Echos of summer in Toscana

After the PoolFor the northern summer of 2011 our life consisted of doing very little – but doing it very well. On the fine sunny days – pretty much every day between May and October – we spent time at our villa pool.

And after a hard afternoons sunning and swimming it was a short walk back to the cottage for a G &T, a beer and some time to recover from the stress of the day.


Ready for festival

The August Festival is a much anticipated event in Positano. There are parades of boats and fireworks all topped off with dinners all around the town on Friday August 15th.

Sadly there had a been a fatal car accident the night we arrived which took two lives – one being a local boy, the son of a prominent Positano family. With a population of only a few thousand people, the loss was keenly felt in the village. A decision was made on Wednesday not to have the fireworks display on festival night as a mark of respect. This was the right decision but meant that for visitors the evening was much quieter than usual.

Having said that, it was still a great night with everyone getting dressed up for the occasion. Jean had purchased a dress in the UK especially for the evening.

The paparazzi caught her about to leave Villa Greta for dinner.

Jean wearing Karen Millen


Plonkers in Positano


This gallery contains 2 photos.

Dinner at Chez Black can be a sophisticated affair. The restaurant is one of Positano’s oldest and most respected. Since 1949 it has been host to many famous people including Denzel Washington and Harvey Weistein who we sat next to … Continue reading

A thank you

MedsWe just want to say a huge thank you to the team at Eden Roc hotel for their help when Jean fell sick. Within 30 minutes of us contacting them and asking for a doctor one turned  up on our doorstep. Dr Buonocore you were fantastic.

Later that day we had a visit from Dominic, the head of the Casola family, asking after Jeans health and stressing that if there was anything we needed we were just to ask.

As a result, dinner that night were Eden Roc takeaways – not something that is usually available to anyone as far as we know.

Stunning Penne Carbonarra accompanied by crispy bread and some beers for the caregiver, all transported from the hotel on the handlebars of a Vespa to make sure it was still piping hot. As the young hotel concierge said – Carbonarra is always best hot – which it was.

Grazie mille Eden Roc.

February is birthday month

Birthday Cake 1

At our place birthdays happen in February.

Both Jean and I celebrate the passing of another year in February with birthdays just 4 days apart. Both our mothers celebrate birthdays in February as does an assortment of rellies scattered throughout the month.

Last night we celebrated Jean’s birthday with candles, cake, flowers, champagne and balloons – and a visit from the “Louis V” fairy with a new handbag-matching wallet.

What more could a girl want?

A perfect day

Wellington has not had a good summer. Apparently the weather has been generally cold, unsettled, blowy and not what you expect from a kiwi summer.

This week that’s all changed and today was a cracker. To prove it, I captured a shot of a young lady enjoying the afternoon sun – her identity remains a mystery.

It wasn’t quite a Tuscan sun but it wasn’t too shabby either.

Our Madonna – updated

This morning while sitting on our terrace having that first cappuccino, Jean spotted a little lady from the village cleaning our Madonna.  Our lady got the full treatment – glass cleaned, flowers refreshed and steps swept.

Based on this Jean has put away her glass polish and stopped trying to figure out how to get our vaccum cleaner cord to reach 20 metres down the road.

The “meant to be” dress – a modern fairytale concludes


This gallery contains 5 photos.

The pretty girl visited the shop run by the wicked shopkeeper and discovered that the wicked shopkeeper was, in fact, her fairy godmother and had many, many magically beautiful dresses.  So many in fact that the pretty girl couldn’t decide … Continue reading

We have another keen movie maker in the family


I’ve shot a bit of video in Italy over the last few months but now have to relinquish the crown of family filmmaker to Jean. Prompted by our departure from Tuscany at the end of October she put together a movie about our cottage.

Jean shot it so we had something to remember the cottage by but I thought it was worth sharing.

In using a single handheld shot for the whole movie she follows in the footsteps of great directors such as Hitchcock, De Palma and Scorsese.


The terror of a hairdresser who speaks no English

It’s one of those things that needs to be done – haircuts in foreign languages. It’s simple for a guy – you nip into Siena, find someone who cuts hair, gesture for a bit off the sides and a bit less off the top, “grazie mille” and you’re gone.

For girls it’s a bit different. Particularly if colour is involved and the way you’re going to look for the next month or two is at stake.

Jean faced this situation recently and with some trepidation entered the small salon we pass on the way to language school to make an appointment. The hairdresser, a young Italian guy, spoke no real english but was helpful and seemed to know what needed to be done. All good so far.

New hair and new sandals as well

As the appointment was made to follow one of the All Black RWC games, Jean left me sitting having a quiet, post game drink (not to be confused with the pre game drinks or the inter game drinks) and estimated, based on past experience, that the whole operation would take about 90 minutes. She would text me when things were getting close.

No problems, I’d just sit and watch the world go by. Maybe do a little window shopping. Maybe not. “Anchi birra per favoure”.

