L’ultimo Caravaggio

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Martirio di Sant'Orsola Caravaggio's last painting410 years ago today, Caravaggio died in a tavern in Porto Ercole. This is about his last painting and the time I went to see the WRONG Caravaggio. I rarely use the words wrong and Caravaggio in the same sentence, but in this case it works.

A few years ago, I had an extremely Caravaggio’d out day in Roma.  After my visit to Galleria Borghese, I stopped in to see more Caravaggio works at Santa Maria del Popolo, then met a friend at Sant’Agostino to see the Madonna dei Pellegrini. Whew!  I ended up in a Caravaggio Coma and had the best day ever!

When my friend Romano heard I was going to Sant’Agostino, he immediately offered to meet me there.  I remember thinking this was odd, since I knew he had a full day.  As soon as we approached the painting, and he said ‘Questo è il collo più sensuale nella storia dell’arte /This is the most sensuous neck in the history of art’, I realized he was a fellow Caravaggio nerd.  This was, in fact his favourite painting.  Afterwards, we went to have caffè freddo and talked about Caravaggio for an hour!

Romano had recently been to Napoli and told me about a Caravaggio painting in a former church owned by a bank.  The bank bought the building and it came with the Caravaggio!  Whaaaaat!  I knew I had to see this Caravaggio if I was ever in Napoli.  The name or subject of the painting, and the name of the palazzo was not part of our discussion.

I usually fly home from Napoli, arriving in time to have caffè marocchino and a sflogliatella at the airport, then off I go.  2 days before my departure, I decided to arrive a day early, and spend 24 hours in Napoli.

One of the 4 things on my list to see that day was the painting Romano spoke about. I quickly googled ‘Caravaggio, Napoli, decomissioned church, bank’ and all results came to the painting ‘Sette Opere di Misericordia’/Seven Acts of Mercy’ located in Pio Monte della Misericordia.  All 4 of my ‘must see’ places were walking distance from Piazza Dante, and I booked a B&B appropriately called ‘Il Paradiso di Dante’.

Caravaggio Sette opere di misericordia Pio Monte della misericordiaI had heard of ‘Sette Opere di Misericordia’ but was not familiar with the location, where it has been hanging for over 400 years.  Pio Monte della Misericordia seemed to be a functioning church, so I suspected that something was off. I was not too concerned because it was earthshatteringly amazing, as you can tell by my happy photo.  I visited the 3 other places, ate lots of sfogliatelle and had an amazing day.  Read all about it in the post Un giorno a Napoli.

Returning to the B&B-and access to wifi- that evening, I looked it up again.  As I suspected, Pio Monte della Misericordia is a functioning church with an incredible history.  It turns out I went to see the WRONG Caravaggio!  If only all of my mistakes were this amazing!Pio Monte della MisericordiaThere are 3 Caravaggio works in Napoli.  The one Romano saw was Il Martirio di Sant’Orsola /The Martyrdom of St Orsola, Caravaggio’s last painting before his death, and only recently re attributed to him.  He may have even referred to it as ‘l’ultimo Caravaggio’, which would have been a helpful clue, but I did not remember that detail.Martirio di Sant'Orsola by Caravaggio in Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano

Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano was converted to a bank from 1898-1920 and now houses the Banca Intesa San Paolo Collection.  It was not far out of my way back to Piazza Dante, so I could have made it there if I had realized my mistake earlier.  Mannaggia!

The painting was commissioned by Marcantonio Doria, a young banker and collector from Genoa.  His stepdaughter was about to enter a religious order and take the name Suor Orsola (Sister Orsola).  Lanfranco Massa, the art agent in Napoli wrote to Doria on May 11, 1610 that the painting was finished but not yet completely dry, so he had put it out in the sun (bad idea!) and the varnish had gone a bit soft.  Massa also encouraged Doria to commission more Caravaggio works, as patrons were fighting over him and this was a good opportunity.

Caravaggio arrived in Napoli for the second time in October 1609.  Within days, his violent past caught up to him and he was brutally attacked by 4 armed men.  There were rumours he had been disfigured or killed.  His recovery was long, and he produced only 3 paintings during this time.  Sant’Orsola arrived in Genoa June 18, 1610.  Soon afterwards, Caravaggio set sail for Roma to finally receive a pardon for his murder conviction from Pope Paul V.  He died enroute in Porto Ercole on July 18th 1610 from a staph infection caused by the attack.Book cover L'ultimo Caravaggio, Martirio di Sant'Orsola

The subject of the painting, Orsola, and her 11 companions were captured by the Huns on the way back from a pilgrimage to Roma.  The companions were killed, but Attila the Hun was impressed by Orsola’s modesty and beauty.  She refused to marry him and he shot her with an arrow.  The painting captures the moment of action when the arrow strikes her. She is deathly pale as she looks down at the entry wound with a surprised expression, as if to say ‘Oh my….look…there is an arrow sticking out of my chest’.  The painting is looser and more impressionistic than usual, as if it was painted in a rush.  It is very dark, less chiaro, more scuro and does not have the divine light present in most Caravaggio works.  He was going through a difficult time, which is reflected in the darkness and mood of the painting.  One of the shocked bystanders behind Orsola is Caravaggio in his last selfie.

