Dear Mr Renzi…

 life, rennovation, sardinia, sardinian farmhouse, Sardinian Life  Commenti disabilitati su Dear Mr Renzi…
Set 282016
 

I wish I had the opportunity to meet Matteo Renzi, I’ve read so many nice articles about him in the Observer, I think it’s safe to say the Guardian is IN LOVE with him. When he bulldozed his way to leader of the governing PD party they described him as relaxed and tieless in his acquasparta trainers. The youngest president of Italy ever was about to turn the country around.

I’m sure that he’s a much better choice than Burlusconi but he somehow just constantly grates on my nerves. He talks the talk and boasts about how Italy is improving and unemployment is going down but it just doesn’t seem like that from where I’m stood (in Sardinia).

When I moved to Sardinia in 2009 with my Sardinian husband, I felt like I’d moved backwards in time. Apart from everything being more complicated in a foreign language, most things are just unnecessarily complicated and long winded, still, I was optomistic things would improve and when our children grew up there would be opportunities for them.Prime auto sulla strada Sassari-Olbia

It’s now 2016 and these are the changes that I’ve seen: Carrefour and Decathalon opened, a new 4 lane road between Olbia and Sassari is nearly finished, part of the Sassari – Cagliari road is being rebuilt, Some of the hospital buildings have been refurbished in Sassari (unfortunately not the one I gave birth in).

costa-smeralda-caique-01_1076_1

 

Outside of the main towns there’s not a lot to shout about. Before moving to Sardinia I travelled around India and can see more similarities between these two places than other European countries. It doesn’t seem like a developed country. It’s chaotic, unorganised and ill planned. Developments are left half finished all over the cities, buildings abandoned that should be demolished. A shambles everywhere. To reach my house you have to take a very bumpy and rocky unmade road for more than 1 mile. It’s not a private road, the council needs to surface it but they say every year they have no money because councils have been capped (thanks to limits set by Germany the Mayor said). Every summer we contend with water being turned off by Abanoa (the regional water company who like to hold the residents at ransom – obviously not those on the Costa Smeralda). Watchdogs don’t exist. Most roads need resurfacing, the suspension on my car is completely knackered but there’s no point fixing it. Affordable broadband for people in the countryside doesn’t exist either but it easily could via radio or satellite.

But really, these issues bare little importance to the fact that there are no jobs. So much of the economy in Sardinia relies on tourism yet the season lasts between 4 and 5 months in most places, Unusual for a place which boast a great climate for much more of the year. And what about the other 8 months of the year? Many head abroad or to the mountains for a winter season. This is fine if you’re happy to move around but for for many families it means children not seeing 1 or both parents throughout the summer and potentially the winter too. Makes living in Sardinia full time pretty tough. Average national wages are amongst the lowest in Sardinia and the unemployment rate sits at double the rate of that in Italy.

Renzi has recently pledged 2.6 billion euros, but really, it doesn’t seem like he’s adressing any the real issues in Sardinia, building a few  4 lane roads probably makes his trips here easier but it does little to effect the day to day lives of normal Sardinians.

Speech problems and therapy for bilingual children

 life, sardinia, sardinian farmhouse, Sardinian Life  Commenti disabilitati su Speech problems and therapy for bilingual children
Ago 072016
 

I have 3 children. My oldest son is 6, When he was born I could hardly speak Italian, I encouraged my husband to speak to him exclusively in Italian but I think he was worried he wouldn’t understand so he used a mixture of Italian and English. When he started nursery at 3 and a half, he only spoke English, but understood Italian, After roughly 3 months he was speaking quite fluently. At first he mixed the 2 but he now speaks steadily in both languages and translates words and sentences at the drop of a hat.

My daughter was slower to speak, which is unusual as girls normally speak sooner. She had words in English and Italian but never as many as her brother at the same age. I was conscious not to compare them too much as every child goes at their own pace. She seemed bright in other ways, walking at 9 months and potty trained at 18 months but she never seemed as engaged as her brother. Friends would post videos of their younger children singing, counting, recalling days of the week. They were all things that my daughter couldn’t do.

