Archive for the ‘Food and wine’ Category

Sufficiently beautiful to repeat three times.

All up and down the hillsides,  a church with life-sized statues of all 12 apostles and one with 250 steps, chocolatiers vying for our trade.  Modica’s Spanish conquerors brought cocoa from their South American colonies. The chocolate has a slightly crystallised texture reminiscent of Mexican chocolates.

Quiet, pastel, rococo splendour.

Sampling time at the chocolate factory!

A sweet package – Cannoli

Chiesa San Giorgio, Modica

Modica Alta


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During our 5 weeks together in Italy, my sister Annie and I were fond of saying  “This doesn’t suck”.  Well, Siracusa and Ortygia are truly deserving of this charming turn of phrase!

From the enchanting streets of Ortygia (island connected via a bridge to Siracusa), to the best spaghetti vongole I ever tasted at Spaghetteria do Schogghiu, to the Teatro Greco in the Parco Archaeologico della Neapolis, the Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi and the tiny bohemian-feeling Slow Food recommended Osteria La Gazza Ladra.

Siracusa is small enough to see everything on foot. We hoofed the length and breath of it and here are some photos we captured.

The narrow lanes of Ortygia, Siracusa

Morning market near Post Office, Ortygia, Siracusa

Fishing boats, Siracusa

Teatro Greco at Parco Archaeologico Neaopolis, Siracusa

Former temple of Athena, renovated to create a Catholic Cathedral, Ortygia, Siracusa

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The trip across the strait from Villa San Giovanni, Calabria to Messina was eventful.  Before the train arrived in Villa San Giovanni a conductor came through the car to say there was a ‘problem’. The train would not be loaded on the ferry as normal then continue across the strait to Messina in Sicily.  Evidently the ‘problem’ was a strike, a ‘sciopero’. We were told we could board the ferry on foot then catch a regional train at the other end to our final destination.  Or we could wait with the train for the strike to finish.

So we got on the ferry and proceeded to the information window to see when the next regional train was going only to be told we would have to pay for the trip from Messina to Catania.  I argued that we had already paid to be taken, and on a higher-priced Intercity train, but the Ferrovia dello Stato officer insisted that we would not be allowed to travel with the tickets we held. In the end we waited for the strike to finish (3 hours total) then rejoined our Intercity train to Catania!

Our little hotel (Hotel Etnea 316) was welcome and Danielle the most helpful of hosts, advising us where we could get a light meal, seeing it was a bit late by the time we freshened up.

IKI Catania - nice salad meal with a packet of scamorza and ham plus wine

Catania seems so familiar but I can’t put my finger on it.  It’s a little bit Buenos Aires, a little bit Arequipa, a little bit Madrid (or Barcelona perhaps).  But definitely Italian. The seafood is fabulous, the people friendly, the architecture enchanting. Everyone stays up late to talk and eat and laugh. I could stay here a while…

Catania - La Pescheria - Triglia

Catania - La Pescheria on a Saturday morning

Catania - La Pescheria - Close up fish

Catania - La Pescheria - sardines to go from wooden tubs where they are salt-cured

Lunch at Osteria Antica Marina was a delicious affair.  The waiter asked if he could make a selections of antipasti for us then rocked up with eight little dishes ranging from roasted capsicum, to raw marinated little prawns to sardines split open, grilled then topped with caramelised onions. Each was unique and tasty with the local white wine. We devoured the next courses forgetting to take photos. The meal was topped of with a champagne flute of lemon sorbet.

Catania - Osteria Antica Marina - various types of fish and vegetable antipasti

Catania - Morning market next to La Pescheria

Catania - Morning market - pomodori

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Last week was our final week of Italian language school in Sorrento. We decided to stay on a few days longer as our study limited our time to explore and linger over meals.  The extra time has given us the opportunity to try some local restaurants.


Inn Bufalito antipasti


First, Inn Bufalito in Sorrento. This stylish and friendly restaurant specialises in meals based on the local water buffalo. We had excellent antipasti of buffalo milk cheese, buffalo salami and buffalo pepperoni. This was accompanied by a lovely sharp pecorino (sheep) cheese, broccoli greens, marinated artichoke hearts and foccacia. The antipasti would have sufficed for lunch, but we had already ordered a main course of pasta each.

One dish was a buffalo ragu served over pacchero pasta. The second was fusilli con zucca e salsice, pumpkin and sausage.

Wisely, we refused desert offers and had a macchiato each.

