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Medieval Market Cortona

4 Jun

June arrived in Cortona and brought along not only warm sunny weather but also the first of several annual summer festivals. Last weekend was the Medieval Market filled with games, costumes, food, shops and entertainment. Here’a a sampling…

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And of course, great sunsets,

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and great friends!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

Familiar Footing

30 Mar

Why did we fall in love with Cortona? So very many reasons, but suffice it to say we did –  this being our eighth stay. And although so much is familiar, this ancient Etruscan town never ceases to amaze.

The incredible views…

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Local food sourcing… (10 huge fresh artichokes for under $4.50!)

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Tiny cars that seem to suck in their sides as they traverse the hills and uneven narrow streets – (my Fiat 500).

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And of course, the delicious food.

AD Braceria ©Blogginginitaly.com

AD Braceria ©Blogginginitaly.com

Tuscher Caffe ©Blogginginitaly.com

First day of 2017 outside seating at Tuscher Caffe ©Blogginginitaly.com

The weather has been perfect – blue sky sunny days, cool nights, and signs of Spring’s magnificent return in the colors popping up everywhere.

And while all of the above is wonderful, nothing quite compares to the sincere smiles and heartfelt “ben tornato” (welcome back) long embraces we’ve received from our local friends.

I guess the answer to my opening question is simple: they are truly the reason we fell in love with Cortona and why we happily return.

For now, time to give in to jet lag, but much more to come.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

September Days in Cortona

18 Sep

Autunno, or autumn, is my favorite time of year in Cortona. The days are shorter, the winds are cooler, and the tide of tourism transforms.  It is a calmer time of year that lends itself well to contemplating all that meets the senses.

Parterre Changing Colors©Blogginginitaly.com

Parterre©Blogginginitaly.com

Saturday Market©Blogginginitaly.com

Saturday Market©Blogginginitaly.com

Fall Harvest©Blogginginitaly.com

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Fresh Porcinis©Blogginginitaly.com

Porcini©Blogginginitaly.com

Lavender Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Lavender Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Choco Festival©Blogginginitaly.com

Art Exhibits©Blogginginitaly.com

Art Exhibits©Blogginginitaly.com

And endless antiquities:

Via Santucci, Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Via Santucci, (Our street), ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Signorelli Arch©Blogginginitaly.com

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Autumn – The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves begin to fall.

A good time to take time to ponder.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Seeing a Man’s Soul

23 Mar

No matter what saying speaks to you,

  • A picture is worth a thousand words
  • Dress for Success
  • Picture Perfect
  • A man’s work defines him

this picture seems to say it all.

Meet Signore Matranga. He has been the proud proprietor of this Monreale fruit and vegetable market for 51 years. We bought delicious fresh strawberries from him.

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But later I wondered, what was it about him that drew me in so?

According to Ted Grant, father of Canadian Photojournalism:

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!”

Thank you, Mr. Grant, I’m quite sure that is what I saw when I met Signore Matranga and what I want to long remember about our brief encounter.

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Click on the picture to enlarge.

Ciao,
Judy

Italian Tradition – Home Cooking

26 Feb

One of the very best things to enjoy in Italy is the food. But what makes it so special? In a word, local. Italians pride themselves on eating and cooking what is locally available, and in many cases, home grown. That means that menus not only change with the seasons, they are also based on long standing regional traditions passed on from one generation to the next, and, of course, dictated by the terroir or environment.

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When I first began traveling to Italy, I always wished that I would be invited into the home of a local. I wanted to experience the lady of the house cooking for her family, to learn from her and then eat what was prepared. It’s hard to walk the narrow streets of small towns and villages and not get caught up in the delicious smells and banter bellowing from the windows at lunch and dinner.

Luckily for us, we now have native Italian friends who invite us into their homes and give us this opportunity.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

But as we travel to other parts of Italy, is there a way to have similar experiences?

Meet Le Cesarine, a group of  “landlords chosen through a careful selection by Home Food in order to preserve and promote the heritage of wisdom, tradition and culture hidden in the thousands of recipes of our regional cuisine.” According to their website,

Home Food has built a network of “Cesarine” all over the peninsula in order to offer the possibility to find in many places in Italy a cosy table, rich of food prepared and maintained for the members only. For the reason that the “Cesarine” do not manage a restaurant in their houses, but invite you to their tables as a guest of the family who shares the passion for the tradition, the land and its tastes, values, which constitute the mission of Home Food.

Home Foods, founded in 2004, is a collaborative effort among several groups in Italy whose goal is to “spread the culture of traditional food interwoven with the culture of the typical products and the particular area.”

If you think about it, Italy has thousands of informally trained household cooks who, without recipes, create incredible meals from starter through dessert. Home Food has tapped into this resource and created a network of cesarine – grandmothers, mothers, aunts and daughters, who are knowledgeable of their local area, passionate about cooking, and willing to share their traditions as they host events in their homes.

