Sunday, December 04, 2005

Back In The Southern Med

Our break in Italy was challenging but enjoyable. The challenge part was the weather - heavy snow, extended and intense rainfall, high winds and very cold. The enjoyable part was, of course, Italy.

Countries are a bit like businesses - the great ones excel in just 2 or 3 areas. Italy is definitely in our great category - wonderful landscapes, excellent food, stylish & well dressed people.

But, as with great businesses, the strengths cover up a boatload of weaknesses - in the case of Italy that includes terrible driving, roads and signage (we passed five severe accidents in 2,000 km driving), awful bureaucracy and and a pathetic energy supply.

The energy part is claimed to be due to Italy's lack of domestic sources, but that's silly. Plenty of economies buy the energy they need in return for useful exports. Plus, mountainous, river- and lake- infested Italy looks to be a hydro-electric engineer's dream.

Still, for whatever reason, about 80% of Italian homes make do with 3 KW of power, which at 220 Volts is just 13 Amps! That's why electric power is called Luce - light - since a few dim bulbs are about all 3 KW is good for. Gas is available but very expensive - said to be 6 times more than Brits pay. So you can forget clothes driers, electric heating, electric kettles and arrays of halogen lights. And if you're thinking of building there (we are) you need to plan on solar power to heat the water and pool and wood stoves for area heating.

Back to the positive. We found the worlds best plant nursery near the Tuscan town of Chiusi. They do Landscapes To Go - 20' + high umbrella pines, cypresses and so on, in huge pots. Although wholesalers they do sell to customers direct (probably only for large orders). If you're into horticulture and are in the area, check them out.

Now we're briefly back enjoying the warmth of the Southern Med (68 degrees and sunny) before migrating to London for Christmas. Which means we have 1 week to eat our crop of ripe oranges...