Sunday, January 27, 2013

I Adopted an Olive Tree in Puglia

Part of the 16,000 trees in  the OLIVE FARM

I am adopting in Italy!  And it is 1,000 years old!

As an Italian American I continue to feel that there is part of Italy that I am missing or do not belong to.     Is this why I return to Italy EVERY year?  To reconnect to the people who are my heritage.

Or to find a place in Italy where the slow life seeps into your bones and you breath deeply every day, NOT just the 2 weeks of vacation you have each year.

So, after visiting the Taurino Oliva Farm in Puglia in December, I was thrilled that they planned to open an Oliva field with 200 trees that would be available for adoption! 

 Everyone has heard of programs where you can plant a tree or buy a star but here at Taurino's Oliva Farm I will be able to select a tree that I can adopt in memory of Big Ed.  

There are 50 old, big trees, 50 classic trees and 100 young trees in the field.     There was no question that I wanted one of the old trees.  And we are talking OLD:  1,000 years old!  Just think what my tree would have seen over the past 1,000,    this shall be a later blog on what was happening in Puglia 1,000 years ago.

DR. AGR. VALENTINO VALZANO, shall help select 'my' tree, shall photograph Big Ed and send me a digital picture along with my adoption papers.

As my tree is cared for over the year:   organic fertilization, pruning, harvesting the olives and pressing the oil, I can receive an email update every 3 months.    With advanced reservations I may also be able to attend the harvest!

The Taurino Olive Farm, located in Squinzano, has been a family operation since 1942 and is now managed by  Donato and Rosaria Taurino.   Their state of the art pressing and bottling facility can been seen on my blog on how to taste olive oil:   

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Real Italian Cooking: come to Puglia

A Mediterranean diet has been declared a healthy way to live and as I encounter Italians of an 'advanced' age who look vital and younger than their years, I have to believe there is something to this.

Our expert in Puglia, Yle Sambati the owner of (  has created the perfect culinary experience for  chefs and would be cooks to experience food preparation from the hands of an expert:  Mamma!                        

Read about the details below and check Part II on for Yle's explaination on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet!

                  Cook in Puglia: the Puglia culinary experience!
"The cooking class will take place in the spacious rustic traditional kitchen in a country house or in a private home and your teacher will be a Mum from the area.

With her you will truly experience what “peasant cooking” in Puglia is: genuine, healthy, seasoned with the freshest products.
Cook with locals in a casual and friendly environment:      join this group of fabulous “Mamme in Cucina” and share teaching you some very delicious dishes. Classes are hands – on, using the freshest of ingredients and sampling olive oil and wine produced directly on the grounds.

Guests will be fully involved in every stage of the cooking class. Groups are kept small because keeping it personal make the guests truly feel comfortably and in good company.

You will be given a recipe book and an apron to take home with you.

Italian Mediterranean Diet: Can you live longer too?

Part II   

The Mediterranean diet 

    You hear the word diet and begin to think about never eating bread or pasta again, not to mention chocolate!  

    But Yle the owner of,  a personal travel 'creator' in Puglia Italy, tells us what a Mediterranean diet can do for you.     I always enjoy finding a new post from Yle......don't you?

Mamma Guilia makes sure the produce is fresh from the garden

t      From an article written by Yle and some of her many wonderful photographs......   this spring I hope to do a photo tour with Yltours in Puglia.  


