Sunday, October 16, 2011

Italy Tribute Menu

Last night I had a couple of friends over to eat dinner and see my photos and videos of Italy. I wanted to recreate the typical food I had enjoyed in Italy, but scaled back a little to accommodate smaller appetites. Thus there is no Primo course of soup, pasta, or risotto.

  • Bruschetta with tapenade
  • Olives
  • Caprese salad with home grown basil
Il secondo
  • Sauteed pork scallopini served with arugula (lightly dressed)
  • Rosemary, olive oil and sea salt potato fries
Il dolce
Prosecco and aqua minerale. 

A good time was had by all!
This was my inspiration for dessert -
this photo comes from the blog Flavors

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cataclysms: Montecassino

If you have ever longed to visit Normandy to pay your respects to the dead of World War II, as I have, consider a visit to Montecassino as well. The Commonwealth Memorial at this location is deeply moving, and I wept without shame as I walked among the grave markers, reading the names and regiments of the soldiers resting here where they fell.

I was not familiar with the history of the battles at Montecassino, but it seems tens of thousand of Allied troops died in the attempt to wrest this critical area from Hitler's grasp. Blunders were undoubtedly made, but it is a testament to the strength of the Axis forces that it was not until the Allies were triple the strength of the Nazis that the battle was finally won.

See the bottom of this post for some additional information I gleaned from another website.

The Monastery of Montecassino is visible on the hilltop

The memories are still fresh

From the website Monte Cassino Battlefield Tour:

The Commonwealth Cemetery of Cassino is the largest WWII Cemetery in Italy. The cemetery contains 4265 grave markers of soldiers. They died in battles against the German army. In the middle of the cemetery there is a tall white monument. There are fifteen tall granite slabs located on both sides of the monument. On the slabs are the names of over 4000 missing soldiers who died in Italy and Sicily. In the centre of the beautifully landscaped cemetery is a lovely pool surrounded by a mosaic tiled walkway. Between September, 1943 and May, 1944 the town was occupied by the Germans. The Germans had a great strategic position - on the mountain - and were able to see the entire area. The Allied Forces made many unsuccessful attempts to conquer Monte Cassino.

Cataclysms: Pompeii

On our last full day of touring, we visited two memorials to the dead -- Pompeii and the Montecassino Commonwealth War Cemetery. This post is about Pompeii.


I've decided to let pictures tell the story of my visit to Pompeii. Everyone knows about the historical event, so there is not much I can add, except my enduring impressions. Pompeii was settled 2,700 years ago by the Greeks, with temples, an amphitheater, homes large and small, and shops galore. When the Romans moved in, they were horrified by the lack of drains, which they instantly retrofitted, as well as adding a gladiator training ground. The Greeks built with pumice, but the Romans with brick and mortar, which was much sturdier and lent itself to more beautiful structures such as arches.

Pompeii was big enough to hold a population of 30,000 -- a good sized town! -- although at the time of the eruption, probably 12,000 - 15,000 were living there. There was no lava in Pompeii -- it was smothered in ash, and its denizens were suffocated to death.

The dead of Pompeii -- they covered their mouths
to try to prevent asphyxiation, to no avail.

Footnote: I bought a small tile at Pompeii bearing the inscription Cave Canem -- Latin for "Beware of the Dog." I have always wanted one of these. True story.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie ... that's Sorrento

When I wasn't traversing the Amalfi coast on crowded, narrow mountain roads and praying for unconsciousness, I was sitting by the pool at my five-star hotel drinking cappuccino and wishing I could have joined the group on their day trip to Capri. Ironically I was reading The Story of San Michele on my Nook while everyone else was visiting San Michele in person. That was the day of my stomach upset, and thus Sorrento and Capri passed me by for the most part.

The night before I was at our touristy dinner in a restaurant set on a pier over the water. Nice! And I wandered down to the water's edge to pay a wet compliment to the Bay.

Our dinner was kind of hilarious. The Neapolitans like to make a big cheesy show out of everything, so we applauded heartily when the servers brought out enormous platters of fish or pasta. Our entertainer for the evening, Maurizio, sang us the old songs of Naples, and when he brought around his obligatory self-published CD for sale, I was amused to see the cover photo was of him and Michael Bolton posing together. Naturally I couldn't resist such star quality, and I purchased one. I wonder if Maurizio was the one who taught Bolton to sing in Italian.

One of our tour group, Steve -- who got it in his head that my entire blog was about him so I guess it's time to mention his name -- made a big stack of limoncello glasses and we had fun with that too. Not sure who drank them all, but we were all mellow-yellow going back to the hotel.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Things I didn't miss

While I was in Italy, I did not miss:
  • Picking up dog poop in the yard
  • Cleaning the cat box
  • Cooking
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Doing laundry
  • Housework in general
  • My job
  • TV (amazing!)
  • Frozen meals
  • Watering the garden
  • Reading commercial emails
Things I missed a bit:
  • My family
  • My pets
  • My soft bed
  • Shorts (I needed them in Italy!) 
  • Cotton underwear 
  • A washcloth 
  • Toilet seats
  • Doing laundry (yes, it appears in both lists)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And now for something completely different ...

We drove from Florence in the north of Italy to Sorrento in the south today. The landscape changes from lush and cooler and to hot and dry, and the rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria change to mountains and coastline as you approach Napoli.

We drove past Mount Etna and Naples, and deposited our luggage in the five-star La Pace Hotel in Sorrento before embarking again on a white-knuckle tour of the Amalfi coast. This does not involve a nice scenic tour close to the water, as it sounds. It means driving high up in to the mountains on ridiculously tight switchbacks on a narrow road and looking down a terrifying sheer drop to the sea below. We followed this route until we reached Positano, a town built vertically from the sea nearly to the mountain tops. Seriously, it has to be the most inconvenient way to live that I can imagine. There is not a flat surface on any of the streets until you reach the beach level. The rest either climbs or descends, depending on which way you are going. Positano has many chi-chi shops for the tourists (beware) and it is certainly an interesting place to visit, but as the old saying goes ... I wouldn't want to live there.