Thursday, 21 November 2013

Language matters...

Hi folks!
So, this Brit has had some small issues with language recently.  Not with my own language (although this does happen sometimes...particularly early in the morning) but with that lovely lingua italiana. In Italian, there are several different forms of 'you'- the familiar, the formal and the plural. Seeing as recently I have found myself in many more situations where the formal 'you' is required, I have had to do a lot of practise. There have been errors and moments of utter confusion, but I am finally getting better at it. Ahh, if only Italian were an 'only one you is necessary' language like English, where you can address your best friend and the Queen in exactly the same manner. Not that I talk to the Queen much. Ahem. 

To explain the formal/familiar 'you' idea better, here's this lovely Italian lady:

Have any of you had any Italian language related issues?

Ciao for now!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Fancy a stroll in Tuscany?

Italy is full of diverse and beautiful landscapes, but there are few places that top the wonderful scenery of Tuscany. While I am a fan of the south, (I live down here in Puglia), Tuscany is one of my favourite parts of Italy. Rolling hills, miles upon miles of olive groves and vineyards, not to mention the many charming little towns and villages, many of which have a long and interesting history.

One of the things that draws people to Tuscany is undoubtedly the choice of walking routes. Exploring the winding roads by car is one thing, but really getting to know the landscape is best done on foot. So in this post, I'm going to be reviewing a helpful little guide to some of the best and most beautiful walks in Tuscany.

Walker's Tuscany In a Box (Duncan Petersen Publishing) comes, unsurprisingly, in a small box, and is made up of individual cards. Each card covers one walk in a particular part of Tuscany. The box itself is a nice size, isn't too heavy, and would easily fit in a small rucksack. If you were keen on just carrying one or two cards, then these would fit comfortably in a larger coat pocket. The box states that the cards are more convenient that a book or hand held device, and if you're on some of the more remote tracks, this is definitely true, particularly for the latter.

There are 35 original walks, and it's claimed that 'no skill is needed' to use the cards. For someone like me who doesn't exactly have the best sense of direction, this fills me with comfort! On each card there is a simple map , detailed directions which include landmarks and exact distances to travel. You are also provided with a green 'introductory' card which also gives you a decent amount of information on practical matters such as what clothing to wear and safety tips. They are also honest in saying that you will also need a larger map as well as the more basic one they provide.

The cards themselves are in a rough geographical order, and are also categorised by 'level', into easy, easy/moderate, moderate and the slightly daunting sounding 'strenuous'. The majority are easy or moderate, so for me they would be perfect, but for someone looking for more challenging walks, this guide may not be exactly what you want. The cards also tell you how long the walk will take, giving you an indication of either a half day or full day. Select your walk by looking at the map key on the green introductory card and finding the corresponding card number. Easy or what?

Each card also has a general overview of the walk, as well as useful information on rest stops or how to get to the starting point. It also tells you of any steeper climbs, which is useful if you, like me, prefer a limited amount of those! The pack also contains a very handy plastic cover that you can use to keep any rain or moisture off the cards, which are fairly durable anyway. It would be nice to have a one which was double the size however, and could cover the whole card once it is opened out (many of the cards open out and have 4 sides to them). The writing is also a little small, so those who may not have the best eyesight may find it a strain on their eyes. However, these cards are designed to be compact, so smaller text is to be expected.

All in all, these cards seem to be very useful indeed. There is a wide choice of walks which cover almost all of the region of Tuscany, and it is evident that they have all been well researched and thought out. Recommended!

Now, where are those walking boots of mine....

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Savoury delights...

Hello everyone!

I bet you're all wondering whether I've actually stopped eating, seeing as I haven't posted some yummy food pics on here for a while. Never fear though, as I have been well and truly stuffing my face with some Italian culinary delights recently (what a lovely image...) and do I have a treat for you today! Instead of my usual obsession with dolce, I have decided to go down the savoury route. A little while ago, I decided to pop into my local butchers shop to get some lunch. Now, as well as selling big chunks of meat, the nice butcher also does some dishes that are gia fatto, or already prepared. For a lazybones like me, this seemed to be a perfect solution. Yes, I want to eat delicious Italian food, but do I have the time, energy and most importantly, skills to prepare it? The answer, particularly to the latter, is no. So in I went, and I picked up the most delicious mushroom pasta I have ever eaten! So delicious in fact, that I forgot to take a photo before it was too late, and the whole thing ended up in my tum. Oops. However, a couple of days later, when I was feeling decidedly less lazy, I had a go at re-creating this spectacular dish. With some mushrooms, a little olive oil, a clove of garlic, a glug of white wine, salt, pepper and a dollop of cream cheese, I came up with this:

While it wasn't a patch on the butcher's pasta, I reckon I whipped up a pretty tasty lunch. The only thing I didn't have was parsley, which would have made it even better.

Something that I haven't had for a while is sausage and mash. This classic British dish is a favourite of mine, and every so often, I do get a craving for a taste of home. So, myself and my man whipped up an Italian equivalent, using some yummy pugliese sausage. It may not have been like my mum makes it, but it satisfied my cravings!

And just to add to this lovely list of savoury delights, I must include some Italian pizza. I don't think any description is needed...

OK, I said it was a savoury list but come know me by now. A bit of dolce simply HAS to make its way into this post somehow. It may not be Christmas just yet, but panettone and pandoro are starting to creep into the shops and supermarkets. And this little blighter just JUMPED into my shopping basket. Ahem.

Have a good rest of the week! :D