Bisher 806 mal gespeichert
We have found that first-time visits to the farm most often work well for a period of 10-14 days. Shorter and our guest does not have time to acclimatise; longer and some, if not most, people become restless in the isolated natural setting. We are not set up to accommodate first-time visitors for more than 2 weeks. On the other hand, we are truly pleased and happy to welcome guests back on a repeat basis and indeed look forward to the opportunity.
So far we have enjoyed 5-10 return visitors, some of whom have looked after the property in our absence, and we hope that the joy of welcoming back guests will continue long into the future. Meanwhile we find that a lot of workawayers to our farm have then gone on to travel together and seek other experiences as a tight-knit group; which suggests that our location has provided a good environment for finding new friends and forging close bonds. This is how it should be...
If circumstances fit, visitors are most welcome to stay with us in our spacious, terraced apartment in Perugia. We have had a number of people stay with us here or just visit for a meal. Perugia is more like a homestay and so there is less privacy, which puts a premium on personal skills. The biggest advantage being in Perugia is that sightseeing or the study of Italian is more convenient. We do commute as necessary between Perugia and the farm during the time outside summer and this commuting will increase when the train line is at last fixed (September 2022). Hope in Italy is eternal!
We have had such overwhelmingly great experiences with Workaway that we are happy to host travellers even for a day or two when we are in Perugia, if you need somewhere to break the journey or freshen up. We don’t need much notice perhaps just a day or two; though people have even contacted us on the day itself…
I reply to all messages the moment I can. However, I seem to receive something like one to six messages each day from Workawayers so the response is not always instant. Meanwhile we can have up to 14 people on the farm at the same time, whether family, friends, or Workawayers, for whom I am cooking, working out logistics, or organising days. We have accepted everyone so far where the dates work and aspirations match.
We are a family of three Australians trying to revive an old olive farm; not as a commercial business, but as a lifestyle… We take inspiration from Italy's own “slow food” movement, started in Rome in 1986 (slowfood.com). The aim is not just to bring back to vibrant life a typical working Italian farm but also to promote now unused, historical plant varietals and to return lost knowledge about old species and forgotten approaches to cooking and eating.
The farm is right up in the hills of Umbria at least 15 minutes from the valley road or a good 30 minute run along a dusty white, uncovered driveway. It was abandoned in the mid-1900s, and no one has properly run this land as a farm since then, partly because the conditions for modern commercial farming are tough, if not impossible. There is almost no one nearby and the sense of peace and solitude -- being on top of the world -- gives our location its charm, rather than the ability to sightsee.
Projects have built up over time since we have lost two years to coronavirus, including most of 2021, and regulations seem to delay everything. A simple task can turn into a complicated series of time-consuming permit applications. Workaway activities are designed specifically with visitors in mind; with a goal that the activities are fun, interesting, and instructive. We have a range of projects in which guests can get involved if keen and willing, while, with a little bit of initiative, even more opportunities exist to participate in the everyday life of the farm.
In general, as we have people arriving and leaving all the time, rather than at fixed points, our activities continue on a seven-day cycle to give scope for everyone to start something and pitch in; which means that we are out there -- joining in person -- with workawayers, whether recently arrived or more established, doing the work or cooking the meals each day without break. Workawayers are then free to manage their own week according to the motives behind their travel.
I feel this approach works well, but it is least successful when Workaway means just we work and guests are "away", seeing no further than their own personal 'takeaways' from the trip. We hope that visitors will come with a generous spirit and contribute in a selfless fashion to the broader group.
On the other hand, while we try to do our best and to offer a fulfilling stay, we are not perfect and things can and do go wrong. Life on a farm in the middle of the Italian countryside does have its ups and downs, much like anywhere. Without wanting to paint too dire a picture and scare everyone away, possible challenges may well include power failures, boiler breakdowns, water outages, and trouble finding transportation or accessing shops. A long day in the hot sun can also be tiring and repeated long days in the heat even more tiring. The internet, wifi, and cellular coverage work 95% of the time; the other 5% it is having a 'pisolino'. We are blessed if nothing at all goes wrong in the course of a typical season.
In 2021 projects included: teaching the dog to hunt truffles (which is still not done, but maybe it is a lost cause), putting together some traditional mosaics, and experimenting with our classical outdoor pizza oven.The mosaics were designed based on classical Etruscan, Roman, or Byzantine themes using tiles on mesh. A photo shows one of our pizzas using zucchini flowers from our garden with mozzarella cheese on a tomato base, decorating a traditional kneaded live yeast dough.
