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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Little Black Book: Zia Milina



"My recipe was written in a small black notebook: the recipes’ book of my aunt Melina
Olga Stinga shares her memories of her aunt and the wonderful treats she baked.


I hope to feature Olga's shared recipes each month.
Please comment if you know these Italian treats and would like to learn more recipes from
Zia Melina
Pizza di crema
In the past cakes were few and not so many the opportunities to eat them.

For Valentine's Day, when we celebrate St. Anthony in Sorrento, the feast of the patron saint of the city, zia Melina  prepared the pizza cream.

The “Pizza di crema” is the cake that the majority of ladies and housewives were used to prapare on the Sant’Antonino day (14th February )


Ingredients:
-For the Pastry: 400g flour OO - 200 g sugar - 200g suet or butter- 2 eggs plus one yolk
a pinch of salt - a pinch of cream of tartar.
-For the white cream: 1/2 liter of milk - four yolks - 80g of flour - 160g of sugar -1 grated lemon (sorrento) and a tablespoon of limoncello.
-For the chocolate cream: 1/2 liter of milk -two yolks - 125g of sugar - 50g of cocoa - 2 heaping tablespoons of flour -
a snifter Witch and rum - vanilla - a tablespoon of butter.
-          Sour cherries (here we grow them at home. I  always  add  homemade sour cherries)       
     four  or five biscuits. 

Preparation: mix the flour with the butter, make a fountain in the center and put the eggs and all other ingredients, mix and let it rest in the fridge
Prepare the two creams and cool them.
Spread a layer of pastry, place it in the pan, crumble cookies.  The cookies prevent the pastry from becoming  moist.
Pour a layer of white cream cherries and then the chocolate cream.
Cover with another layer of pastry - Bake at 170/180 degrees for about 40 minutes.



"My recipe was written in a small black notebook: the recipes’ book of my aunt Melina" 






The Italian Version



















December 

Olga shared this from Sorrento, Italy




I Roccocò:  an Italian Christmas Treat

 Olga Stinga shared a treat her aunt made every year and the history of the Roccoco



""My aunt was used to make them on the 14th of December (here we celebrate Sant’Agnello, the saint patron of the village named Sant’Agnello) , 10 days prior to the Christmas Eve."
'These cakes typical of the Neapolitan Christmas tradition (whose origin dates back to 1320, through the work of the nuns of the Convent of the Real Mary Magdalene) take their name from the French word "rocaille", because of their shape and baroque round.

In Caserta and other areas of Campania Region, the Roccocò have an S shape, with a curl at each end that recalls the typical decorations of Rococo style. In Sorrento, instead, we make them with the shape of donuts crushed the average size of 10 cm.

I share the recipe for My Aunt Melina, my favorite aunt, who instilled me with the passion for cakes.'

The preparation of Roccocò is not difficult: they have a base of almonds, flour, sugar and Pisto, that 'their smell and the color characteristic. The Pisto is a mix of spices, made up of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, star anise and nutmeg, which serves to help the soaring Roccocò. It can be found in pharmacies, shops for sweets and, in Naples, even in supermarkets.
Ingredients:    500 g flour
                       500 g sugar
                       300 g almonds
                        2 gr Ammonia cake
                        12 grams of Pisto (spice)
                        150 g of water
                           50 gr Candied
                           1orange peel
                           1 lemon peel
                           1 egg for brushing (the tops)

How to prepare Roccocò
Mix sugar, the peel of 1 lemon and the peel of 1 orange
Add all the ingredients, except the egg (because it only serves the purpose for brushing) and mix them with the mixer
Add the almonds and, if necessary, a little water and candied fruit.
Cut the dough and put them on the table.
With the knife divide the dough into pieces and form the Roccocò shaped donut.
Brush the Roccocò with the egg, put them on a baking sheet and bake 180 ° 20-30 min. 
My tips
If you can not find the Pisto, you can prepare a dose blending together 12 cloves, chopped half a nutmeg, grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon, half a stick of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
Typically Roccocò are eaten quite hard, in fact, make a typical noise "scrocchiarello" when you bite into. For those who prefer softer, just cook them a few minutes less.
Finally, I suggest you try these cookies by spraying in Champagne, in Chocolate Liqueur, in the Cream of Limoncello, in Marsala or liquor you prefer;-) 

 *********************************************************************************










Friday, January 23, 2015

Rome: The Vatican Turns On The Lights


See Rome with a Roman.

The Last Judgement in The Sistine chapel, Rome
Photo thanks to Bing post*
 

On my recent trip Home to Italy Laura Massoni Travel. arranged a great day with an amazing Rome expert Giovanni.
I do not take tours (one exception was a day in Russia) but this event to see the Sistine Chapel with Giovanni was more like:  spending the day with a scholar, a local and a very interesting new friend.


The new lights illuminate all the panels
Photo thanks to Bing

Marking it's 500th year, the Sistine Chapel is on any list of must sees in Rome.  During every visit I am amazed by the sheer scale of the chapel, the countless individual figures each with a different expression and the colors.     
Each ceiling panel is an astounding work of art.
Photo thanks to Bing*

It was a thrill to see the chapel this time with a knowledgeable licensed tour guide with a masters in Architecture, trained in sculpture and plastic arts and a for art history teacher.  Giovanni is part of the Laura Missoni Travel group.
 

Our guide, Giovanni
New LED lighting was being added during my October visit and scaffolding was everywhere.  Now completed,  I asked Giovanni, who has visited as many as 150 times during the past 12 years, what comes to his mind when he now enters the 'illuminated' room:  'good job Michelangelo'.  

He tells me that first time visitors often react with:  "it's overwhelming, grand, larger or smaller than they expected.  I would say all visitors feel admiration and real curiosity."

Photos don't do this massive work of
art justice and you are not permitted to take photos within the chapel.    The photos here are from Bing* and show the incredible improvement after the installation of the new lighting.   * http://bit.ly/1y3F0ab

A BBC report explained that in this room that is also famous for the election of each new pope, that there are now 7,000 Led lights.    With 20,000 visitors a day the yearly toll on the room might require some future limitation of the number of guests.   I observed guards preventing visitors from staying too long.  There are seats around the perimeter of the room but I still leave with the bent back strain from trying to see everything in a very short period of time.  
The crowds can be massive
Photo credit Bing*
 

There is now an opportunity via special reservations to visit the chapel at the end of the day when it is less crowded.  




Alice Capitolo
Thank you Laura Massoni Travel arranging this tour.
Alice Capitolo is a member of the Laura Massoni Travel team and never tired of answering endless questions about Italian life.  Grazie

For your unique travel experience in Italy contact  www.lauramassonitravel.com for one of their many adventures in Italy.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Valentine gift from Sant'Anna Institute in Sorrento, Italy


A St Valentine present from
                    Sant'Anna Institute, Sorrento, Italy
 
 
“Olga Stinga, Director of the Italian Department of Sant’Anna Institute shared this recipe and she would like to announce the following special offer for Italian Classes in Sorrento
 
(www.sorrentolingue.com): 20% discount on the Italian language courses in February, March and April 2015!
This offer is designed especially for all the girls and women as a St. Valentine present from us!”
 
If you are traveling in Italy during the months of February to April, consider an experience that tourist do not have,   learn Italian!    Contact Olga Singa at www.sorrentolingue.com for details and to reserve your place.      tel number  +039  0818075599
The stone building on the hill was a convent. is the home of Sant'Anna Lingue
 
 
 
 
A special treat for Valentines Day from our Zia Melina recipe feature:

La Pizza di Crema
"My recipe was written in a small black notebook: the recipes’ book of my aunt Melina" 
Olga share her memories and this treat that may be new to many of us.
In the past cakes were few and not so many the opportunities to eat them.
For Valentine's Day, when we celebrate St. Anthony in Sorrento, the feast of the patron saint of the city, zia Melina  prepared the pizza cream.
The “Pizza di crema” is the cake that the majority of ladies and housewives were used to prapare on the Sant’Antonino day (14th February )


Ingredients:
-For the Pastry: 400g flour OO - 200 g sugar - 200g suet or butter- 2 eggs plus one yolk
a pinch of salt - a pinch of cream of tartar.
-For the white cream: 1/2 liter of milk - four yolks - 80g of flour - 160g of sugar -1 grated lemon (sorrento) and a tablespoon of limoncello.
-For the chocolate cream: 1/2 liter of milk -two yolks - 125g of sugar - 50g of cocoa - 2 heaping tablespoons of flour -
a snifter Witch and rum - vanilla - a tablespoon of butter.
-          Sour cherries (here we grow them at home. I  always  add  homemade sour cherries)       
     four  or five biscuits. 
Preparation: mix the flour with the butter, make a fountain in the center and put the eggs and all other ingredients, mix and let it rest in the fridge
Prepare the two creams and cool them.
Spread a layer of pastry, place it in the pan, crumble cookies.  The cookies prevent the pastry from becoming  moist.
Pour a layer of white cream cherries and then the chocolate cream.
Cover with another layer of pastry - Bake at 170/180 degrees for about 40 minutes.

 
The Italian Version
La mia ricetta è stata estrapolata da un piccolo quaderno nero: il ricettario di mia zia Melina.

Una volta erano pochi i dolci che si preparavano e poche le occasioni per mangiarli.

Per la festa di San Valentino, quando a Sorrento si festeggia Sant’Antonino, la festa del Santo Patrono della città, lei preparava la pizza di crema.

Ingredienti :

-X pasta frolla: 400 gr farina OO - 200 gr zucchero - 200gr sugna o burro- 2 uova più un tuorlo

un pizzico di sale - un pizzico di cremore di tartaro.

-x la crema bianca : 1/2 litro latte - quattro tuorli - 80gr farina - 160gr zucchero -1 limone (di sorrento)grattuggiato

un cucchiaio di limoncello.

-x la crema al cioccolato : 1/2 litro latte -due tuorli - 125gr zucchero - 50gr cacao - 2 cucchiai colmi di farina -

un bicchierino di liquore strega e rhum - vanillina -un cucchiaio di burro.

Amarene rigorosamente fatte in casa e quattro o cinque biscotti .

Preparazione: frollare la farina con il burro o sugna ,fare una fontana e al centro mettere le uova e tutti gli altri

ingredienti , impastare e fare riposare in frigo - preparare le due creme e farle raffreddare.

Stendere uno strato di

pasta frolla , posizionarlo nella teglia , sbriciolare i biscotti che servono a non fare inumidire la pasta frolla.

Versare uno strato di crema bianca le amarene e poi la crema di cioccolata.

Coprire il tutto con un altro strato di pasta frolla - Infornare a 170/180 gradi per circa 40 minuti.


Prepared for the celebration of St Anthony's day, the patron saint of Sorrento, Italy

 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Florence: a quiet convent instead of a hotel

A massive stone building with a gated entry on a quiet street
I have written about Monasterystays    http://www.monasterystays.com/ being my booking source for convents throughout Italy. 
On my last trip I stayed for the first time at Instituto Santa Elizabetta TOF 117 ref number with Monasterystays.com

This residential area is farther out than I usually stay but I found later in the week that there were short cuts via the central part of the city, that could shorten the trip.  And there is bus service but pay attention to the schedule, some of the buses do not run later in the evening.

I was greeted by one of the sisters and shown to my room on the second floor.   I love old palaces and was very curious how this very large building was used.   The main floor had a chapel, a reading room with a computer for guests use*, a TV room (I only found Italian TV stations in my room), the dining room had table set for 4 or more and you were assigned to the same table each day for breakfast.  

Only on one day just as I was finishing, another guest sat down.   It takes me a week or more when I go home to Italy to speak on the level of a 3 year old so beyond good morning, we were both at a loss.

I am not sure there were any other Americans at the convent although I met a older woman who was touring with her granddaughter.  The both spoke several languages and I would have enjoyed a chat with this perhaps 80+ traveler who walked both ways to town (about 1+ mile each way) and organized each day based on a theme of what they would see:  Paintings, sculpture or particular churches.    This made my plan of walking a section of the city and discovering what I could, to be a very thin way to be a tourist, but then I am a traveler.

One of 3 sisters I saw during my stay.
 I believe they did most of the work but I hope they have some help with the daily cleaning.


Two of the sisters spoke perhaps German as a native language.   I had to laugh because the first 'English' phrase was I don't speak English.   I promised on my next visit we would learn some English together.
Spacious room compared to the 3star hotels I stay in and it had a view!

