Un altro giorno a Napoli


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Last week, after 33 years, SSC Napoli won the Series A title and the 2022/23 Scudetto.  The last time they won was 1990, when Maradona played for the team.  This is a big deal!  The streets of Napoli are always vibrant and exciting, but I would have loved to see the celebrations.  The stalls of San Gregorio Armeno likely sold more Napoli team figurines than Presepio pieces this week!

In honour of the big win, I am writing about Napoli-the city. If you have already read my post Un giorno a Napoli, this one is a continuation…..another day in Napoli! In June, I took a spontaneous trip to Santorini, flying in and out of Capodichino, Napoli’s airport. On the way back, I stayed the night and took the bus back to Orsara di Puglia the following afternoon.

My primary objective was to finally see l’ultimo Caravaggio, the artist’s last painting, which up until 1990 was attributed to one of his followers.  Read about my adventure seeing the ‘wrong’ Caravaggio in the post.

Since it was close to the new location of the painting, I stayed on lively Via Toledo, near the award winning Toledo metro station and in between the port and Quartieri Spagnoli. Read about the new exhibition space and my visit in Gallerie d’Italia Napoli. There is still 1 Caravaggio painting left for me to see in Napoli on my next visit-at the Museo di Capodimonte!

The Chiostro di Santa Chiara is another place I missed on previous day trips. The church was built starting in 1310 and the chiostro or cloister is well known for the addition of Rococo style majolica tiles in 1742.
Santa Chiara is located on the 2km long street known as ‘Spaccanapoli’ meaning ‘cut across Napoli’ because it cuts the centro storico in half. It is one of the 3 Decumani, east/west streets in the grid layout of the Greco-Roman city of Neapolis.

Napoli has the largest Centro Storico in Europe and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Think of it as an open air museum.  Via dei Tribunali was decorated with a lot of laundry for some reason!

Nunspotting on Via San Gregorio Armeno.  I did not buy any Presepio accessories or Napoli team figurines, but perhaps these sisters did?

I walked past the Duomo just in time to see a dramatic wedding kiss.  The bride was clearly satisfied!  The Duomo Santa Maria Assunta was built over the site of a temple to Neptune.  It was damaged in a 15th century earthquake and repeatedly renovated, resulting in a mishmash of styles and a Neogothic facade.

Walking down Via Toledo to the end, passing Piazza Plebescito, I ended up at the waterfront and a view of Vesuvio.  Hopefully I will be back here at the port in a few months to take the ferry to Procida.

Sfogliatelle were consumed, of course.  This crunchy layered pastry, filled with sweet ricotta, lemon and candied peel is amazing. Sfogliatelle in Napoli are delicious and inexpensive.  I had one served hot from the oven at Antico Forno Attanasio, Via Ferrovia 1-4 just a few blocks from Piazza Garibaldi.  At €1.30, why stop at just one?  I bought a whole bag to bring back to Orsara!  I also had one from Pintauro on Via Toledo 275, the oldest sfogliatelle place in Napoli.  It was heavenly!

More street food heaven… I had a cuopo friggitori Napoletano.  This is a paper cone filled with fritto misto-a mixture of fried stuff-fish, vegetables and pizze fritte. Yum!Graffiti is elevated to a fine art form in Napoli.  I wrote a post on Napoli street art, and saw some new stuff. ‘Consumerism Street’ was taken on Via Toledo.  The small print under the sardine can says ‘Alla fine siamo tutti uguali’/In the end we are all equal.

In a tradition of pay it forward, Napoli has ‘caffè sospeso‘. This is a ‘pending caffè’, paid for in advance as an anonymous gift.  Someone asking if there is a caffè sospeso available would receive it for free. This is actually an old tradition that has recently had a resurgence.

Still haven’t visited Napoli?  What are you waiting for?  To quote myself …’Napoli is underrated, misunderstood and does not get the love it deserves, except from fans of Elena Ferrante novels. News of corruption, the Camorra and ongoing garbage crises give it a bad rep. It it ironic that everyone-including many Italians- fears for their life and thinks it is just a crime pit, when Napoli is actually safer than most large North American cities. It is vibrant, wonderfully chaotic, full of life and passionate, friendly people. Napoli has an ‘edge’ to it and is anything but boring’.

According to an old saying ‘Vedi Napoli e mori’. I hope you enjoyed un altro giorno a Napoli!  When you go, have an extra sfogliatella for me! Buon viaggio, Cristina

Bloghiversario #9


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Auguri a me! Oggi Un po’ di pepe compie 9 anni! Yeah me! Today Un po’ di pepe turns 9! Another bloghiversario– blog anniversary.  It is hard to believe it has already been 9 years since starting Un po’ di pepe.  Where did the time go?  It feels like only yesterday I had trouble coming up with a blog name that was not already taken. This has been an amazing, rewarding experience and I have ‘met’ so many virtual friends and even reconnected with old ones. The first thing I published was my ‘Perché questo blog/Why write a blog?’, which can be read here. My first actual post was Il Gigante, about Michelangelo’s David.

Last month, I published post #200!  To celebrate this milestone, I held a giveaway.  The names of the 10 readers who left a comment on the post Bialetti Moka were placed in a bowl and drawn by Mamma.  The 3 winning readers of my linocut print ‘Espresso per uno‘ are Daniel P, Joanne S and Anna M!  Your prints are in the mail and I hope you like them.

The actual 200th post was a link to a 90 minute zoom workshop I gave on creating a mixed media self portrait collage.  It was part of a post pandemic grant received by Accenti magazine and is now up on Youtube.  To read more about it or to participate in the activity, the link is Countering Isolation with Creativity and the post outlines the materials needed.

In 2022, I only published 13 posts, but I feel like I am finally recovering from the post pandemic writing blahs. Yipee! I was also away a lot, trying to make up for almost 3 years of no travel.  Take a peak at my adventures in Post Pandemic Travel Postcard.  I have upcoming posts about Torino, Venezia, Peggy Guggenheim, Ostia Antica, Napoli and a recipe for polpo e patate…maybe even off-topic ones on Paris and Santorini!

One of my posts was sort of a public service.  Anyone planning summer travel to Italia needs to read Beat the heat-Surviving Summer in Roma.  Prego! I only participated in the monthly ‘In my kitchen’ worldwide blog community once last year, and it was from my kitchen in Puglia.

April 25th is also La Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945.  Since 1946 it has been a national holiday.  Viva la libertà!

Grazie to all of you for taking the time to read, comment, send messages and especially for giving me an excuse to share my images and research and write about things that interest me!   You know….’Devo fare ricerca per il blog’ (I need to do research for my blog) is my reason to do all the things I want to do! If you have any suggestions for future posts or just want to say ‘ciao‘, leave me a comment.

Grazie a tutti i lettori di ‘Un po’ di pepe’ per continuare a leggere e per avermi dato una scusa per usare le foto che ho scattato e per scrivere di cose che mi piacciono. Ormai posso usare la scusa ‘devo fare ricerca per il blog’ per tutto quello che voglio fare. Lasciatemi un messaggio se avete delle idee per un post o se semplicemente volete dire ‘ciao’. Frecce Tricolori Festa della Liberazione 25 Aprile

Un abbraccio, Cristina

Bialetti Moka


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The Bialetti Moka caffettiera (coffee maker) is an icon of Italian design, along with the Vespa and Fiat Cinquecento.  An economical, easy to use product, the Moka revolutionized the coffee habits of Italian households around the world.  It is a time-tested piece of functional art and part of the permanent collection of MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Alfonso Bialetti spent 10 years in France working as a smelter, learning to cast aluminum shells.  These were cast iron molds able to produce multiple copies of the same object.  When Alfonso returned to Italia in 1919, he opened a workshop producing aluminum parts.

In 1933, Bialetti built his first coffee maker or caffettiera all thanks to ….laundry!  He was inspired by watching wife Ada use the lisciveuse, a French ancestor to the washing machine.  It was a steel tub, an insert with a central perforated chimney, and a lid.  Clothes and soap were placed inside, then it was filled ¾ of the way with water and placed on the fire.  Boiling water ‘percolated’ up the chimney and fell on the wet clothes.

Bialetti’s caffettiera had 3 parts:  a cast aluminum boiler with an octagonal base, a funnel shaped strainer and an angular pitcher with a hinged lid. Pressurized-water heats in the boiler and steam forces water upward through coffee grounds in the funnel and into the top pitcher chamber. His design was inspired by Art Deco architecture and Signora Bialetti! Her broad shoulders, narrow waist, pleated skirt, and arm on her hip are reflected in the Moka design.

Bialetti produced at an artisanal level, selling 10,000 caffettiere per year at markets all over Piemonte.  Sales were interrupted by WW2 and a shortage of aluminum.  Alfonso’s son Renato was a prisoner of war in Germany for 2 years and took over the company when he returned.  Renato had a modern marketing vision, with an ad strategy that included the 1948 Fiera di Milano, installations, billboards and an export plan.  He took production to an industrial level.

Renato named their product ‘Moka Express’.  ‘Moka’ for the city of Mokha in Yemen, a historic exporter of quality coffee, and ‘Express’ because espresso could now be made at home, without having to go to the bar.  The Moka design and safety valve were patented in 1950.

In 1953 Renato became the actual face of his product with the famous cartoon logo printed on every Moka. ‘L’Ometto con i baffi’– the little man with a moustache.  His finger is raised, as if ordering an espresso.  Billboards and TV commercials made him an advertising icon.  By 1956 18,000 Moka per day (4,000,000 per year) were produced. To date, 300 million have been produced.

The original Moka was a 3 tazze (3 espresso cups) size, for single or small family use.  Now it is available in the tiny ½ tazza Mokina to the 18 tazze Moka Express. Also available are stainless steel models, the cow-hide patterned Mukka Express that froths milk at the same time-making a cappuccino, electric plug-in models, and even a red Dolce & Gabbana patterned Moka! I so need one of those!  I love Franco’s green ‘Alpina‘ model with the Alpini hat and feather!

When Renato Bialetti died in 2016 at age 93, his ashes were placed in a specially made large Moka. It was about the size of this one…..

My 3 cup size, in the following photo, and the red one in the olive grove are the ‘Moka Dama‘.  A few of the features are different, but the design always remains similar to the original ‘retro’ look.

To use the Moka:

1 Pour room temperature water into the boiler until it reaches the safety valve. More water will result in watery caffè – or ‘acqua di cicoria’, as mamma calls it!

2 Drop the funnel into the boiler and fill generously with espresso ground coffee -avoid pressing it down

3 Place Moka on a small burner with a low flame

4 When you hear the gorgoglio – the gurgling sound, caffè is ready.  Remove from the burner and enjoy.

Since aluminum is porous, it absorbs the coffee aroma over time and improves its taste.  With a new Moka, ‘season’ it by making 2 consecutive pots and throwing out the caffe.  If the Moka has not been used for a long time, make a pot with just water, and also throw out the first pot of caffè.  Do not clean with detergent, just warm water.  Do not put your Moka in the dishwasher! A well-used Moka with a patina makes the best caffè. The rubber gasket needs to be replaced every year or so, depending on how much it is used.  If taken care of, the Moka will last a lifetime.

The Moka is an eco-friendly, sustainable way to make caffè.  There is zero waste -the grounds are 100% organic and compostable, no detergents are needed, it is long-lasting and made of 100% recyclable aluminum.

90% of Italian kitchens have a Moka.  Alfono Bialetti described the Moka as ‘fast, strong and resistant, like caffeine’.  With the Moka, a daily act was revolutionized, as caffè almost as good as you could get at the bar was brought into homes ‘in casa un espresso come al bar’.

The photos in this post are of Moka caffettiere that belong to me or family members, and some were taken at the Bialetti store at the Centro Commercial GrandApulia.  The cartoon is from the Bialetti website.  Do you have a Moka?