We started with our first workawayers at the end of June 2021, two amazing, bright, positive, and enthusiastic women from Utrecht and it proved a fabulous summer exceeding all our expectations. Over the 2021 summer our farm welcomed more than 30 people in total. In this time we completed a range of mosaics, put up a gazebo, tended the garden, and harvested the lavender; all while trying to keep pace on the dinner table with the vegetable garden. A workawayer most kindly showed us all a great way to make pizza dough and our pizza skills jumped a notch as a result. In their spare time, everyone found the opportunity to read and write; or to do sport, exercise, and games including traditional "parlour" games such as the posting game, charades, the drawing game, and sardines, with one workawayer finding a particularly good spot amongst the fig trees. The dawns were beautiful and the evenings were so relaxing.
Subsequently in 2021 we started the practical garden and test-planted some medieval Italian fruit varietals. The practical garden has four sections: medicinal herbs, natural plant dyes, soap plants (for chemical-free, natural soap gentle on the body and the environment), and natural flavourings. In the orchard we are test planting apricots, apples, pears, cherries, white peach, and black figs. We also put outdoors, in a beautiful private section of the garden, a marble bath - what the Japanese might call a roten-buro (露天風呂) - so we can better enjoy the lovely climate and scenery. The bath is pictured in the photo section.
Projects for this year (2022) include: maintaining the extensive flower garden, tending the kitchen garden and its mass of vegetables, making greater use of the existing harvests that we do have (vegetable, fruit, lavender, olives, chestnuts, pine nuts, mushrooms, etc), developing the practical garden, developing the 'old-varietal' orchard, undertaking a cooking and photo project (“kitchens along our road”), putting together a foraging map, clearing the hill-paths, starting up some bee hives, harvesting the olives, as well as test-planting some grape vines, trained on a bush or gobelet system, ultimately to create a red wine (which I hope will be a soft readily-drinkable wine, and for which I intend to use some new small-scale experimental technology). We have two little building projects in mind involving bricks: a small shrine and some garden brick walls, to both of which we will attach the mosaics.
The summer is hot, while the spring and autumn are variable. It can snow in the winter. We have found that some Workawayers are not so used to the heat in summer or to staying outside for long hours. Please do think about your stamina if interested to come and help out.
We are keen in either spring or autumn to host an artist residency, for practising artists, and at some point to pursue a communal art project somewhat along the lines of Benton End, many years ago in England, which mixed together in a successful and meaningful way the creative passions of art, gardening, and cooking . We could host, I believe, up to eight artists, depending on whether some people were happy to share rooms or to visit as couples. Trina is always doing lots of painting so if someone wanted to get involved as an artist’s model whether in Perugia or in the Umbrian countryside, let us know! For 2023 we’ll think about creating a formal “artist’s garden” which mixes landscape, planting, and artwork. A wonderful couple from Denmark enthusiastically supported the idea of an informal concert in the gardens (playing their own music inspired by the 1960s) and maybe we will do this also. I hope so... The audience might be students from the Università per Stranieri di Perugia.
A lot happens outside the farm if you have a car, or want to use our bikes. From June to September Cinegatti offers an outdoor cinema both at the Frontone park in Perugia (Frontone Cinema all’aperto) and in the cloisters of Church San Fiorenzo (Cinema Méliès). There is a good film to enjoy, whether new or classic, almost every night in the balmy weather.
In the second week of July there is the Umbria Film Festival in the medieval town of Montone, just near us. (The honorary president is Terry Gilliam and others to get involved have included Ghita Nørby, Rachel Portman, Chanya Button, Chloe Pirrie, Bill Nighy, Stephen Woolley...) In mid-July there is the Umbria Jazz festival, the biggest traditional jazz gathering in Italy, held outdoors in the Perugia stadium. In mid-October there is the Eurochocolate festival, held through the streets and squares of Perugia, the town being home to Baci chocolate. The chocolate factory is a fun place to visit.
Perugia is also the home base for the Brunello Cucinelli and Luisa Spagnoli fashion brands. Both individuals have truly inspiring stories. The movie of Luisa Spagnoli you can see on the free RaiPlay app. Meanwhile, Cucinelli has built a philosophy and way of life into his business, like other famous Italians before him including Adriano Olivetti. (Cucinelli’s book, "Il sogno di Solomeo: La mia vita e l'idea del capitalismo umanistico", is a worthwhile read.)
