Life, Food, and Travel

An informal tale of my journeys

Life, Food, and Travel

Tropea – Calabria

Il mito vuole attribuire ad Ercole la fondazione di questa città. Gli storici preferiscono insegnare che fu Scipione l’africano a costruire Tropea. Questa perla della costa occidentale della Calabria rimane meta di milioni di turisti. Qui tra la bellezza naturale e i molti miracoli architettonici come la Madonna dell’Isola si possono degustare i vari prodotti tipici come il peperoncino e la cipolla rossa di Tropea.12874568_829814160461815_1877935547_o 12894364_829814170461814_171520503_o

Life, Food, and Travel

Taormina – My Favourite – by Alison McAllion

    One of the cities that I enjoyed most during my visit in Italy was Taormina. Though it is nearly impossible to choose a favourite, I remember loving a few specific things about Taormina that I did not experience anywhere else. Firstly, I really liked that we went to Taormina because it was a surprise; the itinerary never originally included visiting Sicily but in a change of schedule, I was delighted to find that I would get to see the beautiful island. One of the first things I noticed in Taormina was the cactuses. I never knew that cactuses grew in Italy, even though given the climate it isn’t surprising, and I never knew that so many could grow in one place or at such an angle as off the side of a mountain. I had a very memorable moment involving a cactus, when I noticed that people inscribed their names or initials into cactuses in the garden behind the amphitheatre in Taormina. I used a sharp rock to write M.A.M.A., the initials of my friends and I (Manny, Adriana, Maggie, and Alison). Speaking of gardens, another one of my favourite things about Taormina that I have never encountered anywhere else was breathing beautifully fresh air in a garden near a hidden pizzeria. My friends and I had lunch at a pizzeria that took a couple hundred stairs to get up to, but it was so pleasant it was worth it. While we were leaving, we knew we were late but I couldn’t help but stop to enjoy the wonderful fresh air in the garden. That experience convinced me I would have to go back. The other experiences that made Taormina so enjoyable for me were the way the people were so friendly and helpful when I didn’t know where to go and that Taormina was the place where I bought souvenirs for my friends and family so they could share in my memories. Overall, I could not decide on one favourite place we visited, but Taormina is definitely tied with other cities for my most enjoyed experience.

My expectations of this course and the trip were met and exceeded. I didn’t know I would be learning ancient history and mythology when I signed up and I really liked learning those units. If I were to do it again I would probably like to spend more time speaking Italian with classmates so I could be confident to use my language skills in Italy. I would also like to visit Venice, and perhaps not change hotels every night but use one or two hotels as bases and go on day trips to other cities instead. I would definitely want to keep the visits to Rome, Florence, Certosa, Taormina and especially the church of San Francesco di Paola.

Thank you for this amazing learning experience!

Life, Food, and Travel

Our Italy Trip – A Journal by Joseph Visconti

Bettolle

Although we didn’t spend much time in Bettolle I went into a small butcher’s shop with Sabrina, Adriano and Alex. While we were there we sampled different cured meats and sausages. It was all very good meat but my favorite part was experiencing the Italian culture. It was the first day we were in Italy and the owners were so friendly and proud of what they do. They were showing us pictures of the animals we were eating and I thought that was also a very interesting difference in culture. We (in Canada) prefer to separate ourselves from the meat preparing process but in Italy they are more in touch with where their food comes from.

Siena

My favourite part of Siena was when we got to the top of the bell tower. In Sienna I climbed the bell tower with Sabrina, Adriano and Alex. When we were at the top the view was amazing. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Just looking out over the Italian countryside with all the little villages sporadically nestled in the mountains was so picturesque. In my opinion, nothing is more beautiful than the Italian countryside and the bell tower in sienna was a great place to see it.

Florence

Florence is a beautiful city. There is so much history and so many priceless pieces of art but my favorite place in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio. Something about the feeling of being there, seeing all the shops on the sides and the beautiful scenery is truly a spectacular sight. I also really liked the part of the bridge where couples locked a padlock on the bridge so that they will be locked in love forever. While I was there I saw a couple lock a padlock together and I thought it was a very nice tradition. In Florence I also bought a purse from one of the street vendors. I actually really like buying things from street vendors because it really shows the Italian culture. Here we never haggle so I thought it was nice that we were able to experience that part of Italian culture

Rome

In Rome we saw so many nice things but my favorite part was when I bought gelato with Sabrina and Adriano. We had stopped for lunch in front of the Fontana di Trevi and I got “un gelato alla nocciola” gelato. It was such beautiful day outside and it was very enjoyable to just site on the side of the fountain and enjoy our gelato. There were many other very nice things in Rome as well. I really liked the seeing the Colloseo. I had been outside the Colloseo before but I had never been inside. I really liked being able to go inside and see where all the gladiators and animals fought. I also found it really interesting to be able to stand in the same place where so many people had stood before me. Emperors, peasants and so many other people had been where I was and I found that really interesting.

Paestum

Although we didn’t stay in Paestum we saw Greek ruins. The Greek buildings were very well preserved. I found this really interesting because I didn’t know that there were those kinds of Greek ruins in Italy. I knew that there were some ruins from when the Greeks were in southern Italy however I never expected huge buildings that were very well preserved. I had never seen Greek ruins before so that really interested me.

Salerno

Salerno is a really nice place and we went shopping and saw the beautiful Mediterranean Sea however my favorite part was goings swimming. Sabrina, Adriano, and I went swimming when we first arrived in Salerno. We had just spent the day driving and it felt really good to be able to just relax and go swimming. I also got a really nice shirt in Salerno and had a nice café at a little bar. At dinner I had the best tasting potatoes I’ve ever had. They were excellent.

Pompeii

I had never been to Pompeii before so being able to go there was a really nice experience. Seeing how well the whole city was preserved was amazing. Being able to see the expressions on the faces of the citizens was really amazing. Also, the fact that all the buildings were so were preserved was also amazing. Being able to look at a 1000 year old shop and tell what it sold is really cool so I really enjoyed that.

Matera

In Matera my favorite thing was the dance party we had with the American school after dinner. Mr. Femia got out Rosa (his original Calbarese “organetto”) and was playing the tarantella and other Italian songs and everyone was dancing and laughing and having a really good time. In Matera I also really liked going for the walk at night with the whole group and the Sassi were amazing. It was really interesting to see how the people lived so long ago and how they were able to carve their houses out of the rock.

Paola

Even though we didn’t stay in Paola and we just passed though it was my favorite part of the whole trip. The stories that Mr. Femia was telling us about his experiences there were really inspiring. Being able to drink that water and see the bomb that didn’t explode and pray in the church were all some of my favorite parts of the trip. The whole time I was there I felt like it was a really holy and sacred place. It was definitely my favorite part of the trip.

Amantea

We didn’t spend much time in Amantea but I really liked going into the supermarket. I hadn’t been into an Italian supermarket yet in the trip and being in there and seeing the different foods that they were selling and the difference in prices was really interesting. I saw a five gallon bottle of wine for only five Euros. I really liked the supermarket.

Tropea

Tropea was really cold and windy but it was still a beautiful town. I wasn’t feeling well in Tropea because the Calabrese roads had gotten the better of me however I was still able to really enjoy a piece of pizza from a little pizzeria. I also really liked the beautiful cliffs going down to the beach and I thought it was really funny when Alex picked a giant lemon off a tree.

Taormina

Taormina was a beautiful city in Sicily. I really loved the amphitheatre. The sun was shining and thinking about all the people that had sat in that amphitheatre before me was really nice. On my way to Taormina I had a really good rice ball on the ferry. In Taormina we also bought some really good oranges that were really fresh and juicy.

Reggio

My favorite part of Reggio was the gelato. I had the best gelato of the whole trip in Reggio. It was just a small gelato shop and it was really cold but I got a gelato and It was the best of the whole trip. The nocciola was so creamy and delicious. I also took a really nice walk along the promenade and saw the statue of Vittorio Emanuele. The Sea was also very beautiful there.

