Cerano Montepulciano d”Aruzzo Riserva from Pietrantonj
One thing leads to another.
This is becoming my motto in life, with one additional clarifier. One thing leads to another when you give yourself over to the flow of life and say “Let’s play!” Well, my introduction to Pietrantonj, Abruzzo’s oldest winery, is a prime example of things organically falling into place. First, came my visit to Sulmona and a fulfilled wish to witness my dear friend Novelia crafting her handmade pasta. I was over the moon that Novelia invited me into the kitchen with my camera to capture her artistry. As Novelia and I were plotting our cooking session, the topic of pairing wines worthy of her creations arose. Immediately, Novelia exclaimed, “Pietrantonj, of course!” Then, Novelia made a call to the Pietrantonj family and I was in like flint in short order to have a personal tour and tasting with Alice Pietrantonj, one of the three daughters.
Just wanted you all to know that ItalyWise is anything but asleep or on vacation this week. Since I’ve thrown myself headlong into the world of video production, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in shooting and editing video footage—all with the intent of making ItalyWise an even more dimensional experience. I want to make videos a regular part of my posts and I have ambitious goals for building out a robust YouTube channel.
So, I’m utilizing this weeks post as a marquee to whet your appetites for what is in store in the coming weeks.
ItalyWise takes you, once again, to one of my favorite places in Italy: Sulmona, Abruzzo. Held the last weekend in July for the last twenty-four years, this is a Medieval festival and jousting event not to be missed. I’ll take you from the processions of rich costumes and pageantry to the highly-competitive jousting event held in Piazza Garibaldi.
After you view the video contained in this post, I believe you’ll quickly respond in the affirmative. Just two weeks ago, I had the supreme good fortune to spend time in Sulmona, Abruzzo with my dear friend Novelia—this time to receive a personal demonstration of how to create pasta entirely by hand. Yep, not a single bit of assistance with modern appliances. We started with fettuccine, made with giant duck eggs, no less. That was followed by spaghetti made with a 200-year-old chitarra, but that is worthy of its own post (stay tuned).
I’ve never experienced a woman with so much reverence and love for her culinary creations.
Novelia’s fettuccine “a mano” is tangible proof. This is not someone just going through the steps dutifully. She is an artisan in the highest sense. Her hands at work easily could be those of a master sculptor.
Finally, real proof that Venice has a woman gondolier!
Talk about stumbling across a good story. Just two days ago, Simone and I had opted for an impromptu trip to Venice and a stroll around the city. I almost didn’t bring my camera. We’d disembarked from our train and decided on a loop that begin in the Jewish Ghetto. We’d crossed Campo di Ghetto Nuovo and were turning left to cross the bridge over Fondamenta dei Ormesini, and there she was, a woman gondolier!
If you’ve read my previous blog post about The Life of the Gondolier you’ll know that I’ve been on a mission to find Venice’s only woman gondolier––or gondoliera.
One of the many trabocchi dotting the coast of Abruzzo. Image by Lorenabacchilega of Creative Commons
Trabocchi are “fishing machines” dating back to the 18th century.
At least that’s the earliest documentation attesting to their existence. Some sources claim these fascinating structures as being first put in use by the Phoenicians. Trabocchi (read more on Wikipedia) are all along the coast of Abruzzo. During my recent train ride up Italy’s eastern coast on Trenitalia’s Frecciabianca (The White Arrow) from Pescara to Bologna, I saw several trabocchi. My dear friend Novelia from Sulmona has been urging me to experience one of these historical structures firsthand. So, I’ve added it to my bucket list and hopefully, I will experience one within the next year.
An old, black and white film added to my resolve to visit one of the trabocchi.
It was when I viewed the following film on YouTube that I said, “No ands, ifs or buts…I’m doing this!”
Probably the biggest and best plate of Frico I’ve ever eaten.
I’m still salivating. That’s what frico can do to you.
Unfortunately, many people who come to Italy, to live or to visit, don’t set foot in Friuli, the northeast region of Italy, where culinary treasures like frico were born. I hope this post has the ability to reach people who ordinarily would not take a trip to this area, which is often considered an inconvenient detour based on its non-central location. But, trust me, if you want to have the full Italian diversity experience, you will be thanking yourself for including Friuli (and frico) on your “to do” list.
Let me back up for a second and talk about our new friends who took our frico appreciation to a new level.
When the mind gets overly fixated on being literal, it can use a break.
Mine does, for sure. And, thanks to the vibrantly rendered island village of Burano, just outside of Venice, I’ve stumbled upon Italian abstracts that do the trick.
As I approached ferreting out a topic for this week’s blog post, my mind told me it needed a short vacation from writing about the logistics and adjustments of living in Italy. I thought, “Well, I’ll just skip a week.” But, then I realized I could speak with photos and not get too mired in words, other than a brief commentary as to why the images in this post give my soul peace and balance. Maybe you’ll relate…
And a healthy splash of color. I so appreciate the enthusiastic responses to last week’s post, which featured the Venice snow through a filter of black and white. Such images, devoid of color, can’t help but elevate the sense of extreme cold. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share the impact of color in this second installment, so here goes!
Yes, I’d been waiting for this rare occurrence, Venice Snow. Last winter I waited and hoped. But no luck. Ever since I saw a few photos (on display at a local gallery) that had captured Venice blanketed in snow, I’d been itching to have my own crack at it. I have volumes of Venice images in color-saturated summer, and in dreary rain, but no snow. Imagine my delight when I saw snow in the forecast with a high probability. We hopped on hotels.com, found a screaming deal of a room adjacent to the Rialto Fish Market, and I charged my batteries and packed up my photo gear. We boarded the train to Venice with great optimism. Would the forecast be correct? Would I be gifted with this rare opportunity?
Venice remains my favorite city in Italy. I never tire of her beauty and charms. I’m also fascinated by her dark side and her complicated past, which seems to be reflected in the many dark faces of Venice that adorn countless walls and doors.
Don’t get too comfortable.
That’s my interpretation of these dark and foreboding faces of Venice. On their own, they can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but throw in their location in the maze of dark and confusing alleyways, and you have an excellent setting for a thriller or horror movie. Who can forget the final scene in Don’t Look Now? (The creepy knife-wielding dwarf elevates the spooky factor).