Posts Tagged ‘Siena’

Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

Here in our little bit of Chianti, in the Tuscan Hills we always start the day with a short drive to a local cafe bar for a delicious Espresso, which cannot be produced at home unless you get an industrial size machine.  Now the ones I have looked at that are supposedly any good, will take up far too much room in the kitchen.  But anyway, lets face it, making morning coffee at home only turns one into a boring house person, when you should be out meeting and greeting the locals.  Now you may remember that Laura’s bar/alimentare in Fiano was constantly closing, for one reason or another.  We now know that it is closed permanently.  This is very sad for the village as there is nowhere to get a cup of coffee now.

Evi behind the bar at Bar 'Garibaldi 11 Speakeasy' in Certaldo. Foto J Finnigan

Evi behind the bar at Bar ‘Garibaldi 11 Speakeasy’ in Certaldo.
Foto J Finnigan

These days you will usually find us at Bar Il Solferino in Certaldo, however, it is closed on Mondays so we have started to go to Jam Cafe next to the station, who only close on Wednesdays.  A couple of months ago I did notice a new bar, just two minutes walk from Il Solferino and thought I would try it last Tuesday, but that was their closing day!  I hope you’re keeping up!  So I went back on Wednesday and found them open!  It’s called ‘Bar Garibaldi 11 Speakeasy.’  Curious, one might say.  Well, I popped in and ordered a cafe latte which came in a huge jug of a mug, with two shots of espresso in it as I wanted it strong.  I don’t normally like big mugs and prefer a cup size, however, it was quite nice.  The decor is very pubby, rustic tables and a big sofa at the back of the room.  The local customers were youngish and arty.  So it has its attractions.  I will go back with my man on a Monday when Il Solferino is closed, or was that Wednesday?

Giorgio Armani with his models, in Milano last week. Il Nazione

Giorgio Armani with his models, in Milano last week.  Orgoglio Italiano means Italian Pride.
Il Nazione

Relaxing over the coffee last Friday, yes that’s right in Il Solferino, there was a lot of talk about Milan fashion week, which I have never been to.  But I still drool over some of the Italian designers.  Eighty something, Giorgio Armani was there with his lovely models and I could not help but notice that they all looked traditionally Italian with their beautiful shiny dark hair.  A lot of Italian women do dye their hair blond, but there is something special about that dark Mediterrainian look; don’t you think?

Roccobarocco Dress and matching handbage to die for. La Nazione.

Roccobarocco Dress and matching Handbag to die for.
La Nazione.

I have also shared a picture of this gorgeous dress and matching handbag by Roccobarocco.  Il Nazione newspaper does cover a lot of fashion news, which suits me, although it is really a national paper with news and sport.

On the subject of sport and our being a great rugby family, my man and I watched rugby, including the Six nations, all afternoon and most of the evening on Saturday.  Bad luck to Italy who lost against Scotland and Bravo to England who won against Ireland.  I have not seen the papers today (Sunday) as my man went off on the train before seven am, too early for a read.  And where did we manage to get a coffee at six thirty on a Sunday?  Well it was Jam Cafe next to the station in Certaldo.

A Mafia Museum opens in Palermo. Il Nazione

A Mafia Museum opens in Palermo.
Il Nazione

Now I will finish by mentioning that there is a new Mafia Museum opened in Palermo.  ‘What?’ I hear you say.  Well the Italians will admit to having a liking for the macabre.   You’ve only got to watch a carnival to see all the grotesque blood curdling exhibits and if you fancy a visit to a Museum of Torture, pop up to San Gimignano in the hills above Siena.  Italian parents and children seem unfazed by it all!

Oh, nearly forgot to mention that the DVD of Spectre I ordered from amazon late last year has just arrived!  Hurrah.  I’ve watched it once and will do so again this evening…..and probably tomorrow as well!  Yes, I know.

OK, time to get this blog edited and then organise some lunch.  The weather is too cold and wet to eat outside, so I think I’ll cook baked cheesy leeks and mashed potatoes, a real winter warmer.

Do have a great week and don’t forget to drop me a line or 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.






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Benvenuti to all my Lovely Loyal and new followers,

main via in Certaldo alto oct 2013

The main via in Certaldo Alto. Foto J Finnigan.