She started school at 2 and a half. She was shy and cried a lot for the first week but was eventually happy to go. As we live in the middle of nowhere and I had no friends, I was worried she wouldn’t get much social contact with children of her own age, apart from her brothers. I worried constantly about her not being able to comminucate but slowly she seemed to be gaining new vocabulary and the nursery never mentioned it as a cause for concern. They placed her with 2 older girls (in their last year at the nursery) she talked about them every day. It was only at the end of the year that I realised she’d loose these friends. I tried to explain to her that they were going to a different school but I didn’t know if she’d understood. When she started the new school year, she’d come home every day and tell me that they weren’t there today. I felt so sad for her.

By Christmas her behaviour had deteriorated, she had always been quite difficult and wanted lots of attention, but as she was a year older her teachers had deemed it unecessary. She was refusing to eat, fighting with other children, throwing chairs. Oh, and they couldn’t understand her. She was difficult to understand but showed a preference to Italian but at school she was being dismissed as speaking her own language or in English. I don’t think that any real effort was made to understand her. I heard other children laughing at her and making fun, saying she didn’t understand anything or that they couldn’t understand her. It’s hard to believe that small children can be so cruel to each other. It seemed like a hard environment for her to be in.

We had to take her to a child pyschiatrist who felt it was a speech related problem. We have been on the waiting list since March and have been told she will be assessed in October as she’s not classed as urgent. After months of asking for a hearing test (no one could understand why I wanted her hearing checked) her pediatrician finally referred us. Her ears were blocked with wax but now that’s been cleared we’re on the waiting list for a tonal and vocal hearing test. One more month to wait after that and then a speech therapist appointment. In the meantime, we decided to move her to a different school. Her teachers think it will make her worse but I think the fresh start will help.

If you have any advice, I would really appreciate it. Or if you’re looking for help I found some useful articles.

In Sardinia, there seems to be a lack of understanding of speech problems and billingual problems. This explains the differences. I’m not an expert but I think it’s unreasonable to ask the mother to stop using her language with the child which I am frequently asked to do. This is also a useful website if you feel your child may have some kind of hearing loss.

You can also consult the speech banana to see if your child’s hearing loss fits the pattern. You may notice a patch which corresponds to the mistakes your child makes. The main thing I’ve learnt in Italy is not to expect help of any kind from teachers and even many medical staff. INSIST INSIST INSIST. You need to fight your child’s corner. My daughter’s teacher told me “She’s not normal, she’s got problems” No parent should have to hear that.

Speech_Banana

 

Tinnari

 life, sardinia, Sardinian Beaches, Sardinian Life  Commenti disabilitati su Tinnari
Lug 292016
 

Tinnari is a very special beach, apart from being beautiful it’s hard to access which means even in the height of summer there won’t be many people there. You can get here by boat trip from Costa Paradiso or driviving to Tinnari and hiking down.

Cala Tinnari SardiniaIts’s quite easy to miss, you should take the main road from Castelsardo to Santa Theresa – SP90, it’s about halfway between Isola Rossa and Costa Paradiso, the turn off is tucked behind a restaurant called Il Geranio. It’s a dirt track that leads up a big hill, you’ll probably find a few other cars parked up at the top of the hill. It’s a good 2km walk and some parts of the path are difficult. We did it with a 5, 3 and 1 yr old. They weren’t too happy coming back up as they’d worn themselves out. If you’re without small children it would probably only take 30 minutes. You could leave an umbrella behind and shelter in the shade of the rocks if necessary. Take snacks and plenty of water, you won’t find any vendors on this beach.
Costa di Tinnari

It’s a stoney beach so bear this in mind if you like to wear water shoes! The water is crystal clear, as in most places in Sardinia and has some very sheltered areas protected by rocks which my kids loved jumping off and paddling around in. It would be great to snorkle here. My son also loved crab catching on the rocks and it was a pirate cove so great for young imaginations!

tinnari sardinia

If you’re planning a holiday in the horth of Sardinia, this is a great guide to beaches around Trinita D’Agultu, many of which are calm and have shallow water suitable for young children. Have a great holiday!