Perugia retains several traditional family craft industries; most interestingly a family atelier for stained glass and a family workshop for textiles. The town is featured in various of the film gialli, one source of inspiration for directors such as Quentin Tarantino; reflecting the fact that Italy has been at the source of several global movements in cinematography; including neo-realism, the film giallo, and the unromantic or spaghetti western, of which a recent example is Jane Campion's latest movie.
Elsewhere in Umbria, Gubbio has a famous candle race mid-May and Spoleto has its celebrated festival of classical music and the arts late June. (Its sister festival is held in Charleston from late May each year.) Assisi is the home of St Francis and an amazing basilica. Norcia is the home of St Benedict and is famous for its natural surroundings (in particular wild flowers from mid-May to early July) and natural products.
Some monasteries in the general area welcome people who would like to experience for several days a life of meditation, prayer, and silence. We are happy to help our guests staying for 10-14 days to undertake this experience if they are truly interested. A handful of our visitors to date have shown a keen desire to participate.
Mithilfe auf einem Bauernhof
Hilfe mit Computer /Internet
It is an old neglected olive farm. We already make some fantastic high altitude, dense olive oil for our own consumption. In spring small wild strawberries and thin wild asparagus grow near the edges of the fields and roads. We have wild cherry, mulberry, fig, plum, apple, and lemon trees. In summer there is also watermelon and rock melon; in autumn (fall) rich persimmon and juicy pomegranate.
The kitchen garden, or "orto", is full of fava beans, which you can eat raw in spring, ripe tomatoes, zucchini with their exquisite yellow flowers, which tumble across the plate, peas, eggplant (aubergine), artichoke, fennel, various types of garlic, sweet cucumber, horseradish, peppers (capsicum), swiss chard, and many salad varieties. Later we get radish, turnip, little cauliflowers, some broccoli, squash, pumpkin, sweet cabbage, various types of onions, and potatoes. We grow many herbs - rosemary, sage, flat parsley, marjoram, basil, various types of mint, oregano, chives, thyme, savory (which has a bold, pepper flavour) - which fill our meals.
We greatly enjoy fresh teas with sage or mint leaves. Some visitors like their tea with rosemary and certainly we have many herbs that can be used for fresh teas with various suggested benefits. And at some point we will also use these herbs along with our lavender and other medicinal plants for our outdoor bath laid down last year; somewhat along the lines that Suor Bernardina described in her forgotten classic, 'Guarire con le erbe'.
At the right time we benefit from wonderful mushrooms, which we eat grilled or fried on their own or in grander dishes. If the dog is lucky enough to find a truffle - once we had one the size of a baseball - then we make truffle pasta. We collect the chestnuts in autumn, which currently we turn into chocolate chestnut cakes (too many!) or other desserts. There are also pine nuts, good for pesto as well as desserts, but - like too many things here - we have yet to properly master.
Workawayers (in particular our Danish visitors) have used the elderflower in our garden here to make syrups, cake, and tempura; the cherries to make crumble, compôte, and liqueur. They have combined the two, elderflower and wild red cherries, into a wonderful, fresh breakfast jam for bread or pastries. The same happens for mulberries, if they are not all eaten immediately, and the other fruit we have when late frosts don't get to them...
We are keen to do more in terms of planting, especially of historical varietals, around which we aim to write some text focused on the great value and use of diversity in the home garden. We have already done a little work on past use of raw ingredients in Italy. It is clear after working through old texts that some of the particular flavours, combinations, and techniques for cooking natural ingredients have become forgotten over time…
We are keen to explore products such as oils, preserves, pickles, honey, and beverages, as well as soaps and natural colour dyes. We have made a tiny start in this direction, for example in terms of bottling produce and making liqueurs, but the virus stymied much of our progress. We have just now started to place bee hives in the fields.
Trina does a lot of art, mostly now traditional oil painting at a professional level. Trina has done paintings and photographic portraits of the family in a classical fashion and copied a range of Caravaggio, baroque and other realist or old master (1500-1900) artwork. She also works on still lifes and Italian landscapes. In earlier, younger! days Trina had contemporary artwork accepted into exhibitions in the US at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC.