Here in my our little bit of Tuscany on the edge of Chianti, I try to write this blog every Sunday Morning; occasionally it slips over to early Monday Morning.  But today I have cleared my desk and am on schedule!  My man and I have just returned from morning coffee at Bar Solferino in Certaldo and the sun is shining, so despite the freezing temperature, it is yet another beautiful day in Tuscany.

Now you may have noticed that we are rarely in our local village of Fiano these days.  The sad fact is that Laura’s Bar/Alimentare has been closed for two weeks again and the village has fallen into the doldrums.  Bar Piazzina in the centre of the village was abandoned months ago, so now there is nowhere to get coffee!  The heart has gone out of the village and there are a lot of retired people who need somewhere to focus on.  Fortunately, there are other shops; a tiny bakery and pizzeria, butchers, chemist, Milko’s book and card shop and a post office, however, the latter is only open two days a week now.  The only snippet of good news is that the village hall has been converted into a Gymnasium for the village elementary school, so at least that’s something!

So for now, Certaldo it is, a town that manages to still be active with several bars, small shops and businesses, despite the dreadful economic situation.  Do you remember when the UK was described as a nation of ‘shopkeepers?’ Well Italy is much the same, but things are changing fast.

Elton John is coming to the San Remo Song Festival! La Nazione.

Elton John is coming to the Sanremo Song Festival! La Nazione.

Saint Jude! A new TV series starting in the Autumn! Glossy magazine at my hairdressers.

Saint Jude! A new TV series starting in the Autumn! Glossy magazine at my hairdressers.

Back at Bar Solferino earlier in the week, I read that Elton John is this year attending the Sanremo 2016 Song Festival.  Looking at the list of other ‘stars’ I only recognise one and he is Italian!  Oh, and would you believe it the gorgeous Jude Law seems to have taken his vows and will soon be starring as Pio XIII in a new TV series directed by Paolo Sorrentino.  He still manages to look sexy, lets hope they haven’t cast him as gay, but hey ho.  Apparently it will go out on Sky Atlantic and most European countries, including the UK, will be able to tune in.  Mmmm must get SKY in before Wimbledon starts this year, methinks!

On the subject of sport, have you been to Florence and watched Historical Football, known here as Calcio Storica?

Calcio Storica. Very rough, half naked rugby/football in Florence! La Nazione

Calcio Storica. Very rough, half-naked rugby/football in Florence! La Nazione

It’s unique to Florence and is a kind of rugby match, however, the players wear medieval pantaloons and are stripped to the waist!  It’s been going on for several hundred years and there are regular demands for it to be banned because of the extreme violence.  Well it’s in the news again with more complaints.  I cannot understand what the fuss is all about, if these guys want to play the game, why not!  We girlies like it…..

Siena's Il Palio says no to invite from the Queen! La Nazione

Siena’s Il Palio says no to invite from the Queen!
La Nazione

Meanwhile, the other rather rough sport, the horse race called Il Palio in Siena, has caught the interest of Queen Elizabeth.  She invited the riders and their horses to attend her next birthday celebration, but they have turned her down.  They say that for just three days, the logistics are too problematic; so Queenie can’t always get what she wants despite being in the top ten most wealthy women in the world!

Well, enough of that.  Back here in the villa, life goes on in the most pleasurable way.  The sun is still shining and if we tuck into a sunny spot protected from the cold, we might just sit out with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.  On the other hand, if we go over to ‘C’era Una Volta’ at Lucardo for lunch, I won’t have to cook.  O Dio, these executive decisions can weigh heavily on the mind; particularly on a Sunday.  Ok, time to shut the studio down and make a decision.

Have a great week and do drop me a line.

Salute June x

PS. I would love it if you 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 lovely Loyal and New Followers

December colours below our villa. Photo P Finnigan

December colours along our track.
Photo P Finnigan

The December valley below us. Photo P Finnigan

The December valley below us.
Photo P Finnigan

If you have not visited Tuscany in the winter you will have missed out on the fabulous Autumn colours that continue through to March.  We have thousands of small-leaved Oak Trees in this area and right now they are glowing a luminous copper in the sunshine.  It is seriously breathtaking and whilst it is difficult to capture the true colour and magic, I have enclosed a couple of photos for you to enjoy.  Of course we are very lucky to have several evergreens of varying colours including the silver grey-green of the Olive Tree, so the countryside never looks bleak.  The Italians celebrate the festive season much the same as northern Europeans and the Christmas Tree is very popular.  Sadley, Certaldo has failed again with their big tree in the main piazza; it always looks half-dead the moment it arrives!  But hey ho, this does not quell the festive spirit in the town.

