Spring is nearly upon us and Italy beckons us once again. With its historic cities, outdoor cafè life, relaxing white beaches and scenic gardens and villas, Italy has more travel options than you can shake a gelato at. And spring is the perfect time to go.
Easter is on the doorstep and, I don't know about you, but when I think about Easter I think about Easter eggs!
As a child, I remember walking past my local pasticceria in awe as I admired giant handmade Easter eggs with colourful spring themed patterns! People have been giving their loved ones Easter eggs for hundreds of years as they are a symbol of birth, new beginnings and life. And with handmade eggs you can pick your surprise!
More expensive than usual supermarket eggs, these are crafted by expert chocolatiers able to blend unusual flavours into the chocolate as well as creating artistic works.
This year the Bompiani patisserie in Rome has made the headlines for creating "egg sculptures" inspired by great literary figures. But if this is too complex for your chocolate palate, Ernst Knam, a Milan based chocolatier, became famous for his chocolate handmade flamingoes and his original animal shaped eggs!
Shop around and you will see that there really is an egg for everyone!
Pictures below show eggs by Bompiani, Ernst Knam and Gallucci.
A friend sent me a link to an article about a Tuscan "Sleepy Valley" recently. The valley the author referred to was the Garfagnana, the valley just to the east of my little corner of Tuscany, La Lunigiana, the boundaries of which happen to embrace three sleepy valleys.
Many a legend surrounds the charming town of Lucca and its Medieval walls!
Lucida Mansi was renowned for her dazzling beauty, her amorous adventures and the tragic end she reserved for her lovers, who she disposed of by throwing them into a pit full of sharpened blades.
But it was her obsession with beauty that eventually got the better of her, she had to be constantly surrounded by mirrors so that the image of her beautiful looks was always in sight, everywhere she looked; on the walls, in her prayer book and even on the ceiling above her bed!
One day, as she was admiring her face, it was with great horror that she noticed her first wrinkle! It was with no hesitation that Lucida accepted the devil's offer: she would retain her beauty for another thirty years in return for la sua anima (her soul).
So the years went past seeing one lover to the next making their way into her bed and then being killed. When the pact with the devil was about to come to an end, she escaped in fear to Lucca's clock tower (la torre delle ore) to try and stop the clock before it struck mezzanotte (midnight). But as she was climbing the steps, she was stopped by the devil who dragged her into his carriage in flames, then drove across the city and along the city walls before falling into a small lake. This can still be found today in l'Orto Botanico (the Botanic Gardens).
It is said that the devil's fiery carriage can still be seen on certain nights and that if you are brave enough to immerse your head in Lucca's Laghetto (small lake), you can see Lucida's desperate face looking up from the muddy bottom.
So, as I am sure you all know, Ciao means “Hello/Hi” or "Goodbye". It is possibly the most known and most used Italian word. But do you know its origin? Likely not, and it is quite interesting.
So the origin of Ciao is from the Venetian dialect/language word “sciavo”, which means “slave”, which in turns comes from thev Latin “Slavus” — which by the way is also the word/adjective used even today, Slavo, to indicate Slavic people. So, during the peak of the Venetian Republic in the 1400s, when Venice ruled most of the commerce in the World, most slaves were, well, Slavic.
In short, the origin of the greeting is an extreme form of submission to the person you run into: it mean something like “at your service”. With centuries of usage, Sciavo became Sciao and the latter became Ciao. Needless to say that the racial and social connotation of the word Ciao have long been lost
Imagine plunging underwater and seeing paved roads flanked with buildings, magnificent villas, dozens of statues and mosaic floors dating back to the first century BC!
Baia's Underwater Archaeological Park is located in the Bay of Naples off the shores of Pozzuoli.
The ancient Roman city of Baia was once a renowned resort for the empire's rich and famous. The city was well known for its hot springs and its Bohemiam status.
Most of Baia now lies underwater due to a unique phenomenon known as Bradyseism, which causes the gradual rise and fall of the Earth's surface.
But you don't need to be an expert diver to escape into this ancient city! These ruins actually lie in relatively shallow water at an average depth of 6 m. So you can see some of these amazing structures from a glass bottomed boat!