Montalbano, Hot Air Balloons, The Military, and Musica

If you are new to this column I should tell you that each month I reflect back on the previous one, which in this case is February. My aim is to bring you lots of fun things and not too many serious ones.February here in Tuscany was much the same as the rest of Europe, being that odd month without an identity, late winter or early spring? That was the question. For the first time in several years, we did not see one flake of snow. It dropped just below freezing a couple of times but otherwise remained cold and manageable. A cold snap is essential to kill off some of those pesky insects and in particular the Olive Fly, which spoilt last year’s harvest and upped the price of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

But the very best news in February had to be the return of Commissario Montalbano to the TV screen and, in a new series. The actor who plays the hapless character is Luca Zingaretti, a short bald fifty-something who has a huge following. I must say that he does have an unexplainable sexiness about him, and the character he plays is one you can’t help but warm to. The new series was written by the original author, ninety-two-year-old Andrea Camillera. I have read all his books, and I can really recommend them. See my reviews on Amazon!

February also saw the first Hot Air Balloons of the year, floating through the clear blue skies carrying sight-seeing passengers wrapped in scarves and woolly hats, cheerfully waving down at we little people below. Chianti is a very popular area for balloon rides, which I have not done myself being a little afraid of heights, but I am reliably informed that it is an amazing experience. Visit www.flyballoon.it

Meanwhile, back in our local coffee bar in Fiano, I read that the Italian Armed Forces were having difficulty recruiting young people. I was shocked to discover that the average age of the Italian soldier was thirty-eight! So a big recruitment campaign was being launched. Considering the high level of unemployment, you would think that more youngsters might be attracted to join. But the attitude is quite different now amongst the school leavers, and there is no longer compulsory conscription in Italy.

Anyway, on a happier note, the music scene is always very busy at the beginning of February. The San Remo Music Festival is hugely popular both live and on TV. You either love it or hate it, as the winner goes on to represent Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest. The average Italian loves it and the conversation in the caffe bars over the four-day festival period is all about who they think will win. Another Music Festival was The Made in Italy Tour, which set off on Valentine’s Day, San Valentino, led by the popular songster Ligabue. And, last but not least, to remind everyone of the ongoing plight of the earthquake victims, various musicians, dancers and comedians who were born in Tuscany, came together to do a show at the Teatro Aurora in Florence. The show was called Toscana si Nasce and was a very good idea indeed.

What next? Oh yes, Carnivale! One cannot ignore the two weeks of big crazy carnivals in Tuscany, the biggest being in Viareggio. The Italians love Carnivale, and the floats are so over the top they must take a year to build them. All have giant moving papier mache figures; the most amusing this year was a grotesque Donald Trump with Hilary Clinton sandwiched inside a burger bun, which he lifted back and forth to his open salivating mouth! People travel from all over the world to these events, including a plane full of enthusiasts from Bridgwater in Somerset, England that surrounded my poor man on a flight back from Bristol! Hey ho……

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So, as you can see, February does not stand still here in Tuscany, in fact, there is never a dull moment.

Have a great month

Salute June x

Ps, My latest novel The Italian Connection will be available soon. If you would like direct notification by email, send your address to june.finnigan@virgin.net


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