Monday, October 29, 2007

Technical difficulties

I still need to finish off the last few posts from our trip to southern Italy (including a quick but fun jaunt around Rome the day before we returned to America).

But for some reason, my computer is not cooperating. I think it's something that Il Nostro Inviato did! (Actually, it looks like it's a problem with Blogger).

In any event, stay tuned. I still have a few more dazzling images to throw your way.

In the meantime, I can tell you that as I write, I am drinking my morning caffe con latte and having a mini heart attack because for the first time ever, I think it tastes bad!

Why would it taste bad? Because I am back to using Lavazza, rather than the wonderful Quarta caffe we bought in Puglia. Can you believe this, ragazzi?! My whole world has changed now that I have tasted Quarta!

In other news, guardavo la Rai International durante il fine settimana (il canale fa schifo ma ogni tanto trasmette qualcosa di interessante) e ho visto la fine del film, "Le Invasioni Barbariche."

Se non l'avete visto, è favoloso! E' un film franco-canadese (si dice?). Credo che abbia vinto il premio Oscar (in USA) come il miglior film straniero qualche anno fa. Vi avverto: vi farà piangere.


Thursday, October 25, 2007


Scusatemi ragazzi! Sono incasinata con lavoro.

Ecco perché non ho ancora finito di raccontare tutte le avventure del viaggio in Puglia (oltre a pubblicare foto delle spiagge, voglio anche accennare alcuni acquisti che ho fatto in Salento e a Trani...tanti libri ma anche qualche canottiera carina carina!).

Intanto, vi posso dire che "Il Gattopardo" ha vinto come il miglior libro, anche se, parliamoci chiaro, erano in pochi a votare.

Vabbe' ora vi propongo un sondaggio che è molto ma molto più facile! (Leggete a destra)

Un abbraccio.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Sto per finire l'unica confezione del caffe Quarta che ho comprato in Puglia!!!!


Il Nostro Inviato dice che il caffe Quarta gli piace più di Lavazza!!! Non ci posso credere!

Il caffe è davvero buonissimo, e un bel ricordo del viaggio che ci ha fatto conoscere nuovi gusti (i ricci, per esempio!!!). Il caffe Quarta: Prodotto in Salento! Ha un gusto diverso dalla Lavazza e gli altri caffe italiani che ho assaggiato, che mi incuriosisce molto.

Fra poco finisco di raccontare le avventure dal viaggio. Ormai siete un po' stufati, giusto? (ma dite la verità: a questo punto la vostra comprensione d'inglese è da favola, no??!!)

O ragazzi, devo far vedere a tutti i miei amici americani quant'è bella la Puglia! Mancano solamente due o tre altre foto. Un po' di pazienza ci vuole!

Un abbraccio a tutti.....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

From the Archives: Gargano: Buon appetito!

Grazie, altrettanto!

Let's talk about food, shall we? I'm sorry I was able to eat all these wonderful things, and you weren't there but maybe by posting these photos, we can tempt America into full embracing Italian cuisine! (We are getting there, yes, but some more work still needs to be done)

Anyway, lecture over, let me show you a few of the meals we had in the Gargano region of Puglia in southern Italy.

The meal up top -- a simple but delightful bruschetta -- took place at a bar at a beach near Peschici. I posted the photo to show you its killer location, and to make a point: the Italians are eating spaghetti and bruschetta and drinking house wine and enjoying many other gastronomic marvels at their beaches while we Americans eat hot dogs on the boardwalk! What's up with that?!

It sure made for a wonderful day at the beach. Just because we were not near a great restaurant did not mean we had to suffer through some subpar beach food.

We managed to squeeze in one more restaurant listed in the Gambero Rosso guide. It was La Collinetta in Peschici (if you are keeping track, that's our fourth meal of the trip at a restaurant listed in the prestigious guide).

You see in the photo above I just had to order spaghetti alle vongole one more time. What's not to love? Tomatoes, clams and spaghetti cooked al dente.

What else? Oh right, Il Nostro Inviato had orecchiette, the classic Pugliese pasta dish that's almost always homemade (in this case it was al pomodoro). Sorry that the photo is not National Geographic quality. But you can almost about make out the name of the restaurant on the plate so there's a slight silver lining!

We also ordered calamari fritti, which were as always buoni buoni buoni! And I ate scampi alla griglia, which were also quite good.

It was not the best meal, and we felt slightly rushed. But it certainly was adequate. We of course also ordered a bottle of local wine: Primitivo Salento IGT Rosso 2005 Tenute San Marco. Excellent!

Can't beat Primitivo, which is beginning to appear on wine lists outside of New York and other large American cities.

And we finished the meal with limoncello made by the owner's wife.

Those are the food highlights of our time in Peschici. I will leave you with a photo of a very run of the mill meal...which gives you an indication of how well we ate on the trip. Here was the lunch (crusty bread, local tomatoes, prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala) we enjoyed one day on our little patio at the Locanda della Castellana.

Grazie per averci seguito! Arrivederci!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Puglia: Gargano National Park

The Gargano peninsula in Puglia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen (I say one of because I have also visited La Costa Amalfitana!). How beautiful is it? You'll soon see.

Two of the main towns are Vieste and Peschici. Vieste is home to lots of campgrounds, resorts and tourist hotels, and its main beach stretches for miles and miles.

Peschici is more given to small coves with little stretches of beach. We usually opt for the town with more life, but went with Peschici because we wanted to relax.

I am going to show you all the places we relaxed in Peschici, and in the Gargano National Park.

Relaxation spot No. 1.

The little terrace in our room at the Locanda della Castellana in Peschici. Here's a shot of the view from the terrace.

The Locanda was a perfect spot to unwind, after a whirlwind tour of San Marco dei Cavoti, Il Salento and Trani. With a small pool and a patio that looked out at the sea in the distance, guests could spend hours relaxing with no particular place to go, and no important museum to visit. I spent my time reading. I was reading the best-selling book "Eat, Pray, Love," at the suggestion of my sister Denise. (Good suggestion, 003! Now if only I could find a way to travel for a whole year.....)

But I digress. The family that ran the small resort frequently sat around a table playing cards -- if you needed something, they would get it, but hey, we are ALL here to relax, they seemed to be saying.

Relaxing, reading, swimming, taking notes for the blog (!). That pretty much describes my days in Peschici. Here's Relaxation spot No. 2. A tiny postage-stamp size stretch of beach in Peschici that you can only reach by walking through a rock-strewn path forged through a cliff. And of course, you arrive, and there's a bar! Because really, why go somewhere if you can't order un caffe? (O, va bene, we ordered una birra, but why quibble?!)

I publish this photo not because I think I look good (is that really what my face looks like?! Please don't click on the photo to enlarge!) but to show you the piece of paradise I discovered. Hey, maybe some day they will have an opening at that bar, and I can work there.

Here's a few more shots of the beach (with the town of Peschici perched on a cliff in the background), and the little path we took to reach what I will call Bar Paradiso.

The shot above shows the path through the rocks. If you click on the photo, you may be able to read the sign scrawled in green marker on the rocks: USCITA (which means exit). On the right, you can see others walking toward the little beach.

In the four days we spent in Peschici, we visited little beaches, jumped the waves, heard a jazz concert (our trip coincided with the annual Jazz Peschici festival), drank Negroamaro and Primitivo, and I, Ciambellina, concluded that just perhaps I had squeezed a little too much into this trip. San Marco. A quick stop in the birthplace of Padre Pio. Matera. Ruffano, Lecce and the rest of Salento. Trani. Il Gargano.

Whoa that's a lot. But hey, vacation only comes once a year, if at all.

What's next? Oh lots more to come, cari lettori. Take a sneak peek!

Grazie per averci seguito! Please come back!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Puglia: On the Way to Il Gargano

We left Trani, near Bari, after two days, and made our way north along the coast of Puglia to the Gargano peninsula, where we would spend the last few days of our trip to Southern Italy that began in August.

To reach Peschici, the town where we were staying, we drove through a forested section of the Gargano National Park. It was finally cool enough to turn off the air conditioning and roll down the windows.

On the ascent into the hilly portion of the peninsula, we stopped in Monte Sant'Angelo (nella provincia di Foggia) to shop for lunch. You can see what we ended up with.

Mozzarella di bufala so supple and wonderful you question if it's not the ultimate food of the Gods.

Crusty bread that all alone could be a fine snack.

Pink prosciutto crudo that in its salty simplicity spells out what the word sapore means.

After we left the alimentari in town, we drove back into the countryside and pulled over to enjoy our lunch. All we had were the unadulterated fields in front of us. And the best sandwich known to man. And that was enough.

At this point in the tale, we are headed for the last part of our trip. Please stay tuned. Some gorgeous photos of Peschici and the Adriatic Coast are in your future!

(Along the road to Peschici...baaah....baaah....)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Puglia: Let's eat in Trani (BA)


We ate two fantastic meals in Trani (BA) that deserve their very own post.

Both restaurants appear in the Gambero Rosso restaurant guide, and both meals were truly precious -- the types of meals one hopes to eat when traveling to Italy. Both places served not only outstanding local cuisine, but also provided that high level of service we so infrequently find in restaurants. Making us happy was what the staff were there to do, and we did not have to spend $500 to be treated so.

Ok, one at a time.

The first restaurant is called Corte in Fiore. It's located at Via Ognissanti, 18. My old roommate from Florence, the wonderful Irene, took us there our first night in town. She was in Barletta, which is nearby, visiting her parents.

A word about the decor...or how do I put it? The architecture? What I am saying is, there was a back garden inside the restaurant that made you feel as though you were outside. Not the first time I had that sensation on this trip; Picton in Lecce was similar, with a mini-arboretum inside.

Let's begin: We ate raw fish at Corte in Fiore. Might seem totally normal, given the universal love of sushi but it was the first fish entree I'd ever eaten in Italy that was completely raw (I suppose I am skipping the sea urchin Rosario caught but that's in its own extremely special category!).

