Sunday, March 31, 2013

Italy: my 1,000 year old OLIVE TREE is getting cut!


A few months ago I adopted a 1,000 year old olive tree on the Taurino's olive farm in Puglia Italy, in memory of a first generation Italian, my father.

I will be visiting 'my tree' for the first time later this year but . Dr Valentino Valzano keeps me informed about what my tree is 'doing'.    All the trees are just awaking from a winter nap.  The sun is warming the Salento soil in Puglia.

And it is time to prune 60,000 olive trees!

Valentino writes:

    . In the coming  days we will start with the Pruning Operations;

This operation does not take much time, but it is fundamental for the final quality (of the oil)   We try to have trees in a good healthy status. We are pruning the old trees in order to also  facilitate the harvesting operations.     We use elevators, as you can see in the picture.

OBJECTIVES of the pruning operations
In mature trees, pruning is mainly required to renew the fruiting surface of the tree and achieve high yields, maintain vegetative growth of fruiting shoots, maintain the skeleton structure, contain tree size, favor light penetration and air circulation inside the canopy, permit control of pests and diseases, prevent aging of the canopy, and eliminate dead wood. Under certain circumstances, pruning can be required to alleviate the effect of abiotic stress, to re-form the canopy after damage by frosts and pests, to rejuvenate old or abandoned trees, and to adapt an obsolete training system to mechanical harvesting. In modern olive growing, the training system should permit easy movement of machinery in the orchard; little attention needs to be paid to specific tree shapes.

Pruning should be performed between the end of winter and flowering and because of  this we prune in January, February, and March.

Cutting stimulates metabolism and growth, which makes the plant tissue more susceptible to plant injury.         In mild climates, with no spring frosts, pruning can be started in winter. Pruning before bud break is risky in cold climates, however, because of the high probability of frost that may damage the remaining tissue and delay wound repair.

An advantage of pruning after bud break is that even the inexperienced grower is able to assess the number of flowers and the potential crop removed by pruning, whereas flower buds cannot be distinguished macroscopically from vegetative buds at or before bud break.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Processions in Italy

Easter in Como, Italy

Lake Como Easter Processions

          I wrote earlier this week about the processions in Sorrento, Italy.    Today I had a lovely surprise from Elene,  a travel 'friend' I met in Como during the winter.  She and her friend Victoria have been kind to send my updates on 'Italian life in Como' as I write on different topics.

         "Of course in Como we have lots of traditions in this area..... for  example the "holy Friday" (good Friday in the USA).  During the night people make a procession along the street... in Como it's very beautiful....    In the morning the faithful stand in line to "kiss the croix" in the ancient church of "Crocefisso" (not in the Duomo)lots of time waiting your turn.

Then in the afternoon everything is closed for the procession time in the old city....  people bring (carry)  the holy croix.
Then on Saturday, usually, people prepare the Easter lunch with lamb ...   On Sunday everything is closed... and people spend the day with their family .... and children have their Easter egg....made of chocolate.

Como continued:

"Monday "lunedi dell'angelo... the angel's day or Pasquetta"......absolutely with firends....if it's a sunny day, a barbecue.... "all'italiana" means with lots of food...rice, spaghetti, meat, lasagne...and so on ...and off course close to the lake."

"But this is a really rainy year so ........a barbecue at a friend's house is a good choice."     "People who have more money usually organize a break outside (away)."

 "The best of Easter is the chocolate.... you can find everything made of chocolate....for example chocolate bunnies or chocolate chickens.... and the traditional Easter egg...  This is a photo of mine...... nobody is too old for this chocolate present.

Sorrento Processions for Easter:  an historic celebration
for the complete story see this link, thanks to Yvonne and Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue

I planned my 3 month sabbatical in Italy to arrive prior to the Easter events.   I was not prepared for the two day event.
Does your home village/city celebrate Easter with processions?

There were two major events.   One on Friday that depicted the death of Christ.  One on Mary.

I know, Americans will think of a southern organization (K) that this will remind them of but there is NO similarities.
The entire town of Sorento participated in the two processions.    If you are not part of the countless groups that walk in the multi hour long procession than you are out in the street at 4 am to watch or follow the procession.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday: palm or olive branches?

One of my contributors just wrote in an email about lunch for the family on Palm Sunday and it was the perfect time since OLIVE TREES were being pruned at this time of the year.................

This made me stop and think.

I dont remember receiving olive branches after mass on Palm Sunday EXCEPT for the year I lived in Sorrento Italy.        Perhaps this is because in the USA we may have more palm trees than olive trees?

Who remembers recieving an olive branch on Palm Sunday????

Thursday, March 21, 2013

La Pasquetta or Little Easter in Italy

Photo curtusy of internet
Easter Monday in Italy is La Pasquetta
Last year I started to post stories about Puglia thanks to Yle with , the travel expert for this part of Italy that may still be a secret.

In a post about Pasquale (Easter) Yle described the special breads, decorated cakes and baskets from the local pasticceria.  

A new travel friend in Como, Vittoria, took time from her busy schedule to share this about Pasquetta:  
Lake Como:  sun hitting hill in winter
"The "famous" Pasquetta is the day after Easter so it's on Monday.     It's a day off from work and usually all the Italian people spend this day going out: for a pic-nic in a park, to visit a city, to have a walk in the open air with friends or relatives. have some sports after the big lunch of Easter!"
"We don't have any particular things in Como, I know that anyone who has the possibility is going for a pleasant walk up on the mountain or also on the lake, maybe with the ferry; shops are usually closed on this day so everyone spends the day out, also to welcome the new season!"

If you have visited Como you know there are many places to enjoy the the coming spring.

Sailing from Venice to NYC

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St Josephs Table: do you know this event?

St Joseph's Table in Italy 
                           TAVOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE

Bella Nonna Vata
I first heard about this tradition in Puglia, Italy.  Yle with   arranged for me to learn to make pasta with una nonna, (a grandmother) at her home one morning.

While she was correcting my 'lack of skill" on the 4th type we were making, her grand daughter Debora (my translator) explained that on St. Josephs' day March 19,  all the families in the village would spend days making pasta.  So much pasta that they had to use the beds in the house to lay it out to dry!

Easter Traditions: 
I expected to hear about the pre easter processions when I asked Yle Sambati about Easter in Lecce.     I was surprised when she mentioned san Giovani tavola as the most unusual event in Puglia.  
I had never heard of it and after a quick search on line, remembered  Nonna Vata's story.    

The containers of oil have a story all their own the Debora shared with me.
What is St. Joseph's Table?

        Growing up in  New Jersey I never heard of it.  But I recently saw it mentioned in several Italian American newspapers and even The Sons Of Italy magazine.     As I asked my Italian contacts about SGT, they replied they never heard of it or didn't practice the tradition.

Did your family observe St Joseph's day?   Did your Italian village follow any of the rituals that were explained to me?  Keep reading....  what USA holiday does it remind you of?

 c: On the top of the big round bread, you can see a small ball of bread : this is a
 PUCCIA di San Giuseppe
                            Gathered from many sources I have pieced together what I think the tradition entails and how some towns and villages practice the 'gift of sharing'.  Much is lost in the translation but share with me if you have more information...  With the help of Yle, Debora and Google I have an idea of  how St. Josephs' day is celebrated.

Tavole di San Giuseppe, St Joseph's day March 19.

Debora explained:  "It's a very old tradition, coming from the pagans and transformed to a christian/religious moment for the village."

Just in few villages of the province of Lecce, the tradition is still going on … "and my village is one of them".    Uggiano la Chiesa  and Giuggianello (10 km away) are 2 of the villages on the 'olive oil and bread' trail....   the additional towns listed by Wikipedia that continue this custom are:   Cerfignao, Cocumola, Minervino di Lecce, Sasamassella, Otranto as well as others.

"Families start to prepare the "puccia", a small round bread that they prepare and cook (bake)  in a huge quantity and go around the village, to offer a "puccia" to every relative, friends and people…. it's a kind of "gentle act" to give something to eat to everybody (who) needs it and to show to the Saint the "good attitude" of the family."  (see the photo with a basket of bread on the floor)

In Giuggianello, a residents says "the tradition is that few of the old women from the village start to prepare a lot of food from prior to the special day, March 19.  There is a huge table prepared in the main square of the village and everyone is invited to take a dish, bread and whatever they want.  It is like a huge banquet".

The bread with the boiled egg on top is
called Cuddhura                                               A religious statue is present for this event                                      


Pizza the way the Romas make it

I just found my video from the morning I spent in Romes Piazza di Firore. while visiting my favorite stalls and noting that one of the very elderly men who sold kitchen gadgets was no longer at the morning market I followed the sent of baking foccia.

when I could not get into the store because of the crowd I found the glass doors the the bakery room open and filmed this wonder Italian event. Notice the two bakers have a different style to how they prepare the pizza.

NOW I know how the dimples get in to the crust!!!!

mmmmm, I can smell it now. And is did NOT hurt that one of the bakers was soooooo cute.

Dont mess with a Sicilian girl.....

"Never mess with a Sicilian girl".....  

I remembered a FB post from the owner of Villa Magnolia in Puglia, Italy,   did
about shopping for treasures in the weekly markets and these ceramic heads stuck in my mind.   Leslely was kind enough to expand on their history.....

    The story takes place in the heart of the Kalsa,  

the Arab quarter of Palermo around the year


     There lived a beautiful Sicilian young girl with

long silky black hair and eyes that recalled the

colour of Mediterranean sea. As every honour-

able Sicilian girl was not allowed to walk alone in

the streets, the girl spent great part of her days

gardening the exotic plants and flowers of her

luscious balcony.


One day, a young wealthy Moorish merchant was passing by the girl's balcony and could not help falling in love with such unbridled beauty. With no hesitation the man decided to declare his love to the beautiful girl. Impressed by the merchant wealth and flattered by his apparently sincere love, the girl gave herself and her "virtue" away cultivating not only her plants, but a passionate, intense relationship with the Moorish. But with every passionate drama there is often a twist, the girl soon discovered an awful truth: The Moor was about to return to his country, where wife and children awaited him. 

Her "virtue" had been deflowered, her honour lost forever and her heart broken. Things that to every Sicilian woman only recall one simple word : Revenge.

As the two lovers spent the last night of passion together, the girl sneaked into the kitchen, took out a butcher knife and cut the Moors throat, then carried on cutting off his whole head.

The morning after, the Moorish head was on display on the girl's balcony, where she planted some basil seeds.    With the passing of time, that basil plant grew so beautifully and scented, raising the envy of every other woman in town, which asked their artisans to have moulded a terracotta vase just like the one of the beautiful girl...

So, in brief : Never mess with a Sicilian girl!”

Do you have other stories to share?      Perhaps the Godfather movies were too tame....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuscan Vacaton Rental: Casina di Rosa

Part II

The House of Rose:  Casina di Rosa

My interest in the village of  Civitella Marittima was from a FB post I saw about a Tuscan home for rent.  I look for a rental for my trips home to Italy so I contacted Gloria.   The true interst here is the story of the life of Casina di Rosa.  

This is the story of a family who have lived in this village since the late 19th century!

I have been told that Italian families frequently measure wealth by property ownership.    After working with associates at Remax Italia years ago, I was surprised to learn that having a second home, often a vacation home, was common.    Second homes are left vacant when the family is not in residence and the idea of allowing a stranger to stay in the house was not acceptable...

I asked Gloria to give me the history of the village, her family and Casina Rosa:

"My entire family comes from this little village (which used to have many more inhabitants in the past).     All 4 of my grandparents and 7 of my greatgrandparents and their family before them were from the village.   Most of my family still lives in the village, except for an uncle and an aunt who have moved one to Siena and the other one to Grosseto."

"My mum's grandparents built the house at the end of the 19th  century, just outside the village walls. The house has never left the family. My mum and uncle were actually born in the house in the 50's when 11 people shared these 40m2... it was another era, wasn't it?!"   Perhaps this is why the Italian family is so close......

"When my great grandmother Rosa (hence the name Casina di Rosa) died, my great aunt Zaira (who passed only a few months ago) asked my mum and uncle if they were interested in keeping the house, because traditionally it would have gone to the eldest son, who would have been my grandfather."

"Unfortunately, he passed away when he was very young leaving my grandmother a widow at 39, but since they were very close, my greataunt wanted to respect the tradition anyway, as if he were still alive."

"We renovated and decided to keep it alive by sharing it with visitors so that it could still be full of joy as we remembered it. I hope this tells you a bit more about my family history."

Leaarn more about this vacation rental by checking the following web site. 

Our Holiday Home in Tuscany

Casina di Rosa is a holiday home in Tuscany which dates back to the end of the 19th century when it was built just outside the village walls, by the noble buildings of the Ardengheschi family.
The vacation house is completely independent and has been recently renovated. It consists of one double bedroom with lounge area with guidebooks and informative material on the area, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a bathroom with shower cabinet. The house can comfortably accommodate 2 guests, but the double bedroom can be arranged as a triple room. The house is perfect for a couple.
We have electric heating and a romantic open fireplace for the winter and air-conditioning for the summer months.

The bedroom

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuscan Village: Civitela Marittima

                                                                                                                                                                              part I of II

 A Small Tuscan Town        

I think I travel to small and large towns in Italy to find the perfect fit for me.    As I read about the village of Civitella Marittima  on Gloria Casina DiRosa's page ( see part II of this blog.   Of course we crossed paths on Face Book. 

What more could I ask for in a village than what Gloria tells me is available in Civitella Marittima?  There are about 350 residents, I may not blend in but I could meet everyone.....

Services available in the village

There are 2 banks, both with  an ATM, one grocery store, 2 bakeries, and various other shops (florist, gift shop and ceramics, tobacconist, news agent’s, butcher, fresh pasta, etc.).    The village also has a post office, pharmacy and clinic.   In the village center there is an excellent restaurant and two bars.    And less than 2km away there is another restaurant/pizzeria.

      On weekends in June and July, the village cultural association organizes “Dinners Under the Stars“, a series of outdoor dinners featuring a different local specialty each week.
On the last weekend of August is the village “Sagra dell’Alta Maremma“, festival featuring music and dancing, arts and crafts and, of course, good food. 
In November, we celebrate the new olive oil and the Autumn flavours with the “Festa del Buco Unto”, a yearly olive oil festival.

I live in a city of 5 million and have not found this feeling of 'home' there.

See Part II for the story on Casina di Rosa.....

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How to Dress Like an Italian: by The Walks of Italy

I want to LOOK Italian!

The Walks of Italy does a great job with insights into Italian life most of us never find and I have been there 15+ times!   Read and enjoy.

How to Dress Like an Italian: 

Spring Edition

The perfect spring outfit in Italy: light jacket, bright pants, and big shades! From tk tk
The perfect spring outfit in Italy: light jacket, bright pants, and big shades! (Photo: Nicoletta Reggio of the Italian fashion blog Scent of Obsession).
Everyone’s heard about Italian fashion—which means some travelers worry about what to wear in Italy.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to dress exactly like an Italian, and no one will expect you to! The most important thing to keep in mind is to wear what makes you most comfortable. That’s not always (or even usually) what Italians will be wearing… and that’s perfectly okay.
That said, a lot of travelers do want to try to dress like the locals when they travel. They see it as a way to “blend in” a bit more (although, of course, keep in mind that you’ll still be given away by something, like your hand gestures or even makeup—before you even open your mouth!). Plus, we love the idea of cultural immersion while traveling. And since fashion is an important part of Italian culture, what could be a more fun kind of cultural immersion than dressing as the locals do?
Anotehr sktljt
A great spring jacket on Scent of Obsession‘s Nicoletta Reggio
Need some tips to get started on how to dress like the Italians?
Here’s your checklist of items to look out for—and that you’ll see lots of Italians wearing—in the spring!

A light jacket, or trench coat, for women

When the air’s still slightly crisp, but there’s already been the cambio di stagione (change of seasons) rendering winter coats unnecessary, Italians don’t reach for a parka or a sweatshirt. They layer—and top those layers off with an elegant exterior. For stylish Italian women, that means a chic jacket or trench coat (like on Nicoletta Reggio, left and at top!).
How to dress like an Italian
Italian fashion, for men, often includes a well-tailored jacket—even a casual one! (Photo: bluumwezi on Flickr).

A well-tailored jacket, for men

Italian men prove that you don’t have to be going to work, or a fancy shindig, to pull off a jacket. Pair one with white or beige pants, or even jeans—and, of course, leather shoes—and you’re good to go to lunch… or a museum. Just don’t be surprised if you’re mistaken for an Italian while you’re there.

A great pair of sunglasses

Even if you don’t mind whether you dress like the locals do, you won’t want to forget these! The sun comes out in force in the spring, so protect those peepers with a pair of shades. Of course, Italians love their designer sunglasses—but any frame will help you blend in, as long as
 it’s not too tiny. And quirky’s okay, too. Just check out the amazing range of sunglasses worn by Eleonora Carisi,
 Italian fashion blogger and shop owner (and the sunglasses-wearer below), for inspiration!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rome Artist to teach in Umbria

Art of the Painted Sketch: August 21-28, 2013
Umbria, Italy (repost from Kelly's site)

Join us for a week of sun, wine, Italian home cooking and painting in a restored villa tucked away in the wooded hills of Umbria.

In this intimate and relaxed setting you will gain a new ease and confidencein capturing the light and feel of a place by learning the Art of the Painted Sketch.

Your instructor, an American painter who has been living and painting in Italy for the past 9 years, will guide you effortlessly through the process.

Not just for painters, this setting is the perfect getaway for non painting partners. Complete with swimming pool, 80 acres of grounds and close to several small Italian villages, this is the perfect chance to relax and enjoy an authentic Italian holiday.


• Cost for single participant in private room is £985 or $1,530.
• A non-refundable deposit of 25% is required upon registration with full payment due June 26
• All art materials, meals, airport transfers and local transport during the course is included in your tuition/ just bring yourself and be ready to relax and paint!
*Cancellation policy details can be found by clicking here

To learn more about our hosts at Arte Umbria go to
To learn more about your instructor Kelly Medford click here
To register and join us, click here

The Light and Life of Venice: October 12-20, 2013
Venice, Italy

Spend 10 days in Italy's most magical and mysterious floating city, Venice. We will stalk the streets, alleys and canals with our easels to capture the most intimate and fleeting views of the city.

Venice is full of light, color, gondolas, open piazzas and intimate hidden places. To capture them in paint is exciting, fun and the chance of a lifetime.

This workshop will be filled with adventure, exploration and give you a new confidence to capture the life around you quickly en plein air.
You will learn to capture fleeting light quickly in paint and have a wide range of completed paintings or studies that you can work from and take back to the studio. This experience, through guided instruction, will grow your speed and confidence no matter your skill level.

With 10 days we will have time to enjoy  the local wine, food and scenery as well as paint in 2 daily sessions with time for breaks. We will also have a day painting in the unique local fisherman's Burano island to capture local life there.

All levels and mediums are encouraged to join us as well as non painting partners. We will be staying as locals in furnished apartments in the heart of the city.

Working as a team, Helen Beacham will be instructing all levels in both drawing and watercolors, while Kelly will be working with painters in oil and acrylics.

• Cost for a single participant to share a room $1,700 with a deposit paid before May 1. After May 1, total cost is $1,900
• Flexible cancellation policy- 100% refund before August 1. See full policy here
• Tuition includes a single bed in a shared room, continental breakfast, 2 dinners, day trip to Burano island, turps and paper towels for oil painters.
• Bring a non painting partner for just $800 more.

For more details or to register, click here

About Your Instructor:
Kelly Medford is an American who came to Italy 9 years ago to study drawing at The Florence Academy of Art. She has been living and painting en plein air in Italy every since and currently resides in Rome where she teaches painting, sketchbook journaling and shows regularly.

She has traveled all over Europe and the U.S. competeing in plein air competitions and working collaboratively with other painters. She speaks Italian fluently and is a perfect liason for painters visiting Italy.

You can see her work and find out more about her on her website at
or send her an email at

Monday, March 4, 2013

Italy: Try a Convent instead of a Hotel   your source for 
convent rooms in Italy

     Long term travel to Italy each year requires planning and budgeting.   Cities can be expensive and an apartment rental requires remaining in one location for a week or more.
   Over 5 years ago, I started to stay in convent hotels after seeing an article in one of the travel magazine. 

I don't want a religious retreat:
Convent hotels and monasteries are NOT for ONLY religious events.   I have never been asked to join in any services, although I am Catholic and at Easter in Cortona I was invited to come to a service, if I wished.     

Who Stays in a Convent:
I was surprised when I found Italians staying in my location in Spoleto and Rome.....  A mother and daughter from the USA who planned to walk the route St Francis took, in Assisi...... travelers from all over Europe and the very interesting nuns who usually manage the hotel/convent.   They were always patient when I tried to explain in Italian  at the level of a 5 year old, what I needed.  

Where can you find a convent hotel?    
There were two 'bibles'  for convent locations available, but each of these publications required me to contact the location and ask for availability.    Years ago many of the locations did not have Internet and reservations had to be made by fax.   And by the time these helpful books reached the public some of the information may have been out of date. 

Monastery Stays,, has taken all the work out of reserving a room at a convent or monastery.

  •  properties are listed by city/town/region
  •  maps of the properties' location
  •  photos of the property
  •  list of amenities offered:  breakfast, Internet, heating....
  •  special requests are forwarded to the facility for you
I continue to use for some of my accommodations on all my trips Home To Italy.    After so many years the owners/staff  'know' that I need a location within walking distance of the train station!    Taking a bus in Italy with luggage is an experience I do not wish to repeat.   

Would any other reservation service suggest another facility because it is easier to reach by foot?  

Why I return to convent hotels:

Originally I started to use convents instead of hotels because they were affordable, clean, secure and friendly.  I stay now for the experience.     I have stayed on a canal in Venice where the facility ran an elementary school, in Spoleto with a facility that was partially (separate) for retired Italians, here I had one of the best dinners of my trip and in Rome with a roof top terrace with a 360 degree view......not bad for a budget traveler.

photos from the web site

Best Tour Guides in Italy

Dream of Italy has been posting a great list of tour guides throughout Italy.   Congratulations Yle!
I travel Home To Italy every year and try to stay 4 to 6 weeks.   In 10+ years I don't think I have ever taken a tour in Italy before meeting Roberta in Bologna or my Blog Changing experience with Yle in 2011.
A simple conversation on FB led to my first visit to Puglia.
I am Italian American and thought I knew Italy but within a few hours of my arrival, Yle had taken the time to meet me at the only Internet location in the city and arranged 'my adventure'.  
You see Yltour not only can plan your stay at a unique accommodation,  wine and olive oil tastings, cooking lessons with Mamma but she listens to your dreams and creates a way for you to realize them.
My dream was to 'have una nonna  (a grandmother) teach me to make pasta'.     Yle arranged to have her staff pick me up at the hotel and whisk me away to Nonna Vata's house.  Here I met her granddaughter Debora (who runs an incredible active sports business) translated what I could not follow.
But my new Nonna was easy to understand, quick to smile and happy to have the house full for a few hours.      No,  most tourist would not be interested, preferring full cooking classes.
Not for me.
Next her staff took me to a wine tasting at one of the biggest vineyards.  Here I met and interviewed Yle for my blog.   
Neither of us realized we would work together on many projects over the next year.    
Thank you Kathy McCabe publisher of Dream of Italy, for listing in your top tour companies.
Kathy wrote:
"Yle is simply one of our favorite people in all of Italy.    She has  Puglia running through her blood and can take you to spots that only natives now about, like the  Cava di Bauxite, a stunning hidden cave that will take your breath away"
If you love Italy, subscribe to Dream of Italy and let Yle make your dream come true....

Ylenia Sambati    (39) 0832 318536


from 150 e per person (200e per couple) full day

See the June/July 2012 issue of

Dream of Italy  for more info from Kathy

See posts here and at mature solo travel for several other Yltour events this year:  photography and a classic car event that includes elegant accommodations, transportation and most meals!