Happy Howloween and a strange October sky

Frankenwiener

I love to make holiday masks using the top flap from pizza boxes, and Halloween is always the best. By now Mister Bentley is an expert at posing since he knows a snack follows anything to do with my camera pointing at him. The Westie doesn’t expect anything, just puts up with it (she’s becoming more stubborn and indifferent as she ages) then runs off and plays deaf.

Halloween with the dogs 2017

The skies made national news the other night


The sky made the news last night

With all the commotion currently happening in climate and weather around the globe, it’s near impossible to listen to the news without hearing of the havoc going on right now. On Sunday evening I looked out to see a very strange sky, a sky that looked like swirls of thick foam.

The sky turned even more spectacular as the sun slowly sank into the horizon and I thought of that fancy sand art as the pastel hues deepened in contrast. MotH and I wondered if anyone else was witnessing this and about an hour later, we saw the strange skies on tv (but not before photos from all over Italy started showing up on Facebook). Yay for social media.

The sky made tv news last night

Jack and Jacques

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Autumn tour part 2: the long road to Basilicata

Crossing the high plateaus in the area of Monte Genzana

The 3rd day was a long haul. We headed further south on smaller country roads, lulled by the changing landscapes that ranged from large tracts of tilled earth to mountain plateaus. We needed to cross the regions of Molise, Campania, and a small section of Puglia before reaching Basilicata, but not without stopping for a proper lunch.

We have 2 small dogs, is it a problem?

It always goes like this: MotH calls to reserve a table, sets the time, then just before hanging up, he politely asks “Abbiamo 2 piccoli cani, è un problema?” A Slow Food guide restaurant along the way didn’t open before 1pm and dogs were okay, but I didn’t factor in 2 hours at the table.

Lunch at Ristorante La Pignata

When I think of the cuisine in Campania I think of pizza, mozzarella made with buffalo milk, and fried stuff. Head inland where Campania borders the other southern regions and the dishes are a cultural mix of flavors. As a complimentary tasting we were offered bruschetta with fresh mozzarella and anchovies.

Bruschetta w/mozzarella and anchovies

Followed by 2 antipasti: prosciutto made from suino nero (local black pig) with artichokes and grated caciocavallo, plus a type of dumpling called pancotto all’arianese, a truly frugal dish using day-old bread, chicory greens, translucent strips of cured lard, and peperoni cruschi.

Prosciutto di suino nero

Pancotto all'arianese

When the pasta arrived my stomach was already signaling my brain that it was getting full, but I was quick to tuck into this dish of wholewheat spaghetti with baccala and peperoni cruschi. MotH had tagliatelle with porcini and black truffle. It was definitely a leisurely lunch, but we had to get going and here’s the funny part – the waiter was surprised that we were leaving so soon.

Wholewheat spaghetti with baccala on a puree of broccoli

An hour later we arrived at our b&b in Castelmezzano, a mountain-top village listed among the most beautiful in Italy. Its unique location and appearances in films and documentaries has brought more international attention as a tourist destination (there’s a zipline activity called Volo dell’Angelo – Angel’s Flight), but hopefully the remoteness of the area will keep things in check and prevent it from turning into a circus. More on Castelmezzano coming up, but first, time to get ready for Halloween! 👿

Castelmezzano in Basilicata
Castelmezzano in Basilicata

Autumn tour part 1: Tuscany, Abruzzo

Let me just start off by saying that the weather during the whole trip was just gorgeous. Initially I had my concerns, being mid-October and all, but everywhere we went it was beautiful, sunny, and warm with the exception of some sleet while we were upland in northern Molise. On day 1 (Tuscany) and 2 (Abruzzo) we averaged 400 km/250 miles on each stretch, made frequent stops for the dogs, and took caffeine breaks before hitting the road again.

La Muccheria vacation apartments
La Muccheria, Via San Bartolo, 100, 57027 San Vincenzo (LI)

Traveling during off-season scored us some really great deals on lodging. In Tuscany we had a 1-bedroom apartment (55 m²) with fully-equipped kitchen, free wifi, and a fine view of the pool and grounds for 39€/night plus an extra 12€ for the dogs. I imagine the price triples during the summer season but the location is perfect and a short drive to the beach.

View from apartment at La Muccheria
Looking out the bedroom window at La Muccheria

The following night at a donkey farm in Abruzzo was mainly because we can’t seem to get enough of them in our travels. And a place that translates to Golden Donkey Inn? No resisting that, or them, and I did have the chance to ride one but changed my mind (too scared that I’d fall off). Walking one is easier, or so I thought, and here I am with donkey in tow. The owner, Gloria, advised against “being soft” and to take the lead, otherwise our cute friend would just stop and we’d end up with a stubborn ass on our hands.

At Locanda dell'Asino d'oro
Donkeying around at Locanda dell’Asino d’Oro, Introdacqua, Sulmona (AQ)

We really enjoyed our stay at the inn but this is where we had our first experience with not so dog-friendly restaurants. In the north we rarely come across this problem, but the further south we went, it was different, especially for places that we already had in mind. In the end we found a pizzeria that allowed our two to accompany us. Pizza in the south is amazing. We’ve tried napoletano-style pizza in the north and while good, it’s just not the same. The dough has better flavor, a soft, thin crust and a high edge. After a couple of beers and coffee, we called it a night.

Friarelli and salsiccia
Friarelli (rapini or broccoli rabe) and salsiccia

To be continued in Basilicata, in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy…