Wabi Sabi

zucchini flower (sciurill')

Last night we had sushi with friends at Wabi Sabi, the only Japanese restaurant in Pesaro, located off the Piazza del Popolo. It was pricey compared to the U.S., but it was so delicious! It’s been too long since I’ve had maki rolls and tempura. One of the tempura vegetables was a zucchini flower, which is in season now. We fried our own version the other day—fried zucchini flowers (or, sciurill’ in Michael’s family’s dialect) are one of my favorite Italian appetizers in the summer.

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Un anno dopo

Well, we’ve been in Italy for exactly one year. And, what are we doing to celebrate tonight? Going out to sushi with friends. I’m a little wary about eating sushi in Italy, but I haven’t had it in over a year so am excited nonetheless.

Last June 10, we arrived in Rome, exhausted and hot, and with two cats in tow. Yes, we brought our cats. By October, they were already back in America, but that’s a story for another post! We rented a car and traveled from Rome to Pesaro, where we stayed at the apartment of a very, very gracious friend. What we anticipated would be a 1-week stay turned into a 4-week stay. Yikes. We quickly discovered that it was quite difficult to find an apartment in Pietrelcina (where Michael would be conducting his fieldwork for his PhD in anthropology), a very small town in the Campania region of Italy. We finally found a place through a second cousin of Michael’s and moved there in mid-July. I have plenty of interesting memories of Pietrelcina that I’ll also relate in another post. For now, I just want to say that Italy has been very good to us and I’m looking forward to what this year will bring!

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Pesaro’s Trevi Fountain

The city recently cleaned the fountain in the main Piazza del Popolo. It’s sparkling and ready to be splashed in the heat of summer. This morning it was 80 degrees by 9 a.m. so I think summer is on its way. It’s still nice and cool in the shade, though, so perhaps some vestiges of spring are left. At least we can fight the oncoming humidity with a dip in the ocean . . . or, a splash in the fountain.

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Old-fashioned espresso

I haven’t had any cappuccinos the past week—just plain espresso (ok, with milk and sugar, but the milk isn’t frothed). This household only uses a caffettiera (see photo)—we don’t drink American drip coffee. I don’t even drink that in America! It’s a common misconception that espresso has more caffeine than regular coffee; in fact, a shot of espresso usually has less than a cup of drip-brewed coffee. Plus, it tastes so much better.

Tomorrow’s the beginning of a new week, so I’ll probably get a cappuccino. I can never find one in the U.S. as delicious as they are here. Why are they so good? It’s a combination of better beans (and better roasting techniques), higher-quality espresso machines, different milk and water, and let’s face it, highly skilled baristas. They take their jobs very seriously and we should all be thankful for that. But, the main reason coffee tastes so good here? Because you’re drinking it in Italy.

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The land of window shopping

Italians love to window shop. You might say it’s one of their favorite hobbies. And, with good reason—they make beautiful displays (a local café has constantly changing flower arrangements and stacks of beautiful desserts and chocolates) and they’re of course noted for their fashion so it’s always fun to pass by the Gucci and Prada stores . . . and, Armani. Nothing says Italy like babies in Armani. I can’t afford most things, but it’s still fun to look, and it’s an excellent excuse to take a walk! It’s part of the culture to meet friends or family in the piazza and take a walk together, so when locals take their daily passeggiata around 5:00 p.m., the streets are mobbed and all the windows are lit up.

Window shopping aside, one of my favorite things about Italy is its social aspect. Americans are much more concerned about personal space and privacy, whereas Italians love to be affectionate—often in public—and cheek kissing is a standard greeting. In addition, Italians frequently come up to Alex and talk to him, touch his cheek, and chat with us about him. I love that. Of course, even in Italy more and more people spend hours in front of the computer, but it’s refreshing to see that so many people (of all ages) still meet in the piazza or along the waterfront—and stay there. While I often meet friends one-on-one in a coffee shop back home, here we gather as a group out in the open, often opting to chat outside with crowds of people around instead of holing up in someone’s apartment. Besides, who wouldn’t enjoy hearing a beautiful symphony of Italian language every day?