***Somehow, I missed the fact that the previous post was my 200th!  So……to celebrate this milestone, I am giving away 2 signed copies of my linocut edition on handmade paper ‘Espresso per uno’.  Next week, I will put the names of everyone who left a comment on this post into a hat and draw 2 winners.  In bocca al lupo! Ciao, Cristina

Countering Isolation with Creativity


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Countering Isolation with Creativity was a Canadian government incentive to engage Canadian seniors post COVID. Accenti Magazine received a grant to host 12 free workshops via Zoom for those over 55.  I had the pleasure of presenting the first workshop May and here it is on Youtube!  I had to figure out how to use 2 cameras so I could talk and also demonstrate.  There was an email sent out to participants in advance with the preparation work.  I am including the information after the video, if anyone is interested.  


Countering Isolation with Creativity: Accenti Magazine Workshops to engage Canadian seniors. Mixed Media Collage Self-Portrait Workshop

Who says ‘selfies’ can only be by phone? Try this mixed-media collage project to make your own selfie at home. In this 90 minute workshop, participants will create a mixed media collage self-portrait.  There is some image gathering and/or preparation work to do in advance. 

Instructions for Workshop preparation and supplies:

For the workshop, you will need 3 self-portrait images.  They can all be the same image, which you will each colour differently, or 3 completely different images.  If you prefer to use a photograph, it is best to use a larger size (5×7 or 8×10). These images can also be prepared during the workshop if you like, but there will probably not be enough time to complete the project. 

To make a self-portrait, use a hand mirror or wall mirror and draw yourself.  Angle the mirror based on the profile you want to draw.  It can be a frontal view, side view, even a view from above if you have ceiling mirrors.  Try to keep the drawing surface as vertical as possible and draw what you see.  Sketch in the main shapes first, then add details and shading.  Put lots of ‘self’ into it.  Use props to express your personality.  If drawing yourself from a mirror is awkward, try drawing from a photo with a plain background. 

Use any media; pencil, pen, sharpie, felt, crayon, eyeliner, lipstick…. The images can be as simple or as complex as you like.  Representational images (meaning it actually looks human) or abstract images will work. 

Make 3 different portraits, or just one, then make 2 photocopies or tracings.  Colour 2 of them, so that you have 3 similar, but different portraits.  If you prefer to work with photographs, it is best if they are larger.  If you only have 1 photo to use, make 2 copies. 

Feel free to start several collages to work on simultaneously and continue after the workshop ends.

Supply List for the workshop:

  • Images; 3 self-portraits on paper, all a similar size
  • A hard surface to glue onto. This can be a wood panel or board, a heavy piece of cardboard or a piece of 250-300 lb paper.  A surface with something already on it works well, since there is already an underpainting!
  • Acrylic matte medium. Matte medium is acrylic paint without the colour. It can be used as a glue and also as a protective coating over top of your work.  White glue can also be used if you do not have matte medium, but it is not archival
  • Paint brush and/or foam brush
  • Scissors
  • Hand mirror (if you need to work on your images)
  • Whatever art supplies you have-anything goes! Ex: acrylic or watercolour paints, pencil crayons, markers, oil or chalk pastels, inks, stencils
  • Bits and pieces of old artwork or fancy paper to collage, magazine clippings, letters, postage stamps, blank or printed rice paper or tissue paper, photos, paper doilies, candy wrappers…..more stuff is better!  

Happy Creating!  If anyone makes a selfie collage, let me know!  Ciao, Cristina



Gallerie d’Italia Napoli


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Sant’ Orsola, Caravaggio’s last painting, has a new home! If you have read my posts Pio Monte della Misericordia and L’Ultimo Caravaggio, you know about my adventure to Napoli in search of a Caravaggio painting…only to visit the wrong one.  The ‘wrong’ one was absolutely amazing, but I still wanted to see the intended one.  In June, on my way back from Santorini, I stayed a night in Napoli so I could finally see ‘Il Martirio di Sant’ Orsola/The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula’.  It was painted in May 1610, just before Caravaggio’s death.  For hundreds of years, it was believed to be painted by one of his followers or ‘Caravaggisti’, Mattia Preti.  In 1980 a letter from the agent was found, proving that Sant’ Orsola was painted by Caravaggio.  To read more about the letter and the history of the painting, see L’Ultimo Caravaggio.

I stayed on lively Via Toledo, near the Toledo metro station and in between the port and Quartieri Spagnoli, since it was close to the 1500’s Palazzo Zavalos Stigliano.  A few weeks before my visit, the Napoletano Collection of Banca Intesa Sanpaolo moved 300 m down the street to Palazzo Piacentini at 177 Via Toledo.  Newly renovated Palazzo Piacentini is the new home of Gallerie d’Italia Napoli.  It is a 1930’s building and former home of the Banco di Napoli. The design is described as a modern vision of classical architecture and has 10,000 sq ft of exhibition space.

The atrium features L’Atlante Farnese/Farnese Atlas, a 2nd Century AD sculpture on loan from MANN (Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli) under an enormous starry wooden ‘sky’.  At the far end of the ground floor is an actual branch of Banca Intesa Sanpaolo! The building is home to the permanent Intesa Sanpaolo Collection, which includes Napoletani artwork and paintings from the 17th to the 20th Centuries, a Magna Grecia pottery exhibit, space for temporary exhibits, a library and bookshop, and a bistro.

The star of the permanent collection is Sant’ Orsola.  Right beside it is Artemisia Gentilleschi’s Sansone e Dalila/Samson and Delilah (1630-38).  This painting is stunning, but I had to check twice to see that it was an Artemisia.  Those teeny nail scissors are so tame compared to the usual aggression in her Judith and Holofernes paintings with a giant sword and a lot of blood! Incidentally, on the other side of Sant’ Orsola is a Judith and Holofernes painting attributed to Ludovicus Finson that is a copy of a lost Caravaggio.

A few of my other favourites from the permanent collection include this amazing loosely sketched painting Fanciulla Napoletana o La Zingara (1885) by Vincenzo Gemito.

I absolutely love the screen prints Vesuvius (rosso) and Vesuvius (nero) by Andy Warhol (1985) in the 20th Century collection.

The temporary exhibit while I was visiting was ‘Restituzioni’ featuring projects and art restoration presently funded by Intesa Sanpaolo in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture.  There were 200 pieces from all over Italia including paintings, mosaics, jewellery, books and even a giant bell!