Big cheeses or strange fruit? Photo J Finnigan

Big cheeses or strange fruit?
Photo J Finnigan

Yesterday, Saturday, we arrived in Certaldo for morning coffee and I was delighted to see the Christmas Market being set up.  Sadley, at half past eight, we were a little early to see it fully ready, however, I did spot a handbag stand and one selling these amazing big cheeses.  Now I asked what they were called and then clean forgot when I got home, so perhaps one of you very knowledgable foodies out there can remind me!  More importantly, I bought a lovely handmade rustic owl, which will be part of my Christmas display back at the villa.  There are Christmas markets going on all over Tuscany now and the most popular are in Siena and Florence.  Every year there is a German market in the centre of Florence and it is reckoned to be the best in Europe!

December Man Il Nazione

December Man
Il Nazione

Meanwhile, back at Bar Solferino, we settle in to enjoy our coffee and read the papers.  I turn to page three and I find the perfect Italian male, who we shall call December Man.  Now, I know you girlies out there think that all Italian Men are stylish and sexy.  I am afraid I must disappoint you.  Only occasionally do we spot one of these rare breeds and that is why, when I see one in the newspaper or magazine, I share the picture with you.  Most Italian women seem to like their men with scratchy unshaven faces and dark brooding eyes that say ‘feed me, wash my clothes, iron my clothes, have my children….’  Not all, I hasten to add!

My man starts his pre-Christmas diet. Photo J Finnigan

My man starts his pre-Christmas diet.
Photo J Finnigan

Now on the subject of men, my own man wants to lose some weight before Christmas so he can stuff himself silly and drink lots of wine over the festive period.  “Look at this,” he said this morning at Laura’s Bar in Fiano, “I’m going to eat smaller pastries for breakfast!”  “Bravo” I say, as I watch him slowly eat his small chocolaty cream filled pastry.  No, don’t laugh, he is making an effort!  You should see the size of the pastries he normally eats….

Oh, one last thing.  My man has just reminded me that Silvio Berlusconi has been to a hospital in Rome to have his battery changed!  Well, who’d have thought it, I could have sworn he was flesh and blood, but you never can tell these days.  Robots everywhere!

Well, enough of that.  Things to do, places to go and people to see.

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

Salute June x

PS Visit my book 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

Our granddaughter feeds the church cats. Photo P Finnigan

Our granddaughter feeds the church cats.
Photo P Finnigan

We had a nice surprise last Friday, when we were asked to have our granddaughter for the night on account of her parents going out to a test dinner at Borgo San Pietro, which has a new A la carte chef.  Meanwhile, we had beans on cheese on toast and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Yes, we can get baked beans locally, not the Heinz variety, but as good as.  Before supper, Granddad walked our lovely granddaughter up to the church, which is sadly out of use, but has a big family of cats.  They took cat biscuits and were not too surprised to find a number of Farty Barty look alikes.  Farty Barty, for those that haven’t been introduced, is our resident wild male cat.  We are the family he has adopted to feed him when he choses to call in, and provide a cosy kitchen chair and indoor toilet if its raining.  After supper we were cosied up on the sofa and the granddaughter said, “Granny, do you have your tablet?” “I only take one in the morning now.” I smiled.  “No June, she means Ipad.” My man explained.  “There’s nothing wrong with my eyes!” I said, somewhat surprised.  “No Granny, you know, your electronic Ipad.”  “Oh, you mean my Kindle.  It’s next to the bed where I keep my tablets.”  They both roared out laughing.  What is it with this world, bring back the Queen’s English I say.

Mmmmm, Festa time for chocolate lovers. Photo J Finnigan

Mmmmm, Festa time for chocolate lovers.
Photo J Finnigan

Back at Laura’s cafe bar/alimentare, we are enjoying morning coffee and reading the papers, as one does.  A week ago Tuscany was enjoying La Festa del Cioccolato.  Yes, you’ve guessed it the festival of chocolate.  Such is the enthusiasm for the sweet that Siena filled the Piazza del Campo with hundreds of stands selling variations of the theme and a train carriage travelled across the area stopping at stations where chocolate fans could board for a shopping extravaganza!

