Sunday, 4 March 2012

SAGRA - Festivals and Fairs

A sagra means a festival or fair. These occur throughout the year, often to celebrate the arrival of a particular local product from the land; some of the most famous are those celebrating the arrival of the white truffle in Alba; porcini mushrooms; wine; chestnuts etc. The fairs or festivals also celebrate particular seasonal recipes of a particular region, province or even town/village. Particularly during the period from May to October, the signs for a “Sagra” are prevalent throughout rural Italy. Some of these may be officially sponsored by the region or province; others to raise money for a particular cause; and others, it would appear, an excuse for communal eating, music and dancing!

Some recent examples can be found here:
Truffle special Piemonte:  Turin - Montechiaro Since the realignment of the tracks for the high speed trains (now in tunnels) restrictions have been introduced regarding the use of steam locomotives. It is hoped a solution will be found to this problem. In the meantime diesel hauled stock has been used. 
Wine and traditional food special in Tuscany: Treno a vapore della Vendemmia e della Sporcellata
One of many that celebrate the arrival of chestnuts (and the different varieties) Il Treno delle Castagne
And there are many more! 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Rail Travel to Calabria

For a detailed overview  of rail connections UK - Italy please consult Taking the Train to Italy

  • Mid afternoon Train from London (Eurostar) or Amsterdam/Brussels (Thalys) to Paris Gare du Nord
  • Depart Gare du Lyon 19.45 Arrive Milano Centrale 05.38 (Thello Night Train)
  • Depart Milano Centrale 06.45 Arrive Napoli 15.52 Booking Can be made through RailEurope
  • Remainder of journey can be booked with Trenitalia
  • Depart Napoli 16.55 Arrive Reggio Calabria 22.00 (Intercity) OR
  • Depart Napoli 18.55 Arrive Reggio Calabria 22.00 (Freccia Argento) Timetable options Napoli - Reggio Calabri
Northern Europe/Germany via Basel
  • Depart Basel 06.31 Arrive Napoli 16.10 (Change Milano Centrale) Booking Can be made through RailEurope
  • Depart Napoli 16.55 Arrive Reggio Calabria 22.00 (Intercity) OR
  • Depart Napoli 18.55 Arrive Reggio Calabria 22.00 (Freccia Argento) Timetable options Napoli - Reggio Calabria

Northern Europe/Germany via Munich
Option 1 
  • Depart Munchen 09.31 Arrive Bologna 16.26
  • Depart Bologna 16.28 Arrive Naples 20.10 Booking Can be made through RailEurope
Option 2
  • Depart Munchen 09.31 Arrive Bologna 16.26
  • Depart Bologna 16.44 Arrive Naples 23.00 Booking Can be made through RailEurope
For each of these options it will be necessary to overnight in Naples Timetable options for Naples - Reggio Calabria 1 and Afternoon/evening
Northern/Eastern Europe via Vienna and Brenner
  • Depart Vienna Meidling 19.29 Arrive Roma Termine 09.08 Booking Can be made through RailEurope
  • Depart Roma Termine 09.39 Arrive Regio Calabria 17.00 (Inter City)
  • Depart Roma Termine 10.45 Arrive Regio Calabria 17.05 (Eurostar) Timetable options Roma - Reggio Calabria
Connections to other destinations in Calabria will be in another post

Rail Travel to Puglia

For a detailed overview  of rail connections UK - Italy please consult Taking the Train to Italy
From London - Amsterdam -  Brussels
  • Afternoon trains Eurostar (London) or Thalys (Amsterdam/Brussels to Paris 
  • Night Train to Milan (Depart Paris Gare du Lyon 19.45Aarrive Milano Centale 05.38)
  • Morning train to Foggia/Bari/Lecce (Depart Milano Centrale 07.35 arrive Lecce 16.37
  • Bookings can be made here RailEurope
From Northern Europe/Germany via Basel & Milan
  • Depart Basle 06.31 Arrive Lecce 20.37 (Change Milano Centrale) or
  • Depart Basle 07.04 Arrive Lecce 22.37 (Change Milano Centrale)
  • Bookings can be made here RailEurope
From Northern Europe/Germany via Brenner & Bologna
From Northern/Eastern Europe Via Vienna/Brenner & Bologna

Option 1
  • Depart Vienna (Westbahnhof) 06.14 Arrive Bologna 16.26 Bookings can be made here RailEurope
  • Depart Bologna 17.42 Arrive Bari 23.25 (no connection for Lecce with this option) Options for connections Bologna
Option 2

Rail Travel Options to Basilicata

For a detailed overview  of rail connections UK - Italy please consult Taking the Train to Italy
From London- Amsterdam to Basilicata

Option 1

Option 2
From Northern-Western  Europe and Germany via Basle
From Northern Europe Germany-Austria  Via Brenner to Basilicata

Origins of the passion for food and rail journeys

So how did these passions for food and rail start?

