Here's my recipe for Pizza Rustica, or Double Crust Pizza. When I first thought of doing this, I wanted to make something much better than those double crust fast-food pizzas--a double crust pizza. Well, I think I achieved it. I'll be honest, a true pizza rustica in Italy (or pizzagaina) has eggs and ricotta cheese as the base for the filling. Some people put a dozen or more eggs and bake it in a high cake pan. That is a cholesterol nightmare... I like making my recipes hearty, but healthier... not that this version is diet foor. It's just good, home made ingredients. And instead of cold cuts (like many use in pizzagaina) I use cut up pieces of ham or some leftovers... shredded chicken, meatballs (home made) or cooked and crumbled sausage. So, call it Pizza Rustica or Double Crust Pizza or whatever... here it is...
(This dough recipe is for one 12-14" pizza -- you need to double the dough recipe for a bottom and top crust)
1 -1/2 cups warm water (115 F)
1 tablespoon instant or rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
Proof the yeast in a 2 cup measuring cup or something similar. Whisk together the water, sugar and yeast and let foam up for 5-10 minutes.
Dough (recipe is for 1 pizza about 12-15 inches, you can double the recipe for two dough rounds):
2-1/2 – 2-3/4 cups Bread Flour (I use King Arthurs)
1 Teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Put 1 cup flour along with salt and sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer. Mix dry ingredients momentarily. Add yeast mixture and oil then mix on low speed for a minute or so. Next add another cup of flour to the bowl and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides periodically as needed. Then add another ½ cup of flour and mix… Depending on the humidity, the dough should be starting to hang onto the dough hook and separate from the bowl. If it looks very sticky and unformed, add a bit more flour until it starts to cling to the hook. Scraped the sides if needed. The finished dough looks sticky but forms a rough ball.
Turn out onto a floured work surface and fold over far end towards you and push with the heel of your hand away from you… then turn ¼ turn, then repeat… do this about 10-12 times. Add flour on top and to your hands while kneading to prevent sticking. Tuck in the dough and make a ball shape. Place into a well-oiled bowl (cover with plastic wrap or a damp cotton kitchen towel) for rising—about 1 hour. Push down the dough gently, cover and place into fridge for another hour.
Meanwhile, get your ingredients together. I would suggest using either grated (the ¼ inch holes on a grater) mozzarella or fontina for this recipe. You need about 2 cups grated. For meat, try some diced ham, or leftover meatballs chopped up, or cooked and crumbled sweet sausage. You can caramelize onions, and add sliced garlic (maybe 3-4 cloves) beforehand to add to the filling. Crushed black pitted olives (just squish them between fingers) also work well in this filling. This can be a great pizza for using up leftovers.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. and place a pizza stone on the TOP rack. (This helps brown the top crust)
Take half the dough recipe (remember, you’ve made twice the amount above for 2 pizzas) and work it into a ball, then shape into a round pizza about 12-14” around. Place this onto a pizza peel covered with parchment paper (the paper stays under the pizza as you slide it onto your pizza stone).
Spread some pizza sauce—about ½ cup on the bottom of the first round of dough (you can use jarred or your own recipe). Don’t put any sauce on the last 1” or so of the perimeter, and keep this area free of fillings too. Now layer on your fillings… meats first, olives, then onions, etc… top it off with the cheese. Retain some cheese for sprinkling across the top crust. You can drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the ingredients and sprinkle with oregano or basil.
Shape the second round of dough to the same size. Lay it over the top of the bottom crust and pinch and fold the dough as you would an apple pie. Make sure your pinching is melding the two halves together. When done, put several knife cuts around the center of the pizza for steam to escape. Top off with some of the cheese and perhaps a sprinkling of grated Romano or Parmesan, then some oregano.
Slide the pizza off the peel onto your pizza stone in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check the pizza. Life the bottom with a metal spatula to see if the bottom crust is brown. Make sure the top crust is browning equally. If not, you might have to put the oven onto broil for the last minute or two of baking. If the pizza isn’t browning enough add more overall baking time. If the top is browning too fast (compared to the bottom) then cover with foil for the rest of the backing time. Baking a double crust pie like this is tricky, so you have to use your own judgment depending on the way your oven browns the crust.
Let this pizza cool down for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting slices. Enjoy!
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Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved
The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid in Rome, Italy, near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery. It stands at a fork between two ancient roads, the Via Ostiensis and another road that ran west to the Tiber along the approximate line of the modern Via della Marmorata.
It's location caused it to be integrated into the ancient Roman city wall, which helped it in being one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in Rome.
The pyramid was built about 18 – 12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a powerful Roman magistrate and religious leader. It's interior is concrete with a brick veneer, itself covered with slabs of white marble on a travertine foundation. It measures about 100 feet square at its base and stands 120 feet tall.
Its interior contains a barrel vaulted room--the burial chamber. It's a fairly small space for such a large pyramid--about 15' x 12' x 15' high. When discovered in 1660, the chamber was found to be decorated with frescoes. The tomb was a victim of plunder in ancient times. There is no way to enter this massive structure today but it's a wonder to ponder an ancient pyramid in Rome...
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When staying in a hotel, B&B or agriturismo in Italy, ask for a business card of the place you are staying at and put it in a prominent place in your wallet.
There is one successful story of someone dropping his wallet in a parking garage. Someone picked it up and returned it to the parking management (See? There are kind people in Italy). The manager saw the card and called the hotel. The hotel contacted him while he was out. Wallet successfully recovered!
If traveling and moving from hotel to hotel nearly every day, you can prepare your own itinerary card before leaving on your trip with phone numbers. Print it in small sized fonts to fit a standard sized business card and put a title in both English and Italian on top, such as "If you find my wallet, here's where I will be:-Se trovate il mio portafoglio, ecco dove sarò:"
As a preventive measure, try to not keep your credit card or ATM card in your wallet. I used a leg wallet that fit comfortably on my calf to hold our passports and extra credit cards. Women can use a bra card pouch. I tended to get cash only when I needed to replenish our 2-3 day supply. I'd hold what I needed in my pocket and the balance would go into my leg wallet.
I opted to keep my everyday cash and main card in a small billfold type wallet... less of a pocket bulge, and if I was in crowded situations (railway stations, lines for tickets, crowded tourist spots, etc.) I could simply keep my hand tucked in my pocket to make sure I was touching it until we were out of harm's way. A large wallet makes an obvious bulge that pickpockets are always hunting for.
