Archive for November, 2010

Eating in Predappio Alta

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
predappio alta restaurant predappio alta restaurant

We went up past Predappio Alta and couldn’t see anything and decided to ask an old man walking up the road if there were any restaurans nearby. He told us to return back to Predappio Alta (3rd curve down), and near the small piazza there was a restaurant which served good food, at good prices and and which was also in an interesting building. We discovered that the man was correct in all 3 assertions.

We parked in the small Piazza Cavour and there was the “Vecia Cantena d’la Pre” Going through the door we entered a small bar area but going down a few steps took us into a large eating area which on a Monday lunch time came complete with groups of workmen finishing off their meals. The waitress brought the menus and told us the dish of the day was “stinco di maiale” (pork knuckle). We opted to share a couple of antipastis of local meats, cheeses etc followed by pork knuckle and roast potatoes for all. The food was really good. For dessert there was a choice of  homemade cakes and I opted for apple strudel. All this with water, wine and coffee came to less than 20 euros a  head. Before we left the waitress told us that it was possible to visit the old cellars of the restaurants. In fact under the dining room floor there were two further levels of basement which contained machinery for wine making and barrels for the wine of local families. Walking up and down the steps in the cellars followed by a walk around the town helped get rid of some of the calories from the splendid meal.

Mussolini’s tomb

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

mussolini’s tomb

Sunday it rained all day and today (Tuesday) it has begun to rain. But yesterday was beautiful – sun and blue skies. It was a great day to drive up to Predappio near Forli, the birthplace and final resting place of Mussolini. We (Bill, Pam, Michael myself and Max the dog) set out at 9.00. It takes just over an hour in the car. Straight up the motorway towards Bologna, get off at Forli and follow the signs. Predappio itself is long and narrow stretching out along the road leading into the Appenines. It’s quite a pretty town with some building from the fascist era bordering the street and quite a few souvenir shops selling Mussolini memorabilia but no signs at the entrance to the town telling you that it was his birthplace.

We parked in the street and strolled through the town. The house where he was born is on the hill behind the main street. There is a small museum there but it is only open at weekends. Couldn’t see any signs for his tomb and as the tourist office was closed we went into the most reputable looking of the souvenir shops and we were told that the tomb was in a cemetery about 2 kilometres outside the town. So we decided to walk. It is a largish cemetary and right at the back is the family mausoleum. Descending the steps you enter a retangular room with a number of stone coffins. Mussolini’s  tomb is in a central chapel with a carved head in a niche. There are some other items in the chapel including a bag of sand from El Alamein. Among the other coffins are those of his wife Rachele and his son Bruno who was killed in a flying accident in 1941.

The place was very simple with no graffiti of pro- or anti-Mussolini sentiments only some plaques from various fascist groups lamenting his passing but it was worth the journey.

By the time we returned to Predappio town it was almost 1.00 and so our thoughts turned from Mussolini to lunch. There didn’t seem to be anywhere nice in Predappio itself and so we headed up to the upper town of Predappio alta to see if there anywhere to eat.

Tennis at Fossombrone

Sunday, November 28th, 2010


A few months ago Michael from Tavernelle asked if either of us played tennis. Bill said that I used to play and would be happy to give Michael a game. The last time I played tennis the rackets were of wood and you could only wear whites on the court.

However, Michael and I agreed to play a trial game and arranged to to to the Tennis Circle at Fossombrone, a town not too far away.

We haven’t looked back. Fortunately we are about the same level and each match is a hard fought contest as the loser buys the coffee and brioche afterward in the “sport cafe” next door to the courts. A tennis commentator would probably say that more points are won on “unforced errors” than on “winning shots” but it is still great fun.

There are 4 courts in the tennis circle – 3 clay and 1 synthetic. One clay court is permanently covered and in the winter the synthetic court is also covered. This means on a Thursday morning from 9.00 to 10.00, whatever the weather, we are playing tennis, the balls literally whistling across the net.

In fact we are now members of the Circle. 40 euros a year and it gives you half price on hiring the court – if we play 20 times we will have got our money back. Another benefit of joining is that you even have an opportunity to go to the Tennis Circle’s annual dinner dance. We have passed for this year.

p.s. our games are more exciting than the photo – honestly.

