Caravaggio

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Caravaggio is one of the most brilliant and influential painters that ever lived. He pioneered chiaroscuro-dramatic use of light on a dark background and went for the ‘shock’ factor, really testing the boundaries for his time.  His life was as dramatic as his paintings and he was always getting into trouble with the authorities, drinking, gambling, brawling, sword fighting.  I have a few Caravaggio centered posts planned, so I will start with one about the Baroque bad-boy himself.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was born and studied in Milano. His family was from the town of Caravaggio.  He fled to Roma at the age of 21 after wounding an officer in a fight.  He found employment in the studio of Cavaliere D’Arpino, the Pope’s painter, and spent all his time painting ‘fiori e frutta’.  There is record of him being in hospital for 6 months early on in his time in Roma.  One of his earliest paintings is a self-portrait called ‘Bacchino Malato’ -Young Sick Bacchus.  His pale, yellowish complexion and bluish gray lips do not look healthy. He may have had malaria.  Caravaggio then went to work on his own and quickly developed a name as an artist, earning commissions from wealthy patrons.

Bacchino Malato (1593)

Caravaggio’s work was powerful and dramatic. Unlike other artists of the time, he worked directly from life onto the canvas without any working sketches.  Caravaggio worked quickly and produced a lot of work in his 14 years in Roma. Besides his use of light, dark and shadow, he also came up with dramatic compositions and intense realism…sometimes too intense.  He usually chose to paint the realism of the moment-the exact moment the action is happening. He showed life how it was, but his realism was often seen as graphic, vulgar and shocking.  He pushed boundaries and made people uncomfortable. Caravaggio used live models most of whom he found on the street, including 2 well-known prostitutes. He was frequently disputing with clients who refused to pay or insisted he redo a painting.

100,000 Lire Caravaggio banknote with his works ‘Buona Ventura’ on the front and ‘Canestra di frutta’ on the back

Caravaggio was always getting into trouble, but his name and wealthy clients protected him. In 1606, during a late night street brawl at a tennis court, he killed Ranuccio Tomassoni in a dispute over a prostitute.  Even having big-time patrons like Cardinal Borghese could not save him this time. He fled Rome with a death sentence and a price on his head.  He arrived in Napoli, where his influence and style defined painting in the city for the next few centuries.

In 1607 he went to Malta, hoping that the patronage of the Grand Master of the Knights of St John would help him receive a pardon from the Pope. He was welcomed and produces a lot of incredible art there.  Caravaggio was even inducted as a knight, but in 1608 seriously wounded another knight in a brawl and was imprisoned.  He escaped, was expelled as a ‘foul and rotten member’ and fled to Sicilia where he had a friend.  His behaviour grew increasingly bizarre.  He destroyed paintings at the slightest criticism and slept in his clothes fully armed. Caravaggio returned to Napoli after 9 months, to wait until he could return to Roma to receive a pardon.  In 1609 his dangerous lifestyle cought up to him.  There was an attempt on his life in a violent brawl and his face was disfigured.  There were even rumours of his death.

Davide con la testa di Golia (1610) Galleria Borghese

In 1610 he sent one of his last paintings Davide con la testa di Golia –David with the head of Goliath to his former patron, Cardinal Borghese, hoping he could convince his uncle the Pope to issue a pardon.  Caravaggio painted his own portrait as the gory severed head of Goliath, in a plea for mercy.  Soon after, he got on a boat heading north and ended up on the coast of southern Tuscany waiting for his pardon for the murder.  The pardon came too late.  He died in a tavern in Porto Ercole of a fever, infection from his wounds and heat exhaustion.  There were rumours he was poisoned, but Caravaggio likely also had lead poisoning from the lead in his paints. The homicidal genius was only 38 years old.

