Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pinot Noir on Pesaro Hills

The first time I tasted the Focara wine, I've been completely blown away by that velvety, smooth translucent ruby drink and I thought "can wine be so good!". Yes it can, refined and delicate, with a strong personality Focara Pinot Noir doesn't need to scream its qualities, they are perceived at the first sip.
I don't like those strongly, muscular red wines that need to be chewed rather than drunk, I don't like to look at the glass which I can't see through. I won't ever be able to say I love Sangiovese, even if it's the grape variety mainly produced in Romagna, the area where I was born and where I came back to live after growing up in Rome.
I definitely love the pinot noir produced in the Fattoria Mancini, a few kilometers from the Marche and Romagna boundary, which as far as the landscape is concerned it is just an administrative whim that was fought over by the two warring families, the Montefeltro and Malatesta.

Fattoria Mancini is a family run winery located in the Natural Park of Monte San Bartolo, a pearl on the Adriatic coast that the tourists usually coming on the Riviera Romagnola never explore. At the beginning of XIX century that area was identified as ideal for growing Pinot Noir by the Napoleonic administration, who then occupied the Papal State for nearly a century. The Mancini family bought the land in the second half of the XIX century and preserved and reproduced the original Pinot Noir introduced during the French domination. Today that grape is recognized as D.O.C. (controlled origin denomination)

You arrive at a working winery and everything is as it should be, no posh structure or manicured gardens, a well preserved country house, where clearly the wine production is the core business as the several large wooden barrels lined up in state.
Inside the tasting room a coolness prevails above any other sensation, no pretentious and newly made smelling oak furniture, a mainly white empty space which gives room to the main character, the wine. Photos of the vineyards decorate the white walls, with a didactic purpose rather than pure complacency.
On our visit we were greeted by two perfect English speaking women (a rarity in that area), later we discover one was the owner's wife, a young and friendly New Zealand winemaker. They offered us to taste some wine, this is the first time I experienced a producer who really wanted to know what you think about their wine and not telling you what to think.

There is only one regret, during last year they changed the labels on some of their wines, it's true the new ones give figurative information of where the wine is produced and the history of that piece of land, but the old ones have got such a strong personality that really make you recognize their wine among thousands of bottles.

Which is your favorite wine?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fiorenzuola di Focara

10 kilometers away from the over-crowded Riviera Romagnola there is the small village of Focara, perched on a rocky headland on the Adriatic coast in the Park of San Bartolo. The village is quiet with just a bar, a grocery store which sells everything and a restaurant, a little archway marks the entrance to the path that leads to the beach several metres below.
The name of Focara was added to a commonly spreaded Italian name Fiorenzuola,  which means flourishing, due to the tradition of lighting fires to signal to mariners.
the bell tower

It is a Roman settlement that has always had a strategic role due to its location, built between the X and XII centuries along with the castles of Casteldimezzo, Gradara and Granarola, was part of the defensive system in the border area between the Church of Ravenna and that of Pesaro and then, among the Malatesta possessions of Rimini and of Pesaro. In the XII century was built the church of St. Andrew, of which remains only the bell tower, in the church were present works of fine workmanship, but a violent earthquake in August 1916 destroyed it.
In the charming village there are architectural relics of the past, interesting the main door of the village is where there are the verses of Dante's Divina Comedia (Inferno, canto XXVIII) describing a dark betrayal that happened off in this sea.

passage to the beach, no signal directs you just a blue sea
Visit the lovely village of Fiorenzuola di Focara all over the year, in the summer if you fancy a swim in the unusually clear water of the Adriatic sea, walk down to the beach 500 metres away or take the shuttle (only in the morning), it's a steep road but worth doing it. The best period I would suggest for you to visit this village is in one of those clear and crispy early spring days, when the sky is pure blue and the wind still has the coolness of the snow on the mountains.
a door knob

the beach in the winter

timetable of the bus to the beach

Monday, August 20, 2012

a precious collection

I don't remember how many years ago I bought my husband a small purse in the small Tuscan village of Sovana, a little hand-made treasure, that he always carries with him.

It became a tradition, now that we got married, to exchange something that we love to collect on our wedding anniversary, so it came that he started his personal collection of hand made purse called "tacco".

the parcel Giuseppe Fanara sent me 
The artisan who made them is Giuseppe Fanara of Il Bussetto, an artisan who works leather in his workshop in Florence, who has been really helpful with me when I called him wondering if he was selling on line. His simply replied "Deve venire a bottega (must come to the workshop)", flying from London to Florence just to buy a purse! it doesn't matter how exquisitely it is manufactured, the plan sounded a bit over the top. Anyway, I told him the whole story and he offered to send the gift to me through the post, since I was planning to be back in Italy sometime I told him I would think about it and I'd call him back. When eventually I went back to Italy for few days I immediately called him and I didn't need to tell him the whole story again he perfectly remember the romantic issue and offered to send them the following day. In two days I had an orange and a green purses for my husband collection, just before his arrival in Italy.