Serra San Bruno

We spent several days in Serra. Although when I first got there I was a little skeptical I ended up really liking it. My favorite thing that happened in Sera was being able to see my Zio Pasquale. I don’t get so see him much so I was so happy to be able to see him. I also really liked it when we went to the monastery and were able to say the rosary all together. Another thing I liked was the café. There were the most delicious cannoli and excellent espressos. The thing I liked most about Sera was the time that we had to spend with all the new friends that we had made. I know I made lots of new friendships that I have continued to keep up and will continue as well.

Italy was truly an unforgettable experience.

Life, Food, and Travel

The Most Memorable Place We Visited on Our Trip – Sabrina Mazzucco

For me, the most memorable place we visited in Italy was the city of Rome. This city attracted me the most primarily because of the many breath-taking sights we saw there. We began at the coliseum, although i had been to Italy twice before, and visited the coliseum both times I had never before been within it’s walls. I was stunned by the massive room sized bricks that were used to make this grand structure which had withstood the test of time. Touching those cold stone walls i could not even begin to imagine how people, without the aid of machinery managed to lift those bricks, not just into position, but also transport them from the surrounding mountains to the construction sight. Within the Coliseum, I marvelled and the endless arch ways, the numerous floors i never knew existed and the exposed underground area which was used in ancient times to hold slaves and animals alike. As well, it was interesting to learn that the coliseum was not given it’s name because of it’s size, but because of a massive statue of emperor Nero which was posted just out side of the coliseum, named the colossus.

Next we visited the monument of the Unknown Soldier. This building has to be one of my favourites in all of Italy, in my opinion; its architecture matches the story behind the monument perfectly. The clean white walls of the huge monument to symbolise the thankfulness of the soldiers and their families for the recognition of all those who never returned from battle or who were never found, juxtaposed by the dark, black statues of angels and soldiers on top, representing the sorrow that still remains for the loss of so many young men who could never be properly mourned as their bodies never returned home.

After, climbing to the top of the Monument for the Unknown Soldier we moved on to another of my absolute favourite spots in Italy, the Trevi fountain. The size of the fountain alone is enough to leave one speechless, but the ornate carvings of Poseidon and the clear blue rushing water truly makes the fountain one of a kind. But what really strikes me a special about the Trevi fountain is the atmosphere round it. To your left there’s an old man selling hot, roasted chest-nuts in brown paper cones, the delicious smell wafting towards you. To the right, fresh pressed sandwiches filled with proscuttio, or mortadella, boconccini cheese, sliced tomatoes, cured olives. And all around you people are smiling chatting; enjoying huge cones piled high with gelato, children and adults alike all tossing coins into the fountain, smiling at the promise of returning again to this unbelievable spot.

The day finished off at the Vatican. This held another memorable moment for me as I had never before climbed up all the steps to the top of the “cuopola”. I will never forget the view, looking over the top straight down to see the steep, sloped walls of the dome, and looking out on the city as the sun set in the distance behind the grey, blue mountains that seemed to line the circumference of the whole country.

And this is why our day in the city of Rome was the most memorable for me during our trip to Italy, not to mention it was also my birthday.

I greatly enjoyed this course mostly because I was given the chance to practise my Italian and learn more about my heritage, the history of Italy, where the city of Rome got its name from and as well as visit different cities in Italy which I had never seen before. The only aspect I would change in the future would be to read the whole book / story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, from the synopsis I read online of the story I found very interesting and would like to learn more about the myths of ancient Italy.

Education Trends Life, Food, and Travel

Our March Break Trip – By Adriano Mazzucco

My Journal

One of the first places we visited was Siena.  Piazza Del Campo was amazing.  There we saw the area where they do the horse races and the bell tower. While we were there, there was a chocolate festival going on, we got to taste and buy many different types of chocolate. My favorite part was the bell tower, it was very high and I was very scared of the height, especially in the open areas of the tower. Even though I was scared for my life, the view from up there was amazing, we were able to see all of Siena.  Going up was an amazing experience and a workout, with all the stairs, the bell tower in Siena was one of my favorite parts of the trip!

