Monthly Archives: January 2016

Spaghetti from Naples

This recipe comes from a cookbook De Curtis daughter, Liliana, dedicated to him. It is a simple dish of the common folk, and captures the Neapolitan spirit that Totò portrayed many times on the big screen and theater stages.

Per 6 servings

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 3 slices stale bread
  • 4 desalted anchovies
  • basil
  • oregano
  • garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil

Rub the bread slices with garlic, Then arrange them on a plate. In a pan, stir-fry two garlic cloves with two tablespoons of oil: stir-fry the bread in the oil, being careful that the garlic does not become too brown. In another pan, put the oil, the chopped anchovies and a pinch of oregano. Cook the spaghetti al dente drain and pour them into the pan with the anchovies, then add the crispy bread and stir quickly finishing with a handful of basil leaves, torn into pieces. Serve immediately.

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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Uncategorized



A palace for photography

Few hours to spend in Milan between appointments, so……

Palazzo della Ragione, (literally, palace of the Reason) for about 8 centuries, was in fact the heart of Milan’s trade and business activities. As you leave the Cathedral square and walk towards Piazza Mercanti, you reach the Mediaeval Broletto Nuovo, which is now called Palazzo della Ragione. The word “Broletto” comes from the word “Brolo” which, in the late Middle Ages, indicated an open grass field where markets were commonly held.

The building was constructed between 1228 and 1233 for podestà Oldrado da Tresseno. It maintained a central role in the administrative and public life of Milan until the late 18th century. In 1773, under Empress Maria Theresa, it was restored and enlarged, to serve as legal archives. The structural changes were designed by architect Francesco Croce, who added a new upper floor with large round windows and restyled the whole building based on Neoclassic canons. Other major modifications of the buildings were done in 1854 by architect Enrico Terzaghi; these included glass panes that closed the ground floor ambulatory, which was reopened between 1905 and 1907. Between 1866 and 1870, the building housed the headquarters of the Banca Popolare di Milano, a major Milanese bank, but thereafter returned to its function as a legal archives seat until 1970. In 1978, Marco Dezzi Bardeschi restored the building again, but he strongly opposed any proposal of structural change, including that of removing the upper floor added by Croce

The palace is decorated with a relief representing Oldrado da Tresseno (podestà of Milan and fierce prosecutor of the Cathar heretics), and the bas relief of the scrofa semilanuta (“half-woolly sow”), which has been object of much controversy among scholars of the foundation and origins of Milan. Constructed in Mediaeval style, it has a rectangular floor plan, with a double portico on the open ground floor which thus forms a large covered but open-air area. At the time of the Visconti rulers, this area was used for trade, both for buying and selling merchandise, and for professional services such as notaries and intermediaries.

This is one of the busiest areas of the city and it is frequently full of tourists and passers-by, including the people of the city who like to stroll here. This part of the city provides a suggestion of life in a Mediaeval settlement. You will also find musicians and street artists here, who are always willing to perform for some spare change.

Delineating the piazza are buildings from different eras that are the result of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century restoration works: beside Palazzo della Ragione there are Loggia degli Osii (1316), Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine (XVII century), Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo dei Giureconsulti (1561) and the Casa Panigarola (built in the fifteenth century and restored in 1899). The piazza, once rectangular in shape and completely adorned by porticoes, was established in the Middle Ages as a centre of political, commercial and urban life. A function that it upheld until the eighteenth century. There were six entrances leading to the city districts. In the piazza, where the curb of a sixteenth century well can still be found, there was once “la pietra dei falliti” (‘the stone for bankrupts’) where malefactors were exposed to public shame. Those who went bankrupt had to sit on the stone and withstand insults and jeers while, from the balcony of the Loggia degli Osii known as the  parlera, a judge read the sentence and put all the person’s assets up for auction. The surrounding streets were named after the trades carried out in each district: Armorari, (Armourers) Spadari (Swordmakers) Cappellari (Hatmakers), Orefici (Goldsmiths) Speronari (Spurmakers), Fustagnari (Cotton traders).

In the second half of the nineteenth century the piazza was subject to urban planning restorations that changed the original aspect but it still remains a picturesque corner of Milan with a distinctly medieval flavour. Often the piazza is a ‘stage’ for outdoor exhibitions, markets and concerts.

Now, let’s go inside the palace…..

Today, Palazzo della Ragione is used for photography exhibitions, which are rendered even more attractive by this unique building. The exhibition currently on display is about the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson and other foreign photographers, how they looked at Italy thought their cameras….

Beside Cartier-Bresson’s photos of his almost 30 years travels to Italy, there are works of Robert Capa following the american troops in Italy in 1943, the religious world of David Seymour, photos of life details and little villages by Cuchi White, or Herbert List and William Klein. Last but not least, Sebastiao Salgadotelling the story of the last tuna fishermen in Sicily.

“It’s easy to loose happiness, because it’s always undeserved. Same for Italy. Her grace, often unexpected, it’s seldom immediate. Because, from the very beginning, she lavishes poetry to better hide her truths” – Albert Camus

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Posted by on January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in Uncategorized



Early in the month we finally got the chance to meet with our friends from Modena…..obviously sitting around a table….

For once somebody else (our friend S) was taking the pic and I’m in it this time!!!

Salame di Felino and the king of them all, the very special culatello…..

Mariola with smashed potatoes and home made mostarda….all sooooo good!

All the food in the restaurant is home made, the desserts are all served as single-portion, hubby had viennetta

and I opted for warm zabaione with rice and almonds biscuits

After lunch the discussion was of course about netx spring/summer bike rides….

Then it was time for my daughter to fix our Christmas tree….

and this is the version with the lights on and a few gifts already under it…

We heard that our favourite band was helding another show at the usual place just outside town, and we gladly drove there one night to have a great time…

The sunday before Christmas with a couple of friends we drove up the hills to the little village of Bazzano, home of the most famous nativities exhibition in the region…..

and the villagers creativity and imagination have no limits….The setting can vary a lot, from traditional figurines placed inside a wooden spool for hoses….(and I don’t know why the apples…)

a more traditional one setting in a porch under a tree covering a door (hoping no one has to use it soon…)

one carved in a log….

one made using wine bottles and jugs, the cave being an old corking machine….

a traditional one, but made of plasticine….

there were also two with the Minions…………

A very elegant one, all in white….

one made on roof tiles….

one hanging from a tree inside a glass house….

a modern one made with paper…

one hung on a wall made with glued grains….

just opposit a bakery with its own, all made with bread….even the woods in the fireplace are bread-sticks…

this one is made of carved polystyrene with pebbles and woods glued on it….

I guess who made this likes to travel….

another one hung up a tree….

and this is a one-dimension….

the one below is made with colored children’s pens

I saved for last my favourite, a nativity scene set inside a doll house, victorian style….

In the village there are also Santa home and office….

We were so lucky to see the old man itself…..

(for my previous visit see here). At the end of the day we were cold and tired….not enough to go home to have dinner….I had the most fabulous gluten-free dinner ever!!

This year my daughter gave her best to fix Christmas’ eve dinner….three different appetizers….

a very good fish and veggies lasagna

octopus salad with potatoes and olives and a potatoes and anchovies terrine…

The only thing we bought was the dessert….

After Christmas we met with friends at our favourite place to spend the evening together…..

New Year’s Eve we were just the two of us, me and hubby, because I got a bad flu and I wan’t really in the mood….so it was just a traditional dinner….

It’s been a very intense year, with its usual ups and downs, for us and for our extended family and our  friends…..there are still some situations pending, but luckily all will end well (fingers crossed)….

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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Uncategorized


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