If anything, try not to keep large amounts of cash in your wallet when traveling. If someone finding it is tempted with lots of cash, they might lose their soul for a moment and give in to that temptation... keeping the cash and tossing the wallet in their nearest trash can.
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New Post On Lucas Goes Italian!
Learn about the supermarkets of Italy! Plus, a comparison chart!
Un po 'Comico... Pugs
We Americans think of Italian bread as those long spongy breads used for hoagies, heros, subs, grinders, Blimpies or Po' Boys. Italian bread is much more than that. In fact I'd argue that most of that ilk are nothing more than commercial white bread recipes--no crust or leathery crust, tiny air pockets, little crumb and they compress into a Communion wafer when squeezed between your fingers.
But out of the forni d'Italiani (Italian ovens) come real breads--Italian breads... over 350 types. Many are regional breads, rarely seen outside of a specific region--or even a particular town--in Italy. Others are more widespread. Still others have specific reasons to exist... religious, utilitarian or for celebration. Baking in Italy was often a communal affair. The harvest would bring in the wheat. The growers would come together at the miller for him to grind their grain. The small villages had communal ovens where all the bread was baked, sometimes by the women of the village, sometimes by a well known baker. The bear was then doled out depending on how much grain you gave, or based on what other bartering or services you shared with other neighbors.
Below are descriptions of some of the best breads in Italy. You will notice that many are from Puglia, or Apulia (in Italian)--Italy’s boot heel. Puglia produces a tenth of all wine drunk in Europe, and 18% of all Italian wines. Its olive oil is prized as well, no wonder when you drive past the largest stands of olive trees in the whole country--some looking like forests--with many over 1000 years old. A little known fact is that Puglia is the "breadbasket of Italy" producing tremendous amounts of wheat. From all this wheat comes amazing artisinal breads...
Ciabatta is wheat flour, water, salt, olive oil and yeast, and has a salty flavor and meaty texture. But it is not a bread with much Italian heritage behind it--because it was first invented in 1982 by a baker in Adria, Veneto. It's success has become worldwide. That's not a bad thing, because most supermarkets have fairly decent ciabatta breads nowadays.
Firstly, a cornetto is NOT a croissant. A French croissant is a pastry, made with layers of pastry dough and butter... the excaping steam creates fluffy layers. A Cornetto is really more like a bread it's made with lard and has a more breay-like texture, similar to brioche, and contains more sugar. It's use is widespread throughout Italy as a mainstay of the Italian breakfast. Varieties include chocolate (Nutella), jam and plain.
Basically, this is a foccacia, but only in Rome is it called pizza bianca in Rome and of course the way that it is made and the way that it tastes is different in every region. Bakers will often offer small pieces to children while their parents are buying bread. It is wonderful on its own and can also be filled or farcita and made into a sandwich.
Pane casareccia is made with made with triple 0 flour, not whole wheat as many other breads use. It has less air inside, is meatier and softer, but has a solid crust. Essentially, this is Italian white bread. Nice for slicing.
Grissini come in several forms. First there is the type we know in the States--a pencil thin, cracker dry stick. Then there are thicker, breadier versions with a crusty outside but softer interior. There are versions that are hand rolled and can be as thick as a finger or as fat as a sausage. They can be twisted into spirals or made up to 3 feet long. Often they are flavored with herbs, cheese or even prosciutto. They were invented in the 1600s, supposed to cure a Duke of stomach ailments.
In Sicily this gold colored bread is made with semolina flour and sesame seeds on top. It has a sweet flavor. There is a traditional S-shaped version but it also can be found in boule (ball) or loaf shapes. Whenever you see an Italian bread in a deli with sesame seeds on top, you can be sure it's grandfather loaf came from Sicily.
Pane di Genzano
Genzano is a town just south-east of Rome in Lazio which is well known for this giant of Italian breads. There are 12 panifico (bread bakeries) within a 1 mile zone that make variations of Pane di Genzano, which has a D.O.P designation. The typical style is a large country roung that weighs a whopping 8 pounds! You can buy just what you need... by the pound. In fact, I should mention that many bakeries and alimentary will sell you bread by the pound. This bread can have a very thick 1/4" crust and comes from a sourdough "mother" dough (in Italian, Biga Naturale) that is covered with bran on the outside.
This was my favorite bread in Italy, perhaps partly because of it's story--it can last for up to a month without going stale and has been made in Puglia for 2000 years. The chef's hat shaped Pane di Altamura has D.O.P. designation (Protected Designation of Origin) and cannot be made anywhere other than Altamura (the City of Bread). Historically, local families would prepare their raw loaves of bread at home, then take it to a public oven. The baker would used a wooden stamp to mark each family's loaves. The distinctive shaped bread weighs about 2 pounds.
This X-shaped bread from Ferrara is made from soft wheat flour, by knotting and twisting two long pieces of dough together. The long pointed parts should be eaten as soon as possible, while the center of the X sill stay fresh for another two days. An historic bread, Coppia Ferrarese has been made since the 1500s.
Pagnotta del Dittaino
Pagnotta del Dittaino DOP is a golden colored, durum wheat bread made in Sicily. These round loaves are dense crumb inside with a with a tough yet thin crust. It is made exclusively with locally harvested grain and keeps its scent, taste and freshness up to a week. This is a great bread for bruschetta.
Friselle are a type of bread biscotti (twice baked) from Puglia. The small breads are baked halfway and then taken out of the oven, split in half, and baked again until hard and dry. One side is rough, the other smooth. Some bakers put a thumb hole in the middle resulting in a bread that looks very much like a half of a bagel or biali. This bread is more like a cracker in texture, and will last for very long times. It would be taken out by shepherds, farmers and fishermen to have with their meals. They are often soaked in water or drizzled with olive oil and tomatoes as a simple meal or snack. They can also be broken up and used in soups or stews. You will see packaged friselle sold in alimentari and supermarkets all over Italy.
Borlengo is a very thin, crepe-like bread that is found in several areas of Italy; Modena near Bologna. It is a bread of the cucina povera (poor kitchen) made with just water and flour, then cooked on a large heavy brass pan, similar to a paella pan. Some say it was invented out of necessity during a siege of Montevallaro Castle in the 1200s. The people made focaccia to start with, but as supplies got low their focaccia got thinner and thinner resulting in the borlengo. This was their prank (or burla, in Italian) in surviving the siege. Today, some borlengo have yeast and are served folded in quarters and filled with various ingredients, both savory and sweet.