The terrible match for Italy against Wales. Photo J Finnigan

The terrible match for Italy against Wales.
Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile, the Six Nations Rugby was gripping the country, well at least part of it.  Calcio (football) is the most popular game in Italy.  If we were not cheering on Italy we were rooting for England, the former sadly ending up fifth after the final matches on Saturday.  The score for Italy versus Wales was terrible at 61 to 20!  ‘La disfatta means ‘The rout’ and it certainly was.  We desperately need some investment into the facilities and support for the game in Italy.

But now for some good news.  Spring is springing.  Lovely blue skies, trees in blossom, spring flowers everywhere and, we will be taking off all the protective covers in just a few days time.

A beautiful blue sky spring morning. Photo P Finnigan

A beautiful blue sky spring morning.
Photo P Finnigan

I’m really looking forward to my beautiful sister-in-law’s arrival on Wednesday, as she is coming over from England to do all the spring pots.  By the weekend the terraces will look wonderful, so I will send you some pictures next time.  The other thing she has offered to do is catalogue my huge collection of steam train books and videos.  I inherited these from my great-uncle as he was a great steam enthusiast, like me.  However, It is time to think about letting these go to another enthusiast, otherwise they will just stay in boxes for another ten years.  I’ll let you know when the list is complete and if you have anyone who might like to make an offer for them, drop me a line at june.finnigan@virgin.net.

No time to report on Silvio B this time, but watch this space.

OK, I must crack on with the day job, after I’ve been out for my morning coffee that is.

Have a really great week.

Amore June x

Book cover for 'The Bolivian Connection' Available very soon.

Book cover for ‘The Bolivian Connection’
Available very soon.


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Ciao and Welcome to all my Loyal and new followers,

“I hadn’t got rid of the last one and now I’ve caught another one!”  My man is hunched in the passenger seat of the car, having just been collected by my good self from Certaldo Station.  The poor thing had just flown back to Pisa from London and an English cold virus had got him again .  “I already had some antibiotics, now I’ll have to go back and see Flavio again for some more.”  His face was as long as could be.  “Don’t worry, lovely man,” I smiled, “the forecast is for a sunny weekend, you’ll be as right as rain by Monday!”  “Humph.” He groaned.

Freshly harvested oranges and lemons. Photo P Finnigan

Freshly harvested oranges and lemons.
Photo P Finnigan

Farty Barty on the frame over the orange grove wondering what the fuss is all about. Photo P Finnigan

Farty Barty on the frame over the orange grove wondering what the fuss is all about.
Photo P Finnigan

By the end of a lovely warm sunny Sunday, he was cheerfully enjoying an aperitivo in glorious sunshine, having also had lunch outside on the upper terrace earlier on.  “Ah this is the life.” He sighed.  And he was quite right.  Just when we were beginning to think that the cold damp weather was here forever, the hot mediterranean sun broke through, bathing us in that all important vitamin D.  In the garden, much work was needed, in particular the ground was covered in dead leaves including the big floppy fig leaves that make a plopping sound as they hit the ground.  Alessandro, the local contadino, who looks after the land below the house, arrived unexpectedly and started violently pruning the fruit trees.  My man was rather annoyed, as he had planned to do this himself, and he is very experienced at it.  The workers also cut down the beautiful row of Firethorn, which bordered our garden with the orchard, unfortunately we were out having our morning coffee when this happened!  I guess it will all grow back again.  The good news, however, is that our view has been dramatically opened out and this morning the man is really happy as he has found a mature lemon tree in full fruit, in what we had thought was only an orange grove!

Back in the countryside we are seeing whole olive trees being cut down.  This follows the disastrous olive harvest due to blight and insects.  Lets hope that new saplings will be planted to replace them.  On the other hand, the grape harvest was really good.  My man went down to our friend and vineyard owner with all our empty Chianti bottles for refills.  My man liked to do the corking with a hand-operated corking machine, but this time he was impressed to find that this was now automated!  There was a new narrow metal conveyor belt on which the empty bottles traveled along and when they reached a certain point, a cork was automatically punched in.  He just had to wait at the end, take off the corked bottles and put them in a box!  Then horror of horrors, he had a box under each arm and spotted our friend’s Smart Phone traveling along the conveyor and could only shout a warning.  The thing only just escaped being corked!

