Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Postcards from Rome - No Monuments


The real Rome blog to come later...think of this as the antipasti.

  Hope you enjoy some of these.  


Enjoying pasta...part of the human condition.



Context Tour of Popes and Power with Jose.

Caravaggio's St Matthew paintings.

Bernie with his new best friend.


Small kitchen, great food and cheap....Tonino's near Piazza Navona

Volkswagen car show with Italian style parking lot picnic.


Swiss Guards....

Foro Italico Mussolini monument.


Sexy Italian Carabeneri



Campo Di Fiori....vegetable heaven

Ali Baba a very very funny guy...see him on YOUTUBE.


chocolate gelato tastes better when its all over your face! 


Ciao from Roma with Donna's new best friends. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Fairy Tale City

It took some days to warm up to Ferrara, our next stop.  Largely because it was either raining, had just rained or was about to rain. And it was cold.  Ferrara like Parma is not on the American tourist agenda.  We wanted to spend more time in Emilia Romagna and wanted a Goldilocks city.  Not too big nor too small, with lots to see in the town and surrounds.  Ferrara met this need. 
Castello Estense
Not only did it have a REAL 15th century castle…built by an Este Duke (Lucrezia Borgia married into the Este family)… the castle still has a moat filled with water! The ceilings are filled with Renaissance frescos of sports and pagents, sadly a spider web of gauze patches covered them because of cracks caused by the big earthquake (5.9) last year. We took the English tour led by a lovely (they appear to all be lovely) young Italian woman so passionate about sharing her love of the City and its history.  Included in the tour was a visit to the dungeons which were used even during World War II.

We arrived in Ferrara train midafternoon Friday to THRONGS of young people leaving town for the week-end. Instantly, we recalled that Ferrara is a major university town. Our lovely apartment rental was in the shadow of the magnificent duomo and around the corner from the Castle .  The piazza in front of the Duomo is the place to hang out with friends and a drink.  It was nice to be surrounded by youthful enthusiasm and energy. 
Lampedusa memorial and nightly gathering in Duomo Piazza

Also around the corner was a scary statue of Savonarola (the bonfire of the vanities cleric and self anointed prophet).  He is a Ferrara home boy, but Donna was still surprised to see the larger than life statue in a place of honor.


Bicycles rule this town.  They are everywhere with old and young riders…some even dressed in spiked heels. The riders are proficient in one armed steering, so they can talk on their phones and carry their open umbrellas. 

Ferrara had a few other things going for it….1) Giorgio Bassani, a Farranese, set his famous book “The Garden of Finzi Contini” in Ferrara, 2) many museums, 3) a 9KM 15th century wall that surrounds the city which is also a bike/walk trail, 4)  it was a quick train trip to the 5th century mosaics of Ravenna and 5) it was accessible to many nature sights in the Po Valley.  As to #3 & 5, Plan B had to take over with the weather.

We were able to view many of the Bassani’s street/building references…such as the synagogue, the jewish school and the library.  In 1938, the Jews of Ferrara were subject to racial laws and prohibited from accessing the library.  That same library today houses all of Bissani’s books and writings.    On our last day in Ferrara which was beautiful…we walked along the wall  and stopped by the Jewish cemetery where Bassani & family are all buried.


We did make a trip to Commachio a coastal town on the Po which hypes itself as a little Venice (a stretch).    Commachio is famous for its canals, a delightful 5 arched 17th century bridge, eel farms and a famous Roman trading  boat.  The latter was discovered in the 1980s and it along with its contents were salvaged. The artefacts are  displayed in a museum.    In addition to checking out the eel museum, which expanded our knowledge  of eel  production titanically (just ask if you want to know more)…we enjoyed a lunch of eel and other seafood at a nice restaurant on a canal.

This blog would not be complete unless we teased your taste buds and commented on the Ferranese bread…now that we are safely out of its clutches.  After weeks of enjoying Tuscan bread, we discovered that in Ferrara, against all logic, they prefer to eat their own bread.  See picture.  It was fun to pull apart while you are waiting for your antipasto, but we had the most fun deciding how to describe its taste and texture.  Taste  was easy.  NONE.  Texture, we agreed on Ossified Pillsbury Doughboy.   


Saturday, October 5, 2013

2 Little Pigs In Parma

Our latest stop was Parma in Emilia-Romagna…the land of the famous Parma ham or Prosciutto, called crudo.  The ham is not cooked but dry- cured in a many-month hanging process.  We were pleased to find out that the special piggies who sacrifice themselves to our gastronomy are treated well and are often fed the famous Parmesan/parmignana cheese we also devour. This gives the Parma crudo its nutty flavor.  Anyway, we have been eating it like crazy for the last four days just in case they decide to control this substance in the future.   The picture below is from a restaurant called the Osteria I Tre Porcellini (the 3 little pigs)!
A variety of parma crudos and some fried bread!!!


Donna with Gelato Flowers
At another fine restaurant we had a plate of heavenly Parmesan cheeses aged 2 years served with honey and a balsamic reduction, followed by a plate of home-made tagliatelle and fresh porcini mushrooms.  We also discovered K2 which is a unique gelato place.  We understood nuns run the place which is near the Duomo, but not sure if that is true.  What is true is that they make flowers out of the ice cream cones.  Talking about culinary art, the gelato is the best we have had in Italy this trip.