Archive for the ‘uniquely italian’ Category

The Lay of the Land in Calabria

The physical layout of life in a medieval hilltop village in southern Italy is often hard to grasp — especially for people who haven’t been here — so I’m going to try to explain it.

As I’ve written before, many medieval villages up on the hills have counterpart towns on the sea; we’re up on the hill, where houses are very close to one another, often touching. This is about a quarter of Badolato (our quarter, as it were) with the Ionian Sea in the background:

Around the outskirts of town, there are small green patches where people have their gardens, even animals. Most of them are places where houses used to be but have fallen or otherwise been compromised, but any time you can get just a little “orto” near your house, you’ve scored.

Last year, P and I secured a small chunk of land very close to our house (it’s about a 30 second walk), but it’s not like a “yard” that some might imagine.

There are actually two levels to it; one you can see below and the other is just off to the side of this, a few steps down to the right, and is where we plant veggies. You can see the chicken coop and goat pen on the left. The house with the big hole in it? Not ours. You can actually see our bedroom window, though…that brown squarish thing just to the left of the whitish house? I have it in a note on Flickr if you click through:

To give you an idea of the distance, here is a photo taken about half way between our house and the entrance to orto, looking toward the house (the last house on the right — it’s on a corner, and yes I know it needs paint, badly):

This photo overlooks the beginning of the garden (you can see the tops of our trees just past the iron railing), although the entrance is another twenty or so paces away:

And here is a photo from the outside looking in; I’ve labeled it on Flickr with notes (click on the photo to go there) so you can see where we live compared to where the goats live in our orto:

We also keep some chickens and hens there:

Our orto has a lemon tree, a couple mandarin trees, a nespole tree, a fig tree, a small grapevine, and we also plant various crops there, including lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peas, peperoncini, basil, and this year…strawberries!

And here is the view from our orto (from inside the goat pen):

This was taken a couple months ago, so those branches you see on the right are now full of fig leaves and the beginnings of some fruit.

So as you can see, it’s a nice little space that produces plenty for the two of us — actually way more than we need so we end up giving to friends and neighbors, and often get things in return that we haven’t grown yet, like zucchini and eggplants and also all kinds of pork products since we don’t have a pig. Yet.

Are you wondering about olives and olive oil? Well, there’s also some unofficial news on that, but it’s going to have to wait for another post.

Phew. Any questions?

Spending Mother’s Day in Campagna

It’s not official yet, so I don’t want to *officially* announce that P and I have acquired a campagna (land in the countryside), but we did spend this afternoon up there, and I can’t possibly hold in my joy.

For La Festa della Mamma, P swept me away from all my four-legged babies and did this for me:

While I did this:

And then we both enjoyed this:

Una giornata perfetta.

(A perfect day.)

Happiest of Mother’s Days to all the moms out there, especially mine!

P.S. Yes, there are olive trees! Yay!

Buona Festa della Liberazione!

Today is La Festa della Liberazione (Liberation Day) in Italy, celebrating the country’s liberation from fascism thanks to Allied troops at the end of World War II.

Check out my previous Liberation Day post for more info on this uniquely Italian holiday, and remember today is the last day for the Bleeding Espresso Facebook fan contest…get those entries in!

I recently added a new incentive to spread the word about the contest, so do click over to Facebook and see what’s happening over there.

Photos of Holy Week in Calabria

As I’ve written before, Holy Week is a huge deal here in Calabria. Here are some photos from the 2010 Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday) procession in Badolato:

I’m telling you, you really should come and see this in person.

L’Uovo di Pasqua: The Italian Easter Egg

Easter in Italy is generally much less commercialized than in the United States, but there is one tradition that recalls the Easters I knew growing up:

L’uovo di Pasqua. The Italian Easter Egg.

As you can tell from the photo, these are not those little bite-sized, even two or three bite-sized eggs you’re using to seeing. These are hollow and range in size from palm of your hand to ginormous (think: wrap your arms around it to carry it).

I bought some yesterday just to show you what an egg looks like wrapped and unwrapped:

Then since it was open, well, we had to smash it, because the eggs usually have a “sorpresa” (surprise) inside. Depending on how much you paid for your uovo di Pasqua, your surprise could be a dinky little toy or something more substantial, but still a toy nonetheless.

Having spent a whopping €1,50 ($2) on each one of these, we got dinky. And here’s P putting the stickers on the pathetic plastic car:

Stylin’ when it’s done, though, isn’t it? “Collect them all!” says the insert.

And in case you’re wondering, there’s no Easter Bunny and definitely no marshmallow stuff or jelly beans. Thank goodness for my mom! I love jelly beans, and now so does P.

Buona Pasqua to those who are celebrating!

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake