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

Un Matrimonio in Puglia

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Viva gli sposi!  After a 3 year ‘pandemic hiatus’ I finally made it back to Puglia. My trip was earlier than usual to attend un matrimonio in famiglia -a family wedding in June.  Gli sposi were Federica and Antonio. The wedding was held at the 900 year old Santa Maria di Siponto. The church is in the architectural style Romanica Pugliese, Pugliese Romanesque. Byzantine and Islamic influences are evident in the pure, simple lines and geometric patterns. The building is square, which is unusual for a church.

Our day started out with heavy rain.  My parents, sister, nieces and I ran to the car with our umbrellas for the 1½ hour drive from Orsara di Puglia. Luckily it was sunny by the time we arrived. The ceremony was held at 11 am and the stark white interior of the church was bathed in light!The look on Antonio’s face when he sees Federica at the altar is priceless. 

The 4 witnesses, called compari, and the parents of the bride and groom also take part in the ceremony.Federica looked stunning.  The wedding dress was handmade by her 91 year old nonna!  Nonna Celestina made it with fabric she had kept from the time when she owned a fabric store in Foggia many years ago. The dress is ‘a portafoglio‘ which means that it had a short skirt underneath, visible only when the slit opened. Nonna even made a spare dress, just in case!

Since we were in Puglia, we were surrounded by olive trees. I fit right into the floral arrangements with my olive coloured dress with pink and silver flowers.The reception was held at Tenimento San Giuseppe, 4 km from Foggia. We started out with aperitivo in the main building, then moved to another section for the main meal.

There was un mastro casaro-a master cheesemaker-making nodini, knots of fresh mozzarella.

Later we moved into the cantina for degustazione di vino, where I found a tasty Susumaniello that was too good! Dessert was back in the main building.  All of this moving around really helps with digestion!

The dish in the photo above is ‘mezzi paccheri rigate con salsa di gamberl e astice’, pasta with shrimp and lobster sauce.  The black smudge on the plate is squid ink. I was too busy socializing and eating to take many food photos, so read the menu and imagine it yourself!Dancing was everywhere.  Instead of having to sit through the entire meal and a bunch of speeches and wait for the end of the night to dance, dancing happens throughout the reception. Also good for digestion!One course is served…then dancing, more food, then more dancing, etc.  Since the wedding was in Puglia, there was also dancing outside under the olive trees.

Federica likes swing dancing, so there was a swing band and later in the evening, my cousin (father of the bride) and his band played their funky music.

Cake cutting was held outside, at the bottom of the dramatic staircase.  In the photo, you can see a bit of Federica’s ‘spare’ dress, while Antonio gestures for us to move out of the way.  He probably said ‘livt da nanz’.

Guests take home a little bag of confetti for good luck.  These are not what you throw at the bride and groom.  They are sugared roasted almonds, sometimes with a chocolate filling.  Traditionally there are 5 almonds that represent health, wealth, happiness, fertility and long life. Bomboniere are also handed out at the end of the night.  These are a small gift from the bride and groom to thank the guests for celebrating their special day with them.

I hope you enjoyed this peak at a wedding in Puglia!  Auguri Federica e Antonio! Ciao, Cristina

In my Kitchen in Puglia, 2022

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I recently returned from a long trip to Italia, after an unplanned 3 year ‘pandemic break’. We missed our little casa in Orsara di Puglia.  Once we cleaned up a bit, there was a lot of activity in the kitchen. Cucina povera, literally ‘food of the poor’, is what you mostly find in Puglia.  Simple foods made with fresh local ingredients. Here are just a few of the things my family and I were up to in our tiny but functional summer kitchen in Orsara di Puglia.

Starting with the space itself, the whole casa is 40m² (about 450 square feet) including a bedroom and bathroom.  That is about the size of a double garage.  The room with the cucina is also the living room, guest room (aka my room) and art studio. The highlight of the room is the amazing barrel vaulted stone ceiling, which is hard to fit in a photo.

We had a lot of visitors who came bearing gifts.  My favourite gift was the anguria -the huge watermelon on the counter.  It was grown by a friend and was delicious!  He also grew the cipolle.