Firenze was another amazing part of my trip; we got to see the David and Ponte Vecchio, we ate some amazing pizza and saw some of the most amazing artwork dating back maybe thousands of years ago, including the face of a dead man made by Michelangelo. The best part about Firenze was seeing my cousins again. Martina, Lucia, Emma, and Milvia were all so happy to see us. We had an amazing day together sightseeing, eating, and spending time with my cousins!

Rome was my favorite part of the trip we saw some amazing architecture like the Coliseum and the Pantheon. There were also several “salumerie” in Rome where we got to pick up some fresh cold cuts. One of my favorite parts of Rome was the Fontana di Trevi.  It was a spectacular fountain. While there we had some delicious “panini”. The funny part was when the poliziotti got mad at us because we were sitting too close to the fountain while eating.  After we ate we had “un delizioso gelato.”

The trip to Paestum in Campania was another very exciting day. This is an amazing ancient Graeco-Roman city. We saw some amazing temples and ruins an many other artifacts  I remember that there was a small roof coming out of the ground. So me, being the curious person that I am, went closer to go check out the roof. Unfortunately I was the only person who got closer, and I didn’t notice that everyone else was trying to get a picture of the roof. So I ended up getting inside everyone’s picture without even noticing. That was a fun day in Paestum. I would love to go there again and see more of the ancient ruins.

Another place with some amazing ancient buildings was Pompeii. The artifacts and people frozen in rock were so amazing. To think that one natural disaster could completely destroy an entire city. My favorite part there was the amazing pizza we ate. It was pizza margherita my favorite pizza.  It was so delicious that I ate my entire pizza and half of Sabrina’s too. I really like Pizza!!

In Paola we went to the monastery of St. Francesco di Paola. While there we saw a giant bomb that landed in the monastery during World War 2.  It  never exploded. During our time there it really poured so we spent the entire time in the gift shop talking with our Zias.   We hadn’t seen them in over six years and it was amazing getting to spend some time with them. I miss them already and can’t wait until I go back to Italy to see them again.

Tropea was fantastic we had some amazing views of the ocean. Me, Joseph, Sabrina, Mr. Lista, Vince, and my dad all walked down the very long staircase and went to see the sea. Even though it was cold we spent some time on the beach, took some pictures and had fun. Unfortunately my ability to avoid waves failed and I got my feet soaked in icy cold salt water, my shoes were very uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

Tropea was an amazing place to visit. I especially like that it was the only hotel that had a pool.

Another great day of the trip was when we went to Taormina. The best part of the trip were the amazing arancini that we ate on the boat ride. They were so delicious that we ended up buying one on the way there and another on the way back. Taromina was an amazing place while there we saw an ancient Graeco-Roman theater were they were filming a Bollywood video. After seeing the theater I was very thirsty so I went to the nearest fountain to get a drink.  Unfortunately my accuracy was not to good and I got water all over my shirt. This was one of the funnest days of our trip.

The last place we visited was Serra San Bruno while we were there we saw the monastery of Serra San Bruno and we also got a chance to learn about Italian culture. We saw what their cities were like, the food, living space, music, dance, it was an amazing learning experience, but also a lot of fun. My favorite part about Serra San Bruno was the amazing bakery down the street from our hotel. While there me and Joseph had a lot of Cannoli and a lot of espressos. I would go back there just to get so more of those Cannoli!

Recipes

Maccheroni Alla Calabrese

I want to start a new cycle of blogging about traditions, customs, foods, sayings, and original recipes from my native Calabria.

This is my first blog on traditional recipes.

How to make “maccheroni fatti in casa”.   In my home town of Montalto Uffugo we call them ‘maccarruni di casa’ — homemade macaroni.  These are macaroni made using a very thin dried reed of the “busa” plant, or the willow tree.

I called my mother last Thursday afternoon and I said to her:  “Are you going to teach me how to make homemade macaroni like we talked about so many times?  I’m coming over.”

Here are the ingredients and the steps to make these delicacies for 4 people.  flour – the best flour would be the Italian durum wheat double 00 type flour but it’s hard to find here in Canada.  So what my mother found to be the best alternative, over years of experimenting, is Monarch Brand Pastry Flour – the one in the red and white chequered bag.  You will start with about 500 g but then you will have to add a bit as you go along to achieve the correct consistency of the dough.  The dough should not be too soft and it shouldn’t be sticky when kneading.

I asked my mother to be more specific on how much flour we actually use.  This is always a mystery to me because I never get a quantifiable amount.  It’s sort of a hit a miss or so it seems.  But it’s base on expertise and years of accumlated know how.

“Farina quanta se ne riceve – as much flour as it is required”– in other words, you have to feel the consistency of the dough and stop adding flour at right time. It’s an art that is achieved after many years of experience but let’s just say that 500 g will be a good starting measure.

  • 2 eggs – Note: use one whole egg and the yolk of the second egg
  • A cup of warm water
  • A small dish with a little bit of oil to use as lubricant for your hands and the reed or skewer
  • A very thin dried branch of willow or other reed (Un rametto sottile di salice secco o di erba di busa per stendere i maccheroni).   

This is used to roll the dough into long macaroni.  You can substitute the willow reed with a thin knitting iron or other thin rod such as a wooden skewer – just remember; the thinner and straighter the reed, the better.

Let’s start:

  1. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle of it.
  2. Place the whole egg and the yolk in the flour well.
  3. Mix thoroughly with a fork and slowly add the warm water to achieve the desired consistency… as discussed below.
  4. Take out the freshly formed dough and knead thoroughly using your hands adjusting the texture of the dough by adding flour a bit at a time.  The dough should not be sticky or feel too hard when pressed with your fingers.   You should be able to work it with ease into cylindrical rolls.  Keep the dough covered at all times and it’s best if the dough rests for at least half an hour to an hour or so in a cool place (the refrigerator is also a good place) before you start working it.
  5. Divide the dough into smaller portions roughly the size of an orange and work them into thinner cylinders the size of a cigarette.
  6. Work with one portion at a time keeping the rest covered with a bowl or a clean cloth.  Work on a large breadboard.
  7. Cut the cylinders into shorter lengths of about 5 cm each.
  8. Lightly oil the palm of your hands and the reed.  You may need to this often during the process of making the macaroni.
  9. Using a very light pressure, roll the dough cylinders together with the reed or skewer using the palm of your hands  so that the dough gently wraps around the reed and elongates into a large spaghetti about 20 to 25 cm long.  The longer you can stretch the, the thinner they will be.  But making them really thin and long requires lots of practice.
  10. Gently pull the macaroni towards the thinner end of the reed or skewer and place it on a clean dry table cloth.
  11. Congratulations! You made your first Maccherone Calabrese.
  12. A good measure is to make about 20 to 25 macaroni per person.

Use a traditional Italian tomato sauce, preferably a meat sauce, to accompany the macaroni.

A generous dose of Parmiggiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese is used to cover the maccheroni and don’t forget to sprinkle some hot chilli peppers on top for good measure.

I will have a traditional recipe for that sauce soon but you need to wait for my next blog. 

Life, Food, and Travel

My Uncle Sal

Zio SalI dedicate this blog to my uncle Sal Verri who passed away a month ago – July 13, 2012.

Sal Verri was an extraordinary man who may not ever end up in history books or have acclaims in literary circles, or scientific journals.

He was an extraordinary man because his time on this planet, which spanned two centuries and saw drastic changes in every sector of society, politics, and technology, was a living example to us all – relatives, friends, and acquaintances.

He was a living testimonial of how one should live and act in society, in business, and within a family, regardless of the fads and modes of the times.

His love of life and ever present exuberance was a poignant reminder to all those who wasted their time in chasing petty issues, engaged in useless discourses, or even worse insisted on living in the past. His pet peeves were in fact people who continuously mentioned past events and were not able to move forward with their lives. The past is past, he used to say. Let’s move on.