Pasta and courgettes

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Having had pasta with courgettes and mint in Rome a couple of weeks ago I decided to try it on some dinner guests last Saturday. It was a big success and so it is now going on my list of “quick and easy pasta dishes for when guests arrive”.

You need:

Fusilli pasta (100 grams per person)
Olive oil (2 tablespoonfuls)
Garlic (1 clove garlic, crushed)
Courgettes (3, trimmed and cut into rounds)
Chilli flakes- dried (1/2tsp) – optional
Ricotta (250g / 8oz
Mint (2tbsp chopped)
Parsley(2tbsp chopped
Grated rind 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Parmesan (50g / 1 3/4 oz freshly grated)

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, following the packet instructions until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil over a moderate heat in a large saucepan and add the garlic and courgettes. Cook until the courgettes are beginning to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the chilli and ricotta and cook, stirring until warmed through. (If necessary add some of the pasta water to thin the ricotta)
Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the courgette mixture and mix through. Sprinkle with the herbs and lemon rind. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve with Parmesan.

Sarah Scazzi

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010


Sarah Scazzi (left) was a 15 year old girl from Avetrana in Puglia who went missing in August. She was on her way to meet her cousin Sabrina (right) prior to heading to the beach. She never turned up. Various theories were put forward e.g. she had left home in a huff, she had been kidnapped etc. Then at the end of August Sarah’s uncle, father of Sabrina, found her mobile. It had been burnt and left in an old farmhouse near the town. At the beginning of October the uncle admitted murdering his niece in his garage when she rejected his advances. He had violated the body and then throw it down a well. He subsequently changed his story and said that he had murdered Sarah with Sabrina’s help but had not violated the body. Later he changed his story again and said that Sabrina had murdered Sarah in a pique of jealousy as the man Sabrina fancied was paying attention to Sarah. He had only helped dispose of the body. Now the investigators are wondering if Sarah’s aunt Cosima could also have been involved as she says she was in the house at the time but was asleep and heard nothing.

This is a very tragic story which may not seem very relevant to “living in San Giorgio”. However, it is very difficult to avoid the story if you want to watch television. In the early evening Rai 1 and Channel 5 have chat programmes and for the last couple of months the case has been discussed every evening. On afternoon television the situation is the same. It seems like trial by television. In fact they were interviewing the Sarah’s mother on a programme publicising unresolved crime and they told her on live television that Sarah’s uncle, her brother in law, had been arrested for the murder.

 Every one involved in the case has given television interviews and even in the early stages Sabrina’s comments about the day of Sarah’s disappearance were being dissected on television programmes. The lawyers of the suspects are interviewed, the recordings of interviews with the suspects are released, forensic scientists, trial lawyers give their opinions. You start to long for a day when you don’t have to change channels in an attempt avoid more programmes on the case.

2IT001 VR036 – understanding your eggs

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010


80% of eggs sold in Italian supermarkets are from intensively reared chickens. The situation is slowly changing and in recent years the number of free range eggs sold have increased. Now the Coop (of which Bill is a member) has decided to stop selling eggs from cage reared birds. In their latest magazine they had an interesting article about the information stamped on each egg.

An example of what the letters and numbers mean stamped on each egg are:

2 IT 001 VR 036. 

2 indiates the way the hen was reared (see below for more info);
IT indicates it comes from Italy
001 the commune where the egg comes from (each commune has a specific number)
VR indicates the province (in this example Verona)
036 is the number of the farm (again each producer has a number).

The first number on the stamp will be either 0, 1, 2, 3.

0 = organic. The chickens can roam freely. At least 80% of their feed is organic.

1 = allowed out in to an open protected area for some hours per day.The outside space must be at least 4 sq mt for each hen.

2 = reared in huts but can move freely inside the hut and will also have access to outside space. There must be at least 1sq mt for every 4 hens.

3 = cage reared in an enclosed area with artifical light. There are about 16-18 hens per sq mt. 

