madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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market treasures

Antiques Fair in Arezzo, Southern Tuscany

My husband and I have an inordinate passion for flea markets. When we lived in Zürich in the mid 90s, we spent all our free time rummaging through dusty boxes of wonders.  “Normal” people would run home or to the café after a long day of work. We, on the other hand, would meet in some icy cold warehouse to try our luck with the day arrivals. A few times we even woke up at the crack of dawn for the opening of a liquidation sale.

Spring was particularly hectic, with all the outdoor markets, no time for a romantic picnic on the Alps. As a result we collected enough stuff to furnish and decorate our home here in Umbria as well as all the guest rooms of our B&B.  We probably have in storage enough stuff for another house!

For me, going to a flea market is like walking into a fairy tale. It’s a window open on the life and strangeness of others. It’s a study on the definition of beauty and necessity. I mean, who needs a rabbit shaped tureen? A porcelain octopus? A spare pair of wings?

But that’s how it goes: you throw away something which I find valuable and attractive. Still, there cannot be that much demand for the life-size ceramic dogs, can it?

The video below is about the Antique fair in Arezzo, probably the largest in Central Italy. It’s held on the first Sunday of each month and its’ a fabulous place for dreamers. Do go.  If you don’t buy too much you might have  enough money to see the splendid Piero della Francesca frescoes.  Really, a dream day.

PS. For more information and beautiful pictures on Arezzo please visit my friend Sandra’s blog


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cooking on a sunny day

Over the years our guests have given us the gift of many beautiful images. Images of ourselves, of Umbria, of cooking classes, of fun and relaxation, of greetings.  Moments in which the lives of others have crossed ours here, atop our magical mountain. Moments for which I am grateful.

 

 

This video is a gift of Chris Honeysett, a very talented photographer who visited us 3 years ago, make sure to visit his fabulous website


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from Umbria with chocolate

the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is a good opportunity to sample new and fashonable products

the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is a good opportunity to sample new and fashionable products

Every year around this time, mid October, I get vaguely annoyed. First of all it gets cold and wet for the first time after months of wonderful weather. It’s still beautiful all around, but one needs to get used to the sweaters.

Then, like every October in the last 10 years,  Eurochocolate comes to Perugia and so the traffic and a million chocolate wrappers.

Eurochocolate is a large chocolate festival, sponsored by the big chocolate brands. It brings more than 100 thousand visitors to our small provincial capital. The locals lock themselves up for 2 week-ends. There is not point in getting squashed when one can buy (most of) the same stuff in the supermarket.

It’s better to visit during the week if one wants to get any close to the stands.

fine Venchi chocolate from Torino

faboulus Venchi chocolate from Torino

Those who love crowds can go in the weekend to see the making of the chocolate sculptures in Perugia’s main street Corso Vannucci. Large blocks of chocolate are carved by energetic artists and all the trimmings are given out for free to the onlookers (video).

Altrocioccolato, held in Gubbio is the cozy, fair-trade, green alternative to the monster kermesse. There’s lots of organic stuff, hand knitted socks, good music and free theatre for the kids. It’s even possible to find parking space. Really, it is very friendly.

no sponsors and genuine children entertrainment at Altrocioccolato Festival in Gubbio

no sponsors and genuine children entertainment at Altrocioccolato Festival in Gubbio

As for myself, if I need special chocolate, I can get it year around, I have friends. I go to Barbara in Santa Maria degli Angeli*  or to Elena in Palazzo**  where I can find a variety of artisan chocolate at reasonable prices. I like to support small companies. I like to get suggestions and a bite to taste in peace, no queuing up required.

I am grateful to someone who makes the effort to trace good genuine products, possibly from another small company, and hands it with a smile. They know I’ll be back tomorrow.

*Terra Umbra. Via Patrono d’Italia 10, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi
**Pasta fresca e non solo, 43, Viale Michelangelo Palazzo di Assisi
 


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carnevale!

children's carnival in Spoleto, South Umbria

children's carnival in Spoleto, Southern Umbria

Its’ Carnival and -if I close my eyes – I can make winter go away. The glory and glamour of Venice and Rio de Janeiro are far away. Here in rural Umbria Carnival is a mostly a celebration for children. It’s all about being curious of the costumes of your school friends. It’s about stuffing yourself with all sorts of deep fried sweets bathed in sugar or honey, strufoli, frappe, castagnole.  It’s about running in the village streets under a rain of confetti.

typical Carnival party goers

typical party goers

Most villages organize Carnival festivals in February. The different districts of a village or town work throughout the winter to make themed floats which are paraded in the streets on Sunday afternoons.

decorated floats parading in the village

decorated floats parade

Floats are sponsored by local business, like the butcher, the baker, the hair dresser, the cafe, the tractors shop.

serious business

There is music and dance and everyone has fun. There’s candy for the little ones and wine for the grown ups.

no wine? No party

no wine? No party

In the end there is always someone too tired after the party. Hopefully she will not have a hang over tomorrow.

too much!
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