Amatrice

25 Aug

Amatrice is a remote town along a mountainous stretch in northern Lazio, Italy. If you look at a map, it seems to sit right in the middle of the country.

mapsoftheworld.com

mapsoftheworld.com

Their website carries this banner:

City of Amatrice, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy

boghi_piu_belli_amatrice

As we all know now, yesterday, at about 3:30 am, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the region. “The town is no more,” Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told CNN affiliate Rai of the village, which has a population of around 2,000 people. (CNN)

Before social media and news channels carried the devastating photos, you may have thought you had never heard of Amatrice. Include me in that list, even though we had travelled near that region last year. And then, after reading about the town, I quickly realized that it is home to a favorite pasta dish, Amatriciana, (or pasta alla matriciana), a traditional pasta sauce based on guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomatoes. The recipe dates back to the 1700’s.

This weekend was to be the 50th annual celebration of the town’s Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana Festival.

Stampa

Instead, hundreds have lost their lives and most that survived cannot return home.

In honor and memory of the town and its people, I plan to make Amatriciana in the next few days. As with all recipes, there are slight variations, so I’ll ask local friends, who are all great cooks, what recipe has been handed down to them over the years.

As we prepare and enjoy this dish, we will toast to the memory of what was and keep the survivors and responders in our thoughts and prayers.
And someday, hopefully, with the strength and fortitude of the locals, there will be another celebration of the town’s Spaghetti Amatriciana Festival.
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Ciao,
Judy

 

Love is in the …

21 Aug

Italy is often considered one of the most romantic countries in the world. If you’ve been, or seen pictures, it’s easy to understand. Love is evident in the people, the food, the culture, the music, and so on.

Today on my walk, I couldn’t help but notice how love is also in nature.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

These incredible pine trees, separated by a road many years after they took root, have grown and flourished along a nearly identical angle for dozens and dozens of years until they reunited. And now, not rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor the strong winds are powerful enough to separate their embrace.

Love is in the air – sometimes one just needs to look up.

Ciao,
Judy

Just Picked

18 Aug

The time has finally come for our tasting – will the vegetables we planted in the spring taste as good as they look? Let’s start with the tomatoes.

And the verdict is?

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Pop in my mouth delicious!

And the zucchini?

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Affirmative again!

Our onions did well, and not so much the peppers, but those tomatoes – they just keep giving and giving! This was our pick for the day, not including those we ate as we picked.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Getting ready for dinner, Carlo cut some sunflowers for our table,

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©Blogginginitaly.com

while Fernanda worked her magic in the kitchen. Appertivo included hot from the frying pan amazing zucchini flowers:

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

and stuffed zucchini flowers, before going in the oven.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

We built our own caprese and enjoyed grilled zucchini, fresh pecorino with homemade plum and orange marmellata, and of course, prosecco.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Pasta was served with a light sugo (sauce) made from our fresh tomatoes and onions. The breeze was light, the temperature comfortable, and the proud smiles abundant.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Thinking back to last April, I can’t remember that we had grand expectations for our garden when it looked like this:

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

In fact, we felt we planted a bit too early as the garden had to endure several hail storms and lots of heavy rain. But neighboring farmers have commented that their tomatoes aren’t nearly as tall or productive as ours, and that we did well to get the plants in the ground when we did. As it turns out, some of them had to plant a bit later than planned due to the soaked soil.

And while planting a garden is certainly not an Olympic event, in keeping with the times, here’s to our gold medal zucchini and tomatoes,

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©Blogginginitaly.com

And the sense of accomplishment it bought to a bunch of Italian and American city folks working together. Auguri!

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©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

Ferragosto

15 Aug

Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on August 15 and coincides with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary. For many Italians, it is their summer vacation period and a time when many places of business also close their doors for vacation.

The Feriae Augusti, from which Ferragosto takes its name, comes from the “Festivals or Holiday of the Emperor Augustus” which was introduced in 18 BC.  The Feriae Augusti linked the various August festivals to provide a longer period of rest, called Augustali, which was felt necessary after the hard labour of the previous summer weeks.

