Posts Tagged With: wine

Discovering the local volcano and other things…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Apologies for being a bit quiet for a while! I’ve been having issues with WordPress who host my blog. Anyway, it’s all sorted now (at least for the time being!) and I’ve got quite a bit of updating to do from the last month or two. I’ll try and summarise!

The first update is that my poor Batfink lost his fight a day or two after the last blog post. It’s been horrible. We were a good little team. It’s always heart wrenching losing a pet; they’re like members of your family aren’t they? But I think we had quite a special bond, us two in particular given everything that we’d been through together in the last year or so. I miss him.

A few days after Batfink passed away, I heard meowing coming from a hedge by the gym. I eventually located it to a tiny black kitten. To cut a long story short, I ended up adopting her, despite my better judgement. She’s not got a name yet – I’m a bit nervous to give her one lest I get too attached and something happens to her. In fact, she went missing for 4 days a week or two back and I was convinced she’d died too but I was thrilled to be proven wrong.  Anyway, I’m pleased to report that her and Rusty Carrot (he’s gained a name) have finally bonded after an initial settling in period which involved a great deal of hissing (Kitten isn’t much attuned of social cues and so didn’t let it upset her).

So that’s the cat update. I’m very much hoping further cat updates will be less traumatic, at least for a bit!

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Rusty Carrot and Kitten

Meanwhile I’ve been out and about as ever. There’s a continuous string of festas here during the summer and it’s difficult to justify being at home when I could be seeing jazz, or blues, or dancing or seeing medieval games, or going on walking excursions or painting excursions or eating cheap pizzas etc. I used to think London was hectic with things going on all the time but I don’t think it’s a patch on Le Marche in the summer months.

The weather has been absolutely roasting too and the countryside has been spectacular with sunflowers and hay bales stretching across landscapes as far as the eye can see.

 

In other news…

  • I had a lovely evening with the Dezi family who are a big name locally in the wine industry. They are only a couple of minutes up the road from me. It was lovely to meet some of the locals, and their wine was great! If anyone is interested trying the wine, they run some good value tasting events.

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  • I went on a long walk in the mountains with a friend that’s not from the area. I’d been meaning to do this walk for a long time and I was quite chuffed I managed to get us where we were supposed to be going within the timescales I was supposed to! There’s lots of scope for error and there are hardly any sign posts but I’m beginning to know the local mountains quite well so it’s not the daunting prospect it once was!
  • There’s an organic farm, Indaco Foods in a town very close to me called Monsampietro Morico. They run what they call a “Dining club / Social Event Organisation” offshoot called La Bibioteca. Some friends of mine have been keen to go for a long time, as have I. I thought the food was great with some very original recipes. They run a variety of courses too in things like Sourdough breadmaking and I’m determined to do their beekeeping course.
  • I’ve been on a few painting excursions to Torre di Palme (Towers of Palms),  Lago di Gerosa (Lake Gerosa), Lago di San Ruffino (San Ruffino Lake) and Montefalcone Appenino. All are worthy trips with or without painting equipment! I’d certainly recommend Torre di Palma, a hill top town overlooking the coast. It’s very quaint with lots of little restaurants and nooks and crannies to explore.
  • I saw the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian equivalent of the Red Arrows. I was really pleased as I seem to always miss airshows so I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.
  • I went to a concert to see Paola Turci in the  mountains organised by RisorgiMarche, a set of concerts dotted around the Sibillini’s to show solidarity to the people of the area and help breathe life into some of the villages hit by the recent earthquakes. There’s a lovely vibe at the concerts. Paola Turci is a big name in Italy and is often in the charts. It was just her and her guitar, singing a few meters in front of us with us sitting on our picnic blankets and singing along to all the songs. It really had a great atmosphere and it felt quite special to be a part of it.
  • I went to see one of my favourite festa’s of the year, “Artistrada” at Colmurano. It was sad to see some of the town blocked off presumably after the earthquakes but we still had a great time.
  • Then there was the Opera ‘Turandot‘ at the Sferisterio in Macerata. The Sferisterio is a spectacular building so it’s always special seeing something there. It was the first time I’d seen Turandot. I wasn’t bored stiff like in my first attempt at opera last year. I think what helped was just how very odd it was – the princess was writhing around in a glass box filled with ‘blood’ after getting off her polar bear (I told you it was weird!!)  It did have the song Nessun Dorma in too which helped.  Alas, now I understand the context,  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to that song again without getting annoyed at how pathetic the character who sung it was.

I finally went to see the Roman Theater in Piane di Falerone. It’s just 10 minutes down the road from me so it’s been on my list a while. It’s difficult to get to see it – it’s open Sunday’s between 4pm and 6pm (sometimes) and costs 3.50 euros.  You can organise a private appointment to see it by asking a woman in the local newsagents who knows a man who knows how to get someone there to open it. There are events there occasionally and so I’d recommend trying to tie in your visit with that so you get more out of it and there’s slightly more chance it’ll be open!

  • Then there was the Sibillini Swing Festival a week or so back. Riccardo Foresi and his band were playing the night that I was there. They were great and played for two or three hours solid! Sadly none of the Italians are big on dancing to swing so the dancefloor was taken over by about 15 English people. I suspect they thought we were nuts!
  • I’ve been to 3 plays in the last month or so in various places. A couple were in dialect resulting in a rather challenging hour or two trying to understand exactly what’s going on! Thankfully my previous neighbour has given me a good grounding in dialect words so I wasn’t as lost as I could have been!
  • In other news, near the house there is a volcano. I’ve been meaning to go and see it for ages and finally a couple of weeks ago I went with a friend. I warned him it might be a bit of a walk – I’d seen the trail outlined in a tourist map at the parking area. So we put on our walking shoes and were done about two minutes later! The volcano is less of a volcano and more of a muddy patch and there were no trails! If you would like to attempt to find a trail yourself and learn more about the patches of mud, visit this site for more information.
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The Volcano (admittedly I’ve since discovered it’s called Vulcanelli di Fango – little volcanoes of mud, but still I think even that’s a bit of an overstatement)

So that sums up the last couple of months. Sorry it’s been such a long update, hopefully the blog issues have now been resolved and I shall be able to write a bit more frequently!

x

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The Good Life in Emilia-Romagna: Part 3 – Cantinas and Ciambellas!

Buongiorno a tutti!

Part 3 of the Settimana del Buon Vivere Pentalogy covers the preparation side of food and wine in Emilia-Romagna. The thing that struck me most about our tour around the region’s cities and countryside is just how passionate everybody we met was about their area of expertise. Italians love good food and they love their wine. There’s a growing trend for eating locally sourced, organic foods that have been farmed using traditional methods where possible to produce top quality ingredients. The Settimana del Buon Vivere really focused on that during their programme of activities for the week and we saw it in practice out in the field…

San Biagio Vecchio Cantina

Lucia, our host for one morning and early afternoon, owns the San Biagio Vecchio Cantina with her husband Andrea. The cantina is in the most perfect of perfect settings: resting on a hill, surrounded by miles of vineyards in all directions and across the next valley is an old church and tower perched on a neighbouring hill. There’s a restaurant on the property where you sit overlooking the vineyard and ponder just how many vines they have. They even have a couple of geese!

We sat down at a table at about 11.00 and started sipping wine with a delicious array of accompanying nibbles from the restaurant. Very decadent!

I won’t describe the wine too much. My level of expertise only enables me to answer the following questions: What colour is it? Do I like it? All I can tell you is that we had two wines (SabbiaGialla and MammaMia) which were both white and I liked them both. I was endeared by the story of their Mamma Mia wine which has a cute picture that their young daughter had drawn of Lucia on the label. The wine is made from the Albana grapes.

