Sunday, June 19, 2011


For years Rome remained too dangerous. Cesi’s father continued to do everything he could to block the progress of the subversive society his son had founded. Federico Cesi himself still thought of setting up their “Lynceum” in the more propitious environment of Naples. (...) But then news of the telescope and its possibilities began to reach them. Sometime in early 1609 Galileo had turned his cannochiale to the night sky; and from then on matters moved ahead with unanticipated speed.
For a start, Giovanni Battista della Porta, the sage of Naples and father figure to Cesi and the other Linceans, began snapping at Galileo’s heels. Had he not been there first? “I have seen the secret use of the eyeglass and it’s a load of balls [coglionaria],” he wrote to Cesi on August 28, 1609. “In any case, it’s taken from book 9 of my De Refractione,” he pointed out, irascibly. In the same letter he made a simple drawing of his own invention and explained that it consisted of one tube with a concave lens inserted into another with a convex lens.
Looking just with the first one will see distant things nearby [le cose lontane, vicine, a phrase that would continue to reverberate in the next few years]; but since one cannot see within the tube [i.e., at the focal point], they appear obscure and indistinct. However, if one places the other tube with the concave lens inside, it has the contrary effect, and one sees things clearly and directly. It goes in and out like a trombone, and one adjusts it according to the eyesight of the beholder, since eyesight always varies from one beholder to the other.
In other words, Della Porta had long since established the basic principle of the telescope. But by the time he wrote to Cesi it was too late. Galileo had beaten him to the post. He had made a far more refined instrument than Della Porta ever envisaged - and had actually begun to use it.

Friday, June 10, 2011


The island of Procida, in the gulf of Naples is
coloured by numerous and robust lemon trees,
that offer fruits of medium-big size with a coarse
grind yellow skin characterised by a rather thick
pith, the white and spongy layer underneath
the yellow skin. Their scent is intense and the
juice pleasantly sour; limone di Procida is used
to prepare drinks and as aroma in local recipes,
although finer palates like eating the pith in
slices, as dessert, with or without a spoon of

Saturday, June 4, 2011


The origin of the apricot is shrouded in uncertainty. One thing is sure; this drupe has found a second home in Campania, thanks to the environmental and climatic conditions which are particularly favourable to its development. Traces of the cultivation of apricots in the region are already present in the fourth century. However, it is in the sixteenth century that they are more precise when Gian Battista Della Porta, an illustrious Neapolitan scientist of the time, divided them into two large groups in his treatise, Suae Villae Pomarium: bericocche, are the most common, round with soft, white flesh, of the clingstone variety and crisomele, of variable size, freestone, much more highly valued for their taste and colour. The Neapolitan word "crisommole" derives from this old term and is still used today to refer to apricots. Today, Campania supplies about 50 thousand tonnes of produce, on just over 5,000 hectares (the surface area decreased by more than a quarter between 1989 and 1998 but the region is still the leader for surface area and production). The oldest and most traditional cultivation area of this species is to be found in the province of Naples, more precisely, in the territory of Vesuvius.
This strong presence in the Vesuvius area is ascribable to the mildness of the climate and the abundant fertility of the land that, being of volcanic nature, is rich in minerals, especially potassium: a fundamental element for improving the organoleptic character of the fruit (particularly the flavour and aroma).
Obviously there was already a wide range of varieties, many of autochthonous origin, that produced different fruit depending on the characteristics of the cultivar it belonged to and underlining the strong link between species and environment. According to the regulations for the production of the Vesuvius IGP Apricot, the Protected Geographical Indication nominates fruit from biotypes corresponding to the following cultivars: Baracca, Boccuccia Liscia, Boccuccia Spinosa, Ceccona, Fracasso, Monaco Bello, Palummella, Pellecchiella, Portici, San Castrese and Vitillo, cultivated using traditional methods in the 19 communes in the province of Naples. Some of the common features of the Vesuvius apricots are the medium-small size, intensity of fragrance, sweet freestone flesh and the presence of a reddish colour or speckling overlying the yellow-orange base of the smooth skin. Another peculiarity is the fact that most of them ripen early or medium-early and the harvest, exclusively by hand, goes from the middle of June to the end of July.