NEWSLETTER ARTICLES

The Original Piri Piri Sauce - History and Recipe

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For almost 200 years now people have been arguing back and forth as to who invented Piri Piri Sauce - it depends who you talk to. Both Portugal and west Africa claim it as their own. We like to think it sits somewhere in between, the outcome, that special blend when two diverse cultures mix and combine to come up with something special.

Virtually every recipe and there are many, claim to be the best. We love a good story and this is certainly one of them. Cooking a recipe 200 years old always adds a little extra spice and zest and add that little extra flavour as you finally sit down to enjoy the end result.

Here is the story and recipe from Trevliza.

‘The genuinely authentic piri piri sauce has been "bastardized" by every recipe claiming to be the original! I am 70 and was raised in Rhodesia and ate chicken piri piri from a young age because it was "invented" in our neighboring country of Mozambique. Portugal sent chilies to its two African colonies of Angola and Mozambique about 200 years ago because it could not find a commercial use for them, and it was in the town of Beira (Mozambique) in the late 1890s that an elderly lady managed to produce this superlative of all salivating sauces. She only used two ingredients (3 if you include a little water), but ingeniously created a taste that transcends all others. The ingredients? Birds eye chillies and lemon juice. The secret? Simmer the diced up chillies in the lemon juice for at least 8 hours adding just enough water to stop the mixture catching, but not enough to prevent the caramelisation of the mixture. The enzymes of both ingredients dance tenderly together in this slow process and a flavour is born that is neither viciously hot nor too acidic, but instead sweet, in a smokey way, and piquant without the bite. And a smell to entice the most numbed of nostrils! Once cooked to perfection the mixture would then be blended with a mortise and pestle to a juicy paste adding water, if necessary, for consistency . I, too, have bastardized this process, but it has not distracted from the original outcomes and flavour. I use an electric blender (juicer) to combine the chilies and lemon juice and then (barely) simmer the liquid for 8-10 hours instead of grinding it to a paste. My preference is 100 grams of chillies to 14 lemons for a stronger, hotter sauce, but it can be adjusted to half or a quarter of the chilii content to suit other tastes. I also love lots of salt on my meat, but not in the sauce.

Use recipe above - then BBQ or oven

Baste a whole butterflyed chicken with Piri Piri sauce and marinate (min 2 hours, overnight for fuller flavour)

Place on rack (if you have one) over baking paper in oven and cook for 1 hour at 180 celsius or until cooked and meat is a good colour.

Other variations of this recipe include: 4 tbsp lemon juice, 5 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 cup vinegar (balsamic gives an excellent flavour), 1 tbsp each of cayenne pepper, garlic - minced, chilli flakes and paprika, 1 tsp salt. Add ingredients and whisk together. Cook as above.

Obviously you can select different chicken cuts if you prefer.

This sauce can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 weeks before using.

Rice, potatoes and coleslaw are popular accompaniments in Portugal.

Good Luck!

CLIENT INTERVIEW - FRANK & MARY

Frank and Mary - first 2 tour participants seated in the right row, enjoying a long lazy lunch on their 2018 ‘Enchanting Italy Uncovered’ Tour

Frank and Mary - first 2 tour participants seated in the right row, enjoying a long lazy lunch on their 2018 ‘Enchanting Italy Uncovered’ Tour

Frank and Mary, you first travelled with TIKI TOURS on the ‘Unspoiled Sicily & Southern Italy tour in 2014 and have participated on various of the trips since over the last 5 years. 

 
1) In your opinion, has the touring concept changed these last 5 years ? 

The touring concept has not really changed however its implementation has streamlined and is more sophisticated in catering for the clients’ needs

Lunch at family wineries turned out to be highly popular

Lunch at family wineries turned out to be highly popular

2) What sets TIKI TOURS apart from other tour companies?  In other words, what is the point of difference? 

 What is the main reason you travel with TIKI again and again? 

 We think Tiki focusses more on its clients.

It treats them as individuals

 

‘The Langhe’ region - in the hands of the local Truffle Farmer

‘The Langhe’ region - in the hands of the local Truffle Farmer

Relaxing walk through the ancient Langhe area of Northern Italy

Relaxing walk through the ancient Langhe area of Northern Italy

3) Do the tours offer value for money considering all that is included? 

 It does give great value for money – high on this scale is its resolve to facilitate the best holiday possible

 

Our boutique hotels are carefully selected for their location, charm and character

Our boutique hotels are carefully selected for their location, charm and character

4) If you had to describe your recent September 2018 ‘Enchanting Italy Uncovered’ tour in just 5 words, which words would you choose?

Not sure if 5 words will do it justice but simply put each day surpasses the one before

 
5) What was the highlight of this particular trip?  

Hard to name just one. The glory of the Alps was splendid but so were the medieval villages tucked away in hidden valleys.

 

Rolling hills

Rolling hills

The Dolomites - highest rooftops of Europe

The Dolomites - highest rooftops of Europe

6) Did you have enough 'local / authentic travel experiences' i.e. interaction with the locals on this recent Italy trip? 

 The interaction and the experience is there and of necessity involves more observations of the locals and surrounds.

 

Interaction with the locals is important

Interaction with the locals is important

7) Covering the tours you have experienced to date, do you believe there is enough free time between touring in the day and dining at night to explore individually? 

 The free time given the circumstances is sufficient to look for things yourself.

 

There is always time for a coffee

There is always time for a coffee

And a precious moment to reflect on the day …

And a precious moment to reflect on the day …

8) What do you think of the group size on the tours you have experienced over the years? 

 The group size is about right and allows a mix of preferences and scope for being able to learn a lot about ones fellow travellers

2018 ‘Enchanting Italy Uncovered’ Group

2018 ‘Enchanting Italy Uncovered’ Group



9) How would you describe the type and calibre of accommodation packaged on the tours you have experienced over the years? 

 Always interesting, Spain is exotic with its paradores.  We have seldom been disappointed with the package of accommodation and meals.


10) Did you find like-minded company on the tours you have participated on over the years? 

 We have enjoyed the like-minded company and the tours themselves attract people with similar interests and outlook.


11) Covering all tours you have experienced, how would you rate the level of fitness needed to participate on the day to day TIKI TOURS excursions? 

The art of Truffle Hunting

The art of Truffle Hunting

And the rewards that follow

And the rewards that follow

 The fitter you are the better to enjoy everything but we find the tours are sympathetic and can cater for all fitnesses.


12) In your opinion, what are the most important ingredients for a successful fully escorted small group tour? 

 <refer below answer to 13>

 

Italy in Autumn, a destination at its best

Italy in Autumn, a destination at its best

13) In addition to a full-time European Tour Director, TIKI TOURS uses many local guides on each tour. 

 How important are the tour director and local guides for the overall success of a tour?

The tour leader is first in importance for the success of the tour.  Other important qualities are food, accommodation etc are organised by the team leader.

The important local guides are valuable in their obvious detailed local knowledge.


14) Where would you like to go next in Europe? 

 Italy is a possibility.  Sardinia and Croatia excite interest.

Local Lunch in The Dolomites

Local Lunch in The Dolomites

 15) You will be travelling with TIKI TOURS on the May 2019 'Country Roads France in Style' tour. 

What is your main attraction to this particular trip? 

The Country Roads of France is a favourite area for us, art, countryside, hilltop villages and provincial food are obvious attractions.


16) Covering destination Europe, there are many fully escorted small group tours on offer and each and every one of them has their own unique concept and inclusions. 

To assist future travellers, who in particular would you recommend the TIKI TOURS Europe tour departures to? 

We think the candidates select themselves.  An interest in the area and a passion for new experiences.

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 Love that smile !

 

5 GOOD REASONS TO VISIT ‘THE LANGHE’ AREA in AUTUMN

Autumn in ‘The Langhe’ Region of Northern Italy

Autumn in ‘The Langhe’ Region of Northern Italy

1 Feste

With the locals heading back from a summer by the sea desperate to show off their tans, September is party month. Name a food or drink and some village somewhere will be celebrating it. From hazelnuts to Barolo, honey to cooked salami… the only hardship is choosing which ones to go to! See www.langheroero.it for more.

2 White truffles

As the days start to get shorter and the mornings ever foggier, truffle hunters and their dogs head into the forests in search of white truffles. You can join them on a hunt, (it’s genuinely exciting chasing the dog through the trees as he picks up a scent) or if you’re feeling lazy just order some white truffle in a restaurant. You can have it shaved over pretty much anything but simplicity is always best… just get it on a fried egg and thank me later.

3 Harvest

Wine is more than just a drink in the Langhe, it’s an obsession, and for many people a livelihood. At no time is this more apparent than during harvest. You can feel the excitement in the air as the beginning of harvest draws closer. It’s the only thing anyone talks about… when are you starting? Have you seen the weather? How will it be this year?

4 Views

The Langhe is always beautiful, but in autumn it goes to another level entirely. It’s just ridiculous. See what I mean?

5 The white truffle festival

Every weekend from 8th October to 20th November, Alba becomes the centre of the white truffle world. A huge marquee hosts the International White Truffle Fair, where you can touch smell and buy your own white truffles. There are also wine and food tastings and dozens of stalls selling cheeses, salami, oils… pretty much anything you can imagine putting white truffle in, and a few things beside.Outside of the fair itself, Alba also hosts a medieval parade and fair, a donkey palio, exhibitions, wine tastings, live music and much, much more. See www.fieradeltartufo.org for more details.

GalIcia - crossroad of Spanish culture

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Its capital, Santiago de Compostela is the final destination on the Way of Saint James, the famous pilgrim route. For this reason alone it is worth visiting this region in green Spain. You'll love the landscapes, wooded valleys and amazing beaches. All along the length of its coastline you'll find areas of spectacular cliffs like those on A Costa da Morte, or the incredible Islas Atlánticas National Park.

Visit the numerous charming villages both by the sea and inland, cities such as Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Ferrol, Lugo, Orense, Pontevedra and Vigo and marvel at the monuments - the Tower of Hercules and Lugo’s city walls both designated World Heritage sites by the UNESCO.

Galicia’s delicious gastronomy is one of its features with a variety of typical produce and dishes, including shellfish (Dublin Bay prawns, king prawns, king scallops, mussels, scallops, lobsters, crabs), veal, octopus “a feira” (with potatoes), gammon with turnip greens or the almond tart known as “tarta de Santiago”. To drink what could be better than two of its most famous wines, Ribeiro and Albariño (each have their own wine route) or the popular “queimada” (alcoholic spirits set alight in an earthenware bowl according to the typical ritual).

If you feel like relaxing, why not make the most of Galicia’s reputation as a land of spas and open-air hot springs. If you fancy a little sport, perhaps golf is your thing, marine resorts… there’s a whole world of options to choose from.

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Its cuisine is one of the main tourist attractions of Galicia: the exquisite delicacies of this region based on the high quality and variety of local products used in the preparation of dishes. Country farm and sea products are unique in their characteristics and quality.  One of the pillars of Galician cooking is the professionalism of its sought out chefs. 

The importance of its gastronomy is evident with more than 300 gastronomic fiestas held in Galicia alone throughout the year. The origins of these exaltations to local produce arouse interest in visitors, lie in the many local and regional traditional fiestas held during harvest time or religious holidays, such as the "romerías", where promises are made to the patron saint and then completed with a traditional meal. Some of these fiestas attract great crowds and have been recognised as of national tourist interest.

One of the oldest know Christian temples San Pedro de Rocas.

One of the oldest know Christian temples San Pedro de Rocas.

Also worth seeing nearby is Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil (open to all). Enveloped by trees and shrubs, this 10th-century Benedictine monastery sits in the forest like an abandoned fairytale. It fell from being one of the most important monasteries in the area, when it was built, to being used as a cowshed in the late 19th century. Nonetheless, the mixture of renaissance, gothic and Romanesque styles, cast in ancient grey stone, and lost in the mysterious silence of the forest, is something worth experiencing.

Perhaps the oldest monastery in the area is San Pedro de Rocas. Thought to have been founded in the sixth century and excavated from the surrounding rock, San Pedro offers few of the architectural flourishes you will see in the region’s other monasteries, but its importance is greater than its primitive appearance suggests. The church, which forms part of the monastery, is said to be one of the oldest known Christian temples.

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12 Fun Facts About Portugal

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Are you planning on visiting this westernmost country in Europe soon? Or maybe you have Portuguese roots and want to learn more about your ancestors. In any case, below are twelve facts that are bound to impress anyone about Portugal.

12 Interesting and Fun Facts About Portugal

Portugal is a fascinating country with a proud history that can be felt all throughout the country - from its capital, down to each tiny, picture-perfect village.

1. Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries
Over 236 million people world-wide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.

2. The oldest bookstore in the world is in Portugal's capital

Established in 1732, Bertrand bookshop, located in Lisbon, Portugal, is the oldest operating bookshop. Although it was destroyed in the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, it was moved to the very location it still occupies in 1773.

3. World record holder for largest dining table set

The world record for the largest dining table was set when around 15 000 people were served lunch on the bridge as part of the inauguration celebrations.

4. Portugal is the largest cork producer in the world

Portugal produces 70% of the world's cork exports. Main importers of Portuguese cork are: Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. The country also has the largest cork forest.

5. Portugal is one of the world's top surf spots

Portugal has a coastline that spans 497 miles (800 kilometers) and it's known to have 364 days of surf!

6. You must be fingerprinted for ID cards

In 2008, Portugal became the first country to make it compulsory for people to have fingerprints on identity cards.

Oldest & Longest Facts:

7. One of the oldest universities in Europe is in Portugal

The University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities on the European continent.

8. Portugal and England have the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world

The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed in 1373 and is in force until this day! Both countries entered wars to defend the other, including the United Kingdom entering the Iberian Peninsular War and Portugal entering World War I. Talk about having someone's back!

9. Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe

The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 17 kilometers long, making it the longest in Europe.

Historical Facts:

10. Half of the "New World" once belonged to Portugal

In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed which essentially gave   Portugal the eastern half of the "New Word", including Brazil, Africa, and Asia. The Portuguese Empire was actually the first global empire in   history and one of the longest-lived colonial powers, lasting for  almost  six centuries from when Ceuta was captured in 1415, until Macau (now  China) was handed-over in 1999.

11. Portugal is the oldest country in Europe

Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe. Afonso Henriques was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139 and the country remained a kingdom for almost 800 years thereafter, until 1910.

12. Lisbon is older than Rome

Around four centuries older to be precise. It is in fact the second oldest  European capital after Athens. Many historians believe that it was settled by the Phoenicians around 1200 BC, who used the excellent   transport possibilities offered by the River Tagus.

In 1755, Lisbon was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in European history.

On the 1st of November in 1755, Lisbon was struck by about a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami, and fires that brought the city to rubble! Furthermore, the earthquake struck on All Saints Day, a major holiday when the churches were filled with burning candles. The earthquake struck, toppling the candles, causing major fires. 275,000 residents were killed and 85% of the buildings were destroyed! People talk about the devastating earthquake to this day.

PORTUGUESE CULTURE - THE STORY OF THE TWO LOVERS

PORTUGUESE CULTURE: THE STORY OF THE TWO LOVERS

Portugal’s stunning history and culture has survived for many centuries: the beautiful architecture, the traditional tiles and the pavement, and the stories of kings and queens, which are famous for being full of betrayals, death and, above all, love. One of these stories is the most famous Portuguese love story; that of Pedro and Inês.

The romance between D. Pedro I, future king of Portugal, and the handmaiden Inês de Castro made a big impact in the history and culture of Portugal. This forbidden love in the midst of fights for power ended in Inês’ death, and the beginning of her legend as the Dead Queen.

The Beginning of the Story

Pedro had an unhappy arranged marriage with D. Constança Manuel, a young noblewoman from the royal family of Castela. He soon fell in love with one of her handmaidens, Inês de Castro, and their relationship was never truly hidden or accepted by the court or the people. Although he was married, Pedro had frequent romantic encounters with Inês in the gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas.

When Constança died in 1345 giving birth to the future king D. Fernando I, Pedro and Inês started living together as husband and wife, which deeply offended the court, the people, and his father D. Afonso IV, who always opposed the relationship.

Despite the strong opposition and lack of support, Pedro e Inês lived happily with their children for years in Paços de Santa Clara, Coimbra. The birth of their four children, however, worsened the situation because D. Afonso IV had always felt like one of his own father’s bastard children would put his succession at risk.

Rumours of Pedro and Inês wanting to assassinate the young prince D. Fernando I began to spread, and with the court’s constant pressure on D. Afonso IV, he ordered Inês to be assassinated in January of 1355. She was killed in Quinta das Lágrimas, and it is said that her tears sprouted what is now called the Fonte das Lágrimas, where you can still see her blood stained on the rocks.

The Legend

Pedro never forgave his father for killing the love of his life, and when he was crowned king in 1357 he arrested and killed Inês’ assassins and ripped out their hearts. This earned him the epithet of Pedro, the Cruel.

Pedro swore he married Inês in secret, and he imposed her recognition as queen of Portugal. According to legend, Pedro placed Inês’ body on the throne with a crown on her head, and had the nobles kiss the hand of her corpse.

In April of 1360 he ordered her body to be moved from Coimbra to the Mosteiro Real de Alcobaça, where he ordered two magnificent tombs to be built so he could rest forever side by side with his eternal love.

The immortal love story of Pedro and Inês has inspired Portuguese authors to write beautiful literature, like Luís Vaz de Camões in Os Lusíadas. The stunning Mosteiro Real de Alcobaça and the gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas are must-see places if you’re visiting Portugal.

PAMPLONA - THE ENCIERRO

The Encierro is the event at the heart of the Sanfermines and makes the fiesta a spectacle that would be unimaginable in any other place in the world. It was born from need: getting the bulls from outside the city into the bullring.

The encierro takes place from July 7th to 14th and starts at the corral in Calle Santo Domingo when the clock on the church of San Cernin strikes eight o'clock in the morning. After the launching of two rockets, the bulls charge behind the runners for 825 metres, the distance between the corral and the bullring. The run usually lasts between three and four minutes although it has sometimes taken over ten minutes, especially if one of the bulls has been isolated from his companions. .

Chants to San Fermín

The bull run has a particularly emotional prelude. It is when the runners, just a few metres up the slope from the corral where the bulls are waiting, raise their rolled newspapers and chant to an image of San Fermín placed in a small recess in the wall in the Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Against the strongest of silences, the following words can be heard: "A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro dándonos su bendición. Entzun arren San Fermin zu zaitugu patroi zuzendu gure oinak entzierro hontan otoi." (We ask San Fermín, being our patron saint, to guide us in the bull run and give us his blessing). When they finish they shout "¡Viva San Fermín! ¡Gora San Fermín!." This chant is sung three times before 8 a.m.: first, when there are five minutes to go before 8 o'clock, then three minutes and one minute before the gate of the corral is opened.

Rockets in the bullring

The third rocket, fired from the bullring, signals that all the bulls have entered the bullring. A fourth and final rocket indicates that all the bulls are safely in the corral located inside the bullring, and that the bull run has ended.

A fence of 3,000 parts

For security reasons, a double fence marks out the route of the bull run through the streets. It is made of over 3,000 wooden parts (planks, posts, gates, etc.). Part of the fence stays put throughout the fiesta but other sections are assembled and disassembled every day by a special brigade of workers.

The role of the pastores

A large number of pastores (bull 'shepherds') cover the entire bull run. They place themselves behind the bulls, with their only protection being a long stick. Their main role is to stop the odd idiot from inciting the bulls from behind, to avoid the bulls turning round and running backwards, and to help any bulls that have stopped or have been separated from their companions to continue running towards the bullring.

The dobladores

Other key people in the bull run are the <em>dobladores, people with good bullfighting knowledge (sometimes ex-bullfighters) who take up position in the bullring with capes to help the runners 'fan out' (in other words, run to the sides after they enter the bullring) and 'drag' the bulls towards the corral as quickly as possible.

The two groups of mansos (bullocks)

The six fighting bulls that will take part in the evening bullfight start the run accompanied by an initial group of mansos, which act as 'guides' to help the bulls cover the route. Two minutes after leaving the corral in Santo Domingo, a second group of bullocks (the so-called 'sweep-up" group), which are slower and smaller than the first one, are let out to lead any bulls that might have stopped or been left behind in the bull run towards the bullring.

Useful information about the bull run

The encierro is an unrepeatable experience for spectators and runners alike. It is a spectacle that is defined by the level of risk and the physical ability of the runners.

An inexperienced runner should learn about the characteristics of this dangerous 'race' (although it should not be considered as a race) before starting, and also about the protective measures to be taken for his/her own safety and that of the people running alongside.

Not everyone can run the encierro. It requires cool nerves, quick reflexes and a good level of physical fitness. Anyone who does not have these three should not take part; it is a highly risky enterprise.

Runners should start somewhere between the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Square) and the pink-slab Education building in the Cuesta of Santo Domingo, and they should be there before 7:30 a.m. because entry to the run is closed from that time on. The rest of the run, except for the stretch mentioned above, must be completely clear of runners until a few minutes before 8 a.m.

What is not allowed in the bull run

People under 18 years of age, who must not run or participate.

Crossing police barriers placed to ensure that the run goes off smoothly.

Standing in areas and places along the route that have been expressly prohibited by the municipal police force.

Before the bulls are released, waiting in corners, blind spots, doorways or in entrances to other establishments located along the run.

Leaving doors of shops or entrances to apartments open along the route. The responsibility for ensuring these doors are closed lies with the owners or tenants of the properties.

Being in the bull run while drunk, under the effects of drugs or in any other improper manner.

Carrying objects that are unsuitable for the run to take place correctly.

Wearing inappropriate clothes or footwear for the run.

Inciting the bulls or attracting their attention in any manner, and for whatever reason, along the route of the run or in the bullring.

Running backwards towards the bulls or running behind them.

Holding, harassing or maltreating the bulls and stopping them from moving or being led to the pens in the bullring.

Stopping along the run and staying on the fence, barriers or in doorways in such a way that the run or the safety of other runners is jeopardised.

Taking photographs inside the run, or from the fences or barriers without due authorisation.

Carrying objects that are unsuitable for the good order and security of the bull run.

Installing elements that invade horizontal, vertical or aerial space along the bull run, unless expressly authorised by the Mayor's Office.

Any other action that could hamper the bull run taking place normally.

PARADOR SANTIAGO DI COMPOSTELA

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PARADOR IN SANTIAGO DI COMPOSTELA - OLDEST HOTEL IN THE WORLD 

Allow us to introduce you to the hotel with Spanish music playing softly in the background to begin to imagine the uniqueness of this hotel

> listen here

The hotel originally built and intended as a royal hospital in 1499 to accommodate pilgrims traveling to Santiago. Today, it continues to draw visitors to enjoy a city that is as universal as it is fascinating. Inside this Parador Museum, considered the oldest hotel in the world, you will discover four beautiful cloisters, elegant rooms, spectacular guest rooms and a luxurious dining room that offers fish and meat prepared in the Galician style, along with classic apple filloas (a type of crêpe) and crème brûlée. Santiago is a magical city of almost indescribable beauty, where you will not only look, but you will also feel. In addition to the cathedral and the spectacular Obradoiro and Quintana squares, other sights include Santa María A Real do Sar Collegiate Church.

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Together with the cathedral, this is the church that has preserved the largest part of its original Romanesque stonework and it has an interior with lovely proportions. There is also the Renaissance Colegio de Fonseca (Fonseca School) and the magnificent San Martiño Pinario Monastery. These are just some of the places well worth visiting in the city's fine historic district. The charm and the hustle and bustle of Abastos Market in the morning; the beautifully maintained Alameda Park, which boasts spectacular views of the old quarter; the church, convent and park of San Domingos de Bonaval, home to the Pantheon of Illustrious Galicians; and the green spaces around the capital, extending all the way to the sea, just half an hour away, will guide you through this city brimming with history and beauty. It marks the end of the Camino (Way of St. James) and the start of a one-of-a-kind experience we invite you to enjoy in exceptional accommodations, the Parador de Santiago.

WAKE UP IN THE WORLDS OLDEST HOTEL

One of the most luxurious and beautiful hotels in the Paradores chain, located in Santiago de Compostela, the destination of millions of pilgrims. Rays of sunlight illuminate the building façades in summer and the rain creates a magical ambiance that overtakes the cobbled streets in winter.

The Parador de Santiago, known as the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, is a blend of history, art and tradition, the dream of pilgrims and emblem of Santiago. It is located on Obradoiro Square near the cathedral, creating an area of spectacular beauty in one of the most visited provincial capitals in the world. A stay at this Parador means a visit to a truly unique and exclusive location. > View video

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The Parador Kitchen

Both restaurants offer a menu based on traditional Galician cuisine, with ingredients that retain their natural flavor, prepared in an exquisite contemporary style. The Parador’s kitchen cooks for a wide variety of diners: pilgrims who come for a meal, pilgrims staying at the hotel, guests at events and business meals. Yet they all delight in dishes created using fish and seafood from the rias of Galicia, beef and vegetables paired with traditional cheeses such as O Cebreiro, and exquisite desserts like filloas (crêpes) filled with apple compote and crème brûlée or traditional tarta de Santiago (almond cake).

The Parador’s breakfast is almost as emblematic as the hotel itself, as is its house specialty, caldeirada dos reis, a stew made with the best ingredients from the ria, including lobster, scallops and turbot. Both Enxebre do Hostal and Restaurante dos Reis of course offer traditional caldo gallego (bean stew), available all year, succulent beef sirloin, and cockles and octopus prepared in the classic style. There are also the famous Galician wines—Ribeiro, Albariño and Ribeira Sacra—made at local wineries with great dedication and attention to detail.

Enjoy the hospitality of the Santiagos Parador for 3 nights on TIKI TOURS Ancient Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal 2019 tour departing Australia 31 August 2019.

RIOJA WINE

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Rioja is today Spain´s most famous wine region. Rioja (or “Rioha”) is the first name that will come up to any wine lovers name when they think about Spain. The same applies to Spaniards if asked to name one wine region.

The wine producing region is divided into 3 sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.  Rioja Alavesa is located North of the Ebro river and coincides with the part of Rioja which belongs to the Spanish Basque Country. Rioja Baja is located southeast of Logrono, whilst Rija Alta is located from Logroño to Haro, South of the Ebro river.

In order to add to this complex reality, the wine producing region of Rioja is spread in 3 administrative regions of Spain: Navarre, Rioja and Basque country. One thing which is very important about Rioja is even the standard wines are good quality. 

History of the wines in Rioja

Wine production in this wine region dates back to the Roman times unsurprisingly, as is the same case in many other wine producing regions in Europe. There is however more evidence about the role of Rioja in wine from the Middle ages. The wine from Rioja we know today has very little in common with the wines produced those days.  Big changes started during the XIX century. The philloxera had impacted the vineyards in France and a few members of the local Riojan aristocracy started to incorporate wine production methods from Bordeaux in France. France had a very large wine deficit due to the plague and French wine makers found in Rioja’s soils and wines a perfect suit to produce the elegant wines they needed in Bordeaux. Those were years of change in Rioja. New production techniques were applied and the region´s economy expanded… but then the philloxera plague arrived and most of what was achieved in terms of economic development stopped.

During most of the 20th century Rioja along with Spain went through inevitable ups and downs. The last 20 or 25 years of the 20th century witnessed extraordinary development in the region.  New wineries were established, important efforts were made with investments in both the vineyards and the wineries. A new generation of young managers and wine makers brought new energies to the region and the outcome is Rioja´s current reputation.  

Regulation and types of wine in Rioja

Rioja is mainly known for its red wines and wines that age well. Tempranillo is Rioja´s main grape and most wines are blended with smaller amounts of Garnache, Graciano and Mazuelo grape.

Wines in Rioja are controlled by the local DOC Rioja. (Denominación de origen controlada Rioja) Most wine regions in Spain are Dos. Rioja is a DOC. The extra “C” implies that if a winery wants to label its wines as Rioja it can only do that. No wine from that winery could be sold without the label.

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The DOC permits 4 different types or categories of wine: young or joven, crianza, reserva and gran reserva.  Each category need to comply with specific times they need to stay at the winery before they can be released to the market.


