First I have to say that this trip was all work. Honestly. Every bit of my stay involved research for my next book. Serious note taking was involved. Hundreds of photographs were taken. An enormous amount of wandering through markets, haggling for bargains (a heroine needs to do stuff like that), trying on shoes, checking out handbags. Serious shopping. This was important, serious Work.
But then again, working in Italy is not like working at home. The warmth, the colour, the elegance, the relaxed attitude to life, the sheer joy of the dolce vita. The fact that given the slightest excuse Italians will let off the kind of firework display that makes November 5th look very sad. While I was there they had a firework competition. Imagine firework display teams trying to outdo each other in the brilliance of their shows. Italian firework display teams. And no rain!
Well, actually we did have some rain. Not the grey, dreary stuff that goes on for days, but exciting, macho rain accompanied by thunder and lightning, with, of course, a rainbow when the sun broke through.
We stayed with friends in Isola del Liri in the Comino Valley -- north of Naples, south of Rome – and here’s the view that was all mine for ten days.
The mountains are spectacular, the hill top towns ancient.
This -- and the narrow lane above -- is in Arpino, where Cicero and Agrippa were born and in the piazza (perfect for people watching over an expresso), a Roman pavement -- along which they undoubted walked -- is being excavated. Of course, when I saw a Ducati (serious hero transport) parked by the side of the road, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of that, too.
We spent a day visiting Monte Cassino, reduced to rubble in WWII, but now completely rebuilt and stunningly beautiful.
And at the monastery of Casa Mari, where the church windows are made of golden alabaster. We were lucky enough to witness the arrival of a bride, joining in the applause as she walked up the steps of the church to meet her groom.
Afterwards we drove to a nearby lake and I want you to imagine me sitting here, a glass of wine in one hand, nibbling an olive while the cicadas serenaded me and the sun beat down. All in the name of research, naturally.
Since at least part of my book will be set in Bella Maria, I had to get fully into the spirit of the thing with the food. There was the fabulous pasta made by Anna di Vito (cousin of the more famous Danny) who, incidentally, is a huge Liz Fielding fan. And I wanted to show you a picture of the “mignon”, the most elegant end to a wonderful Sunday lunch; miniature versions of the full size cakes, each one a mouthful of heaven. And unlike the big versions, you can try, um, quite a lot! Blogger, however, is being unco-operative! This has rescued you from seeing me shell-shocked by both pizza and ice cream!
Shopping in Sora market was fun. This is Marco, whose Papa sold the most beautiful tablecloths.
I could go on indefinitely about what a wonderful time I had, but now I have to go and put all that exhaustive research into a book. I just hope I did enough ... it would be tragic if I had to go back and check out some detail I’d missed, wouldn’t it?