Poste Italiane 1960 stamp commemorating the 350th anniversary of the death of Caravaggio

In 2010, 400 years after his death, scientists think they may have cracked this ‘cold case’.  They are 85% sure that bones found in the cemetery in Porto Ercole belong to Caravaggio.  DNA evidence shows the age, height and date of death match, and they also did DNA testing of some long time residents of the town of Caravaggio and found there was DNA similarity.  The suspected bones also contained high enough levels of lead to drive someone mad.  More recent dental evidence shows that the main cause of death for the owner of these bones was a Staph infection, likely from the Napoli swordfight.  Sounds convincing to me!  Ciao, Cristina

*Image-Ottavio Leoni ‘Ritratto di Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’ ca 1621. Biblioteca Marucellaria, Firenze.  Wikimedia Commons

Your Favourite Recipe

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For the second time in 3 months, I wrote about the wrong topic for the monthly #dolcevitabloggers linkup!  I was frantically trying to finish a detailed review of my favourite book, only to find that other posts were on the topic of ‘favourite Italian recipe’. Mannaggia!  I had taken a screenshot of the list of topics, but a few of them were switched.

So…. my favourite recipe?  Hmmm.  That is almost like asking a mamma which one is her favourite child!  I love food and have too many faves to pick just one.  I think it is better if I write about your favourite recipe!  I had a look through the recipe category of my blog.  There are 14 recipe posts-half are desserts.  My favourite ingredients seem to be ricotta, limoncello, orange and olive oil! The most popular recipe post, by a massively huge margin, is Torta Caprese all’Arancia. I posted this recipe in honour of my 2015 Cannolo Award. 

Caprese (cah•PREH•seh) means ‘from Capri’ (CAP•ree) the beautiful island off the coast of Napoli.  I suppose caprese could also mean ‘goatlike’ since capra is goat?  We’ll stick with ‘from Capri’.

There are a few different stories about how Torta Caprese came to be.  The most likely is that it was invented by mistake in the 1920’s by a kitchen worker at an Austrian owned pensione on Capri.  He added mandorle tritate –ground almonds, instead of flour while trying to make something similar to an Austrian Sachertorte.  It was a big hit, and went on to be served at all of the hotels and tea rooms on Capri.

The basic recipe involves mixing melted butter and chocolate in a ‘bagno-maria’ with sugar and egg yolks, then adding whipped egg whites and ground almonds.  Liqueur, usually Strega, is added.  The cake has a hard thin shell and moist interior and the center tends to sink in a bit from the sides.

I recently tasted a yummy orange Torta Caprese, so I decided to try my own version.  After a bit of experimentation, and substituting Gran Marnier for Strega, I ended up with a very nice Torta Caprese all’ Arancia.  It is a 3 bowl recipe, so be prepared to wash them!

Read the rest of the original post Torta Caprese all’ Arancia to find the step-by-step recipe and find out what the Cannolo Award is all about.

This post is written as part of the monthly #dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine of Questa Dolce Vita, Kelly of Italian at Heart and Kristie of Mamma Prada, the 7th -14th of every month. Hopefully next time I will prepare the correct topic!  You will have to wait until November to read about my favourite Italian book!

Here is me posing on my first visit to Capri when I was 16. Unfortunately I didn’t know about Torta Caprese at the time.

Ciao, Cristina

In My Kitchen, September 2018

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Late August/early September is a busy time in my kitchen, and even busier in my parents’ garage.  The garage has a sink and propane burner, so it counts as a kitchen too!  Mid August, I am usually just getting home from 3-4 weeks in Italia and am right back to work the next day for a jet-lag infused reality check.

My garden is thirsty for water and full of erbacce-weeds that need to be pulled.  The fruits of the garden are ripe for picking. This was a good year for pomodori-4 different varieties.  My favourite are the ciliegine or cherry tomatoes.  I eat them like candy, and freeze some for making brodo-broth for the winter. My parents get back from Italia at the end of August, then we make passata di pomodoro to can for the year. We use whatever is ripe enough from our gardens, and purchase a lot more.  This is a major production involving the whole family, but is totally worth the effort.  I like to call it ‘Salsapalooza’.  Read more about our passata di pomodoro making in this post.

The origano-oregano was picked about a month ago and hung to dry in bundles.  It is ready to be crumbled and stored in jars.

My Mamma brings home pomodori secchi, sun-dried tomatoes from the mercato in Orsara di Puglia.  We put them in jars under oil with garlic, parsley and capers.  Yum!

In May, I planted basilico seeds in every available pot I could find and the crop was a good one, so I am making a lot of pesto this year.  I bought a stash of pine nuts while I was in Italia. My recipe for Pesto Genovese can be found here.