Melanzane (eggplant, or aubergine for the Brits) and zucchine are plentiful in summer.  We made Parmigiana di melanzane e zucchine.  It was soooo yummy, but we only made it once as cooking it was painful.  It was too hot to have the oven on! Now this is my idea of a bouquet of flowers! Fiori di zucca are one of my favourite summer foods. I stuffed them with caciocavallo and basilico, then battered and fried them.  It was too hot to bake them in the oven.  They were eaten before I could take a photo.  Luckily they are easy to find here. I grow fiori di zucca in my garden in Vancouver, because they are impossible to find. Recipes and harvesting tips can be found in the post Fiori di zucca

Fichi-figs-were everywhere.  Green, purple, small, big…even ginormous like this one in my hand.More fichi!basket of figsLast time I was here, I bought a spianatoia, although I only knew what is was called in dialetto.  It is a pasta rolling board with a lip on one end so it stays put on the table.  This one also has a handy carrying handle. I was only able to use it once in 2019, so I wanted to get some use out of it. I made ravioli di ricotta e spinaci a few times and filled the freezer.  I make them often in Vancouver, and they are good-but the goat milk ricotta here is so incredibly good that they taste better.

I did not get a chance to make my own orecchiette as I was too busy socializing, but we did eat them often.  I need to practice my technique!

Orecchiette con sugo

The cheese products in Puglia and Campania are drool-worthy!  Orsara has its own DOP cheese called cacioricotta, made with goat milk, but it never stays around long enough to be photographed!  Wednesday is mozzarella di bufala day. These melt in your mouth ones are from Masseria Li Gatti near Torremaggiore, SanSevero (FG).  

June is amarena season.  Amarene are sour wild cherries.  The word amaro means sour or bitter.  Everyone is busy picking them, making jam, canning them and making crostate.  I went amarena picking in my cousin’s olive grove.  Aren’t they gorgeous?Amarena cherries on the tree

Friends and relatives gave us amarene in syrup.  The absolute best place to use it is on top of gelato! I ate a lot of polpo or polipo on this trip.  They both mean Octopus and it is one of my favourite foods.  I will have to publish a post with all of my polpo photos.  This one of Mamma washing polpo in the kitchen sink was popular on instagram.washing octopusThis is the insalata di polpo that she made.  No leftovers.  Sorry, not sorry!Octopus salad

Cooking fish needs to be coordinated with umido day which is 3 times a week, otherwise the entire house will be puzzolente -stinky. Orsara now does la raccolta differenziata for garbage and recycling and it is extremely efficient!  Roma, are you listening?  The town has never looked so clean.  I will have to write a post about this.  Here is a sunny photo of l’umido pickup day.  This is not the kitchen, but these stairs do lead to it!

We went to a post-wedding meal in Alberona and stopped off at the caciocavallo store on the way home.  It was actually a farm and it was super-puzzolente!

Fresh caciocavallo needs to hang to dry.  The kitchen stone ceiling has a catnill’.  This is a metal ring like the ones outside that were used to tie up your donkey.  We couldn’t reach it to hang the caciocavallo, plus they tend to ‘sweat’ and leak a small amount of fluid until they dry.  Yuck.  who wants caciocavallo sweat to fall on their head?  It was hung from the fridge, next to the piattaia full of Pugliese plates.

I will leave you with one last photo of the cute little Ichnusa Sardinian beer bottle I brought home from camping in Mattinata.  I hope this post has made you either hungry and drooling or wishing you could visit Puglia yourself.  Maybe it has done both? Perché no?  I am already planning my next visit!  Buon appetito e buon viaggio, Cristina
Thanks Sherry from Australia for hosting the monthly food blogging event, In My Kitchen (IMK). Click the link to Sherry’s Pickings to read about other world kitchens. Buon appetito, Cristina

Beat the heat: Surviving Summer in Roma

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Visiting Roma this summer? Summer in Roma can be hot, humid, sticky and crowded.  The temperature is usually >30° C (85°F) and the humidity can make it feel even hotter. I often hear people say ‘the worst time to go to Roma/Italy is in the summer-it’s too hot!’  Well…anytime is a good time to go.  Whatever time works for you.  You will just have a different experience depending on the season.  Teachers, students, school employees and families with bambini in school can only travel in summer, so advising them to visit at another time is not helpful.

