Monday 25 November 2013

Monday Music - San Remo

The annual "Il festival della canzone italiana di San Remo" or just "il festival di San Remo" is a very popular song contest here in Italy that has taken place ever since 1951. Many famous Italian singers have participated (and won) through the years. Eros Ramazotti is maybe the most famous one, even outside of Italy. He won the contest in 1986 with the song "Adesso tu".

Today I'll let you enjoy the song that came 2nd in 1981. Loretta Goggi (born 1950) is a popular singer, impersonator, actress, entertainer, tv hostess and dubber and she sang "Maledetta primavera". 


Friday 22 November 2013

Postcard from the Amalfi Coast

When on a hot summer day the temperature reaches more than 40 degrees C (104 F) one of the best places to be is on the Amalfi Coast in  the Campania region in the south of Italy. It's the stretch of coastline that lies between Salerno and Positano in the Salerno Gulf, and which covers a distance of 40-50 kilometres. Along this stretch you'll find small, picturesque villages (with approx. 2500 to 5500 inhabitants), including Positano, Amalfi, Vietri sul Mare, Maiori and Minori. And not to mention Ravello which is located high on the cliffs off the coast where you have a stunning sea view. In 1997 the Amalfi Coast was added to the UNESCO list of world heritage. 
If you move inwards and upwards in this beautiful landscape you'll find hills covered in terraces and dry walls to keep the landscape "in place" and here they grow lemons and other kinds of fruits; olives, grapes and vegetables of all kinds. The Amalfi Coast (and Sorrento), along with Capri and Sicily are probably the places that are most famous for their Limoncello liqueur. If you continue even further into the countryside you can find farms that keep sheeps, goats, cows and even buffaloes (from where you get the absolute best mozzarella cheese).

The hillside up to Ravello


The entire landscape is criss-crossed by old cattle trails, or rather, earlier trade routes that ran between the different cities. I myself have walked from Minori that is situated by the sea and up to Ravello which lies at about 400 meters above sea level. The walk includes 1247 steps in addition to the normal path - so you get a good work-out along the way. You pass through olive groves and vineyards where farmers are working and they are greeting you with a  "ciao" or  a "buongiorno". Several times I thought I was lost because I was passing through what I thought was private property with cats and chickens running everywhere, but I wasn't. Lost, that is.... You have a fantastic view while you walk, both to the sea and the hills that stretch upwards and I strongly recommended that you take this walk if you happen to visit the Amalfi Coast. Although I must admit that when I was about halfway through it I regretted it because the thermometer showed  a whopping 42 degrees Celsius. The wisest thing though would have been to take the bus from Minori to Ravello and then walk back again ... Oh well, next time! 

Some of the 1247 steps from Minori to Ravello

The hillside between Minori and Ravello  as seen from Ravello

Minori- which was my starting point - is situated about 4 km from the town of Amalfi. It has about 2800 inhabitants and is the birthplace of Jamie Oliver's  "Italian mentor" Gennaro Cortaldo who has also written a cookbook called "Passione" with recipes from the Amalfi Coast. Since Minori is so small it is a perfect place if you want to relax. You'll find small restaurants or tavernas for almost every taste and the beach isn't too big or too crowded. The beach is actually divided into two parts where in one part you'll find sun beds and umbrellas - and the the other part is for people like me that is happy to lie down on my beach towel with a book in one hand and my toes in the sea... Minori is the perfect starting 
point for boat trips to the various towns along the coast - I wouldn't recommend the bus because the road is narrow and full of hairpin bends and the bus driver is driving like a maniac.... 



View over Minori. This is almost the entire town.....

Ravello, as I said earlier, lies high above sea level and has about 2500 inhabitants. Over the years it has been a popular destination for artists, writers, musicians and artists such as the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, Leonard Bernstein and Greta Garbo and they say it was here that Richard Wagner found the inspiration for the scenography of the opera Parsifal. The city has since 1953 celebrated a music festival in honour of Wagner. At first it was just an opera festival, but has now changed into a 2 months long festival of jazz, dance shows, photo exhibitions, discussion groups and also the opportunity to meet and talk to the various participating artists who in many cases is world famous. A part of the festival takes place at Villa Rufolo which has an unbeatable view of the sea. 

The main piazza in Ravello

The view from Villa Rufolo

The garden at Villa Rufolo

The view from where the concerts take place at Villa Rufolo

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Tea on a Tuesday

Image courtesy of -Marcus- /

Italy, the land of Chamomile tea... I guess you thought it was the land of cappuccino, caffe latte and espresso, am I right? Well, you're right... and you're wrong.... The Italians are of course drinking millions of cups of coffee every day. Lots of coffee. Strong coffee. They're Italians, right? And they know both how to make it and how to drink it. 

But mention the word "tea" to the average Italian and the first word that pops into his head is "chamomile" or camomilla as it is called here. This is something I don't understand. They go from drinking coffee that is so strong that it knocks your socks off to this insipid, pale yellow liquid. What on earth happened on the way? Well, part of the answer lies in the fact that they love their coffee so much that they don't need another drink. Only when they have an upset stomach (from drinking too much coffee...) or feel a bit under the weather for various reasons do they consider drinking something else. Oh, and lets not forget when they're "nervous" as they call it. (Sono nervoso...!"%#¤%¤#¤!) At that point the only valid choice is camomilla. I don't know to what extent the tea calmes them down, but anyway....