I am sad to pick the last of my fiori di zucca.  They are too delicate to keep or freeze.  I make them battered and fried, stuffed, battered and fried, or stuffed and baked.  Sometimes I use the broken bits to make frittelle or a frittata.  I am always shocked that so many people do not know these delicate morsels are edible!  To learn how to pick them and what to do with them, check out my post Fiori di zucca.

Some of my zucchine grew too big while I was away, so I have put those aside to make chocolate zucchini cake.  You would never know there is a lot of vegetable in it!  Sorry, it did not last long enough for a photo!

My raspberry bushes were producing a bowlful a day in June and July.  Now there are just 5-10 berries per day.  I have been hoarding them until I had just enough for one last batch of jam!

Rucola gets put in and on everything!  In my salad, on my pizza, on my thin cut sautéed beef. Some even goes into the freezer for making pasta patate e rucola, on of my favourite comfort foods in the winter.

That is about all from my kitchen (and my parents’ garage) this month.  What is happening in your cucina?  This post is part of the monthly ‘In my Kitchen’ linkup hosted by Sherry.  To read the other posts click this link to her blog Sherry’s Pickings

Ciao, Cristina

Visiting Galleria Borghese

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La Galleria Borghese was an opulent 17thCentury suburban home of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.  It was also home to his amazing personal art collection.  In 1808, Prince Camillo Borghese was forced to sell the Roman sculpture and antiquities collection to his brother in law Napoleon, for below what it was worth. 340 or so pieces, including the Borghese Gladiator from Ephesus are now in the Borghese collection at the Musée du Louvre.  The Borghese estate in Roma was sold to the Italian government in 1902 and turned into a museum and urban park.

Even though I go to Roma every year, I had yet to visit la Galleria Borghese. It requires booking tickets in advance, which is something I really do not like doing.  Prebooking interferes with my spontaneity!  I tried to book online 2 and 3 years ago when I had a longer time in Roma, but kept getting forwarded to secondary resell sites charging double the price, which really annoyed me.  This year, I decided to try booking a few days before my departure for Roma.

The Galleria is not that easily accessible. It is at the far end of Villa Borghese, a large (200 acre) urban green space. Buses #92, 217, 360 and 919 from Stazione Termini stop at the Galleria. The other most direct route is to take the Metro A line (red) to Flaminio, just outside of Piazza del Popolo. Enter Villa Borghese by the unmistakeable big gates and walk about ½ hour to Galleria Borghese.  Keep right until the bike rentals then left.  It is an uphill walk.  An alternative ….to avoid being late and losing the reservation, is to take the Metro to Flaminio and then take bus #61, 160, 490, 491, or 495 to the Galleria, or even a taxi if you are running late.  It will not cost much, then walk back to Piazzale Flaminio, as it is downhill or take a bus down.  Do not follow the ‘Villa Borghese’ signs at the Spagna Metro station.  These lead to a long underground walk, and then up an escalator to a random forested area in Villa Borghese-the park, nowhere near the museum!

Piazza del Popolo

Tickets must to be reserved. The price of admission is €13 plus €2 for the reservation fee, and if booking online, another €2 for the online booking site-Ticket One.  If using the RomaPass for admission, a reservation is still required. Domenica al Museo, the first Sunday of every month, admission is free, but a reservation is required and the €2 fee.  This is the website for Galleria Borghese.  Reservations can be made by emailing info@tosc.it or calling 39 06 32810 (dial 011 before this number if calling from North America).  I booked online, but had to register for an account with Ticket One, and enter my codice fiscale, which most visitors will not have. Ticket One charges an extra €2 booking fee, so my total cost was €17. I think booking by email is easier! Tours can also be booked with the reservation, but I prefer to wander on my own.  There are also independent tour groups that you can book, which include admission.

Bookings are Tuesday to Sunday for 2 hours, from 9-11am, 11-1pm, 3-5pm and 5-7pm.  The ticket office is in the lower floor-the central lower door in my photo- and you need to arrive 30 minutes before the reservation time or risk losing the spot.  This is not a convenient location to just show up and see if there are any last minute cancellations.  Security is strict and all bags, backpacks, helmets and selfie sticks must be checked before entering.  This includes purses.  Cameras are ok, and photos are allowed.  To rent the 90 minute audioguide (€5), make sure to pay before checking bags or carry pocket cash.