In the north, the Genovese and Ligurians are known for being the best focaccia bakers in Italy. There is some wheat flour in this bread making it meatier and crustier than others. You will see it plain brushed with olive oil or with rosemary or oregano, onion and olives or other toppings such as prosciutto or cherry tomatoes. Although you will see supermarket quality focaccia in Italy, you will also be able to find local bakers offering the real deal.
This beautifully decorated Sicilian bread was traditionally made at home by women of a village, then taken to communal wood fired ovens to bake. It uses semolina flour and a mother dough from the previous week to add to the complex sourdough flavors. The Mother Dough is essentially a leavening mixture containing yeast, of course, but also the complex lactic acid bacteria from perhaps hundreds of years ago. Basically, a bit of the Mother Dough is saved each week and some of it used in the next bath of bread.... and so on, year after year after year. This develops a complex, sour flavor (I'm not a fan) and guarantees the flavor's heritage remains intact. The odd pattern of sliced in the uncooked dough helps the crust to bake well.
Taralli are Pugliese pretzels. The small size tarelli are bagged (the commercial variety) and the larger size (about bagel size) are created in artisinal bakeries all through the South of Italy. In their basic form they have the texture of a packaged breadstick or pretzel, and like a bagel, are boiled before baking. They can be topped with salt, spices, poppy seeds, onion or garlic. I ate the sweet type as a child with a sugar glaze (some had sprinkles) but even with the sugar, they were very dry for my taste. In the south, people dunk, and you may see someone dunking their tarelle in wine. We bought some of the packaged ones in Puglia, but none of us liked them... way too plain and dry.
Similar to the Tarelli, the Bossolà is a much larger ring shaped bread (from 4-6 inches) that will last for a very long time. You can find them in bakeries and packaged in alimentari.
Pane con l'Olive
In Puglia this bread is usually made in the shape of a small sandwich bread and is eaten as such. It can also be made in various shapes and the olives can be black or green from various types of olives. Popular even in the U.S. with Italian bakers, this Pugliese classic bread has spread throughout the world.
A Pucce is a round sandwich from the Puglia region which is stuffed with vegetables, meats, shrimp, or cheese. This bread is popular in in Salento and Taranto . In Foggia is called papòsc. Puccia caddhipulina is another type enjoyed in Gallipoli on December 7, the eve the Immaculate Conception. It contains capers and anchovies or tuna, tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil. There are even pizzerias in Puglia dedicated to the puccia with the more populars ones containing olives. In Salento during the Festival Te La Uliata, there is a competition where people eat puccia and see who can spit the black olives furthest. Similar to the pita which originated in Greece, it's no wonder that the puccia is made in Puglia where the ancient Greeks once ruled.
This pane rustica is hard crust bread with a soft center. It is typically found in central Italy and can be made quite large--about 2 kilos (4 pounds)--or rolled into small round rolls. Many add whole wheat flour or corn meal to add more texture. These breads can serves as soup bowls.
This is an amazing little bread because of the technique used to give its special quality--it's hollow inside, with a brittle crust outside and is stamped with a rose pattern. Typically used for sandwiches and fillings, the Rosetta Romana is said to have been invented by Count Guariniello, an nobleman who designed many other recipes. The Rosetta Romana's big bubble inside is formed by flattening and folding the dough several times to create a dough that will bubble up with air when baked, similar to a pita bread. It has a sweet taste from the use of malt and the caramel sugar on the crust. The rosette should be eaten very close to fresh baked.
The first time we had Tuscan bread we blamed it on the fact that we bought it from a Co-Op supermarket in Montepulciano on the way to our first agriturismo in Tuscany. It was dry, tasteless and went stale the next day. But then we started to realize that this tasteless bread WAS the famous Tuscan bread that we thought we were going to fall in love with. Why is it so tasteless and bland? No salt.
For half a millennium (perhaps longer) Tuscans have been making their bread without salt. If you compare it with something like a ciabatta or even a nice French baguette, the difference is shocking. Some say the reason is the Tuscan food is spicier, thus doesn't need salt in the bread. The more likely reason is that in the 1400s when Pisa and Florence were rivals, Pisa (which was a sea port) had access to salt and blockaded it from Florence. Rather than succumb, Florentines basically said "screw you" and made their bread anyway--without salt. Tuscans have become very proud of their bland bread, but to be honest, even they drizzle it with olive oil and herbs AND salt just to add flavor.
And there you have it, my research on the breads of Italy. The next time you go to your baker, see if he has anything authentic, or in the least, bring home some ciabiatti from the supermarket... remember, they freeze well. All you need to do is put them in foil in a 325 degree a half hour before dinner.
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When we first researched Puglia, we were surprised to hear how much wine it produces... fully 18% of all Italian wines come from the heel of Italy. There are even 25 DOCs (protected varieties). Sure, everyone hears about the famous wines of Italy--Chianti, Valpolicella, Barolo, Brunello, and the bubbly Prosecco. But there is more the Italy than just the expected. With Italy you always learn something new around every corner...
Because of the warm weather, the breezes from the Adriatic Sea and the flat plains and plateaus, the minerals in the soils, wine is at home here, having been grown in the soils of Puglia for thousands of years. And one distinct advantage of picking a wine from Puglia is that the weather--especially sunshine--is much more reliable than other wine regions of Italy, so there is rarely a "bad vintage".
One wine that has become our favorite go-to Pugliese wine is Primitivo, easily found in the States. It's full bodied, has nutty flavors and fairly smooth going down with pizza or pasta or meat entrées. The Primitivo grape variety is genetically similar to Zinfandel, but both are said to be clones of a grape variety from Croatia. This shows the varied history of Italy. There are influences from many areas of the ancient world. In the last 20 years, Primitavo wines have been getting better and better.
Other wine varieties to look for from Puglia are:
So, the next time you go into a wine shop, try a bit of Puglia... have a bottle with pizza or pasta and think of the warm sun and smiling faces of the South....
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When you are traveling in Italy you will see strings hanging down the wall over tubs and shower stalls. This is actually an alarm system required by building code, especially for hotels and other places renting out rooms or apartments to travelers. If you've fallen and can't get up, all you need to do is reach way up there to where the end of the string is (I've seen some that are fairly high, or with short strings, if they have strings at all) and give a good pull.
Then wait. And wait. And wait.
You see, no one really ever responds to these, except perhaps police outside of public rest rooms. Hotels have stopped responding because tourists always think "gee, what's this" and pull it to see what will happen. Nothing.
