Friday, 31 August 2012

Arrivederci Sicilia...

Well, it's our penultimate day in Sicily.

And once you have a look at these photos, you'll know why I'm incredibly reluctant to leave. It has been amazing discovering and exploring all the fantastic things about this place. We've packed in so much this week, so today we're simply going to relax by the beach. Work starts again on Monday, so we'd best make the most of it....

yes, we did eat these for breakfast one morning.

green, gooey, gorgeous: the cassata.

yes, it was somewhat blustery.
(Actually on second thoughts, maybe it's for the best that I'm heading back to Puglia tomorrow. I really have been eating faaaar too much dolce.) Expect more photos (many of them are of dolce, yes) and more info about all things Sicily related upon my return. Until then, have a smashing weekend! :)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Buona Domenica from Sicily

Buona Domenica from gorgeous Sicily.

A certain someone is having a lazy afternoon nap, so I thought I'd show you a couple of Sicily bits so far. I know I know, only 1 mini cannolo in two and a half days is disappointing, but I'm working on it...

Right, nap time for me too. :D 


Friday, 24 August 2012

Things to share (mini blog)

Oh yes, it's another...

I came across a couple of things that I wanted to share with you.

The first, is this 'oh so true' message that I nabbed from ForExpatsByExpats:

Being in Italy definitely makes me see things in a new and different way. Often a good way, occasionally bad, but always new and interesting.

I also came across this 'travelholic' and his fantastic website The Road to Anywhere. He's recently posted a load of fantastic photos from around Italy. Make sure you have a look! They really are incredible.

And finally, very soon I'm heading to Sicily...SO.INCREDIBLY.EXCITED!! I've always wanted to visit and so I can't wait to spend some time there. I want to explore, enjoy the sunshine, discover the culture and of course, eat lots of these:


Ciao for now!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The 'sagra'

Last week my boyfriend suggested that we go to a 'sagra'. What on earth is that? I asked, secretly hoping it would be something to do with food, the beach or shopping. Well, it was the former. Result! A sagra is a type of food festival that takes place in lots of the smaller towns and villages in Italy. A town often has more than one per year, and each festival has a food 'theme', so to speak. It could be pasta, a type of meat or a particular vegetable. The sagra that we went to was in a small town called  Casalnuovo in the 'Subappennino Dauno' zone between Puglia and Molise. And their choice of food for said Sagra? Boar. My word it was simply delicious. (Even if I did feel a bit sad seeing the picture of the boar and then, well, eating it)

After walking through the little streets (following our noses of course) we came across a plaza with lots of big tables and a marque with a long queue of people (who knew, maybe Italians can queue!). We joined the line, paid our 10 euros, and ended up with a (rather school canteen-like) tray full of amazing food. Pasta, meat and contorno- the vegetables/salad that accompany your meat. And bread of course. No meal in Italy is complete without bread.

close up of food
very very happy Amy eating food
 The meat was absolutely exquisite. I was full to bursting by the end but kept nibbling on the pasta. I just couldn't resist it! After filling our bellies we went and watched some dancing. We didn't join in due to my excessive consumption of food. Maybe next time! Because we will be going to another one of these festivals. I'm still dreaming about the amazing pasta even now...


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Oh we do like to be beside the seeeaaasiiiiiide...ALL of us!!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the beach? I've also proabably said several times how much I'm fond of Italians. And summer holidays.

But beach+Italians+summer holidays?

Good grief. 

Now, as it's August, and especially around the time of Ferragosto, Italians flock to the beach. And I mean, why shouldn't they? They're on holiday and the beach is the only place to really cool off when it's 40 degrees. They take their towels, their beach bags, their picnic, their children/aunts/uncles/grandparents, their rubber rings and then another 20 beach bags just in case. My boyfriend's brother even takes a mini slide for the little ones. (It is quite adorable watching them splash about) This means that the beach gets super crowded. And I mean super crowded.

Like I said, I heart the beach. But I may avoid the lidi during this busy period. As much as I try to absorb myself in my book (more Sophie English this time, shame on me), it's no use. I become one with the mass. Bring on September, slightly cooler (hopefully) temperatures and not-so-crowded beaches :D

Lots of folk (but ohhh look at the gorgeous sky...)
The sea's over there somewhere
Can you tell the Italian feet from the English feet?!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Pasta con pomodori e melanzane

I haven't done a pasta recipe for a while. So, here's one! This is, like most of the other recipes I put on my blog, is really simple. But it tastes so good! I asked the boyfriend if it has a special name. Unfortunately it doesn't, so it just translates as 'pasta with tomatoes and aubergine'. Original.

Here's what you need:  

 (I forgot to write on 'pasta' (it's the heat), but by then it was too you also need 'pasta'.... :D )

1. First, chop up the aubergine into very small pieces.

2. Put the aubergine in a pan with the garlic (chopped) and oil. Add a little water to the ingredients and cook until the aubergine almost becomes a sort of puree. (You can always puree the aubergine in an electric mixer if you want. I don't have one of these. *Wish list*)

3. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add to the pan. Cook for another minute or so.