Trina won a rare scholarship to work with Arthur Boyd in Australia; and developed in Japan an art-school program which ultimately exhibited to members of Japan's imperial family. She is proficient in a wide range of visual art techniques: extending from the standard 'life drawing', through stage & set design and printmaking, to Chinese brush painting having studied in the 1990s at the Nanjing Arts Institute.
Trina has worked on painting and photographic commissions for clients in America, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Chile, China, Egypt, England, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, and Singapore. If you are interested, you can get involved as an artist’s model whether in Perugia or in the Umbrian countryside. (You can listen to Law professor Dave Moran talking about how he became a model on the Moth storytelling podcast or read various novels such as "Young Mother with Red Hair" by M.A. Dunn, which gets 4.43 on Goodreads.) When the occasion arises, Trina likes to upholster and repurpose old furniture or to make children's apparel.
I know and like wine. (I have the WSET diploma and am slowly inching towards the Master of Wine qualification.) I have visited many of the world’s lesser known wine regions, including Georgia (the country), Moldova, Bulgaria, and India, as well as some of the better known wine regions in Australia, South Africa, France, and America. I also have an interest in whisky... At various points I have organised wine tastings and whisky events.
We are both well-experienced and knowledgeable about Italy, art history, and Italian cinema. We speak multiple languages, even if some of them are a bit rusty. We have more university degrees and certificates than we know what to do with... It's a curse! You can see a university commencement day speech I gave in Italian, in front of the Italian Secretary for Foreign Affairs -- just ask me for the link. Similarly if you would like more photos regarding the farm or our lives, just write me a quick note.
Dieses Projekt schließt möglicherweise den Umgang mit Kindern ein. Mehr Informationen findest du in unseren Verhaltensregeln und Tipps hier.
You must have a genuine interest in our lifestyle: nature, gardens, farming, foraging, second-hand stores, food markets, the visual arts, cooking, home products, or family life. We also like walking, cycling, and wild swimming when there is water. It would help me if you can identify which of our projects appeal when writing. There is no likelihood at this stage, or maybe any stage given the farm's situation, that we will become a commercial operation.
We are doing Workaway because the ideal behind it appeals, rather than because it is strictly necessary, and we would like people to visit who share the same positive feelings. Though we have not done Workaway a long time I feel that our location does not suit all people, particularly those travellers interested just in sightseeing across Italy, who want a hotel experience, or who are digital nomads where the priority is on the computer.
If we tried to associate certain ideas with the farm it would be, for example: the house, Benton End; the artist, Caravaggio; the books, "Enchanted April" and "Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey"; people such as Derek Jarman and Roger Deakin; the 1970s TV series "The Good Life". Our idea of travel is a bit like the German film "im juli" or the American film "Before Sunrise". The Bhutanese film "Travellers and Magicians" also has insights into the sometimes counter-intuitive power of leaving home. Our idea of life is a bit like the Singaporean film "Forever Fever".
Dieser Gastgeber bietet Sprachaustausch an
We are interested to converse in various languages or swap stories about travel or see who makes the best version of a classic recipe… We also like word puzzles, card or board games, and the challenge of translating literature.
Basic accommodation in rustic setting amidst the rolling hills of Umbria. Shower. Personal space. Small, basic kitchenette. However, we prefer eating meals together. Plenty of scope for outdoor exercise.
We are a long way from the road or from a town of size. If you want to explore the regions you will, in all seriousness, need a car or use one of our bikes.
It is quiet. Our two neighbours are Reschio (reschio.com) and Borgo Bastia Creti (bastiacreti.it) but we are not grand like these residences. Instead we are surrounded by nature: oak trees, needle pines, walnuts, hazelnuts, plane trees, and scrub; many animals including deer, rabbits, boar, foxes, owls, falcons, pheasant, squirrels, woodpeckers, hedgehogs, badgers, stoats, humming birds, and the occasional wolf etc. Being in the country we also have various reptiles and insects: paths on which lizards lazily lie, lizards like those in Caravaggio’s painting and, at the right time of year, lavender at day humming with bees and fields at night flickering with fireflies…. We have lots of chestnuts, pine nuts, and -- after rain -- mushrooms, including porcini and the very occasional truffle from our gardens. We are a wonderful location to go foraging at the right time of year.
