Friday, December 18, 2009

COLATURA

Colatura di alici is a highly concentrated saline mixture derived by the drippings of the anchovies packed in wood barrels with salt.
It is an amber-colored liquid produced by aging salted anchovies from the Gulf of Salerno, caught from March through the beginning of July. Immediately after they are caught, the anchovies are cleaned by hand and salted, then layered in oak containers. After four or five months, the liquid that drips out from a small hole in the base of the container is collected and used as a unique condiment, particularly well suited to spaghetti or linguine.
[...] Some say that colatura is the direct descendant of garum, the fish-based seasoning of the Romans. (...) But many experts and the people in and around Cetara (pronounced chay-TAR-ah) insist their version is much more genteel.
Arthur Schwartz, a cookbook author who runs a cooking school near Cetara, said the Romans used ''all kinds of fish, whatever they had, not just anchovies, and they didn't gut them, they just left them whole.''
The resulting product ''must have been much funkier and oilier,'' he said. ''Not that the anchovies they use for colatura are superclean or anything. They don't rinse them before putting them in with the salt. But it's the little bits of guts still clinging to the fish that give the colatura its special something.''
Colatura is definitely somewhat of a relic, even in Cetara.
A generation ago, all the houses in town had a wooden barrel (often left over from winemaking) of fermenting fish juice in their basements, small amounts of which were exchanged traditionally as Christmas gifts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

LA SPINA 1929

Hidden away in a warehouse within the compounds of a military facility near Naples lies a floating masterpiece which dozens of craftsman and carpenters are painstakingly trying to restore.
(...) 'Unlike a piece of furniture, a painting or a sculpture, a period vessel cannot be restored in order for it to become a piece for a museum - it must come back to life to plough through the waves again,' Federico Cuomo says.
'It is something which takes years and millions of euros to accomplish because restoring things is more difficult than rebuilding them.'
[...] Italy’s fi rst ever 12-Metre, La Spina was built in 1929 for Italian aristocrat, the Marquis Francesco Spinola. She was relaunched in April after a two-year restoration at the Aprea Peninsula Navis boatyard in Sorrento. She now belongs to a syndicate of Italian owners who showcased her at this year’s Argentario Sailing Week (CB246). While the hull is a rebuild, the interior is, according to Stefano Faggioni, 85 per cent original, including the antique cookers in the galley and the Marquis’s writing bureau.

Monday, December 7, 2009

SCIENCE OF LEGISLATION

The man who wrote the US Constitution?
It is certainly an overstatement that the Constitution of the United States of America was written in a beautiful old building—still called "the castle"—in Vico Equense, a small town on the Bay of Naples about halfway out the Sorrentine peninsula, but that's what citizens of that hamlet delight in telling visitors.
[...] "The Science of Legislation" was among the earliest works on constitutional law and government. It presented an enlightened code of justice that was based on reason and that did not favor royalty and the wealthy. Filangieri called for equal justice for all citizens, proportionality between crime and punishment, freedom of the press, universal public education and unlimited free trade. Franklin praised Filangieri for his "invaluable work." Many of the ideas championed in "The Science of Legislation" are found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
[...] The Revolutionary era reached its peak in Continental Europe in the period in which Gaetano Filangieri wrote his La scienza della legislazione, 1780-1785 (Science of Legislation). The friendship that grew between the Neapolitan philosopher and Benjamin Franklin, and the wish of the first to follow the statesman and secular moralist by emigrating to the New World, were signs of a profound belief in reason. The horizons and values that today characterize western civilization were already clear to the two brilliant men of the Enlightenment. Indeed, they have ennobled our civilization.

