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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's Cooking Wednesday: Spinach with Lemon

 For those of you who are dear blog followers, the very few that I have, welcome to PassagetoItaly at BlogSpot! You can still find the same posts here, as you would on WordPress. This site will be much more user friendly, to not only me, but to you. Unlike with WordPress, you can also get up-to-date information on posts written by fellow Italy bloggers that I follow. Go ahead, check it out! I'm also creating an 'Archives' to also help you search for a particular post. It's still under construction, but be patient. Everything will soon be set up. I'm also planning to set up more post for those of you interested in dual citizenship. This newly featured posting series will be called "Citizenship Saturday". (Although I'm thinking the title's a bit corny, so that may change.)


If you have any suggestions for the new blog, or are interested in something that I haven't yet posted about, or would like more posted on a certain subject that I have posted about, feel free to drop me a line. You can either post comments in the comment section, or e-mail me at: PassagetoItaly@gmail.com.




*****

 As a child, I absolutely hated spinach. I can even recall the actual day that I first tried it. My sister had made a pretty large bowl of it, and was sitting on the coach eating it. Now that I think about it, it was kind of odd that she was even eating it. I don't remember how it was seasoned, or how she had made it. Upon trying it, my face showed signs of "eww, how gross!". Now that I'm older, and my taste buds have opened up, I've come to enjoy this vegetable. It's jam packed with essential vitamins and minerals.


As per the last What's Cooking Wednesday post, grilled stuffed chicken breast, I promised to share the recipe with you for its contorno, side dish, spinaci all'agro. It's very simple, and very quick in comparison to the secondi.  You can find this recipe on La Cucina Italiana Magazine's website, or read the recipe below.


Please stay tuned for next week's recipe which will be based on the dishes my family will be cooking for Easter! Yum! Here's a hint: l'agnello. Do you know what it is?
\



*****

Spinaci all'agro

Spinach with Lemon

Ingredients


15 ounces baby spinach (12 cups packed)
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Instructions


Wash and drain spinach (do not spin-dry), leaving moisture on leaves for cooking.
Using a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife, cut 2 long strips zest (about 1 inch wide) from lemon, avoiding white pith. Cut away any remaining pith from zest with a sharp paring knife. Cut zest into thin strips. Cut lemon into 4 wedges.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add spinach (in batches, if necessary) and pinch salt; stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Transfer spinach to a large serving dish. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over spinach to taste. Sprinkle with zest and pepper.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flikr: Padova, Urbino, Verona






Please be sure to stop by at my flikr photopage, PassagetoItaly! I’ve uploaded more pictures from Padova and Verona. More pictures will soon be added.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Off the Beaten Trail: Cortona, Italy: Giostra dell'Archidado and Tuscan Sun Festival

Off the Beaten Trail: Cortona, Italy edition


Our last edition in the series focusing on Cortona in the Tuscany region of Italy finalizes with the Giostra dell'Archidado, Joust of the Archers, and the Tuscan Sun Festival. Stay tuned for more photographs in Cortona!

Giostra dell'Archidado
Each year the duel is held from late May into early June in honor of the marriage between Lord Francesco Casali and noblewoman Antonia Salimbeni of Siena, which occurred in 1397. It is a special event as it also commemorates the alliance between Siena and Cortona.  This alliance enabled the Ghibellines to reconquer the town, after being occupied and pillaged by Arezzo.

In the reenactment, archers compete against one another in hopes of winning the prize, the golden arrow. Each archer represents one of the five quintieri. Each person involved in the joust dresses in traditional medieval garb, and music of the period can be heard.


The festival is held in the Piazza Signorelli.



Piazza Signorelli
For more information concerning dates for this year, please visit Toscana Folklore. Site is in Italian. The site currently has the 2009 dates, but as the festival nears, they will probably put up the more current information.
To see a video of the Giostra, visit Vimeo. Video and site created by Spencer Simrill, Jr.


Tuscan Sun Festival


During the 1990's, Barrett Wissman, cellist Nina Kotova, and author of Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes, all put their heads together to unite the world of music and art in a festival. Cortona was the chosen town to host such an event. During the event, spectators can view world class concerts, as well as experience fine art, film, culinary and wine events, fitness and wellness, and learn about the local culture and history.
This year's celebration will feature Grammy opera singer, Renee Fleming; Joshua Bell, Ekaterina Scherbachenko; and Steven Isserlis.
To view the scheduled programs, please visit Tuscan Sun Festival. Site is in English.


*****

Interested in reading more about Cortona, Italy in Off the Beaten Trail? You can access the preceding posts by clicking on the links below:

Off the Beaten Trail: Cortona, Italy #1


Have more suggestions for events held in Cortona? Please leave your suggestion in the comment section, or e-mail me at:
PassagetoItaly (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Feature Friday: Urbino, Italy Photographs

Finally! It’s Friday! There is no scheduled post for today, but I’m doing an entire re-haul of my photographs on Flikr. Some you may have already seen, and others maybe you haven’t. The main reason why I took down my pictures was to put watermarks on them. I will be more at ease with watermarks on them, and have them online.

If you haven’t seen the photos, please stop by at PassagetoItaly, or simply click on the Flikr photos on the sidebar.