To make matters worse, there is no defined way of hooking the thing up to a bell or buzzer... or where to put it. Some hotels have it ring a little "ding" at the front desk. Many B&Bs and apartments have it ringing someone's office that isn't always occupied. And get this... some have it hooked to the front doorbell. I suppose that's to notify YOU that you've fallen and can't get up.
Whatever you do, don't get creative and hang wet laundry from the string. You'll definitely get a response--perhaps in the middle of the night--that way!
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The Secret Life of Ciabatta: An expose` on the newness of a "traditional" Italian bread.
July 1982. Israel invades Lebanon, Britain declares an end to hostilities in the Falklands, and, at a mill in Adria, a town near Venice, a small band of dedicated flour experts talk dough. One of their number, Arnaldo Cavallari, a miller in his late forties, is especially excited. For years, Rome could only look on, horrified, as large-scale baguette imports from France threatened to monopolise the lucrative sandwich market in Italy. It was time to hit back with an equally commercially viable product. After weeks spent testing new dough mixes and bake-times, refining and adapting existing regional loaves and using his own mineral- and gluten-rich flour, Cavallari came up with Italy's very own dedicated snack bread. He called it Ciabatta Polesano. It was hailed as the bread that saved Italy, and rocked the sandwich world.
'I invented the new ciabatta,' says Cavallari, loud and proud. 'I used a very soft, wet dough, with a lot of water - very watery. It's the best bread, of course. All my breads are made with natural things, so it tastes good. I am touching the sky I am so happy that it is so good, that it has done so well everywhere. But when I had invented it, I looked at it and I thought, 'What can I call it?' Then I thought that it is similar to a slipper, so I thought 'ciabatta'. For copyright, I registered the name ciabatta along with Polesano, the name of the area where I work. In 1989, I registered the name 'Ciabatta Italiana'. It's the best bread.' Cavallari's firm, Molini Adriesi, now licenses production of its ciabatta in 11 countries. However, according to at least one London-based Italian chef, a bread called ciabatta has been around for generations. 'People can say whatever they like,' says Cavallari. 'Someone could say they remember eating it in the 1940s, but they have got to come forward with the proof. There is no question of that recipe having existed before.' Armed with a new ciabatta recipe and hailed by some as the saviour of the Italian bread industry, Cavallari began to preach the message. He still does. 'My ciabatta is the taste of an old-fashioned bread,' he enthused down the phone line from his high-fibre headquarters. 'It reminds people of the older breads, the ones that were made with natural ingredients, no chemicals. On Wednesday afternoons, I teach a class in ciabatta, for people who want to know about it. They try it fresh, and say, 'Mamma Mia, this is good!' ' In Britain, ciabatta is almost universally manufactured on an industrial scale, mainly by the handful of large bakeries that also supply supermarkets with other Italian, and non-Italian, breads. This is not to say that mass production isn't any good - it's just, well, mass production.
Time to seek out Dan Lepard, consultant at Baker & Spice in Kensington - a compact bakery and shop that is making some of the finest loaves in London. Over the past few years, Lepard, 34, has become most favoured supplier of bread to high-table restaurants such as St John, Mezzo, the River Cafe, Le Gavroche and Zafferano. He has also become critical of industrial-scale bread production and the influence of Britain's baking establishment on our diet. What does he make of ciabatta, a new bread posing as an old one that is new? 'All of the useful breads - the ones designed to take a filling - are recent,' says Lepard. 'They have come about in the past 50 years. But there is nothing wrong with that, with invention. It's good to experiment. Granary, for example, was a brand name. Fine, it's a wonderful bread, but it was invented. In Italy, they wanted a bread you could fill, but it wasn't part of their tradition. So they made one. Here, they advertise that a ciabatta is made with extra-virgin olive oil. Do you need extra-virgin olive oil in it? No - but it helps it sell in Britain, and it also adds to the price.' Of all foods, says Lepard, none is so wrapped in fake history and general bunkum as bread. 'Bakers love myth. For example, there's the generation myth, that of being a long-established baker. But just because you're an 11th-generation baker doesn't mean you're any good. Or, at the turn of the century, it was the case that a Frenchman could just turn up in London and offer himself as a French 'expert baker' and he would be given a job on that basis. But then he would turn out to be rubbish.' Downstairs at Baker & Spice, the Victorian oven is fired up and glowing nicely. Lepard has been busy. A large tray containing a flat slab of damp, pale ciabatta dough waits to be baked. Its characteristic holes have formed, and the whole construction is slithery. So, a premium-priced bread whose key components are water and holes is becoming a bakery favourite? - surely not. As the temperature gauge hits 550 degrees, a fine spray of water is released into the oven. Through a peep-hole, the inside resembles a tropical inferno. The iron hatch is raised, the hapless proto-ciabatti are shoved in 2m, and the hatch lowered with a clunk. Twenty minutes later, the fully formed food is pulled out of the heat.
They went in creamy-grey and slopping and squarish; they came out golden and crispy and bow-tie-shaped. And they taste like the best you can buy. 'For around £10, you can get an excellent bread and a very good wine,' muses Lepard. 'And when it tastes so good, that's a fantastic meal in itself. It doesn't need anything with it.' Quite, but then thin, crusty, suspiciously stackable ciabatta is, let's face it, hardly a bread at all. And that is the real secret of its success: it is the perfect bread for people who don't like bread, and an endearingly imperfect bread for those who do.
The apparently 'traditional' Italian flat loaf, staple of the balsamic-swilling, sundried-scoffing crowd, is not what it claims to be.
Robin Stummer investigates
Since 1985, when Marks & Spencer introduced the ciabatta to British shoppers, we've been eating more and more of the stuff. Launched to capitalise on our rapidly evolving taste for Mediterranean rural cuisine, the bread soon became the Mother's Pride of the chattering classes. By the time Nessun Dorma rang out from Italia '90, it was one of the most popular food 'exotics'. Now it is an established part of the British baking repertoire and can be found, in one form or another, everywhere from major supermarket chains to stand-up bars.