Cover charge in restaurants

Friday, November 12th, 2010


We are all used to Italian restaurants adding a “cover charge” or “coperto” to the bill. On Forum (a television court programme) recently a restaurant owner and a customer were arguing over whether the coperto could be charged for children as the customer claimed the children had eaten from the parent’s plate. The judge found that the children had used knives and forks etc. and so should pay the cover charge. Giving her judgement the judge talked about the origin of the practice which is unique to Italy.

 It began in the 1900s when osterias were places that served only wine. Customers were allowed to bring food into the osteria but owners got fed up with having to clear up after the customers that started to put large sheets of paper or a coperto on the table and charged for this. When the osterias started to produce their own food the charge remained and in fact the idea was taken up by other types of restaurants and became ubiquitous.

However, things may be slowly changing as in some parts of Italy local by-laws have prohibited restaurants adding a cover charge but the situation remains confused.

Mediterranean diet verses Marche diet

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Last night on the television it was reported that Italy had won its campaign to have the “Mediterranean diet” listed under Unesco’s list of “intangible cultural heritage”. This list was introduced 3 years ago and now includes the tango, the polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of central Africa and Croatian lacemaking.

If the report is true then it will be the first diet on the list and Italy will have to take action to protect it from for example the spread of fast food in italian culture and resulting obesity of the population.

Even here in the Marche they pay lip service to the mediterranean diet and the benefits of olive oil. However it has been reported that the Marche forms part of the “cursed triangle” which covers areas in the Marche, Romagna and Umbria as in these areas the incidence of stomach cancer is the highest in Italy. The blame is being put on eating too much red meat (particularly if barbecued), salted foods and smoked foods. Another hypothesis links the high incidence of stomach cancer to the levels of nitrates (presumably due to farming practice) in the water.

How you know when you are getting old!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010


You know you are getting old when not much post arrives for you but when it does it’s an invitation to take part in a colon cancer screening programme. This programme on the prevention of colon cancer is being offered to all men and women from 50 to 69 in the Marche.

You are getting old when you have to go to a chiropidist to get your feet looked at. It Italy it is more complicated as you can go to either a Callista or a Podologo. The callista looks at things such as corns and bunions, the podologo looks at the whole food. As I had some hardened skin on the sole of my foot I decided to go to a podologo in Fano. She cut off the hard skin, charged me 20 euros and  suggested that after a bath I use a pumice stone on my foot. The last time I saw a pumice stone was in my granny’s bathroom – am I getting old?

Another lovely day in Rome

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

cranach’s adam and eve

On Friday got up early so we (Terry, Bill, Elizabeth of Carbernardi) could get the 7.15 train from Fabriano to Rome. We were on our way to an exhibition of Cranach in the Villa Borghese.

The weather in Rome was beautiful – sunny and warm. We walked up to the Villa Borghese where we met a couple of Elizabeth’s friends from Rome called Gian Piero and Clara and arranged to meet for lunch after the visiting the exhibition. The tickets cost 14 euros but for the price you got to see the Villa Borghese and the cranachs. I have always liked Cranach’s from when many years ago I saw his “Adam and Eve” in an encyclopaedia. The exhibition in Rome has over 40 of his pictures varying in size and subject matter but always with incredible detail and intense colours.

After the exhibition GianPiero suggested a restaurant called the Limonaia for lunch. It was in the grounds of the Villa Torlonia a 19th century residence of the Torlonia family which became one of Mussolini’s residences in Rome. A short, traumatic car drive through Rome’s lunch time traffic brought us to the Villa. The weather was so fantastic that we got a table in the sun. After a prosecco we ordered the food. All the others had pizzas but I had pasta dressed with courgettes, ricotta and mint – delicious and then we all finished with coffee.

limonaia limonaia restaurant

Gian Piero and Carlo were a delightful couple. They spoke very clear Italian and conversation ranged from Berlusconi, to living in Rome to living with cats (they are cat lovers and have a cat called Andy. It was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

After the meal they left us back in the centre of Rome and we drifted back to the station and got the 5.30 train back to Fabriano. It was a difficult drive back to Elizabeth’s in Cabernardi as we are now in the autumnal foggy season and it was difficult to follow the road in places. For our return Elizabeth had prepared a delicious minestone soup, followed by apple and walnut salad and then apple tart. A lovely end to a great day out.