Just back from the Italian Dolomites Alps where snow was pretty scarce, but nevertheless 4 days of sun, good company and gorgeous food made up for it! Cortina D’Ampezzo is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, about a couple hours away from Venice and about 4h from Milan making it a resort of choice for Northern Italians looking to parade a fluffy fur. The village has that atmospheric old-fashioned chic to it, but it’s actually their fennel flavoured bread that I will dedicate this post to.
The “Puccia” bread is a brown, fennel and cumin seeds flavoured bread from Trentino Alto Adige (it seems there are also other versions of it in the south). In local dialect, “puccia” means that it “came badly”, i.e., it didn’t raise much, describing that flattish shape.
Ingredients for 2 loafs of 500gr each:
– 500gr rye flour
– 200gr refreshed white manitoba 50:50 leaven
– 300gr tepid water
– 2 spoons of malt sugar
– 8gr of salt
– 1-3 tbs of fennel seeds
– 1 tbs of cumin seeds
Take 200gr of refreshed starter leaven and stir it lightly with 100gr of tepid water. Put the rye flour in a large bowl, in a “volcano” shape and pour the diluted leaven, water and malt sugar little by little, while mixing at hand (or at slow speed in the bread mixer). Rest for 15min.
Add the salt and seeds and knead for another 5-10min and until well mixed. Let it rest in its covered bowl for another hour or couple of hours (depending on how active your leaven is, and the temperature of your room).
At this stage I actually retarded mine overnight in the fridge.
Shape in 2 round flat loafs and let rest another little bit while pre-heating the oven at maximum temperature; and when ready, turn down the temperature to 220 and bake for 25min, then turn it down again to 200 degrees and bake for another 25min.
It’s delicious with a soup, I tried the earthy mountain version of the Zuppa d’orzo (barley soup), yum!
other recipes in Italian, but I couldn’t find any using wild yeast:
The first time I travelled to Milan, I was in for a huge disappointment, and it was partly my fault: no, going mid-August is not a good idea, as for ferragosto the Milanese just shoot off to the lakes or the sea, leaving a drained, hot and dusty city behind them. Also I had in mind a great romantic impressive city….if that’s what you want go to Rome, to Florence, to Venice…you name it. But not to Milan.
So this year I decided I was going to start our relationship from scratch again, and spend a full week there, with the right kind of expectations.
Duomo by night
Italian Design beyond the crisis exhibition at the Triennale
St Lorenzo Columns
Ducks sunbathing on the naviglio
chit-chat from one balcony to the other…Corso Ticcinese
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Museo del Novecento
Milan is a social, fashionable city.
With a totalGDP of €114,784m, Milan produces 7.3% of the whole country wealth. Easily the wealthiest city in the country (€36,000 per capita), but far behind on tourists go-to lists. I think it is a great city to experience when one has “something to do” there. It is also a city that’s better appreciated with a few friends; it’s a busy social place.
Some of the MUST do things, pick and choose to make your dream combination:
* Sightseeing: it doesn’t take that long but you will at least want to see the magnificent Duomo and get to the rooftop if you can. Don’t forget there’s a strict no bare knee or shoulder policy in place.
* Culture, museums and exhibitions: plenty of choice there, the Museo del Novecento, Pinacoteca Brera (website is only in Italian: closed Mondays, open 8.30 to 19.15, longer on Fridays) and the Triennale, focused on Italian design. Booking to see the Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci, is a bit of an achievement in itself. It takes lots of advance planning, but I eventually made it, and it’s worth it.
* Take on some activity: learn Italian, take a cooking course, a fashion design course….they’re good way to meet people and experience the city rather than visit it.
* Shopping and wandering around: this seem to be the most praised activity in Milan. I was hugely frustrated as I went a week before the sales period would start and missed all the bargains!! For your records, Winter Sales Season in Milan usually starts the first Saturday of January until mid-February; and Summer Sales Season usually starts the first Saturday of July until August. In term of good neighbourhoods, try Brera and Porta Ticcinese, both lovely areas with lots of cafés and a good mix of chains and independent shops. For a more thorough list, check Alexi’s blog there
* have an Aperol Spritz aperitivo on the navigli and panzerotti (deep fried mozzarella) at Luinni’s (via Santa Radegonda).
