?’ I hear you ask.  Well, you know, if one is lucky you might find a local restaurant that ticks most of the boxes and it is so convenient to keep going, especially when the owner treats you like royalty, serves perfect gluten-free pasta and fresh food and herbs straight from his own orto (vegetable garden).  Paolo does all these things and more.  He goes out to the woods to find fresh mushrooms or buys from a local contadino who has beaten him to it!  He and his wife Gaia make the most delicious Tiramasu and a digestivo to die for, Crema di Limoncello.  This last time, Paolo showed us the latest chanterelle harvest and you could still smell the earthy woodland aroma in them.  Heavenly….

Now, you may remember that we have been house hunting, as our landlady wants our little villa back at the end of the four-year contract in February.  She is being a little flexible so we are thinking in terms of the first of April, when the cold weather should be finished.  We have viewed nine properties so far, ranging from awful to beautiful, the latter one that we really like, will need a bit of a compromise on our part, because it is a large apartment in a converted rustic property.  It does have a lovely garden with great views; we must deliberate.

The gorgeous Simon Baker. La Nazione.

The gorgeous Simon Baker. La Nazione.

Anyway, back at Il Solferino bar in Certaldo, we enjoy our coffee and read the papers.  O Dio, not again.  Last week it was Daniel Craig and now it’s that gorgeous blond actor Simon Baker joining us.  There he is, my second choice for playing Dominic in the film version of my books, sporting another expensive watch.  I say second choice, but likely now to be my first choice, as methinks Daniel will probably be too expensive.

Olives and cold pressed oil. La Nazione.

Olives and cold pressed oil.
La Nazione.

Meanwhile, and out there in the real world, the olives have all been picked and we are told it is going to be a good year for olive oil, unlike last year which was a disaster.  We are already enjoying the tangy taste of the cold pressed olives; heavenly drizzled over bread or garlic toast.  Mmmmm.

Then, last but not least, the highlight for many Italians in the Provincia di Firenze, has been the visit by Pope Francis to Florence and surrounding areas.

Pope Francis in Florence. La Nazione

Pope Francis in Florence.
La Nazione

Thousands thronged to every appearance by this popular man, but I have to say that he is looking older and tired.  He is currently having to deal with accusations of fraudulent activity within the Vatican Bank and that’s just the money side of things.  However, his smiling face does seem to lift the spirits of his followers, and whilst terrible acts are occurring elsewhere, like Paris, maybe he will have some influence on the state of mind of our fellow Europeans, christian or otherwise.

Finally, on behalf of all us British expats around the world, may our Parisian friends find peace and the strength to recover from these latest atrocities as soon as possible.

Salute June x

PS Do visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

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Benvenuti to all My Loyal and New Followers

My god, it’s the first day of November!  I know, because my man wished me ‘Happy New Month’ this morning when I came up with the fruit juices and climbed back into bed.  It is Sunday of course, and I like to stay in bed just a little longer to read a novel.  I have just finished a really good book called ‘The Insider’ by Ava McCarthy and left a five star review on Amazon.  It’s all about insider trading and hacking and the latter subject is currently of considerable interest to me, as I am working on a writing project all about this.  Watch this space.

The beautiful eighty-one year old Sopia Loren. Dolce Gabbana Advert.

The beautiful eighty-one year old Sophia Loren.
Dolce Gabbana Advert.

Well, my man went off to London to do a bit of business last Monday and come Tuesday I was missing him like crazy.  So I went to see Sandra, my lovely hairdresser, to cheer myself up and to brighten my hair colour.  In the glossy magazine I was reading, I found the most fantastic picture of Sophia Loren.  A long as I can remember, whenever I thought of Italy, it was Sophia who first came to mind.  Not just gorgeous, but a brilliant actress.  Did you ever see the films ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ and ‘Marriage Italian Style’.  If not you really should.  She had the perfect co-star in Marcello Mastroianni; a partnership made in heaven!  Did you know she has made over fifty films?  Yes, fifty.  Now at eighty-one she still looks fantastic and I cannot but smile when I see pictures of her.  She was recently quoted as saying “Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes.  It is not something physical.”  Mind you she has an edge on most of us girlies, that is at least from a physical point of view!  Just a random thought; the Italian spelling for Sophia is Sofia, I wonder if the former was a stage name?  Does anyone know?

Golden Fungi in our garden. Name anyone? Photo J Finnigan

Golden Fungi in our garden. Name anyone?
Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile, the heavens opened on Tuesday and Wednesday, and everywhere was flooded.  But this had its compensations.  Yes of course the gardens and countryside needed it, but it was the fungi that immediately started to pop up everywhere.  Paolo is serving up Tartufo Bianco (white truffles) at C’era una Volta Ristorante and in the garden I spotted this gorgeous display.  Does anyone know the name of these golden coloured fungi?

Italian manstyle with trainers. La Nazione sports magazine.

Italian manstyle with trainers.
La Nazione sports magazine.

Back at the Bar Solferino in Certaldo on Thursday, I relaxed over my morning caffè latte and I could not but help notice an advertisement for Lotto Trainers in the sports magazine.  Now what is so interesting about that, you may ask?  I agree, trainers are trainers.  But for once, here was a picture of an Italian male model wearing the perfect stylish outfit that offset the trainers.  The guy himself was pretty dishy too, but that’s beside the point!  I have never gone for trainers as a fashion item, however, here in Italy they are hugely popular.  There are so many varieties; even gold wedge heeled trainers with fur trims!

The sun breaks through on the glowing autumn vineyards in the valey below. Photo J Finnigan

The sun breaks through on the glowing autumn vineyards in the valley below.
Photo J Finnigan

Later, I returned to our little hilltop villa and breathed in that lovely Autumn damp smell as I walked through the garden.  Below me the vineyards were glowing in the Autumn sunshine and I was once again reminded that ‘life eeeez good, life eeeez now’.

OK, must finish here, hope you enjoyed my ramblings.  Lots to do, places to go and people to see.  Have a really great week and we’ll talk again next weekend.

Salute June x

PS do visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

 

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Benvenuti to all my Loyal and New Followers

Well, I hardly know where to start, it’s been such a busy week!

The Two Old Broads, taking Italy by Storm! Jane and Nubby.

The Two Old Broads, taking Italy by Storm!
Jane and Nubby.

Last Thursday was the absolute highlight, due to ‘Two Old Broads who were Taking Italy by Storm’ arriving for a visit.  Now these were their words not mine, but don’t you just love that description?  So who were these ladies?  I am delighted to tell you that they were my distant American cousins and this was the first time we had ever met.  Whilst both in their seventies, they were doing a driving tour from north of Venice down to Tuscany and back, and getting thoroughly lost on the way.  The hire car SatNav did not work, so it was luck rather than judgement that got them here!  We had great fun talking about our ancestors.  Theirs went over to the Americas from Plymouth back in the sixteenth or seventeenth Century, whilst mine became landed gentry in Devon.  I will miss you guys and hope you found your way back safely!

Aleesandro and his team collecting the olives next to our villa. Photo J Finnigan

Alessandro and his team collecting the olives next to our villa.
Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile the local Olive Picking, Raccolta, is in full swing.  Brightly coloured nets are spread out under the trees and with the weather being dry and sunny at present, we expect a good quality crop.  I just love that fresh Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled on bread and over fettunta, which is old toasted bread rubbed with garlic.  Yummy…!

The lovely Laura and her new blond hair colour. Photo J Finnigan

The lovely Laura and her new blond hair colour.
Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile, Laura’s bar/alimentary is now very busy due to the Bar Piazzetta in Fiano being closed, after a ‘visit’ by the Carabiniere.  It’s all very hush-hush, but there was definitely something fishy about the owners of that place.  Anyway, happily ensconced at Laura’s enjoying our coffee, I notice something different about her.  She had gone blond!  Then I noticed two more local ladies who had also been at the peroxide; is there some sort of conspiracy going on?

Via San Martino 26 at night. Photo P Finnigan

Via San Martino 26 at night.
Photo P Finnigan

But what about yesterday? Well, my man and I had a really good Saturday evening, returning to that fabulous ristorante I have mentioned before.  I am, of course, talking about Via San Martino 26 Ristorante in San Gimignano. http://www.ristorantesanmartino26.it

Inside Via San Martino 26 Ristorante. Photo J Finnigan

Inside Via San Martino 26 Ristorante.
Photo J Finnigan

This was our first visit for cena (supper/dinner) and to see this ancient city of towers at night is a joy to behold.  Via San Martino is a street dedicated to Artisan shops and the hand-made stuff is to die for.  I could not resist buying a hand-woven woollen scarf from Stefano Stampa at number 8.  My man paid the bill, bless him.  Stefano does not appear to have a website, however, he can be found on Facebook.

Oh yes, I must mention, that earlier and on the way to San Gimingano, we were waved down by the Carabiniere and asked for our identification papers.  The police woman was quite typical; very pretty with dark curly hair tumbling out from under her cap and one hand on her pistol.  My man could not stop grinning and she could not help but smile back.  He has a way with the girlies.  He wasn’t concentrating and he had not registered that she had asked for his driving licence.  He finally managed to get a grip and she was happy to send us on our way.  Phew, thank god for my man and a pretty face.  It’s not always that easy.

Posing Praying Mantis Phoot P Finnigan

Posing Praying Mantis
Photo P Finnigan

Back in our beautiful terraced garden my man spotted a Praying Mantis on our outside table!  Fabulous creatures that move so incredibly slow, you can barely see the movement.  But we fear that it may be towards the end of its little life as we found another one in a poor state of health, so we gently put it out-of-the-way of Farty Barty the cat.  We also have a couple of Locusts starting to nestle in on the window ledge.  They often winter in with us behind the shutters.  No, we do not get swarms, just the odd one or two paying a visit.

But enough of that.  We are now stepping up our search for a new home.  More flyers are going out in all the bars and other places we frequent.  Our landlady came yesterday and said that she would be happy to rent to us for anther one to two years, however, we are already in the mindset of moving to a larger property.  So if anyone in the Commune di Certaldo knows of a large country house (Un grande casa in Campagna) do let me know.  Send an email to june.finnigan@virgin.net.

Well, must get on.  I need to make myself beautiful for lunch at C’era una Volta in Lucardo, after thirty minutes exercise as instructed by my Health and Fitness Coach Alexandra.

Have great week and do visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

Salute June x

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

My lovely mother-in-law all dressed up before her birthday lunch on her 90th. Photo J Finnigan

My lovely mother-in-law all dressed up before her birthday lunch on her 90th.
Photo J Finnigan

Well, we snuck out for a brief visit to Somerset, England last week to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 90th Birthday.  I’m not sure if she fully registered what was going on but she thoroughly enjoyed herself. The following day I asked her if she had enjoyed her birthday.  She said she thought she had, but could not recall it, bless her.  What a good thing we took some great photos and videos!

My caffe latte at Strangers with Coffee. Photo J Finnigan

My caffè latte at Strangers with Coffee.
Photo J Finnigan

Whilst there, we made a point of calling into ‘Strangers with Coffee’ in Wells as it is the only place I know where you can get real coffee as the Italians make it.  We went back for lunch on the Friday.  I have already written a five-star review on Trip Advisor.  Do visit, if in Somerset.

As you can imagine, we were so glad to be back in our little bit of Chianti last Saturday.  It was twenty degrees and the sun was shining.  Farty Barty the cat was delighted to see us and has not left his cosy kitchen chair all weekend.  On Sunday we dropped down to Certaldo for coffee and discovered a huge market filling the main piazza, the main high street and all the little side streets.  I bought some smoked ricotta cheese and yet another scarf.  Scarves are my other love, like handbags and shoes.  I mostly wear black with a bit of scarfy colour around my neck and/or colourful junk jewelry.  I also have a weakness for necklaces!

Chestnuts for sale in Certaldo market. Photo J Finnigan

Chestnuts for sale in Certaldo market.
Photo J Finnigan

Oh yes, very important, this is the time of year for Castagne or chestnuts to you.  No, I wasn’t being rude, that’s the English translation!  As we drove back from Pisa airport, across country towards San Gimignano, loads of cars were parked alongside the road, their owners having disappeared into the woods on Chestnut hunts.  In the Sunday market we spotted this huge stand selling the tasty morsels that will be taken home and roasted in fireplaces and pizza ovens.

That same day, we popped up to Lucardo, near Fiano, for Sunday lunch at ‘C’era una Volta’ where a big Italian family were celebrating the Nonno’s (grandfather’s) 80th birthday.  The family had framed a big black and white picture of the eighteen year old Nonno posing on a beach back in 1953!  As is traditional, we joined in singing ‘Tanti Auguri’ as Italian restaurant goers always do when a celebration is going on.  The tourists are now thinning out, however, on that rather chilly day a family of Australians arrived in shorts and t-shirts who asked to sit out on the restaurant’s balcony.  Unfortunately, tourists still come to Tuscany without warm clothing this time of year and October can be quite cold.  They were back inside for their desserts and I felt quite sorry for them being all shivery and glum!  In fact it was so chilly that we lit the log fire for the first time that evening!

Jude Law to play the young fictional Pope X111. La Nazione

Jude Law to play the young fictional Pope Pius XIII.
La Nazione

Silvio does a mini-striptease for an admirer in Rome. Daily Telegraph.

Silvio does a mini-striptease for an admirer in Rome.
Daily Telegraph.

Meanwhile, catching up on the news here, I read over coffee that sex symbol (not my words, but I have to agree) Jude law is going to be playing the young fictional Pope Pius XIII in a new television series!  Also that the handsome and hugely popular Valentino Rosso has once again won the motor cycling championships at the age of thirty-six!  Not much mention of the super rich Silvio Berlusconi, but word has it that he is firmly back on the political trail.  Three of his local representatives came into Bar Solferino and everyone was speaking in low voices saying “O Dio, sono Forza Italia!”   But wait, what is this?  My man has just thrust the Saturday Daily Telegraph under my nose, and there he is!  Hurrah, he’s doing a mini striptease for an admirer who said “I’m in love with your brain!”  This was bound to set our man off as he replied “Now I’ll make you fall in love with my body too!” Phew!

Well, its time to get on with another busy week.  No, contrary to popular belief, we do not spend our time swanning around, we have a business to run and books to write.  However, life eeez good, we cannot deny it!

Have a great week, do drop me a line and we’ll speak again next weekend.

Salute June x

PS Visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

Read Full Post »

Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

Big fat purple grapes in trailer. Photo J Finnigan

Big fat purple grapes in trailer. Photo J Finnigan

Well there we were, driving back home this morning after our coffee in Certaldo and we come up behind a slow-moving tractor and trailer of big juicy purple grapes.  “Try and get a photo!” my man says.  So I faff around trying to get my phone out of my bag, then remember that I have just yesterday put in a new lock code, and finally focus the camera on the windscreen just in time before the tractor takes off, after giving away to some tourist camper van!  Phew, I did it!  Now whats so exciting about this, you may ask.  Well it is really hard to get photos, because these tractors are usually going at full pelt past our kitchen window or in the opposite direction to the way we are driving!  So, just for you, here is my successful photo for your enjoyment.

A Calambur poster and preparations going on behind in the main Piazza in Certaldo. Photo J Finnigan

A Calambur poster and preparations going on behind in the main Piazza in Certaldo.
Photo J Finnigan

Earlier, back in Certaldo, the preparations were going on for the annual Calambur, which starts at three o’clock this afternoon (Sunday).  This is a historical Palio, not on horseback, but macho contests between the young men of the four quarters in the

Handsome Certaldo contestants getting ready to do battle. La Nazione

Handsome Certaldo contestants getting ready to do battle.
La Nazione

commune, who all have their own flags and colours.  It is a really serious and important day, full of testosterone and the girlies all giggling, as the handsome contestants line up.  It will be impossible to park anywhere near the centre of town this afternoon, so we will hear all about it tomorrow and report back to you next week!  Then, over coffee at Bar Solferino, I read that Prime Minister Renzi has announced a 2% drop in the tax rate for the agricultural sectors.  I’m not sure how effective this will be as I hear whispered that very little profit is declared, well in this region anyway!

Farty Barty waits for lunch on the outside table. Phot J Finnigan

Farty Barty waits for lunch on the outside table. Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile, back at our lovely little villa the sun is shining and it is a perfect twenty-eight degrees centigrade.  As we drive in we spot the first wild yellow crocuses by the side of the road; beautiful.  I think today we will have a nice lunch in the garden with Farty Barty the cat, who has been very much hanging around the house of late.

The first wild crocuses. Photo J Finnigan

The first wild crocuses.
Photo J Finnigan

In the high winds last week, an old tree crashed down into the garden and was chainsawed by our local contadino into a pile in the corner.  It only just missed one of the garden lights!  Now we need to tidy up the small bits of debris.  I think I can hear my man working in the garden now.  He has been a been a bit stressed after his return from a few working days work in London, so that should help him relax.  Otherwise, I look forward to the return of my sister-in-law, who will be here in two weeks time, to tidy and pretty up all the garden pots for autumn.

But what is this I read about the gorgeous Silvio Berlusconi?  Oh no, he is trouble again, but this time whilst having fun with his close friend Vladimir Putin.  They have both been named in a criminal case over the opening of a 240 year old bottle of wine, known as Massandra Sherry 1775, that was worth £58K!  A lady called Ms Pavlenko allegedly opened it when Silvio asked for a taste whilst on a tour of the Massandra Estate in the Crimea.  I feel really sorry for her as, lets face it, she was standing there being asked by an alleged so-called friend of the Mafia (according to some members of the media) and his buddy who heads up the KGB, to open a bottle of wine.  What would you have done?

Well, enough of that.  Must think about this lunch I said I would cook.  O Dio, well the sun is still shining, so we really should not go off to the restaurant.  On the other hand……….

Have a great week and do drop me a line.

Salute June x

PS  Visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’ Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

Read Full Post »

Benvenuti to all my Lovely Loyal and New Followers

A harvestor collecting grapes below our villa. Photo J Finnigan

A harvestor collecting grapes below our villa. Photo J Finnigan

Well, it is Monday morning and no sign of any workers yet in Certaldo.  This week will see the mass return of people to the offices, shops and cafe bars after the two-week August break, which always spreads itself into mid-September.  It being a Monday, it is perfectly normal for nothing to be open, even at a normal time of the year and I recommend that if you want to go shopping in this area, do not bother on Mondays or Wednesdays.  But our faithful Caterina and Elena at Bar Solferino never let us down.  Laura’s bar/alimentare in Fiano was also open, so things are coming alive again.  However, it is a return to hot humid weather after heavy rain and the odd earthquake, so summer is not yet over.  Last week my man was complaining.  “It’s so cold I’m going to have to wear long trousers!” He sulked.  “Mind you, when I was twelve, I didn’t want to wear short trousers either….”  Don’t you just love him?  I do.

Meanwhile, the Vendemia is at full throttle.  The red grapes are now being harvested and the noisy trucks are back clattering past our kitchen window.  But this is good, we do need to keep our stock of Chianti replenished regularly, you never know who might turn up!

Italy's Tennis girls. La Nazione

Italy’s Tennis girls.
La Nazione

Back at Bar Solferino I was reading La Nazione newspaper and was delighted to read that we have two Italians in the final of the American Open Tennis tournament.  Now we may not offer the very best rugby team yet, but our female tennis players are something else!  Bravi Flavia and Roberta!

The towers of San Gimignano. Photo P Finnigan

The towers of San Gimignano.
Photo P Finnigan

Now whilst the Italians have had an extended holiday, my man and I continued to work right through August and into September.  So last friday we agreed to take a day off and go for a really nice lunch in San Gimignano, which is just half an hour from here.  But we were not prepared for the hoards of tourists; coaches were spilling out masses of grey heads.  If you are not already aware, San Gimignano is hugely popular with tourists and the guided tours of Tuscany always include this city of towers.

Ristorante San Martino 26 in San Gimignano. Photo J Finnigan

Ristorante San Martino 26 in San Gimignano.
Photo J Finnigan

Thankfully we had booked a table at ‘San Martino 26 Ristorante,’ which is down a little side street called Via San Martino.  We arrived early and found ourselves in a haven of peace away from the madding crowd.  The food and service were second to none and satisfied my longing for a bit of sophistication.  I will do a five-star review on Trip Advisor , however, in the meantime you may like to visit http://www.ristorantesanmartino26.it

The crumbly cliffs below the villa available for rent. Photo P Finnigan.

The crumbly cliffs below the villa available for rent.
Photo P Finnigan.

Ok, you may recall that we are looking for a new villa to rent as our contract here ends in February.  Tomorrow I am going to view a lovely place, which sits on its own with a stunning view and is only five minutes away.  However, my man and I went for a sneak preview and walked around the outside of the empty property.  On one side of the property there is a sheer crumbly cliff and I have no head for heights.  So the inside of the villa will have to be very special for me to deal with this!  I’ll let you know….

Finally, I just want to tell you how pleased I am to have started a three months fitness course with Alexandra Merisoiu and we are having weekly sessions via Skype.  This is brilliant for all you hard-working female executives as you will only need one hour a week with Alexandra, and then do the daily exercises in your own time!  visit http://www.alexandramerisoiu.com

Ok, time to go.  A busy working week is calling me and the deadline for my current novel ‘The Italian Connection’ is rapidly drawing nearer!

Have a really great week and do drop me a line.

Salute June x

PS Don’t forget to visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

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Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

Last week I told you about that hidden structure across the valley and that I was determined to find a path or track down from the road.  Well my man and I have agreed to disagree where we need to stop on the main road that runs above it.  There are a maze of tracks that run down beside the vineyards  and also possible pathways at the back of farmhouses and little hamlets.  “Here stop here! Dammit, you’ve overshot it” I groan.  “No I haven’t, it’s just around this bend” he insists.  “Blast I’ve overshot it…”  We drive on a bit further.  “Haven’t we gone too far now?”  I say.  “There may be an access path behind these buildings, lets slow down… Oh no, you’ve overshot that one now!”  “Oh, hell, I’m not turning around again, lets drop down for coffee in Certaldo.”  He says commandingly.

Yummy veg in Certaldo's Saturday morning market. Phot J Finnigan

Yummy veg in Certaldo’s Saturday morning market.
Photo J Finnigan

It being Saturday morning, we cruise into the main piazza and park.  The fruit and veg market is half its normal size due to the mass exodus a week ago to Il Mare (the seaside).  But its better than the previous Saturday when there was no market at all.  I buy some lovely fresh insalate (green salad) from a local producer and am happy with that.  Our cheese family are not there and obviously up to their necks in the Mediterranean Sea.

Empoli's Open air Cinema from 21 to 31 August. Photo La Nazione

Empoli’s Open air Cinema from 21 to 31 August.
Photo La Nazione

Over coffee I read that a nearby town, Empoli, is holding open air cinema showing some of the great films in one of their main Piazzas.  Now I cannot describe how fabulous it is to be in a beautiful piazza surrounded by gorgeous old buildings to watch open air theatre or concerts.  The cinema epic will have a huge screen on the side of a building and everyone will go to watch their favourites, sitting on the ground with picnics.  The ultimate favourite actor amongst Italians, George Clooney, is heavily featured and he is also a part-time resident in Italy of course.