Through Home Food, registered members have the opportunity to learn traditional culinary methods, eat traditional meals, and truly experience regional Italian culture in the home of a cesarine.

I learned of this organization through an article by Irene Levine in the Chicago Tribune, dated February 1, 2015. She and her husband had the opportunity to experience a cooking lesson in the home of a cesarine from Bologna. Although I have not yet participated, Irene’s story presented a way for travelers to experience the flavors and culinary traditions throughout Italy as guests in a local home. If your Italy TO DO list includes a mini cooking class, or eating in the home of a local, this might well be your opportunity.

Their calendar includes event dates, locations, recipes, a bit of history, and pricing. And if you partake, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Buon Appetito!

www.homefood.it/en

Ciao,

Judy

 

Piazza Life

15 Sep

Recently, I read an article in a Chicago paper about a local community that created a new and different type of outdoor space. It’s a place where restaurants, shops, pedestrians and vehicles commingle. While this may be new to an Illinois community, it is a way of life in much of Europe, something that I have long referred to as Piazza Life.

What is it about Italian Piazza Life that is so appealing? Just about everything.

Each piazza has its own borders, if you will, created by beautiful ancient buildings that have been repurposed. An old prison is now a museum, a villa now a bank, and a stable now an enoteca.

The center of the piazza may have a fountain or statue, or be empty and provide a stage for any number of diverse events. Nowhere is this better seen than in Cortona, where Piazza Life is a way of life.

While there are several piazzas in Cortona, the two main ones are Piazza Republicca and Piazza Signorelli. They are physically adjacent to one another, yet each has its own identity and events.

You know you are in Piazza Republicca when you are facing the grand staircase of the Municipio or Municipal building.

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While it is used for several city functions, it also provides a beautiful setting for many weddings where everyone in the piazza seems to join in the celebration.

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In this piazza, you can sit in or outside of a number of cafes; shop at a grocery store, fruit market, wine store, or florist; and buy  shoes, handbags, linens, and even a borselino, all actually made in Italy.

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People gather, some doing their morning shopping, others stopping for a chat with friends.

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Cars and cyclists navigate through pedestrians of all ages, and pop up performers are a common site.

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Celebrations commemorating historical events are held here.

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And while the piazzas are significantly quieter in the winter, they still draw people together for such delights as the incredible Christmastime lamp lighting celebration.

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Piazza Signorelli, the adjacent Piazza, is also breathtaking in its beauty, whether bathed in sunshine

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or glowing in the moonlight.

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Piazza Life provides a daily local gathering venue, be it day or night, for spontaneous and scheduled events, including

kids playing soccer;

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local musicians;

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vintage car enthusiasts;

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food and antique vendors;

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annual traditions;

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marching bands;

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and avid sports fans.

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Whether you find yourself almost alone in an ancient Piazza, (and yes it is possible!)…

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or surrounded by friends you have not yet made,

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just be prepared to be amazed by the sights and sounds.

Piazza Life – wonderful! …and no reservation required.

Ciao,

Judy

 

Saturday’s Market

2 Aug

Missing Italy, and missing the usual Saturday mercato, we headed to our local city market early this morning.

Although we were tempted en route…

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we resisted, reminding ourselves of the morning pastry ritual we had decided to leave behind.

So on we went in search of what we would grill tonight, and we were not disappointed…

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Even the sun flowers were there to greet us…

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When we got home, our purchases looked like a beautiful watercolor…

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For lunch, I made a barley and farro salad with some of the veggies.

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Now if only I can stay awake long enough to cook dinner!

Ciao,

Judy

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A Typical Thursday – Camucia Market and Tuscher Caffe

26 Jun

If it’s Thursday in Cortona, it’s market day in Camucia, the town at the bottom of the hill. As usual, we strolled for hours amongst the clothing, housewares, shoes, jewelry and food stalls.

Camucia Market - blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market – blogginginitaly.com

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Camucia Market  – blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market - blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market – blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market - blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market – blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market - blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market – blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market -  blogginginitaly.com

Camucia Market – blogginginitaly.com

Len and I returned to Cortona about 2 PM and had lunch at our very favorite Tuscher Caffe on Via Nazionale. We eat here almost everyday, and usually try to be a little heathy, but today we really splurged. We shared the special, a pasta prepared with light cream sauce of prosciutto, onions, and melon, (yes thinly sliced melon! as only the Italians know how), and it was not only beautiful but incredibly delicious.

Tuscher Cafe - blogginginitaly.com

Tuscher Caffe – blogginginitaly.com

We also shared our daily tomato salad – very healthy!

Tuscher Cafe -  blogginginitaly.com

Tuscher Caffe –
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Then for dessert, which we usually never have at lunch, Edoardo, the chef and our friend, convinced us to try his special tiramisu with fresh cherries. Well, it ranks among the best desserts I have ever had. No drenched cookies with liquor here. Instead, a light, smooth, lovely dessert with the fresh cherries – simply amazing.

Edoardo's Tiramisu Tuscher Cafe blogginginitaly.com

Edoardo’s Tiramisu
Tuscher Caffe
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Edoardo, Chef at Tuscher Cafe blogginginitaly.com

Edoardo, Chef at Tuscher Caffe
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Tonight we have been invited to a friend’s home, so Edoardo is making me his delicious apple torta to take to my hosts.

Edoardo's Mela (Apple) Torta -  blogginginitaly.com

Edoardo’s Mela (Apple) Torta –
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As for tomorrow’s agenda? Extended hiking, then more eating, of course.

I know, it’s a tough life. So glad it’s us that “has” to do it!

Ciao,

Judy

 

 

Cortona Market Set up

8 Jun

If you wake early enough, you can watch the empty Piazza Signorelli come to life on Saturday morning and become the open market.  We have wondered how all the trucks arrive and set up, as the streets leading to the Piazza are narrow and steep. This morning we found out.

A truck that becomes a canopied stall looks like this when closed:

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Between 7-8 am, dozens of trucks maneuver through the narrow streets to reach their assigned  spaces. This truck actually made it through without hitting anything!

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In an ancient town like Cortona, one might expect market stalls to be rather simplistic. However, that is anything but true. These modern marvels are fascinating. If you have ever seen a factory with automation in full bloom, you’d still be impressed with the robotic mechanisms on these trucks which transform them into stand-alone self-sufficient markets.

As you can see in the video, articulated robotic arms open and move canopies and sides into all directions to become  open-air covered stores. Then the contents are moved outside, whether clothes, shoes, household goods or food.

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Gabriella and Luigi, our Saturday roasted chicken vendors, told us about their truck. We learned that there is a factory between here and Firenze that customizes each truck to fit the needs of the vendor. Some  just need canopies, while others, like them, require refrigeration and spit-fired roasters. Whatever the need, the factory can oblige. Some of the canopies are even opened by hand-held remote controls. Incredible!

Like so many other proprietors in town, the “roaming marketeers” are self-sufficient, hard-working people who cater to the needs of their customers. Some set up at multiple markets throughout the week, different towns, different days. Cortona is one of the smaller markets, so it is easy to get to know the vendors. They are helpful and always have a kind word and a smile. A most enjoyable morning and well worth an early start to this warm and sunny day!

Ciao,

Judy

Buon Appetito…and Immersion!

1 Jun

A few years ago, knowing that my dream of travelling to Italy annually was about to begin, I began a two-year search for Italian classes. I wasn’t looking for academic credits, or a class filled with grade conscious students; rather, I wanted to join a group of like-minded adults who yearned to improve their knowledge of everything Italian –  the language, food, culture, holidays, nuances, etc. This also meant I needed to find a native Italian teacher, not someone who merely majored in the subject. Luckily, my search finally led me to Giovanna Dimetros. I must admit, her Greek last name puzzled me at first, until I learned it was her married name and she’s actually a native of Tuscany. Pictured below are Giovanna (left) and two classmates who hosted a dinner for our class last December at Giovanni’s (right) house. As you can see, we are big on immersion!

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Simply put, Giovanna’s classes provide me with more than I had hoped for. Each session is interactive, dynamic, challenging, and filled with great camaraderie. Of most importance is Giovanna’s desire to have us learn and understand what she teaches, not just memorize.

My goal was to reach a point where I no longer felt like a tourist in Italy, and while my learning will be a lifelong pursuit, I’m now comfortable conversing with locals who speak no English at all – a great tribute to Giovanna!

In our book, Unit 5 is called Buon Appetito, and we learned how to prepare a shopping list, go to market, and make lunch or dinner. Today in Cortona, we did just that. Our list included roasted chicken and turkey, cheeses, tomatoes, basil, bread sticks and vino.

While we order the roasted chicken weekly, our favorite “chicken lady” had a special this week: roasted and boned turkey leg with herbs. No antibiotics or preservatives…just incredible flavors and a heavy dose of fresh sage leaves and dill rolled inside. How does one have the patience to bone a turkey leg????

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We carried everything home and set out our feast. The only thing missing was all of you, and we could have fed all of you! Good for us we like left overs.

Mozzarella fresca e pomodorini

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Grana Padano Parmigiano

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Boned roasted turkey leg (left)  and roasted chicken (right)

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Una vera festa…A true feast!

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Even the constant rain decided to pester others today

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and granted Cortona a rain-free and sometimes even sun-filled day…

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Listening to Andrea Bocelli as I write…Perfetto!

And to my Italian class:

Vorrei che tu fossi qui per andare a fare la spesa con me e gustare un delizioso pranzo. E sto anche usando il passato e il futuro bene!

Ci vediamo a settembre! Ciao, ciao,

Giuditta

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