Thoughts on Italy
Montaperto Travel Blog› entry 3 of 3 › view all entries
Today we went to a small communal press where one of the workers brings his own olives to be pressed into oil. It's a fascinating, loud, procedure, including a conveyor belt that takes the olives up into a washing device, a centrifuge, and a separation of the oil, water, and mushy remains. The odor in the building is intense and wonderful…if yon happen to like olive oil. I asked what happens to the rest of the olives (the remaining meat, skin and pits.) He took us outside, behind the building to see a large overhead pipe spewing out a dark colored pulpy mess right onto the concrete where a front loader later picks it up. We thought that maybe they made soap or skin oils from this detritus, but no, that's the stuff that turns into what's often called "pure" olive oil, as against the extra virgin. Not only is it clearly inferior in quality, but it's also kind of dirty. I've always heard that cooking with the "pure" is better because it doesn't burn as quickly as the extra virgin, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I want to put any of that stuff in my body.
As in most countries, the south and the north of Italy are very different in terms of climate, culture, accent, cuisine, economy. The weekend before coming down to Sicily, we spent some time with our friend Elena in Padua. We had probably the best dinner out that we've had since being in Europe, and Sunday Elena cooked us lunch and dinner at her place. In addition to a really tasty risotto with leeks that takes about an hour of stirring while cooking, she made a "salty cake" (torta salata) with tomatoes, cheese, seasonings, and olive oil in a pastry, and a couple of different vegetables. The ricotta-filled canolis for dessert were the topper! Some really nice northern Italian wines went with everything.
We went back to see the fabulous Giotto frescoes in the Capella Scrovegni (painted on those walls between 1302-5,) Now you can only go in after being in some kind of dehumidifying chamber, and only with fifteen people at a time, and only for fifteen minutes. I remember being entranced by this artist's work when seeing reproductions back in my college Art101 class, and then seeing them for real fifteen years ago when we spent a week in Venice and Padua. They do not disappoint. They've been cleaned up more since our last visit. I only wish I had my binoculars with me so that I could see the detail in the expressions of the painted figures up high on the walls. Giotto had such rich palette not only of color but also of expressions of human emotion.
I'm realizing that it may be days before we can post any of this blog. We were supposed to have a pendrive connection to the Internet here at the farm…but it didn't work. It would have cost almost 100 Euros to buy one that would work, and then we don't know if it would work elsewhere. So we thought we'd go to various Internet cafes. it turns out that they are few and far between, or aren't working, or aren't open when we think we are. It's amazing how dependent we are on net access for everything from finding the next place to stay, to re-charging our cell-phone, to paying for reservations. So as of now, we're leaving here in a couple of days and don't have any fixed plans for what's next! Not to mention that we're out of e-mail contact with family and friends. Pretty soon it's going to be I-Phone time for us…at least for the next trip.