"The World Cultural and Intangible Heritage defines the Mediterranean diet a dietary model to follow and extremely tasty. 
It is not only a healthy eating program, but also a way of life inspired by the physical and mental well being and consumption:  slow and shared meals to be eaten in the company of friends and family in a relaxed atmosphere.
Extra virgin olive oil, vegetables and fresh seasonal products, the Mediterranean Diet is in Puglia one of its main aspects and lifestyle.
Based on the fundamental principle of complete and balanced nutrition, in fact, it is inspired by the simplicity of the preparation and use of seasonal produce, fresh and mostly local, providing proteins, lipids and sugars with high nutritional value and low in cholesterol, as well as a substantial contribution of minerals, fiber and vitamins.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Puglia named one of 10 best Wine Destinations

You have a guide to Puglia Wines at 

contact Yle for the perfect selection of wine tastings, visits to vineyards and perhaps you would like to attend the grape harvest?   Just an email away to the best adventure in Puglia:

                              Yle Sambati at

Wine Enthusist Magaizine pria list of the 10 Best wine travel destinations for 2013!

the write....... 
"A sense of place—the sights, sounds, smells and spirit of a travel destination—can endear that area to a person forever. For wine lovers, there is no better way to cement that connection than to explore the world around those vines. As the wine market becomes ever more global, packed with offerings ranging from the most storied wine regions to the most offbeat, so does the wine traveler’s itinerary.
Each year, our editors travel the world to experience the best wine and food, and in turn, discover the most exciting places to visit. Our list for 2013 represents the wide swath of cultural and culinary experiences on the must-see list.
Whether your tastes lean toward the rustic climbing trails of South Africa’s Stellenbosch or a tour of a Puglian castle, this list promises outstanding travel experiences and unforgettable wines."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Italian mentor in Sorrento

              Have you ever met a stranger who became a GREAT

                                 source of support?

I inflicted myself on Yvonne 2 years ago when I visited her jewelry store and insisted we do an interview.   see an earlier post: 
She was very gracious and agreed to let me question her and take photos.

So when I asked her if we could do a video interview this year I was surprised when she agreed  and what an extra surprise:    She has a new shop and her partner Massimo showed me how he creates wonderful glass art.  There will be a video on the day with a glass artist soon.

 Yvonne has become a wonderful mentor.......

If you are unconventional it is hard to find anyone who even understands your goals not to mention supports it!

But Yvonne has suggestions and encouragement for even the most bizarre ideas.
She was one of the first readers to high 5 my 'adopt an olive tree' project.

So today is a thank you to Yvonne and all the other people out there who think OUTSIDE THE BOX

Butt I must go Home To Italy

My photographer friend in Firenze said this is the most famous butt so I shall be using it for my post card line:   Butt you said..........

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Italian Weekly Markets

I use shopping in a local street market for many reasons when visiting Italy:

 credit for this photo from the
web site  
1.  great photo opportunity
2.  feel like a local (if you don't speak)
3.  learn first hand what kitchen tools are used, what fashions are most popular
4.  listening to the other shoppers
5.  to replace an item I lost while traveling, forgot to bring with me or as I prefer to do,  replace throw away clothes...    I bring old items and discard them along the way.  Sometimes I will leave them in a hotel room:  tote bags, good handbags and other times I have put most of my clothes in a donation box prior to flying home
It is cheaper than the extra luggage fees at the airport and now I have room for Italian treasures....

On a previous trip I was given a discount on a purchase and was told by the vendor 'when you return, you have a cafe'.    This year I returned and in the pouring rain visited him at his stall.   I am sure he did not remember me and since I had only been in Italy 4 days my 'remembered Italian' was very poor.  But he understood why I was there and trying to repay his kindness.   Italians may think I am odd or  pazzo, but encounters such  as these make my trips memorable.

So much to see and learn from a street market
  For a link to the market through out Italy and more on the art of 'market negotiations' see my post on

What is the strangest item you have ever bought in a street market?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lake Como Tour Experts you need to meet

While in Como for only 1 1/2 days I had the wonderful fortune to speak with a young woman at two of the tourist offices.

Not knowing they were fiends it was a nice surprise when Victoria (at the train station office) told me she had heard about me.....hmmm   sounds like I might look like a stalker, but if you do not ask questions, you never find out what life in Italy is REALLY like.

And traveling in winter there are fewer travelers and most of the office staff have time to spend telling you more than 'where to catch the boat on the lake' or what hours is the Duomo open.


