madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking

the alchemist


Life went on and I started to travel the big wide world. I had always been fascinated by plants, particularly aromatic plants. However, no botanical studies with a promise of a reasonable future where available. I ended up getting a Ph.D in chemical ecology of insects, studying how plant chemicals influence insect behavior.

This is how it works:

herbivore insects, such as caterpillars, spend most of their life feeding on plants. While the herbivore is feeding, the plant is wounded by the mouth parts of the insect and emits all sort of chemicals. Carnivore insects are continuously searching their prey, i.e. the herbivore insects. Their sense of smell is so refined that they can perceive the odor of the wounded plant among all others and use it to find their victims.

summer blooming at Piano Grande di Castelluccio in Umbria

even in a tangle of vegetation like this, a tiny carnivore wasp can find a caterpillar that is stuffing himself with his favorite veggies

Food is so much about chemistry and behavior, that I feel I have not changed my subject very much.

Author: madonnadelpiatto

Former scientist, I now run B&B and cooking school Alla Madonna del Piatto in Assisi, Umbria, central Italy, together with my husband Ruurd, daughter Tea and truffle dog Google. We love good food and wine, travel, beautiful handicrafts like textiles and pottery. We feel fortunate to be able to share our magical mountain with many friends from all over the world.

2 thoughts on “the alchemist

  1. AHHH! I am so excited!! Letizia is blogging. OH please tell us stories, Letizia! I love to listen to you and I can do that through your writing. I did not know that there were insect eating insects that eat plant eating insects…. I learned something already. bacioni!


  2. Ciao Diana!
    you win the prize for first comment ever on my blog. I wanted to have a few more posts before telling anyone but of course you found me! Now, this is going to be slow, writing in English is not that easy, but I have a lot to write. Baci e grazie per l’incoraggiamento!


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