I look forward to visiting his workshop in Florence next time I'm in the area.

If you're planning a trip to Florence, pass by that little artisan shop to discover his little treasures.

Il Bussetto di Giuseppe Fanara
via Palazzuolo, 136R

Do you have any collection you care for?

Memories of Pantelleria - part 1

Pantelleria is a small volcanic island in the Mediterranean sea half way between Tunisia and Sicily, my husband and I spent summer holidays there twice and we fell in love of this fantastic spot in the middle of the sea.

Pantelleria really remains in our memory as one of the greatest places we ever been since now, where you feel detached from the rest of the world, where nature provides so much richness, from the green covered volcanic hills, planted with grapes, to the open bays with warm thermals from this naturally volcanic island.

The first time we stayed for a week in a dammuso (typical house of the isle) not far from the main village. Not worth renting a car, better a moped due to the roads, to reach the best spots most of them are small off roads. I will never forget the answer of an old man when we were in desperate search of a petrol station to refuel our empty moped while being on the wrong side of the island, he replied "don't worry the road is going down now" the only thing was we didn't know how far we still had to go to get to the only petrol pump, but that comment gave us the idea how relaxing the place was.

Everyday we would go out and discover new corners of the isle, we really fell in love with the island and each other. There are the ancient dammusi, or the perfectly conceived giardino pantesco, a real house built just to protect citrus trees from the strength of winter sea winds, creating a little oasis of peace from the constant sea breeze's on the isle of winds.

Only the other day and ten years later we opened a bottle of Moscato di Pantelleria that we brought back with us. After many years we tasted the same rich, sweet and dense flavors that struck us when we tasted it first in one of the very good restaurants we found on the island.

And that wine brought back to mind the work of hardworking men who cultivate the vineyard creating small crates around each plant, which is no more than the size of a small bush, and work every day to produce wines as valuable as what we drank after so many years but which preserves aroma and flavor of the sun in Pantelleria.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Learning Italian

Last night my husband showed me one of his notebooks of the period he worked in Rome, which is when we actually met, and I found something very funny, a sort of  Italian emergency manual that he wrote - with all the possible misspelled words - of his first days, all the words are related to small talk kind of conversation and - of course - food :D

Have you ever lived abroad without knowing the language of the country?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

L'albero di pere di mio Nonno

Quando ero bambina il mio frutto favorito era la pera, mi piaceva il succo di pera, mangiavo le pere e detestavo le mele e tutto cio' le riguardasse, insomma una ragazzina forse un po' controcorrente.

Ad alimentare questa passione era il nonno materno, Augusto, uomo di campagna di poche parole, ma di grande dolcezza. Il nonno che ha regalato a me e mio fratello la prima bicicletta, il nonno che ci veniva a trovare a Roma ad insaputa di tutti, per poi tornare a casa subito il giorno dopo, perche' il lavoro in campagna non si puo' lasciare.
Con lui si mangiava a mezzogiorno, tutti a tavola e non ammetteva ritardi, e la sera a letto presto spalancando la finestra verso est per essere svegliati dal primo sole. Un nonno che mi ha insegnato ad amare la natura, la terrra con i suoi prodotti, un uomo che mi ha insegnato cos'e' il sacrificio e la dignita'. Un uomo semplice ma di profonda saggezza, che spegneva il televisore per giocare a carte con i nipoti la sera, che raccontava storie di fantasmi per le orecchie spaventate e trepidanti degli adorati nipoti. 
Immancabili le bretelle e il borsalino in testa che toglieva solo quando si sedeva a tavola e andava a dormire, come immancabile e' stato il suo amore per la moglie, Maria, anche quando la malattia aveva offuscato i suoi splendidi occhi verdi. 
Un piccolo uomo dal cuore tenero che negli ultimi anni si inteneriva rileggendo le lettere d'amore che si scambiava con la moglie, che raccontava le lacrime della prima notte di nozze, con una dolcezza che faceva salire le lacrime agli occhi di chi lo ascoltava.
Sono cresciuta tutte le estati della mia infanzia nella grande casa che aveva comprato con il suo lavoro e di cui andava fiero perche' vi era cresciuta la sua famiglia.
Nei caldi pomeriggi d'estate sedeva sul lato est della casa all'ombra, proprio sotto la finestra della sua camera e raccontava piu' a se stesso che a chi gli stava accanto i ricordi di vita che riaffioravano alla sua memoria, storie sempre nuove e sempre affascinanti e in quei pomeriggi, senza preavviso troncava il racconto per alzarsi, raggiungere un piccolo albero al di la' dell'aia e portarmi una piccola pera gialla e rosa, che accarezzava con gentilezza e mi porgeva riprendendo il racconto dove l'aveva interrotto, io incerta affondavo i dentini in quel frutto e rimanevo estasiata dalla dolcezza. 
Ancora oggi quando al mercato trovo esposte le pere, che qui chiamano "blush pears", ne prendo in mano una e penso sempre a mio nonno e rivedo il suo sorriso sotto la falda del borsalino.