Galleria d’Italia Napoli is walking distance from the Toledo metro station.  It is open Tuesday to Friday 10-19 and Saturday/Sunday 10-20.  Mondays closed.  The first Sunday of each month admission is free.  Admission is €7.  Reduced admission is €4 and those under age 18 get in free.  Definitely worth a visit! Ciao, CristinaMartirio di Sant'Orsola Caravaggio's last painting


Sanremo 2023


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The 73rd edition of Festa della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo is February 7-11, 2023, broadcast live on RAI.  Once again this year, I have put together a viewing guide to the annual 5 day song competition held in the town of Sanremo, Liguria. The Festival di Sanremo is the world’s longest running national televised music competition.

In 1950. Piero Bussetti of the Sanremo Casino and Giulio Razzi, conductor of the RAI orchestra launched a competition for previously unreleased songs to boost the local economy.  The first edition was broadcast live on RAI radio in January 1951 with 3 artists performing 20 songs.  Since 1955 it is broadcast live on television.

From 1951-1977 the festival was held at the Sanremo Casino.  Since 1977 it has been at the iconic Teatro Ariston. The Festival di Sanremo is a massive media event in Italia and has launched many careers, including Domenico Modugno, Zucchero, Mina, Andrea Bocelli, Il Volo, Giorgia, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, Mahmood and most recently Måneskin. I love to watch Sanremo every year with Mamma!

The winner has the option to represent Italia at the annual Eurovision Song Contest.  Eurovision is huge in Europe with 39 countries participating, but hardly known at all in North America.  2021 Sanremo winners, Måneskin won Eurovision with their brilliant song ‘Zitti e Buoni’.  As the reigning country, Italia hosted Eurovision 2022- in Torino. Mahmood and Blanco represented Italia with the 2022 winner ‘Brividi.

The 73rd edition of the Festival di Sanremo is February 7-11, 2023, broadcast live on RAI (RAI International for the rest of us).  It will be hosted for the fourth time by Amedeus, with cohost Gianni Morandi. Chiara Ferragni will also cohost the first and final nights. Former winners, Italian and international guest artists will perform.

Feb 7th, Mahmoud and Blanco will perform ‘Brividi‘, and 1990 winners I Pooh will sing together for the first time in 6 years.  Al Bano and Massimo Ranieri perform with Gianni Morandi Feb 8th, as well as the Black Eyed Peas.  Måneskin performs on Thursday Feb 9th.  Other performers include Salmo, Fedez, Takagi, Piero Pelù, Nik, Francesco Renga, Achille Lauro, Annalisa and La Rappresentante di Lista. There are rumours Lady Gaga and Britney Spears will perform, but there is no confirmation at this point.

The award goes to the winning song, although in most cases the performers are involved in the songwriting.  This year, there are 28 contestants, including the top 6 winners from the junior contest, ‘Sanremo Giovani’.  Judging is complex and contestants perform with the full RAI orchestra-complete with maestro.

A summary of what happens each night:

Night #1 and #2 February 7 and 8.  14 of the contestants perform each night and there are no eliminations.  Voting is 33% TV and print media jury, 33% web media jury and 33% radio jury.

Night #3 February 9.  All 28 contestants perform, with no eliminations.  Voting is 50% demoscopic jury* and 50% televoting.

Night #4 February 10 is ‘Covers night’.  Each artist/group performs a cover song of their choice from 1960-1999  They can perform solo or invite an Italian or international artist as a guest.  Voting is 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

Final night #5 February 11th.  There are 2 rounds the final night.  In round 1 all 28 acts perform.  Voting is 100% from televoting.  The top 5 proceed to round 2, the Superfinale.  Voting is reset and all 5 superfinalists perform again.  The winner is decided by 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

*Demoscopic jury=made up of a sample of the population.  Jurors are selected by statistical criteria to represent the country at large.

The lineup of concorrenti /contestants includes 3 former Sanremo winners, 2 who have represented Italia at Eurovision, many former contestants, and some first time acts.  Below is a list of the 28 performers, the song titles and a few other details to help you watch and enjoy the festival:

  • Anna Oxa – ‘Sale (Canto dell’anima)‘.  Anna released her first album in 1978 and was runner up at the Festival di Sanremo.  She is a 2 time winner; in 1989 with duet ‘Ti Lascerò’ and in 1999 with ‘Senza Pietà’. She and Fausto Leali represented Italia at Eurovision 1989 in Lausanne with ‘Avrei voluto‘, placing 9th.  This will be Anna’s 14th time at Sanremo across 5 decades!
  • Ariete – ‘Mare di Guai’.  Roman singer Arianna Del Giaccio was an X Factor Italia contestant in 2019.  In 2022 she released the album ‘Specchio‘ which 1,000,000 streams in 24 hours. For covers night she will perform with Sangiovanni
  • Articolo 31– ‘Un bel Viaggio’. This hip hop duo from Milano formed in 1990 consists of Alessandro Aleotti (aka rapper J-Ax) and Vito Luca Perrini (DJ Jad). They are together again to compete in Sanremo for the first time and are working on their 8th album.  For covers night, Fedez will join them for a medley.
  • Colapesce e Dimartini – ‘Splash’ Sicilian duo Lorenzo Urciullo and Antonio Dimartino competed in 2021 with the hit song ‘Musica Leggerissima‘. This is their second time at Sanremo. For covers night, they perform Adriano Celentano’s ‘Azzurro‘ with Carla Bruni.
  • Colla Zio – ‘Non mi va’. This quintet of 21-25 years olds from Milano released ‘Zafferano’ in 2021.  They place in the top 6 in Sanremo Giovani.
  • Coma-cose – ‘L’addio’. Milanese indie duo consisting of life and music partners since 2016 Fausto Zanardelli (aka Fausto Lama) and Francesca Mesiano (aka California).  They participated in Sanremo 2021 with the song ‘Fiamme negli occhi’ which went gold in 3 weeks.  This is their second time at Sanremo.
  • Elodie – ‘Due’.  The Roman singer participated in Amici* in 2016, and Sanremo in 2017 with ‘Tutta colpa mia‘ and in 2020 with ‘Andromeda‘.  In 2020 Elodie was the most listened to female artist on Spotify Italia.  In 2021 she was the cohost for night #2 of Sanremo.  She is competing for the 3rd time and has an album due out February 10th.
  • Gianluca Grignani – ‘Quando ti manca il fiato’.  This is Gianluca’s 7th time competing at Sanremo.  The first time was in 1994 for Sanremo Giovani.  He was also a guest in 2022 on covers night, singing with Irama. For covers night he will be singing with Arisa.
  • gIANMARIA – ‘Mostro’. The singer from Vicenza is the winner of Sanremo Giovani. On covers night he will sing with Manuel Agnelli who sang with Måneskin in 2021.
  • Giorgia- ‘Parole dette male’. Giorgia Todrani has 12 top 10 albums, 24 top 10 singles, and a vocal range that spans 4 octaves.  In 1994 she placed second in the Nuovi Proposti (newcomers category), losing to Andrea Bocelli!  Giorgia won Sanremo 1995 with ‘Come Saprei’, came in 3rd place in 1996, and 2nd in 2001. She even won a Davide di Donatello (the Italian version of an Oscar) in 2004 for original movie song. She has performed with Pavarotti, Mina, Eros Ramazzotti, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Jovanotti, Ray Charles, and Andrea Bocelli (‘Vivo per Lei‘). Giorgia was a musical guest at Sanremo 2017. She has a new album ‘Blu’ coming out on February 27th.  This is her 4th time in the competion. She duets with Elisa on covers night.
  • I Cugini di Campagna – ‘Lettera 22’. This quartet of Silvano and Ivano Michetti, Tiziano Leonardi and Nick Luciani formed in 1970 and started by busking near the Fontana di Trevi.  This is their first time at Sanremo and their song was written by La Rapresentante di Lista, of 2022’s ‘Ciao Ciao‘.
  • Lazza – ‘Cenere’.  This is Jacopo Lazzarini’s first time competing at Sanremo.
  • LDA – ‘Se poi domani’. 19 year old rapper Luca D’Alessio, is an Amici 2021 participant and son of Napoletano singer Gigi D’Alessio. He started doing covers on YouTube at age 13.  This is his first Sanremo competition. He performs with Alex Britti on covers night.
  • Leo Gassmann – ‘Terzo Cuore’. The son of Alessandro Gassman and grandson of Vittorio Gassman was a semi-finalist in the 2018 edition of X factor.  in 2020 he won the ‘newcomers’ category of Sanremo with ‘Vai bene cost‘ and this is his first time as a regular contestant.
  • Levante– ‘Vivo’.  Sicilian singer Claudia Lagona released her first album in 2014 and competed in Sanremo in 2019 with ‘Tikibombom’. She was an X Factor judge in 2017 and has collaborated with Max Gazzè, Negramaro, J-Ax and Fedez.  She has also published 3 romance novels.  This is her second time at Sanremo.
  • Madame – ‘Il Bene nel male’. 18 year old rapper from Vicenza Francesca Calearo known as Madame participated in Sanremo 2021 with the song ‘Voce’. She recently collaborated with Negramaro on ‘Non è vero niente‘.  This is her second time competing in Sanremo and she is once again the youngest contestant.
  • Mara Sattei – ‘Duemilaminuti’ Roman singer Sara Mattei was a previous contestant on Amici and guest on X factor.  She became known for making YouTube videos with her brother Davide (known as thasup) starting in 2017 and released her first album in 2022.  Her catchy quadruple platinum single with Fedez and Tananai ‘La Dolce Vita‘ was the song most played last summer. In this competition, she is singing a song written by Damiano David of Måneskin!!!  Mara performs with Noemi on covers night.
  • Marco Mengoni – ‘Due vite’. Marco is back competing at Sanremo on the 10 year anniversary of his 2013 win with ‘L’essenziale‘.  He also represented Italia at Eurovision that year in Sweden, coming in 7th.  Marco is also the winner of 2009 season 3 of X factor, a 2 time winner of the MTV Europe Music Award for Best European act and an ambassador for National Geographic’s international campaign ‘Planet or plastic?’.
  • Modà – ‘Lasciami’. One of my favourite bands, Modà was started in Milano in 2000 by Francesco ‘Kekko’ Silvestre.  This is their 3rd time competing at Sanremo.  In 2011 their song ‘Arriverà’ with Emma Marrone came in 2nd place and in 2013 ‘Se si potesse non morire’ came in 3rd place. 2023 is the 20th anniversary of the release of their first album. On covers night they perform with Le Vibrazioni.
  • Mr Rain-‘Supereroi‘.  Rapper and ex Amici participant Mattia Balardi from Brescia is known as ‘Mr Rain’.  He will be duetting with 2022 contestants Highsnob & Hu for covers night.
  • Olly  – ‘Polvere’. The Genovese rapper has collaborated with singer Arisa and earned a spot in the competition via Sanremo Giovani
  • Paola e Chiara – ‘Furore’.  The sisters from Milano were in Sanremo Giovani in 1996 and 1997.  They competed in 1998 and in 2005 with the international hit of the summer ‘Vamos a Bailar’.  In 2013, they each went solo, Chiara Iezzi to acting and Paola Iezzi dj, producing and singing.  Last year they joined Jovanotti’s Beach party 2022 and they are back to Sanremo for the 3rd time.
  • Rosa Chemical – ‘Made in ItalyRosa Chemical is 24 year old rapper Manuel Franco from Torino, who has also been a Gucci Italia model since 2018.  He was a guest performer at Sanremo 2022 covers night with Tananai.
  • Sethu – ‘Cause perse’. Marco De Lauri released his first EP in 2018.  In 2020 he had 3 singles on Spotify’s Raptopia, Gen Z, and Novità Rap Italiano playlists.  Sethu has opened for Pinguini Tattici Nucleari and was named MTV artist of the month September 2022.  He is a top 6 finalist in Sanremo Giovani.  Sethu claims to be ‘fundamentally an incurable doomer’.  His song is dedicated to inseparable twin Jiz.
  • Shari-‘Egoista‘.  Shari was in Sanremo Giovani in 2019.  She recently released her first EP, ‘Fake Music‘ and is one of the top 6 Sanremo Giovani finalists.
  • Tananai – ‘Tango’.  27 year old Alberto Ramusino from Brescia participated last year with his single ‘Sesso Occasionale’ and placed second in Sanremo Giovani. Last summer he collaborated with Fedez and Mara Sattei on the catchy quadruple platinum hit ‘La Dolce Vita‘. He performs with Biagio Antonacci on covers night.
  • Ultimo – ‘Alba’. Niccolò Moriconi’s first album in 2017 was 3X platinum and his second album in 2018 5X platinum.  He won the ‘newcomers’ category in 2018 and came in second place at Sanremo 2019 with ‘I tuoi particulari’.  That same year, Ultimo became the youngest Italian artist to play stadium tours.  In 2021 he had a record 4 simultaneous albums in the annual chart-according to the Italian music federation.  He also collaborated with Ed Sheeran on ‘2Step‘. On covers night, he performs a medley with Eros Ramazzotti.
  • Will– ‘Stupido‘.  William Busetti released his first music on YouTube in 2019.  In 2020 ‘Estate’ had over 40 million streams on Spotify and went platinum.  He released his first EP in June and is one of the Sanremo Giovani top 6 finalists.

