Molfetta

Why Molfetta? Why not? I had heard good things about this seaport on the Adriatic, and just decided to go with it!

Now getting to the town was a breeze, however finding our hotel was more challenging. With a location in the historic center came to mean that there were more alleyways than streets.

So the GPS took me to a Piazza, then decided it was going to take a rest. I found a sort of central agency (Municipio), where the man inside said he did not know the street San Girolamo. Holy smolly, you from here, and do not know it. I am in trouble!

He did locate it, and I took a photo. So if you notice on the diagram Largo Municipo, and go left on Via Morte, San Girolamo is next up. He instructed me to go through an archway, the entrance to the historic centre.

 

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Finding Waldo (Girolamo)

What he did not tell me was that these streets are not really driveable. They are narrow, and the house steps make it tougher. So I find the infamous archway, excitedly go down Via Piazza, and it gets tighter and tighter.

Soon a man is directing me to turn to back up and make a left. I want out. So I have to go down a road and now I am by the sea. I can see the docks, which would be an easy out, but there is a chained gate. Naturally!

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I drove down this street right past our hotel on the right!

So I must retrace my route, go through the archway, and then turn right to end up by the docks. We then have to ask, and end up walking down the same road I came down. I had gone right passed the hotel, but there was no parking permitted!

I tell you this because I swear I am not going to let this happen again when I am driving in Italy, and lo and behold, it does. Dai.. (Italian for a drawn out expressive – why me!)

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Sea view

So we are in the historic center, which is adjacent to the harbour. Molfetta once operated as an independent seaport, trading with other Mediterranean markets like Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople. It also became a point of departure for pilgrims going to the Holy Land. The Crusades added to the importance of embarkation from this town.

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There was a sense that the fisherman we saw represented generations of those in the same profession. Just hard working men. There were some luxury boats, but for the most part this was serious stuff. They tended to their nets, spend their free time in the evening on board preparing for the next day, and with patience needed to dock, bring their catch in to and take to the nearby market.

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Being in their proximity, then having a frutti di mare with fresh octopus at dinner, brought a respect for those who harvest the sea.

We need reminded more often that our food does not come from the grocery store.

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Il Doumo di San Corrado was built in the 12th-13th centuries, and was right next to our hotel. We saw three or four weddings over a period of two days. It was very barebones as far as decor goes, but nonetheless pointed to the era in which it was built. The two towers loom above the church, and one was a bell tower, the other a watchtower.

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Il Duomo di San Corrado

We enjoyed seeing the interior courtyards, and the baptismal fonts. It was obvious we were in a place of antiquity and of historical significance.  Molfetta did not deliver us to our hotel in the beginning, but did deliver us a great ending.

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North and South

“Siri, set alarm for 4 am.” Taxi shows up promptly at 5 am for early jaunt to Verona airport. 6:45 takeoff and one hour and five minutes later we land in Bari on the Adriatic Coast.

Fetching our luggage was a non issue. We were 2 of 6 who checked luggage as rest carried on. And soon we were off in our Fiat 500 L.

img_0763We headed straight for Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While this was a town of the conical roof shaped houses, along the way we saw more truly, some occupied and some abandoned.

What an impressive sir! We saw massive olive groves surrounded by white stone walls along the way.  The corners of the fields sometimes has fallen trulli.

Puglia looks like Puglia. It is unique with its cities of whiteashed stone basking in the sun. The trulli make it unlike by far the square shaped Tuscan colored homes.

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We then headed for home base, which is Molfetta on the Adriatic Coast. Very statuesque, very sea like with breakers and an array of boats –  from recreational to row boats to serious fishing vessels.

Looking forward to exploring Molfetta more, and sharing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When did you Arrive in Verona, Italy?

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Market Day in Piazza Erbe

 

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Piazza Erbe

On the train to Verona we passed Desenzano del Garda, on Lake Garda. This was at 3:30, or 15:30 p m on Tuesday, September 20th. This is close to the Porta Nuovo Station in Verona.

Began Monday with late afternoon flight to JFK. Then an Emirates cross Atlantic flight to Milan. Took a train to the central train station in Milan. Last was a train from Milan to Verona. Did I mention the taxi ride to our stay in Verona?

Now I have to hand it to Emirates. Start you off with a moist toilette. To boot, they have a camera on the front of the craft to show takeoffs and landings. Food. Well they sort of get it, but how much do you have to do to surpass the other airlines? So,they “get it on a lot of levels.” Get it?