Handbags galore! La Nazione

Handbags galore!
La Nazione

Then I turn the page and, Oh heaven, there is a two page article on handbags!  But my man is getting irritated because I’m taking so long to read the paper.  “Haven’t you finished yet, I’ve had my pastry and coffee and nothing to read!” He groans.  I smile sweetly and whisper ‘amore,’ but he is not impressed.  So I hand over La Nazione, as I have also snapped a couple of fotos I knew you would like, and it really is his turn.

Back in my studio, I manage to write a chapter and a half of ‘The Italian Connection’ and I am very pleased with that.  I read my emails and our landlady has confirmed that she would like our little rented villa back at the end of the four-year contract, which is February next year.  This is OK with us as we really would like to find a bigger place as we are a little cramped here.  So if anyone in Tuscany knows of an old large independent villa with garden in the area, do let me know.  We don’t mind if it’s a little worse for wear.  write to june.finnigan@virgin.net

Well, must get back to the day job until the weekend, when I will update you with our continuing adventures.

Do drop me a line.

Salute June x

PS Don’t forget to visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan or join me on Facebook, twitter or Pin it.

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

 

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Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

The man's vintage binoculars at the ready. Photo J Finnigan

The man’s vintage binoculars at the ready.
Photo J Finnigan

It is early evening, Ferragosta and the rain is managing to hold off for all those revellers who want to go out and celebrate the start of the annual two-week holiday.  The silence is deafening and my man and I grip our aperitivi feeling somewhat stunned by the lack of activity in the fields around us.  This happens every year of course, but the countryside, villages and towns have a strange eerie feel about them, as if aliens have sucked ninety percent of the population off the surface of the earth.  Car parks are empty, shops are shut and the only company we have are a sprinkling of tourists wandering around like zombies.  Then my man says, “Hey look at this, you’ll need to come this side of the tree!”  He hands me his vintage binoculars that weigh a ton and points towards the wooden structure that has been slowly built over the last few weeks, carefully hidden from view at the top of a vineyard and out of sight of the road, to avoid the planning permission I expect.  There must be at least fifty people there in brightly coloured clothes, but all standing around not knowing what to do.  “There will be a great view through the valley from there.” I say.  “perhaps there’s a band arriving and we’ll have some music wafting across in a minute.”  But no, within ten minutes they all troop back up the hill towards the road and disappear.  Now this is the kind of thing that has us analysing the reason why.  Perhaps it was part of a tourist trip and they had been walked there to look at the view?  Perhaps it was the last remaining locals who have come out for a jolly and then decided that the structure wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the trestle tables they had brought with them!  We will never know, but I am now determined to sneak down that path and take a look at this mysterious structure over the next few days!

The wonderful Hibiscus which survives all weathers. Photo J Finnigan

The wonderful Hibiscus which survives all weathers.
Photo J Finnigan

The orchard and valley below our villa under grey skies. Photo J Finnigan

The orchard and valley below our villa under grey skies.
Photo J Finnigan

Well, the talk in the bar this morning, Sunday, was all about the Bruto Tempo, the bad weather.  We had more heavy rain overnight, but thank god it is now cooler and less humid.  My man and I are now determined to take a day off this week and do things in the garden.  You may think that we are swanning around here in our lovely villa on the edge of the Chianti Hills, but you would be wrong.  I am either writing or running our UK company and he has a heavy workload for UK clients.  Yes, thanks to technology, we could be anywhere in Europe and function perfectly well, but we chose Italy.  It was the lifestyle and language that attracted us here, and we are very glad we came.  But where was I, oh yes, planning a day off to do some gardening, which for me is very therapeutic.  Despite the recent intense weather some of our plants are actually revelling in it.  We also think that some of the grass seed we threw down randomly on our sparse weedy lawn, may have rooted!