Caravaggio-Martirio-Sant-Orsola-2

The Doria estate eventually ended up in Napoli, bringing Sant’Orsola back home. In 1854, it was listed in the inventory of Giovanni Doria’s inheritance along with Palazzo Doria D’Angri. Caravaggio only signed one of his works. The Doria family owned this painting for 300 years-so long that over time the artist was forgotten. Oops!  Caravaggio’s influence and style defined painting in Napoli for several centuries.  During a 1963 exhibit in Napoli called ‘Caravaggio e Caravaggeschi’, Sant’Orsola was attributed to Mattia Preti (1613-1699), although several art historians believed it to be  Caravaggio’s work.  In 1973 Baronessa Avezzano sold it to Banca Intesa.

In 1980, in the Doria family archives, art historian Vincenzo Pacelli (1939-2014) found the letter from the agent which I mentioned earlier, confirming that Sant’Orsola was painted by Caravaggio. Finalmente!Martirio di Sant'Orsola Caravaggio's last painting

Palazzo Zavallos Stigliano is on Via Toledo 185, Napoli, not far from the Toledo Metro station.  Admission is €5. It is closed Mondays.  Hours Tu-F 10-18, Sat/Sun 10-20

Links: For more about the life and death of the Baroque Bad Boy – Caravaggio.

To recreate my Caravaggio coma day in Roma –Caffè con Caravaggio a Roma

I hope you found my convoluted story molto interessante!

Ciao, Cristina

Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci

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Ravioli di ricotta e spinaciStuffed pasta is more of a special occasion dish than an ‘everyday’ pasta, and really fun to make by hand. I especially like large ravioli, as they look like little gift packages-and everyone loves presents!

Making ravioli is more efficient and fun as a team effort.  I recently spent a morning with my nipotina Francesca making ravioli with a creamy ricotta and spinach filling. Since I needed to measure out the recipe for her, I decided to share it in a post.Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

Pasta naming can be confusing, and there are also regional differences.  Ravioli are usually square, but can also be round or mezzalune –half moons.  They are usually made with a filling between 2 thin pasta sheets, sealed and cut.  Large ravioli are sometimes called agnolotti- a sub category of ravioli where pasta sheets are folded over a filling, sealed and cut.  One example is agnolotti del plin.  As you see in the photos, some of our ravioli were made folded over, and some not, so we just call them all ravioli.ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

To make the pasta:

Fresh egg pasta is generally made with 1 egg to every 100g flour.  I use finer OO (doppio zero) flour as it makes a more elastic dough which is more likely to stay al dente. All purpose flour can be used as well, or a combination of the 2.

Depending on the size of the eggs, an extra yolk may need to be added, or a bit less flour.  The dough should not be too dry, or the ravioli will not seal properly and will open while cooking.

I usually use 5 eggs and 500g 00 flour, which will use up all of the filling. This makes about 75-80 ravioli 5cm (2 inch) square.

Tip the flour onto a wooden board.  Make a wide hole in the center of the flour and add the eggs.  Move a few tablespoons of the flour off to the side in case it is not needed.  This prevents needing to add water because the pasta is too dry!Pasta all uovo

Beat the eggs with a fork and slowly start to mix in some flour.  Keep adding flour from the inner edge of the wall.  When the egg mixture is no longer runny, start kneading by hand.

Knead for 10 min using the whole hand.  Keep folding and turning until the dough is shiny and elastic.  Shape into a ball.  Cover with an overturned bowl and let the dough sit for 30-60 min.  This lets the gluten relax, and the dough will be more elastic and workable.

A stand mixer or food processor can be used to make the dough, but it does not come out as nice, plus I find it more work to wash the appliances than to mix it myself.

To make the filling:

The filling can be made the night before, or while the pasta is ‘relaxing’. I do not really measure the ingredients.  Use less ricotta and more spinach if you like.  I often make them without any spinach.  These are the approximate amounts:

500-600 g (~2 cups) ricotta, drained

80-100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (¾ -1 cup)

2 egg yolks

500g fresh spinach, cooked, drained and chopped finely, or 200g frozen spinach, thawed and drained

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper qb*

The ricotta I use comes in its own little draining basket.  The basket can sit in a colander over a bowl to drain for a few hours.  To make your own ricotta, check out the post Ricotta fatta in casa.  Make sure to squeeze out all of the water from the spinach as well. Extra moisture will produce soggy ravioli.  Yuck!  Mix all ingredients with a fork.  Cover and store in the fridge until the ravioli are ready to fill.

