Wednesday 26 October 2016

Italian Festa in Lygon St. 2016

It was cold, windy and a little wet for the 2016 Carlton Italian Festa in Lygon St. Melbourne. However we decided we needed to go so we drove for nearly 2 1/2 hours to get there, stayed for 3 hours then drove for 2 1/2 hours home again. It is definitely more fun when the weather is sunny but we still had a great time.

There was music to please young and old.

Lots of wonderful Italian food treats.

Cooking demonstrations - the first was arancini - Messina style

      - the second was black gnocchi with gorgonzola, raddicchio and vin cotto

Displays included historic Vespas, a range of Italian cars, Juventus football club, Italian historic & educational institutions and food preparation such as salami making and much, much more.

We always enjoy visiting the Centre for Italian Studies stand to see the wonderful young and enthusiastic staff. This year they had Pinocchio and gondola races for the children and stickers for all students. This year mine said Brava! (even old and ex students are part of the family of CIS :))

No matter what the weather, you can't miss the Carlton Italian Festa for a great day (and night) out, even if you do only go for a short while and miss seeing Anthony Callea!

Wednesday 5 October 2016

My Top Five Gelaterie in Rome

There are dozens of web sites and blogs listing the top 5 or top 10 gelati outlets in Rome, and of course I had looked at them many times.

Gelato is an institution in Italy and many Italians male & female, old & young, summer or winter, have a daily gelato. Tourists of course want to experience this Italian delight too and this is the reason for so many bits of web advice.

There is gelato and gelato, so you need to be sure you are getting artigianale gelato - artisan crafted. Avoid all those vivid colours and containers piled high with lots of decorations and go for the natural products hand made in small quantities to guarantee freshness and quality.

These are my top suggestions for a really good gelato in Rome.

1. Fatamorgana - in Monti and Trastevere.

Their gelato is fresh, smooth, of good consistence, tasty and creative. They have such a wonderful variety of flavours that you want to return again and again. In 2014 their Trastevere gelateria was our regular stop and this year we went to the Monte shop especially to once again experience top quality gelato.
We highly recommend the fennel, honey & licorice, the grape and nuts, the green tea and the coconut.

2. Gelateria del Teatro - near Piazza Navona

This very well rated gelateria is nicely situated with some old stairs beside the shop which become a seating area for happily licking customers. This place is so busy that they ask you to take a ticket at the door and to have the correct change ready to pay. The wait is well worth it because the quality is excellent and the variety is huge. That is, in fact, your biggest problem, making up your mind which flavours to have before your number is called.
We fully recommend peach & lavender, limone, and zenzero (ginger)

3. GROM - inside Termini Station

GROM has a different approach to most other gelateria with their gelati in stainless steel bins with lids. This means you can't see what they look like. I also thought the texture was a little stretchy when it was being served but it ate well so no real issues. This gelato was exteremely tasty with some interesting flavours but not such a huge or imaginative range.
Recommendations are almond nougat and salted caramel. Both had good sized pieces of the nougat or caramel in the gelato which gave nice flavour bursts.

4. Gelateria Valentino - near Trevi Fountain

This gelateria has a long history and the husband and wife team running it have a wonderful quiet rapport with the clients. The quality of the gelato was very pleasing and we enjoyed this experience.
Recommendations - the passionfruit was 'to die for' and the Oreo and tiramisu were both perfect.

5. Il Gelato di San Crispino - near Trevi Fountain

San Crispino also has a tradition behind it, which was further enhanced by the success of the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert and the movie of the book starring Julia Roberts.
We were the only people in the shop when we were there and the overall experience was passive - not a lot of interesting flavours, ordinary service and no charm. The photos tell the story!
Recommended are caramel & meringue, honey and the ginger & cinnamon.

We taste tested these five gelaterie in three quick visits to Rome this year. Previously we have been to another well recommended gelateria - Il Gelato Fior di Luna in Trastevere. I would rate it above San Crispino.
I still remember the delicious lingering taste of their licorice gelato.

The Great Gelati Challenge 2016

Last year's Great Gelati Challenge was so much fun that this year we were determined to live up to the challenge again. Now it might seem simple to exceed 66 different gelati flavours in eleven weeks, but the reality is that you have to really search out new flavours as the weeks go by.

You quickly taste all the flavours available in smaller gelaterie and you need to expand your circle, also certain areas are known for certain flavours so some long distance travel is needed. Gelato flavours can also be seasonal.

Needing to beat last year's figure of 66, we set to work on our first day in Italy by visiting one of the top gelaterie in Rome. So many choices and so exceptionally good!    [More on this in a later post on the Top 5]

Gelateria del Teatro, Rome

You might need a bib to read the following list! Some names are in English & some in Italian with explanation. Some don't have a translation but are names given by individual gelato makers for their own creations, and occasionally I forgot to make a note!

White peach & lavender
Mandorla latte (almond milk)
Sicillian cassata
Ricotta & caramelized fig
Bianco kiss
La Vie en Rose
Creme di Diaffiu
Zuppa Inglese (a type of trifle)
Pesce (peach)
Gianduja (similar to Nutella)
Nocciola (hazelnut)
Caffe Viennese
Stracciatella (chocolate chip)
Coco (coconut)

La Pergola at Olmini, Macchie, Umbria

Mele verde (green apple)
Polvere di Stelle - star dust!
Amareno (dark cherry)
Fior di arancia (milk based orange blossom flavour)
Extra rich chocolate
Fragola (strawberry)
Gioaba (guava)
Charlie Brown (Smarties)
Lampone (raspberry)
Malaga (rum & raisin)
Panna (custard cream)
Yoghurt & fruiti di bosco (forest berries)
Stracciatta Capricciosa
Crema Gran ...
White chocolate

                                                     Alise Cafe, Castiglione del Lago, Umbria

Pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit)
Anguria (watermelon)
Baci (choc hazelnut)
Melograno (pomegranate)
Whisky cream
Cookies & cream
Uva & noci (grapes & walnuts)
Finocchio, meile & liquorizio (fennel, honey & licorice)
Te verde matcha (green tea)
Coco creme (coconut milk)
Fico (fig)
Peru (no milk super rich dark chocolate)
Messico (pineapple, coconut & lime)
Ellusa (yoghurt, orange & toffee chips)
Deliziosa all' arancia (delicious orange)
Donna Claudia (Wow! )
Gorgonzola & hibiscus
Pardula (cheese, orange & saffron, typical Sardinian dessert)

                                     Vaniglia e Pistacchio, Cagliari, Sardinia

Cocco & Nutella
Lime & mente
Pinolo (pine nut)
Duplo (a type of chocolate bar)
Limone & basilico (lemon & basil)
Crema Catalana (like Creme Brulee)
Ananas & zenzero (pineapple & ginger)
Fonti (vanilla gelato with fresh raspberries & cracked chocolate)
Pinguino nero (dark chocolate swirls)
Dark chocolate & ginger
Passione (marscapone, whole hazelnuts, amareno & chocolate)
Santo Domingo (dark chocolate)
Uva rossa (red grapes)
Arancia (no milk orange)

                                                At Gelateria C' Era Una Volta, Lucignano, Tuscany

                                          Gelateria Vittoria, Panicale, Umbria

Panna cotta amaretti
Caramel & meringue
Oreo (biscuit)
Ginger & cinnamon
Almond nougat
Salted caramel

In the last minutes before boarding the Leonardo Express for the airport I was tasting my 89th gelati flavour for 2016.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Of tomorrow who can say?

"Chi voul esser lieto sai,
  di doman non v'รจ certezza"

"Who happy would be, let him be;
  Of tomorrow who can say?"

Lorenzo 'the Magnificent' de' Medici wrote these words in the 1400s. These words make me think. We often joke about travelling while we still can, and about spending the money now because you can't take it with you. Whilst we have been in Italy we have lost two good friends to cancer, one in New Zealand and one in the U.K, and both the same age as we are.

We feel privileged to have had so many opportunities to travel our wide and beautiful world, to have met wonderful people and eaten great food, to have experienced other ways of life to our own and seen so many spectacular sights. We are grateful for these opportunities and well aware that 'of tomorrow, who can say?'

Travel and more travel

Travel and more travel! We left Macchie at about 11 am on Monday, returned the hire car, travelled by train to Rome and stayed over night at our favourite family run hotel, our fourth stay this year.

On Tuesday morning I taste tested the last of the big five gelati shops in Rome then we took the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino Airport. Our flight to Dubai departed at 3.25 pm and took six hours.

We had a stop over of a little more than two hours then boarded our QANTAS flight to Melbourne. Thirteen hours & twenty minutes later we arrived in Melbourne - and it was 9 pm on Wednesday!

Another overnight stop in a hotel and another train trip and we arrived home in Benalla about 2.30 pm Thursday. 

So that is one reason why we stay away so long!

It seems as though it hasn't stopped raining since we left Benalla. 300 millimetres of rain has fallen in the almost 12 weeks we have been away. Webbed feet or gumboots are a necessity.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Off we go to Rome

We have had an incredible time in Umbria, Panicale and especially in this lovey house in Macchie. We were blessed to be the recipients of such generosity. We extend a huge thank you to some very special people, Richard, Katia and Massimo.

Farewell garden, we've spent many, many hours in your company.

Safely returned the Lancia to Avis Chiusi then had a snack to the railway station.

I have already cast bad comment the way of the Victorian rail system, now here is further shame. This gorgeous pizza came from the cafeteria at the Chiusi station. Don't even think about railway food in Australia!

By 4.30 pm we were back on the streets of Rome. First stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore where we lit candles for our recently deceased friend Angela.

Rome is still busy with coach tours and pilgrimage groups but if you know the right places you can avoid that traffic. We were heading to the Trevi Fountain and the contrast was amazing between our route and our destination.

This was about 6 pm!

Coin tossing ... this time mine did go in the water.

A window display.

A very typical Roman street, when you avoid the main routes.

We visited two more of the top five gelati shops in Rome, that will be the subject of a later post!

Piazza della Republica, the view from our evening meal spot and some internal decoration along the collonade.

A few hours in Rome softens the agony of departure.