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 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

Bloghiversario & Book Review


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Caspita, il tempo vola! Non ci credo che oggi è bloghiversario numero 4 per Un po’ di pepe!  How time flies. I can’t believe it is already 4 years since publishing my first post on Un po’ di pepe.

This was another exciting blogging year.  I wish I could post more often, but until I can manage to get 27 hours out of a day, twice a month will continue to be the average. Here are some highlights of the year…

  • Blog love!  In June I met photographer Flynn at my mercato bancarella. He bought a tiny print and wrote a very nice and well-timed post on his blog about inspiration and art.
  • I was interviewed by Silvia for her blog in October.  It was amazing that someone actually wanted to interview me.  Now I actually have the ability to quote myself-as I did in my last post, and will continue to do so as often as I can! Just because I can.  Link to the bilingual post here.
  • In February, honorary Calabrese Karen of the blog and book Calabria: The Other Italy nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award.  This is a pay-it-forward, share-the-love blog vehicle.  Nominees answer a set of questions, then nominate others. I have not found the time to respond yet, but Karen did say there was no pressure, no time limit.
  • To celebrate follower#250, Mlle Cher was sent one of my ‘Espresso per Uno’ linocut prints!  Hopefully it arrived before she left NY for Pietrasanta.
  • I managed to squeeze in a spontaneous ‘extra’ trip to Italia in November to attend an art retreat and Fucacoste e Cocce Priatorje!
  • Many of you enjoyed my attempt at contemporary art criticism in La Grande Cacata.  The title says it all!
  • I joined the #DolceVitaBloggers linkup for my last post.  The group posts on a selected topic from the 7th to the 14th of every month.  I hope to participate again!
  • You may have noticed those pesky ads for things like toenail fungus removal have disappeared from the bottom of the posts!  Yipee!  I upgraded my wordpress plan.  Now I can use videos, once I learn how to load them.
  • My pronunciation guide Italiano per Ristoranti continues to be the most viewed post.  I am still planning to turn the downloadable PDF into an e-book once I figure out how to do that. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

    Bruschetta (broo.SKET.tah)

Today is also La Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945.  Viva la libertà!  Last year, I said I was going to write about Le Donne Partigiane-women who were partisans in the Italian Resistance. Well… that post is not written yet, so instead, I will include a book review of a book with una donna partigiana as the main character.

Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is written by fellow blogger Pamela Allegretto.  I loved it and here is my Goodreads/Amazon 5/5 star review:

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

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 posts or just want to say ‘ciao‘, leave me a comment.

Grazie a tutti per leggere e darmi una scusa per scrivere di cose che mi piacciono.  Lasciami un messaggio se hai un idee per un post o se vuoi dice ‘ciao’.  Un abbraccio, Cristina

A Perfect Day in Italia


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The Dolce Vita Bloggers link-up theme this month is ‘a perfect day in Italy’. What a topic!  There are so many possibilities.  I have written about many wonderfully perfect days, in Roma, Matera, Alberobello, the Val d’Orcia, Polignano a Mare….  How do I narrow down what to write about? With too much material to choose from, I decided to write about a typical day ‘at home’ in Orsara di Puglia, where most days are laid back, spontaneous and pretty darn perfetto!

My day usually starts out with a long, early morning passeggiata to la Montagna Spaccata.  I call it ‘la Palestra di Madre Natura’ or ‘mother nature’s gym’, an uphill zig-zag walk up the mountain towards Campania with fresh aria di montagna, breathtaking views and encounters with fellow walkers.  I usually walk to the border with Campania, when I reach the pale eoliche (PAH•leh Eh•oh•LEH•keh).

Pale eoliche (wind turbines) near Montaguto

I have also walked all the way to Montaguto, in Campania 6 km away . I am not a ‘morning person’, but in the summer, the walk must be early, otherwise it gets too hot to walk on the way back. Long walks are necessary when you spend weeks eating lots yummy food and still want to fit into your clothes!