Buon Weekend!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Love Thursday: Taste Italia

Dear Readers:
For those of you who follow my blog, PassagetoItaly will soon be moving to another blog host. Sorry everyone, but I’m thinking that BlogSpot is much more user friendly. Originally the site had been set up on BlogSpot, and I wanted to try out WordPress. Since I don’t have a large following yet, it is best that I make the transition back to BlogSpot now, rather than later. I simply love the fact that BlogSpot has a widget that enables readers to see which blogs I’m following, and show the most recent updates on them. I’m also making the blog a bit fancier. This will come into effect by the end of the month.
And now our scheduled post…….
*****
Last week after work, I ventured over to Barnes n’ Noble, my favorite bookstore, and also the only one that’s close to my home. It takes five minutes to get there by car. Every month, I try to buy the British-printed Italia magazine, but this month, it came with a 2-in-1 deal. For a total of about $16, the little package came with the Italia magazine, AND the Taste Italia magazine. With this exclusive purchase only found in Barnes n’ Noble, I saved $4. Italia usually costs $10.50 by itself, which is pretty expensive considering its not a very thick magazine, like say, Vogue.
In spite of Italia being this month’s issue, Taste Italia was the issue from February, and therefore celebrating Valentine’s Day. (Maybe I’m cheating on this week’s Love Thursday, in this respect.) The front cover boasts 56 authentic recipes, but it also advises you of In Season ingredients. Currently, the following are in season (they provided the English term along with the Italian equivalent, which I’ve italicized):
Chicory endivia
Crab granchio
Kale cavolo verde
Leek porro
Oyster ostrica
Cod merluzzo
Artichoke carciofo
Celery sedano
Cabbage cavolo
Onion cipolla
Parsnip pastinaca
Chestnut castagna
Hare lepre
Partridge pernice
Pheasant fagiano
Venison carne
It’s interesting how they translated venison as carne, which means ‘meat’. In my dictionary, it translates to carne di cervo, which would translate to ‘meat of deer’, or in real English, ‘deer meat’.
The magazine continues with In Season recipes, which I can’t wait to try. As I’ve mentioned here, I’ve been experimenting with food, and perhaps very soon, all procrastination will cease, and I will write a post about them.
As I continued scanning through the magazine, I came upon this:
 

Heart-themed cooking accessories, of course! Click the collage to enlarge, and get a closer look. From left to right:
heart-shaped nougats, recipe found in Life is Sweet, by Hope and Greenwood, Ebury Press;
heart-shaped pasta, available at Find-Me-a-Gift;
heart Ramekin dish which can be purchased at www.notonthehighstreet.com;
a heart cutting board available at VelvetBrown;
gingham red heart oven gloves at DotComGiftShop;
Le creuset cerise stoneware deep heart-shaped dish which is available for purchase at www.hartsofstur.com;
and Amore heart napkin rings found at GrahamandGreen.

Perhaps it’s a little late to give Valentine’s Day gifts, however, you can experience love in the kitchen all year round! Food tastes much better when you know some love has been put into it.
Happy Love Thursday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's Cooking Wednesday: Petto di Pollo Ripieni

Today’s recipe calls for petti di pollo ripieni cotti alla brace, or grilled stuffed chicken breasts. Unfortunately I no longer have pictures of the process from when I had to restart my entire computer. So all pictures have been sadly lost. The recipe is from La Cucina Italiana Magazine.

How my chicken came out differed, as it was winter when I tried this recipe and I couldn’t use the grill outside. I also don’t have a grill that you can use on the stove, so I just cooked them in the pan and threw them in the oven later. They came out just as good. My suggestion, however, since I’m still learning how to cook – if the chicken is still pink after the time it says to cook it on the stove, that’s ok. Otherwise, the chicken will come out tough.

****
 

1 head of garlic, cloves separated
1 small bunch fresh rosemary sprigs
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for grill pan
4 ounces scamorza or smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into
1/8-inch cubes
2 1/2 ounces fresh ricotta cheese (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper (from a jar)
4 (8-oz) skinless boneless chicken breast halves
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Heat oven to 375°. Combine garlic cloves and 2 short rosemary sprigs in a 1/2-quart ovenproof saucepan; cover with oil. Bake until garlic cloves are tender and lightly golden, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together scamorza, ricotta, roasted pepper and basil in a medium bowl. Using a small sharp knife and working with 1 chicken breast at a time, cut a 2-inch-long slit horizontally into 1 side of chicken breast. Move knife back and forth in slit to form pocket. Divide cheese mixture among chicken pockets. Press edges to seal. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Brush grill pan with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Grill chicken until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and bake until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.
Let chicken stand 5 minutes, then transfer to a serving dish. Remove garlic oil from oven. Garnish chicken with baked garlic cloves, and baked and fresh rosemary sprigs. Serve with garlic oil for drizzling.


Buon Appetito!


Stay tuned for next week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday for the recipe for the contorno, side dish, for the chicken.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Italy v. America: La Notte Rosa

La Notte Rosa a Rimini

Imagine walking the streets around the Adriatic Riviera, and you find everyone dressed in pink, businesses and houses decorated in pink, and the streets strewn with, well, pink. It’s La Notte Rosa. So, have you ever heard of La Notte Rosa, or been to a town that celebrate La Notte Rosa? Do you know what it is? If the answer is ‘no’, have a seat with a nice beverage, perhaps preferably hot since it’s another gloomy day here in New Jersey.

According to the official site of La Notte Rosa (yes, there’s even an official site!), it’s the New Year’s of the summer. Let me translate a bit of their site.