Full Private Bath

 
The garden view from my window


Extras:
For a modest fee one of the sisters will load your wash and you can use the outdoor lines to dry your clothing.   If you are on a long trip you will appreciate a location where you can wash/dry heavier items.

The computer for guests has an Italian keyboard.   There were no instructions on how to 'turn on' the power.   Note:   you have to turn the power on at the 'tower'.      To conserve electricity, lights are turned off as you leave a room,  a good idea.


There is a closing time each night.   One of the sisters waits for the guests to return.   I had a business meeting during my stay and asked if arrangements could be made for me if I was later than 'curfew', they were very kind to accommodate me.


I try to stay in different convents during my months Home to Italy each year.  This allows me to have an alternative for my next stay if a property is full.

Why I would return to this property:

Clean, Clean, Clean as are all the properties I have stayed in with Monasterystays.com in the past 7 or 8 years.
Quiet, well appointed room with lots of space.
And I must mention the consistent smiling Sister Elisa........who was kind to speak with me in my substandard Italian while I did laundry!

* the sisters did not charge me to print out a reservation on their printer but the DID APPRECIATE the euro I contributed since they still use color ink and I know it is expensive in Italy.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why is the Speedo popular in Italy?

and a day at the beach is always welcome




But can anyone tell me how the Speedo became so popular for men of ALL ages?
Often they are very complementary, but not always........



A friend from Northern Italy tells me that this type of swimwear was the only one worn in the 80's and 90's and perhaps today the young men want to show off their muscles.  





Bikini's for men are often called by the brand name, Speedo.   You many not see this style on many USA beaches but you will find them on many Italian beaches and on men of all ages.









If you know a speedo man, can you ask

Monday, January 5, 2015

Italian Paper mache or Carta Cartapesta




A true family business passed on to the younger Baldari

Do you  remember ‘art’ projects as a child that involved strips of newspaper and paste made from flour and water?  The practice of the "cartapesta” (paper mache)  has been practiced as art form in Lecce Italy for centuries.  

Used as an inexpensive substitute for plaster, stone or wood; paper ‘carvings’ were popular for church statues and embellishments.   A multi-step process that is now duplicated by machines in competing countries, Lecce continues to celebrate skilled artists of cartapesta and Yle Sambati arranged my private visit to meet maestro Baldari in his city labororatorio.

I was fortunate to meet the family Baldari who have created pieces of art for years and are famous for their skill.   Although it was very cold outside Sig Baldari was kind enough to show me how the paper was created, pressed and dried.
His mother demonstrated how to create a figure from the sheets of the handmade, angles or religious figures.   It was amazing to watch her work so quickly.







On a quiet street near the center of Lecce I entered a stone gateway to a large open court yard.   The space was set up as a small assembly line where the entire family worked to produce the paper and the figurine or ornament that would become a family or church treasure.



Here is a time that a video tells a 1,000 word.  





Sunday, December 28, 2014

Don't Drag Your Bag Through Rome

Don't drag that suitcase with you in Rome when you can store it for a day, a week or longer.

Photo from the Bags Free web site
Thanks to a post on the Beehive Blog I found  http://www.cross-pollinate.com/blog/2192/where-to-leave-bags-for-the-day-in-rome/  thank you Steve

                         Bags Free 

 near the Termini train station in Rome


On month long trips I often travel from Northern Italy south to Puglia.   Dragging a large suitcase on and off trains in Italy can be difficult:   the platform is often two steps below the train entrance and large bags will not fit above your seat.





Several Italian train stations still offer baggage storage.    The location in Rome and Florence are convenient to leave a bag and return later during your trip.   In Florence I use Mail Box Etc for weekly storage and for forwarding luggage to my next planned stop.  http://hometoitaly.blogspot.com/2013/04/mailbox-etc-in-florence-italy.html




Now there is another option for storage in Rome.    If you have stood for an hour waiting to leave luggage or pick up a bag at the Termini luggage storage (located in the lower level) you know you have to plan perhaps an extra hour to catch you train.

Bags Free has a location only a few streets from the station.   Their web site (http://www.bags-free.com) has a video showing you how to find the location.     
The staff quickly helps you bring your bag into the store

I left a bag in Rome while I traveled for a week in southern Italy.  My bag was quickly checked in.
There was no line, no waiting.  A plastic lock was attached to the zipper to insure that the bag would not be opened.   Upon my return the pick up process took only minutes.

