Archive for the ‘uniquely italian’ Category

La Settimana Santa (Easter Holy Week) in Calabria

Infinitely more so than Christmas, La Settimana Santa (Holy Week) is the biggest, most important event in Calabria — and it has nothing to do with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow treats (more on that later this week).

Many villages have their own special goings-on, and Badolato is one of them. Activities last all week long and culminate in a half-day procession on Venerdì Santo (Good Friday) and an all day procession on Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday).

Last year, I gathered a collection of my posts on Pasqua in Calabria for you:

Celebrating Easter in Italy

There are more stories, photos, videos, and a recipe linked there.


I keep struggling with what to call what goes on here, though. “Celebration” and “festivities” simply don’t fit the somber, austere, and deeply emotional mood even for the non-religious like me. This will be my eighth Easter here, and I still get choked up for La Settimana Santa.

The rhythmic beat of a solitary drum echoing through the narrow streets, the bellowing yet wailing voices of men and sometimes women singing about the suffering of their savior, the trudging up these steep, unforgiving hills with the sun beating down on those dressed in layers of robes.

It all begins at the start of the week, with groups of men who walk around the village from church to church each morning leading up to Good Friday. This video was taken this morning from my balcony:

If you can come to Calabria for Holy Week even once in your lifetime, I highly recommend it.

Calabrian Zeppole di San Giuseppe for Italian Father’s Day

Today is La Festa di San Giuseppe or St. Joseph’s Day. Here in my corner of Calabria, we celebrate with “i zippoli” or le zeppole, which are quite different from what some of you know as zeppole, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.

This is what ours look like:

That photo was taken on Christmas Eve in the United States after my mom and I whipped these up for the traditional family get-together at my dad’s house. Why zeppole on Christmas Eve, you ask?

Well because these little guys are *huge* family favorites — think legendary status — and I had a sinking feeling that no one on that side of the Atlantic had tasted their goodness since my grandmother passed away in 2001.

My intuition was right, and these were a big hit, gone rather quickly, and the source of many happy memories floating around my grandmother’s old house. Even the Russians in attendance had to ask how to make these babies.

Well, you don’t have to ask as I’ve already posted the recipe at Calabrian Zeppole.

You can read more about today’s holiday, what fava beans have to do with it, and the different types of zeppole throughout Italy at Fava Beans and Cream Puffs.

And if you want to know how to handle those favas and what to make with them, check out Calabrian Sausage and Fava Beans.

And hey, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, why not take some vacation days, compare flights, and hop a plane in time for some zeppole? I’ll save you some. Probably. Hurry!

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to get snapping, literally, as I get my fava on.

Auguri to all the Giuseppes and Giuseppinas!

And buon weekend a tutti!

Calabrian Olive Oil: Cossari Extravergine Olio di Oliva Biologico

Calabrian olive oil (in a vinegar bottle) on FlickrDid you know Calabria, one of the poorest of Italy’s 20 regions, is actually the source of 25% of the country’s olive oil?

And that in the 2009 Guida ai Migliori Oli del Mondo di Qualità Accertata (Guide to the Best Olive Oils in the World, Quality Assured), among the top six, three were Italian–and *two* of those were Calabrian?

Yes, down here in the toe of the boot, we have some excellent olive oil or olio d’oliva — that glorious provider of monounsaturated fats, which can naturally lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease. FYI, extra-virgin quality aka EVOO is the healthiest as it is the least processed, keeping intact all those fabulous antioxidants that also keep your heart healthy.

Now you probably don’t think of Calabria as a main source of olive oil because producers here are often families with small groves who get their olives pressed at local mills; they use the oil for themselves and their families, give some away, sell some locally, and then perhaps sell the rest to wholesalers who take our dense, robust Calabrian olive oil and mix it with that of other regions and smack a label on it as being from *that* region–probably famous for its, ahem, olive oil.

I’m not naming names, but rest assured that even some the largest olive oil companies engage in this practice–and nobody’s complaining. Hey, everyone has access to great olive oil, gets paid, and us here in Calabria? We still have some of the best olive oil in the country right in our backyards, only we get it fresh from the press. Win, win, win, right Joe of Italyville?

Well, for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have neighbors who gift you their Calabrian olive oil, how would you like to get some of the good stuff straight from the source delivered right to your door?

Cossari Extra-virgin olive oilRecently through Facebook, I met Vincenzo Cossari, who was born here in Badolato but has been living and working in Milan for years; after we exchanged the usual “to which family do you belong” info (and we figured out he went to school with one of P’s sisters), he sent me a link to his family’s website through which they sell organically produced Calabrian extra-virgin olive oil right here in Badolato:

Cossari Extravergine Olio di Oliva Biologico

Especially for you foodies out there, I highly suggest trying out true Calabrian olive oil at least once in your life (trust me, you’ll want more). Not only is it great for preserving fish, eggplant, mushrooms, and any number of vegetables, it’s the absolute best for preserving our beloved peperoncino.

Use this year’s oil fresh on salads and last year’s oil for frying, and you’ll soon find out why, if given the choice, most Calabrians avoid the stores and go straight to the presses for their olive oil.

If you like what you see at the Cossari website, be sure to contact Vincenzo, who speaks perfect English, at vcossari(at)hotmail(dot)it or through the contact form on the site, and let him know I sent you.

And soon you, too, can be enjoying this wonderful sapore di Calabria in the comfort of your own home.

P.S. Yes, the first photo shows olive oil in a vinegar bottle (aceto means vinegar in Italian for those who don’t know). This is because we often receive olive oil in large five liter bidoni so we transfer it to smaller, emptied out bottles for ease of pouring. Reduce, reuse, recycle baby!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy olive oil?

Oggi Sciopero!

Adesione all’appello di Diritto alla Rete contro il DDl Alfano che imbavaglia la Internet italiana.

Diritto alla Rete

P.S. For those who don’t speak Italian but want to know what’s going on, there is an English explanation at Diritto alla Rete.

Bloggisti unite!

Winners of Travellers Calabria Guidebook & Calabrian CD by Marasà

I know you’re anxious, but for those who may not have seen all the great things leading up to today’s announcement, do check out the rest of the week’s posts:

Now let’s get to it!

The winner of the Calabrian CD by Marasà is Victor Cina aka @victorcina on Twitter (a great person to follow by the way)!

And the five winners of Travellers Calabria guidebooks are:

Most of these winners entered several times, including tweets and FB postings, so it does pay to be persistent! I will email all of you for your details, but if for some reason you don’t hear from me, feel free to send along your mailing address through Twitter, FB, or email michellefabio5(at)gmail(dot)com.

For those of you who would still like a copy of Travellers Calabria (as well you should!), you can purchase one via this special link through which I would get a small commission:

Travellers Calabria by Lara Dunston and Terry Carter

Thanks so much to everyone who read and commented and especially to Lara Dunston and Terry Carter not only for writing a fabulous guidebook about Calabria but also for being so available to talk about it and the business of travel writing.

Buon weekend a tutti!

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