Tonnarelli with fava beans, bread crumbs and wild fennel herbs

I’ve been back to Italy since a few days and just started having some lunches at home, to greet friends and relatives during the Easter holidays.
I asked Silvia and Donatalella, the owners of the cooking school “Fabrica del Gusto” of Fabriano (http://www.fabricadelgusto.it) to advise a couple of recipes to surprise my guests.
And, not only they suggested me some really tasty dishes to make, but they’ll also come with me for picking up together the best ingredients.
The main course I will make (following the directions of my teachers:-), is the so called:

“Tonnarelli with fava beans, bread crumbs and wild fennel herbs”
This is a dish that enhances the quality of the ingredients and therefore, when it came to choose the main ingredient, I had no doubts: the “Tonnarelli” by Antica Pasta, made in the Marcozzi’s pasta factory in Campofilone (http://www.anticapasta.it)I’ll disclose with you the tasty recipe, the two most sought after chefs in town just shared with me:

Tonnarelli with fava beans, bread crumbs and wild fennel herbs
Ingredients for 4 people
250 gr of tonnarelli pasta by Antica Pasta
250 gr of fresh fava beans
3 tablespoons of grated stale bread crumbs
Wild herbs fennel
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic
Salt and pepper
Chilli (optional)

Parboil the fava beans in boiling salted water for a few minutes. Drain them and dip into a bath of iced water in order to preserve their consistency and color. Once cold, remove the outer skins by hand.Blend the bread crumb with fennel.

The amazing scent of the wild fennel herbs

 In a skillet brown the garlic with the oil (add some chili pepper to your taste), add the fava beans and let cook for few minutes.In another pan with a little olive oil toast the crumbs flavored with fennel.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for about 4-5 minutes. Season with the fava beans, toasted bread crumbs and serve.

Buon Appetito!!!

Stef on how living and…”surviving” the Italian Good Life!

I realized that many of my followers are interested in learning about the experience of other expats who decided to move to Italy. Due to popular demand and the possibility to get in touch with other bloggers, I’m glad to interview and share with my readers this kind of experiences.

So, today I would love to introduce Stef, a Dutch expat who moved to Italy in 2008, accompanied by his husband and dog, to start their own Bed&Breakfast: the “Villa I Due Padroni” in the Oltrepo Pavese wine region, just 30 miles south of Milan. In 2014 Stef published his first book (in Dutch) about their life in Italy. The English translation is available from November 2016 as “Living in Italy: the Real Deal – How to survive the Good Life” and has had raving reviews from editorial websites and readers alike.

So let’s get started and hear about Stef’s experience as an expat in Italy…

Where are you originally from and when/where did you move to Italy? Did you move with family?      

  • I am a Dutchman and moved with my husband to Italy in 2008.

    Stef and Nico

 What inspired you to move to Italy and particularly to set up your own B&B?

  • My husband Nico was a few years from retiring and wanted to make a last career change, while I was busy with a masters study that required a stage in a foreign country, for which I chose Italy.

    Stef and Nico’s B&B, the “Villa i Due Padroni”

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?

  • It was difficult at first to find a rental appartment in Pavia, where we stayed the first 6 months but getting used to the Italian way of life was rather easy.

How does the Italian culture differ from home? Which aspect of Italian life was most difficult to get used to?

  • The most difficult part is getting used to sloppiness, agreements, time frames etc. You keep expecting people to live up to them but more often than not they don’t.

What are the locals like? Do you mix mainly with other expats?

  • There aren’t many expats in our region, which is the countryside south of Pavia. We do mix up with the locals though who are almost all of them agreeagble pleasant people.

Was it easy meeting people, making friends and integrate into the community?

  • Nico started singing in a choir and made some friends that way. Then we got acquainted with some of our Italian colleagues that wanted to cooperate and with restaurant owners, wine makers etc.

Is there anything you miss about living in Netherlands?

  • The one thing I miss is the possibility to cycle to shops etc. Here the hills are steep and the streets bad, so almost everything needs to be done by car.

What do you enjoy most about living in Italy and the Italian lifestyle?

  • Eating out! The climate, the beautiful landscape. The people as well, it is fun (mostly) to try and understand the cultural differences.

    Stef and his lovely “expat”-dog:-)

What’s your favorite Italian food?

  • What not? I like almost everything. The taste is always much better than in the restaurants in the Netherlands. Very fond of (vegetarian) lasagne, but risotto as well.

With your B&B you guest people from different areas and countries interested in discovering Italy. What are their feelings about our country?

  • Most of them are very surprised to find such a beautiful area close to Milan and can’t understand that nobody has ever heard of it. The like the fact that is non-touristy, quiet.


In our blog we try to incentivize people from all around the world to find out more about Italy and particoularly about Le Marche and their local tradition. Have you ever visited Le Marche and if so what did you love the most about Le Marche? 

  • I visited Le Marche yes. There are quite a few Dutch expats running B&B’s over there. I have discovered the coastal area mainly from Ancona to the south. There are some beautiful villages to visit. I will definitely return to visit the mountains as well!

How difficult was getting a work visa/permit?

  • We did not need permits, as EU-citizens.

Did you experience many difficulties in setting up your business?

  • Not on the administrative side as we are lucky to live in a very small ‘comune’ (aka: municipality). Buying and renovating the house however turned out to be a rollercoaster ride which I decribe in detail in my book!

How does the Italian work culture differ from your country?

  • Difficult to say, our work here is completely different from what we did at home.

    Some friends helping in picking grapes for the harvest

How does cost of living compare to home?

  • The cost of living is not much different, although eating out is much cheaper here.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Italy?

  • The distance to native friends and family of course, but apart from that I wouldn’t know!

What are your top tips to any future expats or people considering moving to Italy from abroad?

  • Language, language, language! You’ll find everything to go much easier and you’ll have much more fun if you know the language BEFORE you move. 

In retrospective is there anything you would change?

  • I would not go and live in the house that is being renovated again, better to rent a temporary apartment to have some possibility to escape if things get hot.

Why should people visit Italy? 

  • The climate, the culture, the people, the food, the landscape. Visit the countryside, not only the cities! Rent a car and admire the beautiful panorama’s, discover small nontouristy restaurants.

You are also writing your own blog.  Can you tell us a bit about it and when/why did you start your blog?  

  • Since 2008 we kept a blog for family and friends to learn about our adventures. In 2013 I decided that is was worthwhile to turn our stories into a book, which was published in 2014, in Dutch. It met with quite a success and favorable reader reviews and has now become available in English as “Living in Italy: the Real Deal”: 60+ stories about our hilarious and horrendous adventures in Italy. Again the readers’ reviews are (very) positive. It is available as ebook and paperback at Amazon and other retailers.
  • See https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N7OY6DM
  • A Sneak Preview and pictures, reviews etc is available at http://italiaanse-toestanden.duepadroni.it/index-UK.html
  • Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/livinginitalytherealdeal/

I also had a lot of fun in reading Stef’s book and stories! I highly recommend his book and be ready to have fun! 

Torre di Palme: one of the most beautiful (and romantic) village in Italy

Despite its small dimensions, Torre di Palme is traditionally included amongst the most beautiful villages in Italy. The village is well preserved and stands out for the beautiful surrounding landscape, the attention to detail and its buildings of great artistic and architectural value, making it one of the most interesting historical centers of the entire Le Marche region.

The tiny village of Torre di Palme on top of a hill overlooking the Adriatic Sea

To me, Torre di Palme is a very special place: in Via Piave, the main street of the village, I had my first kiss. Enchanted by the narrow streets and alleys of the old town, fascinated by the medieval atmosphere, I fell in love with my first boyfriend.

It’s easy to fall in love with…Torre di Palme:-)

As I was walking with him, hand in hand, I still remember him telling about the tragic story of young Antonio and Laurina, which I had never heard about before.

I remember I was deeply moved by that story and and at the same time, once we arrived in Piazza Lattanzi, I was stunned by the amazing view.

View on the hills from one side of Piazza Lattanzi

Stunning view by day…

…and incredibly romantic lights by night

I learned that during the colonial war in Libya, in 1911, a young man of the place, Antonio, came home for a short leave, but deeply in love with her Laurina, decided to desert, fleeing with his beloved. The lovers fled in the Cugnòlo Groove (this floral area has become protected by Le Marche region and meticulously looked after by volunteers of the CAI. The Cugnolo preserves the typical species of the Mediterranean scrub such as ancient oaks, pines, junipers, oleanders and arbutus. The fauna is very varied and characterised by bee-eaters, orioles, badgers and foxes. This area is ideal for hikers). There they found shelter in the so called “Lovers Cave” (a natural cavity carved into the sandstone rock) where lived their love adventure, eating bread and sardines, thanks to the approval of the fishermen.

