Inevitable but, still ………..

“I didn’t know you had a blog”

Well, that’s not entirely true.

“I wouldn’t read it anyway”. I know that.

But now I feel I must, at least, show him. But, I am a procrastinator and so I procrastinate. It was Thursday and we are now on Saturday. It was over a beer with An and him. I mentioned it in passing. After all, it’s not a secret, as such. Not really.

The problem is not that I don’t want him to see it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I would prefer that he knows it is there, even if he doesn’t read it. I would prefer that he has seen it, even if he chooses not to read it but I wouldn’t mind him reading it. Well, not really. I think. Maybe.

No, the problem is that I must explain. After all, these things I write are not always, shall we say, exactly as other people see it. They are, in fact, what goes on in my head and what goes on in my head is more like a parallel universe – almost the same but with subtle (or even not so subtle) differences.

And, of course, he is there. In every post – even if not mentioned. He is there because, well, he is the most important person in my life and so ‘invades’ each post because he is always in my thinking, in my head. And, since this blog is about what’s in my head, he must be there.

I wouldn’t want him to read something and misinterpret or be upset by something. After all, very few of my readers actually know him. He is just ‘F’, some guy. He doesn’t have a face or a personality – except the personality I have given him. The personality I have given him is the one I see and the personality I write down is the one I have in my head. I’m sure he would disagree about some of it, would say ‘but I’m not like that’ and he would be right, I suppose. He isn’t like that – except, actually, in my head that’s exactly what he is like. And that’s quite difficult to explain. It becomes more difficult when we talk in a language that one of us doesn’t fully understand – even if his English is very, very good.

Most people who know me well have not reacted to the blog very positively. One person explained it as like ‘reading my personal diary’ – a little like snooping in my head. It’s OK for me but not for them. Like when someone dies – it’s those that are left behind (which is a strange statement in itself, I always think, as if they have raced ahead somewhere and not waited for all the others to catch up) that really suffer. The person who’s dead does not suffer at all. Then there are those who have searched and searched for mentions of themselves. Looking for how I really feel about them. But how I feel about them doesn’t really feature since the blog is about a moment and, worse, a moment that has a basis in real life but is still in my head. Which is a different thing.

Yes, it’s a different thing entirely.

But I should show him.

He has had plenty of chance to look. It is easy for him to find. I leave my computer on when I go to work. He uses it to play ‘the game’ (as we call it) on Facebook. But he only has to click on the tab to see it.

Still, I would be more ‘comfortable’ if he had seen it.

After I explain it – or try to explain it.

Just in case.

Yes, I should show him.

Maybe today?

Or tomorrow?



OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

Last night I saw that my phone was very low on charge. However, this was after we had been to Polpetta (F, An and I) and so I could not stay up long for it to charge. I charged it a bit and it ‘said’ there were two bars of charge. It’s enough.

Except, obviously, it lied. It was not on two bars. During the night it ran out of battery and switched itself off.

This morning, after a rather good night’s sleep, I opened my eyes to see the time was eight minutes past seven.

“Shit!”, I jumped out of bed. The dogs had a short walk. I still had a coffee (as without that I cannot survive), a shower but no shave and rushed out almost an hour late starting to work.

The traffic was terrible.

That’s because there had been a bad accident. Today! The day I am late! I suddenly start driving like an Italian, crossing a dual carriageway exactly as they do! Sometimes I scare myself. I mutter to myself (really I did this), “When in Italy …….”.

Then there were stupid drivers. Then there was a truck blocking the road. It took me an hour to get to work and so I arrived at 9. Grrrr.

Also, I have to admit to you, dear reader that I have, again, fallen off the wagon just a little bit. The night before last I ate two Mars bars. Last night I had two beers.

On the bright side, I have not had a bread roll since I went on the non-diet :-)

Other bright sides: I had almost an hour and a half’s extra sleep; it is Friday; the weather is warmer (or, rather not so cold); tonight I go out with A to Polpetta (he may not talk to me because of the last time) and then we join F and An to go to the Taverna della Lamparo; on Sunday, we shall go for breakfast with An and then, later, for lunch at the Alle Colline Senesi with her. (All links are on the side)

And, Saturday night is the final of the Festival of San Remo, which is televised and which we MUST watch. Well, F MUST watch it and so, we will.

And you? What fun things will you be doing over the weekend?

Useful Tips for Italy/Milan part 1: When to use cash or credit/debit cards

I’m going to start a new tag theme.  Useful tips for those of you visiting Italy/coming to live in Italy.

For this first one, I give you the places where it is OK to use cash and those places where you are better using a credit/debit card.

Cash:  Garages (especially if you are using an Italian credit/debit card); Restaurants (especially if you get a discount); bars.

Credit/Debit cards: ALL supermarkets; most shops;

So, having given this information there must be a reason why.  And there is.  First though, I give you my experience from last night.

I needed to do some shopping.  Spese, here.  Things for the house.  I needed milk, washing powder, coke and some other bits and pieces.  I use Carrefour, just round the corner from my flat.  It’s only a small supermarket but it has most things.  Occasionally, for some other things, I must use a different supermarket.

I come, of course, from the UK.  We may all be European but each country does have a slightly (or completely) different mindset.  And there are many differences – most so subtle that you really don’t notice for a while.

I had to find a basket.  They are always ‘short’ of them.  People, queue up to wait for someone to empty their basket at the till so that they can have one.  Last night, it was busy.  I went in search of a basket.  I started round the supermarket.  Being an inner-city supermarket the aisles are narrow. And there are people who have their basket on one side of the aisle whilst they are on the other contemplating something …… for ages ….. effectively blocking the aisle. Grrrr.

I get my stuff. I start to queue. The queues are long – there are only three tills out of 6 open but, since this is a small store, they don’t have enough people to cover all six. I am patient.

I reach the conveyor belt. I have been waiting for about 20 minutes. It has been raining all day. It is still raining. The woman before me takes her umbrella from the bottom of the basket and places it on the conveyor belt. The umbrella is soaking wet. She picks up the umbrella. The conveyor belt is now soaking wet. I wait in my patient way, seething with anger at the thoughtlessness of Italians. She realises, as I am not putting my shopping on the conveyor belt, that there must be a reason and seems to suddenly realise that her actions and stupidity are the reason. She asks the cashier for some paper to dry the belt. She dries it. In the meantime, the woman two people in front of me is paying for her shopping. There seems to be a problem with her card. She asks if it is OK to leave her bagged shopping there for a moment. the cashier says ‘yes’.

I unload my shopping.

The person in front of me says she’s going to pay cash. The cashier starts putting her stuff through. The cashier then says to the queue that she can only accept cash. I explain that I am paying by card. I ask if I can’t pay for the shopping over at the control desk. The cashier explains that it won’t be possible because it’s not her till that’s the problem – it’s the bank card system that’s down.

I lose it at this point. I say, in my best English – ‘Oh great!’ and walk out, leaving my shopping on the conveyor belt.

In my wallet I have more than enough cash to pay the bill but I no longer use cash at the supermarkets. I refuse to use cash. I will use credit cards or debit cards but NEVER cash.

So why?

Supermarket scams:

1) Sometimes you will pay for the plastic carrier bags. Sometimes you will pay a couple of cents, sometimes 10 cents, sometimes (depending on the operator), nothing at all. This is in the same supermarket, for the same bag but with different operators. It is one of the reasons I rarely go to Unes now.

2) As I have mentioned in posts before, if you offer cash, they will invariably ask you for the small change part. If you don’t give it to them you are likely to find that the change they give you does NOT include the odd 1, 2 or 5 cents that you should have. Either they don’t have those small coins or they can’t be bothered to count them out, I’m never really sure which. And yes, these are major supermarket chains I’m talking about. To be honest, this, I believe, stems from the time when the Lira was the currency and the coins were about the same value as buttons. Italians think of the lower value coins in the same way. We in the UK would never think like this and nor would a shop offer us less than the exact amount of change.

Therefore, ALWAYS use debit cards (bancomat here) or credit cards (carta) to pay at the supermarket.

Shops: Can do the same as the supermarkets above in terms of small change. Pay by plastic, if you can.

Garages: Petrol/Diesel here is about the same price as the UK. I’m not sure this applies if you are using a UK (or foreign) debit/credit card but it certainly applies if you are using an Italian one. There is an extra charge made, by the bank, if you buy fuel by plastic. Always, therefore, use cash. Also, if you use cash, if you have, say, filled your tank with €50.03 worth of fuel (as I inadvertently did this morning), they will accept €50.

Bars: Except if you are going for a night out, use cash. Coffee costs less than €1. If we go for breakfast at our local bar, two cappuccinos plus two brioches (croissants to you) cost us about 5 Euro. And they will always give you the correct change down to the last cent.

Restaurants: If you know the restaurant or are getting a discount (or expect to get one) pay by cash. If you pay by card you will not get a discount or, if you have already been given one, they won’t be so happy with you. Depends, I suppose, if you want to go back there ;-)

If I think of any other places where you should use one or the other, I will update this post.

I hope it helps.

The rain in Italy falls mainly ……..; Then and now – who’d of thunk it?

As I write this post (although you will be reading it sometime later this evening), it is raining.

Raining as it does here. Not like the UK at all, even if everyone comes and says:

“Andrew! The weather! It’s like the UK!”

To which I always reply, “Yes, which is why I don’t live there any more”.

As I say, it’s not like the UK at all. There’s no sign of a shower here, just rain, rain, rain.

Anyway, just in case you didn’t know, it seems that Buzz Lightyear will be tried in court after all. Although I have read that he won’t have to actually appear, which will make it less of a spectacle, I suppose.

Sooner or later, surely, he will have to resign. Even now, there is really no one who can fill his shoes. I find it a bit disheartening – that no one person has stepped forward to show how strong they are and how much support they have.

But who would have known that this charmer

would have ended up being this woman-charmer all those years later?


p.s. yes, I know it’s not good English in the title, thank you for pointing it out ;-)

I weep a little inside

I nearly didn’t spot it. After all, it is a pale yellow on a dirty white. I only noticed because of the rug. The rug was darker.

It’s another thing.

It’s about not being able to hold on for a few moments. It’s about kidney failure. It’s about a general deterioration.

It doesn’t smell. It’s nearly time.

I can’t get angry. Inside I weep for him, the same way as I weep for him when, a few minutes later I go to the lounge and he gets confused and goes to the bathroom to ‘follow me’. He gets confused quite often now. Senile dementia, I suppose. It goes with the general failing of everything else.

But this latest is the latest sign; the latest failure. I suppose it means that soon he will start to smell of piss as it comes through his skin. Just like an old person. Which I understand much better now.

I sat stroking his skull last night. I say ‘skull’ rather than ‘head’ since now, that’s what it is. No extra fat anywhere, even on his head. Just skin and bones, as they say – but they are right, whoever they are.

We are supposed to have booked the holiday by now. We’re going to the same place as last year because ‘it will be nice for the dogs’. I don’t say ‘you mean the dog’. I don’t need to remind him. He can see it every day anyway. I don’t think he will be good with this even if he has only known him for 18 months.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy for me either but I know it is the way things are.

F said, the other day, that I was not like most Taureans. I am not so ‘bloody minded’, like him. I am, as I said at the time, easy going. Life is tough enough without having to fight everything. Fight the things worth fighting for, I think.

And this? Well this is inevitable and foreseen and all we do now, F, me and him is to wait. Wait for the time that I now know I will know when it arrives. It might be soon, I think.

Still, I still weep a little inside for the signs that keep coming.

Just an old woman who is dying

I don’t really know why I did it.

I suppose it was mild curiosity as to where she was now.  I mean to say, she must have moved on.  It started when I ‘liked’ or commented on her friend’s, H, status or something. It made me think about her and where she might be. And, so I looked.

Her ‘wall’ gave regular updates. We are in so-and-so. We are sailing to so-and-so. I didn’t recognise the names anyway. Is she still in Australia? There was a mention of Fiji (is that near Australia?). I can’t look these things up. Too much like stalking. To weird.

There’s a ‘conversation’ between her and her niece. Is she (the niece) looking forward to going to stay with her nan, to look after her?

Of course, I have to find out which nan. I have to know what had happened. If she’s the one I suspect, she’ll be about 74 now, I guess, if my memory serves correctly.

I find out. There’s another conversation with other people. There’s been a fall. Something to do with an operation, a hip, a replacement, perhaps? So it IS her. The niece has to look after her for a while after she comes out of hospital. For sure, it means her husband is already dead. I was right. That doesn’t make me happy but, then, it doesn’t make me unhappy either. It just IS.

In doing all this, reading all this, I feel a sort of thrill. I can’t explain it. I don’t feel any real emotion but it’s like I’m spying and so I get this kind of thrill.

It crosses my mind that she might do the same thing. Through her friend (as otherwise nothing shows up – not that I put that much on there anyway – a few photos but nothing of any real interest – my security settings are tight and limit most people as to what they can see – except friends, of course). But her friend could see some things, I suppose. The photos, if nothing else. It gives an indication, I suppose.

I wonder how she is – after the fall and the operation and the new hip – but not in a connected way. It’s all detached. It’s like a reality show. A reality show in slow motion. No television, no pictures, just a few words from time to time.

Of course, it got me to thinking. What happens when she’s close to death? Maybe she already is? Will she ask her daughter to find me? Not if what her husband once said was true. She didn’t want to know ….. apparently. But, if she dies, will her daughter try to contact me anyway? Or is that door now closed. Will I feature in the will? I doubt it and, anyway, if I did, it wouldn’t be so much. I’m not that important – not after all this time.

I go through the steps that will happen. Her daughter makes a friend request. Or her friend, H, contacts me.

Do I accept? Well, why not?

Then, when we are ‘friends’ she send me a message: Mum wants to see you. I reply: Why? or Why now?

It goes blurred at that point. Do I go or do I stay? I want to be nasty but, also, in my head, I should be nice. After all, she’s nearly gone. She’s already nearly gone in my head whether this be true in ‘real life’ or not.

The meeting, should there be one, is not clear. Only one line from me.

“But, you’re just an old woman – an old woman that I don’t know who is dying”.

But since all of this is in my head none of this will happen. Anyway, she might live like the Queen Mother did – for years yet. But the fact that, probably, no certainly, none of this will happen is a relief, to be honest.

After all, this is just some old woman that I don’t know who is dying.

When is a hamburger NOT a hamburger?

As you know, I’m not on any diet.

And, so, I didn’t have a hamburger for lunch today.  How good is that, you might be saying?

Ah well, it’s not quite what it seems.  It is marked on the menu as a ‘hamburger’ when, in fact, it’s nothing of the sort.

Ruth complains about the bad way that we English-speaking peoples bastardise Italian and that all of Italy laughs at us – well, the same is true of English words used by Italians.

So, if I didn’t have a hamburger, what did I have?

I had a burger made from veal. So, strictly speaking, I suppose, it was a vealburger, since we also have veggieburgers? But, veal is a baby bull. And, therefore, you could say I had a beefburger.

Certainly, what I didn’t have was a hamburger.  No ham was involved.  In fact, no part of a pig, small or large, was involved.

Oh yes, and I had chips :-( but only a few.

And pasta to start – but not a lot.

And no bread …………. but we did eat two baskets of bread last night because it was so lovely.

I am the first to admit that I am really crap at diets.

Oh, and by the way (thanks Pietro) ‘ho fatto una vacanza di totale relax’ which, almost literally translated is ‘I had a holiday of total relax’. Who’s laughing now?

St Valentine’s Night

Last night we went to the Taverna della Lamparo.

We chose it because of all the restaurants we go to fairly regularly, it is the most romantic. The lighting is low, not bright like Italian restaurants tend to be; it is small, perhaps serving 30-odd people; the tables are big, there is plenty of room and the tables are well spaced out.

Also, the food is superb. OK so we only have fish there although they do have a very small selection of meat dishes but I had prawns with leeks to start with, hot, tasty – no, actually divine. I could have had a bigger portion as the main dish! For the main course, I had, as normal, the parcel of branzino (sea bass) with, in the parcel, potatoes, tomatoes, capers and olives. It was truly great, as always. F had his usual of thinly sliced raw tuna with raw fennel to start and then a sesame coated tuna steak, seared, on a bed of some vegetables.

For sweet we both had the apple strudel with a hot chocolate sauce. To drink we had a bottle of white wine (lighea) which is lovely and then to finish a glass of mirto each.

F had bought me a present. It was a beautiful key ring (from his shop). I had got him nothing, the window men having been much more than a couple of hours doing my windows and doors and then me having to wait for the washing machine.

I had bought him some white tulips the day before as these are his favourite flowers but I had nothing to give him. So, as I was paying for the meal, I bought a bottle of the lighea wine (as you cannot buy it in supermarkets or off-licences). It wasn’t as good as getting him a real present but, together with the tulips, I think it was OK.

We walked back. tomorrow I must start my non-diet again!

He went to bed and put the television on and I walked the dogs. I came back and told him I was going to have a glass of milk and then come to bed. 10 minutes later, I came to bed. He was propped up with one of my pillows in addition to his own, television remote control in hand, seemingly watching TV. One arm was round Dino who was lying next to him.

“I’m going to need my pillow back”, I said, laughing.

