Monday 28 November 2022

No getting away from it

At the weekend the Christmas lights went on in our little town. MrFF was there and took this video, it was a well attended event.

This afternoon the tree went up in the atrium of our building, at present it’s undecorated and wonky, I reserve judgement. Yesterday only one of the houses we look onto had outside lights, today it’s three, no doubt the whole road will be decorated soon.

I am holding off, our decs are still in the loft but they will make an appearance in a subdued way eventually.  More importantly I am holding off the mince pies, for now, I expect them to make an appearance well before our lights.  

Sunday 20 November 2022

Stir up Sunday

Sunday 20 November is Stir up Sunday the official day to make your Christmas cake, puddings and mincemeat allowing them time to mature for the 25 of December.  I didn’t realise that when I prepared to make my cake, I was waiting for delivery of a new set of digital kitchen scales that arrived today, mine gave up the ghost last week.  In the meantime I had collected together all the necessary ingredients. I shopped locally, just a stroll the end of our road, to an eco grocery shop where you take your own containers to reduce packaging. I kept the glacé cherries separate as I like to rinse off the sticky sugar coating otherwise everything went into the same box.

I’m quite risqué when it comes to dried fruits (that sounds so Victoria Wood, must be a northern thing).   As well as sultanas, raisins and cherries, no currants, I added dried mango and cranberries with a shot of limoncello in the mix for flavour.  MrFF and I each made a wish while stirring the mixture, we didn’t reveal what they were apart from the fact that both were cat related.    The cake turned out just fine.

To get my moneys worth from having the oven on for 4 hours I also made two banana loaves from a 25p bag of overripe bananas,  later I stuck some jacket potatoes and braising steak in the oven, that kept the penthouse toasty and smelling delicious all afternoon. 
I am so pleased to report all this activity and confirm that I am now fully recovered from our journey home.  It’s taken almost two weeks to feel like me again. 

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Our run in with the law

I didn’t write about this while we were in Italy and after this year of experiencing so much rule bending maybe I was over anxious but I wanted to wait till we were safely home to come clean.

After we became residents at the end of 2020 we had 3 months to de-register our car in the UK, register with the Italian tax office and change to Italian plates.  We were reluctant to do so as our Saab is 20 years old, of no great value except to us and we knew the process would be long and expensive.  We would not be allowed to use the car while the changes were being made, at least 3 months, which would make life on the mountainside difficult.

It’s usual to use the service of a driving school to complete the registration, the first one we approached refused the work saying it would take forever and the authorities would make fools of us.  The second one would help us, firstly we needed to get an original copy of our UK documents, we take copies abroad,  and have them translated by some legal official in Italy.  We had to do something similar with our marriage certificate when we took residency. UK authorities will only post such documents to a UK address, we had to get them posted on by our key holder, pay for a translation, all that palaver and the Comune looked at them for maybe 2 minutes before handing them back.

We delivered the car documents to the driving school but after some thought decided not to proceed, we collected them back and gave him a few bottles of wine for his trouble.  Obviously we worried about being fined or having the car impounded but not too much, nothing happened and we returned to England in that November.

This year we hadn’t been back in Italy long before we were stopped by the carabinieri, the state police.  We are always told to speak only English to them because they cannot do with the hassle and will wave you on.  We greeted the officer with a good afternoon, he spoke excellent English.  He asked for our documents, we showed our UK driving licences,  we couldn’t show our Italian residency card or our cover would be blown.  He took the cards back to his vehicle and his colleague, they had a discussion,  made a phone call and came back asking for the car documents.  We should carry the registration document in the car, we don’t do that in the UK because if the car is stolen it’s much easier to sell on.  MrFF showed him our insurance document which is on his phone, we didn’t think the officer could read it let alone understand but he said it was ok.  He asked if the address on the driving licence was where we lived, yes, and he took a photo of our car number plate.  I asked MrFF if he was scared and he said he was a bit, I was a lot.

Anyway we were waved on.  I mentioned that we might now be on some Italian database MrFF thought not.  We were on our way to dinner at friends, we needed a stiff drink as soon as we arrived.

A few weeks later MrFF was returning from the builders yard, he pulled up at the house and so did a police car.  He explained to me that he’d been almost home and the 2 local police ladies were driving in the opposite direction but quickly turned round,  followed and stopped him asking for the car documents, he explained they were at the house.  We told them about not carrying them etc, they obviously didn’t grasp the principle and said if the car was stolen we could phone for new documents.  The documents were ok but then one of them said we could only have our car in Italy for 3 weeks without registering it and that we should do so immediately by driving an hour away to the tax office.  We said we’d never heard that before, apparently it was a new rule.  When they left I checked online and there was nothing, but we wondered if they might check if we were residents in which case we definitely needed to register the car.  

About a week later the two ladies pitched up again this time with a directive about this new 3 week rule, MrFF photographed it.  They said we should go to the region capital and register the car, as if it was as simple as that.  We were sitting in the garden, MrFF disappeared into the house for some reason leaving me to chat. Things got awkward when they asked when we arrived and how long we were staying.  I’m not sure if they knew we were residents, their office is in the Comune building it wouldn’t be difficult to check.  I mumbled about coming send going and moved the conversation on, fortunately one of them was very interested in the garden, phew.

Later I did some more research and the 3 week rule was for residents driving a car they didn’t own on foreign plates, for example a worker with a Swiss company car. Nonetheless we were breaking the rules and felt vulnerable, we took to only going out about once a week for provisions and doing this at lunch time when of course everyone is eating and then resting.  Whenever we saw a police car we were nervous, one time driving through the village we saw about 5 carabinieri officers outside the bar, luckily too involved in coffee and chat to spot our UK number plates.

The stress combined with the need by the end of this year for MrFF to take a written and practical Italian driving test, preceded by 6 compulsory driving lessons, for 3 years to be classed as a new driver with limit on the size of car he can drive and increased insurance premiums, convinced us to give up our residency solving all these problems.  We applied in July and heard not a thing until October, we had copies of our cancellation request forms in case we were stopped but reality we probably continued to drive illegally.  

Just another hassle we lived with this year.  I sometimes read the British Embassy in Rome’s Facebook page.  Plenty of cross people who worry about changing their licence to keep their jobs, and rightly furious that for Italian drivers in the UK it’s a  simple process, no tests at all, no new driver designation.  But then why would Italy ever make anything straightforward, where else would you need your tax code before we could buy a sofa or your car registration document for a replacement windscreen wiper.  

Now we can only be in the Schengen region for 90 days in every 180.  No more 7 month stays, we will need to juggle our visits and minimise travel time.  At present I don't have the strength to do that or the enthusiasm to think about this, I am still exhausted and cross.  

Wednesday 9 November 2022


We are back in Yorkshire, hallelujah, after the usual exhausting 3 days of travel.  On the first day we drove for 12 hours into France to find no food available at our hotel.  4 star with 2 restaurants even the bar was closed.  Guests were wearing their coats at breakfast it was so cold indoors, the place had the cheek to call itself Grand Hotel Bristol.

Despite hit and miss petrol supplies in France we managed to keep topped up with diesel.  We had a quiet but choppy channel crossing and on the M25 were delayed by the Just Stop Oil protestors as were hundreds of others, the cost of delayed freight alone must be enormous.  Eventually the motorway was completely closed heading north but fortunately where we exit for the A1.

It’s so good to be home after a difficult and disappointing 7 months in Italy.  We left the house with no resolution to the water problem and only 15 litres of oil after 2 days of picking. The penthouse is calm, we are recovering and I am so happy to be back whilst trying not to think about the cats.