The past two weeks have helped recharge the batteries, that's for sure, a fortnight in Italy being the perfect antidote to the last few months of rain. Much eating has been done, including numerous gelato tastings. Then there was lots of daily swimming, a little walking and a good dose of sleeping in order to recuperate from many late nights. We headed firstly to Rome, where we trod the pavements sight seeing and trying to escape the searing heat that we were so unused to. The children were sadly unimpressed with St Paul's and the Vatican City but the spectacle of the Colosseum made up for it.
And I can confirm the saltwater sandals were indeed the 'best thing since sliced bread' although one word of caution .. they are treacherous on slippery surfaces. Steep steps in front of the Colosseum, ancient, scorching hot and highly smoothed through centuries of use let me down badly when I treated the queueing tourists to an interesting display to relieve their boredom of waiting to get in.
A hilltop village called Montasola was our next port of call and a perfect-in-every-way villa nestled amongst olive trees with views over the Sabine Hills that practically knock your socks off. Our English/Italian owners were truly the most gracious hosts we have ever known, welcoming us warmly with fresh figs, olive oil from their own land, wine from a neighbour's vineyard and warm apricot and walnut crumble, it's ingredients picked from the garden only hours before. Then throughout the week gifts of plums, lettuce, courgettes were bestowed upon us. We helped christen their newly built pool which had stunning vistas over the mountains and really, I cannot recommend this place highly enough.
Our day trips took us to Rieti, for the Sunday market, where I was able to stock up on lace. How I love that stuff! Rieti is famed for being the very centre of Italy but I think the crowning glory was Gelateria Napoleone, with its swoon worthy selection of gelato.
Another worthy visit is Viterbo, a lively and bustling city famed for its Papal Palace dating back to 1145. We indulged in our daily ritual of yet more gelato and then came paradise in the form of Francesco and his vast collection of vintage buttons in the Piazza dell'Erbe. Feast your eyes, ladies. Feast (and this is only half of it)!
But really, we were just as happy to take the children's lead and content ourselves by swimming, savouring the local produce and reading in the heat of the day. So happy in fact, we were sad to leave not just the villa but Carla and Michael too.
However, on we went and I shall tell you a little about that another time.