Tutta la costa si tinge di rosa, dal tramonto all’alba i 110 chilometri della Riviera Adriatica dell’Emilia Romagna sono un’esplosione di luci, suoni, immagini, colori, 110 chilometri di concerti, performance teatrali, reading, installazioni, convegni, mostre, spettacoli, magiche scenografie.

The entire coast is dressed in pink, from dawn till sunset. The 110 kilometers of the Adriatic Riviera of Emilia Romagna are an explosion of lights, sounds, images, colors, 110 kilometers of concerts, theatrical performances, readings, installations, conventions, exhibits, shows, magical scenes.



building donned in pink



Which towns celebrate La Notte Rosa?
Commachio
Ravenna
Cervia
Cesenatico
Gatteo Mare
Savignano Mare
Bellaria Igea Marina
Rimini
Riccione
Misano Adriatico
Cattolica
La Reppublica di San Marino


How should the towns decorate themselves for this momentous occasion?

Ogni località interpreta il tema in modo creativo ed unico per regalare al pubblico una notte di intense emozioni, una notte in cui la Riviera diventa un grande palcoscenico dove tutti sono protagonisti del rito collettivo più originale dell’estate ma dove il protagonista principale è il divertimento sano e “la vita dolce”.

Every town interprets the theme in a creative and unique way to give the public a night of intense emotions, a night in which the Riviera becomes a big stage where all are protagonists of the most original, collective right of the summer but where the principal protagonist is healthy fun and “la dolce vita”. (Sorry I think my translation is bad, but you get the idea. It makes more sense in Italian.)



Why the color pink?

Perché rosa? Il rosa è un colore che racconta la Riviera come luogo di incontro, dell’ospitalità, della gentilezza, delle relazioni, dei sentimenti, un luogo dove ancora è forte il senso di appartenenza ad una comunità capace di accogliere.

Why pink? Pink is a color that portrays the Riviera as a place of meeting, of hospitality, of kindness, of relations, of sentiments, a place where the sense of belonging to a community capable of welcoming is still strong.
****


Since my visits to Italy, beginning in 2007, I’ve been to La Notte Rosa twice. The first time was in Riccione. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera that night, and was then not fully engaged with my blog. If I had been able to foresee that I’d in fact need those pictures, I would have taken my trusty camera. The second time I went was in Rimini. Out of two, Riccione was my favorite. The concerts that they hold are free, and all together, Riccione was a lot more fun.


The event occurs on July 2, 2010. For more information about La Notte Rosa, visit the official website. There is also an English page, which I’ve just discovered between going back and forth to the site. You can also view pictures, read about the preceding Notti Rosi and even view a map to get a better idea of where this event occurs. There is also a page of contact numbers to find out more about tourist information.


Have you ever been to La Notte Rosa, and if so,
in which town?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Off the Beaten Trail: Cortona Italy: MAEC and the Museo Diocesano

The month of March is quickly coming to an end, and next week will be the last Off the Beaten Trail Cortona feature for the month. I’m still trying to work out how many times I would like to post about a certain town, however, within each month one town will definitely be featured.


The Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Citta’ di Cortona
You may remember reading about the MAEC, Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Citta’ di Cortona in the first Cortona edition. It was created by the Accademia Etrusca in 1727, and is one of the major sources for Cortona’s art culture and of great importance. The MAEC official website explains its birth caused
… quando l’abate Onofrio Baldelli donò la sua collezione e la sua biblioteca all’Accademia Etrusca, appena costituitasi ad opera dei fratelli Marcello, Filippo e Ridolfino Venuti e di un ristretto gruppo di giovani nobili cortonesi, interessati alla cultura illuministica.
… when the abbot Onofrio Baldelli donated his collection and his library to the Accademia Etrusca, only after having formed an organization of the brothers Marcello, Filippo, and Ridolfino Venuti and a close group of young Cortonesi noble, interested in the enlightened culture.

 It is composed of several different genres of exhibits, ranging from classical archaeology to more contemporary art. The museum showcases a large Egyptian exhibition, including a complete collection of objects donated to the Accademia by Monsignor Corbelli, Bishop of Cortona, who also happens to be an apostolic delegate to both Syria and Egypt.

It also has on display wide collections of Roman and Etruscan inscriptions, including the largest and most valuable of all Etruscan inscriptions; Roman and Etruscan instruments; terracotta objects; cinerary urns; pottery; as well as other objects used in the daily lives of the two old civilizations.


The artwork on display in the museum is by artists such as: Baccio Ciapri, Pietro di Cortona, Luca Signorelli, and Gino Severini, just to name a few.

By visiting the MAEC website, you can view pictures of some of the exhibits. Go to the link, Il Patrimonio, or simply click the link I’ve provided. Next, click on Galleria fotografica. I think my favorite has to be the courtyard of Palazzo Casale. Imagine an entire courtyard assembled within the museum!
Please also visit Il Parco Archeologico to learn about the town’s excavation efforts. There are also guided tours of the tumuli, tombs. Information about when the tours are available and the pricing can be found on the orari e informazioni page.

Il Museo Diocesano


Fra Angelico: Annunciation


The museum is part of several different structures – one formerly known as the Chiesa del Gesù, the Church of Jesus, and the original building of the 15th century Compagnia Laicale del Buon Gesù. The chiesa was once used as the baptistery of the Duomo during the 1700s, and contains a marble baptismal font by Ciuccio di Nuccio, which was also made in the 15th century. At the end of World War II, both structures became a museum. The museum contains works of Fra Angelico, Luca Signorelli, Pietro Lorenzetti, Sassetta Bartolomeo della Gattajust to name a few. ( Most photographs of the paintings are from Web Gallery of Art.
Click on each artist’s name to read their biographies. By clicking on the ‘Works’ link, in the upper right hand corner of each artist’s biography, you can view their paintings.
You can view the operating hours on the cortonaweb website, which also includes information on events in the town, photographs, culture, and other general information.

Enjoy your art viewings!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Feature Friday: Who do You Think You Are?

Photo from NBC.com

“To know who you are, you have to know where you came from” the narrator exclaims at the beginning of the show, Who do You Think You Are? Has anyone heard about this show? Who Do You Think You Are is a new show presented by Ancestry.com and the NBC network. Ancestry.com, for those who may not be familiar with it, is a website used to research your ancestry. It has been one of my primary sources in researching my family’s history for dual citizenship. Unfortunately, only so much could be found about my father’s family. Not every document has been uploaded to the site, however, its database is quickly growing. They recently added a census from 1950! All information has so far sadly ended with a 1930 census.

During the show, they showcase several celebrities who are trying to discover their family’s past. Season 1, Episode 1 shares Emmitt Smith’s story about his search. Smith, a Hall of Fame American football player, who played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, decides to study the “deep dark history” of his family, as the coming attractions for the show stated, discovering information about his family’s slave history. Emmit Smith travels to Alabama, and runs into a second cousin, who directs him to the archives in Morganville, Alabama, to further his research. This is where he first encounters the segregation of the south. According to the archivist, the archives are divided into black and white genealogy. Before the 1960s, black genealogy was not as well maintained and more “sporadic”, as the archivist stated. Not only does he learn about his family’s slave history, with further help from African-American genealogist Marjorie Sholes, but that there were interracial relations between an ancestor and a slave owner, and trafficking of the family.

Indeed the story is compelling, interesting, and heart wrenching, even with the negative aspects to it all.

You can watch more about Emmitt’s story here.


Episode 2 features Sex and the City’s star, Sarah Jessica Parker, who only knows bits and pieces about her family history, and sets out to discover more about her mother’s side. The episode begins with a meeting with her mother, who gives her a hunch about her great grandmother and great great grandfather. Hopping on a plane, she travels to her hometown of Cincinnati, beginning the search with genealogist, Natalie Cottrill, and who states that Parker may be related to the Hodges found throughout American history centered in New England, later leading to her family’s history based in Salem, Massachusetts. But, before continuing with the information about Salem, Cottrill points out a widowed mother of her great great grandfather found on a census. With further research an obituary was found, leading their census search to California, and discovering that an ancestor was a miner during the Gold Rush in 1849.

Further into the episode, she learns that an ancestor, Robert Elwell, was in fact, one of the few people to make the sea voyage to America on the Mayflower. Learn more about her story here.

Also featured in Season 1 Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Broderick, and Spike Lee.

Tonight at 8pm Eastern time, Ancestry.com and NBC will be featuring one of America’s most beloved television sitcom actresses, starring in Friends, Lisa Kudrow. On the NBC website, you can find previews for tonight’s show, but stay tuned to the site next week, as they will be posting the full episode. Thought this would be a great way for all expats to home in on shows while abroad.

Now I pose this question to you:

Have you researched your family history, and if so,
what did you find?

Who do you think you are?

It doesn’t matter if your ancestors did something very important in the history of America, or even the history of the world. What makes it important is that it’s your family history. If you’d like to share what you’ve discovered about your family, please post your story in the comment section. If you don’t have a blog, but would like your story featured, e-mail me at:

PassagetoItaly (AT) gmail (DOT) com

If you now have the urge to research your family’s history, the NBC website give tips on how to start your search… And don’t forget to share with us what you’ve found!

Buon weekend!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Love Thursday: Lloyd

Thankfully, my computer is now up and running! The past week has been a nightmare, with calls to India trying to sort out the problems with my computer. At first, it was just a problem with Windows Explorer. I did some updates, as per the suggestions my computer found. Well, that did not help the situation, and further worsened when I decided to upload Windows’ service packages for Vista. My computer then no longer worked… not even in safe mode.

But, I’m happy that it’s now working, and I can now get back to my posting for anyone out there caring to stop by and read!!!

The original post I had scheduled for Monday will be featured next Monday.

*****

Lloyd

Today, sadly, was the day we put our dear cat, Lloyd, to sleep. For at least a year to a year and a half, he had been suffering from feline diabetes and problems with his thyroid. A cat we had had when I was little (she died when she was 19 years old), had also suffered from diabetes, and spent most of her last days close to a water bowl. With diabetes in cats, there is an unquenchable thirst, and constant need of water. She was brought to the vet, and they offered to take care of her, giving her her insulin medications and all other treatments. But, we had decided that it would only be more stressful for her to live the rest of her days without us.

Lloyd with feet in bowl

With Lloyd, however, he changed greatly. He drank a lot of water, but with his thyroid problems, he managed to continue to eat. His tastes oddly changed. He went from a cat who would only eat his dry food, and nothing much else. Since he became ill, he ate literally everything – spaghetti, cream cheese, margarine, whipped cream. He even tried fighting the dog for his food! What seemed like overnight, he lost weight, becoming quite simply a bag of bones.