Siena Cake Photo J Finnigan

Siena Cake
Photo J Finnigan

Last weekend, I bought my first annual piece of Siena Cake.  Now this is a close as I can get to the taste of a typical English Christmas Cake.  It is made with figs, nuts and chocolate powder, and some other secret ingredients, crushed under a press.  All cooks have their own recipes, however, this one was purchased at Osteria La Gramola, in Tavernelle who use the original one from Siena.  Now some of you clever foodies out there will probably put me right, or at least explain the other ingredients.  Speaking of which, and I’m sure she won’t mind my mentioning it, my good neighbour and celebrity cook, Judy Witts Francini, knows everything there is to know about Tuscan cooking.  You should visit her website and go along to one of her residential cooking classes, or at least buy her books.  Fantastic!  Visit http://www.divinacucina.com

Well, I think enough said for now.  I’ll endeavour to bring you some good news about Silvio Berlusconi next week.

Amore June x

PS Here is the direct link for an ideal Christmas present.




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Benvenuti to all my Lovely Loyal and New Followers

Now, you will have heard me say that the Italians will always find an excuse for a Festa, which often involves everyone stopping work for the day.  However, this last weekend was well deserved as we celebrated La Festa per Il Nuova Vino e Pane Olio (The Festival for the New Wine and Olive Bread).  This was hosted in the hilltop village of Montespertoli where the festivities included walking, running and bike racing.  The locals do like to drink their Chianti young.  This is interesting isn’t it, as traditionally, at least in the UK we have always gone for much older labels.  Many families give a watered down version to the children.  We quite like a new or young Chianti, but still prefer last years or the year before.  We are fortunate to be able to buy our wine from a local vineyard very cheaply indeed.  Now the owner is a friend, however, it is possible to get a pretty good price from many vineyards if you take your own bottles along and cork them yourself.  It’s all about who you know and if you have neighbouring vineyard owners to befriend!

The Autumn view from here. Photo J Finnigan

The Autumn view from here.
Photo J Finnigan

You may have heard in the news about the terrible floods and landslides over the last week.  Carrara was very badly hit and the locals have stormed the commune offices, as the blame is being put directly in the local authority’s lap.  Disasters like this have happened in the past, however, the lesson does not seemed to have been learnt and flood defences have not been properly catered for.  Tuscany is a province prone to landslips, main roads collapsing and flooding.  If you were to check out the history of any area, there will be something to scare you off!  So, if you fall in love with a particular place it is best to accept it warts and all.  We live in a stunningly beautiful part of Chianti, however, we are perched only two hundred yards from the edge of crumbling inland cliffs!  A local once told us not to worry as our house had not moved for over two hundred years.  Before that it was in the hamlet further up the hill!

The old Mine Workings Photo P Finnigan

The old Mine Workings
Photo P Finnigan

Our beautiful daughter and family are in the process of moving to a lovely old house between Siena and Volterra.  It sits by itself, perched above old mine workings that are now in ruins and with views of the mountains and sea on the west coast of Tuscany.  We went over to help with curtain making and things last Saturday, and were told the story of the famous mine owner who originally owned the land and house, and how his disgusted employees threw him down the well below the house after a dispute!  Ooh, creepy….

I am getting on really well with my novel ‘The Bolivian Connection,’ where things are a little tense, as my heroine Joanna awaits the result of sending off a female Interpol agent, disguised as herself, to flush out an assassin who is trying to kill her!  I can tell you, my blood pressure has gone up over the last couple of days whilst I have been writing the current chapter, it’s all very nerve-racking…..

I love to start the day with a delicious cafe latte and watch the world go by at  Laura’s bar/allimentare in Fiano, it sets me up for the day.  Sig Rotund has been missing for a couple of weeks and we have discovered that he is convalescing at home after an operation.   We wish him well and will keep the sporting pages warm for him.  I went to Laura’s at seven o’clock this morning for coffee, as I had dropped my man off at Certaldo station to get the early train to Pisa airport.  Laura had already been ‘a piede’ (on her feet) for four hours.  She opens at six in the morning, but arrives much earlier for the bread and pastry deliveries.  At seven, the customers are very different to the nine o’clock crowd.  It is busier with workers who start early and the mothers with older children who will be taking the school buses to media school.  School generally starts between eight and eight thirty.  We have a primary school in Fiano which takes children up to age ten, otherwise, they are bussed to various towns at least a half hour away.

he all important wood fire and aperitivo. Photo J Finnigan

The all important wood fire and aperitivo.
Photo J Finnigan

As I write this blog, thunder is rolling and lightning is flashing across the hills.  This means that the electricity might go at any minute, which is usual here, and I should save everything and go off-line.  I’ll update you on the gorgeous Silvio Berlusconi next time!  In the meantime I shall look forward to the log fire and aperitivo this evening.

