Friday, 27 June 2014

Settling into Santo Stefano

Standing in the town square watching the traditional dancing with the vineyard spotted hills behind me, I though I'd fallen into a Peter Mayle book. But this isn't Provence, this is Piemonte.

Santo Stefano Roero, Piedmont

Its been 2 weeks since we arrived in Santo Stefano from Milan. We are starting a brand new kind of adventure. Over is the wilderness of South East Asia and the tourist saturated Italian cities. Now we are settling in small town Italy for the summer.

And what a place to be settling in. The Alps are in sight and the Ligurian coast is just an hours drive away; the hills produce world famous wines and much of the landscape is protected by Unesco.

We are staying with a family who have generously allowed us to stay with them in exchange for some au pair work with their children. Neither Mark or I have ever au paired before, or even been trusted with our nieces for more than a few hours, but we were excited to find some creative ways to spend our time with Corrado, 5 and Adelaide, 9.

First meetings

Mama Virginia knew us straight off the train and it wasn't long before we were on our way home and getting a run down on everything from the landscape and local culture to the children's temperaments and excitement for the World Cup.

But is was clear this was no ordinary family. Arriving at Nonni's we were introduced to more aunts, cousins and sisters than I could remember and it seemed that everyone was gifted in some way, be it as an artist, musician or singer.

Nonni's is also where we met the kids for the first time; Adelaide smiling sweety at the door and Corrado from a distance as he ran around the pool completely naked!

Brutta figura

We met Papa Davide at the house and joined the family for dinner al fresco. We were amazed at the competency of their English, but were also happy to hear some more day to day Italian phrases and get the opportunity to ask what they meant.

During the meal Corrado didn't want to do something because it would be "brutta figura" which means ugly figure, or something embarrassing. It didn't take long for Corrado to forget all about this over the next week as he made faces, insisted in playing football naked and ate out of his belly button!

Corrado after a day of mushroom picking

Getting creative

Our first week we mainly looked after Adelaide as her school had already finished for the summer. Unfortunately the weather wasn't with us, but we kept each other entertained with documentaries, card games and some homework.

I had been inspired by the beautiful scenery and landscape around us and as soon as the weather turned we drove out to the neighbouring town to do some sketching. I'd noticed Adelaide's talent during a round of Pictonary and as I thought she flourished during our morning out.

The rest of the week we continued to get to know each other; the boys bonding over the football, and the girls over the food!

Mark, Adelaide and I in Fossano

Food glorious food!

Part of our reason for coming to Italy was because we loved Italian food, but during our stays in the cities we felt we weren't getting the real experience.

This was quickly addressed and put to bed as soon as we arrived in Piemonte. Mama claims she only knows about 15 recipes but we've already be feasting on fresh pesto, carbonara, mozzarella cartridges and ragu all coupled with fresh tomatoes, salad, wonderful cheeses and bread. I've never eaten so well, and I'm definitely making notes for when we get home!

8 weeks in Piedmont

We were lucky enough that in our first few weeks, Santo Stefano was having its annual festival. The weekend evenings saw the town square transformed into a hive of food, wine, beer and entertainment, and people came for near and far for the traditional dancing and music.

Fancy footwork at the Santo Stefano festival

Standing in the town square watching the traditional dancing with the vineyard spotted hills behind me, I though I'd fallen into a Peter Mayle book. But this wasn't Provence, this is Piemonte and that meant a new language, traditional foods and local wine.

I'm beginning the think these 8 weeks will be the most influential of all the time we have been travelling, as our thoughts turn from adventure to building a new life in the UK.

I can't wait to find out more over the coming weeks! Ciao x