There are 360 reservations per 2 hour time slot. To spread everyone out over the 22 rooms, half of the ticketholders are directed to the Pinacoteca (picture gallery) upstairs and half to the main floor sculpture gallery.  It does not feel too crowded unless you happen to be in a room with more than one tour group.  I was worried about being rushed with a 2 hour limit, but I found it was enough time to see all of the works  It is not enough time to sit and sketch though. Do not forget to look up and admire the ornate painted ceilings and tromp l’oeil painting in every room. 

Cardinal Borghese considered himself an amateur architect and had an eye for art.  He was an early patron of Bernini and collected Caravaggio works.  He also had a knack for unscrupulously swooping in and getting a bargain.  For example, he acquired the Madonna dei Palafrenieri from Caravaggio in 1606 for a pittance when the patrons, the Papal grooms, immediately rejected it.

Madonna dei Palafrenieri. Photo Wikimedia

The painting is also known as Madonna and Child with Serpent or Madonna and Child with St Anne. Why did the Palafrenieri reject this incredible painting?  They did not like that their patron, St Anne, appeared as a passive old woman, nor did they like the Madonna’s ample cleavage, or the fact that Jesus was a naked older boy. There are 5 Caravaggio paintings in Galleria Borghese, all in one room! Some of you may know that I am a huge Caravaggio fan!

Gianlorenzo Bernini is also well represented in the Galleria Borghese with 4 early sculptures.  His Baroque masterpiece David capture the intense moment just before hurling the stone from his slingshot, while his body is twisting and he has a look of fierce determination on his face. 

Bernini’s realism is incredible, he has the ability to turn marble into flesh, as with Hades grip on Proserpina/Persephone’s back and thigh.

Bernini’s sculptures are so lifelike, he is known for attention to detail, such as sculpting the inside of his figures mouths and their tongues! This is really apparent on the figure of Daphne in the sculpture Apollo & Daphne seen below.  I love the way he portrays her fingers growing leaves and branches, roots growing from her toes, and her hair becoming leaves as she turns into a laurel tree.  Stay tuned for a post about this work.

There are countless other fabulous pieces in the Borghese collection, such as Paolina Bonaparte as Venus by Antonio Canova.  The upper floor has paintings by Raphael, Titian, Rubens and Antonello da Messina, to name just a few. I left the Galleria Borghese in a Caravaggio/Bernini art coma!  What did I do before going to have a rest?  Well, I stopped in at Santa Maria del Popolo after my walk down from Villa Borghese to see the 2 Caravaggio paintings there! Then I walked to Piazza Navona to meet a friend. We went to Sant’Agostino to see the Madonna dei Pellegrini then stopped to have a caffè freddo and had an hour long discussion about Caravaggio!  By that time, I was really in a stupor-a happy one, and I did go and have a much needed rest!

Have you been to the Galleria Borghese? What did you think?  Let me know in the comments.  Ciao, Cristina

Aria Pericolosa!

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C2550C42-73D9-4AC4-A015-1FD60DAF0E24‘Culture Shock’ is this month’s topic for the Dolce Vita Bloggers group. I was born in Italia, grew up in an Italian family in an italian/multicultural neighbourhood and have been travelling  to Italia my whole life.  There isn’t much culture shock going on for me to write about.

However……because in my ‘real job’, I work as a health care professional, there are a few malattie…illness related things that just drive me pazza! Repeat after me ….. illnesses are caused by viruses!  Le malattie sono causate dai virus (pronounced VEE•roos).

A unique category of illnesses exists exclusively in Italia, caused by wind, cold, sweat and wet hair! The thing they all have in common is sudden changes in temperature or extreme temperature fluctuations. Anyone who is from an Italian family will instantly relate to all of these.  My title Aria Pericolosa! means ‘dangerous air’.  We now know malaria is caused by mosquitoes, but in the past this was not known.  The word mal aria actually means ‘bad air’! These health beliefs are generally left over or adapted from times when we did not know the cause of disease.

54544A2F-D29B-4F76-82F6-EF0451394D02Colpo d’aria means literally a smack, strike or big hit of air.  An example of this is going from outside on a hot day into a shopping mall blasted with air conditioning.  Someone who has cold symptoms or a sore back, headache, earache or even indigestion might say ‘ho preso un colpo d’aria’.  Italians are somewhat distrustful of air conditioning, using it only when really necessary- in sharp contrast to the North American obsession with it. Severe back spasm is often called ‘colpo della strega’- Strike of the witch. 

