Category Archives: Italy

Joy of Keeping A Journal

Variety of Journals Kept While in Rome, 2012
Variety of Journals Kept While in Rome, 2012

This morning I walked out on the deck. The air was cool and the cloud streaked sky reminded me of a morning in Rome.  On days like this I find myself walking to the bookshelf and choosing one of the many journals I kept while living in Italy.  Randomly reading through the daily entries brings me great joy and allows me to re-experience a trip now almost two years in the past.

Whether you’re going for a week or staying for an extended time I urge you to take a few minutes every day to jot down an impression of your visit.   Noting a place you’ve visited, a person you’ve met, a meal you’ve experienced is something you will be thankful for when you get home.

Choosing a journal is also a great way to get out and about.  Visiting the shops that sell amazing varieties of paper, beautiful pens, leather bound journals can be a fun way to create your own walking tour and usually will take you to neighborhoods you may overlook. From higher end stores like Fabriano to the creative and colorful options at the larger bookstores such as Feltrinelli there is something for everyone.

Keeping a journal is one of the best gifts you can give yourself!!!!!

Excerpts from my Travel Journals – Italy 2012

Writing a Travel Journal – Finding Your Voice by Mo Redman

The Year in Pictures – Italy

Thinking back on the past year having spent quite a bit of it in Italy I am grateful for the many opportunities and experiences that I have had and especially for the friendships I continue.   Some of my favorite photos are those that capture colors – sounds – smells I remember, special moments, and places I enjoyed the most.  They are not always the best photographs but they bring back the best memories.

Via dei Fori Imperali - Early Morning
Via dei Fori Imperali – Early Morning
"I love you from here to the end of the world again indefinitely", Graffiti, Tiber Embankment, Rome
Graffiti, “I love you from here to the end of the world again indefinitely”, Tiber Embankment, Rome
Joe, Steps of Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
Joe, Steps of Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
My favorite view - Blue Sky from our Apartment Window
My favorite view – Blue Sky and Clouds from our Apartment Window, Piazza Capo di Ferro, Rome
Detail, City Ordinance, Rome
Detail, City Ordinance “Forbidden to Post”, Rome
Detail, Fountain, Piazza Farnese, Rome
Detail, Fountain, Piazza Farnese, Rome
Preparing for Wreath Laying, Campidoglio, Rome
Carabinieri Preparing for Wreath Laying, Campidoglio, Rome
Appian Way, Rome
Appian Way, Rome

Cooking Roman Style – Peperonata (Stewed Sweet Peppers)

Ingredients for Peporanata, 2013
Main Ingredient for Peporanata – Cubanelle and Yellow Peppers, 2013

This recipe is one of my favorites.  Their sweet and sour flavor makes them perfect for pairing with – pork roast, sandwiches, as part of your antipasto, and they are perfect all by themselves on top of a crusty baguette.   You can serve them warm right out of the pan or at room temperature.  Easy to prepare filling your house with a wonderful aroma they last for a long long time in the refrigerator – I usually double the recipe.

While most any pepper will do and bell peppers seem to be the staple at the grocery store try to experiment with different types of peppers – the sweeter the better.  At the farmer’s markets I look for the Cubanelle Peppers (typically long slender red peppers) which are especially sweet.

Thinly Sliced Garlic, 2013
Sautee Garlic and Onions for a few Minutes before adding Peppers, 2013
While most recipes don’t call for roasting the peppers this extra step imparts a rich flavor and if you have the time go ahead and try it.  You will look like a pro at the very least roasting peppers over the flame on your stovetop.  (instructions for roasting peppers-4 easy methods)
 
Pepper Strips, 2013
Peppers, Garlic, Onions, Olive Oil, Water, Salt and Pepper – Cook on low heat for about 45 minutes, 2013
Peperonatta (Stewed Sweet Peppers)
Ingredients (makes 2 cups) 
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 assorted red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (or other variety of sweet pepper), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4″ to 1/2″ strips – don’t worry about being exact
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise – the thinner the better
  • ½ medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Instructions (total prep time 15 minutes, total cook time 45 minutes to 1 hour)
  • Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.  When you begin to smell the olive oil
  • Add garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes
  • Add peppers and ½ cup water and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until peppers are soft, about 1 hour.  About 20 minutes if you have roasted the peppers first.
  • Stir in vinegar, turn off the heat, and mix together
  • Transfer to a serving bowl if you will be serving right away or let cool in the pan before transferring to a storage container
  • As is the case with most italian food I always find these better the next day or several days later.   Easily made in advance and have on hand for later.  Buon Appetito!