Let’s start at the beginning. The garden of the house where I was born in Hucknall backed onto what was the Great Central Railway. My grandfather had been the Station Master at Hucknall and other Great Central Stations, including Quorn, where my father was born. My  father followed in the footsteps of his father and uncles after returning from six years as a soldier in World War II. When I was three my father was transferred to Cambridge and we grew up in Suffolk. My childhood revolved around railways: travelling with my father around East Anglia; with him or my mother to Italy; and as soon as I was able to travel alone spent lengthy periods at Cambridge station or, with use of privilege tickets, the London terminals.

The food passion started from having an Italian mother and having to improvise during the period of rationing after World War II. We grew virtually everything and improvised in the making of certain Italian products. For example, despite the meat shortages, my father was able to obtain rabbits from which he made salami!  During the mid-1950s Italian food products started to arrive in the UK (London) and making use of the free rail travel we ventured to the Italian food store in Soho and brought back wooden cases of pasta (long spaghetti or macaroni) in the traditional blue wrapping.

Travel to Italy started very early in my life and there I was exposed to totally different food culture; variety, freshness and of course TASTE! I can remember eating with my great-grand-father above Via Giuseppe Panini on the opposite shore to Lecco on Lake Como; him with his large fiasco of wine on the floor that he would lift every now and then to fill his glass; the smell of grano that he ate in large quantities - I can also still smell the kitchen! My mother had a number of aunts; I remember excitable Zia Piera and Zia Gianna who had been a minor film actress and fantastic cook. She had visited England in 1950 and was desperate for her niece (my mother) for whom she had acted as guardian when my mothers parents had died. So our visits to Italy were all accompanied by large meals to “feed us up” for the return to England.

My real passion for Italian food was reinforced when I started to spend longer periods in Italy. At the age of thirteen-and-a-half I travelled alone to Italy by train and spent almost time between family and my mother’s friends. In Lecco, I stayed with my mother’s cousin, whose son Giacomo Mojoli would later in life become vice president of Slowfood International, and during the day help out her brother Peppino who had a fruit and vegetable store. I would help Renzo deliver groceries around Lecco on a tricycle made for carrying goods: at lunch time I would often eat with Peppino’s mother Serena (my mother’s aunt) who would often improvise with ingredients from the shop; sometime would take a picnic to lake shore or on special occasions eat at the restaurant next to the shop in Piazza XX Settembre. In the late afternoons I would sometimes go fishing with my great-grand uncle who would sell fish on the market.

Later in the 1960s I spent a year working in Italy; it was then that I was introduced to the gastronomic extravaganzas; I would regularly eat with Zia Gianna and watch her prepare food or at week-ends eat for hours on-end with my mother’s friend Paola in Lissone; an incredibly versatile cook. These were the experiences I always looked forward to when I later travelled back to Italy and especially during the ten years that I lived in Denmark. I would always make a point of stopping off in Milano to savour Zia Gianna’s food and that of Fulvia my mother’s cousin.

Whether it is the family DNA or Italian blood or not, I am passionate about food and what goes into the preparation and I love improvisation! The other evening I watched Giorgio Locatelli prepare caponata; something that can be varied by the individual preparing it. A couple of years ago I prepared my own version for an Eat-In held in Torino. Leo Reiser  from Slowfood still comments on it when I met him; I assume he thought it was good!!!

A very satisfying experience was the conceptualisation of an Eat-In instead of a traditional welcome cocktail for the conference that marked the end of a ten year project I had been managing in South Africa for almost ten years. A large marquee was installed outside of Durban City Hall; small producers from the community gardens and farms our programme had supported brought their produce to sell to the conference delegates who then had their raw ingredients prepared
a group of students from the local hotel school supervised by two professional cooks (one Italian and one South African).The event was voted a great success.

For the past ten years we spend our summer holidays at a small farm on the Tuscan coast at Pian di Rocca close to Castiglione della Pescaia. This will be discussed when we reach Tuscany on our journey through Italy.