The Lovers’ Cave

After a few days, the two lovers, feeling hunted, they moved to the nearby church. Devoured by remorse and not willing to part with, they chose death and threw themselves into the void from Fosso di San Filippo, tied together with shawl Laurina. The flight of about 70 meters, was fatal to both.

Today I was back for a walk through the narrow streets of this charming village and to enjoy the stunning views of this beautiful gem.As always, just after walking around the romantic, tiny and amazing Torre di Plame, I felt upset by the emotion of the memories.

Dear friends, in today’s society “Antonio” would be considered totally foolish. So, my question for you is: couldn’t he be considered like a true missing hero nowadays?

Bigger than love…an interview to lovely Issa and her ‘Le Marche Magic’

One of the things I love best of having started my blog is the chance to get in touch with many people and other bloggers.
I love to discuss and exchage points of view with people with different experiences, cultures and nationalities. This makes you feel close to so many friends, even at distance. Each of them with different interests and passions, but all linked from following a blog or from writing their own where they talk about what they particoularly care about. Sometimes it also happens to find bloggers with very similar passion to yours…that’s what happened with Issa, an American lady who moved in Le Marche seven years ago and I got in touch with thanks to her own blog: Le Marche Magic. Please keep reading this wonderful interview, which is also the outcome of a beautiful interaction between bloggers 🙂

Where are you originally from and when/where did you move to Italy? Did you move with family?  

  • I did not move with a family but on my own at 39 yrs of age. I moved here from where I was living at the time, the smallest state in the United States called Rhode Island. I moved here to be with my grandmother who lived in Florence. I say lived cause she passed away over a year ago. [We’re very sorry to hear that]screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-8-42-45-am

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country? 

  • I found the transition extremely easy, since I am a woman who loves the challenges life presents me. I love people and traveling. I feel mother earth is our home and would love to meet as many different types of people with also different beliefs than my own, I feel this will complete me on my own life’s journey.

How does the Italian culture differ from home? Which aspect of Italian life was most difficult to get used to?

  • To be specific, Le Marche how it differs from home is that the lifestyle here is wholesome something I have not to pay a whole paycheck to have but here it is a way of life that I love. For me there was nothing difficult to get used to, it all came naturally to me because I feel this is a way of life we are supposed to live.

    A beautiful view of Le Marche by Issa

    A beautiful view of Le Marche by Issa

What are the locals like? Do you mix mainly with other expats?

  • I love the ‘marchigiani’! They have a way about them of watching you for about a year to sum up who you are before letting you in…This is good, because we all should pick the people in our lives the way we pick our fruit…I mix with expats who have integrated in to the lifestyle here only.

Was it easy meeting people, making friends and integrate into the community?

  • Yes, I have been very fortunate to have made many many wonderful life friends and also have been the witness/ maid of honor for a dear friend, as well. I do have a habit of making lifetime friends wherever I go. 

Is there anything you miss about living in Usa?

  • No.

What do you enjoy most about living in Le Marche and the Italian lifestyle?

  • The way I am able to live my life, healthy.

    Issa visiting the beautiful Torre di Palme

    Issa visiting the beautiful Torre di Palme

What’s your favorite Italian food?

  • Very hard question to answer because every region has a specialty, but I am partial to seafood. No I love seafood and vegetables … and here it is all fresh and that is wonderful!!!

In our blog we try to incentivize people from all around the world to find out more about Italy and particoularly about Le Marche and their local tradition. Have you ever visited Le Marche before and if so what did you love the most about Le Marche?

  • Before 2009 I had never heard of Le Marche…and I love EVERYTHING this is why I also have started a blog to bring the world here…secretly because it should remain a treasure always and the tourist that come to visit should be people who want to keep the traditions and help keep the goodies of Le Marche. I would hate anyone who came and disrespected this beautiful region of Italy. I would never want it to become like Venice or Florence or Rome for that matter.13612398_10153479861451330_6875354225667551878_n

How difficult was getting a work visa/permit?

  • I was lucky to have found my soulmate here…but I did try and get a 1yr visa and it is not an easy thing to get if your an American. First they want to know if you have at least $100,000.00 dollars in your bank account (I kid you not) they want proof…and you also need to have a monthly check from , social security or retirement. Just to make sure ur not coming here to steal work. I personally had over $45,000.00 and a letter from the Secretary of State of Rhode Island and a letter from someone here in Le Marche (who is very influential) to say they would house me free of charge to just write my book….yes, at the time I wanted to write a book as well. But when I met my husband to be, not a lawyer would touch me, but to be honest with the internet and my wits I managed to get all the paperwork needed through New York and a firm I hired there.14045740_10153564019726330_1275270544717984653_n

How does the Italian work culture differ from your country?