Crowds flock to Cortona for this holiday, as they can enjoy live bands in the piazzas, various exhibits, and most of all, the Sagra della Bistecca held in the public gardens. This year numbers 57.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Large open grills, built for the occasion, become the center of attraction in the public gardens. Those tending to the grills are seasoned veterans, and know just when to turn the bistecca. Seared on the outside, very rare in the middle.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

For 28 euro, you get a bistecca, potatoes, choice of beans or tomatoes, a peach, and some vino.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Family and friends come together at long canopied tables to celebrate the holiday and share stories and laughter.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Like every festival, there is music, even if just one man and his many accouterments.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

After dinner, many walk through town to marvel at the ancient city’s beauty.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

And if your family is like mine, and a peach doesn’t quite qualify as dessert, it’s time for gelato.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Even the weather contributed to the weekend’s success  – bright blue skies, hot sun, and low humidity.

If you are thinking of Italy next summer, remember Cortona and Ferragosto.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

And if rare bistecca isn’t your thing, coming next weekend: the porcini festival!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Bragging Rights

4 Aug

Let’s begin with this amazing photo:

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

This is one tomato from our orto, one of hundreds I might add, in a garden that might be about 12 feet wide and 60-70 feet long. I’ll measure next time as I am curious myself!

As you might recall, we built cane trellises for the much-anticipated tomato plant growth, but who would ever have guessed that Carlo would eventually have to add an overhead cane trellis?

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

The garden has done incredibly well under the watchful eyes of Carlo and Fernanda, but in truth, the true bragging rights belong to the Italian soil!

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

There is much advice available on how to plant a garden in Italy, including testing the soil and adding nutrients, but we did none of these other than till the land well. Luckily for us, our soil type and pH must be near perfect, but then this is Tuscany.

Len recalls that we bought 12 tomato plants total, of 3-4 different types. After we left a local family nursery, however, we realized that we didn’t have any idea which was which, as they don’t put those nice little white tags on each plant. So watching our garden grow had extra elements of daily surprise. And grow it did – more so than we had ever imagined.
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©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Now grant you, size and quantity alone do not spell success. And thus far, I’ve had to rely on the smiles and photos from our friends who have eaten from our (ok, their) garden. But I suspect, from our conversations and the photos, that the taste will actually surpass my expectations.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Other than the soil composition, the only added products have been patience, sunshine, water and love. Talk about organic!

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Stay tuned for my upcoming taste test results. And Memo to Me: wear a dark shirt as I already visualize a delicious burst of tomato seeds when I bite my first pomodoro ciliegino (cherry tomato!).

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Orto Update

24 Jul

Just over three months ago, we planted an orto, or vegetable garden, in our friend’s yard in Tuscany. https://blogginginitaly.com/2016/04/22/planting-an-orto/

We decided on zucchini, peppers, onions, and of course, tomatoes. And just to be sure our tomatoes would grow, we built cane trellises for them. No slouches here. Last April 22, the orto looked like this:

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Despite several spring hail storms, and thanks to the watchful coaxing of Fernanda and Carlo, the plants flourished in the fertile Tuscan soil. Each week, we anxiously awaited our photo progress reports.

Tomatoes and onions

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Peppers

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Carlo adding another row of cane

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©Blogginginitaly.com

And just three months later, here are some of the amazing fruits of our labor.

Large and small tomatoes over six feet tall!

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©Blogginginitaly.com

And bright zucchini blossoms loving the sunshine.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

The beautiful yard is also full of fruit trees, especially susine or plum trees, perfect for making marmellata di susine or plum jam.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Needless to say, lots of serious picking going on these days…

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and of course, lots of delicious eating…

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©Blogginginitaly.com

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©Blogginginitaly.com

and an assurance from our friends that there will still be much to pick and eat when we return.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta!

8 Jul

If you wait long enough, many of the “avoid” foods seem to return, and not only return, but be included in a healthy diet. Eggs, dark chocolate, nuts, olive and coconut oil, and Himalayan salt are just a few examples. But this week, it was a surprising bonus to read that pasta can be added to that list.

According to an Italian study published in Nutrition and Diabetes‘ this month, based on the dietary habits of over 23,000 adults of varying ages, there seems to be a positive connection between pasta consumption and weight. To be more precise, the study found that there appears to be a link between the amount of pasta one consumes and how likely one is to be slim. Amazing.

But how can this be? Part of the answer lies in the fact that pasta is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, usually adding beneficial ingredients such as garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, and vegetables.

On the national news, they attributed this to the fact that Italians only eat pasta as a small side dish. Must have been a nutritionist behind that story who has never, ever been to Italy.

This got me to thinking about our diet, here and there. When we are in Italy, we eat pasta nearly every day of the week, either for lunch or dinner, yet significant weight gain has never been an issue. If we do gain a few pounds, it is more likely the result of a morning cornetto (aka croissant or sweet roll ) or a bit too much bread. We often say that for us, pasta è basta, meaning a pasta dish followed by a salad is a perfect meal. Yet when we are home, we tend to eat pasta once or twice a week. Age old wives tales stuck in our heads, I guess, but now a thing to happily move to the past.

Today I bought a new basil plant and plan to make some fresh pesto for Sunday’s dinner.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

And last night, it was pasta with olive oil, garlic, red onion, fresh tomatoes, wine and peas, and a dollop of ricotta and grated pecorino to top it off.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

If you are curious or doubtful, click on the link  ‘Nutrition and Diabetesand decide for yourself. As for me, they got me at hello.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Happy 4th of July!

4 Jul

A wonderful weekend for some R & R…Relaxation and Reflection. We adapted quite easily to both as we spent a lovely weekend at my sister’s home in Bridgman, Michigan.

Walks on the  beach…

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©Blogginginitaly.com (Sister and husband)

Visits to local craft beer breweries and whiskey distilleries for tasting…

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©Blogginginitaly.com (The gang, with Len acting the part!)

cocktail hour on the deck…

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BBQs each night… ribs, sausage, chicken, mac-n-cheese, potatoes, veggies, brownies, etc. Sorry, I was too busy eating to get many photos!

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©Blogginginitaly.com

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The weather was incredible… comfortable days and unusually cool nights. We thought about swimming…

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©Blogginginitaly.com

but opted instead for a fire at night.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Besides all the fun and relaxation, Bridgman is a great place for reflection.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Every night at sundown, TAPS is played at Weko Beach in honor of those who serve this great country of ours. This tradition began in 1991. Mrs. Joyce McCort heard TAPS played at the military graduations of her sons and thought it would be fitting to play TAPS at the close of each day at Weko Beach.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

This tradition continues each night, often with one player at the beach and a second player in the hills.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

A very moving way to end each night, and a reminder to reflect on how fortunate I am to call this incredible country home.

Happy 4th!

Judy

 

My Here and There

29 Jun

Whether in Chicago or Cortona, Len and I try to walk everyday, or as we say in Italian, fare una passeggiata. During our walks, my senses take in beautiful sights, sounds (no ear buds for me), and the vast array of smells from fragrant flowers to pop-up food stands. The differences are striking, from the moment I step outside my door…

Via Santucci, Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Via Santucci, Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

And not surprising, as Chicago is a relatively new city…1833

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Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

While Cortona is an ancient town… 7th century BC.

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Cortona©Blogginginitaly.com

And while the differences are striking in many ways, it occurred to me that there are some interesting similarities.

Both cities have incredible parks where we take  our walks,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

with beautiful fountains,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

incredible monuments and memorials,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

seating for the weary,

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park, Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

And cats to entertain.

Lincoln Park Zoo©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park Zoo ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Parterre ©Blogginginitaly.com

While Chicago borders beautiful Lake Michigan,

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona is just a short drive to Lago Trasimeno.

Lago Trasimeno©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno ©Blogginginitaly.com

And both provide relaxing settings for walking and biking.

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno ©Blogginginitaly.com

Now if stopping for ice cream/gelato is your thing, no problem…

Lincoln Park©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

or shopping at a local market.

Lincoln Park Market©Blogginginitaly.com

Lincoln Park Market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Market ©Blogginginitaly.com

Need fast delivery? Both locales have you covered.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Looking for entertainment? Races on foot or on wheels?

hicago Marathon©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago Marathon ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Bike Race ©Blogginginitaly.com

Or annual traditions?

Chicago Air and Water Show©Blogginginitaly.com

Chicago Air and Water Show ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

Feeling like spectating or donning a costume?

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lake Michigan ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona Archidado ©Blogginginitaly.com

And finally, when we need four wheels, …well, got that covered too!

Big City Safety

Big City Safety

Small town parking©Blogginginitaly.com

Small town parking ©Blogginginitaly.com

Ok, ok, don’t ask about such things as tomatoes, wine, cheese, pasta – no contest – but a very good reason to keep returning for una passeggiata in the land of my ancestors.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day

19 Jun

To my husband Len, in honor of father’s day, a bit of a trip down memory lane. Whether fishing, boating, camping, building bikes, coaching baseball, attending school functions, going to baseball games, dressing up for Halloween, swimming with dolphins, etc.,

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2007 ©Blogginginitaly.com

2007 ©Blogginginitaly.com

thanks for being a wonderful father, grandfather, and husband!

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Ti amo,
Judy

 

 

 

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