We were pretty fortunate in that everything worked out well. We discovered the Trentilia ticket kiosk was only taking cash from a gypsy, willing to help you get your train ticket, for a small price of course. But it was worth it, for without her help we miss the train. Waiting in line to get a ticket takes forever as there was one window open!!!

That did mean hustling to  the right binario, carozza (car), seat, and getting our luggage stored on the train. We could not hear the stops nor see the signs outside the window, however it turned out the man sitting next to us, l lawyer trying a case in Milan, was from Verona!

When we did arrive, our gracious host Federica was there to greet us. We toured the newly renovated apartments. All I can say is wow! Check out how her hard work paid off.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187871-d290667-Reviews-s1-L_ospite_di_Federica_De_Rossi-Verona_Province_of_Verona_Veneto.html

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Arena di Verona, Piazza Bra

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So I have bee up for about 2 days. Did manage to walk from PIazza Erbe to Piazza Bra. Madonna has an apartment in beautiful PIazza Bra. Verona has the third largest colosseum in  Europe. Adele perfomed here last summer.

Now Verona is famous for being home to Romeo and Juliet. In c ourtyard you can see both the balcony of Shakespeare fame, and the statue of “Giulietta.” Notice that her breast is shiny. Good luck to hold onto it. Love see the elderly Italian men and women, get next to her for a photo!

When coming to Verona, getting an afternoon “Spritz” with some potato chips and olives, and sitting at an outdoor cafe at Piaza Bra or Piazza Erbe is pretty doggone special. It is definitely a tradition of the Cardone and Miller family women.

So the Spritz is made of Aperol or Campari, white wine, throw in some San Pellefrino, and garnish with an orange. Refreshing.

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Birra alla Spina e’ Lo Spritz

And one last story. Birra all Spina is just beer from the tap or “spine.” Last time in Verona we went to a wine bar that had great little crostini. I liked the beer glass, and this time remembered to ask if I could buy one. The bartender wraps it beautifully, and says “my gift to you!” Being engaging, trying to speak language, asking for advice all brings out the genuine warmth of the Italian people!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza in the Italy Plan

Now that my head is full of made up words & numbers – confirmation numbers, flight numbers, passwords – and my  virtual wallet is jammed with credit cards, boarding passes, and bookings, it is time to focus on what is important.

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And what would that be? PIZZA. I try to do some research in advance on the best each city has to offer in pizza. Some are repeats – but that is ok because it was good and that is never a bad thing.

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Yet how can something that is made of flour, water, salt, and yeast deliver? The pizza is light and airy, hangs over your plate, and appeals to the eye in every way!

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Perhaps because taking the simplicity of making the dough, adding quality ingredients combined with the art of cooking in a wood-fired oven at 900 degrees – well am i making my point?

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The passion with which the Pizzaiolo or maker of pizza in Italy speaks of their trade, well it takes it to another level.

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I have visited the Caputo Flour Factory in Naples, saw a 5th generation maker of mozzarella di bufula, went to Acunto Napoli where they have built wood fired ovens for 4 generations, and heard a lecture from a professor at the University of Naples speak about EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). If that is not taking serious this art, and it is an art, then what is?

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So i will begin in Verona where I have learned of a pizzeria called Sapore. Sapore means wisdom, and perhaps the pizza rises to the occasion because of the wisdom of owner Renato Bosco. He is considered one of the great bread making experts in Italy.

I have known of a pizzeria in the Amalfi Coast called Da Cardone – yes the same name as mine. When I booked a hotel in the town of Vico Equense, I did not know that this pizzeria was 6 blocks from where we are staying!!

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I am fortunate to return to Naples, where I trained to become a Pizzaiolo. I worked with owner Rosario Piscopo, and very much look forward to returning to see my co-workers at Mondo Pizza.

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I am going to leave some suprises for you. Honestly there are so many great pizzerias in Naples, that I cannot possibly get to all of them.

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Pulcinella Statue in Naples

That being said, I am going to have to rely on the wisdom of Pulcinella to guide me when I make the final decision on who gets the nod in Naples. He often guides me in choosing which pizzas to make at home, and gets a shout out when things go according to plan.

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Falling for Italy

So it is time to go to Italy again. Not going on vacation in the summer means waiting. However, now that autumn is here, the very first fall trip has arrived.

 

They say that the week before vacation is the most productive week of your year. I know it and believe it! Or perhaps it is a purposeful postponement of packing – Dai!!! (Italian for ugh).

I hope to provide a journal of this trip. My one disappointment last time was that I was not able to provide pictures in real time, and had to wait until I returned to add them. We will see what happens.

There has been a lot of rain in Italy one the past month, and I mean torrential type. In the town of Rionero in Vulture in southern Italy, which is the Cardone hometown, the rain has been pouring down the steep steps of the city and onto the streets. Yesterday in the north in Florence it was a day of heavy rains.

Let us hope it has run its course. The fall seems to be similar to Pittsburgh – a little cooler at night, and in the 80 degree range during the day.

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Why You Go to Italy!

This trip will be somewhat different from some previous ones. The Emirate airline deal was a great one, however the result was flying in and out of  Milan. The trip will be one of planes, trains, and automobiles.

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Verona

Upon arriving in Milan Malpensa Airport, one needs to take the bus to the city and Milan Central Station.  Then it is  a two hour train ride to Verona, our first stop. This line runs Milan east to Venice.

Our host Federica DeRossi, makes the visit there a special one. She suggests great side trips, such a Vallegio Sul Mincio, or Sirmeone on Lake Garda. Federica knows the best restaurants, and is always on point. And nothing beats having a Spritz in Piazza Erbe in the late afternoon.

 

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Piazza Erbe, Verona

Our stay in Verona will be for 2 days. I alway act like I will be there for a month, and plan to do more than is possible. It is afterall, the time of the vendemmia, and Verona is the home to Valpolicella, and a taste of a Ripasso or an Amarone is obligatory!

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From Verona, we will be flying to Bari, on the Adriatic Coast in Southern Italy. There are a number of low cost air carriers, and the prices are very reasonable. The flight is a little over an hour. Since we are in Italy a limited number of days, this serves to cut down on driving or going by train.

I will post again when we reach Verona!

 

 

Day 34. Fare un Viaggio in Italia

Tuscany
Tuscany

Remember in Italian you “make a trip,” you do not take a trip. So the word fare, meaning to make is used to describe a journey. Make a trip to Italy (yes in is used when referring to a country),

After hearing about my trip to Italy, so many people react in this way – “We need to go there!” Well okay, then start to plan. They ask lots of questions, such as:

  • How much will it cost?
  • When is a good time to go?
  • How long should I stay?
  • Where should I go?
  • What are the must cities and sites to see?

When do you want to go? When is the best time to go?

When do you want to go? Next year. That is 12 months. I advise setting aside $100-$200 per month. That gives you a start toward at least your flight, which is the largest lump sum of money you have to come up with.

Swiss Guards at Vatican
Swiss Guards at Vatican

Spring and fall are the very best times to visit Italy. It is less crowded. Europe is expecting record tourists this summer, largely due to favorable exchange rates.

The heat of the summer can be tough. Remember standing in line to go to see the museums and churches during the busiest and hottest times of the year can put a damper on a day.

How long should I stay? Where should I go?

How much time do you have? Sandwich 5 work days between 2 weekends and you have 9 days. Subtract 2 for travel, and you have 7. So I would add 3-5 more in. You always reach that point of – I am ready to go home, but you need to allocate in there travel time whether by car or train.

The good news is that the trains are on time and if you take the fast train – well from Rome to Florence is 2 hours. Not bad.

Lake Garda
Lake Garda

I really like having either the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terra on the list of things to do. If you cannot swing either, then put Lake Como or Lake Garda on your itinerary. Hey why not do all 4. Yes, why not.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Florence is at the top of my list as far as major cities. Can walk to the museums and churches. Just start at the Duomo, which you cannot miss in the sky. climbing the Duomo is a challenge but the view spectacular. Read up on places like the Ponte Vecchio, the Bargello, and Santa Croce.

If Florence is first. what is another must see? Surely you know Rome is necessary if you are a first timer. A few times we skipped Rome after seeing it. There is so much to see and do there, and that all takes time.

Spanish Steps, Rome
Spanish Steps, Rome

We have been fortunate to have made friends with Mauro who owns a winery outside of Florence, and Federica, who takes us to a winery and olive oil producing estate in Verona.

Corte Figaretto Winery

Statue of Juliet in Verona
Statue of Juliet in Verona

Often I am asked about Venice. You will not regret going to Venice. So picturesque is this city built on a lagoon, that it merits a stay. However, If you have been there before, I do not feel there is a need to go each time. Taking the train and then getting on the Vaporetto or water taxi to your desired location is preferable.

Stai Tranquillo/Stay Calm

You really need time to relax, whether you sit by the pool at an agriturismo in the evening or just take a day to rewind.

Biking on Walls of Lucca
Biking on Walls of Lucca

Do something different. Our group took a horseback riding lesson one day. How neat is that? My brother saw the Eagles perform in Lucca. There is also a wall that surrounds the city of Lucca. You can rent a bike and get a great view of the city. I know a friend who went to the Ferrari Auto Headquarters, and drove a Ferrari (for a price) on their racetrack.

Relax Outdoor Cafe
Relax Outdoor Cafe
Take a Pool Day
Take a Pool Day

Italians are only in a rush on the roads. They encourage Americans to stay calm, relax, it can wait. Sit in the piazza with a spritz and enjoy the sunshine and do some people watching. Take a day to sit by the pool.

How much does it cost?

Flights are between $1200-$1300. Meals are inexpensive and of high quality. Italians have their espresso and a cornetto or brioche for a few euro in the morning. On the menu their is a first and second course. Choosing one, most often the pasta course is filling enough.

The cost of rooms can vary. Booking. com is a good way to gauge how much you want to spend. I tend to look for something in a city that is clean, reasonably priced, and has a good location. The agriturismo is very affordable if you use it as a base and stay a few days. An apartment that sleeps 2-4 can be very affordable.

Agriturismo Locanda Rosati, Orvieto
Agriturismo Locanda Rosati, Orvieto

Then there is shopping. It is hard to resist, and so your budget will be challenged if you cannot resist. I try to buy small gifts that I can put in my carry on. You can bring back 3 bottles of wine, or limoncello, or liquor.

Day 33. Pizza Ogni Giorno


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Sam Patti’s motto at La Prima Espresso in the Strip District in Pittsburgh is “Cappuccino Ogni Giorno.” Coffee everyday.  Now we are more likely to have coffee daily but not pizza – concordo (I agree) but that does not mean we do not think about having pizza on a daily basis.

“If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

How many times in your life were you unsure about a path, but found that if you picked one it ended up getting you there – okay you define there. In my example, going down the route of pizza once I looked for a new career – well here I am. From backyard pizza maker to working in some of the best pizzeria’s in this city to certified Pizzaiolo by way of Naples, Italy.

I honestly never had a desire to be second best in anything that I attempted. If I was going to learn how to do something, I strived to be near or at the top. I am just wired that way. Call it competitive, but i just say, “game on.” Be relevant.

IMG_0926When I asked Maestro Gennaro (top left in the picture) at Pizza School how to do a certain technique, his response was – “it took me 20 years to learn everything I do.”

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I have to do it in a lot less time. If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes. The Iditarod is a sled dog race that begins in Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast. It covers over 1,000 miles. Well if you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

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Making pizza comes down to one thing – PASSIONE! It is the main ingredient –  to try to make every pizza special, to have that person say, “this is the best I have ever had.” One person who has that passion is Anthony at Pizza Taglio. He gave up his job as a lawyer to do what he had dreamt of always doing. He makes every pizza that comes out of that oven. He will talk to you for hours about the process. I was able to deliver an Antico Caputo apron to him on a recent visit, which I obtained at the factory in Naples. He did not hesitate, put it right on, and beamed from ear to ear. That is a guy who loves what he is doing!

I have been fortunate to find a home at Mambo Italia in Sewickley. We really try to be first class. The dough is made daily. We use the ingredients that are required by the AVPN to be designated as Vera Pizza Napoletana.

Additionally, we strive to improve how we do things. We had a nutella pizza, and it was good.

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Recently we took it to another level, adding bananas, raspberries, and chocolate drizzle. With the artistic and decorative touch of Ann, we took it to another level!

So I came back from Naples with a greater appreciation for the making of pizza in the traditional way. Seeing that it really has not changed very much over time makes it an artisanal approach. The oven floor is still measured by the palm of the hand.

IMG_0936The truest measure of a great pizza is still the Marinara and the Margherita. Some things should just not be messed with, and I was pretty lucky to have learned that first hand. Look and see if your next pizza has that lightness and puffiness of air in the crest like the picture below.

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