On the face of it, this success is a little odd. Just look at the thing. For a start, it's a ridiculous shape. It's pointless slicing it as you would, say, a tin-loaf for a sandwich - a pair of the resulting bread slivers would offer little shelter for your bacon or cheddar, and most fillings would flop wildly at the fringes. Yet slicing horizontally can be a risky business, requiring advanced knife-skills to retain one's upper fingers. And then there's the name. If that's the shape of a slipper, then beef wellington is something you put on your feet when it's muddy outside. So why do we buy it? Part of the answer lies in Britain's love affair with Italian food; from our dank and stodgy island, the Mediterranean diet means purity, health and, above all, culinary tradition. For UK shoppers, Italy is sun-dried tomatoes, red pesto and lollo rosso - only it isn't, because you are as likely to find an Italian eating any of these as you are a Ukrainian eating chicken kiev. So there's the ciabatta, all over our land, bursting forth from ethnic wicker baskets and dressed up with olives and herbs as if freshly delivered by some flour-dusted Umbrian on a bike. How did we reach this state of affairs? Armed with the simple sword of truth, the Guardian followed the scent of baking bread. It was a journey that soon veered off into post-war geo-economics, rampant nationalism and led, ultimately, to contact with the global ciabatta industry's Mr Big.
And now for my take on Ciabatta...
I tend to agree with the final judgment of Dan Lepard. We've been happy to have ciabatta the last couple of years at our supermarket simply because in the American vacuum of crappy bread available. The ciabatta gives us an option we didn't have before. Unless you live in a big city, the options for authentic Italian bread is rare. In America, most bakeries are do-it-all places that bake bread as an after thought to supplement their cakes, pies, cookies and cupcakes. In Italy a pastry shop (pasticceria) makes pastries, a bread shop (panificio) bakes bread. And usually, nothing but bread.
Ciabatta is fairly crusty (like a good French baguette) and has a decent crumb with lots of air pockets. The salty taste is wonderful when eaten by itself, when used as a panini (something we do often with ciabatta) and when made into bruschetta or garlic bread. It also has a decent shelf life. When we buy a fairly good baguette from any supermarket, it can rarely be used the next day. The ciabatta bread that we buy (especially with olive oil) can be used for two or three days and freezes very well.
I like bread. I've baked bread. I make pizza every week. I know bread.
To say that "it is the perfect bread for people who don't like bread, and an endearingly imperfect bread for those who do" is a very good observation. I've lived in France where the bread is amazing--in terms of variety and taste. I now have traveled through Italy and have learned (and am still learning) about the breads there. The ciabatta is a great advancement in commercial breads, bringing them closer to an artisinal bread make in a small bakery by a master's hands. It's not perfect, and I'm sure there are some who make spongy versions--poor imitations of a ciabatta. Now that I think about it, I think Lucas and I found a very spongy one in an Acme recently... it felt like a loaf of Wonder Bread when squeezed. That's not any kind of bread worth buying.
This whole ciabatta revolution is like the advancement in tomatoes in recent years. Considering the rock hard, under ripe, never sweet type we used to endure, the hybridized "tomatoes on the vine", the beefy "ugly tomato" and packaged assorted colored cherry and pear shaped tomatoes that are found nowadays are a welcome addition to our kitchen. I still grow my own heirloom tomatoes, but when I can buy a sweet tomato in a supermarket, I will. The ciabatta is welcome in my kitchen too.... in fact, I think I'll pop one out of the freezer and have a panino for lunch!
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Italian Rules for Shoes and other At-Home Rituals: The Scarpiera (Shoe Garage), No Shoes on the Table and No Bare Feet!
Here's a little tidbit that I just discovered. It's considered uncivilized in Italy not to have a scarpiera.--a shoe garage. A scarpiera is usually a tower shaped piece of furniture to hold one's assortment of shoes. There are very narrow tall ones to fit into tiny apartments common in the big cities. There are some with special tall compartments to hold women's tall boots. There are huge, wall length scarpieri custom made for the people with shoe fetishes and bankbooks big enough to afford their addiction.
Italians tend to be neat freaks. Traveling through Italy sometimes it doesn't appear that way. But they are in fact fairly orderly people in their own homes and lives. Sure, the walls of their own homes, public buildings and even historic monuments might be covered with graffiti, and the streets outside might be polluted with piles of trash because of the recent union troubles, and no one picks up dog poop, and some drive the rustiest, banged up cars imaginable... but inside their homes the story is different. Italians at home are rule bound. There are customs, rituals and many, many rules:
Shoes... filthy things.
It's curious then to me why Italians named that little piece of bread used for sopping up sauce on their plates "scarpetta" (little shoe). You'd think it would gross them out.
So, just remember when in Italy, Italians consider the floor of a home as a ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) for shoes--and bare feet... And what do they wear on their feet when they're relaxing in the villa famiglia? Ciabatta, of course!
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Ok, let's get to making a timballo...
Bring large pot of water to boil, then cook 1 pound pasta of your choice until al dente (I think I used penne rigati on this one).
Then slice 3 small eggplants (not too big or they’ll be seedy) vertically into ¼ inch thick slices. The eggplants I used weren’t that big so I didn’t salt them beforehand—(smaller eggplants are not that bitter and contain less moisture). If you like, you can remove the skin beforehand (I’m not a big fan of eggplant skin, but I did leave it on this time. Lisa likes it.) sauté the eggplant in olive oil until lightly colored on both sides and cooked through.
Use a cake mold or shallow bowl to mold your timballo. I used a decorative cake mold. Coat the inside of the mold with light olive oil then coat with breadcrumbs.
You can use any type of sauce, jar or home made for this—I used my own sauce (recipe to come). I also sautéed about a pound and a third of ground beef with finely diced onions and spices (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, salt, garlic powder--perhaps a teaspoon of each... and about 30 cracks from a pepper mill) until brown. When done, drain the meat on paper towels.
Drain your pasta, and combine pasta, sauce (about 1-1/2 – 2 cups) and meat mixture into a large bowl. Mix in some grated mozzarella cheese—one small packaged mozzarella (I prefer this rather than fresh for casseroles because they have less moisture content).
Next, lay the eggplant slices in a sort of flower petal design from the bottom/center of the mold up and over the top edge. Eggplant should cover the entire inner surface of the mold with a little bit hanging over the edge. Next, pour the pasta/meat mixture into the mold. It’s OK if the pasta mounds up in the middle higher than the edge of the mold--you'll be compressing it when done. Fold over the eggplant all around the perimeter of the mold. Then cover with two layers of aluminum foil and lay a plate or platter that covers the inside dimension of your mold and put a heavy weight on top. The weight will compress all the pasta down into the mold. Place this in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the timballo from the refrigerator and allow it to warm a bit before baking… ½ hour should be enough to preheat the oven and warm up the timballo before baking. Next, place the timballo in the center of your oven, covered with foil with the shiny side facing inwards. Put a large pan on the rack underneath in case your timballo bubbles over. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove the timballo from the oven and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before un-molding it. Hold a large plate or serving platter on top of the mold and hold your other hand on the bottom (really the top of the mold) and invert it quickly so the open part of the mold is sitting on your plate. Let it sit a minute or two, then gently start lifting your mold off the timballo. It should lift off easily. (Compressing the mold helped the mold firm up tightly). Then serve by slicing cake-like wedges from it as you would cut up a cake. Spoon some sauce over the top of each slice or on the plate below and some grated cheese on top completes the dish.