For those of us that go to visit family, especially in smaller villages, August is often the best time to be there.  In my small mountain village in Puglia there are feste and concerts, my friends and relatives have time off work, and those who have moved away for work come back to visit. This is why I go in summer.

Roma will have a decreased amount of Romans for the 2 weeks around Ferragosto Aug 15th. Many Romans head to ‘la spiaggia’ so it will be less crowded with fewer cars on the road.  Office and public workers are off or have decreased working hours. A lot of smaller businesses are closed as well. Do not worry, there will be more than enough restaurants open that nobody will starve. August 15th is a national holiday, so definitely avoid travel on that particular day. Public transportation will be reduced and nearly everything will be closed. Museums and cultural sites will be open. July is actually more crowded than August. For more info on this, read the post Chiuso per Ferie.

I visit Roma for a few days every summer at the beginning or end of my trip to Puglia and consider myself quite the expert on managing the intense heat and crowds. Here are my tips for surviving summer in Roma:

1-Schedule the day like an Italian!  Quando a Roma, fai come i Romani/ When in Roma…..

A- Mattina/Morning Wake up early and do your stuff in the morning. Visit ‘non shady’ sites in the morning, as they will be too hot to do in the afternoon. These include the Colosseo, Foro Romano, Piazza Navona and Passeggiata all’Aventino.

B Pomeriggio/afternoon During the hottest part of the day-1-5 pm, participate in the riposo or ‘pausa pranzo’.  (**Note that this is not known as siesta in Italian) This is a ‘rest period’ and many places are closed. This is not always the case in the larger cities or touristy areas, but it makes sense to follow when it is hot.  Have pranzo-the main meal, at 1pm, enjoying the interior of a cool restaurant, then if your lodgings are close by, have a rest, take a nap or check email. Keep it dark with closed shutters/curtains while staying indoors, and also while you are out, so it stays cool.

If it is not feasible or you do not want to participate in the ‘pausa pranzo’  visit cool places during this time. For example:

1-Visit churches! Roma has >900 churches- they are dark, cool, free and may even have seats.  Some, like San Luigi dei Francesi and Sant’Agostino even have their own Caravaggio works for you to drool over. For the full walking tour, go to  Caffè con Caravaggio a RomaSanta Maria Sopra Minerva, the Pantheon and Santa Prassede are 3 other favourites of mine.  Smaller churches may be closed during pausa pranzo, but many are open. Sometimes you even find things by happy accident. I once stepped into Santa Brigida, a very traditional Scandinavian church in Piazza Farnese for a 3 pm Mass which included otherworldly sounding chanting and singing by cloistered nuns.

***Important Note about churches – Churches are primarily places of worship, so please be respectful.  Dress appropriately, speak quietly-if the artwork does not render you speechless. Avoid Mass times, especially on Sundays.  It may not be possible to visit unless you are attending Mass. There is no charge to visit most churches, but I always like to light a candle when I visit (€.50-€1).

2 –Visit museums Most are air conditioned and open until 1900 (7pm). My favourites are Centrale Montemartini and Palazzo Massimo alle Terme which is downright cold-especially the top  floor where the fresco villas are.

Both of these museums are never crowded, even in high season. Galleria Borghese requires a reservation and you can only stay 2 hours.  If you time the visit right, go to Villa Borghese afterwards and find shade under a tree.

Smaller museums might not have air conditioning.  **A note on AC.  Electricity is expensive in Europe.  The AC is cool, but not cold like it usually is in North America. Read my amusing post Aria Pericolosa for more on this topic!

3- Go underground and visit the Catacombs of Domitilla, 12 km of cool underground tunnels from the 2nd to the 5th Century or the Basilica San Clemente which has 3 layers of churches, ending in a Mithrean temple.

C Sera/evening Get back out in the early evening, then stay out late enjoying the fresh air and longer days. Go for aperitivo! Pop up restaurants, wine bars and stands line the Tevere in summer near Ponte Sisto and Isola Tiberina.

Villa Celimontana holds an outdoor evening jazz festival from June-August. This is also a great time for a passeggiata in Piazza Navona or Trastevere.  There is a  Colosseo night tour as well as tour of the underground and the Forum. These can be booked online.  Roma also has several roof bars including the Terrazza Borromeo, Hotel Pantheon and Hotel Minerva.

