Saturday, February 28, 2015

Italian Traditional Easter Pastiera

 Family recipe from Zia Melina
                  Part of our Zia series


Thanks to: Olga Stinga


    who shared Zia Melina's treasure with us

If you are traveling to Italy take advantage of an unique experience learning Italian at Sant'Anna Institute Special rates for readers of this blog!



Easter is coming soon!  
The residents of Sorrento  are getting prepared for all the Holy Week events and in particular for the Holy Processions.     

In preparation for the traditional events of

Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the men in Sorrento  hardly work their usual jobs and spend their time preparing for the processions that the entire town attends between God Thursday and God  Friday.

The processions begin at 3 and 4 am..... while men are participating in the holy processions, women are busy preparing pastiere (Easter pie).  The pastiera, known and appreciated all over the world, never fails to be on the Easter menu of the Sorrentine people.  
My Aunt Melina   used to prepare the pastiere (at least 10) during this special night and it was very common that  when the hooded men passed by the balcony of her kitchen they could smell the flavors of cinnamon, , vanilla and orange course of pastiere.

Easter Traditions, like recipes are passed down from parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts to children and they will be like a jewel to be preserved and saved in a secret and safe place.
This is the case of the recipes that my aunts shared with me.   ...You can immagine that atmosphere but you shoudl visit the Sorrento Pensinsula to breath the scents, view the sea and experience the unique lifestyle.
Aunt Melina with Olga
I'll never forget those nights spent asleep waiting for the Holy Processions that had to pass by our balcony and preparing the pastiere!
Every family recipe is passed down through generation and guarded  jealously.

My aunt taught me all
the secrets of the typical
Sorrentine Pastiera.

Below you can find the ingredients and instructions.
INGREDIENTS FOR PASTRY (if you buy a loaf frozen must be 1 kg) 600 grams of flour, 200 grams of sugar, 200 grams of butter, 4 eggs, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 packets of vanilla
8 eggs (6 + 2 yolks), 600 grams of precooked wheat (found in packs of 580 grams that are sufficient), 600 grams of sugar, 700 g cheese, 150 grams of mixed candied fruit, 1 orange (pressed) , 350 grams of milk, 2 packets of vanilla, 1 tablespoon of butter (about 30 g), 1 vial of orange flowers, 1 pinch of cinnamon (optional)

1. Cook the corn with the milk and butter for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until everything becomes creamy. Let cool and refrigerate, covered, until the next day 

2.  Work the sugar with the ricotta cheese with a whisk, the mixture is soft and smooth. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator     

1. Prepare the pastry by placing in a bowl with the flour in the center sugar, eggs, butter, diced, baking powder and vanilla. Work the pastry quickly until it forms a ball of dough. Leave the pastry in the refrigerator covered with a plastic film for half an hour
2. Combine the two mixtures prepared the day before (cheese and wheat) gently, then add the eggs one at a time, the pieces of candied fruit, the vial of millefiori, the pressed orange, vanilla, cinnamon (if necessary).
3. Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin on floured parchment paper (keep aside a bit 'for the decorative strips) and then gently flip it into a mold pastiera, placing the edges well.

4. Pour in the filling and then cover with strips of arranged in a pastry, cut with a wave washer, arranged in a way as to create diamonds.

5. Bake the pastiera to 180 degree (preheated oven) for about 80 minutes. The cooking time may vary depending on how much higher the pastiera, an hour could be enough, it is important to constantly monitor the baking, the pastiera should be amber.

"The pastiera is the cake that has accompanied since my childhood nights between Thursday and Friday. In Sorrento we usual prepare pastiere porprio while they are marching in the streets of the city in the Holy Week processions.
While men are busy with processions, we women are dedicated to the preparation of Easter cakes and in particular of pastiere.
Melina my aunt taught me and passed on the secrets of true Pastiera tradition Sorrento and even today, just like her, I prepare the pastiere during the night between Thursday and Friday while waiting for the processions unwind under my window.   You can smell  cinnamon, vanilla, orange flower and pastiere freshly baked."

  Italian Version 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Italian Cookies: Sweet Treats from Puglia

Hand made cookies from traditional recipes

M R Artigianato Alimentare

As soon as you enter this 'factory' you think you have stopped to visit your nonna.  The charming 'living room' has a cozy fire place and the smells of wonderful baking.

On any day the small staff can be baking Amaretti, Tornelli, Mazapani, Tartufini, Tarallini Zucherati, pasta di mandorte or any of the salatoi they are know for.   the ingredients have no artificial coloring or preservatives.

Thanks to Mrs Rossella Tondo the traditional cookies and snacks of Italy are still available

Samantha explained the differences between the different treats

The two women roll and shape cookies quickly, filling each tray before
 the last one is finished baking.

Finished cookies are weighted and bagged

MR Artigianato Alimentare
Via Maria Manca 16Squinzano, Puglia, Italy

Monday, February 23, 2015

Italy The Sea View in Gallipolli

Gallipolli, Italy

An active port where you find fresh seafood daily

On my last day in Lecce with a Yltour adventure Yle Sambati saved the best for last.
We arrived in Gallipoli just before sunset as the fishing boats had unloaded their catch.  Nothing fresher for an evening meal.   Following the cobblestone streets around the city by shops and churches, even a procession!

The charming streets have many shops and favorite stops for locals and travelers

                                         A small procession was entering the church as we passed by

There are many other surprises Yle Sambati can share with you in Puglia


Monday, February 16, 2015

Italy: Lecce must be on your list

 The Florence of the South

is the description you read in all the tour books for Lecce, Italy  

On my third trip to Lecce Ylenia Sambati, the CEO of, arranged an in depth tour of the city with Samantha Sgherzi, an official guide in Puglia.  

As on previous visits I didn't even enter the churches.  I was too fascinated with the facades.   The stone used throughout Lecce is unique.   It will change in color during the day.   The following photos are not edited and the same building will print in a light tan to a rich golden color.   

The amazing details on the church exteriors keep you staring up

Samantha knew the history of Lecce and shared facts of each building that a tourist may never find.
Buildings are lavishly festooned with intricately carved designs, giving the city a unique aspect. 
Through a zoom lens you can see the amazing details.  Each figure is unique with a different facial expression.   I failed to see any design repeated!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Italians with a new voice who love Italy

A new voice from
Italians who love Italy

In January I read a post from Italian Sotrytellers online.

With the hundreds of travel posts I see each week it is hard 

to remember what link led me to the story:

This weeks story is about St. Valentine:

Home » Italian regions » Umbria » A romantic Saint Valentine’s weekend in Umbria

A romantic Saint Valentine’s weekend in Umbria


Some romantic places to enjoy Lovers’ Feast in the land of Saint Valentine!

The pleasant mixture among art, culture and beautiful landscapes that portrays Italy, make this country the perfect destination for a romantic escape, especially now that St. Valentine’s Day is coming.
You could surely choose among a zillion of breathtaking places all around Italy, but don’t forget to start from Umbria: Saint Valentine was born in Terni, where he lived and died precisely on 14th February 273 a.D. He was a Christian bishop and became the patron saint of the city and protector of lovers, in the world collective consciousness. After the decapitation of Saint Valentine, his body was buried in a pagan cemetery: it was discovered at the beginning of the XVII century and in that place was built the first Basilica, where his body still rests under the central altar; the Church, with its beautiful seventeenth-century fa├žade and the elegant portal, includes a little underground museum with findings coming from the ancient cemetery.
Every year, Terni celebrates this anniversary with a lot of cultural, sport and religious events that animate the city: in the vicinity of the Basilica there is the traditional fair with about 300 stands, while in the city center – from 11th to 15th February – there’s the greedy kermesse ‘Cioccolentino‘ dedicated to chocolate, haute patisserie and other Italian specialties, accompanied by didactic laboratories, shows, music, cultural events and much more.

The most romantic religious celebration is the ‘Feast of the Promise': engaged couples from all over the world, who have already fixed a wedding date within the coming year, exchange a solemn promise of love in the Basilica.

The rich calendar of events also includes the San Valentino’s Marathon, held on 15th February: it crosses the enchanting landscapes of Valnerina, including the magnificent Cascata delle Marmore: a 165 meter-high masterpiece of nature and human engineering conceived by the Roman Consul Curio Dentato in the 3rd century B.C. and then became an unmissable stopover for the travelers of the Grand Tour. Beyond the traditional observation points of the upper and the lower belvedere, you can explore the fascinating corners of the Park from the paths and their panoramic areas, such as the Lovers Balcony: it’s a little terrace situated at the end of a tunnel, exposed in front of the first drop of the falls. You’ll need a raincoat there because you’ll be almost wet under the flow!
Not far from the Marmore Falls there is the Piediluco Lake: its location among the mountains makes it look like an alpine lake and its shining surface reflect the crowd of short colored houses with narrow evocative alleys. In other words, it gives you romantic glimpses and panoramas perfect to share with your better half!
See entire story here:

Sign up for future posts on Italian Storytellers for more posts written by Italians!

The author of this introduces herself

Eleonora Tramont  describes herself and her mission on the web site:

 "I was born in Ancona 

(Marche region), but my 

parents come from South of 

Italy (Calabria region).  

After achieving a Tourism 

degree at the University of Perugia I started my adventure in

tourism and digital world by filling many roles.

In September 2010 I started my first publishing project, 

Il Turista Informato.   I am always up to date with the latest 

information concerning tourism and I am now dealing with 

online marketing, social media and blogging."

Florence Pizza to rival Naples?

Pizza in Florence to rival Naples

I have eaten pizza in Naples several times and left shocked by the knowledge that the pizza in New Jersey could not compare.                               Story:  Pizza by the slice.

So when during an interview,  Rachel told me about the best pizza in Florence I was eager to try it but did not expect any comparison to the pizza I sampled in Naples with Tina my Discover Naples Destinations expert. 

  Pizza at Mamma Napoli, near the San Lorenzo Market is as if you are in Naples...
Individual pizzas you eat with a knife and fork are often a surprise for Italian Americans going      Home to Italy.   We have been trained on pizza by the slice, but this was a wonderful change and a taste so intense and flavorful.    But perhaps all of this is overshadowed by the warm and friendly treatment by the owner and staff.

Photo thanks to Rachel

The restaurant owner Signore Nicole and his wife Melina serve an extensive number of Italian dishes in addition to a great pizza.  While waiting for our pizza Nicole showed me their photo album of the countless kinds of pizza, pasta and fish dishes available!     There is a special section just for deserts and I hope to return just to sample a few of these.

Pizzeria Mamma Napoli   Piazza del Mercato Centrale 17 rosso, 50123 Florence, Italy
http://www.mammanapolibvc   +39 055 211131   

                                         The young pizza 'chef' won the 2014 award.

                              I had a quick lesson in pizza creation and a surprise fact that a particular flour is      used for pizza and not the dough you would use for 'demonstrations" of tossing a disk of dough into the air.    Demonstration dough needs to be more elastic.

The huge wood fired oven cooks a pizza quickly with wonderful crispy edges

Why I liked the Pizza at Mamma Napoli:
  • In addition to the great food at Mamma Napoli was the friendly attention.  No one tried to rush me, I probably could have sat comfortably for an hour without any suggestion that I should 'leave' because the table would be needed soon
  • The food was served hot.   Since I had left the table to take photo and annoy the chef with questions I was asked if they could heat it thoughtful but i didn't want to wait to 'dig in' since the smell was very inviting.                                                                                                        
  • The restaurant offers outdoor seating as well as several large interior rooms.
  • The convenient location right behind the San Marco food and out door market.   Take a break from selecting scarves, leather bags or souvenirs and enjoy one of the many Neapolitan favorites.
Please tell the owner your read about him here at Home to Italy.

Thanks to Rachel for this great suggestions.   I hope she will become a regular feature on Home to Italy. giving us more information on the unique shops and restaurants I discover on my trips home.

Rachel and my host 

Art Historian, Italian-American living in Florence, Italy

Thank you Rachel for translating during lunch and photos.

Italy's Friday the 13th

I should have know today was a special day.    Mercolode dice sette is the equivalent  to Friday the  13th in the USA.

Nothing seemed to go right:

1. found I had NO ticket for my flight to Brindisi due to an error in the spelling of my name on the reservation.  To correct this I had to call the airlines.
2.  no answer at the Vueling web site on any of their 3 telephone numbers:  Spain, London, Italy
3.  The web site clearly states "No one will be allowed to fly if the ID does not match your ticket"

I have no respect for Expedia who would NOT help since the ticket was purchased via British Air who was code sharing with Vueling.

Solution:  buy a second ticket at twice the cost of the first ticket!

So all is well………….no, no, no…………..that would be too easy

Staff at check in says ‘it should be no problem to use the ticket with the wrong name’ and issues me a boarding pass
Adding more horror to the events, they give me a middle seat and ‘cant change it because you checked in’ (with the ticket with the wrong name)

I have 3 or 4 more check points to test the ability to fly with a name NOT on your passport

Never got past checking my luggage before the name error is noted.
At this point I give up and ask to use the new ticket with the CORRECT name and get on with it.

With my new boarding pass with my old correct name I stand in line at security for 1/2 hour and set off the alarm when passing through..

At 5 foot 3 I ONLY have 1.5 inches before I hit the seat back

What else can and will go wrong?

Plane is delayed.
Water at the airport is $2.50 a bottle
Food on the plane and water are for sale
Plane is dirty and some strange stains on the wall I won't go near
My seat does not recline because it is broken but at least the plastic armrest is not torn and a hazard for cuts as are the other two seats in my row.
the leg room is LESS than Delta and I am short
How is the passenger in the middle to every get out of this small space

I have NO idea what the passenger left in the seat pocket but NO one cleaned the plane
But the Staff are very pretty women with a pleasant attitudes and the plane is not full

Can not wait to see what Friday the 17th will continue to give me