Serve with some garlic bread or a bruschetta with diced peppers and tomatoes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle of oregano. A simple salad can work well too. This is a very filling meal so invite friends!
Other variations I've seen replace the eggplant with pizza dough or prosciutto.
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This video does NOT show a Timballo.
Tamburello, tammorra, and tamburo are types of tambourines played in Italy, essentially, hand drums. The Italian word for drum is tamburo. But Timballo is another thing entirely... it's a drum of pasta and other fillings. We recently made our first timballo at home based on a mix of recipes and our Taste Memories from Italy. Taste Memories are important when you cook. They say there are two things that really take a person back through time to relive a momennt in their life--music and taste... the taste of a great meal. That's what I try to do when I cook at home. I've come up with recipes that have come from my Taste Memories from several decades ago. Try to remember the best things you liked about what you ate and try to get the same feeling in your own cooking--that's what I've been doing since we've been back from Italy.
This off the beaten path museum in Mantova (or Mantua) is a great stop for children. They'll see the reddest, shiniest, vintage firetrucks, pumps, motorcycles, fire helmets and fire extinguishers of all types. This museum is especially fun for American children because the firetrucks are--well, Italian.
In 1991 the museum was installed in a beautifully restored horse stable and run by a brigade of volunteers who are all retired firemen. They must be taking great care with this collection because people who have visited say there's not even dust on the exhibits. There are over 50 historical vehicles, restored and in remarkable shape. You'll also find a collection of miniature firetrucks and manikins wearing very beautiful vintage firefighting uniforms. The helicopter and amphibious vehicle only add to the kid-appeal of the place.
This is one of those non-touristy things to do with your kids that will separate you from the rest of the tourists and give your children unique memories of their travels in Italy. About 20 miles from Verona, the best thing about this museum is the cost...it's free. As a bonus, the town of Mantova is gorgeous. (The town is called either Mantua or Mantova).
Museo die Vigili del Fuoco
Address: Largo Fire Department - MANTUA (Mantova)
Phone: 0039 0376 22771 - Fax: 0039 0376 227746
Hours: Opening times: Saturday: 14:30 to 18:30. Sunday and holidays: 10:00 to 12:00 and 14:30 to 6:00 p.m.. Open on different days upon reservation. Closed from 6th January to 15th February; from 1st to 31st August; On Christmas Day, New Year`s Day and Easter Sunday.
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When booking an airline flight, which seats don't recline, which seats are too close to the lavatory, where the baby bassinet is located, the best seats for legroom, the type of in flight entertainment, where the power outlet is... Well, TripAdvisor's SeatGuru helps users book flights, pick seats, and even monitor the flight status. There is a website and an app with over 700 seat maps from over 100 airlines along with reviews.
Using the site or the app is pretty straightforward... enter the airline, flight number, and date of your upcoming flight, and it'll give you seat recommendations. You can discover which seats have extended legroom, a power outlet, or if they have a restricted recline, like the seats in front of the exit rows. The app is a free download for most hand-held devices.
In addition, SeatGuru has all sorts of helpful articles about all aspects of flying... favorite airports, advice on electronics, airport guides, traveling with pets, best airport lounges, etc. And their new tool is very helpful: flight booking with built-in seat recommendations.
All in all, this is another great tool for making your travel plans easier.... and your flight more comfortable.
Ok, this story threw me back a bit. When I first came across it on YouTube it showed an Italian guy who has an uncanny resemblance to Tony Soprano, standing next to a wrapped Van in Rome with an awful cartoonish depiction of President Obama on the sides. He was holding up boxes of chocolate versions of pasticciotti, the famous pastry from Puglia (and which I bought from Italian bakeries in North Jersey as a child).
But to me, the drawing of Obama looked a bit too much like some of those racist anti-Obama sambo pictures that were circulating during his campaign. Also, the only chocolate pasticciotti (we called them "passa chutt" in Southern dialect) I ever knew were normal sweet pastry (pasta frolla) on the outside with chocolate custard on the inside. Normally they have a vanilla custard inside. At first I thought, Oh My God, what a racist thing to do, but then I tried my best to understand the Italian on the video and got the gist of it. This guy actually likes President Obama, so much so that when he got elected, the baker added cocoa powder to his original pasticciotti recipe, then added chocolate custard inside and dubbed it Pasticciotti Obama. Pastry chef Angelo Bisconti, has been selling them like hotcakes his Pugliese pastry shop near Lecce.
Apparently, the video was from last March when he brought 5000 Pasticciotti Obama samples to Rome with the intent of giving them away for free as "a symbol of welcome to the president". He set up his van near the American Embassy in Rome and treated passersby to his sweet treats. He has become pretty famous in his hometown of Campi Salentina near Lecce, so much so that they put a sign as you come into town saying "Campi Salentina, City of Obama Cakes".
When he started about five years ago, he sold about 50 a day. This has grow to a production of over 15,000 every week! Bisconti said his plan to give away pastries was a sign of "respect to this person who changed my life and to whom I owe my professional luck". I could not find out if President Obama ever got a chance to taste any Obama Cakes, or what he thought of the awkward likeness of him on Bisconti's van. There is a rumor that Bisconti might be chosen to portray Tony Soprano in an upcoming pasticceria owners' teatro della comunità... just kidding.
They do look tasty,though.
(Watch Bisconti's strange promotional video and see what you think about his motives and what kid of guy he really is. He sure looks furbo to me.)
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Answer to the question:
d. New Orleans! (The Black Hand started in New York City).
Here is a link to YouTube and a brand new documentary called The Italian Americans. It recently was shown on PBS stations, but luckily the entire two part film is on YouTube--and in HD too! Lisa and I started watching it last night and learned things we never knew before about the first Italians that came to America, and the reasons behind their decision to leave their home and families. The vintage photos and films included are amazingly detailed. We found ourselves pausing lots of scenes just to examine the little details (for instance, on the streets of NY). If you are Italian American, take the time to watch. If you have TIVO, an Xbox or a smart TV that can access YouTube, it would make watching it in the comfort of your living room very easy. Just do a YouTube search for The Italian Americans. It's the second one on the list, the duration over 3 hours long.
