italian beaches

BEING HERE. IN ROME NOW

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Rome is my favorite city in the world.  I love being here.  Although sometimes the graffiti and dirt dismay me, and admittedly my stomach often reaches my throat when I see how close cars come to one another or worse to the buses,  While I am far too old to consider driving a motorino in this city, or maybe I never had that kind of courage, I do admire all those lovely women on their way to work looking worldly and chic.  And I wish I had found myself in Rome much sooner.

Streets of Rome
Streets of Rome

I remind myself often that I am not a tourist on vacation.  My schedules are full but have nothing to do with tour groups or monuments.  My friendships in Rome run very deep and anchor me solidly to this country.  I am welcomed into the home of a dear friend no matter the duration of my stay or how frequently I “visit”. I have parts of myself stuck in Florence, Milan and a few other cities as well.   But, Rome . . . .  Being here is more about reconnecting to the people and places so dear to my heart than just visiting.  I am in Rome, but not of Rome.  Too many people have passed over her streets and vicoli for me to ever really be a part of all this history.  Sometimes  I regret not having found myself in Rome earlier in life, but I do not really believe it would be different.   I have not given up on speaking Italian well, but I have been re-thinking my aspirations of fluency.  Yet each conversational attempt is met with affection and patient correction. from strangers as well as my friends.  My days are crushed with the same things anyone returning home has;  setting up meetings, making phone calls to friends planning lunches and dinners, and for me shopping.   And, getting here is the beginning I need arrangements for travel to shop in Milan, Florence, and on this trip Bari.  Expressly Italian was born to help cover the costs of my travel.  No plans for expansions, or growth, only my desire to continue striving to afford my need to be in Italy.

Catania Sicily

It is exciting since every trip brings new people into my life, new products to share with Americans.  Today, I was introduced to a lovely woman living south of Rome.  She has lived in Italy fifty years, although she was born in India.  She is intelligent, well spoken and thoughtful.  And her name is Ushabella.  Is that not a lovely name? She had worked many years for an airline when she was laid off.  Then she began to think of ways to utilize her talents and connections.  She is currently representing a cable and wiring company from Delhi.  She also has pashmina from India nicer than I have seen in years to sell.

Ushabella

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They are luscious colors and really fine quality.  Unfortunately for both of us, Expressly Italian specializes in only Italian products produced by Italians.  But I will certainly see if I  find anyone to connect her with.  There is synergy wherever you look and more understanding of how much different and the same we all are if you are interested.

I am grateful that Expressly Italian is offering me the challenge of getting real Italian tastes into mouths outside of Italy.   Each trip I seem to find new beauty unseen by me before.  I know that will never end.  At heart, Italy is really all about beauty; in words, art, mountains or sea coasts.

I hope if you have been here or not visited recently that you will see for yourself how life changing Italy can be for you.  In  the meantime you can allow Expressly Italian to introduce you to the many items never sent outside Italy.  You can try some of the special olive oils produced in small batches, some of the famous Mauro Berardi spic3 mixes from Campo dei Fiori or some of Sardinia’s purest, healthiest honeys Stefano cultivates and soooo much more.  Email or comment but do send your questions or requests.

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Summer Fun and Staying Out of the Heat

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This is one of the few times I am happy to be near the Pacific Ocean rather than the seas around Italy.  The current heat wave in Italy has been devastating in so many ways.  It is unbelievable to hear of tornadoes in Venice, or people dying at the beach from the heat, or just this week, 140 people in Piemonte dying from the heat, but that’s been the news for the last few weeks in Italy.  Well, of course, that and continuing chaos that the fire in May at Fiumicino has created.  No, the airport is still operating at only 60 percent of normal and no finish date for the repairs from fire damage in sight.

So, what’s the good news about summer?  If you are traveling to Italy in the next month or two, put L’Aquila on your itinerary.  It’s in Abruzzo, and the altitude means less heat and less humidity.  While it is still recovering from the tragic earthquake years ago, it is a beautiful, peaceful town.  To the north west there is also Aosta in Piemonte,in the east, Bolzano and Cortina D’Ampezzo.   In other words, if you are in Italy, enjoy the mountains.  No snow, but much cooler weather than the southern parts of the country.

All kinds of records are being set this year besides the heat.

 The tower, which was built at the city’s Fabbrica del Vapore, took five-days to construct and the process involved more than half a million coloured bricks and 18,000 volunteer workers, including many families.

Highlighting the significance of the project a Lego spokesperson told La Repubblica, “Each small brick was important in reaching the record, in the same way that all our daily actions are important in building a better future.”    I think that’s a pretty uplifting analogy for plastic blocks.

And, I understand, that even with Milan’s heat, that the Expo Milano 2015 is having staggering crowds. Some of the pavilions are experiencing wait lines of up to two hours.   I am certainly glad I went in May.  I still believe the opportunity to see this event is worth the many hassles.

And, whether you are here, there or anyplace in the world, it is a time to be thinking of light, fresh and easy to prepare food.  Especially those dishes that do not require heating up your home.  So salads are great, grilling is second nature to California and the combination of the two is heavenly.

