Onna, Abruzzo Wounded

February 6, 2012

When we opened the shutters, the view of the majestic snow-capped Gran Sasso ("big rock" and it IS) unmistakably defined our location: Abruzzo. After breakfast, we headed to the new Comune (L'Aquila's old city hall and most of the centro storico were destroyed in the 2009 earthquake) where Pino had to present a proposal for seismic restoration. I waited across the street at a new cafe' - with modern minimalist lines - and talked Aquilani, stopping there for an espresso before or after one of their innumerable visits (over the past years) to the Comune. Most are still in pre-fab housing and almost nothing of the centro storico has been restored. Only those with houses (now in ruins or leveled) can enter the city center and no car traffic is permitted. Read More

In Le Marche, Golden Serpents, Lace Wonders

February 2, 2012

Lost in time are the origins of Offida, medieval hilltown of Le Marche, certainly inhabited in the Bronze Age, later by a local Italic tribe, then finally by the Romans. The town's name might derive from the temple dedicated to the serpent Ophis/Ophite, sacred edifice, where worship took place before a golden snake. Legend relates that the high priest of the temple could miraculously cauterize open wounds and bites by passing his wrist, wrapped with a writhing sacred snake, over the injury. The legend lives on in Offida: il serpente aureo ("golden snake") recurs again and again in place names of the town: after visiting the nineteen-centruy frescoed theater, Teatro Serpente Aureo, we walked down Corso Serpente Aureo to the Ristorante Ophis (ah, that snake again!) read more...

Cilento: Finalmente!

January 17, 2012

South of Salerno, curvy wooded coastal roads rim rugged cliffs that plummet to the pristine sea below. Tiny towns hug the rocky cliffs hanging over hidden coastal inlets of aquamarine water. Superb seafood restaurants entice visitors to picturesque ports. Oh, yes, Roman ruins, Saracen towers, Bourbon French fortresses, Greek temples, medieval monasteries, and abandoned mountain villages are there, too, in case the splendid seaside is not enticement enough. read more...

Naples: A Street-life Nativity

December 22, 2011

In a bustling narrow alleyway in downtown Naples, Neapolitan life and Naples' highest craft traditions merge. I can't imagine Christmas without a walk in Via San Gregorio Armeno, nor any visit to Naples without a stop here. The sacred and the profane blend in wondrous harmony in the Neapolitan creche tradition - and are alive on the streets. read more...

Imola Draws Every Buona Forchetta

December 6, 2011

In Italy, la buona forchetta is not a favorite eating utensil, not a special serving fork: it's a person who knows and relishes good food. For any buona forchetta, the cooking of Emilia Romagna is the apex of culinary ecstasy. Bordering Umbria on the northeast, this region is known for its Parmigiano, balsamic vinegars, mortadella, salami, nourishing soups, lasagne, tagliatelle and endless variations of tortellini (not to mention cappelletti, tortelli, tortelloni, ravioli, and ravioloni). Hearty foods offset the bleak and foggy, bone-chilling winter weather typical of the region. Read more...

Elegant Turin, Bracing Against the Floods

November 7, 2011

As the Genovesi and the people of the Cinque Terre mourn their dead and shovel out the mud, the Torinesi keep a watchful eye on the Po, il Grande fiume, up 4.5 meters yesterday and swelling 10 to 15 cm an hour. They know their river - and that ravaging weather can turn it into "un padre ubriacone e malignazzo" ("a big old drunk and malicious father"). The mayor of Turin has ordered all schools closed and advised the locals to stay indoors. read more...

Sirolo, Seaside Treasure of the Marches Region

September 11, 2011

"Center of the Adriatic, center of Italy, center of the heart," reads a brochure at the Sirolo Tourist Office. Sirolo certainly has a place in our hearts. When we have a free summer weekend, Pino and I often set out on his moto Guzzi heading through the mountainous Marche region to Sirolo, "la Riviera dell'Adriatico", as Italians call this rocky stretch of seacoast, just south of Ancona. read more...

The Colorful Sicilian Island, Ustica

September 2, 2011

More than anything, the island of Ustica evokes images of colors: bright intense colors, muted pastel colors. First of all the blues, the greens: The translucent acquamarine and emerald brilliance of the surrounding sea are highlighted by the black volcanic rock of this wondrous island, just off the northwestern coast of Sicily. Maritime pines, the pungent wild fennel, fig trees, date palms and caper vines crawling the lava-rock stone walls blend in varied shades of green. rear 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...

Il Nonno di Ustica

August 29, 2011

"A blood relative or not, he's my relative. Pasquale's everybody's relative: he's "il nonno di Ustica." Nonno Pasquale's blue eyes - the same color as Ustica's sea - twinkle at friend Gaetano's affectionate words. A smile spreads ear-to-ear across his gentle face, pink cheeks still smooth with only a suggestion of wrinkles. Pasquale Palmisano will be a hundred next May. read more...