Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Living a nomadic life in Italy

Tues 28th June, 2011

My travels around Europe begin in Italy, as an English tutor for an organisation called ACLE.  Their motto for teaching is different from the traditional Italian scholastic system.   They believe that ‘sono le emozioni, e non la stimolazione cognitiva a determinare l’architettura della mente’ (S.J. Greenspan) it is the emotions not the cognitive stimulation that determines the architecture of the mind.  English tutors teach children through song, games and drama.  Tutors travel from camp to camp in Italy and usually stay with host families.  The journey begins with my dear friend Elizabeth Style, and our first camp is located in Volterra, a historic village that plays importance in the Twilight saga for it’s magical eeriness. 

The saddest thing about this place is that no camera can capture its beauty.  I say that as I look on at the Tuscan hills that surround the medieval mansion we are staying in.  A cat poses carelessly whilst munching a slug.  Neighbours look at you with an air of intense curiosity, something Italians are able to muster pretty well. The mountains glow in the evening light and there is a deep sense of calmness surrounding the scenic elements.  

   Our host mother is an heiress of old mansions located in the heart of Tuscany.  On our first night we had dinner at her other house, located higher in the hills with an incredible sunset view.  We had a wide range of antipasti: fresh tomatoes with mozzarella, bruschetta, with tzaskiki, with mascarpone dipped in toasted walnuts, with mushrooms and capers, salami and prosciutto, spaghetti with homemade basil and pine nut pesto, penne with vegetable ragu sauce.  For dessert?  Just a casual chocolate flan with whipped cream and peaches cooked with amaretti…

Today with the children I put together a play, which they will show to their parents on Friday.  The play is called ‘summer’.  The characters include two pirates, two dolphins, three mermaids and an octopus!

Cured, smoked horse meat on crusty bread, pecornino cheese and dried truffles on carasau finished with thyme. 

Tuesday 5th July

On Saturday we arrived at our new camp. It’s in Ponte di Piave, a small village near Treviso.  We are staying in an apartment connected to the church.  The apartment has large dining hall with long benches, 4 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms with 15 bunkbeds! There are photographs of priests and Jesus on the walls..  It’s holy yet a little creepy since there are only two of us and as I lie on my bed there are thirteen empty beds to my right. 
    On Sunday we went to Venice.   It was the first time I have been and we visited C’a Foscari University, where I will be studying as an Erasmus student from September.  I was happy to see that the main building is round the corner from the grand canal

This week, my class have written a show about the Oscars and Michael Jackson being mysteriously killed by a crazy doctor.

We have been adopted by the host family of one of the other tutors.  The mother invites us over for dinner every evening and is a great cook.  Last night she made barbecued steak, salad and grilled courgettes and aubergines.  For dessert we had something she devised herself.  A tiramisu inspired dessert, except with fresh pineapple, cherries, biscuits dipped in pineapple syrup and layered with mascarpone and yoghurt.  Buonissima.
     Tonight we enjoyed fresh melon with paper thin and very tender prosciutto, tomato and mozzarella salad and a rocket, sfilacci di equino and parmesan salad.  Sfilacci di equino is dried cured horse meat sliced almost like confetti.  Typical of the Veneto region.  For dessert the daughter had prepared amaretto sweets. Which were amaretto biscuits half dipped in coffee filled with nutella and mascarpone cream.
Elizabeth at dinner

Rocket, sfilacci di equino and parmesan salad

Every family make their desserts in Italy, it plays importance in the construction of dinner.  What is dinner if there is no sweet to finish?  However I must admit I was surprised to see ‘ice cream sandwiches’ on the menu in Venice.  Gelato is good but as a sandwich filling is another thing.  A slim lady running down a narrow street short- passing a canal with a massive bun filled with four scoops of different flavours was a fun sight.    

Sunday 10th July

This next entry takes place in Sardinia by the sea in a place called Santa Maria Navaresse.  I am working with two great people, Ariana from Montreal and Alastair from England.  After 20 hours of travelling through Milan and Genova, and were greeted by a very friendly camp director.  We are in an apartment fifty metres from the sea and the school is even closer.  Our camp director has already loaded our fridge and cupboard with a range of cereals, yoghurt, toast, coffee and a packet of prosciutto, ham and salami.  

Carasau bread.  The shop keeper convinced us that if we wet it, it would be like bread so we put some water on it to soften it up.  In Sardinia, most families eat it in this way
Sunday July 24th

Last week we worked in Mamoiarda, a small village with only 1500 inhabitants.  The camp was in the mountains, in a place called Sarkozimo which is like a church surrounded by small apartments.

Dinner at the great aunt’s house: prawn liguine for starter, and escalope milanese with salad and green beans for secondo, lemon cake for dessert

A lemon drizzle cake I made
Seadas/ Sebadas: A dessert made of fried pastry, pecorino cheese and drizzled with honey.  

After several trains, a trip to the beach with my suitcase and a long ferry, I have arrived at another host family this week, in a place near Carmognola called Sommariva del Bosco. It is located between Torino and Savona.  My host father is the mayor of the town.  I was welcomed with spaghetti, pizza,onion and courgette quiche, moist cake with cream and apricot jam finished with a dark chocolate coating, fresh peaches and pears from the garden and other such goodies.

Wednesday July 27th

Another feast, I needed it after a day of running after children pumping theatrical energy into our creation of Shrek the musical and singing songs such as ‘baby shark’ (still ringing in my ear as my host brother sings it down the hallway).  

Evening tastings included salami, fresh focaccia, seafood spaghetti, sea bream with grilled courgettes and aubergines, broken chunks of parmiggiano reggiano, seven different types of gelato served with garden fruit salad of peaches, pears and plums all served up with a wide range of dry white, sweet white and bubbly white wine with homemade amaretto liqueur to help to digestion process. Casual.