Remembering a Grape Harvest Past

October 14, 2011

Yesteday on my Rural LIfe Revisited tour, we tasted Peppa's mosto (grape juice on its way to becoming wine). Sipping Peppa's mosto brought back fond memories of our first (and last!) vendemmia (grape harvest) in 1975, the year we moved to the land here in Umbria. read more...

Sicilian Thirst-Quencher: La Granita

August 30, 2011

Arab influences are strong in Sicily, from the architecture to the sweets, from the underground Arab acqueducts of Palermo to the granulated-ice dessert, la granita. The Arabs brought their sherbert to Sicily, an iced drink flavored with fruit juices or rosewater. In the Middle Ages, the nevaroli - "ice-gatherers" - had the important task of conserving the snow of Mt. Etna and other mountain ranges in stone depositories built over grottoes, natural ones and man-made ones. The nobility bought the mounds of ice during the sizzling summer months, mixing in the juice of the island's lemons with grated ice to make a perfect thirst-quencher - and thus the granita was born... read more...

How to Choose a Great Gelato

August 24, 2011

On a hot day, at the end of an Umbrian tour - after taking in the art and history of our medieval hilltown gems - I'll often say to my tour guests, "Now I have to share with you some very important information: how to choose the best gelato." Seems to me essential information for anyone touring in Italy in the warmer months. Thankfully, most of my tour guests agree... Read more...

Eating Flowers in Spello

July 14, 2011

Spello - che bello! - is becoming world famous for its magnificent flower petal tapestries - Infiorate - carpeting medieval alleyways and piazzas for Corpus Cristi. Prior to the wonders, the Spellani compete in a contest of flowering balconies, windowboxes and alleyways, try out the rose and lavender flavors featured in the main piazza gelateria - and even eat flowers... read more...

Goat Cheese-making in the Mugello

July 13, 2011

The Moto Gran Premio draws motorcycle buffs - and not only - from all over the world each year to the glorious Mugello valley in northern Tuscany. One of them is my husband Pino who heads here each year on his moto Guzzi. For the second time, I joined him - and quite literally, only "went along for the ride": the three-hour ride from Assisi into Tuscany and on to the rolling wooded hills of the Mugello. It's not just the glorious, serene Mugello valley: Casa Passerini (where we stayed for two nights) and the hospitable owners, the Manetti family, draw me back, too. While Pino was at the track on Sunday, cheering on Valentino Rossi (uselessly, this time), I was in the kitchen of Casa Passerini hearing Gianna's stories as she coaxed 8 litres of goat's milk into a wondrous caprino cheese... read more...

La Sagra: Something Sacred?

June 9, 2011

There certainly is something sacred about the sagra: a local village festival offering the best in local cuisine at minimal prices, top (and free!) dance band music outdoors til the wee hours and entertainment for all from pre-schoolers to the elderly. At some sagras, there are mini-soccer tournaments, others offer a performance of a local dancing school on one night, and others fill the food tent walls with artwork of the village school children. read more...

Novella’s Last Wild Asparagus

May 23, 2011

Farmwoman Novella had a couple tempting bunches of wild asparagus at her vegetable box (to call it a "stand" would be an exaggeration) in the Assisi "piazzetta" the other morning. I stopped by early to chat with Novella and husband Bruno as they unloaded their 3-wheeled Ape ("bumble bee", literally, but maybe best described as a "scooter truck") and set up their farm abundance for morning sale. read more...

Blessed Easter Abundance in Umbria

April 18, 2011

Driving through the Umbrian countryside during the week prior to Easter, you'd note whiffs of smoke drifting up from the outdoor stone bread ovens fired up by the farmwomen. Holy Week for the Umbrian farmwomen is a busy one, an exhausting one: making the torta di Pasqua ("Easter cake") or pizza pasquale, as it is often called, in the stone bread ovens is a major task. The traditional Easter "cake" or "pizza" is a raised cheese bread, make of eggs, flour, olive oil, salt, pepper and three kinds of cheeses: parmigiano, pecorino and groviera... read more...

“In vino veritas?” …Maybe

February 20, 2011

Wine and its sharp-tongued sister, vinegar, are certainly sacred in rural culture, if not harbingers of truth. Our wise farm friend, Peppa, told me that when her family farmed, weak baby chicks were strengthened by wine... read more...