He often proudly contested: “I have never been sick a day in my life” (although this wasn’t entirely the case). What he really meant was that even when he didn’t feel so great he still made the effort to go out, go to work, meet people, and be as productive as possible. You could be sure that when most of the city shut down due to a bad winter storm, his office doors were still open for business – he never missed a day.

Living well was an art to him and life a gift from God. He was a peacemaker. He believed that Paradise was reserved for those who truly made an effort in living life to the fullest, for those who loved to meet and interact with new people, for people with a good sense of humour, for those who avoided conflicts, for peacemakers, and for those who opened their doors to others in need. His idols included Pope John the 23rd, Pope John Paul 2nd, Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, John F. Kennedy, and of course Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Sal Verri was a born teacher who was an inexhaustible font of knowledge and could answer almost any question on any topic you engaged him in. Not only he had a vast familiarity of literature, Latin, music, mathematics, history, poetry, and much more, but he was constantly on the prowl for new learning opportunities. Our morning conversations, especially after a significant political event, an art festival, the opening of an opera, or a new scientific discovery, were a welcome break from the mundane tedium of office mediocrity and politics.

He would constantly remind everyone around him, through his mannerisms and impeccable style, of what is truly important in life: family, friends, good manners, politeness, and good taste. He was an exemplary true gentleman who never missed the chance to offer a chair to a lady, open the door for an elderly or a child, walk on the right side, or stand-up when a lady at the table would get up; rare events of chivalry that have sadly vanished with him and his generation.

He had an extremely keen sense of humour and could make light of the tensest situations with a few well placed words. A true orator and master of ceremonies, he loved to speak in public. There wasn’t one formal event, gala night, family gathering, or party where he would gladly take the podium and ad lib a speech without script anytime, anyplace. He took great pride in this talent of his.

Sal Verri loved to dance and was often the life of the party. He would charm his way through any crowd or situation with his usual mannerism – business card in hand – “let me introduce myself – I’m Sal Verri”, and before you knew it, there he was, on the dance floor, waltzing around with the most beautiful lady in the room.

He loved his friends and family and never missed an occasion to visit, thank, or pay his respects. He would never forget an important event, a birthday, or an anniversary and was the first to call and offer his best wishes. His office at Christmas time was like Santa’s castle as he would prepare gifts for everyone well ahead and then call to remind you that he had that special bottle of Grappa or Prosecco that he knew you would enjoy. Flawlessly, every time, he made an effort to remember what everyone liked and preferred. He rejoiced at everyone’s successes and was proud to be the head of this family.

A true professional he would make sure to keep abreast of the latest rules and tax regulations and inform you well ahead of time of what you needed to do to comply. A lover of technology and innovations he was miles ahead of colleagues and often had brilliant ideas that inevitably would make someone else very rich.

Sal, you often jokingly complained that I seldom called you Zio. But I also think that you must have known the reason why. You were more than a zio to me. I couldn’t use the word “Zio” as it was just too diminutive to encompass all that you were and did for me and for my life – Zio, you were a mentor, a friend, a brother, a father, a business consultant, a confidant, a travelling companion, a point of reference, and my compass for who I am today.

You will be greatly missed.

Life, Food, and Travel

My Trip to Paris – 4 – Along the Seine

This is a great city indeed.

The city of lights, the city of love, the city of wine and song but most of all I found it to be the people city.

Parisians love their city and enjoy it to the fullest.

Here, on the banks of the river Seine, those citizens who cannot go to sea-side resorts can enjoy a man-made beach from June to August created with fine sand, complete with umbrellas, bars and beach chairs.  The road on the Rive Gouche (the left bank) is blocked in the summer months.  Millions of tons of fresh sand are poured on it and fashionably shaped (like everything else in Paris) to recreate a natural beach where old and young alike can enjoy the cool breeze coming from the River.

At night these alcoves along the water come to life with young and old people, strolling, learning how to dance the Tango or the Salsa or simply enjoying the millions of sparkles on the water as the sight-seeing Bateaux taxi back nad forth with hundreds of smiling tourists on deck.

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