To make the ravioli:

Cut off one piece of dough at a time (~1/8th of the total) and leave the rest under the bowl so it does not dry out.  Lightly flatten the dough with fingers and run it through the pasta machine twice on the widest setting.  Gradually run the dough through at thinner settings, until the second thinnest setting.

Since ravioli is double layered, the pasta should be as thin as possible.  The green spinach should be visible through the pasta!Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

The dough can also be rolled out by hand, but it takes real talent and years of practice to roll out a sfoglia thin enough for ravioli!

Work with only 1 piece of dough at a time-or the pasta will dry out and not stick together.  Try not to add any extra flour to the dough or the board when making stuffed pasta as this will also prevent sticking.Ravioli mold RaviolampRaviolamp ravioli mold

I have a ravioli mold called a Raviolamp, and a round ravioli cutter, but I also like to make them ‘freeform’.  We made a combination of all 3 so that Francesca could try them all!  They do not have to all look the same-but try to make them all the same size so they take the same time to cook.Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

Using 2 teaspoons, drop 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on the pasta sheet 2 fingers apart.  Either use 2 sheets, 1 for the top and 1 for the bottom, or 1 long sheet and fold it over.  Press in between the filling with the heel of hand, making sure to remove any air. The filling can be piped out of a pastry bag if you want to get fancy.Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

Cut the squares with a fluted pastry wheel or ravioli cutter.  The Raviolamp makes 12 ravioli stuck together, then they can be cut apart with the pastry wheel.Ravioli mold RaviolampI use the leftover dough to make a few ‘freeform’ ravioli rather than putting it through the pasta machine again.  Use the leftover bits as soon as possible so they do not dry out. The finished ravioli can go on a floured tea towel on a cookie sheet until they are ready to cook or be frozen. Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water.  If cooking frozen ravioli, do not defrost.  Drop them into the boiling water directly from the freezer.  Cook for ~4 minutes, or 1 minute after they float to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon.Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

These ravioli should be served with simple sauces.  While they are cooking heat up olive oil with some garlic and fresh sage.  They are also delicious with a simple tomato sauce. For either sauce, top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and bite into them!Ravioli di ricotta e spinaci

Buon appetito, Cristina & Francesca

*qb=quanto basto meaning however much is needed.  This is what you commonly see in recipes written in Italian

Lucca

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Lucca Torre GuinigiLucca is one of my favourite smaller cities in Italia.  While writing my last post, I realized that I have not yet dedicated a whole post to Lucca!   Founded by the Etruscans as Luk, meaning marsh, Lucca became a Roman colony in 180 BC.  In the 12th-13th centuries, the silk trade and banking were responsible for economic development and population increase.  Lucca was an independent republic for 500 years, until Italian unification. Today the population is 88,000 and Lucca has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006.Porta Santa Maria Lucca

Lucca does not have 1 or 2 monumental sites-the city itself is the attraction!  Lucca is best known for the well preserved, intact Renaissance walls encircling it.  The complex defense network is still mostly intact, 12 m high and 30 m wide, with 6 porte – entrance gates and 10 ramparts.  The only thing missing is the moat, which was filled in the 1800’s.Lucca medieval walls

On top of the walls is Via delle Mura Urbane, a wide 4.2 km tree lined pathway that is popular for walking, cycling and running.  When entering Lucca, the 16th C walls from can be seen from below. Bike rentals are available near most of the entry gates.Lucca

Lucca has a real ‘lived in’ feel to it.  Walking through one of the gate tunnels is like stepping back in time.  Lucca is flat, with a random street layout.  Most of the centro storico is pedestrian only and full of biciclette to photograph.  Lucca bicicletta rossaThe streets are narrow and flanked by tall, narrow buildings.  The many towers and other landmarks are often not visible from below, so it is easy and fun to get lost among the historic architecture and cobblestone streets.Lucca

The main street, Via Fillungo has beautiful storefronts and buildings.  It connects Piazza Anfiteatro and Piazza San Michele.  Piazza Anfiteatro’s oval shape is the ‘ghost’ of the 10,000 seat Roman amphitheater that once stood there.  Entrance to the piazza is through brick tunnels.The stones were looted to build other structures, but the tall buildings in shades of yellow and cream with green shutters were built following the shape of the former amphitheater.Piazza AnfiteatroPiazza Anfiteatro Lucca

As in San Gimignano, defense towers were a status symbol for Lucca’s wealthy families in the 1300’s. Lucca’s skyline has several towers, the most famous being the 45 m Romanesque Gothic red brick Torre Guinigi.  Built in 1384 by the Guinigi family of silk merchants, the tower is 45 m tall with 7 Holm Oak trees growing on top, symbolizing rebirth.  Torre Guinigi, LuccaThe rooftop was originally used for dining, with the kitchen on the floor below.  Imagine carrying dishes the 232 steps to the top!  Admission is €5 single/ €8 family. A 2 day combination ticket can also be purchased that includes Torre delle Ore and Orto BotanicoView from the top of Torre Guinigi Lucca

At 50m Torre delle Ore is the tallest tower in Lucca.  It started as a personal defensive tower, and when defense was no longer needed, it was turned into a clock in 1390.  The present clock mechanism is from the 1700’s.  It even has its own resident ghost legend-in 1623, a Lucchese woman who had sold her soul to the devil ran up to the top to try to stop time, but she didn’t make it.  Climb the top to see rooftop Lucca and the best views of Torre Guinigi. In the photo below you can see Torre delle Ore and the campanile of San Martino.View from Torre Guinigi

Lucca has over 70 churches.  The Gothic/Pisan Romanesque church of San Martino was started in 1070.  It has a mismatched 14th C campanile-the top is white like the church, but the lower half is red quartz stone.  The church façade has 3 levels of open arches and each of the 37 columns are different.  There was a contest for the design of the columns and each artist submitted one.  Instead of awarding a winner, all of the columns were used without paying the artists.  Che furbi!  San Martino is home to the famous relic, a cedar crucifix known as  il Volto Santo di Lucca (the holy face) and works of art by Jacopo della Quercia, Ghirlandaio and Tintoretto.

Like much of Lucca, the church of San Michele in Foro was built on a much earlier structure.  Piazza San Michele was formerly the Roman Forum.  The façade has 4 rows of ornate arches and columns, similar to San Martino.  I do not think artists contributed these columns for free! San Michele has works by Tuscan superstars Luca della Robbia and Filippino Lippi.San Michele in Foro, Lucca

The oldest church in Lucca, 6th C San Frediano has a beautiful golden  mosaic façade.  Lucca San Frediano

Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, and the house where he was born is now Museo Puccini.  Admission is €7. If you are in Lucca in the evening, it is common to hear music coming from churches, piazze and the opera house Teatro del Giglio.Lucca San Giusto

Lucca is beautiful to visit any time of the year……except for the first week of November!  Unless you are attending, avoid visiting during Lucca Comics and Games.  Lucca is NW of Firenze, closer to Pisa.  The train station is right across the street from Porta San Pietro, one of the entry gates, making Lucca an easy day trip -90min from Firenze and 30 min from Pisa.  Lucca really deserves a few days of its own though, and also makes a great base to see the rest of Toscana.Lucca, bicicletta

The photos in this post were taken on 4 separate visits over a 15 year period, which explains the dramatic weather fluctuations!

Lucca is also mentioned in the posts Viaggio con Isabella and Autunno in Italia

Photos of San Martino and San Frediano from wikimedia commons.

Buon viaggio, Cristina

Viaggio con Isabella

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Duomo Selfie FirenzeOne year ago I was just returning from Italia with my nipotina Isabella. Since we are not able to travel in real life, viaggiamo in pultrona, let’s armchair travel and revisit our trip.

A bit of backstory…when Isabella was about 8 years old, she saw a photo of me on the Ponte Vecchio and asked ‘Zia, where is this?’.  I replied ‘Firenze’ and she asked if we could go there together one day.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to share my love of Firenze with her, so of course I said ‘Si! We can go when you graduate’.  We were delayed a few years due to scheduling issues, but last year in between Isabella finishing her university classes and starting a summer job, we managed to squeeze in a 2 week trip!Ponte Vecchio Firenze

We flew to Firenze, where we rented a studio apartment in the Oltrarno for a week.  It was in a renovated stone tower a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio and down a narrow alley from Piazza della Passera.Peppe Zullo, Mercato Centrale

Chef Peppe Zullo, our amico from Orsara, was in town our first day.  We met him at the Mercato Centrale where he and his son Michele had recently taken over a restaurant upstairs called Tosca.

Galleria degli UffiziWe had prebooked only 1 museum-the Uffizi of course, for the Saturday so that Gaetano, our cugino in med school could join us.  New Caravaggio rooms have opened since my last visit!  Galleria degli UffiziI noticed many portraits of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici on display.  We have her to thank for all of this! Isabella loved the Uffizi, not just for the artwork, also the building itself, so Gaetano suggested she visit Palazzo Pitti another day.Palazzo Pitti Firenze interior

I am ‘vertically challenged’, which may be why I like to climb to the top of things, especially if there is a view involved. We climbed almost everything in Firenze, starting with a walk to Piazzale Michelangelo via Porta San Niccolò for views of the city, then continuing up to San Miniato al Monte. We climbed the dizzying narrow stairs to the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo to see the views and the Torre Giotto.  Duomo FirenzeAnother day we climbed the Torre Giotto and saw the Duomo!  These climbs were vital to working off gelato! For more photos taken from above see Viste di Firenze.

