Cook Italian - Italian Experience
Category 
Italian Experience
December, 2014
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

The most beautiful nativity scene in Naples is Naples itself. You just have to go there to realize this. Do it by train, by car, by boat, as you prefer. You will notice Sant'Elmo Castle  immediately: it overlooks the city from a mountain top. Climb up there: you will remember that sight forever. You’ll have Naples at your feet, all around you, nestled in stone, so close that you could touch it, yet distant, unreachable, in its high-density that evens out everything, under a threatening yet beloved Vesuvius. The impression is that of a nativity scene, with its forced perspective, starting from the Holy Family and widening to include ordinary people, who have come to pay their homage to the Infant Jesus,  then to a village with its inhabitants and buildings, the inn, the shops, the well, the river and the bridge, to finally embrace faraway countries, perched in the mountains, while dawn slowly turns into sunset and then into a starry night. 

Category 
Italian Experience
September, 2014
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

They are rising up, slow and solemn, in the quiet morning air. Some sport the classic bulb shape and hundreds of colour shades, hanging like pictures over the clouds. Some are  fanciful or downright bizarre: a frothy mug of beer, a mobile phone the size of a seven-storey building, the big head of a clown with a big red nose, a fox with glasses and long, pointed ears and even two kangaroos wearing boxing gloves and carrying their joeys in their skin pouch. They are all different, yet united by Archimedes's principle, as they soar and float, lighter than the air surrounding them. They are the hot air balloons dotting the sky over Ferrara, during the 10th Ferrara Balloons Festival, one of the most important balloon shows in  Europe, that took place last September. 

Category 
Italian Experience
June, 2014
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

It was my cousin Francesca - who lives in Rome and is fond of sailing - who made me discover the Pontine islands. They form part of an archipelago located in front of the Gulf of Gaeta, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the southern coast of Lazio. There are 6 islands in all, well grounded in a huge volcanic mass.

Category 
Italian Experience
May, 2014
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

Once every three years, during the month of May, Serpo XIII, King of Gnocchi, comes back to Guastalla with all his court, consisting of around 750 people, including a Grand Chamberlain, a Prime Minister, a Cardinal, pages, ladies, knights, soldiers and ordinary people, on ancient carts drawn by oxen and horses! As usual, King Serpo XIII sits on the last cart. After receiving the keys to the town from the Mayor, he rules over Guastalla for 24 hours. In fact, a traditional, secular festivity is going to be celebrated, a festivity which is very dear to Guastalla population of all ages: Gnoccata (Gnocchi Day), now at its 33rd season. On the first day King Serpo XIII is crowned, in front of his subjects. The ceremony is followed by fireworks, juggling performances and a fancy dress Court ball. On the following day, a parade in historical costume winds through the streets of the town and, once it gets to the main square, the King proceeds to a massive distribution of gnocchi: around 2,500 kgs (5511 lbs)!

Category 
Italian Experience
March, 2014
Posted by 
Elisabetta Bertazzoni

Carnival is one of the oldest festivities in Italy, as it sinks its roots in the Roman Saturnalia, and even further back in time in the Greek Dionysian festivals, when a temporary reversal of social roles took place, in an atmosphere of levity and freedom, all the more enjoyable as everything was later to return exactly as it was before. Carnival is still celebrated in predominantly Catholic countries. The word Carnival derives from a religious precept – refrain from eating meat  (carnem levare, in Latin) during Lent, a period of fasting and abstinence, immediately following Carnival.

Category 
Italian Experience
January, 2014
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

I had wanted to go back to Alpe di Siusi for a long time, as it is one of the most beautiful mountain resorts in South Tyrol, north-east of Bolzano, on the western slopes of the Dolomites. A UNESCO world heritage site, defined by Le Corbusier as "the most beautiful natural architecture worldwide", the Dolomites offer panoramas of stunning variety and beauty.
Alpe di Siusi is the largest mountain pasture in Europe, with sunny slopes sheltered from the wind. It is a paradise for all winter sports, from downhill to cross-country skiing, from snowboarding to sledging. Walking in the snow at the foot of the Sciliar Massif, surrounding and framing all of Alpe di Siusi, is also great!

Category 
Italian Experience
July, 2013
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

The great Sicilian writer Elio Vittorini wrote that Scicli was "possibly the most beautiful small town in the world." Other major Italian writers have celebrated it, including Piovene, Brandi, Bufalino and Consolo. At present, it is one of the major locations for a popular television series: Il Commissario Montalbano – Police Commissioner Montalbano. Located at the southern end of Sicily, about twenty kilometers south of Ragusa, Scicli is close to the Mediterranean sea and has beaches of fine golden sand.

Category 
Italian Experience
June, 2013
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

Among the most vivid memories I have retained of the time I lived in Parma, there’s the Tortelli Festival on June 23rd, St.John’s Eve, which is traditionally considered as Witches’ Night. Before I continue, I had better explain that tortelli is the name given to ravioli in the Food Valley… Like many other Christian celebrations, St. John’s Eve overlaps and coincides with a pagan feast: Midsummer’s Eve, the summer solstice, the triumph of light over darkness and the symbolic victory of good over evil. It is also the time of harvest and stubble fires in the fields.


Category 
Italian Experience
May, 2013
Posted by 
Nicola Bertazzoni

On Saturday May 18th, Mille Miglia (literally One Thousand Miles), "the most beautiful car race in the world" passed through my hometown: Guastalla! The last time check was performed there, before the final sprint to Brescia. 415 vintage cars, selected out of the 1575 that had signed up for the race, sped through the streets of the town.