Cookery Books - Puglia-Basilicata-Calabria

I have always enjoyed reading cookery books but have not necessarily followed the recipes! As you will have seen from another post, I try to think of the ingredients when I taste something that I have enjoyed and take it from there!

In terms of general Italian cookery books, I occasionally still consult Elizabeth David’s Italian Cooking. However, the one I most enjoy glancing through is the tattered version of Il Talismano della Felicità  (literal translation the object of happiness) by Ada Boni  (1934 edition) that my great aunt gave to mother when she left Italy for England. It also includes some handwritten notes. At home (in Italy) the various members of the family argue the merits of Il Carnicina or il Cucchaio D’Argento (Silver Spoon). They are all agreed on the excellent Made in Italy by Giorgio Locatelli.

iPhone Applications
  • La Cucina Italiana
  • Eatitaly recipes
  • Cucchaio D’Argento
  • Slow Wine
  • Barilla (pasta recipes)
  • Italian Herbs
  • Tap Italy - Where to buy and eat Italian food in London 

Puglia - Italiano
  1. Ricette di osterie della Puglia. Mare, erbe e fornelli (Ricette di Arcigola Slow Food) Antonio Attore
  2. Puglia ricette e sapori [Rilegato] Luva Lazari  
  3. Quaranta Ricette di Puglia I piatti della tradizione in modo facile e veloce. Giovanna Quaranta
  4. 1000 Ricette della Puglia  di Lucia Lazari
  5. Puglia. Le autentiche ricette della tradizione. I prodotti tipici e i vini
  6. Signori a tavola. Il Salento in 101 menu e 1100 ricette
  7. Le ricette più gustoso della Puglia W. Dello Russo
  8. Puglia in tavola. Le ricette della tradizione Puglia in tasca Nicola Sbisà
  9. Ricette di Osteria d’Italia, Rio, Polenta, Gnocchi
Puglia - English
  1. Puglian Cookbook Viktoria Todorovska
  2. Italian Country Cooking: Recipes from Umbria and Puglia Susanna Gelmetti
  3. Trulli Italian [Kindle Edition] Clay Damewood
  4. Puglia: A Culinary Memoir (Italy's Food Culture) Maria P. Ferrante
Basilicata - Italiano
  1. La cucina della Basilicata in cento ricette tradizionali (Italia tascabile) Ottavio Cavalcanti
  2. Puglia e Basilicata. Primi piatti (Antiche ricette della tradizione popolare F.Murer
  3. Puglia e Basilicata. Carne (Antiche ricette della tradizione popolare F. Murer
  4. Puglia e Basilicata. Pesce (Antiche ricette della tradizione popolare F. Murer
  5. Puglia e Basilicata. Dolci (Antiche ricette della tradizione popolare F. Murer
  6. Basilicata e Calabria. Le autentiche ricette della tradizione. I prodotti tipici e i vini
Basilicata - English
  1. The Food and Cooking of Sicily: 65 Classic Dishes from Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia Valentina Harris
Calabria - Italiano
  1. Adotta un piatto slow food. Le ricette dei concorsi gastronomici della cucina tradizionale calabrese promossi dal convivium slow food di Soverato M. Gigliotti
  2. Quando si mangiava insieme. Antiche ricette del vibonese e della cipolla di tropea Carmine Macchione
  3. La cucina della Calabria in cento ricette tradizionalOttavio Cavalcanti
Calabria - English
  1. My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South Rosetta Costantino
  2. Giovanna's Legacy: Gifts from Her Italian Kitchen Mary i. Falbo
  3. Cucina DI Calabria Mary Amabile Palmer
  4. Cucina Di Calabria: Treasured Recipes and Family Traditions from Southern Italy, Mary Amabile Palmer


Information on Alberobello

Getting there by public transport

Ferrovie del Sud-Est (train) from  Stazione Centrale- Bari (Timetable) or bus  from Taranto (Timetable)
Alberobello, famous for trulli homes, is a  UNESCO World Heritage Site (Photo Gallery of Alberobello)

Agriturismo in and around Alberobello (Accommodation on Farms - Small Holdings)
(these are suggestions from guides)
  • Azienda Agrituristica "Laire" di Barnaba Francesco & Figli. Produces, among others, oilive and traditional cheeses
  • I Trulli Panoramici  (Site currently in Italian only) offers a wide range of facilities beyond residential and restaurant. Various courses ranging from cookery, pottery to art.
Restaurants in Alberobello: