26 May 2014


It’s grey again today, after a weekend that was nothing short of wonderful.

It was an election weekend (CdP town council and European parliament) so C descended from her Venetian perch to vote and be generally looked after for a couple of days. L made it back to cast his ballot too, after almost two weeks in Cannes and a return home so full of mishap (tight-packed suitcase bursting open on crowded Rome metro escalator as he ran from one railway station to another to catch a second train – which he missed – having already missed an earlier one) that I was worried about picking him up at Chiusi station lest the evil public transport eye follow him all the way home (it didn’t).

Which made me the only one in the family who failed to exercise her democratic right: I’m still officially resident in Rome, and just couldn’t be bothered to schlep down there for the occasion. In any case my vote would merely have confirmed the outcome we got. It’s very odd, I have to say, to peer around the countries of Europe and think that everywhere is going to the right-wing, anti-European, xenophobic dogs except dear old Italy. And Greece. An uncharacteristic bout of political common sense and level headedness.

Looking at the EU parliament breakdown, one can’t help but wonder who the 116 misguided pievesi souls who voted for the Northern League might be; or the 154 who threw their weight behind the risen-from-the-neo-fascist-ashes (rather cold, admittedly) Fratelli d’Italia. The centre-left PD did even better here (59.77%) in this red heartland than its record-breaking 40.8% at national level. And Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, satisfyingly, did worse (9.57% as opposed to 16%), as did Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle (16.04% against 21.2%). True to form.

Now I see that the PD mayoral candidate has won here too – as always. A breakaway element had fielded a civic list, led by a very competent woman. But non-PD and female never bode well in an area like ours. But poor Maria Luisa can be proud of having swiped over 1000 votes from her PD rival.


But it wasn’t (just) the election results that made the weekend so special. It was the air and the temperature and the green so green that sometimes it’s so intense it hurts your eyes. We pedalled along the Sentiero della Bonifica, the track (calling it a cycle path would be a bit of an exaggeration) along the Chiana canal that goes from Chiusi to Arezzo – though we only did from Lake Chiusi to Lake Montepulciano which was plenty enough for Clara and me. Egrets flapped lazily out of fields of young corn, and baby coots scuttled across the path to launch themselves into the water after their bobbing mothers. The air was thick with the perfume of elderflower and privet and something thick and treacly that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

We had the path mostly to ourselves – quite unexplicable given the beauty of it all. But Lake Chiusi was hopping with fishermen and rowers and duck-feeders and strollers-in-the-sun. That lake is so stunning, with fields running down to the water and hardly a sign of human habitation around it.

Having defended Italian integrity to the hilt in my last post I bumped into a friend who has asked me to help her with the garden of her new house. She knows what she wants: she just calls me in from time to time for a bit of consultation and moral support. But the other day she was seething with rage at the bill of many tens of thousands of euros that the plumber had presented her for her automatic watering system. Had she told me 50% of the figure he was throwing at her, I would have thought he was being a bit greedy: this was truly outrageous for a small garden around a tiny house.

Her trusted plumber (about whom I also had my doubts…) has retired, leaving the business to someone who either has criminal intentions or who is totally incompetent: his plan is ludiciously over-abitious for this space. I offered to intervene, but her builder is already taking the plumber to task. I suspect this character saw her as a wealthy foreigner to be fleeced. So yes, it can – unfortunately – happen.


About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden designer, working throughout central Italy. I have lived in Italy for over 30 years – for many years in Rome but now in the wilds of Umbria where I have fixed up one wreck of a house, am working on another, and tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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