Sambuca and Salvatore – the bottle won


Throughout the month of November, BootsnAll is inviting bloggers from around the world to join them in a daily blogging project – the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Day Twenty :  Drink – Sambuca

During our years at Borga Nari there was one drink that became an institution for us. It got us through some crazy times, this is a letter I wrote to friends in Australia after one such adventure.

Don’t ask, bad news I’m afraid.

Sam set off this morning after our first snow to Gambasca to get the chains for the camper van via our red Ferrari bobsled (a whole other story). So far so good. He fitted the chains and had a few practice tries on the driveway, then set off to the shops on his own (Thank God).

borga nari

He managed to make it down the mountain, got to the shops, got half way back up the mountain and the chain on one wheel broke and he started to slide out all over the place.

There was a choice of slipping over the edge of a steep mountain road or sliding into a rock wall.

He chose the wall.

By this time it’s starting to get dark, he’s been gone the whole day and I’m starting to panic  thinking who the hell can I ring and how am I going to tell them what’s wrong? Soon it’s pitch black and freezing cold outside, the phone rings and he tells me about the broken chain and that he is going to try to walk up the mountain.

Waiting, waiting, waiting, still no Sam.

Luckily someone came past that lives above us and has chains on his 4 wheel drive and bought Sam and his bottle of sambuca home! So now the camper is stuck on mountain with all our supplies and one broken chain. Sam has to try to find a car, get the van off the mountain, and get the groceries up here as we are now out of everything including nappies!!!

borga nari

Did I mention he is in a deep dark depression about the whole thing and got drunk on the Sambuca for the first time in his life and has gone to bed early not knowing what the next day is going to bring. He wasn’t cheered by my saying “Oh well at least you’re alive and the van is okay”

Hopefully things will work out, I’m sure the locals will help us out and stay tuned for the next exciting episode of “Days of our lives in Gambasca

Over and out for the night
Love Lisa Sam carina* and Luca

Boy was I glad to see him walk in the door last night. I don’t think Sam even wants to swear in Italian at the moment, he’s at the what the hell are we doing here stage! At least all the email’s cheered him up and he only has a bad headache not a full on hangover. He has set off on foot in the snow to Gambasca to try to get a bus to Saluzzo and find a car, (wearing Luca’s beanie) and dressed like a lumberjack.

Now we know why all the locals kept asking if we were ready for winter. Just didn’t expect it so soon.

He only bought one bottle of Sambuca up with him and left the other 5 bottles in the van so maybe we’ll find him blotto and frozen to the bottle????

I figure if I get really stuck for the emergency language I’ll ring his mum  and get her to call someone over here. Also hunted out my basic Italian phrase book but nothing quite sums up the situation! We also now know to keep a torch and some extra clothes in the van for long night time walks in the freezing snow.

Signature-00134 editand the gang x


“sing with me “

There were 6 sambuca bottles sitting on the wall,

6 sambuca bottles sitting on the wall,

and then we drank one, and now we’re really pissed….

that there’s only 5 sambuca bottles left sitting on the walllllllll.

saaaammmmmmmy the woooogg and my piss pot wife xx

Just as the cuisine of a place reveals clues about its culture and history, so does its signature local drink. What’s the best drink you had on the road, and did the drink have any connection to the place where you drank it or the people you drank with?

Life’s Postcards


30 days of indie – day 5 – kindness

Throughout the month of November, BootsnAll is inviting bloggers from around the world to join them in a daily blogging project – the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Day Four:  Kindness

Arriving in a new country  can be a shock, although we planned and my husband spoke fluent Italian things were still difficult to start with. When we bought our house in Piemonte we had no idea that it came with an instant set of Grandparents for our children. They adopted us with a passion, and gently guided us through the intricacies of life in Italy.

Even though my Italian was limited I always felt the love. This kindness meant that our children got plenty of bear hugs, presents on special occasions, and constant kisses and love from Piera and Claudio. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without them to watch over us.

So this post is dedicated to kindness of the Italian people who always made us feel welcome….

Who was it that made a difference in your life and how? I’d love you to share….