More hot weather advice:

2 Keep hydrated Bring a water bottle and drink from from the >2000 cast iron nasoni or ‘big noses’.  These are running water fountains all over the city with SPQR stamped on the front.  This one is in front of the Pantheon.

Nasoni were installed in 1874 to make cold drinking water from acqueducts free and accessible to all. Place your hand under the main flow and drink from the gush out the top. My favourite place to drink is La Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna. The water is absolutely freddissima!

3 Granita e gelato! Gelato will keep you cool. As if an excuse for more gelato is ever needed! I find the fruit flavors most refreshing, especially limone and pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit).  You must try a granita di caffè at Tazza d’oro near the Pantheon. Also refreshing are caffé Shakerato, affogato and Grattachecca. It is hard to find bad gelato. There is Gelato del Teatro, Grom and Fatamorgana has 9 locations. My favourite is Danielgelo, a small family run gelateria near where I stay in the San Paolo area.

Granita di caffe

4 Dress appropriately Wear a hat! Use sunscreen and dress lightly in layered breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton. Bring a light shawl or coverup if planning to visit churches, especially the Vatican. Walk on the shady side of the street, if possible. Buy a souvenir folding Roma fan.  They are available at all the souvenir stands for 2-3 Euro.

Should you avoid going to Italia in August? Absolutely not! If that is when you are able to go-then do it! Hopefully my tips will help. Be sure to click on the post links. Also remember the positive things about summer in Italia-the long days and wonderfully cool evenings, sky so blue it does not look real, the cast shadows of the mid afternoon sun and the seasonal summer food 😋.

Buon viaggio, Cristina

Ottavo Bloghiversario

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cupcake and candleAuguri a me! Today is another bloghiversario– blog anniversary.  It is hard to believe it has already been 8 years since starting Un po’ di pepe.  Where did the time go?  It feels like just yesterday I had trouble coming up with a blog name. This has been an amazing, rewarding experience and I have ‘met’ so many virtual friends and even reconnected with old ones.

in numerology, the number 8 is associated with compassion, freedom and self-reliance.  A 8 on its side is an infinity sign, symbolizing the constant flow of energy and power. We can all use more of these things in our lives!

Last year I only wrote 13 blog posts.  Halfway through the pandemic, I kind of lost my energy.  Luckily I have plans coming up, so potential inspiration is in the works.  Last week, I went to Ottawa for a meeting-my first time on a plane since Aug 2019! Air Canada was strict with mask wearing on the plane, which was a relief!   In 6 weeks, I am finally heading back to Italia and am excited to be attending a family wedding at Santa Maria di Siponto. Viva gli sposi!

In late September, I will finally be going to Torino for the AICW (Association of Italian Canadian Writers) Conference. It has been rescheduled 3 times due to the pandemic.  I have been waiting a long time to try Bicerin!  Venezia for the Biennale is also on my schedule. My last visit to Venezia was in 1994!  Plenty of inspiration and material for future blog posts!While in Puglia, I plan to drink lots of vino.  Have you read my 3 part series on Vini di Puglia?  Here are the links;  Vini di Puglia, Part 2 Aglianico to Zibibbo, and part 3 Il Tuccanese.  Here is a link to my first post Perché questo blog?/Why write a blog?

April 25 is also La Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945.  Viva la libertà. Since it is relevant to what is happening in the world today, I would like to share this 1955ish quote by Piero Calamandrei, an author and protagonist of the Resistenza:

‘La liberta è come l’aria.  Ci si accorge di quanto vale quando inizia a mancare. /Freedom is like air.  We only realize how much it is worth when it is lacking’


Grazie
to all of you for taking the time to read, comment, send messages and especially for giving me an excuse to research and write about things that interest me!  If you have any suggestions for future posts or just want to say ‘ciao‘, leave me a comment.

Grazie mille a tutti i lettori di ‘Un po’ di pepe’ per leggere e darmi una scusa per scrivere di cose che mi piacciono.  Lasciami un messaggio se hai un idea per un post o semplicemente per dire ‘ciao’.  Un abbraccio, Cristina

2 years of Covid-19

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As we slowly emerge from our cocoons and restrictions, it is hard to believe 2 years has passed since COVID-19 started a planetary health crisis that took over our lives.  2 years ago today, I wrote my first covid related post.  While at my local coffee shop, I overheard too many conversations discussing the cancellation of sports games being ‘drastic and fear-mongering, since more people die of the seasonal flu’ and ‘only sick people over 80 are dying’. As a health care professional, I felt I needed to publish the facts.