The best summer salad?  Panzanella is the perfect salad for summer.  There are so many recipes you can put almost anything in as long as you use stale bread and the best ripe tomatoes you can find.   The recipe below  is one I have used a number of times, it is simple and really great.

Panzanella Toscana                                                                                                                  Serves 6

about 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks or small wedges; about 3/4 pound bread (at least 1 day old), that you cut into cubes; about 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and a dozen basil leaves, roughly torn and about 1 cup or so of arugula.   In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, bread, arugula, basil, and onions.

In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 2 cloves of finely minced garlic drizzle dressing over salad. Season generously with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and let sit for at least 15  minutes before serving.  (This allows the flavors to blend and the juices of the tomatoes to soften the bread).

It always amazes me how truly fantastic tasting this simple combination is and how everyone seems to love it.panzanellaGive yourself a summer cooking break and try it yourself.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Summer in Italy – Estate in Italia

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The summer season is in full swing in Italy now. I’m always been impressed at how effectively Italy encourages their tourists to stay. If only the rest of their government was as successful. Summer anywhere in Italy is filled with festivals, sagre (the local food fairs celebrating an individual food) and palio events (competitions usually of medieval events). While it’s a crowded time with lots of tourists, there are so many different places to go and things to see it’s worth the crowds, and the memories of those experiences last a lifetime. Beaches Sabaudia Beaches SperlongaSeasidenear Cinqueterre Since the country is a penninsula, there are beaches, unbelievable beaches in almost every region, and those landlocked areas have lakes. So many beautiful places to explore. So much truly fresh seafood!   Fish lunch Sorrento   Get there in June or July if you want to be sure everything is open. Throughout the country summer is travel time. Although most Italians never leave Italy for their vacations, they all take time away from jobs and city for a real rest. Maybe it’s because I was a resident, but Rome in summer is really special. In addition to all the tourist attractions of the museums, mounuments and churches, Rome has so many special events in the summer. “Estate in Romana” covers all types of events. Estate Romana is sponsored by the city council of Rome and provides an incredible programme for those who visit the Eternal City during the summer. The programme lasts for 100 days and 100 nights and features over 1,000 events, concerts, exhibitions and live performances.Rome Musicians     While events are held throughout the city, it is the River Tiber that steals the scene. The Tiber Island, for example, hosts an open-air cinema with a great, handpicked selection of national and international films, while the riverbanks fill up with food stands, pubs and temporary stores.Romans love to have fun, love to eat and are always interested in a party. And, just about all of it is free. If you’ll be in Rome anytime from June through August, check out the program from Estate Romana – http://www.estateromana.comune.roma.it/. While I’m most familiar with Rome, most of the other regions have similar full programs, especially of performance, music and food experiences available. If you plan on being in a particular region,google the website for the commune and it will give you all kinds of events. I’ll write about some of the other special programs I’ve enjoyed in Gubbio and Castel Madamma and Cinque Terre in another blog entry. While in Rome, recently, I found a relatively new rental in Trastevere in a really convenient area that is to die for. Whether you are only in Rome for a short time or a longer stay, you should investigate this fabulous rental. Trastevere is livelier and more energetic and much less reserved and stodgy than the other side of the river. The location is perfect for exploring Trastevere and all of Rome’s attractions are still within easy walking distance as well. It’s always taking a chance renting an apartment without the certainty of the area and the apartment. Photos are notoriously difficult to judge how happy you’ll be. Well, I was soooo happy with this rental I wanted to share it with everyone. It’s on a quiet street, and it’s brand new furniture and fixtures, but the original integrity of the building still resonates. I could easily live in this place full time, it’s bright and airy, has a wonderful private outside area for dining al fresco and even a spa! I can’t wait to go back.living room 1 While I was alone, it actually can sleep 8 with two bedrooms and two baths.   This is the smaller bedroom (which sleeps 4) bedroom bed           The master bedroom (and bath) spamaster bedroom

Here’s the rental agency link. http://www.romesweethome.com/Luxury-Two-Bedroom-Trastevere-Botanical-Garden.html

I loved how convenient it was to everything. A great area to be living – right down the block is the “Casa delle Donne”Casa della dona Thursday which has home cooked lunches for the public at very reasonable prices.   Their lovely garden patio area has a beautiful magnolia tree that is several hundred years old and on Thursdays, they have a fresh market of products from Abruzzo there.  And, they have a summer Jazz festival in the garden area all of July with women jazz artists.   You are only a few blocks from markets and two blocks from the Botanical Gardens, which are well worth visiting.   And, if you are lucky enough to find it available to rent in July, in addition to all the Rome events, there is the Festa de’ Noantri -which dates back to 1535 in Trastevere. It starts off with a procession in honor of the Madonna del Carmine and begins eight days of celebrations with music and street performances, a street race and food, always lots of food.

Whether you rent here or elsewhere, rent early. Summer is a very busy time in Rome. I get so excited about Rome in the summer. It’s hot, and crowded, but it’s Rome! I’ll do some of the other regional summer events in the next blog.

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