Looking at the photo, you can see calamari (in the little glass bowl), mussels and scampi (which, while I was in Puglia, I learned are actually distinct from shrimp. You probably knew that, right? Sapientone!). There were also some fantastic raw shrimp that were wonderfully sweet and tender.

We also enjoyed a cooked seafood antipasto, and the two starters together were so plentiful we actually skipped the second dishes. We finished the meal off with Moscato di Trani, a lovely sweet wine made (obviously) in Trani and considered a special regional product.

Special note to Irene: grazie di cuore per averci portato a mangiare lì. L'osteria era davvero buona, e la sera con te davvero speciale. Spero che ci vediamo presto....forse in USA!

The second restaurant, sempre a Trani, is Da Miana, which is not far from the synagogue (in fact the address is Via Sinagoga, 54. Now you know the word for synagogue!).

You've actually already seen something I ate there, and I will shamelessly republish the photo because I believe it alone can tell you why Italian food is fantastic!

There it is in all of its raviolone (fatto in casa) di spinaci e ricotta con un sugo di crema di sedano e gamberetti. I made the notation "ottimo" in my little notebook.

So what does that mean? It's large homemade ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese in a creamy sauce of celery essence and baby shrimp. It was as good as it looks!

But I'm actually putting the cart before the horse. To start, we had a lovely mixed antipasto that included the novel little item in the top photo (shown with the fantastic Pugliese wine we had, Vigna Pedale Castel Rosso Riserva 2003 DOC Torrevento). What is it? Right. Slightly hard to explain. A filling of baby shrimp encased in what I think was fried pasta. The consistency and form were not unlike the cereal Shredded Wheat. But better. Way better!

The antipasto also included stuffed baked cuttlefish and a soufle of peppers and salmon.

A word about the wine. The grape is called Uve di Troia, which if you know Il Nostro Inviato, is a bit funny (Troia=Troy; of course it actually means puttana, but that's another story). It's a grape that grows mostly in Puglia but is not widely available in the U.S. If you like robust red wines, see if you can't find it at a wine store near you.

For a second, we shared orata ai ferri. Translation: Grilled sea bass.

The restaurant is first-rate in every way. They treated us like we were the most important guests they had ever had, and indeed because it was a slow night, we essentially had the waiter and the host all to ourselves. Oh and we lingered. Where's the fire? We came to eat, and we very leisurely ambled through the meal.

How were we able to score two first-class meals in one small city on the Adriatic? Here's a thought.....Trani is part of Italy's Slow Food movement. You know: the opposite of fast food...?

By now, you've surely heard of localism: cultivate and prize local fruits, vegetables and other food products, and protect the means to produce these items. The movement's actually gaining ground in America!

But people in Italy began to fear back in the 1980s that traditional products and methods of food and wine preparation were losing their cache with the proliferation of fast food. Hence Slow Food was born. There are chapters in the U.S., in case you're interested (

To conclude: Please please please visit these restaurants if you ever find yourself in Trani. Oh and tell them Ciambellina sent you!

Grazie per averci seguito! More to come....

Monday, October 01, 2007

Still in PUGLIA: Two days in Trani (BA)

Trani is a wonderful little town north of Bari on the Adriatic Sea. Its cathedral, built in the 12th century, has a stunning perch on the edge of the sea, and is made completely of striking local limestone.

The little town is a web of streets surrounding the port and the Cathedral that's not unlike Siena. I know some travel writers have begun to compare Puglia with Tuscany. I would say if you like Siena, you could easily enjoy a few days in medieval Trani. (To be clear, Siena is not on a port!)

We spent two days in Trani during the second week of our trip, after we left our friends in Ruffano, in Salento. In addition to the Cathedral, there's Castello Svevo which was commissioned by Frederick II in 1230, and was built on Norman ruins.

I have been looking at the photos we took there since we returned to the States, and I cannot decide which one adequately conveys the town's unique aesthetic. So here's a handful of photos: you decide!

Above: The romanesque cathedral, which as you can see, sits beside the sea. The bell tower, whose base accommodates a high arch, dominates the skyline.

Above: Chiesa di Ognissanti, which overlooks the port, and is nestled among a number of cozy bars and restaurants that have an irrestible view of the sea.

Above: A view of the base of the bell tower that adjoins the cathedral, and the piazza just beyond it.


An opera singer unwittingly provided one of the highlights of our time in Trani. We were tooling around the castle on a self-guided tour when we began to hear the strains of lirica! Moving from room to room, we followed the sound until we reached a window through which we could see the singer as she practiced. With our digital camera, Mike zoomed in on her for a photo, and even recorded a bit of her singing!

She sang an aria from the Puccini opera La Bohème and on the rise and fall of the notes, we floated through the castle, or at least I did, almost unhinged by her beautiful voice, and grateful that Italy is Italy. Because this was one of those moments where I thought: Ah...Italy.

I will leave you with her photo; Lord knows her stunning, plaintive voice echoed in my head for days after we left.

A tra poco!