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The category of young rioja wine is not only for young wines. Many wine makers produce wines which may not comply with any of the other categories of crianza, reserva or gran reserva. The winery may even not want to put some of the wines under any of the categories. This normally applies to “Author wines” They are wines the wine maker does not want to be constrained by the regulation and to do so the winery has to use the label traditionally used in the past for young wines. 

Did you know?

Rioja has improved in recent years in everything connected to grape selection and the attention and care put on the vineyard. Wines today use longer maceration periods to extract more tannins. The result is wines with deeper aromas and more concentrated flavours.

The price for wines in the Rioja wine region vary significantly from winery to winery. Young wines and crianza wines can be found at very reasonable prices. The prices for Reservas and Gran Reservas increase considerably, whilst the most fancy, “author wines” can reach stratospheric prices altogether.

Around 90% of all wine produced in the Rioja is red, production of Rosé is minimal, whilst white wines take up the balance. Most whites are produced with Viura Macabeo) though other grape varietals can be used such as verdejo or malvasia (normally blended in very small amounts). Viura produce complex white wines. In the past many wineries produced whites that were aged for long periods in oak barrels. But the market for those wines declined in favour of more fruity wines resulting in most wineries reducing production of those rare and complex white gems.

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SAFFRON - WORLDS MOST EXPENSIVE SPICE

Saffron - precious commodity

Saffron - precious commodity

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world­, going for up to $16 per gram—and with good reason. It comes from the dried bright orange-red stigmas of the flower Crocus sativus.

But before you go digging up your spring crocus, know that this variety is special because it’s a triploid: it can’t grow in the wild or reproduce without human intervention. The gorgeous purple flower is painstakingly propagated and harvested by hand, and only on the morning it blooms. The more careful the cultivation, the higher the price.

Iran produces 85 percent of the world’s saffron, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, thanks to its relatively dry, sunny climate and the agricultural knowledge passed down through generations of farmers. It likely was first discovered in Bronze Age Greece, yet it now grows throughout Europe and Asia.

Saffron is as old as time. Cleopatra was said to bathe in saffron-infused mare’s milk before seeing a suitor. “Saffron was used to dye the woolen bolero jackets worn by Minoan women; also in cosmetics, where it was mixed with red ochre, tallow, and beeswax to make lipstick,” says John O’Connell in The Book of Spice: From Anise to Zedoary. Medieval monks found that mixing a primitive glue of egg whites and saffron created a yellow glaze that could stand in for gold in the production of their manuscripts.

And I dare you to make a Spanish paella or a Persian pilau without the metallic zing and dayglow yellow punch of saffron. Same for dozens of styles of fish stew, yeasted rolls, cakes, and pies found around the world.

Saffron has been used historically to treat everything from heartache to hemorrhoids by traditional healers. Modern studies have shown the high levels of antioxidants found in saffron may help ward off inflammation in the body and that it may be helpful in treating sexual dysfunction and depression, but the jury’s still out on its reported effects on cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Saffron was once spread like hay to freshen Roman public spaces and was even prescribed as an antidote for the bubonic plague, according to the beautifully illustrated The Herball, or Generall historie of plants, by John Gerarde, published in 1597.

Its popularity may have peaked in the Middle Ages as a medicine, but this was also a time when coloring food, particularly food for a feast, was in vogue. A recipe for swan from Le Viandier de Taillevent, a cookbook published in 1300, calls for a rather graphic skinning of the bird, then cooking it on a spit. Once the bird is on the fire, you must “glaze it with saffron; and when it is cooked, it should be redressed in its skin, with the neck either straight or flat. Endorse the feathers and head with a paste made of egg yolks mixed with saffron and honey.”

Saffron still evokes affluence and elegance in any dish. Luckily, a tiny bit goes a long way.

IL CAMINO

Along the trail

Along the trail

Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

Yearly, hundreds of thousands of people of various backgrounds walk the Camino de Santiago either on their own or in organized groups. People who want to have peace of mind will benefit from an organized tour or a self-guided tour while many will opt to plan the camino on their own.

Routes

The most popular route (which gets very crowded in mid-summer) is the Camino Francés which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago. This route is fed by three major French routes: the Voie de Tours, the Voie de Vezelay, and the Voie du Puy. It is also joined along its route by the Camino Aragones (which is fed by the Voie d’Arles which crosses the Pyrenees at the Somport Pass), by the Camí de Sant Jaume from Montserrat near Barcelona, the Ruta de Tunel from Irun, the Camino Primitivo from Bilbao and Oviedo, and by the Camino de Levante from Valencia and Toledo.

Other Spanish routes are the Camino Inglés from Ferrol & A Coruña, the Via de la Plata from Seville and Salamanca, and the Camino Portugues from Oporto.

The network is similar to a river system – small brooks join together to make streams, and the streams join together to make rivers, most of which join together to make the Camino Francés. During the middle ages, people walked out of their front doors and started off to Santiago, which was how the network grew up. Nowadays, cheap air travel has given many the opportunity to fly to their starting point, and often to do different sections in successive years. Some people set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons; many others find spiritual reasons along the Way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim masses in churches and monasteries and cathedrals, and see the large infrastructure of buildings provided for pilgrims over many centuries.

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Walking the Camino

Walking the Camino is not difficult – most of the stages are fairly flat on good paths. The main difficulty is that few of us have walked continuously for 10, 20 or 30 days. You learn more about your feet than you would ever have thought possible!

The purpose of this website is to give you information about what it is actually like to walk one of the Caminos, and to choose which one would be the most congenial. Do not assume that you need to walk the Camino Francés just because everyone else does – the other routes are much emptier and have lots to offer.

Origins of the pilgrimage

The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back at the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.

The Way was defined then by the net of Roman routes that joined the neuralgic points of the Peninsula. The impressive human flow that from very soon went towards Galicia made quickly appear lots of hospitals, churches, monasteries, abbeys and towns around the route. During the 14th century the pilgrimage began to decay, fact brought by the wars, the epidemics and the natural catastrophes.

The recovery of the route begins at the end of the 19th century, but it is during the last quarter of the 20th century when the authentic contemporary resurge of the peregrination takes place. There is no doubt that the social, tourist, cultural or sport components have had a great importance in the “jacobea” revitalization but we cannot forget that the route has gained its prestige thanks to its spiritual value.

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ENCHANTING ITALY 2018 - TOUR GALLERY

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Along the way….

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We savoured regional delicacies, of which the locals are justly proud

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In the most delightful picture post card perfect scenery, the sounds and scents really bring it to life

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If you go down to the woods today…. you’d better take an expert truffle hunter along with you

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Ahhh sweet success

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There were many occasions to celebrate

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and just soak up the local atmosphere

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It is impossible after all to taste just one flavour

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Where else but Italy at harvest time to immerse yourself in the fruit of the vine over a satisfying long lunch - Italian style

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To chat about the days events and discoveries

MAKE YOUR OWN PASTA

Fresh Pasta - Colour is important

Fresh Pasta - Colour is important

Follow our four-step guide to making fresh pasta sheets which you can use to dish up classic Italian favourites.

Making your own pasta is up there with making your own bread. Once you have made your very own batch, you won’t want to go back to store-bought pasta.

To make your own pasta at home, you’ll need the following equipment:

a pasta machine for rolling out the pasta dough into sheets, and for making fettuccine (or cut by hand)

a fork for whisking the eggs

a rolling pin

clean tea towels to cover the fresh pasta while it’s drying

plastic wrap to cover the fresh pasta while it’s resting

a ravioli wheel for making farfalle and ravioli

A homemade pasta recipe in 4 simple steps

Place 400g Italian “00” flour or plain flour in a mound on a clean work surface. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Crack 4 eggs into the centre of the well. Use a fork to gently whisk the eggs while using your other hand to secure the outer walls of the flour. Continue whisking, gradually drawing in the flour as you go until the dough becomes thick.

Use your hands to bring the dough together. Knead the dough for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (To check if the dough is ready, press it with the tip of your finger. If it springs back, it means it has reached the desired texture.) Shape the dough into a disc and coat lightly with flour. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.

Use your hands to bring the dough together

Use your hands to bring the dough together

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough. Set the pasta machine on the widest setting and coat the pasta rollers lightly in flour. Feed 1 portion of dough through the machine. Repeat 6 more times, folding the pasta into thirds and then turning it 90 degrees to the pasta machine before you feed the pasta dough through each time.

Use a pasta machine or cut the dough into equal portions

Use a pasta machine or cut the dough into equal portions

When the dough is the same width as the machine, stop folding it into thirds. Continue to feed the dough through the machine, gradually narrowing the pasta machine settings, 1 notch at a time, before you feed the pasta dough through each time. Repeat until you reach the second last setting on the machine. Repeat with the remaining 3 dough portions.

Variations on pasta recipes

How to make farfalle

Use a ravioli wheel to cut 1 pasta sheet crossways into 4cm-wide strips. Use a sharp knife to cut the strips crossways, at 4cm intervals, to make 4cm squares. Brush the centre of each square with a little water. Use your fingers to pinch the straight edges of the squares together to form bows. Place on a floured tea towel and set aside for 2 hours to dry. Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets.

How to make lasagne sheets

Use a sharp knife to cut the pasta sheets into 8 x 14cm rectangles (or to the size stated in the recipe). Lightly flour both sides of each lasagne sheet. Place the pastry sheets on a clean tea towel. Cover with another clean tea towel and set aside for 1 hour to dry slightly. Drying the lasagne sheets makes it easier to handle the fresh pasta before cooking and prevents it from stretching and breaking.

How to make fettuccine

Cut 1 pasta sheet in half crossways. Set the pasta machine to the fettuccine setting and feed the pasta sheet through. Lightly coat the fettuccine with flour to stop it sticking together. Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets. To cut fettuccine by hand, roll up the pasta sheet lengthways to form a log. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into 1cm-thick slices. Unroll the fettuccine and lightly coat in flour.

How to make ravioli

Place 1 pasta sheet on a lightly floured surface. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of filling, in 2 rows, at 5cm intervals on the pastry sheet, leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Use a pastry brush to brush the pasta sheet around the filling with water. Top with a second pasta sheet and press the edges together to seal. Use a ravioli wheel or knife to cut between the filling to make squares. Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets and filling.

HOW TO COLOR HOMEMADE PASTA DOUGH

Spinach

Follow the Basic Pasta Dough recipe. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface. Next, puree 3/4 cup frozen cooked leaf spinach (squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible) in a food processor. Add it to the well in the flour. Continue as per the Basic Pasta Dough method.

Tomato

Follow the Basic Pasta Dough recipe. Add 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste or sun-dried tomato paste to the well in the flour. Use 1 large egg instead of 2 medium ones. Continue as per the Basic Pasta Dough recipe.

Beet

Follow the Basic Pasta Dough recipe. Roast 1 red beet until softened, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel and grate or puree in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons grated cooked beet to the well in the flour. Use 1 large egg instead of 2 medium ones. Continue as per the Basic Pasta Dough recipe.

Saffron

Pasta Follow the Basic Pasta Dough recipe. Soak 1 sachet of powdered saffron in 2 tablespoons hot water for 15 minutes. Strain the water, discarding the solids. Use 1 large egg instead of 2 medium ones and whisk with the vibrant saffron water before adding to the well in the flour. Continue as per the Basic Pasta Dough recipe.

Herb

Follow the Basic Pasta Dough recipe. Add at least 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh green herbs to the well in the flour.

Black
Squid ink pasta Follow the Basic Pasta Dough recipe. Add 1 sachet squid ink to the eggs and whisk to combine before adding to the flour. You may need to add a little extra flour to the pasta dough.

BOLOGNA - ART AND HISTORY

City of Art

City of Art

BOLOGNA: ART AND HISTORY

The city of Bologna preserves the traces of past civilisations and the character of medieval splendour. Avidly visited by the Romantic writers and celebrated for the arts and culinary excellence, Bologna is animated by a cosmopolitan culture that is enriched by the presence of the University.

Beneath the cellars of many old Bolognese houses dating from the medieval period may be found the foundations of the Roman city, dating back to the second century BC. In some houses, the traces of even earlier habitations dating from the Iron Age may be discovered. In the sixth century BC, Bologna was one of the most important Etruscan cities of the Po valley area and was known as Felsina. In the fourth century BC, the city was invaded and occupied by the Boii Gauls and in the following century the Romans came to the city and changed its name toBononia.

Under the Romans, Bologna was a flourishing and important city with twenty thousand inhabitants, many imposing buildings and a large theatre. It retained its prestige throughout the period of the Roman Empire although its decline echoed that of the Empire and its perimeter was gradually reduced. In the fifth century AD, during the time of the bishop, Saint Petronius, Bologna underwent a revival; a new era of importance and prosperity began in the eleventh century. Bologna reached the height of its prestige in the thirteenth century. In 1249, its militia defeated the emperor's army and captured King Enzo, son of Frederick II Hohenstaufen, holding him prisoner in the city until his death.

It was a century of social reforms: in 1256, Bologna was the first European city to abolish serfdom. At this time, the city walls were extended and Bologna became one of the ten most highly populated centres in Europe, its urban development equalling that of Paris.

However, in the fourteenth century after a series of unfortunate wars, civil strife and subjection to the pope,Bologna began to lose its full sovereignty. For more than two centuries, the control of the city passed between the Visconti, lords of Milan, the Church of Rome, republican governments and the more important families of the city, who waged battles with one another to obtain supremacy.

These family feuds produced a development in the architecture, the urban structure and the cultural life of the city. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, Bologna belonged to the Papal States, governed on the one hand, by a cardinal legate of the pope and, on the other, by the Senate of the city. During this period Bologna was host to several historic events, such as the coronation of Emperor Charles V, the concordat between Pope Leo X and King Francis I of France and various sessions of the Council of Trent.

With the arrival of Napoleon, Bologna became first the capital of the Cispadane Republic and then the second city, after Milan, of the Cisalpine Republic. The city played an active role in the struggles of the Risorgimento, and in 1859 became part of the new Italian state. Bologna's economic importance dates from the eleventh century when the city became one of the major economic centres of Europe not only due to the foundation of the University, but also because of the development of its cloth industry. Bologna boasted one of the most advanced systems of water supply in the world, and, exploiting this source of energy, the city specialized in the art of silk-weaving from the fifteenth century onwards. Bolognese silk mills represented the height of European technology until the eighteenth century.

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It was in the seventeenth century that Bologna became famous for the production of many types of food, such as the famous sausage. During the nineteenth century, the city serviced an area where the economy was based essentially on agriculture. The eighth centenary celebrations of 1888 served also as an attempt to revive the city's economy by linking it more directly to the University. Although it suffered heavy bombing during World War II, Bologna is today a rich and important industrial and commercial nucleus. The 380,000 inhabitants live at the most important motorway and railway junction in the country; the historical centre (which, after Venice, has remained the most intact of all the Italian cities) is surrounded by modern buildings, centres for trade fairs and conferences and new residential areas.

BOLOGNA: A CITY OF ART

Bologna is unusual for the consistency of the urban structure within its medieval walls, which were built in the fourteenth century. This urban structure is still intact and dominates, even visually, the single architectural works of art. In Florence and in Rome, the individual buildings are more important than the layout of the cities, whereas in Bologna the reverse is true. Here, even the most beautiful Renaissance and Baroque palaces are part of the medieval city plan, which extends like the spokes of a wheel from the heart of the city (marked by the two leaning towers, Asinelli and Garisenda).

Bologna has no squares built to give prominence to imposing façades. The uninterrupted roads and 35 kilometres of colonnades, which characterize the city, do not allow its palaces to be isolated. A masterpiece such asPalazzo Bevilacqua, with its magnificent diamond-faceted façade, or the palaces of the senatorial nobility (Fantuzzi, Albergati, Montanari) are suddenly found standing at the edge of the road, and large doorways open up dramatically revealing spectacular interiors, magnificent courtyards and wide staircases.

It is not entirely by chance that the Bibiena came from this city and after their triumph in Bologna joined, as famous scenic designers, the eighteenth century European courts.

The fourteenth and seventeenth centuries are the golden years of Bolognese art. It is due to the works of art carried out in those periods that Bologna became one of the cities included in the Grand Tour which all the Romantic artists and writers, from Fuseli and Goethe to Stendhal, undertook from the north towards Rome. The first great achievement in the figurative arts was the result of the cosmopolitan culture which the environment of the University of Bologna had advanced.

Bologna - San Domenico Church

Bologna - San Domenico Church

The Gothic religious monuments, the churches and convents of San Francesco and San Domenico, with the tombs of the glossators, are the outward sign of the privileged relationship the city had with northern Italy. This northern influence also stimulated a development in painting and in manuscript illumination in the fourteenth century in opposition to the style imposed by Giotto and the Florentine School.

In the seventeenth century, too, the pictures by the Carracci, Guido Reni and Guercino are anti-Baroque, in contrast to the dominant style of Rome. This laid the foundations for the cult of Classicism and of Raphael, which ensured the fame of the Bolognese painting school in France and in England. The development of the Studium had a considerable effect on the urban structure, encouraging a series of initiatives which added some splendid features to the University nucleus. Among these were the students' colleges (for instance the famous Spanish College founded in 1367), the seat of the Studium requested by Pope Pius IV (now the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, where the magnificent, seventeenth-century Teatro Anatomico is to be found), Cardinal Poggi's Palace (where the Studium was transferred during the time of Napoleon), and the Observatory tower, which was constructed in 1712 as a symbol of the new scientific culture. However, we should also remember the medieval towers, the complex of five churches called Santo Stefano and the imposing basilica of San Petronio, which dominates the main square of the city, where the medieval and Renaissance Town Hall is also to be seen. Despite the demolition carried out in the nineteenth century and the destruction caused during the last world war, the urban structure of Bologna has maintained both its integrity and its charm.

HISTORY OF ITALIAN FOOD

Bresaola, arugula and parmesan cheese - classic combination

Bresaola, arugula and parmesan cheese - classic combination

It is easy to love good food, and we Italians know a couple of things about it. When you enjoy cooking, you become acquainted with ingredients and flavors with a pleasurable delight; you get to know how they mix with each other, which type of scent their fragrance produce and how they will taste once they touch your tongue. Ah… food: like poetry and painting, it’s impossible to resist the beauty in forms and colors it creates when it’s spread out on a table and, of course, it’s even harder to refrain from tasting it.

When you love food, there are two things you really want to do: eat it and make it. That’s why it’s nice to have a well furnished kitchen, and plenty of interesting recipes to try, as well as a gang of good friends to invite over to justify your spending every single weekend surrounded by pots and pans, making your best impression of a domestic goddess/god. But you know what, there’s something we barely stop thinking about when in the kitchen, the history behind what we’re making and eating. Have you ever thought of it? You guys, on the other side of the pond, are usually more aware of it, as your cuisine is a delicious melting pot of flavors and cultures hailing from every corner of the Earth, the heritage and history of which is usually well rooted into the community.

Burrata, a special cheese typical of Puglia

Burrata, a special cheese typical of Puglia

In Italy, things are a bit different: we usually care deeply and lovingly about our family’s cooking history: grandmas and moms’ recipes are passed on with care and pride, a symbol itself of one’s own heritage and roots. Some of us are more aware than others of regional characteristics typical of each dish, but it is not usual, when it comes to the kitchen, to look further back than a couple of generations: our knowledge of why we cook in a certain way and why we eat certain things is normally based on oral sources (our elders) and therefore have a limited timespan.

The history of Italian cuisine, however, is as long and rich as the country’s history itself, its origins laying deep into the ancenstral history of Rome, its people and its political, cultural and social power. Italian cuisine has evolved and changed following the evolution and the changes of Italy itself throughout centuries of wars, cultural mutations and contacts: it’s a history as rich, colorful and fascinating as the most amazing of recipes.

This is what we’re going to tell you today: a tale of food, traditions, kings and warriors, the centuries long tale of Italian kitchens.

Rome and the early Middle Ages

Our ancestors, the Romans, loved feasting on food: the banquet was not simply a moment of social conviviality, but also the place where new dishes were served and tried. The Empire embraced the flavors and ingredients of many of the lands it had conquered: spices from the Middle East, fish from the shores of the Mediterranea and cereals from the fertile plains of North Africa; Imperial Rome was the ultimate fusion cuisine hot spot. The Romans, though, contrarily to how we’re today, liked complex, intricated flavors and their dishes often required sofisticated preparation techniques. Ostrich meat, fish sauces, roasted game, all watered by litres of red wine mixed with honey and water, never failed to appear on the table of Rome’s rich and famous.

Of course: we’re talking about the jetset here, certainly not about the majority of people, who very much, on the other hand, based their diet on the simple union of three things (and the products made of them): the vine, the olive and cereals. This was called Mediterranean Triad and is still today considered central to the diet known worldwide as the Mediterranean diet. Wine, olive oil and bread, then, plus healthy helpings of vegetables, legumes and cheese: this is what the people of Rome would eat on daily basis.

The coming of the Barbarians in the peninsula didn’t only cause the end of the Roman Empire, but also that of such a tradition of, let us say, banqueting in style: these rugged looking, harsh-speaking people from central and northern Europe had very little in common with Romans and their lifestyle. As it always happens when cultures meet and clash, the two influenced each other, also in the kitchen: the Barbarians (who, as a matter of fact, ended up being the last straw needed to provoke the fatal collapse of the Empire, but who embraced with pure eagerness all that was Roman culturally, spiritually and socially) introduced the consumption of butter and beer, whereas the Romans passed on to them a taste for wine and olive oil.

Different was the culinary passage into the Middle Ages of Sicily which, since the 9th century, had become an Arabic colony: islanders embraced the exotic habits and tastes of their colonisers, a fact mirrored also in their cuisine. Spices and dried fruit became a common concoction and are still often found in Sicilian dishes. Many may not know that dried pasta, today a quintessentially Italian thing, was brought to the country, specifically to Sicily, by the Arabs, who appreciated the fact it was easy to carry and preserve, hence perfect for long sea trips and sieges. From the ports of Sicily, dried pasta made its way to those of Naples and Genoa, as well as France and Spain. So, contrarily to what we hear often when talking about the history of pasta, it wasn’t Marco Polo that brought noodles to Italian shores. This is how, we can truly say, an Italian legend was born.

It wasn’t only the influence of other populations to change and influence the Italian way of cooking and eating in the early centuries of the Middle Ages, but also that of religion. After Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion of the Empire and especially after it became the sole Imperial religion with the Edict of Thessalonica in 380, under the reign of emperor Theodosius I, Christianity began exercising heavy regulations upon people behaviors and habits, including the way they ate. Food and eating were strongly associated with sin and with sexuality: pride, of course, was Adam and Eve’s sin, but it did manifest itself through the acts of a woman, who ate the forbidden fruit. As a consequence, spiritual perfection could be obtained through abstinence and fasting and, in particular, through renunciation to meat consumption. Very much up to the year 1000, the monks of Italy (and of the whole of Europe, as a matter of fact) ate a strict diet of bread and legumes, with very spare additions of cheese and eggs on allowed days, along with some seasonal fruit. Meat was considered a dangerous aliment not only for its symbolic meaning: it was refused as a food both because its production involved an act of blatant violence, the killing of an animal, but also because it was considered an energetic food, which could provoke in its consumers unclean desires and passions. In other words, Medieval Christians thought, meat could make you loose your chastity more easily than salad.

Roman banquets and the Barbarians’ habit to eat meat continuously on one side, Christian restrain of the other: the duality came to an end when Charlemagne managed to reconcile the two by declaring righteous an alternation of ascetic fasting with days of pleasurable feasting, when even religious authorities and the faithful could give into the pleasures of the table and consider it an offering to the greatness and goodness of God. During these days of feast, food became one and only with celebrating and honoring the Lord, just as fasting and restrictions did during the rest of the week. Monasteries slowly but steadily abandoned those strict ascetic regulations that had characterized them up to that point and opened to the flavors and tastes of good food on special occasions, which also became moments of prayer and reflection.

And what about castles and their inhabitants? What did they eat in the early Middle Ages?

The social structure built around the castle and its lord had become, by the 11th century, organized in an autarchic economical system which allowed most of its members (craftsmen, members of the military, servants, peasants) to eat regularly and with relative ease. The lord of the castle, of course, was the one with the fuller stomach, but even to him and his family, food was far from being a gastronomic matter: up to when life in the cities flourished again, in Italy before than everywhere else, and people’s mores became, once again, more refined, medieval banqueting remained closer to barbaric food feasts than to old, lavish and harmonious Roman banquets.

The later Middle Ages and the Renaissance

In the later Middle Ages, town life blossomed again with the development of the comuni culture: this supported the inception of early productive cores upon which a whole new social class was to found its roots: the bourgeoisie. Craftsmen were hit by higher demands, dictated by the higher number of people living in urban areas, as well as by a steep increase in commerce, both within and without the borders of Italy as we know it today. The Crusades had opened up Europe to the idea of communicating with one’s neighbor and products began to circulate with much ease: a new social class, that of merchants was born. It is, then, among this crafts and commerce crowd that the pleasure of good food became, once again, symbol of social and economic status. Cooking returned to be a matter of enjoyment and refinement, a voyage among flavors and combinations. Meats and vegetables were once again roasted and braised, the old art of stewing and dressing dishes in rich, flavorsome sauces was rediscovered.

The lords of the castle were going that extra mile to make things even more flamboyant, and embraced with flair the old imperial habit to present food and dishes on the plate spectacularly: birds were served decorated with their own feathers, as if they were still living, pork was brought onto the table with its head still attached to the body, surrounded by pounds and pounds of sides. Such a rediscover of old, traditional ideas in the kitchen, coincided with the introduction of new culinary elements especially on the lords’ table: spices and cane sugar, introduced to Italy by the Arabs and grown in Sicily, substituted salt, pepper or honey in many a dish and helped to create new flavors and recipes. It is, for instance, during the 13th century that sugared almonds (called confetti in Italy) were created and usually served as a sign of culinary distinction at the end of very important dinners: of course, we’re talking about modern confetti, covered with a delicious sugar shell here, but the idea of having almonds or even aniseeds covered in a sweet shell was common already in Roman times. However, the Romans didn’t know sugar, so they would use a paste of honey and flour instead.

Ricotta, a by-product of other cheese, can be eaten just like it is, or cooked in many cakes and savory dishes

Ricotta, a by-product of other cheese, can be eaten just like it is, or cooked in many cakes and savory dishes

In general, almonds preparations became very popular, especially thanks to Sicilian cuisine and its love for Arabic flavors: it was in Sicily, for instance, that the Arabs introduced an ancestor of marzipan, which was to become a very popular medieval dessert. What many don’t know is that, very probably, the most famous of all Sicilian dessert, the cassata, may have Arabic origins, too. The cake, made with sheep ricotta mixed with sugar, sponge cake, royal paste (a sweet paste made of almond flour and sugar) and candied fruit, was created during the Arab domination of island, between the 9th and the 11th century. Arabs had introduced sugar cane, lemons and oranges to the coltures of Sicily and very soon they all became part of its cuisine: all these ingredients concurred, along with sheep ricotta, always produced in the South of Italy, and almonds, to create the cassata. Even its name may come from the Arabic word qas’at, which means “small basket,” and could indicate the container where the cake was made. However, other linguists think the name actually comes from the Latin caseum, which means “cheese.”

Either way, the roots of the dish itself are certainly Middle Eastern, even though it changed greatly throughout the centuries: for instance, the pasta di mandorle – a paste made with almond flour and sugar, which is an ingredient of marzipan – began to be used only during the Norman period to cover cassate. Before then, they were encased in shortbread.

Some place the origin of another delicious Italian sweet treat in the same period, and at the hand of the same people, the Arabs: it seems, in fact, that the history of gelato, the world famous Italian-style ice cream, is very much rooted on Sicilian soil and in Arabic culinary tradition. The Arabs commonly produced a sorbet-like concoction of sugar and fruit juices, turned into ice by keeping it immersed in a mixture of ice and salt. They exported the method in Sicily, where fruits were plenty, marine salt a local produce and ice came easily from the peaks of Mount Etna. Even though gelato as we know it became a fixture of European tables only in the 1600s, thanks to the popularity it reached in France, Arabic Sicily wins the medal for having been the first place in the western world where its ancestor was produced.