*Amici is an Italian talent show on television since 2001.  20 ‘students’ aged 16-30 years who are interested in being professional singers, songwriters and dancers participate.  Nuovi proposti was a previous ‘newcomers’ category.  Now there is Sanremo Giovani, the junior category and the top 6 go on to the regular competition.

Read the contestants’ full bios on the Festival di Sanremo website.  RAI International usually airs the shows twice-once live at 1900 -0100ish Italian time, and a replay later.  Check the local listings for your country.  The RaiPlay app is another way to watch -and it will not be Geoblocked!

Will you be watching the Festival di Sanremo?  Let me know which performances you are looking forward to or which ones were your favourites!

Ciao, Cristina

Appuntamento con la Daunia


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On October 17th, I attended the 27th edition of Appuntmento con la Daunia, hosted by my amico Peppe Zullo. Every year I receive an invitation, but this was the first time I was actually in Italia in October.   La Daunia is the modern day Provincia di Foggia, named after the people who lived there under King Daunus.

Held at Villa Jamele in Orsara di Puglia, the event featured local food and wine, focusing on the biodiversity of the area.  It was attended by journalists, food writers, and those involved in the local enogastronomic industry. There were various site tours, then a round table discussion with 6 speakers from the enogastronomic industry and the Director of tourism for the Regione Puglia.  There was discussion and sharing of information and research for growth, development and sustainability concerning local food and culture.

New research was presented from the University of Foggia further confirming that the soil in the Monti Dauni area is rich in the antioxidant Selenium.  This is likely why there are a higher than usual number of centenarians in the area. Nature, nutrients and culture…ingredients of the Daunia.

The event concluded with a meal made entirely with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Dalla terra alla tavola-from the earth to the table-you won’t get any fresher than this!

‘Ostriche di montagna’ which means ‘mountain oysters’.  They are actually fried borragine/borage leaves, served with lampascione con pecorino (fried wild onion on pecorino) and crostino di salsiccia e fico (sausage and fig crostino)Parmigiana di borragine, similar to parmigiana di melanzane, but layered with borage leaves instead of eggplant.

Pancotto e patate con verdure e pomodorini (cooked bread and potatoes with wild greens and tomatoes). Pancotto e patate is Cucina Povera at its best-my favourite comfort food.

Troccoli con zucca, cicerchi e cime di rapa (Handmade Troccoli with squash, local chick peas and rapini)

Maiale con zucchine e uva fragole e patate fritte (Pork with zucchine and sweet grapes topped with fried potatoesSemifreddo di zucca, torta con crema e biscottini di grano arso (pumpkin semifreddo with pomegranate seeds, cream cake and tiny biscotti made with grano arso, a burnt wheat flour

To drink, we had Peppe’s Amarosa vino rosato / Amorosa rosé.  It is made from the Nero di Troia grape, which according to legend was brought by Diomedes who settled in the Daunia area after the Trojan War. Read more in Vini di Puglia.

Peppe Zullo was recently voted one of the 10 best local restaurants in Italia and the best in Puglia by the online gastronomic guide TasteAtlas!  Here is a link to an article in Italian in Rec24 and in Corriere.it. Tantissimi auguri Peppe!!!!

Ciao, Cristina

Buon Anno 2023


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Buon Anno a tutti i lettori di ‘Un po’ di pepe’, vicini e lontani!  Spero che 2023 porta buona salute e gioia a voi e ai vostri cari
.  Happy New Year readers of  ‘Un po’ di pepe’, near and far.  I hope 2023 brings good health and joy to you and your loved ones!

I usually write a Buon Anno / year in review post on New Year’s Eve , looking back at the blog year.  I am late in writing this one, since we celebrated my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary on Dec 27th and I posted some of their wedding photos in Diamond Anniversary. I also slipped and took a tumble down the stairs 3 weeks ago and have been moving at a slow pace. Guess I should stop practicing the Wednesday/Mercoledi dance!

2022 was the year I wrote the least amount of posts.  Mannaggia!  Post pandemic creative block was partly responsible, and I was also away a lot.  I attempted to make up for 3 years of not travelling, and did quite an epic job of it.  Read all about my travels in Post Pandemic Travel Postcard.

WordPress keeps end of year stats which I love to share because they are so interesting.* In 2022, Un po’ di pepe had almost 14,000 views from over 100 different countries!  I wish I could visit all of of them!  The top posts of 2022 are listed here, in case you missed any of them.  All of the links included in red!  Based on the number of views, the top posts of 2020 are:

#10 Beat the heat-Surviving Summer in Roma This post is based on my many years of travelling to Roma in the heat of summer.  It was published while I was in Santorini in June. 6 weeks later, I was in Roma, having to take all of my own advice! The recommendations are specific to Roma, but the information is useful for travel anywhere in Mediterranean Europe during the summer. 

#9is a tie 9a Hairstyling in Ancient Roma I am sooooo beyond thrilled to see this 2017 post on the top 10 list for the first time!  It needed some love. Join me as I study ancient hairstyling practices by looking at Classical sculptures and paintings. Most of the research was done at Palazzo Massimo.  Yeah for archeology nerds! 

Exquisite mummy portrait in encaustic wax on wood panel, Hawara, Middle Egypt, 120 AD. Photo National Museum of Scotland

#9b Polignano a Mare In this 2016 post about the stunning clifftop town on the coast of Puglia, read about my probable encounter with the mysterious ‘stair poet’  and learn what infraditi are.  In June I was back in Polignano!

#8 The Last Medici As an art history nerd, this 2020 post was my personal thanks to Anna Maria Luisa De’ Medici (AMLDM) the last of the Medici family, for leaving Firenze and the world her family’s legacy of art treasures.  If you have been to the Uffizi or Palazzo Pitti, you will know what I mean.  I was thrilled to see it on the list again! It  comes up #5 in google search for the topic!

#7 Grano Arso a Pugliese gastronomic tradition that honours the resilience of our contadini ancestors. Grano arso is also the subject of my first non- diabetes related publication! There is not a lot written in English on grano arso, which explains why this 2015 post comes up 6th on Google search and this post is in my top 10 every year.

#6 La Grande Cacata  Wow-or should I say merda! I couldn’t believe this 2018 post where I attempt to be an art critic was one of my top 10.  If you need a good laugh, my scathing review of a bruttissima monumental excremental sculpture in Piazza della Signoria in Firenze should do the job.  #5 In my kitchen in Puglia 2022 My summer cucina and the amazing barrel-vaulted stone ceiling were sorely missed during the pandemic! Check out the photo of Mamma cleaning octopi at the kitchen sink. This post was written as part of the ‘In my kitchen’ worldwide blog linkup hosted monthly by Sherry’s Pickings.

#4 Matrimonio in Puglia In June I went to a wonderful family wedding in Puglia, which included an 1100 year old church, a dress made by a 91 year old Nonna and dancing under the olive trees. Auguri Federica e Antonio!

#3 Napoli Street Art I absolutely love Napoli a perfect place for self-expression since the last few thousand years.  Join me on a graffiti/street art tour in the Centro Storico. This 2020 post comes up 5th in Google search. I went to Napoli again, so stay tuned for more posts and even more street art.Madonna con la Pistola Banksy Napoli street art

#2 L’Arte sa Nuotare  made my top list again! During a 2019 trip to Firenze with my nipotina Viaggio con Isabella we were on constant lookout for street art by Blub, the talented artist who plunges famous works of art underwater. This post also comes up 2nd on Google search!  Spread the Blub love- read about more Blub in Blub a Napoli.Putto Raffaello Firenze street art Blub#1 Italiano per Ristoranti-How to Pronounce your Restaurant Menu, this handy Italian menu pronunciation guide has been #1 every year except one.  In a google search for ‘Italian pronunciation guide restaurant’ and ‘Italian menu pronunciation’ it comes out as the top suggestion! Molto cool! This post is available as a 6 page downloadable PDF via a link at the end of the post and. I would still like to expand and turn it into an ebook someday. Speriamo! If any of you have experience publishing ebooks and can give me some advice, let me know! 

Bruschetta (broo.SKET.tah)

For 2023 my goals are simple….lots of travel-although not as much as last year- less stress, more exercise, more art and writing! 

I would love to hear which post you liked best, and what you would like to read more about in 2023 on Un po’ di pepe?  Let me know in the comments.  Looking forward to writing more cose interresanti /interesting stuff in 2023. I have a long list of posts to write based on 2022 travels.  Next month, I also plan to do a writeup on this year’s Festival di Sanremo as I did last year.  

Vi auguro un 2023 piena di gioia e buona salute!  Ciao, Cristina

Check out Italian Christmas Vocabulary for help understanding my seasonal greetings,

*Note…WordPress’ method of collecting stats is odd.  The newest post counts as a ‘Home page’ view until the next one is published and this does affect the results, especially for those of us that do not post often.

Diamond Anniversary


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My parents Leonardo and Pasqualina celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a few days ago.  60 years is the Nozze di Diamante or Diamond Anniversary, and it is a big deal since less than 1% of married couples reach this milestone. Last year at my cousin’s wedding, his new wife did not throw her bouquet to the unmarried ladies-she gave it to Mamma for being married the longest and providing inspiration!

They wanted to celebrate at home with just immediate family and all of our cugini. It was a lovely event and we all had fun.  There was a display of just a few of their December 27, 1962 vintage winter wedding photos.  I also posted them on FB and IG, where they received so much love that I am posting them here as well.  

It was, and still is the custom in Orsara di Puglia for all of the wedding guests and family to depart from the bride’s house and walk behind her to the church. This is called a processione.  Following the ceremony at San Nicola di Bari, the processione continues to the reception location or wherever the vehicles are located.  In 1962 there were not many cars in town.This photo in the Portone Giudice was taken from Palazzo Baronale. It is my favourite as the snow is more visible!This one is in Piazza Mazzini.  The 2 arches in the background is the Fontana Nuova, where the women used to wash clothes.

Since there was snow on the ground, they got a ride in an old Mini.  At their 50th anniversary in 2012, the wedding dress and veil were on display on a mannequin. We could not display it this time since we were at home and the Christmas tree took up all the extra space.

They still look almost the same! I hope you have enjoyed the photos as much as we do.  Viva gli sposi! Auguri Mamma e Papà!

Post Pandemic Travel Postcard


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Like most travel postcards, this one is arriving after the vacation is over. Things have been quiet on the blog, with only 3 posts published since May.  Perché? Partly creative block, but also because I tried to make up for almost 3 years of no travel all at once. I did quite the epic job of it too!  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you already have an idea what I have been up to. Here is the short version of my adventures.  More info to follow in future posts.

In June, my parents, sister, nipotine* and I attended a family wedding in Manfredonia.  Read all about it in Un Matrimonio in Puglia. The rest of the weekend was full of post-wedding activities, including a long table meal under olive trees by the beach in Mattinata.  We also spent a day in Polignano a Mare.

I took an unexpected ‘extra’ trip to Santorini to keep my nipotina Francesca company for a few days before she met her cousins.  Who knew you could fly direct to Santorini from Napoli for €70? I had been to Santorini in 1990 and it is still just as breathtaking but more crowded and expensive.  Bring lots of $ if you go!

On my way back to Puglia, I stayed in Napoli, since it is one of my favourite places.  Finalmente, I was able to see L’Ultimo Caravaggio in person!!! Also more sfogliatelle.

The rest of my time was spent in Orsara di Puglia trying to stay cool.  It was HOT!  The mornings and evenings were amazing.  My weekend camping on the beach in Mattinata was spent almost entirely in the water.

I had pizza one night in the smallest town in Puglia, Celle San Vito, population about 200.  Papà says that is only if you include the cats and dogs, but he was joking…I think.  The pizza was yummy! Apparently there are more than 200 people from Celle who immigrated to Brantford, Ontario.

Between Puglia and Greece, I ate a lot of polpo.  Many photos were posted, and this one of Mamma washing polpo in the sink was popular on Instagram. Stay tuned for a recipe post coming up.washing octopus

My last few days were spent in Roma, where I had to follow my own advice to Beat the heat-Surviving summer in Roma.  My mission was to finish crossing all of the Caravaggio paintings in Roma off my list.  I have now seen them all-except for the ceiling fresco that is in a private home.

I spent a day with friend and fellow AICW member David, who works at Santa Maria Maggiore for the summer, and I ate at a few Roman restaurants I had wanted to try.  ‘Research’ was required for the post I am editing on Pasta Romana. My amica Shannon from the post Val d’Orcia day trip and I overlapped for 1 day in Roma.  She photographed me crossing the street in style on the Gianicolo, and we made plans to meet in San Francisco in November.

At the end of July, I flew back to Vancouver to work and take care of my garden.  I even managed to publish a post In my kitchen in Puglia.

The Association of Italian Canadian Writers- AICW conference in Torino was postponed 3 times due to the pandemic, and was happening the last week of September. My cousin lives in Nice, and she informed me that the high speed TGV train travels from Paris to Torino in 5½ hours. She knew I had never been to Paris, and suggested we meet there before the conference.  A brilliant idea-the travel planning gene definitely runs in our famiglia!

September 22 I flew to Paris and spent 4 amazing days with Elia.  I will save the details for another post.  The TGV was comfy and the scenery through the Alps beautiful.

I arrived in Torino the day before the conference started, and met Lucia from Turinepi for a morning walking tour and Bicerin.  The afternoon was spent at il Museo Egizio– the largest collection of Egyptology outside of Cairo.  Torino was a pleasant surprise.  It is walkable, has grand architecture and hardly any tourists in early October! Autumn is a perfect time to visit Piemonte, especially for the seasonal food….zucca, porcini, castagne, salsiccia, with tajarin and agnelotti del plin.

The conference was at l’Università di Torino and featured 4 days of inspirational presentations.  Mine was called ‘A Nzalat d’Purtuall‘, inspired by this blog post. I made lots of new Italocanadesi friends and also Italiani who study Italian Canadian literature—yes, that is a thing!

Following the conference, the plan was to go to Venezia for 3 days.  I have been many times, but the last time was 24 years ago!  I wanted to stay right in Venezia, as I previously stayed in Mestre or went as a day trip.  Things do not always go as planned.  For reasons I won’t elaborate on, I left booking my accommodation too late, and could not find a reasonably priced place to stay-even in Mestre.

So… I took the train to Milano while I figured out what to do.  I stayed with the new sposini from Un Matrimonio in Puglia and also visited other cugini.  3 cuginetti came with me to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana to see Caravaggio’s Canestra di Frutta and they may have been even more awestruck than me!

I did manage to find a last minute deal on accommodation in Venezia.  It was even half price!!! I spent 3 days/2 nights in Venezia the first week of October, and no one got the memo that it was not summer!  The crowds were crazy, but the weather was gorgeous. Everything required online reservations and lineups so I mostly just walked and walked.  I finally made it to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum spent a day on Burano and Torcello.

Venezia was not only crowded, but definitely more expensive than the rest of Italia.  it reminded me of Santorini.  Gorgeous, but expensive.  I can only imagine what it was like in the summer.  I spoke to several Italian business owners and they are not sure if this year was a post pandemic exception or if it will be the new normal. Next year will tell.

The next train journey was Venezia to Foggia (6 hours).  I spent 2 weeks at home in Orsara di Puglia going for walks, meeting friends for caffè, eating good food and just hanging out like a local.  The weather was mostly really nice, but I did have to sleep with 3 blankets, as nights were cold and there is no heat in our little casa.

October 17th I attended ‘Appuntamento con la Daunia’ an annual event hosted by amico Peppe Zullo.  Every year I receive an invite but am not usually in Italia in October.   It is a Slow Food/Farm to Table type of event featuring speakers, tours and local food.  It was attended by food and wine journalists, chefs, RAI, and other enogastronomic types.  Read more about it in my next post.

The final train journey was to Roma where I mostly visited with friends. 2 places I had not been to since age 11 were revisited-Ostia Antica and the Musei Vaticani.I also had aperitivo with the Italian Senate representative for Italiani all’Estero, On. Francesca La Marca.  We met earlier this year at a function in Vancouver.

10 days after flying home from Roma, I went to San Francisco.  Shannon and I met there to see Måneskin live at The Masonic.  Read about them here. It was amazing and we felt like teenagers.  Listening to a North American audience singing along to all of the Italian lyrics was so cool.  We were glad to have attended this concert, since we doubt the band will be playing 4,000 seat venues any longer now that they are selling out stadiums!

This brings me to the end of my post-covid travelpalooza.  If anyone is still worried about travelling, I did not have any issues at all. I do not have any travel plans right now, but I am sure something will come up! Got any plans?  Let me know in the comments!  Buon Viaggio, Cristina

PS My nipotina* Isabella gave me selfie taking lessons, so I practiced during all my travels. At the Fontana di Trevi I impressed myself, managing to capture the coin toss mid air and not cut my head off, while avoiding the 500 other people trying to do the same!

*nipotine can mean nieces or granddaughters.  In this case it is nieces!

AICW Photo by Vincenzo Pietrapaolo

Me crossing the street in style-photo by Shannon Milar