 

Almost finished, 2013
Almost finished, 2013

My Favorite Italian Products

Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio, Rome, 2013
Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio, Rome, 2013 (Exceptional Chocolates and Candies)

One of the most common questions my friends ask me is where did you get that?  Often my answer is “In Italy”.  Italian craftsman and artisans make everything you can think of and often these products are considered the best of the best.  Paper, Wine, Bedding, Shoes, Fountain Pens, Perfume, Chocolate, Clothing, Jewelry, Cars, etc. etc. etc. etc…………………..!!!

Ditta G. Poggi - Belle Arti dal 1825, Rome, 2013
Ditta G. Poggi – Belle Arti dal 1825, Rome, 2013 (Fountain Pens, Art Supplies, Beautifully Pressed Italian Papers)

I have created a permanent page on this blog where I continue to add links to some of my favorite products and stores where you can find them both in Italy and the United States.   Divertiti!!

Related Information

Recommended Reading – Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks

Italian Neighbors, Tim Parks

I am always looking for books about Italy that help me to better understand the idiosyncrasies of modern Italian culture.  This easy to read book with short chapters chronicles the life of Tim Parks and his Italian wife Rita as they insert themselves into the city of Verona.

For anyone who has visited or lived in Italy for either a short time or a longer stay this book will undoubtedly bring back memories, more than a few laughs, and validate your own experiences.

The first in a series of books that I highly recommend, Italian Neighbors (1992), An Italian Education (1996), Italian Ways, On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (2013), in addition to Tim’s numerous other books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Italian history and culture.

“his eye for the illuminating moments in the miniature worlds he describes—condominium meetings, beaches, nursery scenes, and elementary-school parents’ groups, to name just a few—is so sharp that the ordinary gains a kind of magical lustre, and the particular becomes universal.” – The New Yorker, June 6, 2013

Italy – A Photographer’s Dream

Italy is many things – food, history, color, texture.

One of the special qualities about Italy is the endless juxtaposition of scenery, color, the old and the new.  Every time I arrive in this country, face pressed against the window of the plane, I look forward to the opportunity to capture some of these beautiful juxtapositions with my camera.

Whether you are using an iPhone, a small digital point and shoot, or a sophisticated professional camera take the time and opportunity to “see” Italy through photography.  Often I get up early in the morning and go for a walk with my camera photographing whatever interests me.   Going alone affords you the space and time to focus and enjoy the creative experience.

Below are some of my photographs which remind me of the many wonderful friends and experiences that are Italy.

Rome, 2012
Detail, Santi Luca e Martina, Forum, Rome, 2012
Rome, 2012
Rowing on the Tiber, Early Morning, Rome, 2012
Detail, Il Vittoriano Monument
Detail, Il Vittoriano Monument, Rome, 2012

I love looking through vintage photographs and books about photography related to Italy. Below are links to some of my favorite books and photographers I admire.

Day Tripping – Rome to Frascati

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView of Frascati from belevedere at Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati, Italy, 2012

Just south of Rome, in the Alban Hills, lies a string of hilltowns, villages, and vineyards called the Castelli Romani.  One of my favorites is Frascati the largest and best known for it’s wines and beautiful villas.   Amazingly many of these towns survived the heavy bombing of World War ll.  More than 50% of Frascati was destroyed in the war.

Located a short 12 miles (20km) southeast of Rome, Frascati is easily reached by train, car, or taxi.  I recommend taking the train from Roma Termini station.  Depending on the specific train It takes between 30 and 40 minutes. The regional trains cost about 2 euros one way and it is best to buy a round trip ticket at Termini as sometimes the ticket counter in Frascati is closed for lunch or coffee breaks and you don’t want to miss a train or get on a train without a ticket.

Home to many well preserved villas including Villa Aldobrandini, Villa Falconieri, Villa Parisi, Villa Grazioli, Villa Lancellotti, Villa Muti built by Popes, cardinals, and roman nobles, Frascati is easy on the eyes.  Not all the villas are open to the public but many allow access to the gardens.

We were fortunate to visit in the Fall and the weather was beautiful.  The day was as crisp as a bottle of the well known wine.   I will tell you that you do a lot of walking and stair climbing in this town.  I am not telling you this to discourage you but to ensure that you are mentally prepared.  The effort is worth the amazing views of Rome and surrounding area which you will have many opportunities to photograph.  The city center is easily walked and there are many good restaurants to choose from.

If you have unlimited energy I would recommend a walk up past Villa Aldobrandini along Via Cardinale Guglielmo Massaia to the church of San Francesco d’Assisi part of the Monastery of the Cappuccini.  It is a beautiful walk and the monastery and church at the summit are charming.

Convent of Saint Francesco, Frascati, Italy, 2012Entrance to the small church of San Francesco d’Assisi (1575), Frascati, Italy, 2012

After exerting yourself enjoy lunch and of course some Frascati wine at one of the many cantinas, osterias, and trattorias in the town.  Make sure you bring your camera and your appetite.  Buon Viaggio!!

