Sunday, February 21, 2016

Discovering Mount Etna, Sicily

We have been blessed with several sunny, blue skyed days all in a row. Fantastic. Today was Sunday so everyone in our little town was either on the move or on the roadside selling produce. I have never seen so many gorgeous vegetables for sale as they have here in Sicily. They don't have a farmer's market per se, as they do in Umbria. It's more like when I was a kid and people drove out to the country to buy produce from a vegetable or fruit stand. There are tons of them. I guess that city people come up here, especially on the week ends, to buy their vegetables for the week.I can only imagine as the year wears on. Our oranges here are delicious but the true "blood" oranges won't be in for another week or two. Everyone says it is worth the wait.

So off we went to Mount Etna. Our landlords gave us directions, and hoping for the best we headed out. The road was lovely.

You are looking at the back of Etna. You can see that there is snow up there but not much snow. A big money maker for people around here are skiers who come in the winter, but this year they have not had enough snow for that, so the economy, once again suffers.

We headed up the Sartorius mountain, looking for a good hiking spot for us and Luca. The area is known for its birch trees. Apparently it is a variety that is only found here in this place.

It is still winter here, although it feels more like autumn to us. I'm sure this scenery will be totally different in a month.

We drove up to the Citelli Refuge for lunch.
Thankfully, we left Luca in the car as there were probably 6 HUGE dogs in there with different lunch parties. It was our first time to eat in a mountain refuge so we weren't sure how it all worked. We realized that the menus for the day was writting on little pieces of colored paper and hung with clothes pin on a line. At first I thought we were supposed to take one of the papers with us, but we quickly realized we were just to look and then chose. We had an antipasto that we split and 2 vegetarian lasagne and a large water. 20E  The lasagne was excellent...great noodles, sauted zucchini and sliced hard boiled eggs with layers of cheese. Yum!

Some information about Etna..First of all it's an active volcano with the last eruption going off was november 3 to Dec. 12, 2015. No one seems overly concerned about the fact we could all be turned into toasted Pompeii people, so I try not to think about it. Kind of like living on the earthquake fault in Oakland. I mean what are you going to do? Anyway, the name Etna people think came from the Phoenician word for oven. Sigh...not a comforting thought. The locals call Etna "mongibello" meaning beautiful moutain. It is actually quite lovely. It is about 11,000 feet tall...the size keeps changing when it blows its it is the highest volcano in Europe. They say the lava rocks are around 350,000 to 500,000 years old, so it's been around for a long time. I thank the mountain everyday for our fantastic produce.

We finally found a place to let Luca out and he ran until his heart's content. A wonderful day here. I hope you all had a very buona domenica.

Note the ash on the ground...It's like a big asphalt parking lot in places...

Saturday, February 13, 2016


The Stoic One, Luca and I are in Sicily for a while. We are in a small village at the base of Etna. I was worried for a while that Etna would blow her top and we would be turned into mummified Pompeii people. So far, so good.

The produce here is fantastic. There is a fruit and vegetable stand on every corner, literally.

Today, we walked to a small Osteria near us. We had a dish called Scacciata. It is basically a Sicilian torte with layers of cheese and vegetables. Here is what it looks like uncut. It has a heavy, kind of dry crust over's more like a bread dough crust than a sweet crust.

Here is what is looks like cut inside.
All vegetables, very good.

The artichokes here are sublime as you can imagine. They are put over the coals of a barbecue and then roasted. The roasting gives them the most fantastic smoky flavor inside.

When I first saw them I thought they were fried in oil, but I asked, and they assured me they were roasted. Excellent.

This was the pasta dish I ordered. Hand made pasta with thinly sliced and roasted zucchini and mint. Really, really, good.

Fresh strawberries with some brandy over them for dessert. Excellent meal. Bon appetito!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Learning to Cook

I have started a new blog, called Learning to Cook at 70...It is more of tongue in cheek type of blog, but sadly, most of what I am writing about is true.

Will be posting here soon about our trip to Sicily. We need to find a jump drive to move photos...another challenge.

Hope you enjoy the cooking blog....

It is located here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mammogram in Italy

A couple of things...first you will note there is a new book, Tales of our Lives, on my blog page. It is an anthology of women's stories put together by a great editor, Matilda Butlier. If you are a writer, each section begins with some writing prompts that are fun to use to get the juices flowing. I wrote a piece in the book called Recover: Italian Style. The anthology is available on Amazon as an ebookI hope you enjoy it.

Speaking of recovering, the last mammogram I had was in the US. I have been hesitant about having one done here in Italy,  but I decided this year it was time to make the transfer. I finally dropped my US medical coverage, and committed myself full time to the Italian Health Care system. It was not as easy as it sounds to let go of that final American tie. I have had very good experience here in Italy with doctors and the health care system, and it was very silly to pay for something I wasn't using, but still....I finally took a deep breath and cancelled my previous health insurance.

I received a letter from the Italian Health Service telling me it was time for a mammogram and gave me a place, date and time...quite organized. I was directed to a  new hospital in Citta' di Castello, a fairly large town near us.

The Stoic One and I trundled off together for this latest Italian experience. The hardest thing about the whole thing was finding the entrance to the hospital, no kidding, and the correct floor. What is it about Italians and signage? Anyway, we were early, found a large wooden statue of Jesus, and of course, the entrance was next to him. We located our waiting room, and sat down with several other husbands who had accompanied their wives .

I was immediately called in. My paper work was reviewed, but once they found out I had previously been diagnosed, things changed and I was put into antother category. I was told that every mammogram is read independently by two doctors and then reported by a third. Once someone is diagnosed, they have both a follow up mammogram and a sonogram, which is different than the US.

One of the differences in the US and Italian health care is that there is no infrastructure in Italy. No receptionists and no nurses who accompany you. Also you are  not given a cover up. No paper gowns, nothing. When I went to move from one room to another, I tried to pick up my clothes to cover myself, but they said, no, no, just leave it. OK. Other than that, the procedure was the same. They didn't say breathe in, hold it and then breathe, but I managed to do this on my own. Breathing is fairly easy for me. Also the person doing the radiology did not leave the room. The machine that actually did the exam seemed as if it were brand new and smaller than what I was used to. The health care people could not have been nicer. They were patient, kind and attentive. They immediately told me I was fine and scheduled me for April of next year. Cost to more thing off my list.