We also enjoyed the view, modern art and caffè from la terrazza degli Uffizi.  This is the title of one of my monotypes, so I had to throw that in there!  The Aperol Spritz from the roof bar of La Rinascente in Piazza della Repubblica was the best I have had.  With her new headband and puffy sleeves, Isabella looked like a Renaissance principessa enjoying a spritz!Isabella Aperol Spritz Duomo Firenze

We were on constant lookout for street art by Blub-even Gaetano when he was with us.  The results of our Blub hunt are in the post L’arte sa Nuotare.Blub street art Firenze

Isabella loves caffè.  She started ordering caffè lungo because both times she ordered un americano, they repeated ‘American coffee’ and tried to serve her drip coffee!   Mannaggia!   What has the world come to!Caffe a Firenze We had caffè at a different place every morning, including Caffè degli Artigiani in Piazza della Passera, Bar d’ Angolo in Porta Romana, one of my old favourites I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi, and one place way too close to Ponte Vecchio. They were all wonderful!  Isabella kept track of the cost of a cornetto and 2 caffè lunghi…..as expected, she found the price decreased and the quality increased the farther out we went!  Valuable life lessons!

San GimignanoWe joined 5 others on a lovely daytrip from San Gimignano to Siena with Piero of Bike Florence and Tuscany.  The weather was ominous, either sprinkling or threatening to rain all day.  Bicicletta ToscanaMonteriggioni was a stop for wine tasting and we cycled parts of the Via Francigena. In Siena we had a few hours to explore the city and have Panforte.Monteriggioni Siena

The weather was not very warm for May.  I think this is the first time I have ever packed a small umbrella, but glad I did!  We had to dress in layers, or ‘a la cipolla’ as they say in italiano.  Some evenings in Firenze, it seemed like we were wearing ALL of the clothes in our valigia! Despite this, we walked everywhere.

Here is our map –YES- a map-of where we walked.  Maps of the city centre are great for getting oriented.  It is much easier than trying to look at a GPS on a tiny phone screen.  We did not have time to take the bus to Fiesole or get to L’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or attend Mass at Santa Croce.  Isabella will definitely need to get back to Firenze.  While shopping, she did receive many compliments every day on her Italiano, even bartering down the price of a cute leather jacket!Biciclette, LuccaLucca was our next stop, 1.5 hours away by train.  Lucca is one of my favourite places in Italia!  We stayed at a small B&B near Torre Guinigi.  The owners found out we lived in Vancouver and told us about their nipote in Vancouver who is Isabella’s age.  I started to say that Vancouver was a big city…… when Isabella said ‘Uh….Zia….I actually do know him….  Che mondo piccolo!  After that, every time they saw Isabella, with no subtlety at all, they went on about what a nice boy he was!Riding the medieval walls Lucca

Lucca is known for its intact medieval walls.  We rented biciclette to ride the path on top of the walls.  The forecast was for good weather.  We had done 4 laps of the tree lined 4 km route, when unexpectedly a torrential downpour started.  It rained so hard we could barely see.Lucca medieval walls

We tried to get off the path, but visibility was so bad we could not tell which gate and ‘onramp’ we had taken to get up to the wall.  This was important because we had to return the bikes where we rented them.  Isabella wore her new jacket, and rather than get it ruined in the rain, she had folded it up inside out in a plastic bag in the cestino -the basket- leaving her in short sleeves.  Brrrr!

Piazza Anfiteatro LuccaBy the time we got to Piazza Anfiteatro to warm up and wait for the rain to stop, we looked like wet rats.  The restaurants are outdoor, so they had large heaters, and even blankets.  Piazza Anfiteatro Lucca A friend was coming from Viareggio for aperitivo later, but she had to cancel due to the weather.  Even in the rain, Lucca is spectacular. It is also a great place to shop!  I never spend enough time in Lucca.Monterosso a mare, Sentiero Azzurro

Our next stop was La Spezia via Pisa and on to Vernazza, our home base in the Cinque Terre.  I wrote about our time there in 2 posts- Le Cinque Terre and Exploring le Cinque Terre. The second post is specifically about our adventures.  The weather was beautiful, which is good, as there are no indoor activities there!  Hiking all day with a 19 year old is hard work, so luckily there was wine tasting in the evening!Milano Naviglio GrandeThe morning we left Vernazza was raining almost as much as on the walls of Lucca!  Isabella had been to Roma several times, but not to Milano, so we booked to fly home from there.  We met our cugina Federica, who we stayed with, and went to the Navigli area to have dinner with more cugini. Our visit was too short.  We spent the next day walking and window shopping around the Cento Storico and had a few ‘streetside reunions’ and phone calls with more cugini and a friend.  I have been to Milano many times but have yet to see L’Ultima Cenacola, Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  Even 2 weeks in advance, I was not able to book admission.  Another reason to return!Milano Duomo nella pioggiaWe hope you have enjoyed this piccolo viaggio virtuale with us!  Hopefully we can travel again soon.  Ciao, Cristina & IsabellaPiazza della Repubblica selfie

Street Art for International Nurses Day

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Angeli Custodi TV Boy Street Art Guardian AngelsMay 12th is International Nurses Day.  Since 1965, it has been a day to mark the contributions that nurses make to society.  May 12th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

The theme for International Nurses Day 2020 is A voice to lead:  Nursing the world to heal. A fitting theme for this (so far) sucky pandemic year.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize my fellow nurses and also doctors, first responders, lab and radiology techs, respiratory techs (Yes, especially the RT’s!), housekeeping staff, delivery drivers, mail carriers, everyone in the food distribution chain, and all other essential workers.  Sending much love and gratitude to you all!