2006, before Lloyd was ill

In spite of this sad day though, I will continue to remember all of the funny things he would do. In the kitchen, you could find him with his two front paws in his bowl, dragging it to the sink. Or the day when we played with my brother’s old Batman toy, and he began panting like a dog. Lloyd also sometimes pretended to be a kangaroo, standing and balancing on his back hind legs (as shown above). Even the first day when I met him is memorable. He had been rescued by my sister from a shelter, and unfortunately came home with a bad cold. We immediately became friends. As I laid down on the floor, he walked over and curled up on my stomach, cutely blowing bubbles out of his runny nose. Ok, well maybe that doesn’t seem cute, but it was. He was not always the friendliest cat with everyone, but there certainly was a strong bond between us, and that’s what I’ll remember about him.

I had decided to stay with him as they put him to sleep. I felt it would be horrible to leave him with strangers and die alone. So I bravely stood by his side, telling him it’d be ok, until he passed away. Having him put to sleep, made me feel guilty, as though I may be taking his life away before he was truly ready. He didn’t fight, and didn’t flinch, telling me perhaps he was maybe ready to move onto his next life. When he was healthy, he would have fought, and he would have bitten. In the end, it was probably best, as it would have been worse had he died naturally.

After they pronounced that he had passed, I continued to pet him, and gave him one last kiss on his head. Unfortunately, we were not able to bring him home to bury him, as it’s supposedly illegal to do that. He will later be cremated and put in a pet cemetery they told us.

Rest in peace, little stinky man

Lloyd

1996 – March 18, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Italy v. America: Do you air your dirty laundry?

Italy v. America: The Differences Observed


Last week, we left off with animal cruelty in Italy, with the abandonment of an estimated 280,000 animals per year, and other maltreatment of dogs. Today’s post is more… positive, and inspired over at ReallyRome’s post on the 5 Things I miss about Gli Stati Uniti. However, mine differs as it’s not a list of things I miss (while in Italy) or will miss (once I’ve moved there). It fits snugly with our Italy v. America category.

So, what exactly would be missed once I’ve moved to Italy? It may seem silly, but two things I would miss are il detergente, detergent, and il morbidente, fabric softener. We never let them cross our minds to clean and soften our clothes in America. Pretty much they are taken for granted. The clothes come out fresh, as well as soft. This definitely differs from one of Shelley’s most missed things about America – the dryer. The dryer, I can live without, at least during the warmer weather. In fact, when I hung my clothes, they dried quicker on the line than could ever be possible with a dryer. BUT you must also know how to correctly hang your laundry on the line, which is yet another story unto itself. What do I know though? I’m American, and have never had to think about such things with my “luxury” items.

What about in Italy? I first encountered this dilemma when visiting Angelo during the summer two years ago. It was obviously pertinent for me to learn how to do the laundry, as I stayed for three months. Laundry detergent and fabric softeners are expensive in Italy, like many other things – cars, food, postage for your mail to America – you name it, it’s definitely more expensive. Angelo was tending to buy the more inexpensive brands, resulting in the clothes not fully being washed, therefore the clothes were washed twice, and drying on the line as if someone had gone overboard with starching them. The color of the clothing quickly began to fade. In his washing machine, which is actually fairly new, it contains two compartments – one for the detergent, and one for the fabric softener. Not something you find with washing machines here in the States.

With the color increasingly fading from our clothes, and with his constant worry of having to replace the clothes, my suggestion was to buy the more expensive products. It made more sense to do such a thing since he’d save more money by not only salvaging his clothes, but in the end, he’d save money on water as well. In Italy, the stores in fact sell Tide, which is what I use back here at home. Not only that, but I knew it was a product that would better preserve the color of the clothes.

Have any of you had these problems with Italian laundry
detergents and fabric softeners?
Any suggestions for current and future expats?

Or am I the only one who dwells upon such things??

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Need Translations?

Unfortunately I will not be able to post the post I had planned for today. As you’ve read before in my previous posts, I’ve been having some technical difficulties with my computer. It just doesn’t want to cooperate. Right now, I’m using my brother’s computer to keep you all up-to-date.
I’ve decided to set a deadline for myself in hopes of ending all procrastination, and to just finish collecting all my documents for my dual citizenship. I only have a couple left, and I need to start having everything apostilled, translated and amended. If you’re looking for a translator for your American documents, and are applying through Newark Consulate in Newark, New Jersey, please refer to the below list. I also have it posted here.


TRADUTTORI – TRANSLATORS
Mr. Maurizio Guercini
1271 Alicia Avenue
Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel. 201 837 4468 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 201 837 4468 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Mr. Raffaele Cimina
1111 Dogwood Circle
Blue Bell, PA 19422
Tel. 267 304 6226 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 267 304 6226 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Ms.Olga Negrini
437 Lincoln St.
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Tel. 201 460 8034 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 201 460 8034 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Ms. Rosanna Giammanco Frangia
22 Windermere Rd
Staten Island, NY
Tel. 718 727 7728 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 718 727 7728 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
This information cannot be found on the consulate website, unfortunately. In the e-mail they sent me in response to my translation question, they stated that all applicants must use the translators known to the consulate. If you do your own translations or have them done by another translator they do not know, they may not accept them. Once I’ve found out pricing from one of the translators, I’ll be sure to let you all be aware of the cost.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Feature Friday: The Milanese Bureaucracy

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Weekly Feature: Under the Milanese Bureaucracy

Here in the United States, health care reform is a hot topic. Currently, President Obama is trying to pass a bill to reform the present system, thereby presenting a more socialistic form of health care. It would also reinvent the way an individual would receive health insurance. However, is a socialistic health care system really the way out of our predicament? In Italy, Italians think so, and many claim the system works better than our own. I will, however, allow you to draw your own conclusions from what you are about to read.

