Sunday, 15 August 2010

MAXXI - better late than never

We mentioned MAXXI in an earlier blog. It's the massive new art gallery in Rome designed by Zaha Hadid. It's taken a long time to build and has gone well over budget. But we went up there just the other day and it's spectacular. Inside is especially disorientating, which is fun. Most of the stuff inside was even quite good, which is rare.


And this is the best thing we've made recently. I was taught this by a Neapolitan friend. It's basically like an Italian Spanish omelette, and it's amazing. When I first saw it in a shop in Pompeii I didn't know what it was and described it to my friend as a blocco di spaghetti - it's actually called a frittata, but I prefer blocco. It's essentially just cooked spaghetti mixed with egg, cheese, and lots of pepper, which is all fried. We added ham, obviously. You fry it lots then flip it over - ideally into another pan. Quite delicious, but seriously heavy. And very good cold the next day.


We've been rushed off our feet recently, zooming between Naples, the UK and Turkey. Now we're back and the internet is bust in our flat. It's Ferragosto at the moment in Italy so everything is shut and everyone is at the seaside; in other words, we ain't going to get our modem fixed for a long time! In the meantime, however, we've been making lots of strange stuff. Home-made gnocchi for one:

A happy customer:

Friday, 21 May 2010

Yummy Sicily

We both returned significantly heavier from our recent trip to Sicily - good job we got the train home instead of the plane! The man in the photo above is trying to roll Rachel's lunch into a pannino!

For produce, nowhere in Italy can beat Sicily. The markets are simply overflowing with amazing things and all of the fruit and veg looks like it has been on steroids - zucchini as long as your arm! Tomatoes as big as Rachel. Here are some photos from the mad Ballaro market in Palermo; for shots of the brilliant fish-market at Catania have a look at Rachel's blog.

Here are a few of the best things that we ate. Cannoli in Palermo:

Rachel nails another ice cream, this time in Taormina:

And Ben bids farwell to Sicily with a big, fat arancino on the ferry from Messina - our train was safely stowed away downstairs so it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the cafe!

And finally, because it's probably the best photo of Rachel in existence:

No, it's not what it looks like (there were no dogs involved!) - it's chocolate ice cream in a brioche roll, the local speciality. With hindsight, a non-brown flavour might have been a better idea.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sicilia: cities and (more) ruins

In sharp contrast to the countryside, Sicilian towns are pretty, well, mental. Palermo especially, where we began our trip, is a strange old place with a very middle-eastern/Spanish feel.

Syracuse, in contrast, at the other end of the trip, was an altogether more refined place. The oldest part of town is on the island of Ortygia, sticking out into the bay, and again has a middle-eastern feel to it, but is distinctly posher than Palermo.

The beautiful Fonte Aretusa, originally Greek in date, is probably the best fountain we've ever seen, complete with tonnes of fish and its own white ducks and papyrus plantation. The original Greek settlers of Syracuse linked this fresh-water fountain to the water nymph Arethusa who had leapt off the Peloponnese in Greece to escape an over-friendly river god and popped up here across the sea.

The ancient city of Syracuse was much larger than the modern one and lots of the ancient ruins are on the mainland to the north of Ortygia. These include the huge theatre, where they were preparing for a season of plays while we were there, and the ancient stone quarries, now full of lemon trees. The huge church of Santa Maria delle Lacrime in the modern town can be seen from everywhere in the city and houses a statue of the Madonna which is said to have wept for five days in 1953.

Last, but not least, of the big cities we visited was Catania, huddling under Mount Etna. The whole city is built of black volcanic rock and has been almost totally destroyed by earthquakes and eruptions on more than one occasion. In terms of bars, restaurants and markets Catania was probably the best place we went; we had a great dinner the night we were there on a street entirely lined with BBQs.

The final stop before we returned to the mainland was fancy Taormina, famous for its incredible Greek/Roman theatre with its views of Etna. The beach below the city, either side of the appropriately named Isola Bella, was very pretty - and, much to Rachel's joy, accessible by cable car.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sicilia: flowers and ruins

Here are a few snaps from our recent jaunt around Sicily. Having a car meant that not only did we get to lots of the more out of the way sites but we also now have a new found love of life - having seen it flash before our eyes on more than one occasion.

First stop on our way out of Palermo was the magical temple at Segesta, thronged with tourists but still spectacularly isolated and covered in flowers.

Sicily was incredibly lush, much greener than we expected - silly really, since so much of the fruit and veg eaten in Italy comes from Sicily all year round. The verges along all the roads were like amazing herbaceous borders. So teeming is the island with reptiles of various descriptions that this little fella even tried to jump into Rachel's pocket...

Our next stop was Selinunte. We had a massive lunch of fresh fish before tackling the ruins, which in places look like something from a Hollywood set.

Rachel doing a spot of DIY, and as human scale below:

More famous, but a little less bucolic, was Agrigento, where the temples look like they've been carved from honeycomb - it's like Crunchy World. We had heard terrible things about the modern town at Agrigento but, even though it looks rather ominous from down in the valley, we thought the historic centre was really nice, especially for an evening stroll.