In addition to grapes they also harvest grain and I do love a good discussion about bread, particularly sourdough bread which is made using a sort of “home-made” yeast  – not these little sachets of dried yeast like I used in the UK! Sourdough bread is a bit more of an art form in my opinion and requires a bit more love and attention. I started making bread almost two years ago and never buy it now. I learnt on my own so it was really lovely to have a discussion with Lucia, a fellow bread maker about how she maintains her “starter” (that’s the name for the sourdough yeast mix which can sometimes be years old – in fact hers was originally given to her and is about 28 years old! It’s much less disgusting than it sounds, I promise!). Not only is it satisfying to make a loaf of light spongy bread out of just flour and water but what an amazing thing to be able to use your own grain in the production too. The grain they cultivate at San Biagio Vecchio is an old variety of grain, little used these days, called “Gentilrosso” which grows to well over a meter high.

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Here’s the bread with the flour, sourdough “starter” and grains…

Lucia and Andrea have not selected the easy route to success. Lucia described how they harvest their grapes- this particular type is harvested up to 3 times a year as opposed to many others. (I had the good fortune to be involved in a grape harvest this year -I’ll write about that in a future blog post – but it’s exhausting work). Their wine is also biological – the vines aren’t treated and they don’t use weed killer. It’s basically very hard work! And it took them a few trial attempts to get the old grain right too.  These people are not out to ‘make a quick buck’. They have a passion for what they do and they want to do it properly.  It really is very inspiring!

Il Piccolo Forno Marziali

Later that day we went to see how some of the traditional Romagnolo baked goods are made at the quaint “Piccolo Forno Marziali”.  Daniele, the owner, is a well known “Fornaio” – he makes sweet things using the oven – a baker (not to be confused with a Pasticcere, someone that makes sweet things in more of a general sense). Daniele is easy to like – he’s a passionate whirlwind of creativity – flitting from one end of the kitchen to the other, gesturing wildly whilst talking about how making a cake is like making love to a beautiful woman. He makes a couple of traditional “romagnolo” (Romagna) recipes from the region but everything else is basically of his own creation. His passion for the local Sangiovese wine which features in some of his “wine dipper biscuits” (as I’ve dubbed them  – they’re not like our tea-dipping biscuits!) results in some interesting tastes!

Daniele showed us how to make a ciambella in the traditional Romagnolo way (a bit too Romagnolo in my opinion as traditionally it is made with lard! I’m determined to make a ciambella with a lard substitute instead!). I was disappointed to note how he mixed up the ingredients on the table rather than in a bowl, and then scraped it all onto metal trays for cooking… where’s the fun in that?! This technique means there’s no bowl to lick! Far too efficient for my liking!!!

He told us how in the past when mothers wanted to check the suitability of a woman for their sons, they’d watch them make a ciambella or something similar so they could check their movement from behind, and from that apparently you can tell whether they’d make a good wife or not. One’s bottom must sway apparently.

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One’s bottom should move like this…

Once they were cooked, we tried our efforts with some pre-prepared ‘Wine Dippers’ (I hope this name catches on!) which certainly hit the spot: light, crispy and flavour-some!

All in all, it was a lovely day and I was absolutely stuffed by the end of it.

Watch this space for Part 4 where I’ll talk about some of the things you can do in Emilia-Romagna….

A presto,

x

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Italification, how to defeat curses and painting with oils…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Good few days here. Here’s the update…

Italification

Today, I took one more step towards driving like an Italian. I’m not proud of it. It’ll tell you what happened. I was waiting at temporary traffic lights at some roadworks. The lights went green and cars went through. Then came the amber light, as is customary with traffic lights, and the car in front of me sped through. Fair enough. Nothing illegal technically there really. And then they turned to red. Quick as a flash I weighed up the options. Did I have time to stop? I could see the road was clear and, although not proud of going through on red, I decided squeezing through was the safer option. I looked back. Would the man in the car behind me judge me for going through when they had turned red? I gave a snort of derision when I saw he’d also gone through. And then I laughed all the way home when I saw another 6 cars also go though after him! Rules are there to be broken is most definitely the motto here.

Painting

I’ve been doing a bit of painting in the last week or so – experimenting with oil paints which I’ve not done before. My nude-y drawing course is just getting going – it’s one afternoon a week. We have a male and a female model that will pose alternate weeks. It’s quite good having a model that is paid to stay in one position rather than asking a mate to begrudingly stay still! Anyway, my plan is to do many more oil paintings and be good enough to sell them online. However, I can’t bring myself to post up my first oil painting attempts so I think I’ll have to overcome that for my strategy to be effective!

How to defeat a Festa / Outing Curse

Last week I was invited on an organised walk by my friend, Il Polemico. Every time I go somewhere with him something tends to go wrong – I take the train to a station 2 hours in the opposite direction, I don’t bring lunch on an all day walk, I take us to a “festa” that consists of about 2 stalls… This time though, I read the walk instructions and I was well prepared. It was to start at 8.30 at the little church in Olmeto which was about two hours away. Fine I thought. I’ll wake up early and give myself plenty of time. I packed my bag and made a packed lunch the night before and headed off at ‘insane o’clock’ the following morning. Nobody was there but I was early. And then it was 8.30 and still nobody was there but that was still OK because I’m in Italy and everyone is always late. And then Il Polemico phoned to ask where I was as he was supposedly phoning from the same little church parking lot that I was in. I looked around and it was still empty. I knew then it was the wrong Olmeto – and indeed it was. There are two in Le Marche apparently – the one I wanted was 3 hours in the other direction.

Anyway, not wishing to waste the day, I went on a personalised tour of the region…

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This was taking from near Olmeto where the walk was not taking place!

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And then I headed to Asissi which was close-by. I really like Asissi but I didn’t do much looking around as I’d already been and there were other places on my tour that I hadn’t been to before.

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And then there was Spello which is a lovely little hill top town.

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Another view of Spello.

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And this was taken in Foligno. Foligno has been on my list of places to go to for a long time so I was glad I went. It’s a bit more of a main town and less quaint than I was thinking it would be. And it’s not on a hill which is my favourite kind of town! But it did have small waterways running through it, a river running outside of it and a beautiful park so all in all, still a nice town.

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Evidence of the river running outside Foligno.

Last year I went to a festa called Diamonte del Tavola in Amandola. It was very good – there were hundreds of people and the streets were packed with stalls selling truffles and wine and various local specialities. The thing is, I was with other people and my festa / outing hit rate is more successful when it’s not just me. Anyway, this year I went by myself. And it was not bustling. There was basically only a book stall and the streets were deserted. Tumbleweed blew across the town (it didn’t but it might as well have!) I think what had happened is that I had mentioned out loud that I was planning to go to the festival, and subsequently the stall owners and visitors subsequently disappeared. I imagine it’s like a surprise party where all the guests hide behind the sofas and in wardrobes but in this instance they just don’t come out until I’ve gone. Anyway, I bought some books so that’s good. And I assume it livened up a bit closer to lunch and dinner time.

And yesterday I went to Appassimenti Aperti in Serrapetrona with Pablo (and I also didn’t mention it out loud so people weren’t informed in advance to scarper). Appassimenti means “withering” in reference to the way they make their wine, known as Vernaccia. Aperti means “open” – a lot of the Cantinas where the wine is made in that immediate area are open to the public. It’s definitely worth a visit – the countryside is spectacular and the wine is good. They have an unusual production method  – they string up the grapes they’ve harvested and then leave them to well, wither, for a few months before they even start wine production. For the festa itself, you pay 4 euros for an empty  glass and a handy little carrier for it that goes around your neck. You are given 5 tokens which you can use at the various Cantina’s or at the stalls in the main town, to try whatever wine you’d like. There are free minibuses that take you to the Cantina’s from the main town. We only made it to one Cantina which has one of the best reputations, Alberto Quacquarini.

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They hang up the grapes for a few months before making the wine. Interestingly, they didn’t seem completely riddled with flies. I wonder how they do that?

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There were dozens of rows of these grapes…

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And they had a pretty idyllic terrace as well…

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…with amazing views.

I think that about sums up the last week or two here. I hope you all have good weeks wherever you are.

x

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