The location is not so far from interesting and famous sites like Cortona, Sansepolcro, Perugia, Assisi, Arezzo, Spoleto, and Lake Trasimeno, where you can visit the Isola Maggiore on which they made lace or the interesting museum about Hannibal. You can walk the Franciscan trail if you enjoy hiking or visit Norcia and its fantastic natural surroundings. You can follow the path of the great innovative Renaissance artist, Piero della Francesca. We are near the Tuscan wine region around Montepulciano and not far from various famous thermal baths. A bit further away is Florence, Urbino (home to Raphael), Orvieto with its amazing gothic cathedral, and Rome; also Viterbo, with its magnificent villas and gardens, such as the Palazzo Farnese. Near Viterbo is the 'Park of Monsters' outdoor sculpture garden, while the famous Tarot Garden of Niki de Saint Phalle is also within reach. The ghost-town of Civita di Bagnoregio near Orvieto is fun…
Perhaps the best means to reach us on the farm from Rome Fiumicino airport is a direct bus from Fiumicino to Città di Castello on Sulga bus lines. (The bus itself continues all the way to Ravenna, so don’t fall asleep unless you want to see the great Byzantine mosaics of the north and Dante’s tomb.) The company has one service in the afternoon (2:30pm) six days a week: Monday to Saturday (except public holidays). The next best approach these days is the train, going from Fiumicino to Terontola-Cortona with one or two changes.
Meanwhile, a direct, nonstop overnight train connects Florence to Munich and Vienna, which with a single change then links up to the rest of Germany and Austria as well as other countries including Poland, Hungary, Czechia, and Croatia if you enjoy rail travel around Europe. Fast trains pass through Perugia connecting it either to Rome one way (and with a single change onto Naples) or to Florence, Milan, and Turin the other way. Italy's northern trains then link to Switzerland. You can find rapid trains at different times of the day from Paris into Italy, the fastest taking just under 11 hours from Paris to Terontola-Cortona with a minimum of one change at Milan. The lowest price I've seen for this particular trip is about 55 euros. I find that the best site for train information and booking is 'thetrainline', which saves a lot of fussing around whether at the station or with different country-specific sites. Just be careful whether you need to print out the tickets or not...
In terms of planes, a direct flight goes from Perugia to London all year round while it goes to other destinations, including Sicily (Palermo, Catania), Malta, Brussels, and Rotterdam, in the summer. A good site to confirm what may be possible is 'flightsfrom'. In terms of buses, FlixBus is useful. Many take it to reach southern Italy, especially Puglia. Curcio bus lines connects Perugia to the Adriatic one way and the south of Italy the other way. With a change at Orte you can also reach Tuscany and less easily accessible towns like Siena. Marino Bus is another good option, and offers tickets around 8 euros from Rome to Perugia. The 'BlaBlaCar' app, in which you share a ride, helps connect up Rome-Perugia-Lago Trasimeno-Florence by car. It is not so good for towns in the immediate vicinity of our farm, but sometimes I can find a driver who is going to Città di Castello.
Many of our visitors go on to Croatia from here, using the ferry from Ancona. One kindly provided this update. "I found this really nice and local restaurant near the harbour. It is called Ristorante El Vigolo. If people are taking the ferry they must do a check-in with passport a little from the harbour/terminal (but there is a free shuttle bus between the two, but it might just take 1/2 hour extra), pluuuuus there is lugagge storage free of charge by the terminal :)" There are trains connecting Perugia to Ancona.
The quiet location of our farm best suits people who like nature, outdoors, physical activity, cooking, writing, or artistic pursuits. It really doesn't suit those intent on seeing the major sights of Italy -- since we are not conveniently located in terms of transport for such endeavours; and lodging just for sightseeing does not match the ideal behind the Workaway concept.
The garden itself has many benches and chairs to sit and read, or from which to enjoy the flowers, the sweeping views along the valley, and the sun, particularly at dawn. If you get up early enough you can wander the ridge or the fields as the sky changes colour at first light. In terms of more physical outdoor activities there are lots of hill trails to run along or explore. I occasionally run with the dog to Preggio, which is a nearby hilltop village with a lovely view. One time the dog did sit down and refuse to budge in protest...