There was no response. As I got into bed, I realised that he was asleep. I reached over and took the remote control from his hand and switched off the TV. As I turned round, he woke up so I grabbed my pillow and we both settled down for a particularly quiet sleep, the double-glazed windows keeping out more sound, I am sure.

I adore him, you know?

Everything is new! Or, at least, tidied up :-)

Hmmm. When they were measuring to replace the windows, they said that when they came to do them, it would take only a few hours. They assumed I would want to be back at work. In reality, of course, it being 3 p.m. (they started work at 8 a.m.) it is a good thing I took the whole day off.

It’s also a good thing that the new washing machine is coming between four and six. It’s also a good thing that my cleaner has not arrived yet. He is due to be here any time now but the men have, nearly, finished.

Many things have happened/are happening. It’s like a whole new place.

When we got back from our night away, because F had let a friend of his stay in his flat (and she was going to stay on Sunday too), we came to my house. We played cards and stuff. He decided that my fridge smelt of garlic and so, being the only thing we had not done during the great ‘Kitchen tidy up’, he decided we would do it now.

Everything was emptied out. Things past their sell-by date were thrown away (I’m really not good at that) and the fridge was cleaned (by F, of course). Now it is very tidy. Obviously, I must try to keep it that way.

We went to buy the new washing machine on Saturday morning, before we left. For the last few months, the machine has, during its spin cycle, sounded as if I had put a couple of boulders in with the washing. God knows what my neighbours have been thinking. So we went to Euronics (obviously). I decided to pay up to €600. So I have a new super washing machine coming this afternoon. This is kind of essential as the last wash I did on Friday night, didn’t actually get any spin at all. It washed and rinsed but no amount of coaxing and restarting by me resulted in any spin at all. And the thought of not having any washing done was terrible. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I AM NOT going back to hand washing.

The nice thing about Euronics is that, not only are they helpful and nice (although I prefer the smaller one on the corner of Viale Vittorio Veneto and Via Lazzaretto than the one on Corso Buenos Aires), they also did their best to get it delivered this afternoon. Obviously, as I write this, it hasn’t been delivered yet …… but I trust them. So there’s another few hundred Euro that Darty don’t have and Euronics do. And it will be the same when I have to replace the fridge, although I’m hoping this will be next year, at least.

So, a cleaned and organised fridge, new windows and doors and a new washing machine. What fun I have!

It’s very cold ……. with no windows; The Smart Box night away.

Excuse me for this but it is fucking freezing!

The men are here replacing the external doors, windows and shutters. When they said they were going to start in January I did think they were a bit mad. Of course, it wouldn’t be so cold if I were working like them but I am here only to make sure that Rufus doesn’t run off somewhere and Dino doesn’t spend all his time in their way and trying to lick them.

And they have completed the kitchen so we are here and I am typing on the computer and my hands feel numb and it is difficult to type. One of the many disadvantages to smoking, I guess – your circulation is not shit-hot.

I’ve lost the beautiful handles, of course. But the windows look good and, one hopes, the whole flat will be much warmer – after today. They are (and I’ve just got up to check) double glazed and I am very happy about that. During the time they have been here (three and a half hours so far), there have been three people from other flats in the building, coming to them to tell them that one or more of their windows/doors don’t work correctly. I only hope they do mine properly as this would be much more difficult for me to do – what with my bad Italian and the fact that I work all day – leaving before they arrive and coming home after they have gone :-(

Still, they are tidy and the finish they have done is good. There will be no need to re-paint everything afterwards. But the bonus is (I hope) that it will be warmer in the flat.


Well, what can I say? The weekend (really 24 hours) away was lovely. But let’s get the bad things over and done with. The ‘hotel’ was a bit basic and the room was almost unbearably hot (although, as I write this I wish I was there and not here). The restaurant was at ‘their other place’ which was a fifteen minute drive away. The food was OK but not really amazing. The weather on Sunday was miserable so that we came straight home and did not go somewhere for a few hours – like Pavia – which I had thought we might do. In spite of there being no dogs to take out, we both had a fairly restless night (the heat of the room, the noise of the church bell which rang out at seven to call the faithful to mass on Sunday morning). The town (Pinarolo Po) we stayed in was a bit of a one-horse town. The place with the restaurant (Borgo Priolo) was a collection of houses – and the agriturismo. The place we went to because we were too early for the restaurant (Casteggio) was, to be honest, quite boring and not a ‘pretty Italian town’ like we had hoped.