When I am back from my walk, cleaned up and changed, I often stop at the bar for an espressino, known as caffè marocchino in the rest of italia.  I also sneak in a few minutes of wifi.  Sometimes I walk to Piano Paradiso and have caffè with Peppe Zullo in the morning or afternoon.  Then I usually do servizi-errands, including shopping for food. Refrigerators are small, and most people shop at least every other day for fresh local ingredients.  Fresh bread and taralli are purchased at il fornoGeneri Alimentari are delis and also carry general grocery items.  My favourite items to purchase are fresh mozzarelle and the local specialty, cacioricotta.  Once a week, mozzarelle di bufala arrive and I am first in line! Fruit and vegetables are from the fruttivendolo-unless the neighbours give you produce from their orto.  There are also travelling fruttivendoli, selling out of small trucks.

Il fruttivendolo barely fits in Via Regina Margherita!

I celebrate when fiori di zucca are available!  Another local specialty is Tuccanese, vino made from a local native grape. As in most non-touristy towns in Italia, shops close at 1pm for la pausa pranzo and reopen at 5pm, until 8pm.

Giovedi mattina-Thursday morning is the mercato in Orsara.  The street is lined with bancarelle selling everything from fresh formaggi to produce, linens, shoes and household stuff.  A great spot to run into everyone in town, including visitors. Il postino likes giovedi, as he can hand everyone their mail on their way to the mercato.

The rest of the morning is usually spent helping to prepare pranzo, the main meal of the day, at 1pm.  In the summer, my parents are also in Orsara, sometimes my sister and her family too, so there is lots of food preparation going on, using ultra fresh local ingredients.

There is no need for a watch. My casa is right near the main church and the campanile– bell tower.  La campana rings every 15 minutes.  On the hour, there is one ‘ding’ for each hour, and every 15 minutes there is a higher pitched ‘ding’.  For example, at 12:45 la campana rings 12 times, followed by 3 higher pitched rings.  Back in the day when no one had a watch, contadini working in the fields would know the time. You might think this would get annoying, but la campana was broken for a year, and it was really missed! Once the dishes are done, it is orario di riposo-quiet time, as it is too hot to do much else.  Most people do not nap every afternoon, but they at least stay home and have a riposo, a rest. A short pisolino is quite civilized if you are up very early and plan to stay out late! The afternoon rest is not called a siesta in italiano- riposo or la pausa. I often read or do clean up stuff around the house, like hang laundry to dry. There are no dryers here as electricity is ridiculously expensive and sunlight is free. I may brave the mid afternoon sun to go out and take photos. The maze of steep, windy, cobblestone streets and alleys are empty and I am alone with the light and the incredible shadows.  To quote myself…

’ la luce … la gloriosa e magnifica luce del sole di metà pomeriggio è incredibile. Vorrei dipingere quella luce! / the light….the glorious and magnificent light of the mid-afternoon sun is incredible.  I want to paint that light!’ (Cristina, October 2017).

At 5pm shops and bars reopen and the streets come to life again.  I visit friends and relatives, meet for gelato, shop, or find somewhere to sit with my sketchbook. I also love to walk to La Cupa, the olive grove that used to belong to my Nonno to pick plums, figs and pears. I usually need to stop at one of the bars to use wifi, although as I explained in Chiuso per Ferie in August, this can end up seeming quite antisocial.

Sundays, I sleep in, unless going on a daytrip.  I love to have cappuccino and a cornetto crema di pistacchio before 11:00 Mass in the ancient Grotta di San Michele Arcangelo. At least one Sunday, I look forward to a barbecue at La Cupa with my extended family.

‘un po’ di relax’ under the olive trees

After 9pm, it is time for the evening passeggiata, walking up and down ‘il Corso’ and socializing. There are pizzerie and bars with outdoor seating along il Corso. On summer evenings, there are often concerts or special events.My favourite part of the passeggiata is walking all the way to the top of the Corso, past where the houses stop, then the streetlights stop.  It is buio (BOO•yoh) -dark, you can hear grille (GREEL•leh)-crickets, and see the stars.  On clear, windless nights, lucciole (looch•CHEEOH•leh)-fireflies make the night absolutely magical. There is usually a stop for a drink at an outdoor table before ending up back at home…never before midnight though! Buonanotte, Cristina.

Click on these links to read previous posts about wonderfully perfect days spent in… Alberobello, the Isole Tremiti, Matera, Polignano a Mare, Paestum, Roma, Trani and the Val d’Orcia.

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.

Insalata Purtuall’


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Insalata di arancia e finocchio-orange and fennel salad always brings back memories of my grade 1 lunchroom. My delicious lunches included home made crusty bread stuffed with melanzane and roasted peppers, prosciutto, capicollo or cotoletto di vitello, frittata, pizza or ‘chocolate sandwiches’ made with Nutella. Papà would often make me Insalata Purtuall’, with oranges cut crosswise in rounds, fennel and black olives, drizzled with olive oil and a bit of salt.  A true flavour explosion for 6 year old me.  I did not know why everyone at school thought my lunches were so weird.  The ‘Anglo’ kids made fun of them, and even the teachers eyed my food suspiciously.  Today all of these foods are available and trendy, so who is laughing now?  Ha! I do not remember being too bothered by the teasing.  I actually felt sorry for my classmates.  Their lunches were gross, usually consisting of ‘plastic’ cheese on bright white squishy bread that was sliced like cake! Poveretti. I will have to write more about my early gastronomic experiences in another post….

A while back, Frank from Memorie di Angelina wrote about orange and fennel salad, and I commented that we called it ‘Portugal’ salad, but did not know why. I asked Papà why we called it ‘Insalata Purtuall’. Purtuall’ is dialetto for Portogallo which is Portugal in italiano. His answer surprised me. He said it was not a Portuguese salad, but purtuall’ is what the orange were called. Hmmm.  Soon after this, I was at a writers’ conference and one of the presenters displayed a map showing the word for orange across Europe in various languages. Aha! I saw that the Greek word for orange is ‘portokali’. This was getting interesting!

Arancia amara, bitter orange, was known to the Romans. Sweet oranges were only introduced to Europe and the Mediterranean in the 14th century. Portuguese ships were the first to circumnavigate Africa and brought sweet oranges back from the Far East. In many countries, oranges were named after Portugal-the country that they seemed to be coming from! In Greek oranges are portokali, in North Africa and most Middle East countries burtuqall, in Iran purtuqol, in Turkey portakal and in Hungary and Romania portokal. In most of Western Europe, the Mediterranean and Britain, the word for orange comes from ‘narangas’, Sanskrit for orange tree. For example, in italiano arancia, in spanish naranja, portuguese laranja, and of course english orange. There are a few places in Italia where the dialetto still uses the ‘portuguese’ term. In Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Abruzzo, purtuallo or portajalli, in Sicilian partualli (or aranciù), and in Piemonte portugaj. In modern Greek, bitter oranges are called ‘nerantzi’ while sweet oranges are called ‘portokali’. Who knew that the yummy salad I used to bring for lunch in elementary school reflects thousands of years of history, trade voyages and etymology between East and West!

A ‘recipe’ is not really needed for Insalata Purtuall’. Just peel a few oranges and remove as much of the pith as possible, then slice them crosswise and lay them on a plate. Cut half a fennel bulb and slice in either small or larger pieces. Add ‘un filo d’olio’, a drizzle of olive oil and salt, then a few black olives and garnish with fennel fronds. I sometimes like to throw in some pomegranate seeds or rucola. It is hard to mess up this healthy, refreshing winter insalata! I recently found out that Insalata Purtuall’ was served at my parents’ wedding in Orsara di Puglia in the 1960’s, so now it tastes even better!

Buon appetito, Cristina