Monthly Archives: July 2016

Tuna for summer

Serving 4:

  • ¾ lb spaghetti
  • lb fresh tuna fillets
  • salt to taste
  • 2 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Fry the fresh tuna fish in olive oil until it becomes golden, then drain it and salt it. Prepare a tomato sauce and when it is cooked to perfection, add the fried tuna cut into small pieces, along with a generous helping of chopped parsley. Cook together for 10 minutes, over a low heat, and then dress the spaghetti taking care to put on every plate some sauce and tuna fish.

To make it more “siclian style” you can add on top of each plate some chopeed pistacchio….


Tuna is one of the most characteristic fish of the Mediterranean. Fished for thousands of years, the methods for catching the fish have developed over the centuries. The traditional “tonnara”, of tuna hunting with large nets, has been repaced with museums, restaurants and tourist attractions.
In Sicily, however, there are still two tuna hunts near Trapani: one in Bonagia and the other in Favignana.
Here, you can witness the “mattanza”,  the ancient passage of the large from the Atlantic to the Mediteranean at the end of spring.
Over 300 kilos of fish are caught in the large nets attached to boats with out motors. The chief, or “rais”, sings ancient Sicilian songs, giving the fishermen his orders. Leftover from an archaic world, the tuna hunts are almost impossible to understand. They are a combination of tradition and superstition, a fight for survival and desire for wealth. A tragic, one-of-a-kind show.

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Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Uncategorized



Abruzzo 2016 – Chapter 4 – Navelli

Two years ago we stopped there just to have lunch (a few pics are from back then). The main attraction (Santucci Palace) was close so we just left, but with the feeling we were losing something good…….

Last month Navelli was the last stop of our visit to Abruzzo…..

Navelli is located about 700 m above sea level and 34 km from the city of L’Aquila, on the southwestern slope of a hill that dominates the Navelli Plateau .Navelli plain runs parallel to the valley of the river Aterno, and together with the plains of Capistrano, the Peligna, the Rocche and the Cinquemiglia , is the complex of Abruzzo’s interior highlands between the alignment of the Monte Velino – Sirente – Monti Marsicani and the Apennines on north-west and on south-east the succession of the Monti della Laga, the Gran Sasso, the Majella, the Morrone Mountains and the Monti della Meta. Navelli plain was originated by tectonic dislocations.

The first settlements in the Navelli area date back to the Vestini around the sixth century BC , when the area below the present town was the vicus Incerulae; of these origins there’s an inscription in Vestino dialect preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, dating from the third century BC that mentions an Italic temple dedicated to Hercules Jovius in the site of the today Church of Santa Maria in CerulisThe current village was founded by the union in the Middle Ages (VIII-X sec.) of six villages: Villa del Plano, Villa of Piceggia (or Piaggia) Grande, Villa of Piceggia (or Piaggia) Piccola, Villa of Saint Lucia, Villa del Colle and Villa Turri. Of the original villages in the plain remain some medieval churches, such as Santa Maria in Cerulis already mentioned in 787 on the Chronicon Vulturnense .

The original villages gathered around a castle, built on the hill that still lies above the village, already mentioned in 1092 in a bull of the Monastery of San Benedetto in Perillis . The fort was equipped with a tower that, during the Renaissance, was transformed into the bell tower of the parish church. On the ruins of the castle, then, it was built in 1632 the Baron’s Palace (or Santucci). The houses were built in the Middle Ages in the area of “Villa of great Piceggia”, expanding during the Renaissance towards the “small Villa Piceggia”: the two areas, the medieval (the current “big Beaches”) and Renaissance ( “Small beaches “), are still discernible in town.

The Navelli castle belonged to the Diocese of Valva and in 1269 helped found the Comitatus Aquilano in Quarto Santa Maria . To quell the conflicts related to the payment of tithes, in 1424 the diocese of Valva was ruled by that of L’Aquila, according to a rule by Pope Martin V. In 1423 Navelli held out against the troops of Braccio da Montone, surrendering without being conquered; to honor the village resistance to the siege, it was granted by Queen Giovanna II of Naples to include in the emblem of the village “Navellorum Merit Crowned Fidelitas”. On 4 and 5 December 1456 a disastrous earthquake destroyed many towns, some of which have never been rebuilt, so the population arrived in Navelli. In 1498 the Navelli Castle was surrounded by walls; one of the five gates of the country (the Gate Villotta or South Gate) was later incorporated into the Palazzo Onofri.