Monday, November 30, 2009

BAY OF BAIAE

Nero would feast from noon until midnight. He would dine in public places, in the Naumachia, in the Campus Martius (which, incidentally, included the Stagnum Agrippae), in the Circus Maximus. Dancing girls and prostitutes from all over thecity served at these parties. Whenever he floated down the Tiber to Ostia, or sailed along the gulf of Baiae (in the Bay of Naples), inns with taverns (deversoriae tabernae) were prepared along the banks and coasts; these were remarkable for their gourmandizing and for being kept by matrons who would imitate hostesses and urge Nero to put ashore.
(...) He took particular delight in eating while aboard ship, on
the Naumachia, on the Stagnum, during expeditions down the Tiber and in the Bay of Naples. He liked ersatz inns to be set up on the shores, both artificial and real, which he passed. He liked to see Roman matrons running them—indeed, when they played the role of innkeepers for him they were assuming a social role not far from that of the prostitutes whom he also liked to have around. And he enjoyed lavish parties hosted by other men.
Elaborate feasting, sexual license, and messing about in boats make an arresting combination. Repeatedly indulged, it was not a passing whim,for Nero, always the showman with an artistic plan and an eye to his public, had another purpose. With these theatrical banquets he was deliberately recreating at Rome the notorious maritime delights associated with one place in the western Roman empire above all: Baiae, the pleasure capital of Italy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

STILETTO HEELS

Italian shoe designer, Salvatore Ferragamo, has been credited with inventing the first stiletto in the 1950s. The shoe was a croc-embossed pump designed for the late Marilyn Monroe and that coveted heel might be considered a kitten heel compared to todays high flying styles.
[...] Born in 1898 in Bonito, near Avellino, Salvatore Ferragamo was the eleventh child in a family of 14 children. Ferragamo made his first pair of shoes for his sister at the age of nine for her confirmation. Young Salvatore decided that he had found his calling. He always had a passion for shoes. He studied shoemaking in Naples for a year then Ferragamo opened a small store in his parent’s home. In 1914, he emigrated to America, to live with one his brothers, a cowboy boot factory worker.
Ferragamo worked briefly with his brother at the factory, then moved to California - first Santa Barbara then Hollywood. It was here that Ferragamo found success, initially opening a shop for repair and made-to-measure shoes - prized items among celebrities during that time, leading to a life long hobby of designing footwear for the cinema. However, his thriving reputation as ‘Shoemaker to the Stars’ only partially satisfied him. He could not fathom why his shoes pleased the eye yet hurt the foot, so he proceeded to study anatomy at the University of Southern California.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

PAESTUM ROSES

Paestum was once celebrated by the poets for its roses. Virgil speaks of the biferi rosaria Paesti, and Ovid sings of the tepidi rosaria Paesti, the rose-garden of the twice-blossoming, the sultry Paestum.
[...] The misterious origins of Paestum's roses are lost in time: thought by some to be of a local species, others believe they were an acclimatised variety imported from the Orient. What is certain is that they flowered twice a year and their scent was unrivalled.
Famous for its perfumes, Paestum was also a centre of religious worship, where resins burned on temple altars scenting the air from afar.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

M.C. ESCHER

In Ravello, Escher’s early prints of Italian landscapes come to life.
There one also discovers themes that reappeared later in the consciously geometrical works for which he eventually became world famous: green lizards scurry along stone walls, arches in cloisters recede to infinity, and columns, balconies, and staircases are linked in fantastic architecture.
Apalled by the rise of Fascism, Escher left Italy for Switzerland and Belgium, and then returned, for good, to his native Netherlands. But for the rest of his life, those lizards and that architecture insinuated themselves into his woodcuts and lithographs, as in a dream.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CAROLINE AQUEDUCT

One of the most extraordinary engineering feats in 18th-century Europe was the construction of the Acquedotto Carolino (the adjectival form in Italian of Carlo in reference to Charles III of Bourbon, monarch of the kingdom of Naples at the time), including the long "bridges" segment of that waterway across the Maddaloni valley about 5 miles from the modern town of Caserta.
The aqueduct is also known as “Vanvitelli’s Aqueduct” in honor of the architect and engineer responsible for its construction, Luigi Vanvitelli.
[...] In the midst of this lonely dell, the traveller is surprised to behold an immense bridge, formed of a triple row of lofty arches, crossing with gigantic strides from one side to the other.
This bridge forms part of the celebrated aqueduct of Caserta; it is near two thousand feet in length, and two hundred in height, and conveys a whole river of the purest water across the valley.
In length, elevation and effect, its surpasses all similar edifices of modern construction, and may, indeed vie with some of the noblest Roman monuments.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

LIBER DE COQUINA

The earliest works devoted entirely to gastronomy date back well into the fourteenth century, with the anonymous Liber de coquina (Cookbook), Libro della cocina (Cookbook), and the Libro per cuoco (Book for the Cook).
The first is attributed to an author thought to have been a member of the Anjevin court of Naples; the second and third to a Tuscan and a Venetian author, respectively.
These works begin to formulate a culture specific to food, a culture expressed in Italian (rather than in Latin), which thus has a wider appeal.

