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Madonna della Neve Bagnolo

The saddest little Church – Madonna della Neve Bagnolo.

It is unlike any church I’ve been in.

The Santuario Madonna della Neve was visible from the valley floor not far from our house.

Shining like a beacon on the hillside we decided to see if we could find it. A few wrong turns and some dirt roads later we arrived.

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Inside the chapel it slowly dawned on me that all the pictures covering the walls were of people who had died.

So many children, so much sadness, I felt overcome by many of the paintings especially the little photos in the corners.

Each one told a story, bought to life knowing they were images of actual people.

Many were obviously painted by the same artist over a number of years.

There were hundreds, all the walls were covered from floor to ceiling. It was overwhelmingly sad, a living history of the people and the losses they had suffered. I couldn’t imagine sitting here at a service, so many spirits, so many sad stories.

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Subdued we left the  Madonna della Neve Bagnolo.

Walking back out into the sunshine we met a couple who knew the history of the sanctuary.

They told us that the pictures were in fact of ‘miracles’ not deaths.

They explained to Sam who later translated (as only Sam can, see below)  the story of the Church and the paintings.

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If you’d like to hear the official story of the chapel you can find it at Madonna della Neve Bagnolo.

 Signature and the gang x

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Completly Clueless – living like a local in Piedmont

 

It starts with the locals, with their quality of life, their ability to be happy and their respect for the land they live in. Then the tourists will find a way!” Carlo Petrini ~ Slow Food

Since moving to our Valley in Piedmont we’ve been up close and personal to the local livestock. Flocks of goats come past our door daily, the cows graze just above our house and we’ve even been diverted by a huge white sheep dog guarding his flock when we were out walking. I now dodge various types of pooh on the road, know it’s lunch time by the passing of tractors and returning of the locals for lunch.

I have to admit to initially being scared of the cows roaming the meadows here. Completely clueless I grew up in the suburbs of Australia and apart from the occasional visit to a dairy farm run by friends of my first boyfriend way back in my 20’s I’ve had nothing to do with rural animals apart from taking the kids to the petting zoo at the school fete.

Now I live in a community immersed in the rhythms of nature,  in touch with where their food comes from, a lifestyle less reliant upon the latest device for entertainment. I actually still know very little about this lifestyle, about the role of livestock, the shepherds and their flocks and how it all fits into the Valley I have come to love.

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My view of the Fiera is still one of a tourist, although I now know many of the faces and even get to go behind the scenes (this year we saw them putting the mammoth bells on the cows before leaving to join the parade)  I still have a limited understanding of the significance of the celebrations held in May and October when the animals are paraded through our village of Bobbio Pellice.

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Tradition is alive and well here in the Valley, I see it in the face of a grandfather carrying a young child on his shoulders, a tiny boy with curly hair and traditional shepherds hook (and yes he knows how to use it), the boys strapping on huge cow bells whilst finishing off their second bottle of vino, they happily pour some for us into plastic cups.

Although this way of life is one I may never truly understand it’s one I deeply admire, this community has a right to be proud and to celebrate the seasons. I am as always honored to be a small part of this community and to have been welcomed so beautifully.

 

at the fair 2015

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Living in a medieval Borgata in the Alps means we have goats, sheep, and cows passing our front door, I can literally reach out and touch them. I love watching our neighbors two white dogs round up the straggling cows that feed on the long grass along the road. With a little nip they soon have the herd together and on the move.

Watching the old ladies here hand rake the pasture above our house ready for grazing, I am reminded of all we seem to have lost with large scale farming. They have an understanding of the seasons, the mountains and they can usually tell me what the weather is going to be like with a great degree of certainty. They continue to fascinate me.

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We have a guest staying with us from California, her name is Marina and she is doing workaway which means she helps us with five hours of work and we provide meals and a place to sleep. We took her to see the Fair and she was a big hit with the locals as you can see.

She and Sam have redone the fencing, planted the ‘orto’ and we all spent a day in Turin eating gelato and wandering the city.

She is leaving on Sunday for Florence and I’ll be sorry to see her continue on her journey. As our neighbor Antonio told us, she has a gift from God and a beautiful heart (she is an artist and he asked her to do a painting of his house). She and Carina made apple cakes today, they have been walking the mountains, gathering wildflowers and she has done many sketches and paintings around the Borgata.

I can’t wait to hear how she falls in love with Florence, I spent a week visiting as a young backpacker myself many years ago.

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cow at fair 2015

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Life here in the Valley is full of surprises, as an outsider looking in everything is new, the ancient traditions passed down through generations are a complete mystery to me, one I hope will remain within the Valley for many years to come.

Now I know the names of the men and women moving the animals from pasture to pasture and to be milked. I can even say I have had a try at milking, but only for a few minutes with no resulting milk.! Our friend made it look easy, he’s been doing it all his life. He invites us to sit down to a simple meal of pasta, cheese and home made vino, an absolutely incredible meal and one I’ll never forget.