 

My rennovation inspiration

 expat in italy, gardening, sardinia, sardinian farmhouse, Sardinian Life  Commenti disabilitati su My rennovation inspiration
Lug 282016
 

When We bought our house I had just come back from travelling around India and the surrounding countries. I fell in love with the havellis in Rajisthan and the Portuguese villas of Goa, Kerela and Sri Lanka. Sardinian architecture leaves a lot to be desired and country properties in particular were built to be practical and little else. Still our house felt like it had character, it was built by a wealthy (for the countryside) family who owned a lot of land in the early 1940’s. They tried to create a house similar to those in the city with high ceilings and tall windows, inside however has low doorways!

Rajasthan HavelliWe knew from the outset we would extend our house, I loved the idea of a veranda or roof terrace, enjoying a breeze in the shade sipping a lime soda. Ahhh, those were the days! I knew we’d need some areas which would graham and green goa villastay cool in the hot summer months. Havellis do a great job of this with rooms built around a central open courtyard. I was lucky enough to stay in the villa owned by Antonia Green, co founder of Graham and Green. It too benefits from a central open courtyard, however, the Goan climate is slightly different from Sardinia’s and I don’t think we’d appreciate the chill in winter!

portuguese villa in goaAs our house was built on a slope, we decided that where you enter the house, the ground floor, would be the day time zone with lounge, dining room and kitchen etc. And the extension would be built at lower ground floor level and house the bedrooms and bathrooms. In fact the house actually has 5 levels! Up a few steps to the kitchen, down a few to the family bathroom and shower room, down a few more to 2 bedrooms and down again to a further 3 bedrooms which have their own private access and en-suites built in the extension. Eventually we will convert the loft space so our children each have a bedroom. The extension was built on the back of the house and is roughly 80sqm and the roof is a terrace accessed via french doors from the dining room with steps down to the garden.

I also found inspiration on websites such as Mr and Mrs Smith and Olivers Travels looking through their Italian properties. Unfortunately, Pinterest had yet to be invented!

The reality of living in Sardinia

 expat in italy, food, gardening, sardinia, sardinian farmhouse, Sardinian Life  Commenti disabilitati su The reality of living in Sardinia
Lug 262016
 

If you love Sardinia and think you’d like to live here full time then here are a few things you should bear in mind:

tempio pausania sardiniaWork.

Do you need to work or will you be retiring? If you need to look for work then you should speak fluent Italian or be CELTA qualified with 2 years experience (or the equivalent qualification for teaching another sought after foreign language such as German, Russian French or Spanish). There is teaching work in Sardinia, however without experience and any knowledge of Italian you may find it difficult to get many hours. If your Italian is good enough you could get seasonal work in a hotel or restaurant. These are generally 4 month contracts which include accomodation. There is little other work. You could translate but you need a very good knowledge of Italian.

Or perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who got transfered to Sardinia…. it does happen.

I’ve lived in Sardinia for 7 years, I have a degree in Graphic design, a CELTA and speak fluent Italian, Last year I started teaching and have continued this year, gradually building a reputation. I now also translate part time. I’m lucky to have a job.

My husband speaks fluent English and French along with Italian, he works 4 months a year as a restaurant manager. It’s not easy supporting a family with so little work. If you’re interested on reading more listen to Jennifer Aventura too.

Many places will only offer a temporary contract so you can forget about things like loans, mortgages and credit cards.