Friday, October 9, 2009

CAT CINDERELLA

The first tale to have the protagonist named Cinderella is Giambattista Basile’s Cat Cinderella, written in 1634.
This story, unlike most Cinderella’s, gives the name of the girl before she is given the new name Cat Cinderella, and that name is Zezolla.
Fairy tales usually follow a pattern, and that is that they all focus on a “childhood sin,” and why that sin is wrong. Basile, before the tale begins, stresses the fact that Cat Cinderella is a tale of envy.
[...] Basile's last job was at the court of the duke of Acerenza, Galeazzo Pinelli, who named Basile governor of Giugliano (in the province of Naples) in 1631. But it was a short-lived position. After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1631, a flu epidemic, so severe in its effects that it was compared by many to the plague, hit Naples and the surrounding areas, and Basile was one of its victims. He died on February 23, 1632, and was buried, after an elaborate funeral, in Giugliano's Santa Sofia church.

Friday, October 2, 2009

HYDROGEN SULPHIDE

The recent study published in an American magazine by Professor Louis Ignarro, Nobel prize in Medicine, in cooperation with Giuseppe Cirino, Vincenzo Mirone and Roberta d’Emanuele, lecturers of University of Naples Federico II, shows what a wide literature promised in the past.
Scientists have discovered two enzymes in the cavernous tissue of the male organ which product hydrogen sulphide or H2S, the real cause of men’s erection and vasodilation. Several tests in rats’ erotic reactions have shown it.
The natural Viagra is in a word the same gas that shrouds for millenniums the oldest volcano of the phlegrean coast, the Solfatara, mentioned by Strabo in his Geography and visited by over 130.000 tourists per year ; a stretch of fumaroles and saunas marked by a typical aroma which inebriates or disgusts people. Essence of sulphur, indeed!
[...] Researchers said the study could lead to an alternative to Viagra, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal reported.

KATE MOSS

Mario Sorrenti, the Naples-born New Yorker [photographer] whose 1993 campaign for Calvin Klein’s Obsession fragrance brought Kate Moss instant celebrity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

LUCRINE OYSTERS

Sergius Orata was the first to lay down oysters-bed in the Bay of Baiae, at the time of the orator Lucius Cassus, before the Marsian War. His reason was not gluttony but monetary greeds.[...]
Those of the Lucrine lake were farmed, or at least encouraged, and supplied the demand for fine seafood at the Roman holiday resort of Baiae. Pliny notes that the best were found to be Brundisian oysters transported across the Apennines (at what must have been a high cost) and fattened in the Lucrine lake.

TROTULA OF SALERNO

In histories of women as in histories of medicine, readers often find a passing reference to a mysterious person called Trotula of Salerno.
‘‘Trotula,’’ for whom no substantive historical evidence has ever been brought forth, is said by some to have lived in the eleventh or twelfth century and is alleged to have written the most important book on women’s medicine in medieval Europe, On the Diseases of Women (De passionibus mulierum).
She is also alleged to have been the first female professor of medicine, teaching in the southern Italian town of Salerno, which was at that time the most important center of medical learning in Europe. Other sources, however, assert that ‘‘Trotula’’ did not exist and that the work attributed to her was written by a man.

POMPEII AMPHITHEATER

Initially the contests took place in the forums or "piazzas" of the city (Suetonius Caesar 39, Tiberius 7). Later, the greater frequency and length of the games led to the construction of special buildings large enough to hold hunts and fights simultaneously. Thus the amphitheater was created.
This type of building appears to have been invented in Campania. Indeed, the oldest amphitheaters that we know of are in this region, such as the one at Pompeii. Rome was one of the last cities in the Empire to fit up its own amphitheater. Until then, the contests in the capital were held in wooden buildings that were dismantled after each spectacle.
The first permanent amphitheater in Rome was built under Augustus, by Caius Statilius Taurus in the Campus Martius (Dio Cassius 51.23.1). After this structure was destroyed in the fire of A.D. 64, Vespasian planned the construction of the Colosseum, which was ultimately inaugurated by Titus in A.D. 80.