Ninety minutes later – no text. Two hours – no text. Two hours and 20 mins – no text. To put it another way – that’s about 8 beers and, needless to say, by this stage I was feeling pretty good about life. My main concern, in fact my only concern, was whether or not I would be able to stand up.

To test this, a walk to the salon was in order to check Jean hasn’t been abducted, murdered, or worse, things have gone horribly wrong and she’s sitting there with red or green hair or even worse, no hair.

As I stagger through the door Jean seems calm and relaxed and, more importantly still has hair. The process is progressing but progressing very slowly. The hairdresser is a perfectionist – no an artist and it seems I have another 40 minutes to fill. I wonder how I”ll do that?

Fourty minutes later all is well, Jean looks great, every single hair is in place and perfectly cut, dried and styled. Just the look to be dragging a drunk through the streets of Siena on the way home.

Not another photo?

As a keen amateur photographer trying to capture the relaxed Tuscan lifestyle I can become a bit demanding on my available talent – which consists of one long suffering wife and two small white fluffy dogs.

When the demands become too great the dogs simply get up and walk off. Jean isn’t so lucky.

Fun in the sun

You can never have enough pool toys

Daisy has taken up a fair bit of our time lately, but prior to that we managed a bit of pool time. It was the only way to keep cool in the 35 to 40 degree heat.

Clearly in Europe everyone turns up at the pool with some form of inflatable toy to amuse themselves. Often there are so many toys in the pool it’s difficult to find a spot to swim.

Not to be outdone Jean splashed out (excuse the pun) on a lilo. All of 5 Euro at the local inflatable pool toy store.

Jean and Nacho Libre

The man who sits by the pool has made a wee movie showing Jean in action.

Please note, the ocassional swat at the water is simply Jean avoiding wasps, bees, bugs, etc, that have made their way into the pool.






Really hot

Watching the sun go down

The last week has been unseasonably hot.

Temperatures have hovered in the late 30 degrees during the day which is great for pool life but not good for cottage life or for the dogs.

Relief comes in the evening when it becomes bearable to sit outside and enjoy the sunset.

Chores in Florence

Having been back from Nice for a few days it was time to catch up on some chores. You know, those things you keep putting off because they are a bit difficult or mean going out of your way.

Well our chores revolved around a trip to Florence. Yes, alright, I can hear a chorus of “you poor hard-done-by things” reverberating around the world.

But, Florence is an hours drive away, and the parking is a bit of a trick, and it’s full of tourists, and it’s always warmer than around our place. Ok, reading this back it’s not really that much of a chore. And it is the birthplace of the Renaissance after all.

Anyway, we headed north on Wednesday with two planned chores and one that crept up on us over the last few days. My darling wife had an ear-ache – probably an ear infection. One of those that makes you miserable, hurts like hell and requires drugs – lots of them.

We decided to seek medical help in Florence because we had the name of an english speaking doctor who has a practice there – and we were going anyway.

On the drive north we called the doctor to find that, like most people in Italy, he was on holiday during August. He left some alternative places to visit, one of which was very close to the Duomo. Even we can find the Duomo in Florence so the plan was set.

We found the medical centre quite easily, signed in and waited for their ear specialist Dr Alonzo Attilio. He spoke very little English and our Italian is still a work in progress so things boded well for medical misadventure.

One thing we have noticed is that the Italian medical system – for people or dogs – seems very efficient. And sure enough our wait was only 5 minutes. We struggled to explain the ear problem to the Dr Alonzo but one look into Jean’s ear and he understood. He then explained, in great detail, what he was going to do to fix it none of which we understood.

Within ten minutes we knew what he had said – vaccum, prod, poke, vaccum, clean, prod, vaccum, syringe, poke, vaccum, a course of antibiotics, cortisone and pain klllers for an ear infection – grazie and arrivederci.

Jean said that if she had known what he was going to do she would have done a runner, so maybe a language barrier isn’t always a bad thing. Dr Alonzo must know his stuff as Jean’s ear is improving by the day.

On a happier note we then went to Tiffanys to collect a necklace for Jean and collected skin care products from the only pharmacy in Florence (or Siena) that stocks that particular brand – or in this case had to order them in especially for Jean.

On the way home we stopped at Piazza Michaelangelo which overlooks Florence and, along with about 1000 other visitors, took the classic photo of Florence.

All in all a successful day.

Goodbye Positano

We have had a fantastic time in Positano. The apartment was great, the weather hot (too hot on occasions) and having Charmaine, Mike & James arrive near the end of our stay a real bonus.

As always we were spoiled by the wonderful people at Eden Roc Hotel who made us feel very welcome. But all good things come to an end and on Saturday morning we headed for Tuscany.

We enjoyed the stay at Villa Greta so much we are sure we’ll be back. So it’s not so much goodbye to Positano, more “au revoir”.

Positano from Villa Greta roof terrace