Dream of Italy on PBS - Now on Youtube

Dream of Italy on PBS - Now on Youtube

In May on PBS, Dream of Italy launched a multi-part series exploring the magical allure of Italy.  The series starts in Tuscany, and features several of our friends that many of you know.  You'll see Matteo and Francesca during last year's olive harvest, Nora Kravis on her Chianti Cashmere goat farm, and Panzano's Dario Cecchini - the maestro of all things flesh.  

But you don't have to wait for your PBS affiliate to air the series.  The Tuscany episode has been uploaded to Youtube and is available here.  Set the video to its highest quality setting for your connection and enjoy!

Read More

The No-Fly Zone

The No-Fly Zone

The olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae) began infesting Mediterranean olives around the 3rd century.  These nasty little pests feed exclusively on olives by tunneling into the fruit, destroying the pulp and making the olive susceptible to other bacteria and fungi that ultimately decay the fruit.  A single adult female can lay up to 400 eggs, usually depositing an egg in each olive that it visits, making the fruit extra sensitive to oxidation and microbial breakdown.  The subsequent premature rotting that takes place in the fruit gives the oil that it produces a somewhat rancid, “off” flavor.  That’s not a good thing.  And it is estimated that the damage done by the larvae results in a 30% loss of the olive crop in Italy every year.

Read More

A Visit to Chianti Cashmere

A Visit to Chianti Cashmere

Thursday morning our group visited Chianti Cashmere - the farm of Nora Kravis.  In 1972, Nora visited Tuscany from Long Island, New York, fell in love, had a child, got divorced and never left.  She learned the language, put herself through veterinary school at Università di Pisa and settled down in Chianti to pursue a dream of country life surrounded by animals. Back then, this part of rural Tuscany was a backwater that no one visited or cared about.  Nora was able to scrape together a little money to buy 20 acres of rocky land with a pile of rubble that used to be a farmhouse - the kind of place that today would be a 7-figure bargain for expatriates looking for vacation property.

Read More

München Mag Dich

München Mag Dich

The 11:52AM Munich train from Bologna Centrale left right on time… and that’s not simply because we were on the super efficient Deutsche Bahn (the German national railway line).  Maybe we were just lucky, but all the trains that we took in Italy were on time, too. And even their labor disputes are handled in a civilized manner.  When the trains stop running because of a strike, it’s announced ahead of time, and they only stop running between the morning commute and the evening commute.  After all, people have to get to and from school and work.  
 

Read More

Bologna = Food

Bologna = Food

Fred Plotkin’s book, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, is the ultimate food-lover’s guide to Italy.  It has been my go-to guide for selecting out of the way places, and we’ve visited many of the cities that he designates as the ‘Classic Town’ of each of the 20 regions of Italy.  The book is much too big to haul around, but I take copious notes from the book and put them into my iPhone for quick reference. 

Read More

Do Farai

Do Farai

Saturday was shaping up to be the longest day on record.  On Burano, Debra and I jumped on the 5:00PM Vaporetto to Venice. Kelly and Steve would try to meet up with us later – Steve hadn’t taken enough photos yet.  We changed boats multiple times, navigating canals of all shapes and sizes.  It was passaggiata time, and the cafes were packed.  We jumped off near the Rialto bridge and started the long walk towards the maze of alleyways near the Acadamia to try to find a restaurant that we had seen packed with locals the night before, stopping only for an Aperol Spritz and Americano at a café along the way.

Read More

Murano and Burano

Murano and Burano

Saturday in Venice… we all figured that we should visit the island of Murano – home of the famous glassworks.  A woman from our hotel in Venice arranged for a free private boat to drop us off/pick us up at the dock of one of the major glassmaking operations on the island.  As I stepped onto the boat with my camera daggling from my waist, she suggested that from Murano, we might want to visit the neighboring island of Burano – a tiny fishing village known for its colorful houses and picturesque seafront.  It’s quite photo worthy, she said. But if we did go on to Burano, we’d have to find our own transportation back to Venice on the various Vaporetto lines.

Read More

Cicchetti Bars and Branzino

Cicchetti Bars and Branzino

A couple of months ago, I heard about an upcoming film at the UW Union on Venice that was produced by the distinguished, award-winning travel documentarian, Marlin Darrah.  Debra and I had been to Venice, but we thought it would be worthwhile to take Steve and Kelly to see a quality film highlighting the city, narrated in person by the man himself.  After an hour or so of endless crowd shots of Piazza St. Marco, gondolas and pretty young women, we left a little disappointed.  Awarded-winning filmmaker??  Really?  Where was the insight?  Where was the glimpse of the underbelly, the soul of Venice?  

Read More

Venezia

Venezia

What could I possibly say about Venice that hasn’t already been said?  Let me start by saying how much I like being there.  The crowds around Piazza St. Marcos are terrible, many of the shops that line the streets from there to the Rialto Bridge are tacky as hell, and the whole gondola thing seems a little hokey.  But walk away from these areas and you’ll find yourself alone and hopelessly lost in an exotic labyrinth of 15th century radiance.  If that’s your idea of fun (as it is mine), come to Venice.

Read More

Asparagi Qui / Spargel Hier - Bolzano, Alto Adige (Südtirol)

Asparagi Qui / Spargel Hier - Bolzano, Alto Adige (Südtirol)

From late April through the month of May, throughout the midsection of Western Europe, the one thing that any traveler who’s not wearing blinders sees in great abundance is what the German speakers call Spargel.  In much of France, Germany, Austria and northern Italy’s Südtirol, every market has an astonishing collection of the famous white asparagus, which is revered in nearly every community as a regional culinary specialty.  

Read More