Tree Covered Trail, Frascati, Italy, 2012Tree lined walk, Frascati, Italy, 2012  

Other Recommended Day Trips

Fall in Rome – Chestnuts “Castagne”

Piazza Navona, Chestnuts, Rome, 2012Piazza Navona, Roasted Chestnuts, Rome, Fall 2012

Fall is one of my favorite times in Rome.  Cooler weather, less crowded, amazing colors, and seasonal specialties including Ricotta Romana, newly pressed olive oil, and chestnuts!!

Strolling through the city on a cold day with a thick scarf around my neck and a warm paper cup full of roasted chestnuts certainly made me feel Roman.

One note fall is the time to eat chestnuts not spring or summer.  They seem to roast chestnuts 12 months of the year at the more popular tourist destinations in Rome.  Do yourself a favor and save the 2 to 5 euros in spring and summer as the chestnuts will not be enjoyable.

Dome of St. Peter's, Rome, 2012Dome of St. Peter’s from Ponte Sisto, Rome, 2012

Chestnuts in season are used to make some incredible seasonal foods including gelato, castagnaccio – a dense flat cake, and candied chestnuts.   Additionally throughout the region there are many chestnut festivals which offer a great excuse to take the train to the surrounding countryside.

Cooking Roman Style – Papacelle Ripene di Carne (Stuffed Peppers with Meat)

Cooking Classes in Rome, 2013Chef Andrea, Cooking Classes in Rome, Trestevere, 2013

One of the most rewarding experiences you can have in Rome is takeing a cooking class.   Meeting liked minded foodies from around the globe and preparing and sharing a meal is enormous fun and hopefully an adventure that you will bring home and share with your friends.   WARNING: It can be addictive!

On my fourth class with Chef Andrea we prepared a menu of stuffed figs, homemade cavatelli with pesto, stuffed peppers, sauteed cauliflower, and a pear torte.   My favorite recipe from this particular class is below and fairly easy to make.

Cooking Classes in Rome, 2013
Papacelle ripene di carne (Stuffed peppers with meat)

Ingredients to serve four people:
  • 1 lb ground meat (70% beef and 30% pork, ground and minced) Use prosciutto sausages if you can find them, if not use plain unseasoned sausages (casings removed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup/100g parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/2 cup/50g edamer cheese grated
  • freshly chopped parsley
  • 3oz leftover bread soaked in milk (crusts removed)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4 to 6 peppers depending on size (in class we used papacelle which are smaller and flatter than the bell peppers we most often use in the states.  Try to use peppers such as this or other peppers that are in season where you live – Note: smaller sized peppers are better)
Instructions
  • Heat oven to 350°F / 180°C
  • To prepare the filling mix sausage, parmesan cheese, eggs, grated cheese, leftover bread soaked into milk, salt and pepper.  Mix all the ingredients well and set aside for a good half an hour to let the flavors meld.
  • Wash the peppers and cut a small hole in the top around the stem, saving the piece you cut out.  Clean out the seeds, rinse and set aside
  • Stuff the peppers one by one and place onto a baking dish, replacing the small piece you cut from each pepper on top.  Add a little bit of water and extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of the pan to avoid burning the peppers.
  • Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the peppers, until cooked all the way through.  Turn the pan carefully in the oven once or twice to ensure even cooking all the way through the peppers.  Serve hot.   Buon Appetito!

Stuffed Peppers, Cooking Classes in Rome, 2013 

Car Spotting – Rome, The Quintessential FIAT Cinquecento

The Fiat 500, Cinquecento, is a city car designed by Dante Giacosa and produced by the Italian manufacturer Fiat (Fabbrica Italiano Automobili Torino) between 1957 and 1975.

Launched as the Nuova (new) 500 in July 1957,it was a cheap and practical town car. Measuring only 2.97 metres (9 feet 9 inches) long, and originally powered by an appropriately sized 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine, the 500 redefined the term “small car” and is considered one of the first city cars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFiat Cinquecento, Rada in Chianti, 2009

Like all tourists I can’t ever get enough of looking at or remarking on these cars as they go whizzing through Rome and all of Italy for that matter.  Weekends seem to be the best time to spot these beauties especially those that have been restored and are in perfect condition.

Cinquecento, Trestevere, Rome, 2012Fiat Cinquecento, Trestevere, Rome, 2013

I often think about what it would be like to bring one of these original beauties home to Baltimore.   In 2007 similar to Mini Cooper, Fiat reintroduced the Cinquecento with strong styling cues from the original ’57 and sales have skyrocketed.  FiatUSA

Cinquecento, Rome, 2012Near Perfect Condition Fiat Cinquecento, Viale della Trinita del Monti, Rome, 2012