A day at the Fair now means so much more to me, it’s a celebration of all the reasons we moved to Italy…..oh and don’t get me started on the local Piedmont food!

If you ever get to Piedmont come for a visit, we’ll show you a side of Italy even I didn’t know existed.

and the gang xcomment

 

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Loft Apartment Renovation

living italy

Living Italy – a day at the fair

What a difference a year can make, now the faces smiling out of the crowd are friends, people I am slowly coming to know. We came to the fair in our village last year and I felt like a tourist, with no real understanding of the lifestyle, heritage and traditions around me.

This year at the fair I felt relaxed, smiling and waving, nodding to the locals and getting a ‘Salve’ in return. We are slowly becoming part of the Valley, Living Italy, Australiani yes but welcomed wholeheartedly.

While Sam and his friend were off photographing the fair together, the kids (well just Luca as Carina took off with her girlfriends) and I were free to just wander.

I even sat and had a coffee with two lovely German men at the bar, they were on a ‘boys weekend’ and they couldn’t believe they found an Australian here in the midst of the celebrations.

The faces in these photos are no longer strangers, they are the ones who come over to ask after Carina, the ones who smile and nod at me, the ones who listen to my halting attempts at Italian, the ones who stop for a chat and a joke with Sam.

These are the people that our children go to school with, the ones who have invited us to their homes, to birthday parties, to become a part of the community and celebrate all that is so special and unique about our Valley.

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 Sam has found his mojo and is back behind the camera, we actually met whilst studying photography. He was taking the commercial stream and I was happy in the fine art department. Not a single one of our friends thought we’d last, yet here we are almost 20 years later and still together.

These ‘Live Italy’ posts will be a way to give you an up close and personal view of our life here in the mountains of Northern Italy.

Looking through the photos Sam took at the fair had me laughing at how different our style of photography is. With him being the chef in the family he tends towards the food, and I love the people. I hope you like this little glimpse into Sam’s view of the valley, it’s nice to get a bit of male perspective from time to time.

 

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I’d love to say a huge thank you to our dear friend from Australia who helped Sam find his mojo again. We have big things planned for 2015 and will be filling you in as we progress.

As always I hope you are chasing your own dreams, and if you come to Italy you know where to find us.

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Thinking of visiting Italy next year?

and the gang x

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creating simplicity

Beauty in Simplicity – the little things

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Our mountains are blanketed in the first powder of snow, the sun warm but weak, a bit like the cappuccino I’m sipping.

A large yellow tractor goes by, stopping for an elderly lady walking with a stick and large white shopping bag. The tractor parks and the driver swings down heading to the café, leaving the motor running.

The old men on the bench chat soaking up this late autumn sunshine.

A rooster crows, the leaves scatter in the breeze dancing as if to some unheard music.

The autumn leaves are so thick on the ground that you can lose a small child in them.

They crackle and crunch underfoot.

The French man from the Comune pulls up in his tiny van, leaving the motor running and heads to the same café.

Lunch time in a tiny Italian village.

A black pony  follows the old lady along the fence line, he is begging for an apple.

Now I know what she keeps in her big white bag.

Another truck, a large blue Nestle truck this time, the council truck’s motor has cut out, only the tractor engine is still turning.

A galloping child, the swing he just left still moving behind him.

The sun is warm, the day beautiful, the sky a soft blue, the air a little crisp, the colors all washed out, no jarring electric color here.

The colors are mirrored in the birds egg I found in an abandoned nest. The antique apples growing in our orchard.

I place it gently back into a nearby tree.

No sound other than the barking of a dog, the crunch of footsteps as the French man returns to his truck and heads back to work, the tractor departs, the nestle man checks his phone and disappears from view.

The voices of the old men carry across the square, three now in deep conversation.

Laughter and tickles and crunching leaves in the park.

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The swing taking Luca as high as he dares go.

Life is so good here.

A plan is forming for our future, one that will include sharing our life here in the valley and encouraging others to quit the rat race and find a simpler life again, the beauty in simplicity.

and the gang x

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House Hunters International – meets Renovating Italy

House Hunters International

Our episode of House Hunters International is set to air at last. It feels like we’re almost famous, no seriously, the blog is already expanding with new readers (ciao to you if you are new here). Friends that have been reading along from the very start are sharing all over the place and my Mum is trying to figure out how to view our House Hunters International episode in Australia.

Renovating Italy is about to go International……House Hunters International (click on this link for air times and date)

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You might have read about our adventures with the crew from House Hunters International back in December. I think we are one of the few families to be featured at Christmas…and yep complete with snow. Well we have an air date for American viewers (July 27th) and once the episode has aired we will be sent a copy. Hopefully we wont be cringing, and will find a way to let you all see the episode asap.

I can’t wait to see the finished product, and find out which house we bought ……. I seriously fell in love with the wrong house.

We were asked to send in a 4 minute audition video (see below), did a skype call with the producer and had five days of filming in total.