Have a great week and do drop me a line at june.finnigan@virgin.net, or leave me a message below.  I will respond!

Salute June x

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





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Benvenuti to all my Loyal and New Followers

Benedetta, at Laura’s Bar/Alimentare in our local village of Fiano, is very excited about her preparations for Halloween.  Every year, she and her husband go to a street festa near Empoli dressed in Halloween costumes.  This year the theme is birds and animals;  Benadetta is going as an ornimental chicken, you know the one with a big feathery white ball on top of its head!  She will have professional looking face makeup on and has promised to send me pictures so that you can all see what she will look like on Friday!

After coffee in the bar, my man and I were sat in Doctore Flavio’s waiting room and the conversation was all about the lack of police presence in the village.  The row of ladies opposite us were very worried, because the nearest police station was in Certaldo, twenty minutes away.   Fiano is not exactly a sleepy village, however, it is not large enough to have its own police station.  It does boast two bars, two grocery shops, a butchers, chemist, haberdashery/bookshop, pizzeria, cash point (the bank closed years ago) and a post office.  So the need for at least one officer  was agreed, what with all the strange immigrants about.  They went quiet then and looked at us.  I suggested to my man that I could cheer them up with a rock song, but he held me down in my chair and whispered firmly, “No!”

We were visiting our good friend and doctor, who prefers to talk about rock music than medical matters, because my man has not been able to shake off a virus brought back from England a couple of weeks ago.  Either that, or he had picked up another one.  On the drive into Fiano earlier he had complained that if the weather had to be cold, it would be much more fun if there was snow on the ground, so that he could try out the four-wheel drive to greater effect.  I said that it was not that cold and the sun was still hot, in fact warm enough to have lunch in the garden.  “I think it freezing.” He groaned.  “We may have to light a fire this evening and get the winter quilts out.”  His face was very long.

Courgette flowers in the Saturday Market in Certaldo. Photo J Finnigan

Courgette flowers in the Saturday Market in Certaldo.
Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile, down in Certaldo’s Saturday market I spotted this lovely sunny basket of courgette flowers, a popular dish here in Tuscany, either in deep-fried batter or in risottos.

Pingpong neighbours catching olives

Our neighbours catch the olives on a difficult corner.       Photo J Finnigan

Back in the countryside, the olive picking has been in full swing all week.  Green, white and orange nets have been spread out under the trees and the harvesters raised voices could be heard trying to out do each other in volume.  To the uninitiated, it often sounds as if the Italians are arguing.  They are in fact all talking at the same time and getting louder as the conversation evolves, trying to  be heard over and above their neighbour.  Try as I may, despite being here for a number of years, I cannot understand how the Italians manage to actually hear each other, but they do, and they never stop to breathe!  It’s also fascinating how the subject is almost always about food.  Anyway, we are looking forward to some Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the trees below the villa.  Mmmmm!

Silvio in the news. Photo J Finnigan

Silvio in the news.
Photo J Finnigan

Oh yes, I promised you an update on Silvio Berlusconi.  Last week I mentioned that I was reading his biography.  Well, I have to say that I was very disappointed in the writer’s effort and it was obvious he had just pulled out information already existing in various newspapers and Wikipedia.  However, Silvio has been having a better week regarding media coverage and was even interviewed on Chanel Five!  You may already know that he is still the leader of the political party, Forza Italia and has been having some arguments with the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.  A big surprise to us all is that SB is currently promoting the legalisation of Civil Unions between gays, but not same-sex marriages.  He is holding up Germany as a model for his plan.  It wasn’t so long ago that he was quoted as saying “Better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than to be gay.”

Well, enough of that.  I must crack on with the day job for the next few days and then a long weekend  writing ‘The Bolivian Connection.’

I hope you are having a stunning week and do drop me a line.