Super Nurse street art by FAKEStreet artists have also been showing the love.  ‘Super Nurse’ is a stencil art mural by Dutch urban artist FAKE.  The artist is offering the image as a free downloadable PDF with a customizable background from his website Highonspraypaint to share with healthcare professionals, give as a gift, or put up in the workplace. Super nurse FAKE street art downloadable PDF

‘We can do it/ce la faremo‘ is Sicilian street artist TVBoy’s health care professional image released for italian labour day, May 1 as a ‘tribute to all health workers who have not spared themselves in these months and worked with courage and dedication, as always, even if we have only realized now the importance they have in our lives’.  I like to call her Rosie because she is posing like the WWII poster of Rosie the Riveter!We can do it TV Boy street art

The cover image Guardian Angels/Angeli Custodi, is also by TV Boy, aka Salvatore Benintende.  TVBoy and Banksy were also featured in the post Napoli Street Art.Banksy Game Changer Sock Monkey Super Nurse

Banksy’s newest work ‘Game Changer’ is a beautiful image.  A child ditches his makebelieve superhero action figures to play with a real one….Sock Monkey Super Nurse to the rescue!  He has donated the work to  Southhampton Hospital to be auctioned off to raise funds for health services. Banksy Sock monkey super nurse close up

Happy Nurses Day everyone!  Please share the love and kindness.

Images from the artists’ instagram accounts @iamfake, @banksy, @tvboy.

Ciao, Cristina

Cinquecento Love

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Fiat Cinquecento wedding carCinquecento Love:  My lifelong obsession with the FIAT 500 is my article/photo essay in a special print edition of Accenti Magazine.  With the COVID Pandemic, we do not know when the issue will be printed.  The article is now available online at the link posted below.

Accenti, The Canadian Magazine with an Italian Accent was launched in November 2002. Thirty-one issues were published in print. Since January 2015, Accenti is published online-only. Accenti also publishes a newsletter, which is emailed to subscribers.Fiat Cinquecento Roma

Cinquecento Love:  My lifelong obsession with the FIAT 500

‘Nothing says Italian style like a Fiat 500 (pronounced cheen·kweh·CHEN·toh). My love affair with the 500 began when I was 16. I really wanted one, but it would not fit into my suitcase. So I had to go home without one. I don’t know if I will ever own a super cute, chubby 500, but I have spent years photographing them all over Italy. Every time I see one, I just want to give it a hug!’ …….read the rest of the article at Accenti online.  You can also order a print copy of the magazine-orders outside of Canada just need to pay for shipping.

Fiat 600 Troia Puglia

I hope you all share my Cinquecento love!  Ciao, CristinaRobin's egg blue Fiat Cinquecento

La Festa della Liberazione

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Today is la Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945, and a day to honour those who served in the Italian Resistance. That makes today the 75th anniversary of liberazione.  April 25th has been an Italian national holiday since 1946- Viva la libertà!

There are usually rallies organized all over the country by ANPI (Associazione Nazionale Partigiana d’Italia).  This year the celebration is bittersweet, there not being much liberazione at the moment with everyone in isolation.

There will be balcony celebrating all over the country, including singing Bella Ciao.  This was originally a protest song of the late 19th Century, for women working in the rice fields in Northern Italia, then adapted as an antifascist song of the resistance.  Please listen to this Facebook link to a video of a beautiful version sung by a few of my talented young paesani in Orsara di Puglia! Frecce Tricolori Festa della Liberazione 25 Aprile

Le Frecce Tricolori of the Italian air force also flew the colours of the Italian flag over Roma this morning.

Today is also Un po di pepe‘s 6th bloghiversario / blog anniversary.  I usually write about the past year and what I would like to write for the next one.  This year, I would just like to share a 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.