Un colpo d’aria can also come from ‘la corrente’ which is an air current or a draft.  Walking or sitting in a corrente is thought to cause illness.  A draft caused by 2 open windows or doors directly opposite each other is considered bad luck in Feng Shui, because the good Chi goes in one window and out the other, however… winds and drafts do not carry disease! I’ve had many meals in a place as hot as a sauna because they refused to open both windows or doors at the same time-only one or the other! Mannaggia!

4D18D924-1F65-48E3-8AD5-55D051B16C11.jpegLa cervicale is another classic condition related to colpo d’aria.  This is a stiff neck cause by the neck being exposed to cold.  And you thought everyone wore scarves just to be fashionable!Calciodistrada2015

Running around sudato -with a sweaty body is also thought to cause illness. I suppose hot and sweaty are 2 temperature fluctuations! This is especially applicable to bambini, running around playing, and also wearing sweaty clothes. You may here è sudato!’ exclaimed on the playground by many an Italian Mamma.  Italian bambini are always provided with multiple changes of clothes for when they get sweaty, even at the beach! They wear canottiere, undershirts made of wool in winter and cotton in summer to absorb sudore.  These are sometimes referred to as a ‘maglietta della salute’/health shirts. Being sudato then sitting in a corrente—you are doomed to illness!

Let’s not forget capelli bagnati! Going outside with wet hair is thought to cause illness, even pneumonia….even death!  I always air dry my hair, as it takes too long to blowdry.  I compare this to drying the dishes.  Why dry the dishes when nature will dry them on their own?  If I leave the house with wet hair in Italia, I inevitably will get asked the obvious ‘ma c’hai i capelli bagnati?’ Being in a corrente while sweaty with wet hair and senza giacca -without a jacket….you might as well call the funeral home!

Swimming within 3 hours after eating is thought to cause cramps and this will cause you to drown. In Italia, the main meal is usually pranzo, around 1pm.  Yes, even on the beach it is often a full on meal and not just a panino.  This means the meal is heavier while at the beach, but it certainly doesn’t take 3 hours to digest the food.  I am ready for my next gelato by this time.  Noon until 3 pm is also the hottest time of the day, so it is not such a bad thing to be in the shade under an ombrellone at this time, it is the reasoning that drives me nuts.   One of my colleagues is from India, and she tells me her family says the same thing, so this one  m ay not beexclusive to italia. Perhaps it was originally related to eating questionable food before refrigeration was available? Still, I have yet to hear about someone drowning because they went swimming on a full stomach!

I could go on and on, but I need to go back out and enjoy the Pugliese sunshine.  All of these malattie might lead you to believe Italia is a uniquely immunocompromised country, but Italians are generally in very good health!  I try to explain that these ailments exist exclusively in Italia, but I give up! None of these are harmful, but they can get annoying, especially to a health care professional. Remember….. Le malattie sono causate dai virus!  You can still follow Nonna Mari’s advice and  ‘metti la giacca!’

This post is written as part of the monthly #dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine of Questa Dolce Vita, Kelly of Italian at Heart and Kristie of Mamma Prada the 7th -14th of every month.

Note-I will be Chiuso per Ferie without a computer, so may not be able to link this post to the other ‘Culture Shock’ posts until I get home. If the links do not work, check back later.

FYI ‘Aria pericolosa‘ can also refer to the lingering smell that keeps on giving after a smelly fart!

Ciao, Cristina….e metti la giacca!

Limoncello Ricotta Cookies

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Last week I had a bancarella at the Italian summer outdoor market. I like to bring dolci for friends who come to visit, or anyone who stops by to chat. Buy a card… get a cookie. It was an unusually hot day, and my espresso cookies would melt and make a mess all over the place, so I made refreshing, sweet and tangy limoncello ricotta cookies.  Limoncello and ricotta are 2 of my favourite ingredients.

When I was growing up, our Abruzzesi neighbours often made these soft cakey cookies-minus the limoncello. They used Anice (ah·Nee·cheh), a liqueur similar to Sambuca, and topped them with multi-coloured sprinkles.  The ricotta makes them soft, moist and chewy. If fresh is not available***, make your own ricotta!

