I find myself feeling lucky and grateful right now.
I’m sitting on my balcony on one of the last days in March, all the kids are out and I’m making the most of a rare moment of solitude.
The sun is shining and spring is here. It isn’t warm though. Being a Brit, I’m determined to sit outside. I’m a bit of a softie Brit though and haven’t put my shorts on. Instead I’m in my padded jacket and my hands are so cold that I can hardly type but, the sun is out so I should be too!
I need the sun at the moment. I put a colour on my hair to darken it. Mainly because I’m sick of being called bionda. Sadly for me it’s too dark and in an attempt to lighten it, I’ve put lemon juice on my dull head and need to sit in the sun, The next step is a chamomile rinse!
Many people don’t realise that here in Italy it isn’t all sun and heatwaves in fact winters here can be long and cold. Here in northern Tuscany, we get 6 months of lovely warm sun when there is little rain but that is countered by 6 months of grey depressing cold weather with lots of rain and even snow when temperatures can often drop to -8 or even -11.
In my rustic Italian home, there isn’t any traditional central heating. My bedroom temperatures reached 2 degrees and at one point recently, there was ice on the INSIDE of my windows. I’m not good with the cold. I’m like a squirrel and I need to hibernate in these dismal months.
In an effort to keep warm, this year I discovered, courtesy of my friend, the housecoat. The younger generation, brought up in warm, cosy houses may not have heard of this phenomenon but when I was very small, ladies often wore a house coat which was a kind of dressing gown. My rediscovery of this wonderful item of clothing was my saviour this year.
I bought a couple and could wear my more flattering wardrobe underneath instead of dreary fleecy tracksuits which I loath. If anyone came to the door, I could simply whip the housecoat off revealing my glorious and glamourous self No more going to the door feeling dowdy and drab.
Next year I think I’ll buy more so I can be a different colour every day.
Meanwhile, my lemon juiced locks are now dry. Chamomile rinse anybody?
It’s not all sun, sand and spaghetti here in Tuscany you know, especially here in the mountains.
This weekend is set to be FREEZING and anyone who know me, knows that I like the sun and warmth. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like lying all day in the sun but I like the warmth, the blue sky and the feeling of energy that it gives me.
Today we have high winds and snow blowing in from higher ground. Over the next few days we have possible temperatures of up to -12 degrees centigrade, yes that’s minus 12. Brrrrr.
By the way, have I ever mentioned that living up in the mountains of northern Tuscany creates difficulties with services? For example, here in our village, there are no gas pipes. Any gas is delivered to us in canister or “bombola”.
I have one for the cooker which lasts typically 6 weeks and smaller ones for any portable calor gas heaters which we certainly need over the winter months.
These “bombolas” are delivered on the back of a narrow truck which can get near to the houses in medieval villages such as ours and are brought to the door by a delivery man. It’s payment on delivery (cash only!) or you can accept the delivery and pass by the office in the next town but only if your’re a regular and trusted customer.
I’m staying firmly by our log fire this evening even though I’ve been invited out to dinner. I have a 2.7 km drive down the mountain into town but, and as I’ve experienced in the past, the snow can sometimes come down very heavily and stick within minutes making my way home seem like a battle in the arctic. Thank goodness for snow tyres. Here in my zone, you have to have either snow tyres or carry snow chains on board from 15 November to 15 April by law.
Most people here burn wood on log fires or wood burning stoves. I have one of these in my art and craft studio and it makes a lovely atmosphere on Christmas day when we eat our lunch there.
Wood burning stove, luxury in Tuscan winter
Wood is delivered on request usually from September on wards when people get round to thinking about winter and I typically use 5 tons of it over the cold months. I did research the ecological friendliness of this and as woodland is managed, it turned out to be the best for the environment.
The wood comes in faggio (beech) and forte (harder woods such as oak and chestnut). The faggio burns easily and is great for getting a fire started and the forte burns for a longer time but is more difficult to get started.
They say here that the wood warms you twice. The first time when you are putting it into your cellar. A job which needs to be done quickly, usually the delivery day since if your wood gets wet it isn’t any good. The second warming from the wood comes when you burn it.
There’s no better sight in November than a cellar full to the ceiling of firewood. It looks as though it would go on for ever. If this weekend’s forecast is anything to go by however, my wood pile will be much smaller than before.!
Last year’s selection of snowballs before the fight.
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