Category 
Italian Experience
April, 2013
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

Surrounded on three sides by lakes formed by the River Mincio, the city of Mantua seems to rise from water and it is often wrapped in liquid fog, during the winter. Mantua is home to countless works of art, including Palazzo Ducale, splendid residence of the Gonzaga family, the largest in Europe after the Vatican, Palazzo Té, their pleasure palace, and St. Andrew’s Basilica, designed by Leon Battista Alberti, one of the founding fathers of Humanism.
Since it is just 20.5 miles away from Guastalla and it shares with it a common past of Duchy of the House of Gonzaga, Mantua is a favourite destination of local as well as national and international tourism for both cultural and culinary tours, or to go shopping in the elegant boutiques of the city center. The city is beautiful, with its medieval and Renaissance masterpieces and it is worth the risk of driving in the fog, while crossing the River Po, or being suddenly shrouded in it, once you get there!

Category 
Italian Experience
March, 2013
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

Leghorn covered foodstuffs market is one of the most beautiful in Europe. It is also one of my father-in-law’s favourite touristic attractions, when he’s on vacation, and since I do not like basking in the sun too long, I often volunteer to go with him to do the shopping.

Category 
Italian Experience
November, 2012
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

There must be powerful reasons - well beyond its intoxicating effect - why wine has such an impact on mankind. Barolo has certainly the status of a great wine, but the aura by which it is surrounded cannot be explained only by the pleasure given by its deep red colour, by its taste and aroma.

Category 
Italian Experience
September, 2012
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

On the last Sunday of September, for many years now, I have had an important engagement with my Granny, Maria, one of the first women to get an MD in biology, in 1949, from Parma University. She is still very keen on botany and zoology, so I once again volunteer to go with her to have a look at a show called Rare and Lost Plants and Animals, that has been held in Guastalla every year for the last 16 years, at the end of September. On that day and for a day only, scenes of everyday life long since died out are suddenly revived, together with the taste of foods and products of yore.

Category 
Italian Experience
April, 2012
Posted by 
Elisabetta Bertazzoni

The beautiful small town of Porto Venere is situated in a panoramic position on the western shore of the Gulf of La Spezia - better known as the Gulf of Poets - facing the three small and lovely islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, a few kilometres away from Cinque Terre.
Renowned for its crystal clear waters and the splendid old village, perched on a cliff, its origins date back to the sixth century BC, when the area was already inhabited by the Ligurians . Portovenere owes its name to the presence of a temple dedicated to the goddess of fertility, love and beauty, Venus Ericina, located in the very same place where the magnificent church of St. Peter now stands, in its Gothic-Genovese style, made of black-and-white striped marble.
A famous sea-side resort for centuries and easily accessed by car La Spezia, connected to Cinque Terre with a sailing service, Porto Venere counts, among its most famous visitors, Lord George Gordon Byron, who spent a long time there in 1822. It is said that he once swam across the Gulf to Lerici, to visit his friend and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who died shortly afterwards in a storm off the coast of Viareggio. Beneath the Church of St Peter, it is still possible to visit Byron’s Grotto, where the poet uesd to go to get inspiration for his compositions.

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal”.

George Gordon Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, canto IV – stanza CLXXVIII

Category 
Italian Experience
February, 2012
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

Visiting Venice on a clear winter day, after the passage of joyful Carnival crowds, is a unique but achievable experience! Having parked my car in Piazzale Roma, after less than two hours’ drive from Guastalla, I haven’t made up my mind whether to walk to the Pinault Foundation – which I haven’t seen yet - or try to track a route invisible to most, but charming, which I have heard of for some time: that of the hidden Venetian vegetable gardens… Given the sunny day, a decision is easily taken! I head for the big Campo Santa Margherita, with its fruit, vegetable and fish market, where huge seagulls try to snatch away shopping bags from unwary customers, scaring them off with their shrill cries. I cross the bridge leading to Campo San Barnaba and I bump into a boat that drops anchor there every single day to sell fruit and vegetables: a feast of colours! I immediately notice artichoke hearts, so typical of the Venetian cuisine, floating in a large bowl of water.

Category 
Italian Experience
October, 2011
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

If you are ready to be overwhelmed by intoxicating aromas and your pockets are deep enough, you have to go to Alba, in the Italian region of Piemonte, where the Truffle World Market is held, every year in October.

Category 
Italian Experience
August, 2011
Posted by 
Valentina Bertazzoni

Beside the famous, strong, sweet wine, Marsala has some interesting produces. Salt may seem trivial, well, it is not. Faced to the regular Mediterranean wind coming from west this blessed land had the ideal climate to extract salt from sea water, since the first human settlements, through the Greeks, the Romans and today. Since that time and for ages afterwards salt was so important for food preservation and human nutriment to be regarded as money. Hence the word “salary” we still use today.

Category 
Italian Experience
March, 2011
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

One of the good things of travelling in Italy is that, in a time span of two or three hours you can completely change your perspective. I mean landscape, climate, cuisine and also people, sound of the language and historical setting.

Category 
Italian Experience
April, 2010
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

Verona is about one hour drive from where we live and work. It is a very elegant town and full of historical buildings. Placed as it is at the entrance of the Brenner valley, that connects Northern Italy to Austria and Germany it has always been a capital for the succeeding ruling peoples in each time of its long, long history.

Category 
Italian Experience
March, 2010
Posted by 
Paolo Bertazzoni

Last Saturday my family and I made a day out in Viareggio, in Versilia the Tuscany Coast of the Mediterranean sea. As it was a sunny and warm winter day we went for a stroll on the beach now empty of people and umbrellas.