Tuscan sunflowers after the rain. Photo J Finnigan

Tuscan sunflowers after the rain.

Now when the sky is grey and it is reasonably bright, the light really brings out the colours in the countryside.  This is one of the uplifting things that keep the smile on one’s face when the sun is hiding.  This time of year there are huge fields of Sunflowers right next to the road, looking like rows of little yellow people whose faces follow the sun from east to west during the day; beautiful.  The orchard, olive grove and valley below us is really bright green, and it is easy to pick out all the variant shades and shapes.  Of course, this area is an artist’s dream and I really must get my easel out again.

Talking of artists, I am looking forward to meeting half a dozen who are coming to visit me in October.  I have organised the sister-in-law to come and make sure all the pots are prettied up.  I think I’ll ask her to position my easel to make it look as if I am actively painting too!

Oh, just a quick mention of the new handbag you saw in my blog last week.  I have just found the maker’s card tucked in an inside pocket, so you really must visit her site http://www.marymccartybags.com as they are to die for.

Well, I must go and make myself beautiful and take my man out to Sunday lunch.  Maybe somewhere new this time.  Watch this space.

Salute June x

PS Don’t forget to visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

Read Full Post »

Benvenuti to all my Loyal and New Followers

Beautiful hand crafted shoulder bag from Wells Saturday Market. Photo J Finnigan

Beautiful hand crafted shoulder bag from Wells Saturday Market.
Photo J Finnigan

Well, I have no intention of talking a lot about my visit to England.  I returned early as I could not bear to be away from our little bit of Chianti, say no more!  However, I will just mention two things about my visit to Wells in Somerset; firstly I bought a beautiful hand crafted shoulder bag at the Saturday morning market and secondly my sister-in-law took me to a lovely artisan coffee shop for a proper cup of coffee.  Now you all know how important my morning coffee is and my heart sinks every time I get on a flight to England.  Then I walked into ‘Strangers with Coffee’ and my spirit lifted.  My caffè latte was the best I have ever tasted in England!  They are also a Bistro so we went back for a delicious veggie lunch.  I have left a 5* review on Trip Advisor!

Now, thankfully back in my beloved Chianti Hills I crack on with work and writing.  Then I find that a video of me has been posted on Facebook, filmed last month, telling a funny true story about my trying to buy a ‘Wood Splitting Axe’ at Mole Valley Farmers in Devon many years ago.  Now I am currently trying to work out how I can post this on YouTube direct from Facebook;  If you have any clever ideas do let me know.  It was filmed on an iPad I think.  In the meantime, if you want to see it and I would love it if you did, do become my friend on Facebook!

Farty Barty zonked out under the garden table. Photo J Finnigan

Farty Barty zonked out under the garden table.
Photo J Finnigan

Well, the heat here is really intense, currently 39 degrees centigrade (that’s around 106 degrees farenheit to you Brits, Yanks and Aussies) and we have started having our aperitivi in long ice filled glasses instead of our usual cocktail glasses.  We keep meaning to cut back on our drinking, but I’m afraid this hot weather calls for long drinks with a dash of alcohol to help us relax.  And where is Farty Barty?  Ah, there he is in a cooler spot under the garden table!

Pope Francis greets the faithful. La Nazione newspaper

Pope Francis greets the faithful.
La Nazione newspaper

Meanwhile, the second most popular man in Italy, Pope Francis, has been busy out and about blessing the multitudes.  He has reached out to the divorced and remarried saying the door is open to the children of these families.  Are his followers dwindling or is this a truly kind gesture?  What is your view?  What was that you said?  Oh, the most popular man in Italy is Silvio Berlusconi of course!  Watch this space.

Well must be off, time to think about lunch and a nice chilled Pinot Grigio.

Have a great week and do drop me a line.  You may also like to visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

Salute June x

PS Thank you for the best ever month in book sales!

 

My Father, The Assassin.  Book one in the series.

My Father, The Assassin. Book one in the series.

 

'The Bolivian Connection'  Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

Read Full Post »

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