Wednesday, April 29

Wandering Educators

A very nice article about us was recently published in Wandering Educators:

"Ah, Italy. I have to tell you, I've become even more enamored (is this possible?) with Italy since our Living in Italy Editor, Ashley Bartner, came on board and started sharing her stories and photos of Italy. From festivals to local events - and, of course, food - Ashley shares her love of Italy, local food, and transforms us with it. From her 50 things I've Learned Living in Italy to Meet the Milk Man - Latte Crudo, Ashley entices the reader with locals, events, recipes, and more. I am most pleased that Ashley and her husband, Chef Jason, have an Agriturismo in Italy, called La Tavola Marche - travelers can come visit, and experience La Vita Italia. We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Ashley about fresh local food, artisanal producers, slowing down, and eating within season. Here's what she had to say..."
For the story in its entirety, click here!
- Wandering Educators, Dr. Jessie Voigts (April 28, 2009)

Yes, I am honored to be the official "Living in Italy Editor" for Wandering Educators! is an international community of traveling educators, a resource for discovering extraordinary travel destinations, fascinating people, and global artists and photographers, among the many published articles. It is the largest source of travel guide reviews on the internet. has over 35 editors, representing nations around the world and a plethora of intercultural and travel-related areas. It is the largest source of international jobs, internships, and academic conferences for educators around the world.

Sunday, April 26

Grandma's Apple Cake ~ Torta di Mele della Nonna

This is Jason's Grandma's apple cake recipe - now, to set the record straight she was not Italian, but she did pass on this fantastic, no-fail, super moist apple cake recipe!

Grandma's Apple Cake 

Torta di Mele della Nonna

3 cups flour

1 cup oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

5-6 apples, thinly sliced

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/3 cup orange juice

3 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except apples, beat until smooth.

In another bowl, mix sliced apples with cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar.

In  greased 10 inch tube pan, make layers of batter 1/3 at a time, then a layer of apples.  Ending with apples on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes until a pick comes out clean.

In loving memory of Grandma & Grandpa~

 This is how I will always remember Grandma, in/near the kitchen, hands on her hips,  yelling at us, "Oh who needs it?!"

Thursday, April 23

All Roads Lead to Rome

Oh a city I truly love - Roma. We happily escorted Leslie & Bob back to Rome, any excuse to visit this incredible city once again!

Rome is only about a 3 hour drive from our house & we had a nice easy drive along the via Flaminia (the ancient road built to connect Rome to the Adriatic Coast.) We arrived before lunch, dropped off the rental car & started our visit in the Piazza del Popolo. 

First stop, the Spanish steps, we wandered the side roads & found the most perfect quiet street in all of busy Rome - just a block off the hustle & bustle everything settles down, oh the smell of lilacs in the spring - god i love that!

After lunch a must-stop, artisan gelato - Giolitti, opened in 1900 & is voted best gelato year after year by the locals. There is a line out the door for this gelati - so no dilly dallying, know your order when its your turn & get moving for the next person in line.

Here are a few of my favorite Rome shots from years past:

The Pantheon, one of our all time favorite spots in Rome.

The Hall of Maps, Vatican Museum

Vatican Guards

Trevi Fountain

The Colosseum

Augusto, Trastevere
Piazza de' Renzi, 15

Our favorite place to eat: Augusto - This family run trattoria is well known by locals, a perfect dinner spot with outdoor seating & a no frills menu with pasta made by mamma!  (Trastevere is just across the river from Rome.)

After a day ramblin' about the streets of Rome, we stayed at our good friend Denise's dollhouse of an apartment & took the train home the next day. (The first time Rome's been affordable!)  Can't wait to visit again....

Tuesday, April 21

Pic of the Week

Fresh artichokes from the market in Fano.

Every Saturday in Fano the market fills the streets selling fresh fruits & veggies, cheeses, fresh eggs, socks & smocks!

Monday, April 20

The Perfect Pork Roast

You will not be disappointed, this comes out delicious & juicy!

Pork Roast
Arista di Maiale

pork loin roast, tied (the butcher will do this for you)
fennel seed
red pepper flacks, to taste
rind of half a lemon, chopped
olive oil
white wine

Combine all ingredients (except the meat) and form a paste. Food processor, mortar & pestle or a small food chopper will work, you can also do it by hand.

Transfer above mixture into a bowl & add a glug or two of olive oil so the paste is spreadable.

Work paste into meat evenly & refrigerate over night or at least 6 hours.

When ready to cook preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Generously salt the meat & place in a roasting pan.

Roast for the first 15 minutes at 425 degrees, remove from oven. Add a 3/4 cup of white wine

Then return to oven & lower to 350 degrees cooking for about 15 minutes per pound,or until juices run clear.

Baste the meat once or twice during cooking.
(If the top starts getting too brown, cover for the last bit. If liquid at the bottom of the pan cooks out, add a little water.)

Once cooked, allow roast to sit for a few minutes. Remove string & slice thinly. Use the pan juices as a sauce.

NOTE: pairs well with white beans.

Friday, April 17

A Day Trip to Tuscany ~ Sansepolcro & Anghiari

In under an hour from our farmhouse you can easily reach many lovely little villages in the oh so famous region of Tuscany - a perfect Tuscan day trip: stroll about, big lunch, caffe', walk off lunch a bit, shop, gelati & head home!

So that's just what we did.

Up & out of the house we headed over the Apennines Mountains to the medieval town of Sanselpolcro for lunch. We had no location in mind - just to wander about & see what we'd stumbled upon.

As the weekly traveling market was packing up for the day we window shopped until our bellies couldn't take it any longer & we found just the the perfect spot!

Enoteca Tirar Tardi
via San Antonio, 5 52037 Sansepolcro Arezzo, Tuscany
Tel (+39) 0575.741525
(Closed on Mondays)

The owner took the time to chat, recommend good wines & brought out a surprise spread of antipasti. Here's what we ordered - it was all so good! (And yes, we are fatties & ate it all!)

Finocchio salami (a peasant salami made with fennel to add flavor since it was originally made with the left over cuts of meat. We could never find this type of salami in our area.)
Lardo crostini (it's all in the name - lardo is just lard, warmed up & smeard on a crusty piece of bread & its delish!)
Fegatini (Chicken liver crostini flavored with vin santo - again totally different in are area)
Crostini with procini (mushrooms)
Lonzino (cured meat)
Asparagus souffle (for a lack of a better term) with cream sauce & prosciutto croccante (think the best baco's ever)
3 cheeses: cows milk covered in straw, cows milk in ash & aged pecorino with spicy tomato marmalade

(Jason with the co-owner - when we asked for the photo he ran to get the most beautiful bottle of wine to show in the pic!)

Ravioli con patate, pinoli, prosciutto croccante e parmeggiano (Ravioli stuffed with potato, pine nuts & parmesan, topped with crunchy pieces of prosciutto)
Parppardelle della casa with guanciale (Wide noodles with cured pig's cheek)

After all that food & wine - time to walk off lunch - so we headed back to the car & made our way to Anghiari (our 1st visit to this wonderful sleepy town!)

(I thought this statue was great, it is inscribed ~ O Roma O Morte - Or Rome Or Death)

A little shout-out to our good friend Harold for this fantastic recommendation!
What a lovely hill top town with its 13th century walls! Wander the streets, get lost under the arches & climb up the stacked levels - it's a labryinth of a town, a photo op around every corner! I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit next time.

We then hit the road for Arezzo, checked out out-of-this-world antiques & headed home - I must say I prefer tiny towns jam packed with character like Anghiari over the big wide streets & name brand shops of Arezzo.

But see - it's do-able - a day trip to 3 Tuscan towns in one day!

What a Wirlwind Week!

Jason's parents, Leslie & Bob were in town, we were filled with guests, day trips to Tuscany & Rome and even an Easter miracle! All in one week!

Where to begin...
On Good Friday we met up with our good friend Giulia & joined in the procession in Urbania for the living stations of the cross, a moving evening (religious or not) - the town is lite by candle-lite as locals re-enact 7 Stations of the Cross in still scenes along the procession path.
Everyone joins in & walks together with a wooden statue of Jesus is carried amongst the crowd, speakers crackling & blaring, the barely audible prayers from the local priest echo through the streets .... and then there is the music - it is haunting & magical - it truly sets the tone & its straight out of the Godfather!

Now here comes the miracle part...
Saturday night before Easter at about 12:30am (note: the house is full of guests) ....NO WATER! The well is dry, the pump is broken, unconnected electrical wires & no solution in sight....NOOOOO!
So, the next morning we call good ol' Fusciani & start calling tecnico's to come out. Now not only is this a Sunday (hard enough to get a tecnico to the house) but the holiest of holy Catholic holidays - Easter! How are we gonna pull this off!

The normal tecnico is on vacation - in America, so that's out. The plumber doesn't want to come out & tells us to think of something (what does that even mean!), so that's out. One last hope - Massimilliano (can a name get any more Italian?!) a nice electrician whose wife was in the English lessons we taught in town...but his phone was off, so that's out. Or was it?! Jason & Fusciani jumped in the car (mind you, it's only 9:00am) & head to town to find him. First stop - Crazy Bar (the local cafe for the oldies & kinda the "guys hangout") - Jason asks anyone who is listening, "Where does Massimilliano live?"
- "Up the road, on the hill. "
Ok - that was easy. So they head up - there is an old woman gardening & again they ask,
"Where does Massimilliano live?"
Wow - could we really be that lucky...
Sure enough - they knock on the door, he's eating Easter breakfast with his family & in a heart beat - jumps up & is out the door to help us!! How in incredible!!

We ended up with a full squadra (team) of workers - from Jason & Bob, to Fusciani, Massimilliano & the reluctant plumber showed up after all! About an hour later the water was back on, toilets flushed, showers taken! I still can't believe all these people dropped their family celebrations to come out & help us on Easter Sunday (& they all did it for free!) - we are so lucky to have the wonderful neighbors & friends we have!

(Leslie & Bob in our front yard)

After all the confusion & craziness we shared a big lunch with Dottore Gaggi & his family where Rossana (the doctor's wife), with a steady eye (like a old pro) karate chopped the biggest easter egg I've ever seen (seriously it was bigger than her) - perfectly in 2 - with one -POW!

Then Pasquette or Lunedi di Pasque - little Easter or Easter Monday. Another big festival day - its a day for a picnic or a big lunch - a feast of some sorts! And Jason delivered!!

(wild daffodils Leslie & I cut for the tables)

Here's just a few highlights from the fabulous menu - all made by hand, at home by Jason.

Limoni cotto al forno - lemons cooked in the oven with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes & anchovies
Crostini with a fresh fava puree
Frittata with sauteed wild greens
Spinach & Ricotta pie
Artichoke Risotto
Anatra al forno con Cippollini - Slow Roasted Duck with little onions

No one left hungry that's for sure.

Whew that was a lot to catch up on! Check back for the next posts of our day trips to Fano, San Sepolcro, Anghiari & Rome!

Friday, April 10

Buona Pasqua!

Happy Easter!

We've got a wonderful spring menu planned for Lunedi di Pasqua (Easter Monday) - a big feast day here in Italy. Check back for the menu & pics in the next few days! (I don't want to post it yet & ruin the surprise for our guests!)

Buona Pasqua tutti!

Tuesday, April 7

The Other Raphael - Not the Ninja Turtle

Well I thought I'd add a little class - culture & arts - since it is SO lacking on our blog! 

(Raffaello, self portrait)

From the 4th of April until the 12th of July the beautiful medieval Palazzo Ducale of Urbino (Duke's Palace) is unveiling many rare & early works of their good ol homeboy Raffaello.

(Bust of an angel)

Making all those in Urbino proud, yes! this famous painter was born & raised in Urbino (our 'big' town, only 25 minutes away) they have chosen to display this show in Raffeaello's hometown. 

(Saint Giovanni, Coronation of the Virgin)

The exhibition reconstructs the artistic & cultural background of the late 14o0's when Raffaello & his father ran a rich & successful studio. 

(Madonna & Child)

The town of Urbino had a strong influence on his developement as an artist & remained an important reference point for him throughout his life.

(Saint Michael)

For more on Raffaello & Urbino or to buy tickets - Click here!

Monday, April 6

Shake, Rattle & Roll

Safe & sound in Le Marche - Grazie Dio! (Thank God!)
We didn't feel a thing - a sincere "thank you" to all of you who reached out & emailed us with concern, it is very touching to know you thought of us.

The 6.3-magnitude earth quake struck at 03:30am (0130 GMT) close to L'Aquila (outside Rome) in the Region of Abruzzo with reports of numerous of pre-tremors & continuing aftershocks. (For more: BBC News)

Our thoughts & prayers go out to all those affected by this devastating disaster.

Thursday, April 2

Maria's Artichokes ~ Carciofi alla Maria

Spring brings bright fresh flavors! This artichoke dish, courtesy of our friend Maria, is a fantastic example of spring on your plate! We serve it as an antipasta, but you could easily serve it as a side-dish. Sometimes Jason leaves out the olives (as he doesn't really like 'em) & it still comes out great.

To be honest, the first time Jason said he was making artichokes with capers & olives, I thought it sounded kinda gross because I'm not a huge fan of capers - BUT! I can't deny it - these are soooo good!! Now I'm beggin' for more! If you love spring artichokes, try this pasta recipe ~ Pasta with spring vegetables (fava, artichokes, peas) Spaghetti alla chitarra con vedure primavera.

Maria's Artichokes
Carciofi alla Maria

Serves 4

juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
8 globe artichokes, remove tough outer leaves, scoop out choke & cut into wedges
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon capers, drained & rinsed
scant 1 cup green olives, pitted & chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

Half-fill a bowl with water, stir in the lemon juice, add the artichokes & let soak for 10 minutes, then drain & pat dry.

Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic & cook for a few minutes until golden brown, then remove & discard.

Add the artichoke wedges to the pan & cook over high heat for 5 minutes, then add the capers & olives.

Season with salt & pepper to taste and add 2/3 cup warm water.

Mix well, cover & simmer for about 30 minutes until tender.

Remove the lid & boil off any excess liquid.

Transfer the artichokes to a serving dish, sprinkle with parsley.

Served both warm & at room temperature.
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