Salute June x

ps You can visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan











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Benvenuti to all my Lovely New and Loyal followers

Well, I do not usually say negative things about our adoptive country, however, bear with me just this once.  Do not, I said do not, open a bank account here!  I opened an account to send a monthly payment to our landlord in Florence.  For the last two and a half years, no problems.  Then all the staff with any authority at the bank, went on holiday at the same time, and I found I could make a deposit on the due date, but not make a transfer.  So just three days later, I return to the bank so authorise the transfer and the account was twenty euros short!  Nobody could explain why, so I said in Italian of course, “Has the government grabbed it or has the bank just stolen it?”    Everyone there was hugely apologetic, however, I got nowhere.  So have arranged a nine-thirty appointment with my personal banker who is back on Monday.  The only saving grace is that my Italian landlord was not in the least bit surprised…..

Lovely shady gardens at Pignano Photo J Finnigan

Lovely shady gardens at Pignano
Photo J Finnigan

Brighter things.  Last Sunday we had a fun half-birthday with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.  It was a half-birthday for our grandson’s fourteenth, because he is off to start his new school in England and will be away on the actual day.  We will celebrate the other half-birthday at half-term!  So, the guys went to play a round of golf and we girlies took the granddaughter for a horse riding lesson.  Whilst we waited for the our lovely nine and a half-year old, we repaired to the gardens of the very beautiful Villa Pignano somewhere between Siena and Volterra, and coffee in the courtyard.  Then we returned to our daughter’s house for lunch.  The afternoon was great fun as we played cricket in the garden and would you believe it, I bowled and got a wicket!

Green August countryside through our guest bedroom window. Photo J Finnigan

Green August countryside through our guest bedroom window.
Photo J Finnigan

Meanwhile, back at our villa, it is was Friday and aperitivo time, and I relaxed with a deep sigh after a hard, but satisfying week at the key-board.  “Can you see anything different?” my man asked in his usual casual manner.  “Mmm, the view seems to have opened up a bit I think”  “Yep, you’re right; I was trying to get to the last of the plums, but the ladder wasn’t long enough, so I chopped the tree down…. “What!”  I sprung to my feet, well sort of,  and rushed to the railing above the orchard.  There in the middle was the sad-looking tree, not exactly chopped down, but severely pruned.  (do you get it?)  “Isn’t it a bit early to prune a tree?” I asked.  “Depends whether you wanted the plums and I wanted another crumble…” He said authoritatively.  I sighed, I had to make the crumble.  Looking across the valleys we realise just how incredibly green everything is for August.  We gazed down over the valley below.  This time of year the countryside should be burnt to a crisp and only the vines, olive trees and evergreens retaining their colour.  Very strange weather indeed.  “It’s a beautiful day for October,” my man groans.

The Plum Crumble Photo J Finnigan

The Plum Crumble
Photo J Finnigan

Previously, back at C’era Una Volta for a weekday lunch, an Englishman rushed in asking for directions to a villa, where they are having a big wedding.  “It’s big with a tower, you must know it!”  We refrained from saying, ‘there are hundreds in this area’ and looked at his computer generated paper instructions.  I am about to draw any easier map and my man grabs the details.  He looks at them and announces, “I’m pretty certain that’s Paola’s brother’s place, you know, on the main road, it has a tower.”  The tourist turns to my man, obviously he thought him more likely to be helpful.   So, he is given verbal directions, which were awful and sent on his way.  “Those directions were terrible,” I said, “And are you sure it was the right villa?”  “No, but it might be the right place.” my man grins, “Anyway, when giving directions you just need to sound confident, because they will have their doubts anyway….”  I reached for the bottle of Chianti and topped up my glass.

Meanwhile, out there in the land of the rich, Silvio Berlusconi doesn’t seem to be newsworthy!  I’ve checked his fan club, yes he has one, googled the various news channels; nothing!  Mind you, everyone is still on holiday here and that probably also applies to our Peter Pan of Politics.  Perhaps no news is good news, who for, who knows?

Well, so much for that.  I’ve had a really good week with ‘The Bolivian Connection’ and have written two more chapters.  There are some dodgy repercussions about to erupt after the reading of my heroine’s father’s will….ooer!  Watch this space.

Anyway, over to you.  Do drop me a line or visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/junefinnigan/author.com

Have a good week.

Salute June x







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Koy Carp in the fountain pool

Koi Carp in the fountain pool

The view from our table

The view from our table

Ciao lovely friends and followers,

I did not expect to make the time to write this weekend, but I am bursting to tell you about my early birthday treat last Thursday.