Additional service:
Bags Free offers a transport service too.  I did not take advantage of this but shall consider using it next time.    Their web site states:

1.  Bags-Free will collect your luggage at the hotel, BnB or private home where you are staying
2.  They will bring the baggage to the storage area
3.  At a scheduled time specified by you, they will deliver the bag to 1. airport, train station, bus station etc

Check the web site for rates or email email them for an estimate of fees.    My 10 day storage was LESS than the train station and far easier to drop off and pick up.

There are plans to expand to other cities.     If you are visiting Brindisi and Lecce and visit the Bags Free let me know!



A recent article in Smarter Travel by Ed Perkins described where to store your luggage with LAX storage during an airport layover.   http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/the-best-way-to-store-your-luggage-on-layover.html?id=21112894.

I hope more locations are added for short and long term travelers to leave luggage.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Give the Gift of Travel in Italy


The perfect gift that fits everyone

 
Gifts for a major holiday, graduation, retirement or just for the love of travel to Italy!






YLTOUR  offers gift certificates for the traveler on your list



PUGLIA WINE SCHOOL
 
Travel in Puglia will be enhanced with time spent

  • wine tasting class  lunch/dinner
  • a cooking class and wine tasting
  • a walking tour of Lecce and wine tasting/lunch
  • birthdays and anniversary celebrations

 

PUGLIA WINE SCHOOL


What's cooking?




Select one or all of the events offered

Contact Ylenia Sambati at
info@yltourcongressi.com
info@pugliawineschool.com
for rates and a wide selection of other events offered for
Your Puglia Adventure!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Italy: Laundry Day

                    Hanging out the wash

 

Not all apartments in Italy have the numerous appliances Americans are accustom to.   We don't mix, slice, dice or cook without mechanical assistance in most American kitchens.      Dryers are not common in Italian homes so it may require some inventive clothesline installations.
If you grew up in the 50' and 60's you may remember the fresh smell of clean clothes after they were taken in from the clothes line.   You probably had the chore of handing the wash on the line and bringing it in when dry.   I can still remember the smell!  



Venice laundry day

Copy right Sheila Ford



Copy Right Sheila Ford

info: photoprimopiano@gmail.com
For memorable photos of Italy
Well the neighbors will get to see what you wear under that coat every day!

Italian Christmas Witch: Befana

I only learned of Befana a few years ago while doing a story on Christmas in Rome.     I can't remember ever hearing of Befana growing up in Italian American New Jersey.   http://hometoitaly.blogspot.com/2013/11/christmas-viewed-from-italy.html

But we did have the fear that if we were bad we would receive coal in our stockings...........and my cousin Gary did get coal one year!

So I was thrilled when a  face book contact posted the following story.  It explains who Befana is and  her legend.   With the posters permission:    La Befana
The xmas market in Rome sells Befana dolls



Stephen Mark Ulissi


  In Italian folklore Befana is portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick.  She visits children all over the world on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their socks with a sweet (dolce) if they have behaved well (buona figura) or good piece of onion if they have been bad (brutta figura).  Befana enters each house through the chimney and, being a good housekeeper, uses her broom to sweep up a bit before she leaves.  Many of the past year's problems are swept away during this cleaning.  Children who are wise (furbi) leave a glass of wine (vino) and a bite to eat (it is said she loves cardoons) to nibble on just to make sure she does not fly over without stopping in.


  Befana's origins date to the time when she was approached by the biblical Magi (Three Wise Men) soon after the birth of the Infant Jesus.  They had become lost when, after seeing His star in the sky, they set out to bring gifts to the Savior.  The Befana didn’t know the exact location but pointed them towards Bethlehem and gave them a place to sleep in her tidy house.  Just prior to departing, the Magi asked her to accompany them on the journey to find the baby Jesus.  But Befana chose to stay behind as it had been a very bad year and many problems needed to be swept away.  Soon after their departure Befana had a change of heart and went out to catch up with the Magi.  Her efforts were in vain and, on the 6th of January, the Epiphany took place in her absence.  To this day Befana searches the world over for the Our Lord.  During her endless wandering she stops along the way to leave treats for all good children to enjoy.