* Indulge on a bigger-than-life ice-cream at Cioccolati Italiani. Their cones are outright impossible to eat without smudging your make up, but who cares? eat like no one’s looking. The other delicious alternative is Grom.
* going to the Scalla Opera to enjoy an opera or a ballet
* going out clubbing al fresco: Just Cavalli (Saturday night recommended) or the Byblos are good options. Or party like Bob Sinclar and Andy Warhol, wear your most glamorous outfit, be ready to wait and go to Plastic.
* having pizza for breakfast at Princion your way back when the sun rises, and in clubbing outfit.
However I would avoid…:
* going in August, it’s empty, suffocating and full of mosquitoes
* I’m a huge fan of going jogging to discover an area but really Milan isn’t the greatest place. I took part in the Milan half marathon this year and…disappointing, it doesn’t go through the centre as much as I would have liked it (starts from the Castillo and ends in the arena, via the peripheral ring road; nothing to fret about). And the jogging track is a mere 3.5k in the Parco Sempione, dogging tourists and old ladies’ dogs, not ideal.
– taking the overground tramway if you don’t have a “Man vs. Wild” type of sense of direction. It’s pretty and looks vintage, but you’ll need a local to get around – or at least I did. On the other hand, the tube is AC’ed and the easiest thing in the world!!
A Rich history and present
A recently sprayed graffiti depicting Milan’s rich history caught my attention. Not only because it’s a beautiful way to illustrate it, but also it was made on request of the parish of the very central Basilica St Lorenzo Maggiore. How unusual!? The piece is also highly interesting because the symbols it represents, understanding those few figures pretty much already gives the main keys to understand the city. The open-air story board starts at the time of the Romans, when Milan was called Mediolanum, for it was located in the middle of the plains. If the Roman heritage is great all over Italy, Milan has few obvious visible traces. I carries on with Sant’Ambrogio who worked for the city to become an episcopate; followed by the Attila the Hun and the barbarian invasions in the 5th century, the fall of the Black King in the 15th century, Ludovico Sforza or The Moor, youngest son of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan; Napoleon, Verdi, Alessandro Manzoni, Visconti and Sforza with the Snake and the Eagle….and many more, keep the history book at hand!
To read in the plane:
Milan is great scene of crime it seems, or at least that is what the litterary scene suggests!? Mani gialli or “yellow books” (crime novels) are set in Milan, I was particularly recommended this one:
Un Delitto Molto Milanese by Antonio Steffenoni. Beyond the criminal story, what I was really after was the description of the city, and the atmosphere … a catching thriller but not exactly a kind & warm description of the working environment in Milan!!
Other resources to prepare your trip:
I was given for my birthday a really handy guide: 101 things to do in Milan (101 cose da fare a Milano). It’s full of charming places and urban legends and describes another way to approach a city that doesnt have a fame for being especially welcoming. Marco translated most of them on his blog.
One marathon a year has been my target for the past few years; and last weekend was Venice marathon turn. The scenic run easily makes it to the most beautiful in my ranking. A memorable way to see Venice, a unique experience, however not one for great times, mostly due to the 14 bridges at the end, and if you are anything like me, the “OMG this is unreal” moment on Piazza San Marco will make you loose another few seconds, just gazing in disbelief!!! Continue reading Venice, the magic marathon→
Sicily is one of those places that just tick all the “romantic weekend” boxes in my book: the perfect weather, the abundant food, the powerful wines, the awe-inspiring views, the crystal clear water…
I’m just back from an otherworldly weekend to celebrate friends’ wedding, and as the excellent Italian blog Memorie di una Vagina puts it: “last weekend I went to a wedding in Sicily where I understood that Sicily is just like an excellent lover: as soon as you leave it, you want to go back and make love”
“Lo scorso weekend sono stata a un matrimonio in Sicilia e ho capito che la Sicilia è come un amante eccellente: appena se n’è andato hai voglia di rivederlo e di rifarci all’amore.” (translation is mine)
She’s absolutely right. When are we back again?
