World Nutella Day! 5th Feb

Nutella - everyone's favorite chocolate spread.  How do you eat yours? We have it on toast every morning. We also have a funny ritual where, after each helping (or dollop, to use the technical term), the user has to scrape all the Nutella left on the side of the jar back down into the rest (told you it was funny). That way, it doesn't dry out and, more importantly, NO NUTELLA IS WASTED.

It seems we aren't the only ones with a passion for the hazelnut spread as Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso have solemnly declared February 5th “World Nutella Day – a day to celebrate, to get creative with, and most importantly, to EAT Nutella.

So how do you take part? According to Michelle there are a myriad of ways... Make a recipe using Nutella. Eat Nutella with a spoon. A big one. Make art with Nutella. Wax poetic about Nutella. Cuddle with Nutella. Strike a pose with Nutella. Re-live your first experience eating Nutella. Offer Nutella as a sacrifice. Have a Nutella-eating contest or a Nutella party!

To see the full list, and more details on how to take part, click here to go through to Michelle's post.

Where did it all begin? Well, according to Wikipedia, the Nutella story goes something like this (the following is to be read in a deep comforting voice with soaring orchestral music in the background):

"In 1946, Pietro Ferrero invented a cream of hazelnuts and cocoa, derived from Gianduja and to be spread on bread, and called it Pasta Gianduja. The product had a great success and therefore Ferrero created the new company to produce and market it. The sons of Ferrero became joint chief executives. Michele Ferrero modified his father's recipe to produce Nutella, which was first sold in 1964 and has became popular around the world."

Here's another Nutella fact, the owner, Michele Ferrero (the son, mentioned above) is now the richest man in Italy, even richer than a certain Signor Berlusconi. There's something soothing about having the Nutella man as the richest person in Italy. It seems right. So whether on toast, crepes, cakes, or simply by the spoon, make sure YOU celebrate World Nutella Day on the 5th Feb.

Italy in Books - Etruscan Places by D.H. Lawrence

Etruscan Places follows D.H. Lawrence as he travels around the maremma with his companion Brewster, staying in cheap hotels as he visits Etruscan ruins in Cerverteri, Tarquinia, Vulci and Volterra. The book has six chapters, three of which are on Tarquinia and it's painted tombs. I found the first half of the book to be a little difficult to get into, but as the book progressed I enjoyed it more and more. D.H. Lawrence seems a little obsessed (as were the Etruscans) with the afterlife, searching out burial hills (usually on the hills nearby the Etruscan town) and looking for underground tombs. I guess this is because there isn't much else left from the Etruscans, but it did leave me wanting more. After a while, one tomb seems like another. Having said this, the descriptions of the tombs are lovely, if a little spoilt by overly-romantic descriptions. D.H. Lawrence seems to have a thing against the Romans/the modern world in general, and in my opinion does tend to over-romanticize the Etruscans in some parts of the book. He seems to have held the opinion that something we can't understand must be better in some way than something we can, preferring to fantasize about the Etruscans rather than trying to understand them.

Having said that, I did enjoy the book. It's a good mix of archeological and travel anecdotes, covering both the ancient world of the Etruscans and capturing the mood in Italy in the 1930s. Despite the occasional over-philosophizing, I enjoyed the writing style and found it quite easy to read. Coming in at a bantam weight of 169 pages (in the recently released Dodo Press edition), this is a fun book to read for anyone heading to the maremma region with a passing interest in the Etruscans. However, if you aren't heading that way and don't care for the Etruscans, there's nothing to see here. Having read it, I'm definitely interested in visiting the places mentioned in the book, just to see if I can find them and how they have changed over the last 80 years.

If you want to know more about the Etruscans, check out this interesting website.
More can be found about the fascinating life of D.H. Lawrence here.
If you fancy reading this yourself, you could buy it from the new Lazio Explorer Amazon store by clicking here (go on, you know you want to!)

This book review is my January entry for the Italy in Books reading Challenge.

Italy in Books - Reading Challenge 2011

This is just a quick post to say that after vacillating and procrastinating for about a month, I've decided to take part in a reading challenge set up by 'Book after Book'. The aim of the challenge is to read at least 12 books that are set in Italy. At first I wasn't going to take part, as I spend most of my day reading anyway, but, as the challenge can also include non-fiction books and as I want to learn as much about Italy as possible, I figured this is my kind of challenge.

I'll be posting reviews of the books on here every month (hopefully!) with the tag 'Book review'. I'll also post some links to Amazon for each book in case my review piques your interest. Why not join in yourself? Here's a list of the reviews already submitted by other people for January.

Now... what to read? Any suggestions? I need to read and write a review in the next 14 days...

Sant'Antonio Abate feast - Nepi - 17th January

Sant'Antonio Abate, also known as Saint Anthony the abbot or Saint Anthony the Great, is an Egyptian saint and is the patron saint of butchers, domestic animals, basketmakers and gravediggers. He also protects against skin diseases, in particular shingles, which is known in Italy as "Fuoco di Sant'Antonio" (Fire of Saint Anthony). Naturally then, people like to celebrate on his saint day, which is the 17th January.

taken from
Nepi, in the province of Viterbo, about 30km south-east of Viterbo and about 13km south-west of Civita Castellana, is hosting a festa in his honor over the weekend of the 16th and 17th of January. Many town and cities throughout Italy host a feast in his honor, often with processions and bonfires, so try to check one out if you can. Why bonfires? Well, as legend has it, Sant'Antonio Abate descended to Hell to steal the Devil's fire and, while he distracted the Devil, his piglet ran in and stole some fire to take back to the humans on Earth.

From Fabionepi -

As Sant'Antonio was such a good guy, Nepi hosts a big bonfire or focarone (as big as a house) in his honor, just outside the city (near the aquaduct). The wood for the bonfire is actually brought by the Nepesini (the citizens of Nepi). They'll set the bonfire alight on the Saturday (the 16th) and keep it going throughout the weekend. They set up communal picnic tables so people can cook sausages and pork steaks on the embers of the fire along with singing songs and drinking wine.

There's more than just a bonfire however...

Over the course of the weekend there are fairs, shows and a parade (usually on the Sunday). There is also a mass at the chiesa di San Pietro on the Saturday, followed by a religious procession through the town, ending in fireworks.

All in all, it's a great way to spend the weekend or a day out! 

Getting there from Rome:

By car - Take the SS2 - via cassia from the GRA, then follow the signs for Nepi (it's pretty easy). I'm afraid I don't know if it's possible to get there from Rome with public transport :-(

Acqua di your village?

I think access to clean water is a basic human right. I also think that getting people to pay more for bottled water over tap water in any western country is one of the greatest marketing victories ever. Italy's water'-drinking habits were always going to be a challenge for me. Italy, of course, is a world-leader in bottled water. Both for production and consumption. In my experience, many Italians distrust the tap. Granted, tap water often doesn't taste very nice as it has to be heavily treated to remain clean in the heat of summer, but I remember being surprised at the shock (and mild digust) when I asked for tap water rather than bottled water at the family dinner table. It's a little more understandable when you consider that approximately 98% of the water drank in Italy is bottled mineral water. I don't think people are going to start drinking tap water anytime soon.

Maybe, however, I'm wrong, as purified tap water stations are being introduced all over Italy. These cute little sheds provide purified fizzy or still water at a nominal charge (or occasionally free, apparently, although I haven't been able to find one of these yet). These stations have been in the North of Italy for quite some time, and have recently opened in Tuscany but until now, I hadn't spotted any in Lazio. I've found two so far, in Sant'Oreste and Civita Castellana.



So where's the water from? Well, the local water here comes from Rieti, and the water station is simply purifying the tap water so it doesn't have a chlorinated after-taste and has a few mineral supplements. The water retails at 5 cents for 1.5L, and comes either fizzy or still. It's no Acqua di Nepi, but hopefully it'll catch on. It's an interesting twist on bottled water, given that it's purified tap water rather than natural spring water, but anything that reduces the amount of PET going into landfills (and the cost of transporting bottled water) is a good thing in my book!