Language

Learning Italian is a must. Get lessons, throw yourself into Italian life unless you want to live in a bubble of expats with whom your only common ground is probably the English language. This was my experience anyway. Most English people I know who live near me are retired, they don’t have much time for me and my brood and I don’t think they understand the daily struggles of life in Sardinia.

cabu abbas, perfugas, sardinia

Life

Life in Sardinia is slow paced, old fashioned and ridiculously frustrating. There is a form for everything, and they need to be filled in every year, (for example, child benefit should be reapplied for every year even if no changes have occured.) You really do need to know lots of people otherwise things just won’t happen for you, I had been waiting for over 6 months to get my daughter assessed for speech therapy, when I mentioned it to my friend she said, oh my friend works there, I’ll call him. So we got an appointment. The SYSTEMS are long and complicated, I bore myself talking about it, in fact, I can’t really think about it beacuse I find it so frustrating. People shrug it off and say, oh well in England things are different. But some of it is common sense and laziness. Too many people have jobs because they know someone at the top. Hence lots of incompetent people – mainly within the councils.

Food

home grown baby water melonProbably the best aspect to living here is the fresh and organic produce. If you live in the countryside then you and your neighbours will likely have an ‘orto’ veg patch. People share their bumper crops amongst friends and family. I rarely buy fruit and vegetables during the summer. There are lots of wild fruits that you can pick from along the roads too. Figs, prickly pears, blackberries, pears, almonds, asparagus, mushrooms.

 

The landsardinian countryside, perfugas, domos cabu abbas
I live in the countryside in north central Sardinia. An area known as Anglona. It’s handily positioned between 2 airports. It’s blissfully quiet. All I hear through the winter is the sound of cow bells in surrounding fields, in the spring the frogs wake up and sing their hearts out and in the summer the air is filled with the sound of crickets. It’s beautiful. It’s a shame so many tourists don’t bother with central Sardinia, it has a lot to offer, huge lakes, moutains, great bike paths, rivers, nuraghes and traditional villages.

Let’s not for get the beaches, although, if you have to work like most Sardinians throughout the summer months, you won’t get much chance to enjoy these! This is Tinnari, a cove once used by pirates and accessible only by a very steep and difficult footpath or by boat excursion, it’s worth the hike though, it’s hard to find (almost) empty beaches in August in Sardinia.

tinnari, sardinia, pirate cove

 

The worst thing about living in Sardinia

 expat in italy, gardening, sardinia, sardinian farmhouse, Sardinian Life, veg patch  Commenti disabilitati su The worst thing about living in Sardinia
Lug 192016
 

Maybe I am over exaggerating, and I have to admit, this is not the only bad point to living in Sardinia. I know plenty of people look and think wow, they’re really living the dream but believe me, living the dream is not easy.

cinghiale

For the last 5 years I’ve juggled looking after my kids and attempting to make something of a garden. I quickly realised that the soil was practically dust and not a lot of plants were very happy growing in it. In fact, only cosmos seemed unfased, so slowly but surely I’ve been making compost, adding sand, collecting manure and carting uphill wheelbarrows full of nice leaf mulch from the woods. It’s been a long process.

sardinian wild boarLast night after I put my children to bed I heard a loud grunting noise, I quickly looked outside and saw 2 large cinghiales (wild boars) having a good old snuffle amongst my lavender plants. I banged on the window to shoo them away. We often see and hear boars around the house during the hot dry summer as they come out of the woods looking for food.

This morning, when I opened my window, I couldn’t see my little orange tree, It had been completely uprooted from it’s nice fertile soil along with my other orange tree. I’m so sad for these trees, as this is the first year they’ve had oranges on them, I don’t think they will have enjoyed the trauma. the other had almost died so I think it may have been just too much even though I got them back in the ground first thing this morning and gave them a good watering!

young sardinian wild boarMy rockery and lots of cosmos, miniature sunflowers, lavenders were also brutally attacked and my pretty hydrangea – grown from a cutting which was flowering for the first time this year was also completely uprooted. I can safely say those boars had a good old time.