Limoncello Ricotta Cookies:

350g flour (2½ cups)

5 g salt (1 tsp)

8g Pane degli Angeli (½ bustina/envelope, 2 teaspoons) *

100 g olive oil (½ cup) **

400 g sugar (2 cups)

2 eggs

450 g fresh ricotta (1 lb)

30g limoncello (30 ml, 2 tablespoons)

15 g freshly squeezed lemon juice (15 ml, 1 tablespoon)

Grated peel of 1 lemon

Glaze: same as for Casa Berti Olive Oil Limoncello Cake

200 g (1½ cups) powdered sugar/icing sugar

30g limoncello (30ml, 2 tablespoons)

15g freshly squeezed lemon juice (15 ml, 1 tablespoon)

Grated peel of 1 organic lemon

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)

Mix the 3 dry ingredients together. In another bowl, mix sugar and grated lemon peel together with the back of a spoon until the sugar becomes fragrant.  Add eggs, 1 at a time.  Add oil, then ricotta and limoncello. Stir in dry ingredients.

The dough is quite sticky. Use 2 tablespoons or a small cookie scoop to measure the dough onto a cookie sheet.  The dough may be easier to work with if it is left in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.  Bake for 15 minutes, being careful not to burn the edges.  Let cool.

To make glaze, mix the all ingredients except lemon peel in a small bowl until smooth.  If it is too thick and sticky, add more limoncello or lemon juice.  Add lemon peel last.  Use a teaspoon to spread glaze onto each cookie.  Leave glaze to harden and set for 1-2 hours.

Makes 40-60 cookies, depending on the size.  Store in a covered container.

* If Pane degli Angeli is not available, substitute 2 tsp baking powder and a tiny splash of vanilla extract

**if you prefer to use 125g unsalted butter (½ cup), mix the sugar and butter together first with a mixer, then add eggs one at a time, followed by the other ingredients

  ***Cottage cheese is NOT an appropriate substitute for ricotta!

Friends and customers often tell me I should be selling the cookies. I am not sure how to take that.  Are they trying to tell me my baking is more appealing than my artwork?  Hmmmm, I had better not overthink this one!

If you love limoncello and ricotta as much as I do, check out some of my other posts: Limoncello Cheesecake, Casa Berti Olive Oil Limoncello Cake, Ricotta fatta in casa, Tortelloni di Ricotta.

Read more about the mercato here.

Buon appetito, Cristina

The Sicilian Wife~Book Review

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I downloaded The Sicilian Wife onto my ipad before a long flight.  I was actually looking for another book by the same author, Finding Rosa.  It was not available as a ebook at the time, so I purchased The Sicilian Wife instead. Once I started reading, I could not put it down.  I have not read many crime thrillers.  This one was very ‘film noir-ish’.  In fact, I kept visualizing every scene in grainy black and white on a big screen.  I hope someone is working on a screenplay!

The book features 2 strong female characters: Marisa De Luca is the decorated commissario in a small Sicilian village, dealing with local organized crime, a station full of chauvinists and investigating a mysterious death, and Fulvia Arcuri, the reluctant mafia princess, constantly running from her troubled upbringing.  Fulvia immigrates to Canada and starts a new life free from the reach of her family…or so she thinks.

The Sicilian Wife goes back and forth between different timelines, as well as a double setting, Sicily and Edmonton, Alberta. These are not hard to follow, despite twists and turns in the plot.  Sicilian folktales and proverbs, and contemporary Italian history add to the themes of escape and migration.  Just when you think you know what is going on ….. I really can not say any more without giving away too much.  Just read it, especially if you are Italocanadese!

I give it 5 peperoncini out of 5 🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶!

Note:  The author of The Sicilian Wife, Caterina Edwards, is a fellow member of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW), although we have not met. Hopefully we will meet at a future conference!  I purchased the ebook and the opinions written here are my own.

Buona lettura, Cristina

Baia di Campi

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One of the most beautiful areas on earth, Il Promontorio del Gargano (gar·GAH·noh) is the promontory sticking out above ‘il tacco’, the heel of Italia.  You can also think of it as la caviglia-the ankle spur of Italia.  Surrounded by the Adriatico on 3 sides, the area is more like an island; biodiverse with unique flora and fauna. Most of the promontorio is a protected area and marine reserve, Il Parco Nazionale del Gargano, which includes le Isole Tremiti and the ancient Foresta Umbra. Fortunately, this has prevented overdevelopment by large multinational hotels and resorts.