The other day I came across a post on the blog The Shock of Old, authored by KC, an art historian. The post is entitled La Dolce Attesa, meaning “sweet wait”. The sweet wait refers to the 9 month carriage of a child. The post is helping to promote a manuscript written by an American journalist, Michellanea (as she’s known as on her blog) living in Milan. By following the link to Guernica, a magazine about art and politics, you can read an excerpt of her manuscript that she is trying to have published as a novel. In the excerpt, Michellanea describes the obstacles she encountered with the health care system in Italy. I found myself laughing, not because her ordeal was funny, but because of the ridiculousness of the people she came in contact with, and the hoops she consistently had to jump through.

After reading her story, I decided it was my duty to also help promote her manuscript, as I too hope it will be published. It is important to read as it is essential that expat women, and even men, research what their options are in their adopted country, and will not be as surprised at the difficulty of it all. This does not only pertain to Italy’s health care system, but much of the state functions. For example, look at how difficult they make just obtaining dual citizenship. Everything has to fall exactly so into place, otherwise you’re screwed on ever receiving it.

By clicking on the link above, Guernica, you too can read her excerpt. Feel free to leave a comment too at the bottom of the article, and please, as always leave a comment on my page so I can read about your thoughts on this subject.

Buon weekend!

*Note* In case you were wondering, my pc has been fixed…. sort of. At least Windows is coming up…. sort of. Well, sometimes it works, and other times I must rely on safe-mode. So, it’s sort of fixed. If I happen to suddenly disappear off the face of the blogging world, you’ll know why.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Love Thursday: Soph-E!

The blog reached its 50th posting yesterday with a post on my Not-so-Guilty Pleasures. With this comes a new addition to the blog. Love Thursday! I was inspired, once again, to do Love Thursday posts by Bleeding Espresso. For months, the idea was quite appealing, but I was not quite sure whether I wanted to add it to my blog. I’ve also read it on several other blogs which I read, like The Shock of Old and My Bella Vita. Evidently the ever contagious Love Thursday post has made its way to PassagetoItaly.

Love Thursday is being kicked off with a new addition to the family. Hold up! No, it’s not what you’re thinking, and it indirectly affects me. My sister’s husband got a new puppy. Introducing Soph-E! (pronounced SO-fee)

Not only is she absolutely adorable and oh-so-cute, but it just so happens that she has a heart-shaped mark on her nose. Can you see it? How appropriate for Love Thursday!

By the way, don’t ask why her name is spelled that way. Their other three dogs, (yes, 3!) are Smok-E; Rox-E; and Coop-R, a.k.a. Mini Cooper. And it just so happens that Mini Cooper is a miniature schnauzer!

Happy Love Thursday everyone

and welcome to the family, Soph-E!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Italy v. America: Animal Cruelty

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Italy v. America: The Differences Observed

Before reading the next edition to Italy v. America, I would like all readers to be aware of the technical difficulties I am having with my computer. For some reason my Windows Explorer is not functioning properly, and it’s actually a miracle that I am able to even get onto the Internet. Tomorrow’s post is already scheduled to be posted, and I hope everything will be running normally by Friday. I am excited to announce that Friday will also have a new feature added, unless the computer cannot be fixed.

Enjoy your read!

Observation #4: Animal Cruelty

Our fourth edition of Italy v. America, following the posts of Supermarkets v. Shops, Social Views, and the Myths of Italian Foods, is not as American bashing. That’s not the image I wish to portrat as I love my country, and all that it stands for. Today I would like to address the topic of animal cruelty in Italy. This, unfortunately, is quite prominent in Italy from what I’ve read, heard about on TV, and have even seen with my own eyes. Please examine exhibit A:

Otto

This is Otto, which mean ‘eight’ in Italian. (It’s a cute name in Italian, but would not sound so in English.)

Lila e Otto

His mamma, the black and white dog is named Lila. These two little fellas are owned by Angelo’s neighbors. You know, the ones I spoke about in I Tacchi. These poor dogs live outside; day and night, hot and cold weather, rain or snow. Usually one can find only a tray of water with an old chunk of bread in it. Honestly, I don’t think they ever eat it. The inside of the cage they are kept in is just dirt with randomly growing weeds. (They are let out of the cage into the “gated driveway” during the day.) Whenever there is food left over from our dinner, like a steak bone or fatty meat, I made sure it was given to these poor dogs. (Including one of my boyfriend’s prized snacks from Puglia, which I’ve forgotten the name of.) They’ve certainly come to loving me because they know they’ll be fed a decent meal.