Continue to stay safe everyone, and hang in there.  Forza! Ce la faremo!  Un abbraccio, Cristina

Corzetti

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Corzetti (cor∙ZET∙ti) are a traditional pasta of Liguria, also called croxetti (cro∙shet∙ti) or crosetti in Ligurian.  Corzetti are an embossed pasta shaped to look like gold coins.  The name comes from ‘crux’, latin for cross. They  have been around for a very long time. We know this because the Republic of Genoa had a medieval coin with a Genovese cross and there is a 1362 literary reference to pasta with crossetti served at a banquet.Stampo per corzetti

Corzetti are made with un stampo per corzetti- a corzetti stamp.  This is a 2 part device made of unfinished wood-usually pear wood.   The textured finish of the wood is functional-it transfers to the pasta and helps hold sauce, as does the embossed design. The bottom of the lower half is used to cut the circles. The top of the lower piece and the upper piece with the handle for pressing each have a carved design.Corzetti pasta con grano

Corzetti are like edible woodcut prints!  The perfect pasta for a printmaker.  This must be why I like making them so much!
If you read the posts Le Cinque Terre and Exploring le Cinque Terre, you may remember my determined quest to find a corzetti stamp.  In Corniglia, I found dried corzetti for sale, but no stamp.  I did not notice any restaurants serving them either, but I also did not look very hard.  I finally found a stamp by accident in a tiny shop in Vernazza, the town where we were staying. They were in a basket at the back, where no one could see them!

The design on my stamp is a stem of wheat, with a swirl on the other side.  It cost 11 Euro and was carved by a local fisherman.  I saw a similar one online for $72 US.  You can also custom order stamps but they can be very expensive.  It is much more fun to buy something like this where it is produced.

Noble Ligurian families had their family coat of arms engraved on the stamps.  Designs also include crosses, wheat, gigli (fleur de Lis) or the emblem of il pastaio, the pastamaker.

Circles are cut on a freshly rolled sfoglia or pasta sheet-not too thick, but thick enough to hold the embossing.  Each corzetto is pressed between the 2 parts of the stamp, embossing a design on each side.  If the pasta is rolled out too thin, the designs will transfer to the other side.Stampo per corzetti Corzetti stamp

Corzetti dough is traditionally made with eggs and white wine.  It is usually made with flour and semola rimacinata di grano duro (called semolina in North America) or chestnut flour.  Traditionally, corzetti are served with pesto or olive oil, herbs and pine nuts.  They can also be served with an herb and scallop or mushroom walnut sauce.  I have made corzetti several times now, and here is the dough combination I found works the best:

To make Corzetti:

200g (1.5 cups) 00 or All-Purpose flour

200g (1.5 cups) semola rimacinata (Semolina)

3 medium sized eggs plus 2 yolks-add an extra egg if they are small

60ml dry white wine (1/4 cup)

5ml (1 tsp) Extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of salt

Make a well with the flours on a wooden board.  Place the eggs, wine and EVOO in the center and beat with a fork, then slowly start to mix in the flour.  This dough needs to be soft and elastic to hold the embossing and you may not need all of the flour. Keep some to the side in case it is not needed. Once the mixture is less liquid, start to mix by hand.  Knead for 10 minutes.  Roll into a ball, cover and let rest for 30 min.

Use half the dough at a time, and keep the other half from drying out by covering with an upturned bowl.  Roll the dough out by hand 3mm thick.  You can use a pasta machine, but hand rolling will result in a better embossing.  Lightly flour the corzetti stamp.  Cut circles as close together as possible.  Pasta rolled out multiple times will not be consistent thickness and will dry out, and not take the embossing as well. Stand up while pressing down firmly on the top of the stamp with the palm of the hand to get the best quality embossing. This makes 60-65 corzetti.
Corzetti pasta con pesto Genovese

I like to serve corzetti with a traditional Pesto Genovese. This mushroom walnut sauce is also yummy.Corzetti con funghi e noce

Corzetti con Funghi e Noce / Corzetti with Mushrooms and Walnuts

200g porcini mushrooms or mixed mushrooms in season

1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk

2 cloves garlic

Prezzemolo (Italian parsley)

200 g (~3/4 cup) walnuts shelled

30g (2 tablespoons) pine nuts

Dry white wine

EVOO, salt

Finely chop everything except the pine nuts.

Make a soffritto-Fry the onion in olive oil, add carrot and celery, half of the garlic and the pine nuts

In another pan, fry the mushrooms (these can be finely chopped or just separate the tops and bottoms) then add the soffritto. Add wine and cook for 30 min.

Before serving, add salt, the rest of the garlic, and prezzemolo

Cook corzetti in boiling salted water for 3-4 min.  Add mushroom sauce and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Want to try making corzetti, but don’t have a stamp?  Cut circles out with a 5cm (2 inch) diameter drinking glass.  Use a cookie press for the design, or find something that can be lightly pressed to make a design in the dough-a wax seal, a ring, the crosshatch design on your meat tenderizer…..  get creative!Corzetti pasta con grano

It is hard to believe I was in Liguria 11 months ago.  Since we can not travel there-or anywhere at this time, I hope this helps you viaggiare in pultrona… armchair travel to the coast of Liguria and the Cinque Terre.  Buon viaggio and stay safe, Cristina

In my Kitchen~Quarantine edition

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Sottosopra (sot•toh•SOH•prah)…upside down.  I know I am not the only one who feels like an extra in a sci-fi movie where everything in the world is upside down. Kisses and hugs can be disease spreaders, binge watching Netflix on the couch all day is responsible adult behaviour, and NOT visiting your family is a sign of love!