Il Gargano is full of campsites, inexpensive, rustic accommodation and B & B’s.  The campeggi e villaggi turistici -campsites and tourist villages, are ben attrezzati-well equipped. Go with a camper and all the gear, or just a vehicle and a tent.  There are villette-little cabins for rent, but you need to bring your own sheets and towels, so these are mostly used by locals. This website (in Italiano) lists Gargano campsites. I have spent many weekends at different sites in the Gargano  with my cugini and their camper.  In July, we stayed at Campeggio Baia di Campi, near Vieste. Here is a video of the private beach during my windy morning walk:

Nothing like having a spiaggia all to myself! We were going to paddle by canoa-kayak to la Grotta dei due occhi, a sea cave 10 minutes away.  Unfortunately, it became too windy to go, so I will hopefully have the opportunity to go again. The campsite had a shuttle bus to whitewashed Vieste, 20 minutes away. Read about other campsites I have stayed at in Campeggio sul Gargano.

View of Vieste from the SS89

The winding road around the Gargano, SS 89 from Foggia, has sharp turns and viste mozzafiato (VIS·teh moz·zah·FYAH·toh)-breathtaking views.  You will not see any dehydrated (yuk!) camping food in Puglia.  Most campsites have a little market selling fresh fruit, giant watermelon, mozzarelle and other necessities.  Fresh fish is never far away, so I get to enjoy Mauro’s insalata di polpo ubriaco-drunken octopus salad!Most of the tourists visiting the Gargano area are Italian, especially in the summer.  Many Germans drive their campers down too, but you will not meet many North Americans here.  Il Gargano is the place to visit to improve your Italiano!  This post is written as part of the monthly #dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine of Questa Dolce Vita, Kelly of Italian at Heart and Kristie of Mamma Prada the 7th -14th of every month. This month’s topic is ‘Hidden gems’.  Il Gargano is not so much ‘hidden’, as remote, unknown and not easily accessible without either a car or a lot of time.  I hope you all make it here one day!  As the Gargano website says, visit il Gargano ‘per una vacanza tra natura, mare e cultura’…for a holiday among nature, sea and culture!

More Il Gargano posts by Cristina: Isole Tremiti, I Trabucchi del Gargano, Campeggio sul Gargano, Santa Maria di Siponto.

Ciao e buon viaggio, Cristina

Il Sole di Metà Pomeriggio

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La luce del sole di metà pomeriggio- the light of the mid-afternoon Mediterranean sun is absolutely stunning.  In the backdrop of a medieval hilltop village, cast shadows create abstract shapes among the stone walls, staircases and winding cobblestone streets.

Last summer was exceptionally hot, even at an altitude of 750m like Orsara di Puglia.  Both of the negozi elettrodomestici, the appliance stores, repeatedly ran out of portable electric fans.  Most people remained indoors after pranzo, until at least 4pm.  While everyone else was resting in the cool enclaves of their stone houses,  I often ventured out to try and capture the light with my camera.Here are some of my results….mostly monochromatic, mostly square, abstract shapes cast by the magnificent light of the mid-afternoon sun.Even my tiny balcony on narrow Via Regina Margherita is flooded with la luce del sole!

Imagine the smell of orecchiette con sugo wafting down empty Via XX Settembre just before pranzo. Yum!

Laundry dries in no time with the heat of the afternoon sun, and the shadows make interesting shapes on the old stone walls. This Nonna on Via Cavour wonders what I am doing out in this heat!My Cinquecento radar spots a visiting specimen in town.  The light makes interesting reflections and cast shadows on the street.

I hope I am still able to do my daily cruciverbi, crossword puzzle, when I am this age!          I hope you enjoyed my attempt to capture ‘la luce’ in these photos!    Ciao, Cristina

Uffa, allora, purtroppo, magari, ….mannaggia!

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Cinque parole, 5 words.  This is the topic of this month’s #dolcevitabloggers linkup.  With thousands of parole piacevoli like strofinacci, aspirapolvere, sciaquare, zoppicare and strozzinaggio, I could have been awake every night for months trying to choose 5.  Instead, because I need my sleep, I chose words that I use, am frequently asked the meaning of and may not directly translate to English.  I also liked the way the words sound together.  If I ever write a memoir, I will call it ‘Uffa, allora, purtroppo, magari…..mannaggia’!