I have covered the ground around my trees with large rocks. Hopefully this will stop them unearthing them again. I’ve heard that placing half full bottles of water  dotted amongst the plants scares them too. Last year I was forced to put my bouganvillea in a large container as it was dug up 3 times, since then it’s been safe! In the future we will fence off our land so hopefully they can’t get in again!

If all else fails we’ll be calling the hunters in and having wild boar stew!

Italian Wedding flowers

 italian wedding, sardinia, wedding decorations  Commenti disabilitati su Italian Wedding flowers
Lug 102016
 

n_decorazioni-floreali-002-1If you’re getting married in Italy, before you set your heart on a certain flower you should speak to your wedding planner or visit a florist to see what will be available at that time of year. If you don’t speak a lot of Italian, take a scap book or a a tablet with all your ideas. I was disappointed to find out that lots of the flowers I thought I’d be able to have simply weren’t available in Sardinia in September.

In the end my flowers were disappointing for the price we paid so it’s definitely worth shopping around and asking to see their portfolio (if they have one!). Obviously if you have a wedding planning you can trust their choice of florist.italian_wedding_flower_design(31)

In the end I had to have a bouquet of roses as I was told peonies wouldn’t be available. I bought heart shaped wreaths from England which the florist decorated with gypsophila for the church pews. It’s worth bearing in mind, if you get married in a small town, florists might be a bit stuck in a rut and in need of some inspiration! Luckily mine was open to trying new things!gypsophila heart wreath

I also had to buy the vases for the reception. The bouquets were wrapped in tinfoil (don’t laugh) Sometimes in Italy the unexplainable happens. It’s best paying a professional or just go with the flow and don’t get hung up on these things!

For wedding accessories, ribbons, vases, rosettes for your cars etc. Have a look on our site for ideas!

 

 

Lug 022016
 

One of the most amazing things about living in the Sardinian countryside is being able to have a huge veg patch, in fact, mine is allotment sized! As we live in a old farmhouse we have a walled off area that would have been used for pigs.

The soil around the house is terribe, it’s basically dust, topsoil is non existent. Luckily this walled area, next to the woods, is super fertile and benefits from lots of leaf fall.

Sard

I don’t have any fancy machinery, unfortunately just a spade and a hoe (my rake has disappeared!) So it’s difficult. I grow all my plants from seed. And I threw in a few extra courgette seeds in case they didn’t all come up. They ALL came up! So, not wanting to throw away a healthy plant, I put all 6 in. Well, it was a funny summer. We had a lot of rain, huge thunderstorms followed by really hot days then more rain, more sun…. It was nice not having to worry about watering. At first it was fun collecting all the courgettes, my children love picking our veg. In the picture below, my son is 4 and my daughter is 2, the biggest courgettes weighed nearly 2kg!

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The fun aspect soon passed, we’d go to the beach for a few days and when we returned were faced with literally bucket loads of courgettes. We gave lots away but also started eating courgettes with every meal. It was challenging finding recipes that the children might like. So I’ll share a few child friendly courgette recipes with you!!!!

courget glut

Preparing your own big fat Italian Wedding

 italian wedding  Commenti disabilitati su Preparing your own big fat Italian Wedding
Giu 282016
 

Are you marrying into an Italian family? Or are you already married? We’d love to hear from you. Hopefully we can help you with your arrangements or answer any questions you have.
My name’s Charlotte and I live in Sardinia with my Sardinian husband and our 3 bilingual children. I’ve lived here (in the north between Sassari and Olbia) for 7 years.

When I was planning my wedding I hardly spoke any Italian so my half interested husband translated for me. I wouldn’t say it was exactly how I intended but it was quaint. I did a lot myself. Invitations, favours, place settings. If only I’d found Bombonierashop then!italian-mother-groom-1

My mother in law wasn’t much help, until when I arrived at the church, she insisted that traditionally the bride enters the church followed by the groom and his mother! So what could I do, in I went, followed by my mother in law proudly presenting her son. Afterwards my husband’s friends said, but the bride should enter last…….

SO, word of warning, don’t be fooled,