Everyone copes differently with the stress of quarantine.  Some of us are madly productive, and others binge watch Netflix all day.  It does not matter what we are doing, as long as we are doing it at home-staying home and helping everyone stay safe.  If you have been hiding under a rock and this is news to you, please read these 2 posts: COVID19~Andrá tutti bene and COVID19~Insieme ce la faremo.  

I am one of those ‘essential’ workers, but I am ‘freelance’ now, and happened to not have any work booked at the hospital the last 2 weeks. I have been at home, only leaving the house to buy groceries or walk to my parents’ back porch-the socially distant designated drop off/pick up point. This week I work a few days… and am not sure what to expect!

While home, I have done yoga class via zoom almost every day, and spent a lot of time in my kitchen.  I made a kitchen ‘to do’ list -mostly things I am not often home long enough to attempt.  Making pasta by hand is calming, almost meditative, punching dough is violently therapeutic, and my freezer is now full. It is also time for another ‘In my kitchen’ blog post.  Here are some of the things I crossed off my list:Tortelloni stuffed with meat

I have made a lot of stuffed pasta, but not filled with meat.  Ricotta, spinach, mushroom, pumpkin…but not meat.  These tortellini are stuffed with a mixture of veal, prosciutto, mortadella and parmigiano.  They were delicious, so I will be making them again, although I may vary the shape.Candied orange peel

In the spirit of using absolutely everything, I candied my orange peels, using a technique based on Domenica’s and then dipped half in chocolate.  They are a small flavour explosion and a nice garnish for a cheese plate, or served on the side with espresso.  I ate a lot of oranges, so made a lot of candied peel and will see if they freeze well.

I love making bread-and the kneading part is a great stress reliever.  Making pane senza impasto —no-knead bread, was anticlimactic, but i wanted to try it.  The ingredients were just barely mixed, rose for 24 hours, then baked in my heavy cast iron pot with the lid on.  The bread was delicious, with a nice crispy crust.  Unfortunately, you can only make 1 at a time.No knead bread

Alumni of the University of British Columbia will drool at the mention of the legendary, pillowy soft, caramelly UBC Cinnamon buns. These were made for over 50 years by UBC Food Services and sold at all of the campus food outlets.  The recipe was once a huge secret but is now available. UBC Cinnamon bunsI have wanted to make them for years, but the recipe sounded really difficult and time consuming.  It was not as involved as I thought and I will definitely be making them again.  There is even some kneading involved!  They were so good, I had to try one, keep one for the next day, and immediately arrange for the rest to be picked up so I did not eat them all.  I will try freezing them unbaked next time.unbaked ubc cinnamon buns

Freezer space is at a premium right now, so the frozen raspberries from my garden had to be used to make jam. In a few months there will be new berries to pick.

The south facing kitchen is the sunniest place in the house.  A few weeks ago -whenever the full moon was, I planted my pomodori seeds by the window.  The tomato seedlings are all looking good and growing well on the covered back porch now.

Orecchiette are not the easiest pasta to make, but they are extremely low tech. No pasta machine, not even a rolling pin is needed.  Only a knife.  Making them was very meditative, but also stressful, because this was the first time I ever made them without my Mamma. As a surprise, I delivered the orecchiette to their back porch.  Orecchiette

Forza!  Hang in there everyone!  Check out the rest of the monthly ‘In My Kitchen’ blogging community posts from around the world on host Sherry’s blog here.

A special ‘Grazie!’ to grocery store employees, farmers and truck drivers who are making sure we have food!

Ciao, Cristina.  Vancouver BC, Canada

Quarantine Selfie Collage

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Running out of things to do during this crazy quarantine? Art is a great stress reliever. Try this ‘Quarantine Selfie’, an art project suitable for the whole family. This project was my 2nd ever blog post-back in 2014, and I think only 12 people read it. If the painting looks familiar, it appeared-wearing an N95 mask-a few weeks ago in the post COVID 19 Andrà tutto bene. Stay safe and make art! Ciao, Cristina

Un po' di pepe

Autoritratto, 2013 Autoritratto, 2013

Autoritratto (ow∙tow∙ree∙TRAT∙tow) means self-portrait. Who says ‘selfies’ can only be done via phone? Try this mixed-media collage project to make your own selfie at home.

You will need:
 -3 self portraits on paper, all close to the same size
 -a hard surface such as a wood panel, cradled wood panel or board
- acrylic matte medium. This is acrylic paint without the colour, and it can be used as a glue and also as a protective coating over top of your work
- bits and pieces of old artwork to collage

selfiestuff

  1. Draw or paint 3 ‘selfies’ on paper. If you are like me, you have lots of them lying around from different art classes. You can also make 3 photocopies of the same image, and colour each one differently.
  2. Crumple each selfie into a ball.
  3. Open them up again and tear into several pieces.
  4. Find your…

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