Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Books, Gardens and Buses!

Hopefully that will have got your attention!

I've been reading a lot lately. I do anyway, but I'm in one of my phases where I have to have a book on the go or I get depressed! Stephen and Alex have been away pretty much since the middle of April, so when there is nothing on TV and films don't interest me, I stick my nose in a book or surf the net and i-tunes.

In no order of preference recent books include Pillars of the Earth, Hunting and Gathering, Emperor:Gates of Rome, Emperor:Death of Kings and volume 1 of War and Peace. The odd one out is Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda, a French writer, so this was in translation. It was also a book club choice. I didn't hold out much hope, but I really enjoyed it! It was a French version of a Hugh Grant film - not literally, but I could imagine him being in it somewhere! As it is a film is being made with Audrey Tatou from Amelie appearing in it.

We also had Open Garden day again! Yep, we've been here over a year now and events are starting to repeat! This time Antonia and I were alone for it. Antonia played in the garden as groups of 40+ came through! At one point she was stood in the garden singing - I noticed a number of cameras pointing her way, rather than the house or garden, very funny!

The garden resembles a meadow rather than a lawn currently as the gardeners sit-upon has broken down! It looks very pretty but it will be good to get it cut. The downside is all the insects - mainly mozzies - that will be disturbed in the process.

Finally, buses! I use the bus a lot not having a scooter or car. I buy a multiple use ticket called an "Agile". They are available for either 10 trips or 21 trips and cost €10 or €20 respectively. Occasionally I'll buy a 4 trip ticket if my Agile has run out. The first has a chip in it that you pass in front of the ticket machine and it reduces the number of rides left. The 4 trip you stamp each time you travel and you have 70 minutes from stamping to complete your trip - the same is true for the Agile but there is no physical stamp on the ticket.

Anyway, in the 18 months I have been here I have never seen a bus inspector. Then twice in the last week they have boarded the buses I have been on! It is the circular route around the city, 13 goes clockwise and 12 anti. It's a great route if you want to see some really contrasting parts of Florence and it stops at Piazzale Michelangelo, so views are thrown in too! However, the inspectors really are strict! People without tickets are made to pay a fine there and then and can also be made to leave the bus at the next stop. I saw this happen a few times. Strangely the people avoiding paying seemed to be older people, not young kids. A few tourists were caught out too but ignorance is not a defence! So, if you are coming to Florence, get a ticket! All the bars and tabbachi sell them or go to the station, don't rely on the driver having some, once they run out they don't go and get more! The same applies to all the trains, except the ES trains where you have a seat allocated. You have to stamp your ticket or you will be fined!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Why We Came To Italy

Three years ago we started looking at senior schools for Alexander to attend as a full boarder in the UK.

One of the schools we looked at was Winchester College (That's their crest above). Alex really liked the school and set his heart on going there. This was no easy option, there were interviews, tests and, finally, last week the entrance exam set by the school for all boys who wish to enter the school as a "Commoner".

Well the day of reckoning was today - and we are staying in Italy! Alex passed his exams and is off to Winchester as a Commoner in September! He is is over the moon! I am for him, but it would have been nice to have had him at school here in September!

So why is this why we came to Italy? We were living in Sussex, not far from Brighton, Winchester is roughly 2 hours drive away and they don't really come out of school at weekends, only half-terms and the long vacs. As my husband was already commuting up to London for the week it meant there would be just me and the bimba at home, other than weekends. With flights becoming cheaper we decided we would try our dream life of being in Italy. May as well be in Florence as Haywards Heath!!

Well done babe, if you ever read this, I'm proud of you!