Uffa! (OOF∙fah) Uffa can be an exclamation of frustration, exasperation or impatience, depending on the tone, context and gesti –hand gestures.  It can be like a long, drawn out sigh uuuuuuffffffah, perhaps accompanied by an extended eyeroll, or more of a quick grunt. Uffa is often used by itself, but can also be used in a sentence.  ‘Uffa, che caldo!’ ‘Uuuuuufffffa, ancora non sei pronta!’.

Allora (al∙LOR∙ah) Allora is one of the most versatile words in the Italian language.  The meaning depends on the context, punctuation, and even where it appears in the sentence.  It comes from the Latin ‘ad illa horam’ which literally means ‘a quel tempo’ / ‘at that time’.  It can still be used in this way.  For example, Nonno might say ‘Allora si andava a scuola a piedi….in salita andata e ritorno’-Back then/at that time, we went to school on foot…..uphill both ways!’ It can also mean ‘since then’, for example ‘Da allora non ho più il telefono fisso’/ ‘Since then I no longer have a land line’.  ‘Prima di allora non c’era email’/before then/before that time, there was no email’.

Allora is also a ‘filler’ word to buy time, meaning ‘well, then’ ‘then’ or ‘so….’. ‘Allora, che facciamo?’ ‘Allora vediamo’.  Allora used on its own as a question can also imply impatience depending on tone of voice and gesti. For example a waiter may say ‘Allora?’/ so…..what’s it going to be?’ if the table is taking a long time to place an order.  At the start of a sentence it can mean ‘therefore’ or ‘in that case’, similar to the word ‘dunque’.  For example ‘Non mi piace il cibo cinese, alora andiamo al ristorante messicano’/I don’t like Chinese food, therefore let’s go to a Mexican restaurant’. ‘Piove, allora andiamo in macchina’/’it’s raining, so we will go by car’.  Allora should not be confused with ‘alloro‘ which is a laurel tree.

Purtroppo (poohr∙TROP∙poh)-this one is actually a straightforward translation.  It means unfortunately.  I included it because it sounded good with the other words, and I have this lovely incised marble purchased from La Bottega del Marmoraro on Via Margutta in Roma.  Purtroppo… quando si dice purtroppo, c’è sicuramente una fregatura!-unfortunately… ‘when the word unfortunately is used, there is definitely a con/ you are surely being screwed!’ 

Magari (mah∙GAH∙ree) usually means ‘if only’.  For example, if you ask someone ‘che faresti se avessi un milione di euro?’/What would you do if you had a million euro?’, they would probably respond with an emphatic ‘Magari!’/’If only’ or’ I wish!’ Magari can also mean ‘maybe/perhaps’-the same as the word forse.’ Magari domani non piove e andiamo in bici’/Perhaps tomorrow it will not rain and we can go biking’.

Mannaggia! (mahn∙NAJ∙geeah) Readers of my blog know I use this word all the time. It is not the Italian word for ‘manager’! It does not really translate but can be used like the English word ‘damn!’ or ‘rats!’.  Mannaggia comes from ‘male ne abbia’ which in dialetto becomes ‘mal n’aggia’ which kind of means ‘I don’t have bad’ or ‘may you have bad’, so it can mean something like ‘a curse on you!’.  It can also just be used as a term of frustration, similar to uffa! 19th Century Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga of Cavalleria Rusticana fame wrote ‘Malannaggia l’anima tua’/damn your soul!’.  This may be the origin of the word but it is unclear.  Mannaggia! Not so straightforward is it?  Mannaggia can be used alone or with other words, for example ‘Mannaggia la miseria’/damn poverty!’, ‘Mannaggia l’America’, ‘Mannaggia a te’, ‘Mannaggia a me’ and many others which are not so polite!

 

I hope you enjoyed my cinque parole and silly examples- just be glad I did not choose stronzo! This post is written as part of the monthly #dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine of Questa Dolce Vita, Kelly of Italian at Heart and Kristie of Mamma Prada the 7th -14th of every month.

If you enjoyed my phonetic pronounciation, check out Italiano per Ristoranti, my Italian pronunciation guide. with downloadable PDF. Ciao, Cristina