We have mountain bikes (for which you could bring your own bike helmets), which can be used to cycle along the various dirt roads, to visit the nearby towns such as Umbertide or Città di Castello for a gelato, or to reach Lago Trasimeno lake and see the Hannibal museum or - by ferry - the Isola Maggiore island, at one point known for its lacemaking introduced from Ireland. Over the years, the more adventurous have cycled, besides to Umbertide for a gelato or Montone for its beauty, to Cortona (setting for the film version of "Under the Tuscan Sun"), Arezzo (setting for the film, "Life Is Beautiful", winner of three Academy Awards), Florence, and Rome via the fast train from Terontola-Cortona.
We have a wide 25m pool and a shared artificial grass tennis court, as well as outdoor games like table tennis, badminton, and basketball. There is a large natural pond - which is good for wild swimming when the water levels are high enough. (If you haven't read Waterlog by Roger Deakin then it is an excellent, genre-creating book which reminds us about the wonder of nature.) We make use of simple but practical horse riding facilities nearby for those who like riding and want to enjoy the amazing scenery around the commune of Montone.
Indoors we have shelves and shelves of books, and piles and piles of games: Rummikub, Latice, Sequence, Boggle, Pass the Bomb, Scrabble (and the Italian version, Scarabeo), Katamino, Tal der Wikinger, Pictionary, Bananagrams, Taboo, Settlers of Catan, chess, draughts, cards, monopoly, Jenga and backgammon. Trina and one of the guests have suggested that Tal der Wikinger is one of the worst games ever invented; Alix is not so sure and some guests agree with her that merit lurks somewhere in the prize-winning game. Meanwhile, I guess there are still one or two board games hiding in the cupboards. Recently, I found "the worst-case scenario survival card game"...
We are blessed with open markets everywhere — depending on the day selling bread, fresh produce, or craft products — and either indoor or outdoor flea markets (“mercatino dell’usato”) selling everything from used items to antiques. We are happy to join in visits to these various markets. Many of our guests ride our bicycles down to the markets in Umbertide twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, to try the local food or to buy clothes, linen, and books; returning with bulging bags strapped to their back.
We are a small family with a few animal friends. My grandfather celebrated our wedding in 2004 on a sunny new year's eve in Washington DC, after Trina and I first met in 2000 on the ballroom dancefloor. (The light always shone on Trina while she swung and danced the night away...) Trina was born in a small, remote outback town in the very northwest of Australia, where no one gets born if they can help it. I came from the other side of the country -- and we met there at Gilkisons Dance Studio in Perth, where later Jason Gilkison's mother, Kay, so kindly taught us both how to move around the floor with better technique and more style. (Jason Gilkison, one of Australia's great dance champions, is now better known as the creative director and lead choreographer on "Strictly Come Dancing".)
My godfather most kindly baptised our daughter, Alix, in Rome in 2012 in the beautiful Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita, where Frescobaldi and Mozart are said to have played. We have a young blue heeler dog "Bluey" -- a breed sometimes described as a "land shark". By coincidence our dog is just like the one in the popular Australian TV series (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluey_(2018_TV_series)). We also have two gorgeous cats, even though I am not sure how much the dog and the cats like each other... For those who enjoy TV series, my alter ego appeared in Downton Abbey (downtonabbey.fandom.com/wiki/Samuel_Thawley).
In our daily lives to date we have focused simply on our passions and quickly moved possessions along when no longer needed or central to our activities. We are fans of thrifting, markets, and barter; and overall we believe in removing unnecessary items and avoiding excessive waste. We live fully in the moment, if with a certain eye on the future, and at various points in time all our possessions could be packed into 2-5 large cardboard boxes. One time, someone kindly helped me move house in one trip in their old 1970s Toyota Corolla hatchback.
To reduce my carbon footprint I have never bought or owned a car and I rely heavily on walking, public transport, or combining with others. At certain points in my life this has meant a daily commute up to 15km (9 miles) on foot. I am always amazed how we can - if willing - manage a lifestyle that minimises unnecessary movement and so focus simply upon what is important; and, in doing so, come to know better and appreciate more our actual surroundings, which I discover grow in meaning through the process. As the film director and writer, Werner Herzog, has often emphasised: 'the world reveals itself to those who travel on foot'.
Our immediate surroundings, our family and our community, all gain from our attention and from our regular physical and emotional engagement with them in a manner that is concrete and constructive. And in doing so we benefit many times over, much like plants with large, deep roots in healthy soil. Seasons then offer a beautiful and vital rhythm to our activities and projects here in Italy, while the weather in all its variety provides a sometimes magical accompaniment.