As a teaser, here's a question about a dark part of the history of Italian Americans:
Where did the Mafia first appear?
a. San Francisco
c. New York City
d. New Orleans
(Scroll way down for the answer)
Enjoy.... and please, I'm lonely here... Leave comments, per favore... e buona giornata!
When I was a boy, we often had bread in the house... my Dad worked as a Deli man most of his life and would bring home beautiful Italian breads that he used to make cold cut and meatball sandwiches. When we had pasta, we'd tear off some bread to use at the end of the meal to clean up the plate. Even when we had meat, like a roast beef, the bread would come out and we'd soak up "the blood" (the drippings) that oozed out of the meat in the bottom of the serving platter. If we had soup or a stew, the bread would work its way to the end of a meal to clean out plates. And if my Mom was making Sunday Gravy, we'd get out the bread, even if all we had was sliced Wonder Bread (ugh), and smear a ladle-ful of sauce on a slice for a pre-meal snack.
Little did I know what we were doing was carrying on an Italian tradition in dining--fare la scarpetta (making the shoe). Scarpetta means shoe in Italian. And to fare la scarpetta means tearing off a piece of bread to mop up the sauce or juices left on your plate, help in getting your food onto the fork or spoon. Nothing goes to waste in Italy, and especially in the impoverished South where my parents came from, one would never leave anything on their plate. Food was life itself. After all, not wasting food is being furbo. And in the South, they don't shy way from having bread with pasta, like they do in the North. What is the preferred type of bread for a scarpetta? Curiously, it is ciabatta, which literally means slipper.
Some say that the expression scarpetta comes from the fact that a torn piece of bread looks like a little shoe. I prefer to think that it really refers to wiping your feet... as wiping the bottom of the plate. Because of the extreme poverty suffered by many of our Southern Italian ancestors, others think scarpetta refers to being so hungry that one would eat the soles of their shoes. Sadly, there is historic evidence of desperate people doing just that, so perhaps there is some truth there.
However, the tradition of using bread to clean up plates goes back to the time of the Romans. I remember reading in my Latin study book how Romans would use bread after a meal to sop up the juices and olive oil on their hands, plates and even the table... and then pop the soppy bread into their mouths. Again, furbo... nothing is wasted. Fare la scarpetta is an ancient tradition indeed.
Perhaps because of its links to poor Southern culture, some areas of Italy consider using a scarpetta bad taste, even though it tastes good (sorry). Most do it at home or in more casual trattoria and less in more chic ristoranti. But they all do it. And if someone tells you that they don't do it in Tuscany, I'll suggest that it's the only way to get some flavor out of their saltless Tuscan bread. That stuff is so dry on your palette without salt! You'd be well served to consider Tuscan bread more of an eating tool, like a spoon or fork, than a bread for eating by itself.
Go ahead, fare la scarpetta e mangia bene!
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Vandalizing Rome: Part 2
Here are some excerpts from a 2010 Wall Street Journal article about trying to clean up the graffiti in Rome. After reading this I now understand how nothing gets done about it.
Urban Scrawl: Rome's Graffiti Pits Artists Against Clean-Up Crews
On a recent afternoon, a group of American diplomats gathered on Rome's cobblestones with buckets and rollers, spreading peach-colored paint across the weather-beaten façade of a medieval storefront. Their mission: To cover up the swirls of graffiti lining one of Rome's oldest neighborhoods. "It's just so sad and so devastating," said Rebecca Spitzmiller, an American lawyer living in Rome, who donned rubber gloves and a dust mask. "We're retaking Rome."
A wave of graffiti has splashed over Rome's center in the last few years, eliciting strong reactions from residents and tourists alike, WSJ's Margherita Stancati reports. Ms. Spitzmiller had tapped the diplomats to join the volunteer force of Italian and American students she's recruited in recent months. They clean up after graffiti artists who have swathed the city's palazzos and piazzas in tentacles of spray paint. The campaign has inspired cheers and approving headlines across Italy.
But some Romans see graffiti—an Italian word meaning scratches—as a way to reclaim the city from tourists and prevent it from languishing into a museum. And they don't always appreciate the Americans' meddling.
"Not all Romans perceive the city as tourists do," says Rocco, a 27-year-old who started spray-painting as a teenager and declined to give his last name. "This is my city, my home. The aim is not to deface the city but to acquire visibility, to show the city is alive." Graffiti artists say their expression is part of an ancient tradition. Tourists filing through the Colosseum's archways are still greeted by a phallic symbol, centuries after it was etched into the stone surface of the ancient arena....
JB Rock, a 31-year-old graffiti artist known for spray-painting elaborate designs in the heart of Rome's historical center, says that graffiti is a Roman rite that "existed before Jesus Christ." He says the U.S.-led cleanup campaign is doomed to fail. "We, the graffiti artists, are stronger-willed than the people who clean it up," says Mr. Rock. That kind of attitude is making life hard for Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, who was elected in 2008 on a pledge to clean up the Italian capital. In February he raised fines for graffiti from a minimum of €25 to €300 and introduced a new law that ordered anyone caught spray-painting the capital to clean it up personally.
Helping to tackle the problem is an 18-member crew called the Urban Décor Squad. The city-financed group repainted nearly 10 square kilometers of wall space in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available. However, Mirko Giannotta, the squad's leader, says the crew is too small to keep up with Rome's prolific graffiti artists. "We're just a stopgap measure," he says. "We would need a team of 400 to even start tackling the problem."
An editorial in Corriere della Sera, Italy's biggest newspaper, scolded "fatalist Rome" for having surrendered to spray paint and praised Ms. Spitzmiller's squad for delivering "a good lesson in citizenship."
Ms. Spitzmiller gives speeches on tidiness at Italian schools. Her talks have converted some students from potential taggers into "maniacal cleaners," she says. She's introduced a new method—using oven cleaner—for removing spray paint from marble, travertine and other stone surfaces favored by the emperors and popes of Rome.....
Also on the side of graffiti artists is the sluggishness of modern Roman bureaucracy. The Urban Décor Squad can only remove graffiti on public property or buildings and statues designated as monuments.
Most of Rome's Baroque and Renaissance palazzos don't fall under the Urban Décor Squad's jurisdiction, leaving their owners to handle the cleanup. Those that live in the historic center need approval from national and municipal cultural superintendents to add a fresh coat of paint to their homes.
