We talk a lot about what Marche has to offer holiday makers but what’s “normal life” for the McMorrans in this little corner of the world.
After a remarkably quick property search in 2003 we chose our beautiful property not only to suit what we thought our future guests would want from a location, but also from a general view of living a day to day life for ourselves.
During our high season months our lives evolve around the business and I’m sure any of our guests will agree with us when we say that our feet rarely touch the ground. But outside of this busy time we do get to enjoy our little piece of paradise at a slower pace of life.
So what do we do during the winter months? Well, our schedule is very much ruled by our daughter’s schooling which is now at a technical science school in Fermo. She’s up at 5.50am to catch the school bus at 6.35 and returns home at around 3pm. This is basically Monday to Saturday – yes Saturday as well! So there certainly aren’t any major lie-ins happening outside of our busy season. But it does mean that once Grace departs I enjoy a leisurely breakfast and a trip down to the ancient ruins at Urbs Salvia with Marley, our Cocker Spaniel, for a nice long walk. On rainy days (which are few and far between) Dean steps in and takes him for a stretch through the woods within the grounds of the Abbadia di Fiastra.
Our shopping habits have definitely been Italianised as we decide each morning what we’re having for dinner and call up to our local shops to get any fresh produce. Of course we do a larger supermarket shop once every couple of weeks to get the main essentials but gone are the days of filling a huge trolley load of goodies to last for 2 weeks from Asda.
Our gardens remain a hefty part of our winter jobs, shutting everything down, dismantling outside furniture, leaf collecting, cutting lawns (the grass only stops growing here for probably 3 months much to Dean’s horror), and cutting back ready for new growth in the spring. SO on nice days we’ll be outside with regular cups of tea to keep us going (after 14 years we’re still not coffee converts).
Many people romanticise about olive picking and how wonderful it is to produce your own olive oil from your own plants. Well, despite being quite a romantic at heart, this is one job I can do without. Luckily (for me) it’s not been a good year for olives and Dean was able to pick our crop on his own whilst I was busy staining windows on our top floor, windows wide open with my YouTube playlist blaring out into the countryside. The weather was amazing in November – early 20s still – just perfect for windows and olives. Great title for a book! “Windows and Olives” – watch this space.
Working from home has definitely fuelled my love of fresh Italian food, giving me plenty of time to get some delicious goodies cooking whilst we’re working. I certainly don’t miss walking in at 7pm and thinking, what shall I cook tonight? Dean is well known in our local supermarket, particularly with the older shoppers who seem to enjoy his warped sense of humour. One of my close Italian pals bought me a subscription to an Italian recipe magazine last year which has not only meant my cooking skills have branched out but my knowledge of Italian verbs has improved also. My perfect Saturday evening is finding a new recipe to try then inviting our friends round to act as Guinea pigs and of course washing it down with plenty of fizz and wine whilst playing silly games like Pie Face. We don’t get too much time to see our friends during the summer months so I always look forward to some fun nights and some long Sunday lunches spent chatting about almost anything, eating simple but delicious food and drinking great wine. The Italians have certainly perfected the love of spending time together at a dining table.
Like any parents we tend to be full-time taxi drivers now that Grace has hit the teenage years. Hip Hop, meeting friends, parties, cinema……. We have parents’ evenings to attend which you can usually kiss goodbye to 4 hours of your time. Appointments in Italy can only be made for the hairdressers (honestly), oh sorry and the dentist, but everything else works on a free for all basis – if you suffer from high blood pressure then living in Italy may not be the place for you. Just going back to parents’ evenings – I tend to suffer these on my own as Dean doesn’t do patience ever-so well, but during our first year we tried to do everything together in an attempt to double the chances of understanding at least 50% of what was being said (our Italian was very rusty to start with). I remember the look of shear concentration on our faces to what appeared to be a 30 minute discussion about Creme Brulee. I know the Italians are passionate about food but really, they eat Creme Brulee for pudding at school every day? Everything became clear during a very embarrassing individual chat with one of the teachers after. “Grembiule” is the school uniform worn by primary school children. Oh dear! I think our spectacular mistakes with the Italian language has been a source of great entertainment over the years for those around us, so it’s comforting to know we spread a little happiness here in Mogliano.
The Italian schooling system doesn’t allow much family time which came as quite a shock considering how family orientated they are as a nation. With school being 6 days a week you only tend to have Sundays available to plan days out but since the kids are generally bombarded with homework they tend to spend Sunday mornings with their heads in books. Having said that we still manage to get up into the Sibillini mountains for a play in snow followed by a delicious lunch at our favourite mountain agriturismo Le Cassette, or a bike ride along the coast (my sort of cycling as it’s on the flat) obviously followed by some fresh fish in one of the many great coastal restaurants. Have you noticed yet that our lives here in sleepy Mogliano do tend to evolve around eating!
Grace gets a couple of weeks holiday over Christmas and the New Year so this is our time to “cambia aria” (change the air) and head off to explore a different part of Italy. Over the years we’ve visited Puglia, Lake Garda, Venice and the Amalfi Coast. Venice has to be a favourite as it’s so easy from here – catch the train at Civitanova with a quick change at Bologna and 5 hours later you’re jumping on a taxi boat on the grand canal. Christmas is still relatively low key compared to the UK but it’s certainly become more commercialized over the last 14 years. Christmas crackers have finally made it out to Italy so we no longer need to get friends to smuggle a pack out for us, along with a bag of parsnips and an M&S Christmas pudding. Our Christmas lights in Mogliano will be officially switched on by the town Mayor on 8 December which celebrates the Immaculate Conception – I wasn’t an A* in maths but even I can work out that things don’t quite add up since Jesus was born on 25 December. Still, it’s a nice festival day just before Christmas and who am I to question the reasoning behind it.
Do I miss the UK? Yes, sometimes of course, nowhere ticks all the boxes. But as I sit at the dining room table writing this blog, looking out at the snow-capped Sibillini mountains surrounded by a crystal clear blue sky, a steamy cup of tea, no imposed deadlines to meet, no annoying work colleagues (apart from Dean on the odd occasion!), and no traffic jams to negotiate every day, I feel contented with my lot. It goes without saying that running your own business comes with many difficulties and moving to our little Italian town hasn’t eliminated the stresses caused by these, but the tranquility and pace of life that gently ticks away in the background has been a definite source of therapy and I love the fact that it’s impossible to pop into town quickly when I’m in a rush as inevitably, there’s always numerous friends and locals happy to see me and eager to stop and have a chat. The sense of community in our ancient Italian town must be high up on our tick list of why to stay in bella Italia!