We believe travel, international exchange, meeting new people, and understanding other cultures is a big key to knowing ourselves, and to understanding better what makes us happy. Doing new things and making these new encounters helps to refresh our spirit and stimulate the mind; it shows where our boundaries are, how we might pass through them, and what we might seek out longer-term.
Talking of travel my favourite trips are: walking the shrines of Shikoku island, visiting the archeological sites along the west coast of Turkey, touring the national parks of the American south-west during December, doing a full circuit of Australia's wilder tropical north, and exploring Georgia (the country). We have gone off to dance (and perform) ballroom in the great American west and to undertake a traditional Japanese taiko drumming bootcamp in the mountains of Nagano, Japan. The course ended with my hands in bandages, much like "The Mummy"...
Other adventures include driving around the magnificent coast of Scotland's highland country, rowing in a double scull on the Yarkon river, participating in a traditional Indonesian wedding on Java island, visiting the science museum in Tartu, and taking the night train from Catania to Naples in the middle of a ferocious electrical storm.
In a hectic bunch of decades, I have lived in Canberra, Rome, Godalming, Broadstairs, Moscow, Melbourne, Kobe, Tokyo, London, Paris, Perth (Australia), Glasgow, Santa Monica, Hong Kong, and Perugia. I am familiar with big cities like Mumbai, Beijing, Los Angeles, and Shanghai, while I have family connections with Jakarta and Madrid. We got married in Washington DC. We briefly lived on a house boat where Alix learned to walk (not very straight given all the rocking). Perhaps as a result of all this movement and variety of lifestyle, I really enjoy international cinema and music, as well as the stranger, crossover regions of poetry and music which Leonard Cohen represents and Nick Cave (who, as a kid, would sing in my grandfather's church choir).
In terms of diet, for those worried about eating, I do near all the cooking based around the natural ingredients we have from the orto and the farm. The ingredients are organic and no chemicals are used on any of our products. Even if the majority of the cooking that I normally do at home involves vegetables, fruit, legumes/pulses (including chickpea flour), rice (mostly wholegrain red, black, or brown rice, but also Italian white varieties), certain grains (polenta, spelt), herbs, eggs (usually for cakes or pancakes), and some seafood (shellfish), we do eat minimal quantities of meat, dairy (such as milk, pecorino, parmigiano), and wheat.
Often we have pasta for the primo piatto. These days we try to make our own pasta using wheat, spelt, or chickpea flour. We still tend to buy bread either from the Italian baker or the amazing German breadmaker once a week at the local market in Umbertide. We make our own gelato; though without cream. I make the occasional, delicately coloured wild cherry or mulberry liqueur.
Some family members have allergies to lactose and gluten. This has heavily influenced the cooking philosophy, and it also means we use olive oil rather than butter and there is no cream anywhere. We almost never eat processed food, processed sugar, or similar ingredients, other than what is found in dark chocolate. If anything, I would describe our diet as mediterranean in style. In the coronavirus period, when we stopped eating out, we each lost over 10kg, or over 1.5 stone, on this diet without a change in quantity (other than Alix!). At the time I hoped we would lose no more, otherwise we'd disappear...
For those who would like to visit a church we have three nearby. These are within reach by bicycle. The first is 15 minutes away and has a service from 09:00am to 09:30am on Sunday. The second is about 25 minutes away, and its service starts from 10:30am and lasts more than an hour. The third is about 45 minutes away and is the oldest and most beautiful, as part of a working monastery.
Useful places for car hire include Perugia airport and Arezzo, where a cheap option is usually the Fiat Panda manual transmission. Different car firms have different policies regarding age. A car is essential for any serious sightseeing.
Items that travellers sometimes forget to bring include: hat, sunscreen or sunblock lotion, plug adapter, phone charger, insect repellent, shampoo or conditioner, Q-tips, and pain killers. Our location not being close to a shop, it is sometimes difficult to procure things at the last minute. On the other hand, we have two good washing machines and lots of clothes racks.
We do hope visitors get involved in keeping the place clean and orderly, show willingness to be part of the group, and are suitably conscious of others in their activities. Therein lies the real secret of 'mindfulness'. This is a nice opportunity to help look after a house (setting tables, sweeping, washing dishes, drying, opening and closing doors against the heat, and making beds) if not properly attempted before! There is plenty of scope, also, to play around in the kitchen if you would like to cook...
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