Thursday, May 19, 2016

Roadside Wild Flowers in Tuscany.

Yesterday morning, I just had to stop the car on our hillside to drink in this beautiful canvass, nothing contrived here just the roadside flowers. 

The wild flowers come in waves and a month ago the composition was different. Many people  pay thousands to create wild flower gardens but here in Tuscany our roadside gives us this visual delight.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lucca Film Festival

Lucca last Saturday night turned into a Hollywood movie studio. Throughout the city in various Piazzas and Bars were film sets from famous movies. Chicago was there right next to Dirty Dancing and then around the corner was Zombie. Batman seemed to have various filming locations about the city. The reason for the transformation from Tuscany to California was The Lucca and Europa Cinema Film Festival.

The festival wasn’t just confined to the city but included locations as far away as Barga. The Lucchesi seem to have penchant for dressing up and had taken this occasion to their hearts.

Schools students also took to the film sets. My personal favourite was Romeo And Juliet interpreted by young actors from Liceo Classico Niccolò Machiavelli. Their location was an ice-cream parlour, which had been transformed into the magic fish tank scene from Baz Luhrmann's rendition of Romeo and Juliet 

For those who prefer a more hard-hitting genre of cinema there was the Zombie set. The director himself, George A. Romero was here for the occasion and I am told even put his hands into fresh cement. Are we starting our own Lucca walk of fame?

It was good to see Lucca swinging again after winter, this city is for me a film set in itself and I often have to kick myself as a reminder that I am living a reality and not playing a part in a movie.
For more information about the festival look at their website is

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Enzo's Tricks For Making The Perfect Moka Espresso Coffee

Any Italian will tell you that Naples is the city of Coffee therefore Enzo my very Neapolitan is the Coffee king in our house. My coffee was never special until he shared his little tricks with me. I have therefore given this post entirely over to him to share his secrets of how to make the perfect Coffee with your Moka Express machine. 

I would therefore like to link this page to Enzo’s new food blog, which ha has just launched on

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Moka, The Iconic Italian coffee kettle.


This entry should really be called an ode to the Moka. If you read on you will see why.
What are the great post war icons of Italian culture? I know you are going to list the Fiat 500, the Vespa and Nutella but lets not forget the Moka Express,  the coffee kettle invented by Alfonso Bialetti and transformed by his son Rinaldo into an icon of design and functionality. No Italian kitchen would be complete without one. Rinaldo with his Father’s product, brought into every Italian home the aroma and punch of a steam produced coffee from the bar.
This month sadly saw the death of Rinaldo Bialetti at the ripe old age of 93, perhaps confirming the health benefits of espresso coffee. I was delighted to see that Rinaldo was buried in a casket fashioned into the form of one of his coffee kettles complete with the caricature of the little man Alfonso, his father on the side with his stupendous mustache. This scene has endeared my coffee kettle to me even more and made me even more pleased that I have refused to jump onto the George Clooney Nespresso wagon, even if this scarpers my opportunity to have coffee with the gorgeous man. 

The point is even though I am told these capsule coffee makers produce a decent cup of coffee, it has now been confirmed that many brands’ capsules are non recyclable, which at the very least seems very short sighted in this ecological age. Even those like Nespresso, which are recyclable I don't  believe can replace my Moka.
Coffee making for me like most people in my adopted country is a ritual. A way to start the day and put the mind and body in balance, those few extra minutes it takes to make an espresso using a Moka gives one a moment to breathe. Listening for the change in tone as the coffee is forced out by the steam tells you your coffee will be ready in a moment. This sound makes me go into first gear and then straight into fifth as the first drop of that dark rich liquid hits my lips. No fad, fashion or rush will ever part me from my little morning companion Mr Alfonso Bialetti. My Neapolitan husband is the king of coffee in our house and he has taught me how to brew and appreciate this luxurious liquid and the ceremony around it.
In my next blog entry I will get my husband to share his secrets for that perfect cup of Moka. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lucca Roman History in a Back Alley.

Lucca or Luca as it was know in classical times was an important Roman town and tourists flock from all over the world to see the famous Amphitheatre and no doubt, imagine while taking refreshment in one of the many bars the gladiators entering the arena through the same arches as they did themselves. However if you continue along the main high street know as Via Fillungo, which in Roman times was simply know as the Cardo Maximus, meaning a main street that runs from north to south, opposite the Church of San Cristoforo (now an exhibition centre) and the clock tower, there is an insignificant alleyway, one of the smallest streets in the city know as via Chiasso Barletti.  You might dive into it because it looks like a cute medieval street or because you notice a house beautifully frescoed with portraits of two of the cities famous operatic sons: Puccini and Catalani.

This inconsequential street holds an important place in Roman History. It was here during the conference of Lucca in 55 BC that the three Roman heavy weights Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus renegotiated the famous triumvirate. The accord meant that Pompey and Crassus would again stand for Consulship and after their election Caesar’s rule in Gaul would be extended by 5 years. At the end of their joint year in office, Crassus would be given the governorship of Syria to use as a base for his Parthia campaign and Pompey would govern  Hispania in absentia.
The original tower house of the Barletti family is still on the corner  and it is worth tipping your head back to look at this magnificent soaring structure. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lucca magic on a January Evening.

If you venture out on the evening of 5th January in Lucca city you might think time has stood still as you hear the clip clop of horses' hooves and the beating of drums later to be joined by "Zampogne", bagpipes played by shepherds who come down from the hills for Christmas and New Year.  If you follow your ears you might catch sight of three wonderful strong horses with their regal mounts being lead around the city by drummers. Sometimes when I am walking late at night in Lucca I feel I have wandered onto a deserted film set. The vision of these gentlemen from the Orient confirms that Lucca is no film set but a city steeped in tradition.

The three Magi are in the city because of course it is Epiphany but in Italy there is a beautiful fairytale as well. The Kings meet on their journey an old woman and tell her they are on their way to Bethlehem; she wants to join them but first need to finish her cleaning being a good Italian housewife and bake for the new born baby. She therefore because of her limp and age can’t keep up with the kings and gives the biscuits to all the children on her journey. Today Befana is still a very important holiday and Children receive presents if they haven’t been good. Until recently children had to write a letter to their parents asking forgiveness for their misdemeanors of the last year. The Befana then might decide to leave coal in their stocking instead of biscuits and candy. Here in Lucca there are special biscuits with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top. Befana was also on the streets today near to the Kings distributing gifts to the children and scaring the timid ones with her broom but be sure she, like this city, she is benign and welcoming so Happiness and Peace to you all in 2016.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Presepe Vivente or Italian version of the Nativity play

Presepi or Cribs have played an important part in the life of Bagni di Lucca for over 200 years. Nativity scene figures and small statues are still a very important part of the local economy. If you are interested in the history of these cribs you might like to read my post on presepe  The Italian version of a nativity play is a Presepe Vivente, which translates as a living crib. A whole village transforms into a crib, which in Italy doesn’t limit itself to the stable scene but shows the whole village going about their daily activities.

The medieval villages make for the perfect stage set and  the houses open their door and volunteers demonstrate traditional skills from farming to crafts. In Medieval times each of these villages was a micro sufficient community.  Winter, however in modern times can be lonely in some of the higher villages when tourists and second homers leave and these winter festivals bring the hills to life and give the locals  from all the scattered villagers a chance to catch up. These presepi are not limited to religious significance but are more about community and indeed like every village event food is ever present.

Adults chat and warm up with mulled wine while the children enjoy a history lesson without being
aware that they are part of a living museum. How lucky are they that these crafts are still known about and indeed in some area are being brought back.
The fact that the odd plastic bowl and mobile phone is evident somehow makes these events more endearing. Agriculture in the area has seen the return of the sowing of ancient seed types and it has been noticed that those with wheat intolerance can eat this wheat without ill effects!!

The festive mood of these village winter festivals is enjoyed by all faiths and represent the best  of
small communities coming together, the releasing of japanese lanterns over the hills was a magical ending to very special day.

This Presepe Vivente was held in Monti di Villa.