When I was a child pears were my favorite fruits and they still are. At that age I hated apples and anything which involved apples, and I loved pears. I still love them eventually I have learnt to appreciate any cake with apples :)

My grandfather Augusto really fueled my passion for this fruit that he loved too. He was a simple but sage man who adored his family, he'd grown up in close relationship with nature and taught me to love it, to love the products of the earth and to face sacrifice with dignity.
In the hot summer afternoons he used to seat outside on the east side of the house, in the shade, and tell stories of the past, more to himself than to anyone sitting next to him, often he'd stop telling the story get up, walk quickly to the end of the shaded area, called "aia", pick some fruits form a small tree and come back offering me a tiny yellow and pink pear, caressing it with tenderness.  I remember sinking my teeth in the sweetest fruit I'd ever tasted as my grandfather would resume the story where he had stopped minutes earlier.
Still to this day, when I go shopping and I find some blush pears, I always stop and pick one up, thinking of my grandfather Augusto, I can picture him stilling there smiling at me from under the brim of his hat.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Coconut Valentine Biscuits

Yesterday before my oven blew up (luckily by the end of next month a new kitchen will be installed :)!!), I was able to cook my husband's favorite biscuits, a very easy recipe I invented to satisfy his great passion for coconut, which is not exactly my favorite ingredient to cook with, in the biscuits' recipe below you will get very nice results.

First of all the ingredients:

  • 200 gr self-raising flour 
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 50 gr butter
  • 2 tbs grated coconut + some for finishing
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbs sherry

Mix the flour with the sugar in a bowl, add the butter, which is cut in small pieces, and add the egg, mix quickly with your hands till it is all well mix together to form a pastry dough, add the grated coconut and the sherry, don't be too generous with it otherwise you need to add more flour and loose a bit of its delicate taste. Work always quickly with your hands till it gets to a pastry consistence. If you've got time put in the fridge for half an hour, it will be easier to make the biscuits. Put some grated coconut in a tray or large and flat plate, take a small amount of pastry in your hand make a little ball, roll the ball in the grated coconut and put on a baking tray covered with baking paper, cook in pre-heated oven at 180 C for 15' or till they became golden brown. After taking them out of the oven, let the biscuits cool on a tray and put them in an air-proof box only when they are completely cool.
Enjoy them with a glass of vino passito at the end of your meal.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

To a Wonderful Woman

I would have liked to start this year telling you all about the hand made gifts I prepared for my family and friends last Christmas, unfortunately something occurred to change my plans.

Few days ago my beloved auntie passed away, so suddenly, even if she was unwell for such a long time, affected by the ravages of Alzheimer disease her memory was slowly fading away, but her sweet smile never ceased to light her face whenever she met my eyes.
When we were little children we used to spend all the summer school holidays at my grandparents’ house where my aunt Mariannina lived, it was at that time that my brother started to call her “zia mamma” “auntie-mum” because she really meant something special to us.
Going out with her was always a great experience, she allowed us to do little things that our parents always deny, often you'd have two little children shouting out of a car window to the cyclists along the road, "you're the last, looser!!", we laugh so hard with her as she lead us in high jinks.
She was a woman who really taught me to be brave, ok maybe she was not very successful with me in particular, certainly if I ever climbed a tree is thanks to her. She was always extremely positive and supportive, she never let you down, always present, always extremely generous and always able to make you feel special, at least for her.
After breaking my leg when skying, I will never forget that she was next to me when I woke up from an operation, even if she herself had an operation few days before, she traveled from Rimini to Rome, when not being well herself, to hold my hand and I will never forget that kind and generous spirit.
She was unconventional for her age, she got a degree in Pharmacy when women rarely reached university education, she was driving when very few women had a driving licence, importantly what she really left was a mark in the life of whoever she met, glowing with her bright and sweet smile.
She decided to change her career into teaching Maths and Sciences, something she did so well that people decades after being her students, when meeting her would still addressing her with a “ciao Prof”. My small regret is that I wish I had such a good Math teacher I wouldn’t be so mathematically challenged now.
I was always reprimanding myself on my efforts to calculate simple formula, telling this to her she would always smile back to me, her sweet smile, with a little melancholy in the later years.
I will miss everything about her, during the later years when the disease had left only a shadow of her full beauty and brightness, her eyes of an indefinite colour between green and light brown, expressed more of her unbound love than what she was actually able to speak out...
ciao my adorated Auntie Mum