Life’s Postcards

My favorites from 30 days of Indie today

  • Run for the Hills
  • 500 Places with Kids
  • An Italophile

Throughout the month of November, BootsnAll is inviting bloggers from around the world to join them in a daily blogging project – the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project –  designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year – or whenever – have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as they like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on their own blogs.

Italy’s forgotten Fresco

We were delighted when we explored our new home to find a number of frescoes. The most vivid fresco we found on the wall above a tiny balcony was funnily enough disfigured by the electricity company running pipes through the edge of it. There was no way to reach the balcony other than through the building which was locked up. This fresco is dated 1866…

As we got to know the locals and visited other homes in the area we soon found that the frescoes were common place and went almost unnoticed. These were painted by one of the countless  artists who would paint a fresco, usually of religious subjects on the pillars and façades of the houses in exchange for a few coins, sometimes nothing more than hospitality.

A favorite fresco is the painting of  Saint Rocco found  at the tiny church Cappella di San Rocco in Gambasca. The church is  a traditional octagonal shape which has ancient origins. Historians say the church was most likely built following the Great Plague of 1630 which affected Piemonte.

Photo: Isabella Signorille

The Story of Saint Rocco

Born around 1340 A.D in France, Rocco was orphaned at an early age. He was placed in the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier.  From a young age he showed great devotion to God and it was noted that he had a red cross shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. He gave up his worldly possessions and dressed as a pilgrim and headed to Rome.

During his travels he contracted the plague which is evident from the open sore on his leg. Saint Rocco cured many of this disease through prayer and making the sign of the cross. He was banished from the city and lived in a cave where he was befriended by a dog. The dog would bring him food and one day the lord of the castle followed the dog. He bought Rocco back to his castle where he was cured.

Rocco traveled through the North of Italy for a number of years before returning to his birthplace in France. He was so weak and ill that the people of the town didn’t recognize him and he was put in jail. After five years in jail he was found near death, the cell lit with a blue light coming from his body. When hearing this the Governor  demanded to know his identity, Rocco replied I am your nephew. The only thing that could prove this to be true was the birthmark. The Governor and town people then believed and Rocco was given immortal glory in heaven.

Saint Rocco is known as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases. The image of Saint Rocco is thought unique as it is most unusual for any Saint to show evidence of handicap or disease.

His body is enclosed in a glass tomb in the church of San Rocco in Venice, Italy.

life’s postcards

Part two of the big first letter home…

The Italian pace of life

We are learning to slow down and shop in bulk.  I keep thinking we’ll get the internet soon and I’ll be able to email but that still looks like a long way off. We sent an email a few days ago from the library in Saluzzo, 4 floors full of tiny rooms with books to the ceiling and ladders to reach the top ones. Reminded me of Olivanders Wand Shop in Harry Potter.

We are only allowed  to borrow 3 items each and Sam had to fast talk to get library cards for us but they wouldn’t give him one as he has no proof of residence. I didn’t get to read any of the emails as Luca decided to have a crying spell and so I am in major withdrawal especially having been so close.

We don’t get any news as the TV only plays DVD’s but Mum has been sending clippings from the newspapers so if you see anything interesting send it over. We heard about the bombings in England but no details and Mum said there was a big storm that flooded the Gold Coast.

So we landed in Torino and walked straight through a deserted airport, opened the doors and stepped straight onto the street. Nobody stopped us for passport checks or customs, it was like something out of the twilight zone. We had to laugh as nobody in Italy even knew we were there???

Photo :

Driving in Italy is a lot of fun.

Getting to the hotel from the airport in a hire car on the wrong side of the road is a whole other story and something I never want to relive!! Driving now is second nature for Sam and we don’t end up on the Australian side of the road very often, we’ve given a few people on round- a- bouts a fright. 150km is the average speed on the motorway and most cars fly past us, it takes some getting used to but it actually seems to work quite well as everyone knows to keep over or have a car up their tail doing 200k’s. Believe me the speedo says 150 kms.