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Festa della Repubblica

I discovered this morning—when I noticed that most of Pesaro’s shops and markets were closed—that June 2 is an Italian national holiday for the Festa della Repubblica. This holiday celebrates the birth of the modern Italian republic in 1946. It appears that there will be a live music festival in the main piazza tonight that I hope to check out. The above photo is from a 2005 air show by “Frecce Tricolori” to celebrate the holiday. Auguri, Italia!

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Invasion of the beach umbrellas

It may not be officially summer on the calendar yet, but it’s summer in Pesaro. It’s June 1 and the German tourists are here by the busload, crowding the boardwalk and the gelaterias, and the beach looks like a sea of umbrellas. Alex and I took a walk at 10 a.m. and people were already swimming and tanning their over bronzed skin. I’m not part of the sunbathing culture so Italian beaches aren’t my favorite (I have a preference for the natural beauty, cooler weather—and waters—of the Oregon coast), and Pesaro is a very commercial city in the summer. Many people rent out beach umbrellas for the summer so they can guarantee a space on the sand.

However, there is something to be said about living in the centro which is a 5-minute walk from the water—many locals take a dip in the ocean on their lunch break and I’ve seen entire classes of school kids frolicking on the beach during their recess—or maybe it’s during an actual class? It’s also great to live a stone’s throw away from some delicious gelato. Trust me on this—the coconut and mango combo is out of this world.

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As American as German pancakes

Well, we’re not able to barbecue this Memorial Day, but we’re celebrating a little bit of America by making pancakes. Not many Italians eat pancakes; in fact, we bought syrup at the grocery store a few days ago, and the check-out clerk was fascinated. A spark of recognition lit her face, but she was puzzled. ‘What do you use this for—to put in desserts?’ she asked. When we explained we were Americans and we used it as a breakfast condiment, she said, ‘Che meraviglia!’ and wanted to try it for herself. Breakfast in Italy is usually very light because Italians eat such a big lunch. Breakfast usually consists of a biscotto (cookie) or a croissant with a cup of coffee (sometimes mixed together in the coffee—no joke. We’ve watched people in the North and South take beautiful cream or jelly-filled pastries and crumble them unceremoniously into a large mug of milk and coffee. But they shudder when we make fried eggs for breakfast!).

The first time we saw pancake mix in the store, we were so excited. They don’t sell Bisquick, but a much better German mix—Nick “The Easy Rider” American Pfannkuchen. The resulting breakfast is surprisingly rich and fluffy; or, is it just that we hadn’t tasted pancakes in months and would be happy with any version? Regardless, this morning, we made pancakes from scratch. But we did use the trustworthy Nick’s “ahorn-sirup.” As noted on the bottle, it’s “the American way of life.”

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A Renaissance afternoon

View of Gradara

Yesterday was the first day that felt like summer, and we had a nice leisurely lunch at La Casaccia, a country restaurant overlooking the castle town of Gradara, located a few kilometers outside Pesaro. Gradara is the site of the story of Paolo and Francesca, one of the most famous cantos of Dante’s Inferno. Francesca da Rimini was married to Paolo’s brother, a mercenary who was frequently away from his kingdom. Paolo and Francesca fell in love over reading a juicy romance novel—her husband returned while they were in flagrante delicto. He murdered them both, and they are condemned to the second circle of Hell, reserved for the lustful. They must whirl around just out of reach from one another for all eternity. Pretty intense stuff!

This region of Italy (Le Marche) looks like a typical Renaissance painting, complete with rolling hills, cypress trees dotting the landscape and castles perched atop mountains. Raphael was from this area, after all, so he had a lot of inspiration right at his doorstep. I’ve posted a few photos of our view and delicious meal: gnocchi dello Chef with saffron, cream, sausage and chives; strozzapreti (literally, ‘strangle the priests’) with cream, sausage, radicchio, walnuts and arugula; roasted chicken and roasted rabbit. Molto saporito!

Strozzapreti

Gnocchi dello Chef

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Not all peas come in a can

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