  • Here they believe in family and…vacations.

How does cost of living compare to home?

  • It is so much cheaper here to live.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Italy?

  • None!!!

What are your top tips to any future expats or people considering moving to Italy from abroad?

  • Do it!!! Live everywhere you find your place on this earth and be limitless with your life.14925661_10153762396866330_631706273925303767_n

In retrospective is there anything you would change?

  • Not a thing.

Why should people visit Italy? 

  • Well from everything I have written above, it is obvious that I believe that every human being should travel. “Mother Earth is our home, just like you know all that is in your house. One should visit and try and understand as many humans beings living on our planet. Maybe we don’t incorporate always their lifestyles into our own, but what makes us RICH is at least understanding where they are coming from.” [Quote by Issa:-)]

You are also writing your own blog.  Can you tell us a bit about it and when/why did you start your blog?  

  • Yes my blog is called Le Marche Magic, I love where I live here in Le Marche and have found MY OWN special place on our mother earth. I would like to share it, I feel the untouched nature of Le Marche can really help and touch many people. Even if they come for a visit or to live. Le Marche is a way of life.14890512_10153766806646330_5066149853472691443_o

I hope you all enjoyed this enthusiastic and pleasant interview from Issa.

Please don’t forget to visit her blog about Le Marche: http://www.lemarchemagic.com

I closed my original interview with a

“GRAZIE MILLE ISSA!”

and I’d like to share her lovely reply…

“You are very welcome! I hope I answered all your questions to your satisfaction. It was extremely easy for me to write all my answers since my fingers just flowed with love of writing about the place I love. A place called Le Marche.

With pleasure”, Issa 2/21/2017 Grottazzolinafullsizeoutput_28b0

 

 

A piece of history in a traditional musical instrument: the accordeon!

I’m an hopeless romantic, I love spending afternoons browsing old photos and thinking about moments of the past. I love savoring the joyful moments experienced, and feeling close to the people who filled them.

Last Holidays were particularly nostalgic and I had been thinkig about my family a lot. Memories of when I was a child and I used to play together with my grandparents and my cousins.

Today’s technology allows to capture millions of moments of everyday’s life: take a picture of any event, even the least significant ones. Maybe this is the reason why old photos have a more “intense relevance”, as if they were more “real”.

In the past, pictures were taken to enclose really memorable moments and when you looked back at them, well…you have the feeling you’re brought back in time. When I was a child, it was very common to get together with all neighbours, both young people and grown-ups.

I remember very well when adults just winked at each other and that was enough to start celebrating, without any particoular reason. My father started playing the accordion, my aunt began to sing the notes of the melody and then we were all suddenly dancing, young and old people, all together, in the street.img-20170127-wa0003

Sometimes this off-the-cuff street parties happeed to celebrate a profitable workday in the farmland, or a national holiday, in short, it did not take much to get the party started!

Looking back on these pictures I thought that many of our traditions are gone or fading. And that’s why last month when I was back to Italy, I decided to go and visit the International Museum of Accordeon in Castelfidardo, that has been the town with the largest production of this instrument for over a century.screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-21-29-19

In addition to documenting the history of this famous instrument, the museum pays tribute to the many craftsmen and industrial entrepreneurs, who through their commitment, have helped transforming culturally this area of Le Marche.1data38

1data39And from Castelfidardo, in fact, is also the famous Paolo Soprani, who created a workshop at the end of 800, where he improved the quality and the aesthetic of the accordion. imagesOriginally, that was just a Viennese rudimentary contraption. Paolo made the first modern accordion and gave birth tor a flourishing craft industry of this instrument.superking

The quality of accordions made in this charming town, is appreciated all over the world. To my grandfather, his accordion was more precious than a gem. Indeed, it was his own gem!screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-21-33-27

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The International Museum of Accordeon in Castelfidardo

1data071data19I would like to thank the staff of the Castelfidardo Accordion Museum for having welcomed and for coming with me in this beautiful “journey to the childhood memories”.screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-21-33-39

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-21-31-55If you find yourself in Le Marche, my dear friends, please rememebr to add Castelfidardo in your destinations to visit. A few minutes from Loreto and the stunning park of Monte Conero, this town will offer breathtaking views. The proof of the pudding is in the eating!