So it was a GREAT treat when Victoria allowed me to walk with her to meet her friend Ele at the tourist office in town.      They were very gracious to allow me to tag along while they went to lunch (yes they may have thought I was crazy)  and I learned that their jobs stopped in December and would not start again until the Spring tourist season started.  

Italian vs Italian American: making friends

Una cafe?

 I am constantly asking the friends I have in Italy and the expats I have met along the way,  how to become part of the neighborhood when I do go Home to Italy.     

After 3 months in Sorrento on a sabbatical, I had met a number of people but unlike the American method of making new friends,   I was never able to break through that barrier:  formal vs familiar.
I was greeted in the market every week, spoke with the lovely woman at the bakery every day (sometimes long conversations) and even recognized families on the nightly passeggiata.

But there seemed to be a line that was never crossed.......   How many times in America have you met someone at work, at a town meeting or even in your neighborhood and invited them to stop by or to meet for coffee.    When I asked my expat friend in Florence, she admitted that the large expat community tended to spend time together.    After meeting a few of the members I was surprised because they ALL spoke Italian!    I am limited because I speak so poorly......

First I need to learn to cook!
But Lesley has given me some insight on how to cope with being an 'Outsider".   

How to make Italian friends?

First of all you must tell them about yourself, make them feel part of your 'inner circle/family'

Then most importantly eat together, have a pizza together and invite your new friend around for coffee or a meal ( don't try to impress by cooking Italian food, make something American like Apple Pie,

Italians love to learn about different cultures).

Always compliment Italians; their cooking, their friendliness, the things you love about Italy and try very hard to speak Italian, if you don't make any effort to communicate in Italian your new friendship won't survive.

How have you made new friends in Italy?    Yes it is easier to spend time with other foreigners and it is easier to speak English to get your point across  but Lesley  has some great points.   I miss so much because I can not have anything but a basic conversation with Italian.  However, they have been very kind to try to understand me and share their beautiful life....
Meet Lesley and Ron on your next trip to Puglia by staying with them at Villa Magnolia.    After you see the photos you may not want to leave..... 

One of my future posts will be 'all the kind people I have met on my trips Home to Italy!"

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The dolce Boss of Lecce

The bakery was the place we went on Sundays for a treat each week and a place were we always bought our Italian birthday cakes!   

       But in Lecce, dolce (sweets) is an art and the best artist I have ever seen and had the pleasure to meet, is Luca Capilungo.

    Yle was kind to introduce me to Luca during my visit last year.        With a huge retail store and a kitchen full of specialists  for chocolate, pastacciotto, almond paste, cookies (biscotti) and all the other parts that make up the endless array of cakes, cookies and chocolate treats you find in the store,  Luca took time to explain the art of baking........

Behind the scenes the kitchen was busy and I had to hop out of the way many times
I was the American who go in the way when trays were ready to bake!

Cakes and seasonal favorites were not just on plates they were presented as pieces of art!
The endless stream of shoppers were making their selections for holiday events.

I have asked a friend to translate Luca's story for us and I hope to post that here, soon.
But as you listen to his video you can see his deep love for his work and craft.

What was also amazing was the shop itself.   This was not the typical bakery with glass cases.  As we entered you became part of the entire theme of the store:  from the polar bears at the entrance to the fine details of crystal, glass tree ornaments, ceiling decorations, table accents......It was difficult to focus on the cakes but when I did I lost track of all the questions I had for my host.
Just gaze as some of the following and tell me if you had these at home?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Italy: Lunch with an Italian family needs a tablecloth!

It was a great surprise when I was invited for lunch at the home of an Italian woman this fall during my 2012 trip trip Home To Italy.   I had met my hostess in 2011 on my first trip to Puglia.
Although I have visited Italy for many years and have several 'friends' I visit each time I am in their town, I know Italians can be formal with non family members.
After all the Italian language has formal and familiar words for addressing people you know casually or members of your family and close friends.   On occasions I have been reminded of this when the person I am speaking with corrects me!   

So this invitation was a pleasant surprise and an honor, but it also caused me some fear!     I had no idea what to expect.   Having lunch with Italian Americans might be a meatball sub at home!  Something I have not seen YET in Italy.  

How lovely to have Mama
join us for lunch.
Not knowing I would be visiting someones' home I did not bring a contribution for lunch or any hostess 'gift'.     Perhaps it is an Italian American 'thing' to bring something when you visit,  or it could be our way to be accepted.
This will take some reader feedback to discuss.....

I did not write down the instructions for this, but will be sure to ask, it was WONDERFUL


When we talked about Americans eating lunch in their cars as they dashed off to another
 appointment or errand my host was appalled!  

She told me she could NOT think of lunch without sitting  at the table with a TABLECLOTH!    Such a wonderful practice.

Life in Italy may be far more 'sweet' than I imagine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life in Italy vs America Part 2

Cooking fresh foods purchased daily is a way of life for Italians.     This 'life style' is what I enjoy when 'living' in Italy for my 6 or 8 weeks each year.   When I am fortunate to have an apartment for part of each trip, I visit the local markets and try to understand what the Italians cook for their families.

So Leslie's post (see Life in Italy vs American part I) started a conversation on how Americans eat.

Fresh foods have a color that is vibrant

Why we might not be willing (or able) to buy food daily and cook in a healthy way.   When you work 9 or 10 hrs a day and commute another 1 or 2 hours, it is very tempting to buy something pre-cooked or prepared, bagged salad, microwave veggies, etc.      What about the pizza you order when you 'have nothing in the house?  Or the drive through because eating in the car while driving may be the only way you can get a meal.

Well, Leslie had a strong opinion on this and it started to make me think:
Sometimes the fresh veggies come to you!

Even the super mercato has FRESH

Lesley Daoust:   "Work-life balance, live to work, or work to live?     Life is precious and all too brief to live it chasing success and money, happiness can be found in the simple things around us. Follow your dreams and work becomes your 'hobby', cooking becomes a way to express yourself. Cooking a great meal brings people together, new friendships are formed at the table, inviting people over for a quick snack is a great way to make new friends, conversation never fail when talking about food, Everyone appreciates the time and effort it takes to make a cake, or biscuits, or even a quick pasta dish . Never underestimate the power of a woman in the kitchen..."

I am thinking of Lesley's words and meaning as i eat Italian orzo in canned soup....hmmm not there yet.

As a future expat, will Italians even accept an outsider?

I dont think Italian's think Italian Americans are REAL Italians.

What do you think?

Life in Italy vs America part 1

After commenting on a recipe for veggies and pureed fava beans on Villa Magnolia's web site I had an  interesting chat with one of the owners.   This is a dish I tried for the first time while in Puglia with and was amazed at how much I enjoyed this dish.

Growing up Italian American I thought I had heard of if not tasted everything Italian.  Just because I will never try tripe or eel, or other animal parts not meant to cook, I have eaten Italian for many, many years.

So when at a wine tasting lunch in 2011 I was surprised when small glass dishes, something you would serve pudding in, was placed on the table.   Being a good guest I poked at it until a table mate told me it was a vegetable dish.     I thought I had discovered a new treasure.

When back in the USA I found it was more difficult to find fava beans (not canned) than I thought.   Atlanta does not have the Italian stores I remember growing up in New Jersey so I just put this memory in my travel box.        Until this week when Leslie posted the following:

Fave e vendura:   fava beans and vegetables.........
'today's typical Puglian meal, packed with vitamins and protein.   The dried Fava beans are boiled with a potato until soft (approximately 40 mins_  then pureed.
Served piping hot with a drizzle of olive oil and some green vegetables.  ie:  cioria (chicory?), beitola, (swiss chard), spinach etc. "

The combination of flavors was wonderful.  The same week I was introduced to this dish I met Nonna Vata (see post and video)  Pasta Lesson in Puglia with Nonna   While making pasta with Nonna she told me they made this dish when she was a child.  They cooked it in a crock and left in near the fire all day while they worked in the fields......

 View the villa in Puglia where Leslie and Ron offer their guests a taste of the food and the good life of Italy.   


See Part II soon

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Florence Italy Expat with a BIG talent

Have you thought of moving to Italy, finding an apartment or a house in the countryside?  
So have I and over the past 6 or 7 years I visit every year and make sure I visit Florence and an expert on real estate in Tuscany.     

So it was with great pleasure that I heard she had her work in a show the AMERICAN CONTEMPORARY ART IN FLORENCE show on (5-11 May) part of 500 anniversary of Amerigo Vespucci & America.

in Florence and was even doing commission for travelers and residents who wanted a part of Italy for their home.    

Hi my name is Sheila Ford. I was born in England and moved a long time ago to Florence in Italy where I live. 

I've been a Real Estate Agent here for more than 25 years. I rent, sell and manage properties in andaround some of the beautiful areas of Tuscany.  That's the professional side. But I have a hobby; a great passion and that's my hobbyfor photography. 

Besides photographing property to put on site for my job, living in abustling, historic city like Florence, with it's narrow streets, and ancient buildings, I findendless scope to focus my passion. 

I'm not talking about postcard type of photos, but of capturing an unusual shaft of light,stormy skies, a reflection in a glass window ...........Work and photography have gone happily hand in hand too, some photos now enhancingapartments and hotel rooms, they can look great in your home or office too!  If you've never had the privilege to visit Florence, then take a look at my web site, and from your own  home, take a tour and look through the photo galleries and if you have already  been to Florence, then take a look anyway, and see what you didn't   see ! The site address is below, And don't forget if you have any special requests,
then I'm here and I look forward to hearing from you.  

 for all your real estate needs:  
  for photos of the treasures of Italy: 

This art piece is particularly 'arresting' in person

Italy: shopping the market with Mamma

This is day four of my adventure in Lecce, Italy and I want to introduce you to Momma Anna.
I will be featuring Mama A every month.   Soon we will have skype calls with Momma where you can ask all the questions about Italy that are not in the tour books.

Why do men live at home until the are in their 30's?
Do you cook lunch for everyone EVERY day?
Mamma, how do I remove red sauce from my table cloth?

Start saving your questions for Ciao Momma, coming soon.

Mamma A took me to the local produce market that she shops in a few times a week.  FRESH food is mandatory.     I will post a visit to the supermercato with Yle later, but visiting the local market was far more exciting.   Vendors were calling to each other, lovingly presenting their wares and the easy banter with customers felt perfect.  Even while I took photos during our visit everyone was freindly and greeted me as if I were a regular!

selecting olives
today's cheese and 'cold cuts'

So much better than my local Kroger store!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Christmas in Italy is NOT over

Although we did not observe the Epiphany growing up Italian American I was surprised at all the traditions and stories attached to La Befana!  

Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. The traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany.  By , Guide 

At the Rome Christmas market you can pick a Befano to take home with you, either angle like or similar to a witch (USA perception).

The importance of this day is that Italian children are given gifts from La Befana if they have been good and if not.....
sounds similar to coal in your stocking?

I first heard of La Befana in Como when I asked about Christmas traditions.   The stories continued as I traveled south to the end of Italy.   Who wouldnt want the holiday to last another 9 days?

So I did a little research on La bafana to find out her history.   This became interesting.
La Befana has her own Wikipedia page!


"In popular folklore Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad.

 The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food, often regional or local, for the Befana."   Hmm is this where we found cookies for Santa?

She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children's houses through the chimney. She is often smiling and carries a bag or hamper filled with candy, gifts, or both.

But I find the myth behind this story more interesting......
Italy's traditional celebration includes the tale of a witch known as La Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.
According to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger.
Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana.     By , Guide