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Luckily we’re not shy, I was doing wardrobe changes in the car and in the end just thought ‘Oh well this is us, no make up and totally exhausted towards the end’…..

I figure that if we tried to act in some way that wasn’t us then why bother, we want people to see that dreams are possible and changing country can be the best thing you ever do.

So much has happened in the nine months since our House Hunters International episode was filmed. We have purchased further property in the borgata to renovate. Buying the ‘White House’  right next to ours was a lucky break, and came with outbuildings and land. We aim to have it ready for friends and guests to visit come 2015.

In the meantime I hope you are able to enjoy our House Hunters International episode.

Thanks again to all involved you made the entire experience priceless.

Signatureand the gang x

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An Italian Weekend – our mountain home

‘ The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time.
Time to think or not think, read or not read, — to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills.’

Philip Connors

A small visual glimpse into our life in the mountains on an Italian weekend. We went with Claudio to let the cows out and because one is a fairly new baby we stayed to supervise. Paulo’s miniature goats have had a baby and the three of them were on the roof of the shed playing. The mountains are covered in wildflowers, the cows are out so the bells are ringing….and new life is everywhere. Soon our little mountain paradise will be busy with people coming up to visit the mountains for the weekend.

We have this glorious valley to ourselves the rest of the year……I really love it here x

Apologies for posting on a Sunday, the week just got away from me, still it’s nice to be able to share our weekend with you.

Hoping your weekend was filled with plenty of time to relax and enjoy nature, oh and if you have goats even better.

 Radzo, Martina, and Bianchina the little miniature goats x

 

 This huge trunk of the tree is to be chopped up for firewood, it looks like rock and seems timeless. Another tree is already growing from the stump, everything here is so green and bright. The air is crisp and clean, cow bells ring, and with so many flowers it’s almost impossible to keep from walking on them.

I felt like a bit of an idiot being so nervous of Rosie the cow, I’ve been a city girl most of my life and certainly not often up this close and personal. Who knew cows were so soft to touch, I expected them to be bristly like a dog. Rosie is very gentle and her baby just gorgeous.

Hope you had a great week, our Italian weekend was very relaxing. This week coming up I’ll get back to my usual posting time and share more photos. Anyone else take hundreds of photos like I do….how on earth do you manage them all? I’ve been told my site is too image heavy and I’ve been reducing the size of my images with batch converting. Now I have to go through and start replacing the larger ones with the smaller ones. Still the same size here on the blog but it makes a difference to loading times so I’m told.

It’s all a work in progress….my first e-book is coming along and I’m planning to launch it on my Birthday in June…In Paris x

and the gang x

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Italian Rustic Decor – the collector

Italian Rustic

‘The measure of a life, after all, is not it’s duration, but it’s donation…’

Corrie Ten

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We almost didn’t enter, even though I’ve been wanting to visit this shop since we arrived in the valley back in April. The double doors open onto a small workroom and as we peered in a man appeared. Now we had to enter, hands were shaken, ciaos exchanged and Sam (love him) did the talking, I feel as if I’ve stepped inside Aladdin’s cave, La Bottega del Restauro.

On every surface, from floor to ceiling my eyes are dazed, a million memories in this tiny room, the history of the valley. Italian Rustic gone into overdrive. After a few minutes he beckons us to follow…..’what’s he saying’ I hiss, and then I am left speechless.

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The interior of Dario’s workroom is filled with tools, varnish, relics and ancient treasures….a giant key with an ornate headpiece is part of the fresco of old keys along the ceiling. I tell him one day he will find the door that fits that key (in my very broken Italian) and he laughs and nods. I feel as if I’ve met a kindred spirit, he just lights up when talking about his collection. Yes everything is for sale he assures us.

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We enter a classic stairwell leading up through three floors of room after room filled with more than my eye can take in. Small vignettes are carefully set up telling little stories, and the beauty is that these aren’t displayed in some fashionable high street store but in an old home in the mountains where they came from. A living museum and the passion of one man who has been collecting for over 25 years.

I see items here that I have seen still in use in daily life at the borgata, things we have found in our own home, things that have been given to us knowing how passionate I am to preserve the history I find around me. All I can think about is how much my Mum would love this, she and I would be in here for days, I find the most delicate carved two story stationary holder, so fragile and a little broken on one leg….I gently place it back, when we are more financial I’ll  be back with my twenty euro.

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Sam starts calling me…..come here quick….following his voice down another flight of old stairs into the cellars, it’s much darker than these images show, a little cold and when my eyes adjust I could be in Madame Tussaud’s. More rooms, ancient doors and ducking heads to stop from hitting the beams, it’s just overwhelm, on every possible space another story, another memory.

The story of the valley people, the women and men I’ve come to love, a lifestyle that is slowly fading into history. Yet here in this unassuming building it has come to life again.

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La Bottega del Restauro is online

You can also find La Bottega del Restauro on facebook

and the gang x


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