As if the scenery on boat ride to Positano weren’t enough, we were also treated to a stunning view over the Mare Tirrenia from Ristorante Bruno along the via Cristofo Colombo.


view from via Cristofo Colombo Positano


It was the 1oth of October so we toasted Italy and Chris Columbus with a glass of local red and a plate of scialatielli, a local hand cut pasta. Mine was dressed with lovely little prawns, black olives and a fresh tomato sauce.


Scialatielli at Ristorante Bruno


A final bliss point has to be the Frittura de Pesce that we ate at the Feste Sagra del Pesce (festival for the blessing of the fish). A feather-light batter on rings and tentacles of squid, sardines about the size of my middle finger, prawns with crunchy tails, a giant chunk of lemon (Sorrentine lemons are fabulously juicy), a crunchy roll and a cup of wine.  All for 5 Euros!


Sagra Del Pesce


Last week was our final week of Italian language school in Sorrento. We decided to stay on a few days longer as our study limited our time to explore and linger over meals.  The extra time has given us the opportunity to try some local restaurants.

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Almost a whole generation of my grandfather’s family left Italy for life in America between 1909 and 1930.  Three brothers and one sister from the same family made the voyage by boat. Some went alone, like my grandfather Giovanni (Johnny), with zero English and a mere 14 years old.  One of our grandfather’s nieces, Argia, stayed behind when her mother and father went to Philadelphia.  Argia’s son Walter lives here in Roseto.  He is in his early 70s now and together with his wonderful wife Adriana, manage a business that has been in the family a long time. A Cartolibreria, a shop that sells cards, books (particularly children’s picture books), toys, stationery and small gifts.

Also in Roseto is the niece of our beloved late Zio Vittorio, Anna Maria.  A fabulous large-hearted woman with a most infectious laugh.

We have had such a wonderful time with all of them. And some great meals.  These women can cook! Just to prove it, here are some pics of the food.

Olive Ascolana and grilled peppers (capsicum)

Olive Ascolana and grilled peppers (capsicum)

Triglia - red snapper

Olive Ascolana and grilled peppers (capsicum)

Torta, fruit and coffee

Olive Ascolana and grilled peppers (capsicum)

The sauce and the meat

Olive Ascolana and grilled peppers (capsicum)

The pasta afterwards...got too excited to photograph before

Olive Ascolana and grilled peppers (capsicum)

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There are seven gates in the ancient walls of this cittadina (little city). And a walk around town to each of the gates takes less than 45 minutes.  But there is a lot to see if you just go slowly. Chat with the nonna who get the keys to the church so you can have a look inside. Gossip with the old men sitting in the piazzas. Enjoy a panino and a coffee. There is, however, only one  public toilet in Norcia, just outside Porto Massari, and it costs 50 euro cents to use.  So go easy on the coffee!

Norcia is famous for its pork products, truffles and the lentils that grown between Norcia and Castelluccio. We sampled all of these in the form of prosciutto and salami panini, cooked lentils as a side dish and a bruschetta smeared with black truffle!

Outside the wall are beautifully forested and somewhat forbidding hills intermingled with pastures and planted fields. This is an out-of-the-way place with only one bus going East each day, but I recommend it heartily. We stayed the night because of  misinformation that had us miss the bus to Ascoli Piceno. The Ristorante Albergo Benito was clean, comfy and super cheap.  The restaurant does a mean pork chop for lunch too!

Porta Romana

Annie with giant tartufo nero, Norcia, Umbria

With all of the wild boar (cinghiale) in Norcia,  you’d expect a road for the hunters to live on…

Via Dei Cacciatori

Norcia Umbria, municipal building and Basilica San Benedetto


In somma, vale la pena.  To summarise, it’s a place worth the effort, but if you can, rent a car to get here and out. The onward journey to Roseto degli Abruzzi, via Ascoli Piceno, is another story…

Tartuffo Nero, Norcia, Umbria

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The last week has been an exciting time.  We left the comfort of two weeks in San Giovanni Valdarno and headed to Umbria, then on to Abruzzi.  In Assisi, Annie was suffering with the respiratory infection that I had just gotten rid of. The hills of Assisi are challenging for even those with lungs functioning at 100%!  But she powered on, not wanting to miss a nook, cranny or vista.  Brava sorella!

I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Piazza di Chiesa San Rufino

Basilica di Santa Chiara, from Rocca Maggiore, Assisi, Umbria

Veal, artichokes and greens (with wine and bread of course)

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