You also can’t see in this picture, but the dogs are filthy dirty. They have never been bathed, and it would not be a good idea to pet them. So what, you say. That’s just one case of poor ownership. But it’s not. In the summer of ‘08, the Italian news discussed an even more pressing concern – dogs abandoned on the autostrade, highways. When someone no longer wanted their dog, once the cuteness of having a puppy wore off, the dogs were left on the highways, many times being hit by cars. The news further continued to say that by law, owners had to have a microchip implanted under the skin of the dog. (Whether this is actually done? I doubt it.) This was to be done in the event that the animal was left and killed on the highway. The chip contains information about the dog’s owner, enabling them to be sought out and prosecuted. Obviously there are an overwhelming amount of cases like this.

In a book I am currently reading, titled Italian Neighbors, by British author Tim Parks, he too narrates other cruelties towards dogs. His chapter, ‘L’animale domestico, the domestic animal, talks about his neighbor’s hunting dog named Vega. The dog is, during most days, chained up in the yard just behind the apartment building in which he lives in, in Verona. The yard is littered with the dog’s excrements, and lets off a horrendous odor. He contemplates putting the dog out of its misery, but first consults his students (He’s an English teacher) on how he should do it. The following is a quote from his book.

In short, Italians think differently about their pets/ animali domestici. In 99 percent of cases they keep them outside; they do not like them coming into their houses and would not dream of having them sleep, say, at the foot of their beds. The idea of one’s child being licked all over by a dog, as I was as a boy, would be unthinkably horrible to the modern Veronese mother (perhaps very reasonably so). But there is also something obsessive and exaggerated in this aversion, something which may have to do with the fact that it wasn’t so very long ago that many families in the country around Montecchio had goats in the kitchen and the cow stalls opening onto the sitting room for warmth. Proximity to any but the most expensive “luxury” animals has become a social backwardness. And hunting dogs like Vega are a mere utility. You don’t want them prancing into the house with their wet paws and dirty backsides. You use them when you go off shooting so they can bring back the uccellini, the tiny birds, which you eat in your taverna in nostalgic revelry at the joys of the country life you have wisely left behind. Otherwise you keep them chained in the yard.

Outside our window, Vega barked, howled, moaned deep into the night. With that extraordinary insistence dogs sometimes have. Bark, bark, bark, bark, for hours on end. What were we to do about it?

“Poison the thing,” a student suggested at once.
Poison. For weeks, months, it was to become an obsession. We noticed stories in the paper reporting dog poisonings. Somebody in a place called Bussolengo had killed more than twenty in a single evening. Well, we needn’t go that far. And I read Sciascia’s novel A ciascuno il suo, in which he mentions a whole Sicilian tradition of dog poisonings, a sort of low-order vendetta between rival huntsmen.

We considered rat poison. And bought some. We studied the dosages. Twenty or thirty pellets in a meatball should be enough. But what if a child were to pick it up? Occasionally the Negretti had guests with small children who were left to ramble about the defecated garden area. A student whose father was a vet cheerfully suggested the easier solution of a sponge soaked in meat juice. Apparently the sponge expands enormously in the animal’s gut, blocking the intestines and eventually leading to death. He knew people who found this method very effective… “The only problem with the sponge,” my knowledgeable student explained at another lesson, “is that the creature will die in unspeakable agony, and you’ll have to hear her howling like mad. Probably for a couple of days. Thoughh of course it will be worth it in the end.”

I couldn’t believe the words on the page. Such a cruel thing to do. Fortunately Mr. Parks didn’t go through with the act, as he stated he would have had to then endure its suffering howls.

This is not to say that animal abuse doesn’t exist in the US. On the contrary! It just really surprised me to learn that such cruelties, especially with abandonment on the highways, existed in the Bel Paese. Not in the least to say I am naive of such things. This problem of abandonment doesn’t just pertain to dogs, but cats as well. Shelley atReallyRome discusses cats being abandoned in the Citta’ Eterna, the Eternal City when their owners left town for vacation. Why not just have a cat/dog sitter? This is also not to say that all animals in Italy are mistreated by Italians. My boyfriend’s family has three dogs, and his brother has two. All the dogs live in there houses and are treated very well.

In an article published by IPS News, an estimated 280,000 cats and dogs are killed each year by vehicles. Click the link to read the article.


Have you ever heard of such cases in Italy,
and what are your thoughts on the subject?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not So Guilty Pleasures

Taking a break from our tour of Cortona, which I’m now considering is quite boring, I’ve decided to discuss my not-so-guilty pleasures. The next posting on our tour, however, if you’re interested in reading it, will be next Monday.

Over at BleedingEspresso, Michelle asked, “What are your not-so-guilty pleasures?”, after explaining her post with a quote. (Right now I can’t seem to find the post, but will link you to it once I’ve tracked it down!) However, in summary, the quote explained that whatever makes you happy, should not make you feel guilty. To answer Michelle’s question, I decided to limit myself to writing 10 of my own not-so-guilty pleasures.

1. Enjoying the sunshine – there’s nothing like a good dose of Vitamin D!

2. Trips to Italy – sometimes I must admit that I feel guilty about this one, as I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging.

3. Planting veggies and taking care of the flowers in the garden.

4. Spending time with my significant other, who is sadly, many times, 6,000 miles away.

5. Reading a good book that sucks me in.

6. Drinking cappuccino

7. Spending time with my family.

8. Sleeping in, especially when you know there’s no work that day due to the inclement weather, like a snow day.

9. Going to the beach must also be one of my favorite pasttimes.

10. Being home with my family. Although I’m ready to adopt Italy as my new country, there is also nothing like being home. The US will always hold a place in my heart, inspite of what readers may think after reading my ‘Italy v. America, Differences Observed’ posts.

