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...

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...

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...

Bolsena’s Many Treasures

July 13, 2011

Bolsena's many treasures keep luring us back to this Latium lakeside town: the imposing fifteenth century gray tufo rock castle of the Monaldeschi (powerful Orvieto family) towering over the medieval town and the deep peaceful lake below, filling up a volcanic crater, are primary draws. The clean waters of Lake Bolsena refresh on hot days and yield pike, perch, black bass and whitefish to enhance the tasty pasta dishes of the trattorie along the shores and in the village. read more...

Bolsena’s July Living Tableaux

July 13, 2011

Certamente, the brutality of the martyrdom of Bolsena's Santa Cristina in the fourth century contrasts dramatically with the serene bucolic beauty of the Lake Bolsena area. The fifth century text of the Saint's Passio kept alive the story of her martyrdom, metamorphosing into a medieval miracle play. In the sixteenth century, the multiple episodes of her martyrdom became the beloved Misteri di Santa Cristina, ten tableaux acted out each year on her feast day, July 24th, by the Bolsenesi... read more...

Self-Exile on a Mediterranean Island

July 11, 2011

Augustus Caesar banished his libertine daughter, Giulia to Ventotene, tiny Mediterranean island just south of Rome and north of Naples. The exiled Giulia might not have relished the peace and natural beauty of Ventotene but today the island (1 km long and 700 m. wide) attracts those who seek a sort of "self-exile": a move out of the fast lane into a world of all things "slow", from the island food to the idle pace of Ventotene life... read more...

Mediterranean Diet: from Art to the Table

December 13, 2010

What do the Acropolis, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, the Old City of Havana, Dubrovnik, the Great Barrier Reef , Yellowstone Park- and pasta, tomatoes and olive oil have in common? They've all been cited by UNESCO as world heritage treasures. The places named are World Heritage sites, but there is another part of the World Heritage list that is less-known. It is called the "intangibles" and includes cultural traditions such as dance, song, textile weaving traditions, religious processions, and festivals. Italy's two "intangibles", Sardinian pastoral songs and the Sicilian marionette theater are now flanked by another one: the Mediterranean diet. Requested by Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, UNESCO recently declared the Mediterranean "intangible cultural heritage" due to the important role it plays for health. read more...

Need for Naples

November 30, 2010

Si! Naples has its woes. All the world knows about them. Naples has its treasures - and not all are known. Whenever I have a couple of free days from my tour work here in Umbria, Naples is often first choice for a jaunt with my frequent traveling companion, Roman friend, Silvana. We hadn't been to Naples in two years - and I was feeling the first symptoms of "Naples withdrawal"... read more...