Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Trasimeno

Language Lesson

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Sorting through the array of cheeses sitting around shops here is daunting enough without the added confusion of Italian descriptions. Many of them look alike and have almost the same texture and similar taste, so you have to pore over the labels, just as you must do with the labels arrayed on the shelves. I asked a lady behind the cheese-and-cold-cuts counter at Eurospar (a chain of mid-sized supermarkets) in the nearby hamlet of Pineta where in the big bank of cheeses I could find something with a strong rather than delicate taste. “Ahhh, piccante,” she said and rummaged through several mounds. She came up with a half dozen fist-sized samples and I asked “Sono tutti pecarino? (Are they all sheep cheese?)” She shook her head and showed me a couple that were “moo-moo, baa-baa, misto.” – a mixture of sheep and cow’s milk. Now I know how to ask for a combined cheese – moo-moo, baa-baa.

Magione Meal

The antipasto plate in Al Coccia not only is more than enough to give anyone a true taste of local food, it’s more than enough for your appetite: four kinds of cold meats, eggplant doused in olive oil, cheese and rosemary focaccio, mushrooms doused in olive oil, two kinds of bruschetti – tomato and pate, faggioli (white beans) doused in olive oil, and a couple of chunks of pecorino cheese. I added a dish of tagliatelli with meat sauce to all this and washed it all down with a cold Moretti beer.

 The restaurant is run by Marco, a shaved-headed bundle of nervous energy who’s a friend of Andréa Belfico at Masolino’s. It’s at the entrance to Mangione, a sizeable hilltop town at the opposite (northeast) corner of the lake from Panicale. To make our Trasimeno tour more complete, we headed west to Passagnano for a gelato, the kind I like with a texture that still “peaks” when it’s pulled – more body than a Dairy Queen but much silkier than regular ice cream.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 14, 2009 at 4:30 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Hannibal Lecture

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That pun’s intended, folks.  The Battle of Trasimene is largely ignored by modern-day Italians because it was where Hannibal slaughtered in ambush several thousand – the number ranges from 15,000 to 50,000 – Romans by shoving them into Lake Trasimeno and drowning most of them. There’s a broad plain off the northwestern shore of the lake where the Roman’s camped as they tailed Hannibal, who looked like he was heading into the jaws of another Roman troupe marching from Rimini in the east. Instead, and what made this battle important in military history, the Punic general surveyed the field he chose to use to his advantage rather than using the history honored practice of challenging the enemy and then rushing at it with all your might. He stretched his army – this number varies, too, but it was about 12,000 — which included a contingent of Celts who eventually killed the Roman leader — over a half dozen kilometers of high ground ringing the northern edge of the lake and watched silently while the Romans tromped along the shoreline right into the Carthaginian’s trap. Archeologists are still picking human bones out of the lake. An interesting historical sidelight for such a little spot, but there are several such episodes from this region where Tuscany and Umbria bump into each other that date back to the Etruscans. For example, Panicale was the first community in central Italy to be given official status because it was never – not ever — defeated by any attackers. It was too high, too well fortified and too self-sufficient with its own animals within the walls and its own big bubble of water. This castle became an important stopover for popes and nobles traveling between Rome and Florence.

 Roamin’ in Rome

Gonna return to Rome this week when cleaning lady attacks our apartment. There’s a little optical shop on Via Nazionale where I got a cool pair of Italian sunglasses a couple of years ago. Ray Bans are made in Italy and a similar pair without the trademark costs about a fifth the price..

Portal Problems

Doors are half size around here. When you see a door, don’t expect it to open fully. Only half of it opens. This isn’t a problem in modern shops that have the automatically opening and closing variety, but it takes some slimming and sidestepping to enter and exit homes and bars and gelateria and butcher shops. And if you’re burdened with packages of salami and cereals and stuff, getting out of the store can be an adventure because you have to protect the freight from bag rips and other mishaps.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 7, 2009 at 6:19 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Here’s More

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Clearer and Colder

Winter cold hit today – Dec. 1 — after yesterday’s heavy rain dumped here by a warm south wind.

After lunch of a makeshift salad of tomatoes, ham, seafood salad, artichoke hearts, and salame finished off with a beer, I went for a two-beer hike thru the town and up cemetery hill. The cemetery is up there but the hill can kill you. Went by the gravestones and got some good shots of Tuscany and Umbria and Lake Trasimeno and Panicale and Castiglione del Lago and Tavernelle.

Hill and hot sun gave me a good sweat in the high cold, clear air and I think I lost about four pounds somewhere on that road. If I hike that hill every day, I’ll be able to leave all my clothes here and acquire a new wardrobe when I get home.

There’s More Moretti

Been buying a liter of Moretti beer, my favorite here, for E.79 a bottle, a promo price about half the regular shelf price in some stores. Italian beer is like good German lager and the two main labels are Moretti and Peroni, which also makes Nastro Azzurro (Blue Ribbon).

Plenty of Persimmons

Persimmon trees scramble all over these hills. There’s a regal one reigning over Jurgen Heiss’ moat garden that towers over the road on the south side of the castle. They lose all their leaves and the persimmons are left hanging on bare branches like apricot-colored Christmas bulbs. They aren’t persimmon-colored because they aren’t ripe. They just languish there because there are so many at once, yet they’re still sold in the markets, and the lowest price I’ve seen is 3.50 euros a kilo, which gives you maybe three.

Mariolina snapped several twigs with more than a dozen fruit off her tree for us and we stored them atop the fridge. They ripen very slowly but “if you want them to get ripe more quickly,” Riccardo said “put them in a bag with an apple.” Mariolina added that they don’t taste as good when they ripen on the tree. “They are not as sweet,” she said. They’re ripe when they feel heavy and semi-soggy, like a slightly over-ripe tomato.

They’re about the size of your fist and one makes a great breakfast. Cut it in quarters, cut each quarter in half or three, whatever, and then you have a plateful of little orange-colored oysters. If it’s too ripe, you’ll have a plateful of little orange jellyfish.

Birthday at Masolino’s

Was 75 yesterday (Dec. 2) and that coincided with re-opening, after month-long vacation hiatus, of Masolino’s restaurant – our favorite in this town of Tuscany-tourist-touted high-end-chef’s restaurants  – Lallo Tatin’s, Boldrino’s, and Osterio Il Gallo nel Pozzo. The Belfico family has operated it for 50 years, and Andrea Belfico said, instead of observing the anniversary on its proper date – Nov. 19 – they’re going to celebrate it in the spring, “when there are more people.” Andrea and his family live in the apartment immediately to our left so we’d already chatted a few times. He told Bev that he’d re-open on an auspicious day in Scaglione history. Mama Bruna Belfico and daughter Stefania, Andrea’s sister, were happy to see us and made a comfortable to-do about our return to Panicale for the half-dozenth time. Stefania made one of her great desserts – a cream-and-peach cake with a candle atop. And Andrea tossed in a bottle of champagne. A scoppone session with Riccardo and Mariolina Ripanti, who joined us for dinner, wrapped up the evening. They also gave me a couple of Panicale momento photo books in Italian.

Mountain Man

Walked up the cemetery hill again, this time to where cars can no longer climb and the “road’ becomes a series of rocks and rills. Climbed above the clouds: Tuscan and Ubrian lowlands were packed with cotton batting as far as the eye could reach, from Cortona to Chiusi to Perugia to Orvieto, with only a hill here and there shouldering its way through the fog. And far off to the east, glistening in the sun, are the snow-covered Appenines.

Some portions are like walking on a steep roof. If you slip or trip, you’re going to roll, fall or slide quite a bit before stopping.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 4, 2009 at 8:39 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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