Friday, June 27, 2008

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A little taste of Italy everyday on your favorite web spots. Feel free to share it and post it anywhere you like. It goes on almost any social site, iGoogle, and yahoo.


Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio was a troubled man. He was a drinker, a gambler, murdered a guy, and frequented brothels. All this and a fantastic painter too.

His style is called tenebroso which means shadow. He depicted Biblical scenes in contemporary Rome. His models wore typical Roman dress in his Rome. The use of light for Caravaggio was sacred in that he used it to show who or what was important in the painting.

One of my favorite painting from Caravaggio is Calling of Saint Matthew. It can be seen a few steps away from Piazza Navona in Rome at San Luigi dei Francesi. You will also see Martydom of Saint Matthew there. Both are amazing.Walk into the church and go towards the alter. At the Alter look to your left. They are in the last transept. You can drop a coin in the light box to light up the paintings. I highly recommend you do this.You can also see Caravaggio at the Vatican Pinacoteca, The Borghese Gallery, and the Uffizi.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

La Campana - A great Roman Restaurant

This place is one of my favorites. It is very Roman. The service has always been excellent and the food divine. It is a little more expensive, but well worth it.

I usually eat here on my last night in Rome.

Located on Vicolo della Campana, 18; Tel: (06) 686-7820. The street is tiny so you'll need to find it on a map. Even when you find the street the door to the restaurant only has a small neon sign.

My favorite things here are: Fried Zucchini Flowers, Jewish Artichokes, Cacio e Pepe, and Bucatini Amatriciana.They also have one of the best antipasti tables in Rome. Lots of things to choose.

Raphael - Italy's First Casanova

"Raphael was an amorous man who was fond of women, and he was always quick to serve them."

That is a quote from Giorgio Vasari in the Lives of the Artists. Raphael was one of the three Giants of the Renaissance. Between Raphael, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo the artistic world was recreated. He was beautiful, graceful, and well connected to the power base of Italy earning some of the most important commissions as a result.

While working on Villa Farnasina for the wealthy Agostino Chigi he was unable to work due his love for one of his mistresses. Chigi arranged to have his mistress come to the Villa to be near Raphael. The work was finally completed. The masterpiece is in the Loggia Galatea in Villa Farnasina in Trastevere in Rome. Raphael painted a portrait of another one of his lovers that you can see in the Barbarini Gallery in Rome. It is of Margherita Luti. The name of painting is La Farnarina.

"How generous and kind Heaven sometimes proves to be when it brings together in a single person the boundless riches of its treasures and all those graces and rare gifts that over a period of time are usually divided among many individuals can clearly be seen in the no less excellent than gracious Raphael Sanzio of Urbino."

Check out the Unabellavista Podcasts on iTunes. A full podcast is dedicated to Raphael along with a supporting essay covering his life and works.


Between the two destroyed cities of Mt. Vesuvius I prefer Herculaneum. It, to me, is better preserved. You can walk into the ancient Roman homes, enjoy the streets in almost perfect condition.

As you walk into the ancient city you cross a bridge. From the bridge you can see into the ancient port. In the port the archeologists uncovered many of Herculaneum's citizens frozen in time. It is eerie.You will enjoy looking into its ancient restaurants, bakeries, and gymasiums.

From Rome you take the train to Naples. Then you jump on the Circumvesuviana line. You can get off at Scavi di Ercolano (Herculaneum) or Scavi di Pompeii. Scavi means ruins in Italian. It is a long day trip from Rome, or a short one from Naples or Sorrento.I recommend making it a day trip from your time in the Amalfi Coast.

Italian Wine

Ah from Italy. In Italy the wines are categorized in the D.O.C. This is a way for consumers to know what quality of wine they are consuming as well as helps the Italian government control the wine industry to insure quality.

The categories are: VT, IGT, DOC, and DOCG.

VT = Table Wine

IGT = Regional Wine

DOC = Wine from a specific, controlled origin

DOCG = Wine from a specific, controlled origin at a higher level.

The indications aren't necessarily rankings in taste, but specifically that the wine is made to a specific standard from a specific region within Italy.Next time you buy Italian wine take a look at the label. I think they are much easier to understand than French wine.

Granita - Easy and Refreshing

One of my favorite dishes to enjoy is Granita. It is easy to make and a great way to cool down in the heat of summer.

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups Cantelope (puree)

2 tsp. lemon juice, preferably fresh squeezed

This recipe can be used to any fruit granita.

In a medium saucepan, add the water and the sugar and stir to combine; make sure to put the stirring spoon aside. Heat the mixture over medium high heat without stirring until mixture reaches a boil. Again, without stirring, cook mixture for about 5 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool, add the Cantelope and lemon juice and stir with a clean spoon. Pour the mixture into a 9x12" or other large, flat dish so that the mixture doesn't come up too high along the sides of the pan-you will need room for stirring. Place the pan in the freezer, making sure it is level, for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carefully remove pan and place it on a steady surface. Use a fork to stir the mixture thoroughly, making sure to break up any ice crystals that have formed along the side or bottom of container. Return the pan to the freezer and repeat the stirring every 30 minutes, making sure you break up any large chunks that form, for 3 to 4 hours or until mixture is thoroughly frozen. Fluff with a fork and spoon into small coffee cups or ice cream dishes. Garnish. Serve immediately or return to the freezer in serving dishes to serve up after your meal.

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Cacio e Pepe

A great pasta for the summer. A Roman standard and hard to beat.

6 ounces penne or bucatini

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup (packed) freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 ounce)

Freshly ground black pepper

Fill large serving bowl with hot water to heat bowl; let stand while cooking pasta. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Pour out hot water from serving bowl. Immediately add drained pasta and oil to bowl, then cheese and toss to coat. If dry, add some of reserved pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.

The key to this dish is pan searing the whole black peppercorns. Once heated crush in a dish towel with a hammer or snap in a food processor.

Espresso & Grappa

Add a little grappa to your tazzina (espresso cup) after you have enjoyed your cafe. It mixes well with the sugar and espresso, mellows the grappa, and the cup is usually still warm so it heats up the grappa a bit. This is the Tuscan way to enjoy Cafe Corretto...corrected coffee.