So, the things that were good? Well, first of all we were away from home. It means we spend more time together and, you know, I do so enjoy that? It was very relaxing. We got to the hotel and were met by a fat version of Riff Raff (from the Rocky Horror Picture Show) at the desk. He was one of those people who don’t go grey, as such. His hair, shoulder length, was that dirty yellow colour, as if he had been in smoke-filled rooms all his life. We got our key, went to our room and had a little relax. Even a little snooze. Then got up and got ready and went to find the restaurant. My navigator is really fantastic. Except for one thing. It makes it easy to find somewhere but, I think, you miss out on finding those ‘unexpected’ places. The route is always one which is ‘main’ roads and I wonder if we don’t miss out on some hidden gem. Also, it meant that I didn’t research the area. So I have no idea if there was somewhere else to go. Maybe Voghera would have been nice to go to for a couple of hours? In future, I must look before we travel so that I have a better idea of what’s around the area.

Anyway, we found the restaurant and there was nothing around. Anyway, it was already dark. We had an hour or so to kill and so we went to a nearby town we had noticed on the way there. This was Casteggio. Casteggio has a huge square in the centre, given up to a car park, as one often sees. We walked around. We both wondered how the shops could possibly survive. There were so few people around. There were shops without customers. F, being a visual merchandiser, commented on how the clothes shops had everything in the window. Too much stuff. But, then, this was not Milan and these were, in general, not designer shops.

We wandered around. There was nothing. We went past a tobacconist and F decided to get a lottery ticket.

“I won a thousand Euro”, he said, all excitedly. I suppose I almost ignored him as the statement was incredible. He showed me the ticket. Indeed, he had won. But not a thousand as he said.

He repeated, “I won a hundred Euro”. Of course, now it made more sense. Sometimes, when you buy a ticket, you win some money. For my regular readers, you may remember I won €5 one time. He had indeed won €100! This was going to pay for our whole evening.

We went to a coffee/bakery shop to ‘celebrate’. We had a drink (non-alcoholic) and some snacky, savoury things. We walked around a bit more but it was, frankly, quite boring. We went back to the restaurant and went in.

This was an agriturismo. The menu was set. There was a bottle of red wine on the table (which was lovely), we had water and they came and poured us a glass of their own spumante (like champagne); to start with a plate of what looked like home-made bread (but was something called tartine – bread with bits in it). Then a plate of meats. The salame was very nice. Then a small selection of pickled onions, mushrooms and a sauce thing made with red peppers, carrots and vegetables. Along with real home-made bread. Very nice.

Next up was pasta, made by them, from wholemeal flour – so, brown. The first was some pasta like ravioli but heart-shaped – it being the Saturday of Valentine. then some short pasta with a mushroom sauce. They came back with seconds of the Valentine pasta – so I had a couple more.

Then we had some Roast Beef (as they call it) Very thin slices of cold roasted beef – done very rare, as they do here. If you don’t compare it to English roast beef then it is lovely. No vegetables or accompaniments, of course, we are in Italy. After that came some pork – except that, really, it was a slice of roasted gammon. F wouldn’t eat his so I had his too. Then they came back with seconds of the roast beef – and it seemed rude to refuse. I had decided anyway that my non-dieting would cease this weekend. Then a sweet which was a fruit tart with a little custard on the side (crema, here). With the sweet was a glass of moscato and then coffee. We were both stuffed. The food was nice but not spectacular. But for €75 (you see how the €100 win paid for the night?) for two, it was very good value and the food was good and a lot.

The night, as I said, was restless. The room was far too hot. And then there was the clanging (for it was not a pleasant, sweet sound) of the church bell at seven.

So much for the dogs not waking us in the morning. We dozed on and off and then at about 9, I got up anyway.

Outside, the glorious and surprisingly warm days of the previous week had been replaced with a drizzly mist. We are in the Po valley, of course. And it was now cold, I suppose as it should be in the middle of February.

We breakfasted. They seemed surprised by my request for a glass of cold milk. So much so that we had to ask twice. Riff Raff was there helping serving the breakfasts.

We packed and were out of the hotel by 10.30 and on our way back to Milan driving through the fog and, kind of, grateful to be going home. But we had a nice time and it’s times like these I feel closer to F and I do like that.

As for the package, the Smart Box? It’s a great idea and, if only we had booked it sooner, we could have chosen the hotel we wanted and it may have been nicer. I would consider buying one for someone else – maybe the gastronomic package?