And so I pass this unto you. Yes, you!

What are your not-so-guilty pleasures in life?

PS. Michelle, if you’re reading this, would you be so kind as to direct me to your post I am referring to? Thank you!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Off the Beaten Trail: Cortona, Italy: Sagra della Bistecca


picture from CortonaWeb.net

Get your knives and forks ready for the Sagra della Bistecca!! Perhaps even a bib if you’re a sloppy eater! As mentioned in the first post on my Cortona’s Off the Beaten Trail edition, the Cortonesi celebrate what is known as the Sagra della Bistecca.

What is a sagra you ask?

For those of you who don’t know, and aren’t familiar with traditional festivals in Italy, a sagra is a local festival, usually involving food, and many times includes historical sporting events, like jousting. During the Sagra della Bistecca, the Cortonesi celebrate their bistecca, or steak, which it is regionally famous for. The Di Sagra in Festa website describes it as such:

La sagra della bistecca di Cortona è l’appuntamento più importante della gastronomia cortonese e si tiene ogni anno presso i giardini del Parterre (giardini pubblici) il 14 15 e 16 Agosto 2009. In una gratella gigante di 14 metri vengono cucinate le bistecche alla fiorentina, rigorosamente di carne di razza chianina, cotte al sangue, come vuole l’antica tradizione toscana. Oltre ai contorni, pane e frutta il menu comprende dell’ottimo vino Chianti o del Cortona Doc, ottimi per accompagnare la nostra carne. Costo 25.00€

Alla “sagra della bistecca” non troverete solo bistecche ma anche stand gastronomici, con prodotti tipici toscani e cortonesi.

The Sagra della Bistecca of Cortona is the most important date of Cortonesi gastronomy and is held every year in the Gardens of Perterre (public gardens) from 14- 16 of August. On a 14 meter (that’s nearly 46 feet) giant grill the steaks alla fiorentine are cooked, strictly of meat of the Chiana race, cooked from medium rare, in the old traditional Tuscan manner. In addition to the main course is a menu of bread and fruit along with optimal Chianti wine or of Cortona DOC, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata (which is a law pertaining to bottled wines in Italy. This meaning wine deriving from Cortona.), to accompany our meat.

Cost: 25 euros

At the Sagra della Bistecca, you won’t only find just steak, but other gastronomical stands with typical Tuscan and Cortonesi products.

In my opinion, not a bad price for the pleasure of enjoying a nice steak, accompanied by a good wine, fruit, and bread!


For more information about the Sagra della Bistecca for this year, stay tuned to the Di Sagra in Festa website. This site is much more up-to-date, as the Cortona comune’s website has information about the festival dating from 2005.

In your town in Italy, or if you’ve visited Italy, have you been to a sagra?
Please share with us what you experienced by either leaving a comment below or writing to PassagetoItaly (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Off the Beaten Trails: Cortona, Italy: Churches Part 2

Our tour of Cortona first began here, highlighting the characteristics of this town made known to many by the book and film, Under the Tuscan Sun. The tour then continued here, with the first special on the towns churches. This post concludes the tour of the churches, featuring the Duomo, the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita, and the Convento delle Celle.

The Duomo

The Duomo

The Duomo, featured left, can be found in the Piazza del Duomo. However, unlike many Italian towns which feature the church in the heart of town, the Duomo can be found near the edge of town. If you look closely, the facade reveals changes to the original structure, perhaps with the original entrance being larger. According to Wikipedia, the beginning to its construction began in the 11th century, and was name a cathedral in 1325 by the Cortonese diocese. (By clicking on the link to Wikipedia, you can read the article about the cathedral, however, it is in Italian.) Its bell tower, featured below to the right, was built in the by Francesco Laparelli. If you face the Duomo, to the left is an incredible panoramic view of the valley below.

The Duomo's bell tower

Sanctuary of Santa Margherita

The sanctuary was built on the site of the former church of San Basilio, dedicated to Santa Magherita after her death in 1297. Its construction was finished during the 19th century, but has undergone extensive renovations since 1857. The facade has a beautiful marble rossette made in the 14th century.

The first altar has a painting done by Barrocci called the Estasi di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria. The altar to the right of the high altar displays the infamous Crucifix to which Santa Magherita prayed to. Legend has it that the Crucifix spoke to her. The high altar was done in the baroque styles and fashioned with marble. It also encases the cinerary urn of Santa Margherita, which the public can view. Originally her body was buried in a marble mausoleum, was later exhumed in 1330 to be placed in the urn.


panoramic view near the Duomo

Convento delle Celle


As far back as 1199, documents show that hermits had inhabited its cells. A hermitage was later founded in 1211 by St. Francis of Assisi. Many well-known saints stayed at the hermitage, including Fra Elia, mentioned in the Churches Part 1 section of the Off the Beaten Trail; St. Anthony of Padova; Guido Vagnottelli; Beato Vito; and Saint Bonaventure. There are a totaly of twenty cells that can be views, including those of Fra Elia and St. Francis.

mausoleum?

Please stay tuned for more on Cortona! The next part will be able the festivites of the town, and the MAEC, or Il Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della città di Cortona, mentioned in the very first post of the Cortonaedition of Off the Beaten Trail.

Buon weekend a tutti!

(Have a good weekend everyone!)