But what about me? I'm an avid tea drinker. Even if I love my coffee after lunch and dinner I consider myself first and foremost a tea drinker. Have been all my life. Before I moved to Italy I didn't drink any coffee at all. But lots and lots of tea. Black tea, that is. Never chamomile. Ever! Only the smell of it makes me feel sick. I just can't stomach it. 

And what happens when you're at someone's house and you ask for a cup of tea instead of coffee? Out comes the chamomile tea! Or some other herbal tea with fennel, aniseed or liquorice. At that point I just go for the coffee....

If you go to a supermarket to buy tea the story repeats itself. They have a huge amount of all the herbal teas you could ever think of - for an upset stomach; for sleepless nights; for high blood pressure etc etc.... And tucked in a corner you find some tea bags of unknown origins with English sounding names like "Lord Nelson". Well, I'm stretching the truth a bit here, because if you go to a well stocked supermarket you will of course find the English labels Twinings English Breakfast and Lipton Yellow Label, but that's it. And always tea bags. Never loose tea leaves. And I would so much love to be able to make myself a real "cuppa".... Sigh! Oh well, I guess I just have to make do with what I can get hold of. But Camomilla? Never!

I know I'm probably complaining a bit much, but for me drinking Lord-Nelson-tea is the same as for an avid coffee drinker having to settle for a non-label instant coffee for the rest of his life. And I'm not even English! 

PS. I have learnt that they have many shops in Rome selling all kinds of tea and the next time I go into the city I will definitely stock up un a lot of different types of tea. Really looking forward to it :-)
PPS. On a little side note I have to say that I'm not writing to make fun of or mock the Italians as some people like to think. I've gotten comments in the past saying that I'm a really "%#¤& person for writing the things I do. But I'm only trying to illustrate the differences between living in Norway and living in Italy, which I hope people reading this blog understands. And to do that sometimes I have to exagerate to get my point across. If in doing so I offend people I sincerly apologize. But if I were to write only the facts and nothing else I could just stop writing the blog because it would be boring to both read and write. The post I've just finished  would go something like this; In Italy people drink mostly coffee. If they're ill they drink chamomile. I don't like chamomile. Full stop.

So, in the future I hope people reading the blog can give me the benefit of the doubt.....

Monday 18 November 2013

Monday Music

BUONGIORNO A TE (good morning to you)

I'm not a big fan of tv commercials, but here in Italy there's one that always get me in a good mood. It's for a famous Italian chocolate spread. And even if I don't like or eat the chocolate spread I do love the commercial.... 

Play it and see if it gets you in a good mood too..... 

And here you can listen to the entire song.... which of course is called "buongiorno a te" and sung by Pavarotti.

"Big Luciano"

Friday 15 November 2013

Harvest 2013

The harvest this year has been what I would call "miserable". Last year we had an abundance of plums, figs, pears and olives. I made 30 kgs of plum jam and also some fig jam (in addition to eating as much fresh figs as we could possibly stomache for about 3 months). I made canned pears and the olive trees gave us 1600 kgs of olives that we made into 220 llitres of olive oil.

I was of course hoping for the same numbers this year, but no... Mother Nature does as she pleases... So I ended up with 5 kgs of plum jam and I have eaten 2 (?!) pears. The figs did as well as last year - if not even better - so I have 30 kgs of fig jam in the freezer at the moment. Figs & apples, figs & walnuts, figs & cinnamon and figs,apples, walnuts & cinnamon. Yummie! And this will keep me going until next year, I think.

But the really big disappointment this year is that we're not getting any olive oil. Not even one litre of oil. We have 85 olive trees - and this is what they've produced this year......

Not nearly enough to make any oil. From 100 kgs you'll get 12-20 litres of oil and what we have here would probably give us 7-8 litres... But in addition to it being really embarrassing showing up at the mill with two small bags of olives they wont even consider pressing it before you have at least 200-300 kgs.

So, change of plans. I'm now going to brine the olives. So yesterday I picked out the best olives which I've put in a small container with water to cover them. Today I'm buying salt to make the brine were they will sit for 40 days. Then rinse well and put in new brine for another 10 days. And finally I can put them in a glass jar and fill up with brine and olive oil. And then we can eat as much olives as we want for the next year to come. I think I will try putting different flavouring to the olives - such as orange (peel), garlic, rosmary, oregano and chili. I'm really looking forward to trying the end result!

The reason why this year turned out like this is partly because we have been pruning the olive trees earlier this year. And some we can blame on the weather, I think. We've had lots and lots of rain this year so it's not just our harvest that turned out this way. And finally we have the "mosca" which is the tiny larva of a fly that eats into the flesh of the olive and destroys it. Before I didn't understand why people where hanging plastic bottles with some sticky liquid in it in their olive trees. Now I know. It's to attract the mosca to the bottle instead of the olives! I know what I have to do next year....

But anyway, now I just have to sit back and wait for the New Year when I can finally taste my brined olives. Can't wait!