The history of Italian cuisine and food is still long and fascinating. Get to learn more about what Italy inherited from the New World and the evolution of the Italian way of cooking up to modern times in the second part of our adventure in the history of Italian food.

PROSECCO OR CHAMPAGNE ? BRUT OR SPARKLING ? OR... SPUMANTE?

Its that time of the year

Its that time of the year


Champagne vs. Prosecco: Do You Know the Difference?

Sometimes you can’t help but want to enjoy a glass of fine wine or bubbly with dinner in the evening, but with so many choices stocking the shelves, it can be hard to decide which one you would like the most when it comes to taste and aroma. Whether you have never had a glass of wine in your life or you consider yourself a connoisseur, perusing this Champagne versus Prosecco guide might teach you a thing or two about the differences and similarities between the two, how these wines are made, what they taste like and which foods create the best pairing.

The Difference Between Champagne & Prosecco

When it comes to comparing champagne and prosecco, the key difference is the regions from which they originate.

Champagne is a product of the Champagne region of France and is made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. A standard pour, which is between five and six ounces, has about 128 calories. A good bottle of entry-level Champagne costs about $40. Champagne is the traditional go-to beverage for celebratory holidays, especially New Year’s Eve.

Prosecco wine, on the other hand, originates from the village of Prosecco, located near the city of Trieste in northeastern Italy. This wine is mostly made with Glera grapes, which were formerly referred to as Prosecco grapes, but it can also include Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, or a few other varieties. A standard pour of Prosecco has about 121 calories and costs about $13 if you wish to purchase a good entry-level bottle.

Champagne and Prosecco Production Methods

Champagne is produced using the traditional method, Méthode Champenoise. The process begins by creating the base wine, which tastes tart compared to other still wines. This is due to the fact that the grapes are picked earlier in the season.

Next, the maker adds sugar and yeast. The yeast eats the sugar, which releases carbon dioxide that pressurizes into the container to carbonate the wine. After this process is complete, the Champagne is aged using either lees or riddling. Lees are dead yeast cells that remain in the bottle or tank of fermented wine. Wines aged with lees will taste richer. Riddling is the process of rotating sparkling wine upside down over time. This collects the dead yeast cells into the bottle’s neck.

The next part of the process is disgorgement and dosage. During disgorgement, the neck of the bottle goes into liquid nitrogen or frozen brine to freeze the lees. Once the cap is popped, they’ll come out the bottle to leave the sparkling wine. Finally, one last mixture of wine and sugar, known as dosage, goes into the bottle to fill it back to capacity and add extra flavor.

Prosecco is processed using the more affordable tank method. This process follows many of the same steps as the traditional method, but the tank method stores the wine in tanks during the second fermentation. The large tank makes the process quicker and more efficient, making it more affordable to produce and therefore more affordable for the consumer to purchase.

The Difference in Taste Profiles

Champagne and Prosecco have very different taste profiles. The primary flavors in Champagne are citrus, white peach and cherry, almond and toast. Prosecco’s primary flavors are green apple, honeydew, honeysuckle, pear and fresh cream.

Because Champagne ages longer on the lees, the flavor often resembles cheese rinds. In finer bottles, it will seem like toast or biscuits. The high-pressure aging process creates fine and persistent bubbles. Vintage Champagnes typically have flavors of almond, orange-zest and white cherry.

Prosecco’s taste is more fruity and flowery because of the grapes that create it. The aging process takes place in large tanks, creating less pressure that results in lighter, spritzy bubbles that are not as persistent as the ones in Champagne. Fine bottles of Prosecco usually have notes of tropical fruit, hazelnut, vanilla, or banana cream.

Foods to Pair with Champagne and Prosecco

The differences in tastes between Champagne and Prosecco mean the food pairings are quite different as well. Champagne is dry and has a high acidity that works best when paired with shellfish, fried appetizers, pickled vegetables and raw bar items. Some people even swear by drinking Champagne with their favorite potato chips.

On the other end of the spectrum is the sweeter Prosecco. The sweet element makes it the perfect pairing for fruity appetizers such as prosciutto-wrapped melons or for cured meats. Many people enjoy pairing Prosecco with Asian dishes such as sushi or Thai noodles.

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A Specific Comparison

For those who are new to Champagne and Prosecco, it might help to compare two specific bottles. In this case, the match is between Bisol “Crede” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG and Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne.

The Bisol Valdobbiadene Prosecco is a clear and bright color that resembles a pale yellow with small silver flecks. Its medium-fine bubbles are persistent. The clean, medium intensity aroma reminds of honeysuckle, honeydew and fresh-cut pears with a hint of citrus blossom. The light and creamy taste has a medium-plus acidity with hints of green apple and pineapple. The blend is 85 percent Prosecco, 10 percent Pinot Bianco and 5 percent Verdiso. The bottle, which is 11.5 percent alcohol, should be stored and served at 45-47° Fahrenheit. There is no need to decant.

The Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne is also clear and bright with a pale gold color flecked in silver. Its fine bubbles are persistent. Although this bottle is also described as having a clean aroma, it is of a lower intensity. Apple, pear and white peach are most prominent, but there is also a subtle hint of Parmesan cheese. The Champagne has a high acidity that lends itself to a zesty combination of green apple, bruised quince and chamomile. The blend is 20 percent Chardonnay, 40 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Pinot Meunier. The bottle is 12 percent alcohol. Like the Prosecco, this Champagne should be served at 45-47 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no need to decant.

The Best Bubbly?

In the legendary “Champagne vs Prosecco” debate, there is no clear winner. Both types of wine offer its own unique flavors, carbonation, aromas and tasting experience. If you are new to the world of wines, consider purchasing a bottle or two of each kind to help you decide which one you prefer.

Even if you aren’t new to wine and Champagne, it never hurts to try something new. Consider choosing something different the next time you host a dinner party.

BOLOGNA - ITALY'S CULINARY MECCA

Bologna - Garden of Italy

Bologna - Garden of Italy

Seven Reasons Why Bologna is Italy’s Foodie Heart

Head to central Bologna, capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, and you’ll soon hit a food shop. The delicious, dark delis containing a multitude of goodies are around every corner in this handsome old city. The Bolognese take their food tradition very seriously. In fact, the city is known as ‘La Grassa’ meaning ‘The fat one’, and for good reason.

In Italy, the paths of food are infinite: there are so many typical products and dishes to taste, so many different flavors, you will only be spoilt for choice. Here is a selection of some of the most famous protagonists on Italian tables, coming from every part of the country.

1. Amazing Tortellini

You’ll find Bologna’s plentiful independent shops groaning with the region’s traditional foods. One speciality is delicious little tortellini – tiny filled pasta containing a meaty mix of mortadella, prosciutto crudo, cooked pork mince, and seasoning – perhaps a dash of nutmeg. There is never any alternative filling in these dreamy little pasta parcels. If you’re doing things one-hundred percent traditionally, you should eat them in a broth made from the carcass of a cockerel and a beef bone. But they also taste great simmered for a minute or so in simmering salted water, drained, then tossed in butter and pepper, or with a cream and ham reduction.

2. Moreish Mortadella

Another key ingredient of the city is mortadella. This cooked cured pork sausage is protected by the European Union, and bears the IGP geographical stamp of approval. Mortadella with the IGP stamp must follow a precise method to be up to the very best standard. Real mortadella is made from lean pork with cubes of fat from the throat – considered the tastiest. It’s mixed with herbs and spices, often whole peppercorns, and sometimes pistachios, before being dry-air cooked for hours, depending on the size. When ready, it’s cooled and the flavours allowed to stabilise before being sold. It’s eaten on its own as an aperitivo, or for lunch, but also appears cooked into many Bolognese recipes, for example as a stuffing for tender fried pork or chicken, and in pasta sauces and fillings.

3. Plentiful Parmesan

You’ll also see huge wedges of Parmesan gracing the shelves of Bolognese food shops. The world’s best loved Italian cheese comes almost entirely from Emilia-Romagna. By European law it can only be called Parmigiano-Reggiano if it’s from the towns of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena, and Mantua (which is the only one not in the region of Emilia-Romagna, but bordering Lombardy). To be on the safe side, either make a trip to lovely Romagna to buy a hunk (leave room in your case), or buy only cheese specifically called Parmigiano-Reggiano.

4. Real Ragù

You can’t come to Bologna without eating ‘Bolognese’. Except, of course, Bolognese doesn’t actually exist – the meaty sauce we know and love in the UK, is called ragù in Italy. We call it Bolognese because it’s from Bologna. But don’t expect to see it served with spaghetti; this rich, meaty, long-cooked sauce is always served with fresh tagliatelle here. The official ingredients allowed in the sauce are much debated. It’s started off with gently sautéed celery, onion, and carrot, then usually beef and pork mince are added – sometimes veal. You can add white wine (some add red, and others none), and milk, and a little tomato paste. But one thing all Italians agree on is there’s no garlic, and it must cook slowly for a long time – preferably a minimum of 2 hours. It’s also the base of another great Bolognese dish that’s worth tasting in its home town – lasagne.

5. Best Balsamic

Another ingredient you’ll see a lot of, is the black gold that is balsamic vinegar from Modena. Modena is under an hour up the E35 road from Bologna, and also in this great foodie region of Emilia Romagna. Again, it’s an IGP protected product, and the best ones – aged for 25 years or more and extra vecchio (meaning extra old), cost over £100 for 100ml. It’s a good idea to find a shop that offers tasting of a selection of vinegars, trying a little of each on a plastic spoon. Many are excellent, even the less expensive ones graded condimenti – but try before you buy and you won’t be sorry.