4. Add salt, a handful of chopped parsley, a little grated Parmesan and if you fancy a bit of a kick, a little chili too.

5. Boil the pasta in salted water, add to the pan and cook for a minute to get the two nice and mixed up.

6. Eat! I sprinkled an extra load of Parmesan on mine. Mmmm...

Monday, 20 August 2012

A mini Monday blog!

Mini blog post today!

Just a couple of things to mention. Firstly, I have been featured on this fantastic expat website:

You can read my interview (and then check out the rest of the website) HERE!

Secondly, you may have noticed the little extra bar at the top of my blog with silly things like 'about me' and 'find me online' on them. Well, they are new. So click on them! :D I have been experimenting with blogger features (oo-er) and creating 'stand alone pages'. (Seriously, I don't have a clue what I'm talking about). Anyway, have a look! Anything else you think I should (attempt to) add? Let me know!

And finally, I've been busy putting together a couple of yummy food-related posts. So watch out for those.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A place to stay in Rome?

Last weekend myself and my man decided that driving from Puglia to Rome and back again was just too much to do in one day. So, we decided to stay the night in Rome. Just look at this fantastic place we found!

 The Hotel Selva Candida is a great place to stay if you are keen on avoiding the busy streets and smog of the city centre. There's public transport to and from the centre though, so if your comfortable using the bus and metro, it's perfect. It's also only about 15/20 minutes from Fiumicino airport.

The hotel seems like it's in its own little piece of the countryside, and the decor inside is gorgeous. The staff are friendly and helpful and the prices are very reasonable indeed. We paid €50 for the room (which was incredibly clean and consisted of not only a bedroom, but a very decent sized bathroom and an extra room with a sofa and desk), including breakfast. And what a breakfast it was: cake, croissants, cereal, fruit, bread, yogurt etc etc. There's also a big car park (free and no need for a reservation).

There doesn't seem to be much in terms of things to do in the immediate area, but there are a couple of places to eat, including a great pizzeria just along the road from the hotel. I had some of the best bruschetta ever. And the tiramisu? Out of this world.

So if you're looking for somewhere a bit more tranquilla whilst in Rome, go to Selva Candida. Have a look at the official website here!

Buona domenica!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Coffee...part DUE

So here you have it. A (rather very delayed) part 2 of my post on coffee. Do have a look HERE if you haven't yet read part 1! It's 'stimulating' stuff...! (rolls eyes at self)

So what kind of coffees do people go for here? Well, of course, there's the caffe or espresso. A strong shot of coffee which will definitely wake you up.

If this is a bit to strong for you (believe me, it's pretty strong) then you can add a dash of foam to make a macchiato. Or, a tad more milk and you've got yourself an espressino- my personal favourite. Sometimes they ask you if you want a dash of cocoa on top. I always say yes.

If even this is a bit too strong, or not 'long' enough, you can ask for a Latte con caffe. Don't just ask for a latte, or all you'll get is milk!

Then there's the cappuccino. Perfect with breakfast in the morning. I've heard a lot of people going on about how you 'can't possibly drink it after midday, it's just not Italian!'. Well, I say if you want one, have one. When you drink your cappuccino won't give away that you aren't Italian- I'm sure the locals will know that even before you've opened your mouth to order!

Then, when it gets all hot and sweaty in the summer months, you can go for a colder option- the crema di caffe or slightly more elaborate espressino freddo. Both are like a thick, creamy, coffee ice cream/milkshake type thing. In other words: awesome.

Down here in the south, you'll get some water with your coffee. This is gratis and often sparkling, so if you want naturale, make sure you ask for it. Whether you should drink it before or after your coffee I'm not really sure, but I do know that it's nice and refreshing after a strong espresso!

So how many coffees a day do people drink here? Well, quite a lot. Several of my students have told me that they drink 5 or 6 a day. Good grief! I can manage a maximum of 3, and even then I feel a bit queasy (although right before the queasiness comes 'animated, excitable and twitchy Amy'). My boyfriend isn't awake without a coffee in the morning, and my colleague can't open a textbook without having knocked one back. And she's not even Italian!!

Whatever type of coffee you want, it can be made for you. And it doesn't cost that much, especially round here. No more than €1 for a caffe. Drink it in the morning, before and after lunch, after your afternoon nap (yes, really) or before you head off on a night out. But don't expect a nice big cup full of it. It's short, sharp, tasty and oh-so-effective. None of those bucket-fulls that you get at Costa (sorry Costa....)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Thick skin required!

I've often talked about cultural differences between Italy and the UK. Many of which are pleasant differences. Some of which are not. Yesterday, I had the misfortune of discovering another negative. Upon meeting a member of my boyfriend's family whilst out and about, the conversation we had went something like this:

Member of Family (Mof): Ciao Amy!! Wecome back!
Me: Ciao! Thanks! How's it going?
Mof: Well, thanks. Ahh, you've put on weight! (BAM!)
Me: I don't think... (cue defensiveness: The mediterranean diet actually suits me very well. And I didn't eat that many of mum's puddings while at home.)
Mof: Yes, yes you've put on weight! (DOUBLE BAM!)
Me: Oh well, maybe...I don't know...
Mof: Oh don't worry, I have too. So, when did you arrive back in Italy?
Me: Sorry? (loud, live music in background)
Mof: Have you forgotten all of your Italian while you've been away?! (and finally, TRIPLE BAM!)

After discussing this conversation at length with my boyfriend (which was mainly made up of him telling me that I look no different/slim/lovely), it turns out that mentioning one's weight, in both a positive and negative way is actually, well, OK here. It can also be positive to say that you've put on weight, because it means you look 'healthy'. Hmm, not too sure about that. As I'm sure many other women agree, mentioning weight, especially added weight, is just a big, fat (!) no no.Just don't do it. Ever. Luckily, claiming that someone has put on weight (to their face) in the UK is a pretty big faux pas. And of course, rather rude.

So, whether she is right or not (not...) it seems that one must put on their thick skin when it comes to body comments. Because they may come your way. With a great big BAM. 

Now, what's for lunch? ;)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

sunshine and tomatoes vs...Poirot and cookies?

I woke up this morning wondering about the weather. Would it be:

a) chucking it down with rain
b) drizzling
c) yucky and cloudy

Well, the answer was actually d) none of the above. Why? Because I'm now back in Italy. And in fact, I woke up to glorious sunshine. And soon I will go for a tasty coffee. And then I might make (or nicely ask the boyfriend to make) a lovely Italian lunch.

But before I get carried away and you start thinking I'm a UK hater, I'm not. Do I love living in Italy? Yes. Do I thoroughly dislike UK weather? Oh, yes. But there's much more to the UK than some grey clouds and a little-known sporting event that just took place in our capital. I have decided to create a list of all the things that I love (and already miss) about the UK. So here it is.

1. My family, of course. They are there and I am here. This does not please me greatly. If only I could have my nan out here making endless cups of tea. 

2. Marks and Spencers. Love the food. Anything made by M&S will taste good. Fact. I managed to bring back a few packs of M&S cookies in my suitcase. They may now be crumbs. But they will still taste good. 

 3. Pub food/Thai food/Cheese and pickle sandwiches. There is a distinct absence of foreign cuisine in these parts, and my word do I miss it sometimes, particularly Thai food. Oh, and pub food is just good. Good, hearty stodge. See picture below for the appeal of cheese and pickle. 

4. Eavesdropping. In Italy, I don't do it. (Mainly because a lot of the time I don't understand and it's too much effort...ahem). In the UK I find myself doing it twice as much. Maybe to make up for it. Or maybe I'm just nosey. I actually heard a elderly couple discussing the use of the 'n' word in M&S. Well.

5.Poirot. And other amazing drama series that we have on telly. Have a look here for more of my favourites....

6. High street shops. Primark, you make me oh-so-happy. Especially when I got to the counter and found out that a cute little purse that cost practically nothing in the first place was now half price. Ahhh. Other high street faves of mine include Card Factory (10 cards for a pound?!How insanely useful is that!), Superdrug and ASDA. I'm aware I may sound like I have a painkiller addiction when I say this but... 25p for paracetamol?! It almost makes me wish I had a headache. Almost.

7. Banter with shop assistants. To the guy in Oxford's EAT: Your crisp-related banter and cheery attitude thoroughly amused me. 

8. Politeness. Not that Italians are rude but....well, sometimes they can seem that way. Nice British gents holding the door open for you? Casual chit chat as you wait to go through airport security? Waitresses in cafes and restaurants actually smiling at you? Lovely. 

But now, as to stop myself from getting somewhat homesick and craving a day of Poirot watching, tea drinking and M&S biscuit scoffing with my mum, here are a few things that I'm glad to once again be able to enjoy:

The sunshine
Eating my crushed M&S biscuits while sitting in said sunshine and drinking said coffee. 

What are the things that you love most about going home?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Packed and ready! Well, almost...

So, my time in the UK has almost come to an end. But there's one more thing that needs to be done before I go.

No, not another episode of Poirot....

I must, of course, pack my bag. 20kg of hold baggage and 10kg of cabin baggage, all meticulously (hah!) arranged into my big and little cases respectively, and then carefully weighed (to see how much more I can stuff in...)

Well...I may have accidentally purchased some second hand books from some wonderful second hand bookshops in Tewkesbury. 

5 too many. Woops. This will not help my packing situation. But I can't resist cheap, second hand paperbacks when I see them. I will find a way.

P.S I also came across a little shop called Kalliste on the High Street. You can find lots of fantastic jewellery, clothing and other lovely bits and bobs. (Check them out on Facebook here.) I couldn't resist this gorgeous bracelet. And only £1?! Good grief!