We spent the first month in a three star Hotel in Carmagnola called The Continental as we had to wait to buy the campervan. The staff ended up like a second family and loved the kids. Luca took his first steps there and Carina worked out the lifts, the door locks and the way to get lollies from all the staff.

We ended up buying a small camp stove and cooking in the bathroom and hoped we wouldn’t get caught.

The only place to get food at night was in the hotel restaurant (which wasn’t set up yet so could only give us micro waved meals). We had many conversations with a young girl called Maria (who had a big crush on Michael Buble) as she heated up our meals.

The entire town shut down at night and if you wanted only a coffee or gelato you were okay. The hotel was very quiet as they had only been open a month which was good but they didn’t have internet set up yet for customers. Sam got to go on every now and then when the boss was out so hopefully you got some news from us.

Eventually after much red tape and stress we got a van and Camillo’s uncle in Milano said we lived with him or we’d still be waiting.

We also had a few dramatic trips to immigration in Torino via train and three buses and many conflicting directions with the kids and a frazzled Sam trying to make sense of it all. I now have a permit to stay and have had my fingerprints taken, so it’s no crime wave for me.

Our new home in the mountains.

Gambasca is very small and everyone knows that the “Australiani’s” have arrived. Our house is a drive up the mountain approx 3 kms from the town of Gambasca and we are 800 metres above sea level. We can see Mont Viso from the town and also from the house, this is the formidable snow covered Alp that Paramount Pictures uses as the opening scene in all of their movies. … Sam has decided he wants to climb it.

Making friends.

Sam waves at everyone and they’re starting to wave back, one old lady flagged us down and knew all about us from her son who found out about us from???? She looks about 100 years old and does her washing outside in a trough fed from a mountain spring and we always see her doing something when we drive by.

Lots of characters in the town and Sam knows everyone. The local council member Aldo owns part of the property and his wife grew up here, so they’ve helped us out a lot. There are other people here but not living full time, and some only come a couple of times a year for holidays. We’ve been watching out for the French people who own part of Borga Nari to arrive and they turned up yesterday. They’re a very nice couple and Carina is happy as they have a dog for her to chase after. They speak Italian but no English for me and are staying 2 weeks to do some mountain climbing.

Luca is up and walking and gets into everything, he’s such a boy and loves to get into anything dirty. It’s been really hot here and the kids have been in a paddling pool we bought and Luca thinks it’s great to stand up and then plop onto his bottom and splash Carina.

We think we’ve had 10 straight months of summer first Australia, then to Singapore and now Italy. Can’t wait to see some snow.

We now have a menagerie of strays.

Carina loves the 3 small dogs and two cats that live here but can’t get near any of them as yet. We have named the dogs after the characters in Banana’s in Pajama’s and they don’t seem too concerned. So it is Lu Lu, Amy, Morgan for the dogs, and Smokie and Sylvester for the two cats… we are still waiting to meet the puppy (Carina likes the name Smarties).

This is the mummy dog (Lu Lu) she has just had a puppy but I haven’t seen it yet. Carina loves the wildflowers and amazing variety of bugs, lizards and butterflies and goes on big walks with Sam when Luca is asleep.

Sam found a salamander last week when he was sorting out the wood pile and Carina held it which made her day.

Yesterday we went blackberry picking and came home with a big tub full, YUM! I think we ate more than we bought home.

Sam has been cooking all sorts of interesting things and the lady in the front house (Piera) gives him the zucchini flowers and he cooks them in batter, Carina loves them. At the moment (5.30pm) he is outside doing a BBQ Italian style on a slab of rock. There is a festa in the mountain and we can clearly hear the singing coming through the valley (sound really travels here). They’re singing in English, and we joined in on New York New York.

Life is a daily crazy game and we often come home not having done a single thing we set out to do. (Try parking a campervan in Italia).  So we are alternating with a love hate relationship with Italia up till now but the love is slowly winning us over. Life has certainly changed 100% but that’s what keeps things interesting. Missing all the family and being so isolated is our biggest problem so far. Not being able to speak the language is very hard but I can follow most of the conversations.

Our little girl is off to school.

Carina starts Assilo (kindy) on September 12th at the next village and then she will be teaching me. They go from 3 years old till 6years and then start primary school, at first she will only go half a day 5 days a week and we’ll see how she copes. Later they go from 8am till 4pm and have a cooked lunch and an afternoon nap.

It’s worrying of course as she won’t be able to speak Italian but the teacher is really nice and she lives just up the road from us. I hope she doesn’t have any problems, we took her for a play and she just jumped straight in with tears only when another kid took the toy she was playing with. She has been asking when she can go to play again so that’s good sign.

Anyway that’s it for now, hope you’re all well, and don’t forget to write!! Hopefully we’ll be on line soon and catch up on all your news.

Life’s Postcards

Living in Italy – Our first letter home…

Well we have found our home in a tiny mountain town called Gambasca, we both love it and in the agents car on the way up the mountain we could hardly contain ourselves. We are now officially living in Italy.

Buying a house in Italy is a curious process, everyone dresses up and meets at the agents office where the whole contract is read out loud before anyone signs. The view is spectacular and I didn’t even see inside the house (Salvatore and the agent had a look with a torch) I just know this is the one! We now own part of an ancient Borgata and Tre Giorni of land (the amount of time it would take two oxen to plow it). Luckily we were given the keys even though we hadn’t settled only paid a large deposit and had no clue what was going on and hoped for the best.

I feel as if we have been adopted. The house was owned by two couples who planned to renovate. One of the couples, Renato and Maria have been really helpful and they sold us everything in the place including some beautiful furniture, beds, tables and chairs, pots, pans etc so we haven’t had to get very much LUCKILY. (Shopping in Italy is a nightmare!) They also left all the tools for Sam and they came out to visit and explained everything to us and showed Sam all the boundaries and how everything works. We scored a toboggan and an ancient chamber pot of some sort that looks a couple of hundred years old.

We have part of the old farmhouse with rock walls and wooden beams, the roof is made of sheets of rock laid over each other in a kind of diamond pattern. The locals tell us that in these rustic farmhouses (ours is called Borgata Nari) usually the animals were kept downstairs. The owners lived up a level and they often had a level of hay above, they also had a room upstairs where they used to cook the castagni (chestnuts).

Most of the walls have the original sand and one doorway is about 5 foot and we have hit our heads so many times.

There is a great taverna downstairs which would have housed the cows, the kitchen is tiny and there is a cellar as well, all the rooms downstairs have vaulted rock ceilings.

Upstairs there are two rooms that we live in, and another two which Sam has been working on – the hay room, and the castagni room (more about this later).

There is not one straight line here but lots of character and history which we are slowly learning from the locals. Things are coming along slowly and the goal is to have the house sealed before winter arrives. Sam is getting the windows ready to have frames and glass put in and trying to work out how to seal the veranda for trips downstairs to the loo on cold winter nights.

Our Italian Rustico farmhouse now has some modern aspects to it a fridge, TV and washing machine. As the TV only plays DVDs we are going crazy on Spirit, Pooh Bear and Beauty and the Beast!!! Even Sam knows the words to all the wiggles songs now. The other night we stayed up late watching “Under a Tuscan Sun” but it will be more like Under a Blanket of Gambasca Snow here. We’ve seen pics of the house in winter and they get plenty of snow. Carina wants ice skates and Sam plans to fly down our hill on the toboggan.

We are close to the Alps on the border with France and have crossed over into France with the camper at 2750 meters which was spectacular. We came back through Mont Blanc after a great weekend for my birthday. At last Sam had to cope with another language and revenge was sweet when he tried to ask for directions.

It’s so peaceful here and the countryside is just beautiful. Sam cut down a few trees and now we have a beautiful view over the valley, there is a stream at the bottom of the hill and our property runs down to it. Last night we saw the valley lit up with fireflies and it looked like the stars had fallen to earth. It doesn’t get dark here till 10pm (Yep that’s right 10PM!) so Carina hasn’t seen our firefly “fairies” in the garden as yet.

Note : can you believe that my first letter home was over 2000 words so I will inflict it upon you in a few segments, ciao for now Lisa

Life’s Postcards