6. Informal Dining

Aside from the great ingredients, the Bolognese have also mastered the way to eat. You don’t find too many very expensive restaurants here. The culture is very much to eat local food together in an informal setting, and trattoria selling a selection of local pasta, meat and desserts are everywhere. There’s no need to dress up, just drop in and join the convivial atmosphere and great local food. This is the way the Bolognesi do it. They also have a selection of excellent food halls in the city centre – notably Mercato di Mezzo. This is a collection of artisanal food sellers positioned around a central sitting area. Pick what you fancy and grab a table. It’s fast food in the sense of a hand-made pasta, or fresh fish rather than anything processed. The best food, in other words.

7. Aperitivo Treats

Another big part of the Bolognese food scene is the aperitivo. Italians rarely drink without eating, so head to a bar, order a drink, and in the cover price you’ll get a selection of delicious bites to eat, maybe prosciutto crudo, crostini, or a taster of the lovely local creamy cheese squacquerone. It’s a lovely way to eat a light meal, over a Campari or Prosecco or a glass of local Sangiovese red, or crisp Albana white.

Whatever you do, don’t come to Bologna without an empty stomach.

MORE TRADITIONAL ITALIAN STAPLES

In Italy, the paths of food are infinite: there are so many typical products and dishes to taste, so many different flavors, you will only be spoilt for choice. Here is a selection of some of the most famous protagonists on Italian tables, coming from every part of the country.

Schiacciata

Italy has a rich bread tradition, characterized by products created through different recipes and technique, and shaped in different forms. Schiacciata is particularly famous and it is usually associated to Tuscany; it is a baked focaccia, or flat bread, seasoned with olive oil and salt and. Though being part of Tuscan tradition there are other two types of schiacciata: the schiacciata messinese and the schiacciata catanese. They totally differ from the Tuscan one as they are filled; the messinese is filled with cheese, potatoes, broccoli, sausage, tomatoes, onions, pepper, oil and salt. The ingredients of schiacciata catanese are cheese, anchovies, pepper and olives.

Mozzarella

Though being imitated all over the country, the original and authentic mozzarella comes from the south of Italy; mozzarella can be made with both cow and buffalo milk. The first type is associated to several southern regions, such as Calabria, Apulia, Basilicata, Abruzzo and Molise; the second, on the other hand, is typical of Campania, and is protected by a special DOP certification to ensure its authenticity. Mozzarella is characterized by a round shape of different sizes. Its consistency should be firm, but not hard, creamy, but not mushy. Good ones should ooze milk when cut. Piece of advice: never keep it it in the fridge! In order to preserve its original taste it should be left in its water and eaten fresh.

Ricotta

It is a soft white cheese made especially in the center and south of the country. There are several types of ricotta: some are milder and sweeter, while others are more flavorsome. You can also find it “affumicata”, smoked . Ricotta is used in several ways, depending on the region of its production.

Burrata

The burrata is a type of cheese, made from buffalo or cow milk, linked to the region of Apulia. It is characterized by a sweet and buttery flavor; compared to mozzarella it is softer and stringy.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma, Parma ham, is particularly famous in Italy. It is not considered a normal prosciutto crudo, but one of the tastier hams in its category. Though being made in the province of Parma, it is famous world-wide; the flavor of this prosciutto is quite delicate and sweet, making it different from the typically salted aftertaste other cured hams leave.

Bresaola

Bresaola is a cold cut made from seasoned beef meat and eaten raw. Often served with rucola and parmesan cheese, it is considered a typical summer dish:it is never absent on a good Italian table. Bresaola della Valtellina, originally from the province of Sondrio, is its best known variety.

Scamorza

Scamorza is a pear-shaped cheese made with cow’s milk in the regions of Campania, Abruzzo, Molise and Apulia. Its skin is pliant, smooth and thin, its color ivory-like; the flavor is sweet and fresh, but ageing makes it stronger.

Where can you buy them?

These products can be found all over the Italian territory. Nevertheless, if you want to be sure to taste the original, it is better if you eat or buy them in the place of production. You will find them in supermarkets, caseifici (dairy factories) or botteghe, little deli shops. The latter are often the best place to buy them, as they tend to sell local, artisanal produce rather than the commercially mass-produced variety found in supermarkets. Another way to get fresh products at a fraction of the price is to buy them directly at the factory shops.

If you are abroad you can also buy them online but don’t trust imitations as there are a lot of fake sites pretending to sell authentic Italian food.

How to eat them?

All of these typical and tasty products are usually served as starters. However, they can be considered passepartout ingredients, as they can be used in a lot of dishes. They are often present on the tables of bars as snacks for aperitivo.

No matter when you serve them or how you serve them, these are must-eat of Italian cuisine that will truly leave a taste of traditionally Italy in your mouth.

BURANO - PICTURES DO THE TALKING

BURANO 3.jpg

Colour and … more colour

Ever seen those photos of Venice that show brightly-painted buildings? Those aren’t from the main island of Venice, but Burano. Families used to paint their homes in bright colors to designate where their family’s quarters ended and a neighbor’s began, as well as to make their homes more visible from the sea. The tradition has stuck.

Today, Burano is a rainbow of fun, bright colors—and the perfect place for that great photo-up.

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History of Burano

The inhabitants of Altino, escaping from barbarian invasion, find refuge in the islands of lagoon, giving them the names of the six doors of their thrown over city: Murano, Mazzorbo, Burano, Torcello, Ammiana e Costanziaca.

The name "Burano" arise from "Porta Boreana", the northern door of the city.

In these islands the first houses were build on palafittes, with walls made of woven canes and afterwards plastered with mud. They were very light buildings constituted by an unique room, because the ground was too tender. Beds were made of dry leaves.

Later these raw houses were changed with buildings made of bricks and the older ones were used like warehouses.

Some scholar believe that Burano was not risen where it is situated today. In some ancient text is written that the island was situated nearest the sea and that its inhabitants must escape from it because of the strong tidal wave.

Instead in other texts is written which the position of Burano was never changed and which it has saved the island from malaria.

Since the time of Venetian Republic, Burano had only 8000 poor inhabitants (now 3000) predominantly fishermans and farmers. Thanks to the craft of lace workers, the island grew economically, exporting its fantastic laces all over the world.

Today Burano is lotted into five joined by bridge quarters: "San Martino Destro", "San Martino Sinistro", "San Mauro", "Giucecca" and "Terranova", traversed by their mill runs "Rio Ponticello", "Rio Zuecca" and "Rio Terranova".

The last big change was the principal mill run's closing off to build the square, which takes its name from the famous musician Baldassare Galuppi.

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Back in the 16th century, the women of Burano started stitching lace. The work was extremely exacting—in fact, each woman specialized in a single stitch, and since there are seven stitches in total, each piece would have to be passed from woman to woman to finish. That’s why one handmade lace centerpiece for a tablecloth takes about a month to do!

Because of that amount of work and how expensive it necessarily makes handmade lace, much of the lace you see being sold in Burano’s stores today is made by machine. But if you want a glimpse of what lace was like in the time when it was all done by hand, you’ve still got some options.

Handmade lace booties in La Perla, Burano

We like La Perla, a lace shop on the main street, where handmade products range from tablecloths and doilies to Venetian masks and babies’ booties. Women often are stationed inside, stitching away, so you can even see how it’s done. (La Perla is located on Via Galuppi 376, the main road in town). If you’re especially fascinated by lace and textiles, stop at the Scuola del Merletto, a museum with some excellent examples of 16th and 17th-century lace, along with the beautiful, lace-trimmed gown worn by Queen Margherita, the Jackie Kennedy of late 19th-century Italy. (The Scuola del Merletto is located on Burano’s main piazza of Baldassare Galuppi).

Old tradition - delicate art of weaving

Old tradition - delicate art of weaving

TORTA DI RICOTTA

Delicious

Delicious

Torta di ricotta, arancia e cioccolato

(ricotta, orange and chocolate cake) recipe from The Italian Baker

 Serves: 8

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE RICOTTA FILLING

500g (1lb 2oz) ricotta cheese

250g (1¼ cups) caster (granulated) sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

225g (8oz) chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

FOR THE CAKE

200g (scant 1 cup) butter, plus extra, softened, for greasing

300g (scant 2½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

95g (¾ cup) cornflour (cornstarch)

1½ teaspoons baking powder

200g (1 cup) caster (granulated) sugar

250ml (1 cup) double (heavy) cream

2 eggs

Icing (confectioner’s) sugar or good-quality cocoa powder, for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS

1

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 23-cm/9-inch cake tin and line with baking parchment.

2

For the filling, place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and press the ricotta through using the back of a spoon. Add the sugar, orange zest and chocolate chips to the bowl. Stir and set aside. Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder into a separate bowl and set aside.

3

Put the butter, sugar and half the cream into another bowl and heat in the microwave until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Stir, then add the remaining cream and set aside to cool for a few minutes. 

4

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric whisk, until pale and creamy. Fold in (or beat in on a low speed with the stand mixer) the sifted flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the butter and cream mixture, until fully incorporated. Transfer half of the mixture to the prepared tin and, using a spatula, spread it out evenly.

5

Fill a piping bag with the ricotta mixture and pipe it across the centre of the cake mixture in the tin. Spread it out a little using a spatula, but try not to reach the sides of the tin. Add the remaining cake mixture on top of the ricotta mixture and spread it out evenly.

6

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin before inverting on to a plate. Dust with either icing sugar or cocoa powder, depending on preference.