My beautiful daughter booked my man and I in for lunch at the five-star restaurant at Borgo San Pietro http://www.borgosanpietro.com which is about thirty minutes south-west of Siena.  Wow!  The gardens are to die for and the hotel is just gorgeous luxury.

We enjoyed an aperitivo of Prosecco in the Pool Bar and I found myself sitting right next to a gurgling waterfall and a pond full of my all time favourite fish, Koi Carp.  Heaven.  There was no rush to do anything, then after a while in this lovely open air bar we made our way to the Terrace restaurant for the first of our five course A la Carte lunch.

Each dish was delicate and bursting with flavour, made especially by chef to match our vegetarian diet and my gluten intolerance.  A different delicious wine was served with every course by the lovely sommelier and we could not have eaten better anywhere in the world.

Thank you darling daughter, dad and I absolutely loved it and we may return soon for a couple of nights to really chill out.

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

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Benvenuto to all my loyal and new followers

Winter colour in the garden. Photo J Finnigan

Winter colour in the garden.
Photo J Finnigan

As I write this blog, the morning sun is pouring through the open studio window and there is nothing like it for being inspired to write.  The weather has been so spring like, apart from the hailstorm yesterday, that many trees and flowers are well in advance with their blossoms.

Our grandson kicks a winning drop goal. Photo P Finnigan

Our grandson kicks a winning conversion aka Jonny Wilkinson.
Photo P Finnigan

Last weekend we went to the historical centre of Poggibonsi for lunch with our beautiful daughter and two grandchildren.  You may recall that our thirteen year old grandson is bravo at rugby and is capitano of Siena under fourteens.  Unfortunately his leg was in plaster after his friend and team-mate landed on his knee during Tuscan trials in Arezzo.  He’ll be on the bench for up to six weeks with damaged tendons.  Later this year he will be off to Blundells school in England having brilliantly won a scholarship and is really looking forward to enjoying the vastly improved sports facilities!  Our nine-year old granddaughter has her sights on a horse, as they live right next door to some stables!  Watch this space….

Italian mens' street fashion in Florence. Photo lettersfromflorence.blogspot

Italian mens’ street fashion in Florence.
Photo lettersfromflorence.blogspot

Earlier this week, we were relaxed over coffee at Laura’s bar in Fiano.  My man was reading the paper and I was making my usual observations and notes.  “Well, well, how strange” said my man, “It says here that one in four Italian men live alone!”  Now, we found this an interesting subject to analyse.  Italian men are mostly very tied to their mothers and if that fails, they are more likely to find a replacement in a wife.  The younger generations are slowly changing this, however, it seems that fifty-two percent of 25-34 year olds still live with their mothers, compared to thirty-five percent of women.  We do know a few men in Fiano who are getting on a bit, have never married and live alone.  Apart from one of these, they all have a rather hung dog look about them and it is obvious that they lived with their mothers until she died of a ripe old age.  It’s also true, that we are all living longer, so elderly men have increased in number and many of these will be widowers.  However, one in four men living alone seems quite high given the fact that women still usually outlive their men.  I would be interested to have your thoughts on this….

Silvio & Angelino Alfano in happier times. Photo BBC News Europe

Silvio & Angelino Alfano in happier times.
Photo BBC News Europe

You will be aware that it has been all change on the political front.  Our aging Peter Pan, Silvio Berlusconi is disgusted with the fact that his former right hand man, Angelino Alfano, has been invited to join the coalition government and is complaining that the new members have not been elected, which is undemocratic!  A bunch of sour grapes methinks.  At the bar, most of those who have anything to say, like the new interim Prime Minister Matteo Renzie, mainly because he was the Mayor of Florence and they are all keen Fiorentina football fans.  The new government is also very young and I could only find two over sixty!  In fact, the majority are below fifty!  Well, things could not get any worse, so fingers crossed for the promised reforms and reduced unemployment figures.

Well, I will be off to London on Thursday for a  gathering of authors, publishers and literary agents.  It should be interesting and the day will finish with a lavish gala dinner……Yummy.   Meanwhile, I must get this blog off to you and get on with the day job.

Have a great week.

Amore June x

PS  Don’t forget there are still big discounts for downloading ‘My Father, The Assassin’ by J W Finnigan from Amazon and please, please write a review.  Grazie Mille.

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