The fortified Santucci Palace, also known as Baron’s Palace, is now a place for exhibitions and events of many sort. The gate was close when we passed by, but on our way back a custodian was there to fix things for an upcoming exhibition and he was kind enough to let us have a look….

The initial core of the building dates from the eighth to the tenth century, when as a result of the “phenomenon fortification” the people gathered around a castle built on the hill of Navelli. The castle was surrounded by a curtain wall, now totally incorporated within the village. The actual palace was built on order of the feudal lord Camillo Caracciolo, on the ancient castle ruins in 1632. This building was the residence of various feudal lords of Navelli that followed caracciolo until the end of 1700 and it changed its name, according to the family that lived there, such as “Castle Trasmondi-Tomassetti” from the name of the last feudal families of the country, before the abolition of feudalism in 1806, then called Palazzo Santucci, from its last owners’ name, and now it’s an estate of the municipality of Navelli.

Aquila saffron is an Italian product with protected designation of origin, produced exclusively in the province, particularly in the Plateau of Navelli. Along with the sheep-farming and tourism, one of the main income of the area…..

That was the end of our short vacation, and it was our third time in Abruzzo, but there’s so much more to see and to savour there, so I’m pretty sure there will be another trip sooner or later…

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Posted by on July 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Abruzzo 2016 – Chapter 3 – Wandering around

No traffic jams, roads in good conditions, not too hot (sometimes a little rainy), beautiful landscapes and old villages…..we couldn’t have asked for more….starting from panoramic roads…..

….leading to villages too small to be signed on our map… Casoli, situated on a foothill of the Majella mountain, at the base of which runs the Aventino River………..


We found a cozy place for lunch, with a stunning view over the valley and a mix of Abruzzo and Sicily food…..

We had time for a little siesta under some cactuses…..

Or find yourself in the middle of Montorio al Vomano, between the XV century St. Anthony church….

and the more imposing VII century St. Rocco…..

spending some time just walking…..

One evening back to our hotel, we were surprised to meet some girls from another time….

who told us that night there was a medieval festival…..well, why not?


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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Abruzzo 2016 – Chapter 2 – Capestrano

Capestrano is a village placed on a hill (m.465) in the central part of the Valle del Tirino which in Roman times was called the Valley Tritana or Valley Trita. This little village too, still shows the wounds of the 2009 earthqualke, but it’s also a charming place….let’s take a walk while we learn a bit of local history….

In the Valley flows the river Tirino, called in Roman times “Tirinum flumen”, being originated from three sources (Capodacqua, Lago and Presciano) all located in the area.

That’s why the town has as its coat of arms a castle from whose bases are derived three sources (trium amnium) that have given to Capistrano its name, a contraction of “Caput trium Amnium” meaning principle of three sources. In the Valley, in the Roman era, there was the flourishing and populous city of Aufinium, a cultural center and home to a renowned school of philosophy so the Romans elevated it to “municipium” rank. The inhabitants belonged to the historic and well-known group of Vestini and were for long loyal to Rome.

During the second half of the sixth century the valley was occupied by the Lombards that caused deeply damage, disrupting the structure of its territory and taking away any possibility of recomposition. The houses were abandoned and the population forced to seek safety elsewhere. The Lombards’ rule lasted for at least two centuries, during which the Lombard element mingled with the local population. The actual origins of the village date back around the year 880 and it seems to have formed the cluster of small groups of people who had scattered in the valley after the destruction of the city of Aufinium. Initially the area was for many years under the rule of the Benedictine monks and mayor of the great Abbey of San Pietro ad Oratorium, that stood in the area a short distance from the village.

The first document in which is mentioned the name of Capistrano dates back to 1284 when Charles I of Anjou, in recognition for his loyalty in the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, moved the territorial command of the Tirino Valley to  Riccardo Acquaviva of St. Valentino. The town had originally a fortified structure as shown by some documents in which it was called “Oppida Capistrani”. The need to defend itself is confirmed by the fact that a small lookout tower was built at the pass of Forca di Penne where there were facing bands of Saracens.

Capestrano in the early thirteenth century was a marquis, with the adjoining of the Barony of Carapelle, and included Castelvecchio Calvisio, Calascio and Santostefano, all neighboring villages of the Valley. In 1584 it became a principality that included Forca di Penne, St. Pelagia, the fortress of Castel del Monte and the Barony of Carapelle. Later it passed under the dominion of the lords who ruled the area over the decades, the Accrocciamuro, the Acquaviva, the Piccolomini, the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany and, finally, the Bourbon of the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies. Ferdinand IV of Bourbon granted Capestrano the title of city. In 1860 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Walking can make someone hungry, right? Our choice was a restaurant facing the main square….

We had a salami and cheese chopping board as appetizer…..

then hubby had some saffron and asparagus cream gnocchi

while my choice was a plate of freshwater crayfish in a white wine reduction….

In a corner of the room there was a replica of the Warrior of Capestrano….

The Warrior of Capestrano is a tall limestone statue of a Picene warrior dated to around 6th century BC. (The Picentes were an Italic tribe who lived in Picenum in the northern Adriatic coastal plain of ancient Italy. The endonym, if any, and its language are not known for certain). The statue stands at around 2.09 m. It was discovered accidentally in 1934 by a labourer ploughing the field in the Capestrano. The statue has traces of pink paint and features a hat with a huge brim and a disk-type armor (kardiophylax) protecting the chest and back.The warrior bears a short sword, knife and axe. He has also a defensive device known to the Greeks as mitra (a short apron covering the back), a wide belt, necklace and armlets. A South Picene inscription incised on the pillar standing to the right of the warrior reads: “Makupri koram opsút aninis rakinevíi pomp[úne]í” (“Aninis had this statue made most excellently for Rakinewis, the Pomp[onian]”). The subsequent investigation showed that the vineyard where the statue was found was situated above an Iron Age cemetery. Together with the warrior, a female statue in civilian attire was found at the same site, the so-called Lady of Capestrano. Beside the copy of the warrior there’s another ancient riddle, called the Sator Square

Outside the restaurant, opposite to the square, there is the reason of our visit to Capestrano….

The Piccolomini Castle was built in the 13th century, on the hill next to the Tirino river and the Abbey of St. Peter ad Oratorium in a strategic position at 505 m above sea level. It was a feud of Tolomeo di Raiano in 1240, and was granted to the Acquaviva family in 1284 by Charles I of Angio (King Charles I of Sicily). Riccardo d’Acquaviva was thus named marquis of Capestrano. In 1462 the Castle passed on to Marquis Antonio I Todeschini Piccolomini d’Aragona (d. 1493), nephew of Pope Pius II, who enlarged the castle with new towers with battlements. In 1579 Marquess Costanza Piccolomini, daughter of Innico Piccolomini, sold the castle to Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1743 the Castle passed on to Charles III of Spain in his capacity as Charles III Bourbon, King of Naples and the two Sicilies. In 1860 the Castle passed on to the Savoyard King of Italy.

The Capestrano Piccolomini Castle is, despite numerous interventions, one of the most interesting of Abruzzo fortified complexes. Its events are related to the succession of important families, from the Acquaviva, Dukes Valentine, Piccolomini, until the advent of the Medici whom the castle belonged until the abolition of feudalism. The fifteenth-century residential building, now the Town Hall, includes the remains of a pre-existing medieval fortification which preserves the impressive prismatic tower that dominates the height of the rest of the building. It consists of two bodies forming a “L” of which the largest, south-west, forms the bottom side of the main square of the village, while the smaller closes the inner courtyard to the north-west. The fort has a dual function: the castle in the sense of a fortified manor house and castle enclosure.

The main façade, which looks out on the village square, is clamped between two round towers and is the result of a radical transformation carried out in 1924 which has inserted into a stern defensive walls a big entrance, surmounted by the emblem of the Piccolomini. On the first floor there are five windows of marble dating back to the Renaissance. The original entrance to the complex was instead placed on the east side, protected by a moat; now the remains are still visible with the holes of the drawbridge chains now replaced by a stone staircase. The inner courtyard of a great beauty, presents in the middle a fifteenth century marble pit, flanked by columns with leafed capitals. A beautiful stone staircase gives access to the upper floors. The interior, completely restored following the restoration of 1924, it is now largely devoid of artistic interest with the exception of two valuable salons now become the center of social activities.

As you can see, there’s a new King of the Castle now…..

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Posted by on July 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Abruzzo 2016 – Chapter 1 – Popoli

At the beginning of june, even if the forecast weren’t so good, we drove our motorbike to Abruzzo, a region located in the center of Italy. We choose as our homebase the little village of Popoli, where we had a stroll one afternoon two years ago….our hotel was central, nice and very cheap…

Though the site has not revealed significant Roman presence it appears in a ninth-century document as borgo di Pagus Fabianus. .Its name in medieval Latin was Castrum Properi (“Waystation Fortress”), which name was recorded as early as 1016 as the property of Girardo, son of Roccone. The castle above the town was built between 1000 and 1015 for Tidolfo, Bishop of Valva. In 1269 the Angevin ruler Charles I of Naples granted Popoli as a fief in the Cantelmo family, who held it, with its ducal title, until 1749. The fief passed to Leonardo di Tocco, Prince of Montemiletto, and his heirs, until feudality was abolished in the Regno in 1806.

Popoli was bombarded twice during World War II by the British Air Force. On 20 January 1944, the most important bridge in the region, the “Julius Caesar” bridge connecting Rome with Pescara, was destroyed. On 22 March 1944 at noon the city center and city hall were destroyed by substantial bombing by the British. Unfortunately, it was a day that rations were being distributed to town at the city hall, and there were long lines of women and children, many of whom were killed or wounded. The day is still remembered with sorrow by the town’s inhabitants.

Come with me and discover this little gem….looks like an old italian movie…or to be back in time….anyway, it’s the kind of walks I love to have….

All the people from the village cross the central square at least twice a day, it’s the most important place there…

The Church of St. Francis, from historical sources, seems to be there since 1334, but the entire structure has been renovated several times over the centuries: for example, the lower part of the facade is from 1480 while the upper part is from 1688. The belfry and the dome are from 1714, while the lions on the stairs, the romanesque portal and the rose window are from 1500. The rose window itself is very interesting, each radius is different, at the center there are the coats of arms of the Cantelmo and Carafa families, and on the four corners the symbols of the four Evangelists.

The Holy Trinity Church dates back at 1550 but was deeply renovated in mid 1700. The facade is some sort of baroque-ish style with the main portal and two minor at the sides, with niches above. It’s close to another Church (see better in the first photos) dedicated to St. Lorenzo and St. Biagio, built in the XII century with the facade renovated in 1562. Too bad it was all closed…again!

Now a private home, this building was once the Ducal Palace, home of the Cantelmo family…

This one below is the birth place of Corradino d’Ascanio…..

General Corradino D’Ascanio was an Italian aeronautical engineer. D’Ascanio designed the first production helicopter, for Agusta, and designed the first motor scooter for Ferdinando Innocenti. After the two fell out, D’Ascanio helped Enrico Piaggio produce the original Vespa. His fellow citizens didn’t forget the prestige he gave to his native town, and dedicated this bust to his memory….

The Ducal Tavern it’s one of the oldest building in town. being built in mid 1300 by the Dukes of Cantelmo. The gothic facade is fully decorated with the coats of arms of the families tied with the Cantelmos. It was used as a “statio posita” (in latin) or the official place where to change horses, and as customs duty office. Now it houses art exhibitions.

Being located about 70 km away from L’Aquila, Popoli has been damaged too by the heartquake that hit in 2009, its signs still well visible…..

On a lighter note….. our hotel, not providing dinner, has an agreement with a nearby “trattoria”…….a very nice place, friendly, cheap, and oh my… good!!

pork sausages….marinara trout….

mixed grilled meat…..

local salami and cheese plate…..

More to come about our last adventure in Abruzzo….

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Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Uncategorized


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