Personal Protective Equipment

At that time, no one could have imagined we would still be here 2 years later-even though the Spanish flu lasted at least as long.  At times, it seemed things were improving, then another crisis would strike and we took a step backwards.  There was little time for recovery.

Covid-19 has affected life for everyone.  The loss of life, paralysis of the world economy, and mental health effects of this pandemic have been devastating. The stress, isolation and anxiety of quarantine, the fear, confusion, uncertainty and frustration with constantly changing recommendations and regulations have taken their toll and it will take time to recover.

Along this covid journey, differing opinions have also caused stress.  It is good to see Facebook is no longer full of self-professed medical experts.  Now they have become combat strategy experts.  In North America, there have been protests for ‘freedom’ and infringement of rights.  My colleagues and I risked our own health to administer covid vaccines, so I have absolutely no tolerance for covidiots.  If I was in charge, they would all be given a one-way ticket to the Ukraine to witness firsthand what REALLY losing your rights and freedoms looks like.  It is reported that 6 million people lost their lives to Covid-19, although the real number is probably higher. To put it in a grim perspective, this is the same number lost during the Holocaust.  Yet there are still conspiracy theorists who believe this is fake news.

Where I live, masks are no longer required, although in some places they are recommended.  Next month, we will no longer require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and public events.  90% of the population is vaccinated, and enough people have had mild cases to build up immunity.  Are we mentally ready to return to normal, or to get used to a ‘new normal’ though?

Everyone will come out of restrictions on their own time.  We are all facing challenges that may not be visible.  Do not assume to know what others are going through. For some, wearing masks, avoiding crowds and other precautions will be a safety net to cling to for a while longer.  Extra helpings of patience and kindness will be required.

There are not many positive things to come out of a global pandemic.  Even so, I have felt humbled by the outpouring of kindness, humanity, cooperation and creativity that has come out of this terrible situation to emphasize the resilience of the human spirit.  This has also been a time for many of us to reflect on what is important. This will be my final Covid-19 related post.  Continue to be patient and kind, hug your loved ones, have that extra sfogliatella, and stay safe.  Ciao, Cristina

5 masks hanging on a clothesline

Giornata della Donna~Mariya Prymachenko

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Auguri per la Festa della Donna! Today is la Giornata Internazionale della Donna or International Women’s Day-originally known as International Working Women’s Day. There is no one specific organization or event behind International Women’s Day, but it is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day to recognize the achievements of women and a call to action towards gender equality.  More about la festa della donna is in this post.

On International Women’s Day, I like to write about the accomplishments of outstanding women. This year, I have appropriately chosen to share Mariya Prymachenko (1909-1997) with you.  Mariya was a Ukrainian folk art painter and embroidery artist from a peasant family in the village of Bolotnya, about 30km away from Chernobyl.  A self-taught artist, Mariya only went to school for 4 years, then developed polio.  She had several surgeries in Kyiv so that she could stand on her own.  There she also met her partner Vasyl in who was killed in WW2 before they had a chance to marry.  Their son Fedir and his 2 sons Petro and Ivan Prymachenko were/are also artists.

650 of Mariya’s works are in the collection of the National Folk and Decorative Arts Museum in Kyiv.  Mariya’s primitive or ‘naive’ style paintings are bold, colourful and expressive, inspired by Ukrainian folk traditions, the natural environment, and fairy-tales. Pablo Picasso said of her ‘I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian‘-and I do not think he was generous with his compliments!

My first exposure to the 2 paintings pictured here ‘A dove has spread her wings and asks for peace'(1982) and ‘Our army, our protectors'(1972) was on Zöe’s post. In light of the unprovoked aggression on the Ukraine from Russia, I found the imagery and the titles of these paintings extremely moving.

Last week the Ivankiv Historical and Local Museum housing 25 of Mariya’s works was burned in the Russian aggression.  It was thought that the works were lost, but according to her grand-daughter Anastasia Prymachenko, local residents ran in and were able to save 10 of Mariya’s paintings. Hopefully the injustice and aggression taking place in the Ukraine will soon come to an end.

Ciao, Cristina