These officials routinely press residents to hire specialized painters, who mix paint to match a building's existing color, making sure the new patina is both period-specific and complementary to neighboring buildings.
The city often requires residents to repaint the entire façade, not just the graffiti-covered sections, to avoid multi-hued patchworks resulting from touch-up jobs. The total cost of repainting the façade of a four-story palazzo can run as high as €40,000.
Even the painters, however, must wrestle with bureaucratic obstacles. Lorenzo Lana, a painter who specializes in removing graffiti, recently spent nine months getting approval to remove a single tag. "The endless bureaucracy definitely puts people off," he says.
As a result, tags—the term for spray-painted pseudonyms—can remain for years, encouraging other vandals who compete for territory.
Some graffiti artists have repented. In Rome's Jewish ghetto, a stone slab has been covered with the black strokes of the tag "LAE" for more than a decade. The tag's author, 24-year-old Matias Lindemann, said he wrote the tag as a teenager to impress his friends. Now a tour guide, Mr. Lindemann bristles at the sight of graffiti, including his own.
"It's just degrading to our cultural heritage," he says. "Tourists might not have many chances to visit Rome and it's a real shame to give them such a bad impression."
It's amazing how the ineffective Italian bureaucracy prevents building and shop owners from cleaning up. They should allow quick patchy cover ups and kill the rule about having to match paint colors--until the trend for tagging and graffiti subsides. I remember in the Seventies this is how New York City handled it. They arrested and fined heavily the people doing the tagging. They outlawed selling spray bottles and large permanent markers to anyone under 21. They had crews working every day blasting the graffiti off of the subway cars (so bad you couldn't see out the windows... just like the Rome metro is today). Building owners could paint whatever color to cover up. If it happened again, they'd paint again... and again. A cottage industry grew from the effort--still today there are graffiti removal specialists working to keep buildings clean in Manhattan. (It's not perfect, but Manhattan is far better today than Rome is).
What also surprises me is the mentality of the people doing the graffiti, thinking it's somehow related to high art, or as important as historic architecture and ancient monuments. It's lofty of them to compare their sloppy spray paints (which can never last for eons of time) to ancient historic graffiti in a place like the Colosseum carved into stone by a slave or a gladiator or historic figure. What pretense! Most are just taggers, and while others do fairly complex artwork on buildings and walls all over Italy, they'd be better served as artists if they try to make their name in the legitimate art world--although since that world has favored graffiti "artists" in the past and make millions from reproducing their images, it's likely that this type won't stop any time soon. Rome can be beautiful again, but right now some of the best parts of it resemble the worst parts of the South Bronx in the Seventies. Sickening ugly.
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In the year 455 AD vandals sacked Rome, creating havoc and looting artistic treasures. More than 1,500 years later, they are still at it. Besides carving or painting graffiti on historic buildings, some have hammered statues in the public parks of Rome and even have thrown dye into the Trevi Fountain.
Up on Pincian Hill, a 19th century park, vandalism is commonplace. In May and June of 2014, 13 of the park's 230 busts had their noses broken and four were uprooted and thrown to the ground. In the past, vandals have even attacked Michaelangelo's Pietà stature with hammers and paint. I personally saw graffiti carved into the walls in the Vatican Museum's Raphael rooms. And in 2011, part of an Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome 2,000 years ago was covered in graffiti.
Last week, two idiotic young California women (21 and 25) broke away from their tour group (something they did a lot apparently) and managed to scratch their initials into the bricks of the 2000 year old Colosseum in Rome. Thankfully, other caring tourists saw them and called over the policia, and they were promptly arrested, but only after their deed was done, and after they took a selfie of them and their handiwork.
Using a coin, they scratched (carved is too refined a word for this) a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum. Six million tourists that flock to the Colosseum every year, most of which are fairly well behaved and respectful.
Police charged the women with 'aggravated damage on building of historical and artistic interest'. After they were caught, the women apologized to Piazza Dante police and Captain Lorenzo Iacobone. They said: 'We apologize for what we did. We regret it but we did not imagine it was something so serious. 'We'll remember for a lifetime.' Yea, sure. These shallow gals had no clue of the value or historic significance of what they were supposedly there to look at, to ponder, to admire.
This is my main complaint about the flood of tourists in Rome and the lack of true interest, sensitivity or knowledge in what they are putting on their "must see" lists of tourist spots to hit. Three hours of tourists waiting online to view the beauty of what the Vatican Museum holds... and they are just shoved through so no one at all can take any decent amount of time to admire the masterpieces, the way they should. There is a total lack of sensitivity. This is why people shout and pickpocket and shove in a holy place like St. Peters or the Pantheon. Most don't even know before they go to the Pantheon that it's a practicing Catholic Church!
A Russian tourist who carved his initials into the Colosseum in November was handed a four-month suspended sentence and a fine of 20,000 euros ($21,270) after opting for a speedy trial. It was the fifth such act of vandalism by tourists last year, including a Canadian tourist who tried to steal a piece of stone from the Colosseum hidden in his backpack! Things have gotten so bad with people carving initials and then taking selfies, that this week Rome banned selfie sticks from the Colosseum. I hope they chase away the hawkers all around the Colosseum selling the selfie sticks. We saw a lot of them when we were there... one even had a stock supply hidden in cracks in a wall across from the Colosseum.
Union leaders, citing recent acts of vandalism, have complained about the lack of personnel to properly monitor Rome‘s archaeological treasures with increasing numbers of visitors seeking to leave their trace on antiquity, causing incalculable damage. After all, 18,000 people a day visit the Colosseum alone. The walls around the edge of the Colosseum are covered with engraved names that were made by visitors when the Colosseum was left open. Now there is a metal barrier around the outside and only people with tickets can get in.
But despite the closed circuit cameras and vigilant custodians, there are still people from every corner of the globe who attempt to leave a mark. In recent years an Australian and his son were caught, as well as a teenager from Brazil and another from Canada. Because of Italian laws protecting minors, teens escape being fined because of their age. Many other Roman monuments are under attack too. In 2011 police caught an American tourist scaling a wall of the Colosseum to chip off pieces of marble.
Construction of the Colosseum began in 70 A.D. under the Roman Emperor Vespasian and was opened in 80 AD under his son Titus. Don't you think it should stand intact for another 2000 years? But Rome is not one building or a single statue. The entire city should be treated with the same respect and dignity as any true lover of art and history would do.
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