Sea side photos are mostly taken from the Capotaormina Atahotel where we had a fantastic relaxing time. Views are mixed, as a sea person, I just really enjoyed the view and multiple beach accesses, the sunset in the overflow swimming pool…that being said, some prefer being up the hills in the village to grasp more of the local atmosphere. (The Metropole was highly recommended by friends)
Views from the Greek theatre are spectacular, it can be either visited in the daylight, or rather, to see it alive, check performances organised in the evening during the summer season. From up there one has a wonderful view on the bay, the town and the volcano; a friend even managed to attend a performance where the opera music was “accessorizing” a stunning sunset and a lava eruption in the background…
With a car, it’s also possible to drive up to Castelmola and watch the bay from even higher up. The little village is smaller and less touristy but nevertheless fantastically picturesque.
Next time? (yes because there will be) other friends decided to cut the beach time short and go hiking up the Etna volcano, which sounds quite tough but worth it; although it would depend on the level of activity of the volcano as well I guess.
Now let’s get back to diet after the rather insane amount of food we just feast on if you please…
The traditional French dessert with a crunchy and nutty Italian twist.
To celebrate my new (amazing) hand mixer I cooked some pretty tasty mousses last week. The word “mousse” is a French word that literally means “froth” or “foam.” This applies to the dessert’s light, airy texture.
Fun fact: if mousses became an easier option sincethe 1930’s when hand mixers made their way into more and more of our grandmas’ kitchens so they could fluff their egg whites easily; the dessert was made famous by chef Michel Fitoussi, based in NY, who in 1977 had a huge success with his innovative White Chocolate mousse.
And what about the Amaretto liquor? I find the Almond flavoured liquor even more delicious now tha I know it’s a love potion!!!
Legends of the Lazzaroni family of Saronno, says that the liquor was created by a widow who posed for Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini in 1525. The widow fell in love with the painter and made her Amaretto potion for him. Her original recipe has purportedly been handed down from generation to generation without change and is currently marketed as Disaronno Originale Liqueur.
Recipe for 6 cups
Heads up!! it needs to be in the fridge for a good 3h before serving, but avoid making it the day before as it may lose its oomph!
– 250gr dark chocolate – I normally buy some French Meunier one, by habit and because it does not need any added sugar and has great quality cocoa
– (optional 20gr of caster sugar)
– 6 eggs, at room temperature
– a pinch of salt / a pinch of cream of tartar
– a spoonful of Amaretto liquor (or two)
– 6 to 12 Amaretti biscuits
– 10cl full fat cream
– separate the egg whites from the egg yolks in 2 different bowls. You can either save 3 yolks or the full 6 ones, depends on how rich you like your mousse.
– melt your chocolate in a bain-marie; do not add water to the chocolate directly, if you need a spoonful of liquid to stir it, add orange juice or some milk.
– beat the egg yolks, optional sugar (depends on how bitter your chocolate is and how much you like the taste of chocolate, I personally don’t add anything), add a spoonful or 2 of Amaretto liquor and mix in well. Add to the melted chocolate, keeping the mixture quite liquid.
– whisk your eggs whites in a small deep bowl, with an electric mixer and a pinch of either salt or cream of tartar (some also use a dash of lemon juice) until obtaining a very firm mousse.
– whip the 10cl cream into a light fluffy mixture.
– fold the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a very soft hand, little by little. Finally add the cream.
– crunch some Amaretti biscuits at the bottom of your individual ramekins or martini glasses, then gently add the chocolate mousse and let sit in the fridge for a good 2 to 3 hours.
ok by now your friends have started worrying for you: last night you went out for drinks, and after 2hours 45min precisely you asked for the bill, promptly paid and mumbled something about urgently going home to take care of Pasquale. “Hun, you have a new boyfriend, how do I NOT know that?”…”nanah, he’s not my bf, Pasquale’s more like family”…”I see, so your relatives are visiting for Easter? but you told me you were going away…?” …. drop it…they’ll never understand you are bringing up an Italian leaven “a WHAT??”….right let’s go back to the kitchen…
make sure you have everything at hand before we start the day and avoid a million trip down to Tesco:
– about 500gr of Manitoba flour
– 180gr soft butter (not melted or hot)
– about 250gr suger
– 6 eggs
– clean dish towels
– a vanilla pod and / or vanilla fragrance
– 15gr honey
– couple of pinches of salt
– 200 to 300gr candied orange peels
– orange zest
– 30 gr hazelnuts (can be replaced by more almonds)
– 75gr almonds
– unpeeled almonds for decoration
– sugar nibs
– icing sugar
– 2 clean linen cloths
– your dove shaped paper tin, 750gr or 1kg
First dough…in the thick of it!!
some people are morning people, especially bakers. So if you can wake up presto and start the process with a bang, it’d be ideal honestly. If like me you start the morning at noon with a headache, you’ll have to adjust later (read the little compromises below)
First dough – what we need
– 135 gr sourdough
– 150 gr warm water
– 105 gr sugar
– 390 gr manitoba, strong Canadian flour
– 3 yolks (make sure you keep at least 2 of the egg whites in your fridge for later)
– 155 gr very soft butter
Melt the 105gr sugar in 150gr water and bathe 135gr of Pasquale into the solution. Dream of a lifetime, tepid water and sugar ….yummmmm
Throw the 3 egg yolks into the mix, one at a time and stir well; then add the flour a tablespoon at a time. And knead, knead a lot …. your shoulders are screaming, your elbows are aching but it doesn’t matter:
you’re a hard core baker and stubbornly refusing to use a kitchen aid, officially to combine baking and upper body work out, but secretly because it’s a socially acceptable way to stick your hands in food for a good 20min at a time, so go on.
Finally rub the butter in little by little, when the previous bit is well amalgamated.
Leave to rise 8 to 12 hours covered with a plastic bag on top in a warm place (on heating tubes, in warmed oven), the dough should triple.
Round 2 – we’re not done until we get there
After about 8-12h, Pasquale should be a strong teenager, well grown up now.
Second dough – what we need
– initial mix (close to 1kg)
– 30 gr warm water
– 30 gr sugar
– 3 yolks
– 85gr Manitoba, strong Canadian flour
– 15 gr honey
– 30 gr very soft butter
– 4gr salt
– vanilla flavour and / or a vanilla pod
Take our well swollen dough and add 30gr of water diluted with 30gr of sugar; slowly and one by one, add the 3 egg yolks, 85gr of Manitoba flour, 15 gr of honey and knead. Knead again. Knead more. Yes, until your shoulders are screaming, yes, again.
Rest for 20min (finally!!!) and let the mix autolyse in its pot.
Knead again and when the dough is a tough ball with well developed gluten, add the butter. It should be very soft but not melted or hot. Incorporate it in little by little, and finally add 4 gr. of salt and the vanilla fragrance or the seeds of a vanilla pod.
Then when is all mixed add candied oranges in 10 to 20gr of water (they just need to be moist to be sticky enough), little handfuls after another like on the photo. KNEAD more until you get a smooth mix (do I still need to say it?).
Let it rest in warm place covered for an hour. Use that time to massage your shoulders and cheer up….impatient, hungry and slightly frustrated, at this stage I normally start taking short-cuts, DO NOT. It’s a patience game, it’s the slow food by excellence.
So let’s get back to our dough and split tit in 2 pieces, one will be the body, and one for the wings (use your imagination!!). Arrange it in the tin and leave to rise just quite to the edges.
Little compromises: if like me you end up starting round 2 after the evening film at round midnight, you’ll have to find a little compromise with Pasquale and maybe leave him alone overnight, in a cooler place (up to 6/7hours).
If however you’ve started early in the morning, then you’ll want to accelerate round 2, by now you should know how Pasquale has been behaving and how fast he’s been growing. Leave the tin in a warm place, or a slightly heated oven (30 degrees) for a couple of hours until it reaches circa 1cm to the edge.
Round 3 – The pretty step
We’re almost there, this is the easiest step, don’t give up and watch out the cooking.
Sugar coating – what we need
– 1/2 egg whites + salt or cream of tartar if needed to beat them – 120 gr sugar – 30 gr. hazelnuts – 55 gr. blanched almonds – 20gr. unpeeled almods – 2 spoonfuls of bitter almond taste or amaretto – some sugar nibs and for sprinkling
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees and during that time, beat your egg white to a smooth cream, ad the sugar in, still beating. Then I use my hand soup blender to roughly crunch the almonds / hazelnuts and gently incorporate them in the cream.
With a spoon, gently spread the white stuff onto our beautifully risen Pasquale, starting with the edges and avoiding to put too much weight in the middle.
Once ready, set your oven at 190 and put the Colomba in at half height. If your oven’s got more hot flashes than Samantha Jones, you may need to manually move it around once at mid-cooking.
Now just enjoy, be proud, and disregard weird looks and comments such as “daaaaarling, you spent 3 days baking a brioche? but I can cook one for you in only a couple of hours, you should have asked!?”
Right, let them eat baking soda, you and Pasquale know it’s not worth arguing….
What was all that about already?
If some say that a sweet bread has been eaten in Lombardia for Easter since the VIth century; reality is that the Colomba as we know it today was invented by Motta in the 1930’s to make use of the Panettone facilities outside of the Christmas period as the technique is similar. However, there’s still a number of legends around the origins of the cake and I always find those rather entertaining.
One of the legend I read about is the one of San Colombanus.
The Irish missionary arrived in Milan in 612, during the fasting period preceding Easter. He was warmly greeted by King Agilulf and Queen Theodelinda of the Lombards to the city and offered a heavy meal of meat and other too rich dishes, that he could only decline in that period of the year. Queen Theodolina, did not understand his refusal and asked him in audience, slightly outraged and dumbfounded to be turned down. San Colombanus to ease the upset Queen, offered to have the supper, but only after having blessed the food. This is when the miracle happened and a whole table worth of food turned into a simple white bread Colomba, or Dove, symbol of modesty and peace.
Last year the Italian Cultural Institute of London organised a conference on Milanese Christmas traditions, and in particular, the delicious Panettone, this extremely rich and yummy brioch-ey cake. Rita Monastero did a passionate speech about the importance of a naturally leavened dough…picked my curiosity and subsequently got most of my December free time VERY busy!! Panettone isn’t quite a simple brioche: It’s a full-on 4 days adventure. And when I say 4 days I assume you already have an active natural leaven, and all the necessary ingredients available in your pantry…. I was indeed way too eager with my initial version and got a flat rich cake, not quite the fabulous fluffy and sweet thing I was expecting. But a few more tries and I was almost there, but after Christmas, my Italian testers all went on (much needed) detox, when I voiced the idea of baking one last one for Epiphany, my boyfriend just frowned and gave me the warning look. Ok my cases will go back to the cupboard. But I couldn’t let Easter go without a tasty and fluffy Colomba.
The Colomba is that – allegedly- dove-shaped little sister of the Panettone. Traditional Easter dessert if any, it’s overall slightly easier than the Chrsitmas version so I’d probably recommend starting there. If you want your Colomba ready for next weekend, I would recommend starting refreshing your leaven this weekend, maybe take the opportunity to bake some bread to use up the quantities. Give your baby a name, mine’s usually called Robert, and he’s Franco-British, but for the Colomba, you’ll need to create his much stronger Italian cousin, we called him Pasquale and sent him to this 2/3 days boot camp first. I’ve adapted the timings for working home-bakers as most of what I found on the internet or the guide I got from Rita Monastero, are just not realistic. So I started creating Pasquale on a Thursday night and plan on baking the final product on the Saturday, if you’re doing it on the bank holiday weekend, even easier as it does take some time.
Fun facts: ALL Italian recipes call for the sacred “Manitoba flour from Molino”, and I jumped through a number of hoops to import / store 10kg of the d@mned thing in my kitchen…when I realised sheepishly that Manitoba was a Canadian province and all it actually was, is a strong flour (i.e. very high protein rates, in and around 15gr protein per 100gr of flour) coming from Canada. In other word, what our supermarkets here call “strong Canadian flour” easily found at Tesco, Waitrose and the likes! yay, one problem sorted.
Before we start:
you will need a leaven starter, Manitoba or strong Canadian flour, 00 or all purpose flour. In term of equipment I would recommend a set of glass transparent dishes (to monitor the leaven) , a simple soft scrapper, a couple of of proofing linen cloths.
Step 1 : Thursday evening – toughen up take 50gr of your usual leaven, steer it with 50gr tepid water and add 100gr of manitoba flour. Robert has left place to Pasquale, it’s starting to take an Italian accent, and it should feel much tougher, thicker, to the point where you can knead it a little bit. Do so for a minute or so.
Cover your pot with a linen, and go out for dinner, or indulge with a spritz and watch La Grande Belleza. You have 3/4 hours ahead of you (depends on the temperature, I personally leave it 3h in the very warm boiler room). In the end it should look smoother, and be 1.5x to twice bigger.
Step 2 : Thursday night– Pasquale rolls with the punches
take 100gr of your now tough Italian leaven and take it to the next stage: shred it in little pieces, add 50gr of lukewarm water and stir. Add 100gr of Manitoba flour and knead for one or 2 min. At this stage I also add a little drop of honey or liquid malt. If we’re sending Pasquale to a boot camp, he’s taking a sweet in his pocket!
now roll it very tight in a sturdy dry and clean cloth, slightly floured and tie it very tight for the night. I used a shoes lace but a present wrap that can be cut off may be a better option. Place it in a small pan or pot for the night, in a warm place. Good night Pasquale! you’re back to the boiler room for 8 hours in your pyjamas. Personally I didn’t understand the point of this step the first time, but then realised it was important as it strengthen the leaven and also is a good visual test. In the morning, Pasquale is well grown and trying to escape the bowl…
Step 3 – a touch of softness in a tough world
After such a night, Pasquale is rather tired, let’s give him a bit of love. Discard any dried bit and use the middle soft part to carry on. To 50gr of the sourdough, again shredded in small pieces add in 50gr tepid water and soak it for a few seconds. Then knead it with 100gr of 00 flour (i.e. all purpose flour).
Step 4 & 5 : flex your muscle!!
repeat step 3 twice, at at least 3h interval, either on Friday afternoon if you’re using Good Friday to nurse Pasquale, or on Friday evening for those who have a life!! Get a good night rest, there’s a day of kneading coming up!!
While you’re nursing Pasquale like a hen hatching her eggs, you can also make sure that you have all the required equipment for the next stage. I got most of what I was missing at Bakery Bits, in particular the cases, the pearl sugar and the candied orange, the delivery should take up to 3 days so plan it ahead.
for the next steps you will need:
– 475 gr. Manitoba flour (i.e. Canadian strong flour) – 185 gr. soft butter – 135 gr. cast sugar – 200 gr. tepid water – 6 egg yolk – 15gr honey – 4gr salt – 1 vanilla pod – 1 orange peel – 300gr of candied orange peel
How to recognise an Italian ski resort and differentiate it from its neighbours from France or Switzerland at first glance?
First things first, look at women’s blow-dry. If ladies look like they’re coming straight out of the hairdresser no matter how much snow and wind there is through out the day: no doubt, you’re in Italy.
Last summer when coming back from 2 weeks in Tuscany I was stunned by how pretty, and above all stylish, Italian grand mothers were (see the article “fashion lessons learnt from Italian grannies“). Guess what? it applies on the slopes more than ever.
Second clue? are people throwing their skis and poles on the floor nonchalantly, creating an ocean of eclectic boards, Prada shoes, Gucci goggles, gloves and so forth outside of bars and restaurants? if yes, you’re in Italy. (note: if they’re meticulously organised, you’re in Switzerland)
Extra clue: if people around you can telephone while skiing AND gesticulating….where else? Italian skills will never cease to amaze travellers….
One stunning thing you will note when travelling across Italy is the fashion sense of elder ladies. Not only in the Verona Opera arena, but in the streets, while grocery shopping or taking the train. What makes Italian grans so classy?
The answer lies in good old rules: timeless basics in neutral colours, statement pieces, and the “dress-up” touch, in particular earrings. I like padded jackets, for it gives a great shape, and a patch of colour, to catch the eye. Some do not hesistate a second pulling a trendy accessory: my train neighbour was wearing studded loafer on the way from Pisa to Florence, and rocking it!!
Day dreaming on a Monday morning is nothing unusual but today particularly…just back from a perfect-issimo romantic weekend around the Garda lake.
It started with a perfect kite surf session on the Garda lake; the refreshing mountain water was very welcome as city temperatures reached 37+! check out the kite schools and offers there, beginners should hire the full equipment and take lessons but more advanced and independent surfers can just get a “lift” with one of the school to access the kite zone.
A friend also recommended staying at the Reamol Hotel, which I may try next time but it seems quite demanded in high season. As I always have a special endearment toward agriturismo places in Italy (basically B&B lofted in olive fields or vineyards), I opted for the
Borgo di Calmasino held by a lovely Italian family, an oasis nested in the middle of vineyards.
The day carried on with a perfect sunset and aperitivo on the beach, and al fresco sea-food based dinner at Giuly, where they didn’t have oysters forks (yes i’m picky) but they did let us drive safely home and finish our lovely bottle of wine at home – thanks folks.
Verona was truly hot and sweaty but the picturesque city made up for it. As opposed to the tourist-packed Venice, the crowd is kind of flocked around Juliet’s breast under the balcony and therefore relatively easily avoided. We met up with local friends for a gelato on Piazza San Zeno, on of the city’s saint, facing the Basilicata, in which crypt, according to the legend,
Romeo and Juliet were married (!!). We stayed a throw-stone away, at charming (and AC’ed, thanks god!) B&B San Zenetto (they also take bookings on airbnb). So I slipped on my 2-inches red soles (try that in 37 degrees, balancing on cobblestones…) and off we headed to the open-air roman arena. Even after having done my due-diligence, read the history of the arena, reviews, the full libretto of the very bloody Il Trovatore (well done me as there’s no subtitles)… it IS a mind blowing, and mmm, yes : pitch-perfect evening…(did I say that already?)
Those dry biscuits are a torture: Cantuccini; they’re so delicious I could wake up at night to have one…Tuscans also have a version with chocolate chips to die for; then add Chianti Vin Santo (sweet desert wine) to the equation…mamma mia!
The photo was taken at the Ristorante il Chiasso on the Elba Island (Capoliveri)… definitely the best dinner / atmosphere of my last trip with full on pasta al nero di sepia, pesce al forno and desert…yum
Se qualcuno ha la ricetta dei cantuccini al cioccolate…farmi sapere!
Just booked two week in Tuscany in June! after a time-consuming benchmarking exercise comparing different language schools in Firenze, Milano, Roma etc etc, I finally opted for Viareggio. For the past few years, I have enjoyed participating in the LSE summer language classes, it’s a nice way to meet people and to get a serious kick-start to a new language. But this year, after having followed the Italian Cultural Institute weekend courses, I felt like I deserved a treat: a new language yes, but while enjoying the sun, beach-runs, & local wines….that’s about as good as language-acquisition gets!
I have a love & hate relationship with languages, as a teenager, the first holidays I worked the whole summer to finance was a full time Spanish immersion in Barcelona; when I arrived in London, I signed up straight away for speech improvement classes; and generally, the more I travel and work surrounded by people coming from various horizons, the more I want to learn to speak to them in their native speech. But speaking languages is at the same time extremely gratifying and unbearably frustrating. As fluent as one will become, it’s a never-ending process, what’s worse: one has to constantly fight against their own memory, which is – perversely – trying to off-load and forget as much as it can…
a friend recently told me his 10 years-retired mum, despite her career as an English teacher, couldn’t speak to his American wife, for she has forgotten most of it! Can’t blame the Brits for hating languages….
PS: for Italian-as-a-second-language speakers, any easy good audio-books to recommend? (pls not Harry Potter)