Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Memories of a Recent trip to Calabria-Part II

Fresco in the Monastery in Amantea

                         We saw more peppers drying in the charming resort town of Diamante

The next day we headed for Amantea. an ancient town built on rocky precipices. We trekked up to the restored 16th century monastery, which once housed an order of Nuns called Le Clarisse and has now been converted into a first class restaurant and Inn.

                  We had a memorable midday meal at the restaurant, which began with fresh anchovies.                                    

Potato cakes covered with fresh anchovies- a stunning first course at Le Clarisse

After lunch and another bus ride, we checked into our final resort, Porto Pirgos. Our room had a terrace with another stunning view of the Medeterranian. Again we could walk down to a private beach or swim in the beautiful pool.

In the evening we tore ourselves away from our water sports and headed for the picturesque town of Tropea for sightseeing, shopping and dinner.

A breathtaking view in Tropea

Tropea was beautiful at nightfall

On our final day we headed for the fishing village of Pizzo, known for its gorgeous beaches and its gelaterie which line the town square.

A view of the beach in Pizzo from above


                                    Enjoying the spouts of cool water at the fountain on another hot day

I loved this old fountain

The seafood we had for lunch at Ristorante San Domenico was freshly caught by local fishermen and was  unsurpassed in flavor and ingenuity of preparation.

The octopus served over a puree of chickpeas was one of my favorite dishes of the trip

Then on to the main piazza with its plethora of competing gelaterie, all  serving the town's specialty- Tartufo di Pizzo. This is a molded ice cream dessert resembling a giant black truffle, with a cocoa coating concealing two layers of ice cream: a chocolate layer on the outside and hazelnut within. But the surprise is in the center -- a molten fudge sauce that oozes like lava when you cut into it.

Tartufo di Pizzo

Serious gelato consumption in Pizzo

Our journey begins and ends with red peppers drying in the hot sun. We saw these when we visited Agriturismo Manitta, high in the hills above Tropea. We arrived Saturday evening for a tour of the gardens and a final cooking class. Then as the sun set and  the locals arrived to have a romantic dinner al fresco, we too sat down at a long table set for our group and began to eat the feast the staff prepared just for us.

Peppers hung to dry at Agriturismo Manitta 

Here we are mid-meal on our last night at Agriturismo Manitta, high in the hills above Tropea  

Now that our trip is over and well documented in these last two blog posts, I must thank our tour guide and indefatigable leader Rosetta Costentino (and her husband Lino) for creating such an unforgettable experience. We ate and drank exceptionally well, we stayed in lovely lodgings, we saw places of unimaginable beauty and we experienced Calabria, the "toe" of the Italian peninsula, through her eyes. Seeing the countryside in this manner was a rare opportunity and I'm fortunate to have enjoyed it with my sister Lucia, another Italophile and a good sport. We can't wait to return!

Rosetta teaching a class with the chef at San Michele before lunch

                                         Rosetta Costentino's book about her native Calabria

"At the southern tip of the Italian peninsula lies an Italy that few people know: a land of fragrant citron and bergamot orchards, ancient olive groves and terraced vineyards; a place of tradition and ritual, where the annual swordfish catch and hot pepper harvest are celebrated with elaborate festivals, and where women still roll pasta dough around knitting needles."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Memories of a Recent Trip to Calabria-Part I

                          Hot and sweet peppers hanging to dry- a common sight in Calabria in September

Posing in front of the church in the medieval town of Altomonte on our first full day in Calabria

piles of recently gathered licorice root

Licorice root grows wild throughout Calabria. Here at the famous Amarelli factory they produce and sell the finished product.

Ruggged mountains form a backdrop to the town of Civita

Here is an example of the antipasto sampler which began almost all of  our meals. The ricotta and mozzarella were fresh and often made from the milk of cows living at our agritourism lodgings, and the salumi came from their pigs. We learned to eat conservatively and save room for the following courses.

Goats at Il Mulino- they also had rabbits and cows for milk to make  ricotta and other fresh cheeses

In Civita we ate wild boar with beans, one of many courses in the Arbaresh restaurant La Kamastra

One day after lunch we toured and tasted liqueurs (including licorice) at a quaint shop

Outside we spotted figs drying and a compost bin. Fresh figs were in season and they were magnificent

         In Rossano the guy on the far right asked me to take a photo, so here he is with his three friends

        Here our group ate one of many fabulous multi-course lunches on the lawn of the charming estate Casa Solara. Then we roamed around and saw the chapel and the grounds and the citrus groves, trying to boost our appetite for another multi course, three hour dinner.

After a short bus ride through the country side, we checked into our second agriturismo called San Michele which also grew all its own products and had an elevator built in the rocks down to its own private beach. The main sitting room was filled with paintings and antiques, and light streamed in through large windows rimmed with bouganvilla that opened out onto the Mediterranean Sea.

Lucia wading in Tyrannean Sea

On our first eveing at San Michele we took the long elevator ride down through the rocks and went wading in the warm and tranquil Tyrannean Sea. The next day the elevator was broken so we bussed down to the beach and helped prepare ultra-fresh anchovies for a delicious pasta course for lunch.

Fresh Anchovy and Tomato Pasta

After lunch we all went for a dip in the ocean. The weather continued to be hot and sunny throughout our stay.

One beautiful, hot morning we toured the extensive vegetable gardens and vinyards.

Grapes ready for the harvest. We drank great local wines throughout our stay

And on our way to the gardens we passed their vintage Fiat 500 in mint condition. As if we didn't know we were in Italy!