Saturday, January 03, 2009

Nebbia in Italy

Some places in Italy are so foggy in the winter! If you have lived in Piemonte, you know that the fog can seem almost suffocating at times and sometimes smells strange (the smell outside the polluted Turin air much preferable).

This photo was taken near Lucca, a nice little city in Tuscany that still has Medieval city walls intact.

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Monday, December 29, 2008


After thinking about Tellaro the other day I decided to go there. Now is the perfect time because everyone is elsewhere for the holidays, and it is actually possible to find a parking spot. During the summer it is almost impossible to find parking for a motorino in some places in Liguria.

Tellaro is one of the quaintest towns on the Italian Riviera, and still pretty unknown to many tourists. It is found in the Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of the Poets). The Gulf, located near the city of La Spezia, was given this name for the poets/authors who visited and lived in its vicinity; among them Eugenio Montale, D.H. Lawrence, Mario Soldati, Shelley and Byron.
Shelley lived in San Terenzo, and died when his boat was hit by a storm on his way home from Livorno. There is a grotto dedicated to Lord Byron at Portovenere named Grotto Arpaia. It is said to be named after Byron because he is the point from which he left to swim across the gulf of La Spezia to San Terenzo to visit Shelley in Lerici, in 1822.

According to Italian writer Mario Soldati, Tellaro is “a nirvana between sea and sky, between the rocks and the green mountain.”

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Waves Crashing in Camogli

Sometimes you can be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I wasn't expecting to take any great photos this day in Camogli and was preparing to go home with a few banal shots. Then, just as I was about to call it a day I saw the water from the huge waves reflecting a beautiful color as the sun began to go down.

National Geographic has an interesting video on the painting of the outsides of houses in Liguria (it focuses on Camogli, but it is tradition in the whole region). They are painted in the trompe l'oleil style that was also used by Margritte (photo below). Things which are not real seem to take on a life and seem to be what they are not.

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Winter Colors in Liguria

One of the beautiful things about winter in Liguria is that the colors are often more defined and sharp than during the hazy summer days. This sunset shot was taken near La Spezia, one of the four provinces of Liguira. Portovenere (La Spezia) and the small islands nearby (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) were added to Unesco's World Heritage list in 1997. Then in 2001 the Liguria Region founded the Natural Park of Portovenere.

There are many breathtaking places in Liguria that are still little known. Portofino and the Cinque Terre are becoming ever more visited by tourists, but other places still remain untouched by mass international tourism, and hopefully will remain that way!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tuscany in the Winter

I love going to Tuscany during the low season. Florence to me is a nightmare during the summer, but if you get a nice fall or winter day it is much more peaceful and real without droves of tourists yelling and shoving.

This day in San Gimignano was just a little too cold, but it was worth it! San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany. It is a must see for tourists, but a tad artificial. Other Tuscan towns such as Montalcino and Pienza are more quaint and have not yet been ruined by mass tourism.

The best part of any trip to Tuscany (aside from the amazing panorama and quaint little towns) is the food. Steak in Tuscany is a meat-lovers dream come true. Fiorentina is a huge cut of meat, but if you have an appetite or someone to share with, it should not be missed. The meat is very tasty and tender, cooked to perfection on the grill. Most Italians eat it on the rare side, which actually gives it a different flavor than well done.

If you are not quite as hungry, ordering a tagliata is another delicious option. It is sliced meat often served with arugula and thinly sliced parmigiano cheese.

MC Escher travelled quite a bit in Italy. One of his drawings of San Gimignano:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pantelleria: the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean

The island Pantelleria is located halfway between Sicily, Italy and Tunisia. It is actually a little closer to the African coast than the to Italy and its African influence is apparent in the Pantesco dialect.

Reaching Pantelleria is quite time consuming a rather expensive endeaver. Unless you arrive in your own yacht like Armani, you can take a series of planes or boats from the mainland. The traghetto from Sicily takes about 6 hours, but it is worth the time.

"Pantelleria was formed more than 350,000 years ago in series of eight eruptions. Around 45,000 years ago the island imploded in a mass of volcanic activity, creating the mountains, valleys and hills which can be seen today. What also emerged was the 'Specchio di Venere', the so-called Mirror of Venus.
" M&C

Read more about Pantelleria in the LA Times.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sciacchetrà Wine from Cinque Terre, Italy

Well, I have been really bad about blogging the past few months. At this point "few" would be an understatement since I haven't written anything since early October! Since I was talking to an American friend about wine from the Cinque Terre the other day, I figured it was a good topic to write about.
Sciacchetrà, possibly the only decent wine from Liguria, is a passito wine. Passito wines have a higher sugar concentration because the grapes are laid out to partially dry. This process eliminates much of the grape's water and concentrates its sugar and flavor components. According to numerous websites, it is a "rare white wine. The thing that I find strange is that it is not quite as "rare" as it should be given the amount of land that is actually cultivated in the Cinque Terre. It is amazing that they are able to terrace the steep land that extends to the sea, but it seems like the wine supply far exceeds the amount possibly produced.

: Cinque Terre,
wine, vino, Sciacchetra', terraced vineyards, Italian cities, passito, Vernazza, Italian wines

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why don't non Torinese Italians like Torino?

I can't understand why Turin is so unpopular with non Torinese Italians. Yes, it is a very gray city with many winter mornings and nights filled with fog...but so are many other cities!

I think that Torino is the perfect size to have city-like qualities (huge market at Porta Palazzo, good size downtown area with lots of shops, cultural diversity, architecture, events, history, etc.) and yet it is managable. You can get from one end of the city to another in an amazingly short amount of time. Unlike many other Italian cities, you can actually find parking. One negative aspect is that the drivers are insane. Watch out of you have a green light to cross the street because they will run you doesn't matter that the light is red for them - there is a good chance they won't stop! This is normal in S. Italy, but most of the northerners outside Torino actually follow traffic rules.

Beware that it might take a lot of extra effort to make friends in Torino, as most people keep the same friends from nursery school for their entire lives. If you plan on moving there I suggest finding some foreign it might be very lonely! Once you make friends you will find Torino to be a very fun place to be. you can go to Murazzi or many other quaint little bars for aperitivo (the Italian version of happy hour, which is even happier because you get food with your drinks). The Christmas lights around the city are unbeatable, as are the Egyptian and Cinema Museums.

Tags: Torino, Turin, Porta Palazzo, Murazzi, aperitivo, Italian cities, Egyptian Museuma, fog, traffic, Italian drivers

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Boat in Mazara Port, Italy

I came across this boat in the Mazara Port while waiting for the ferry to Pantelleria. I liked the character that the worn white paint with the red star gave the boat, as well as the depth effect the various color ropes added.

Tags: Mazara, Mazara del Vallo, Italy, Italia, ferry, Pantelleria, nave, boat, rope, port, porto, traghetto

Friday, June 16, 2006

What is a vicolo?

According to the Oxford Paravia dictionary (one of the best Italian - English dictionaries in my opinion) a vicolo is: an alleyway, back alley, back lane.
None of these words sound very romantic in English, and just do not do justice to vicolos. While there are vicoli in other places, there just is no comparison to those of Genoa. They were actually quite dangerous for a number of years, but have recently become quite trendy and new bars and interesting restaurants are popping up all over the place. If you know Italian, is a great source of information on restaurants and stores in Genova's vicoli.
The part of town with vicoli is usually "centro storico" or historical center...or "caruggio" in the Genovese dialect

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