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For more information please visit to: http://www.museodellafisarmonica.it/

 

 

The”crescia sfojata” …and it’s finally Christmas!

It’s almost Christmas and we are ready to bake a traditional delicious dessert from Le Marche: the “crescia sfojata”

CRESCIA SFOJATA

For the dough:

2/3 cups all-purpose flour or grano tenero “00”

3/8 cups warm water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon fine salt

For the filling:

2 green apples (about 1 lb)

15 walnuts

60-70 raisins

5 oz organic apple juice (or as an alternaitve: rhum, brandy, sherry)

2 spoons cane sugar

1 spoon cinnamon powder

some organic lemon peel

crescia-sfojata-1Start making the dough:

Warm up the water (it has to be warm enough, but not too hot). Sift the flour and add some salt and olive oil in a large mixing bowl and keep stirring the mixture. Using your hands, work the ingredients until it comes together. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Add more flour (sparingly) to the work surface only if it is absolutely necessary. Shape the dough into a ball; cover with a wet towel or a wrap and let rest on the work surface for about half an hour.

Making the filling:

Warm up the apple juice and pour it on the raisins in a bowl. Let the raisins absorb the moisture until they return to room temperature and turn soft (about 20 minutes). Peel the apples and cut into thin slices. Place them in a bowl and cover with cane sugar and roughly chop walnuts, well drained raisins. Add the cinnamon and lemon peels. Preheat oven at 390F.

Roll out the dough:

Spread a clean lined or cotton tablecloth (preferably washed with mild soap and rinsed well), flax or cotton, on the table. Spread some flour on top of it, take the dough and start flattening it by hands and then by a rolling pin. When the dough is thin enough start stretching and pulling it- outside with your fingers and making sure not break it. The dough should become almost transparent.

Place it back on the tablecloth (the dough should be about 19 inches in size). Since the edges will be a bit thicker, use your fingers along the edge to make it thin. Spread out the filling on the dough, but make sure not to cover the the edge. With the help of the tablecloth, start rolling the dough on itself. Made a couple of turns and fold towards the inside the two outer edges and continue to roll until the end.

Gently transfer the dough on a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Brush it with melted butter and bake. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Let cool and cut into slices.crescia-sfojata-2

“Buon Appetito” and Merry Xmas!

Thanks to our dear friends Silvia and Donatella from Fabrica del Gusto for sharing this sweet collaboration!

 

Neo and Discovermarche

Our friend Neo Kook, just visited us from South Korea. This time he stayed in Le Marche for two weeks and so I had the chance to spend some time with him. That was very important for me because it revived the desire to convey to my friends readers how special is the land I come from and how hospitable the people are.

Neo back in Le Marche and visiting the old town of Offida

Neo back in Le Marche and visiting the old town of Offida

Every time I go back to Italy, I realize that the big City that welcomed me, sometimes softens with its lights, colors and sounds, the taste and the smell of my homeland. Suddenly I remember the charm of the landscape in Le Marche, and its historical and cultural treasures. But most importantly: the warmth of people and their friendly and welcoming attitude.20161102_153208

The owners of local business as well as people living in touristic areas treat their guests not just as customers but as real good friends to cuddle and to take care of on every tier.20161102_163821-2

In Le Marche the romantic vision of the land that offers its fruits to work with passion is still alive.

Visiting an olive oil factory in Spinetoli

Visiting an olive oil factory in Spinetoli

Listening to Barbara Marcozzi (one of the owners at the family-run business of Antica Pasta) while she explains how much carefulness it takes to follow all the different steps in the making and production of their pasta is really inspiring. Noticing the pride in her eyes when she talks about the product they offer their customers. Her self-confidence as she knows how much effort and excellence it takes to get to the final result, in terms of accurate workmanship and of the highest quality of the raw materials. All that makes me feel proud and nourishes the desire to share to the world how much experience and passion our craftsmen carry out their tasks.

Barbara and Neo

Barbara and Neo

I realized Neo has many more friends than I could imagine, although most of them do not even speak English and he is not yet so good at communicating in Italian.

"Aperitivo time" with friends: Monia and Neo

“Aperitivo time” with friends: Monia and Neo

Neo thanked me very much for the help and support with the language I provided and for the company we had together. However, it is me who have to thank him openly for the opportunity to remind me of the goal of Discovermarche.20161102_172038-2

The passion that binds me to my land is stronger and more alive than ever.

“Neo, Discovermarche wish you a good time in Le Marche!”