Welcome Everyone.

Welcome to News From Italy, my blog about our Italian Adventure. Although this blog has now ceased publication I will be continuing to blog and I am sincerely hoping that my many followers here will move with me to Travel Tales blog to follow my next adventures wherever they may take me. The links to my other blogs are:-

I look forward to keeping in touch with you via them, thanks once again for all the support you have given 'News From Italy' over the years.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Italy in Books Reading Challenge November 2011

Passeggiata Strolling Through Italy by G.G. Husak

  • Paperback: 355 pages
  • Genre: Travel memoir
  • Publisher: Booksurge Publishing 2008
  • Source: Sent to me by another blogger Maggie of Normandy Life via Bookmooch
  • First Sentence : Prologue ‘for almost fifteen years, March has signified not only the coming of spring, but my husband Al’s and my pilgrimage to Italy.’
  • Quote From Amazon.com : Ms. Husak’s memoir of travels to Italy with her husband will appeal to those who love travel in general and Italy in particular.
  • My Opinion: Suited especially to the first time visitor or virtual traveller to Italy.


    The November post for the list of books that the other people taking part are reading this month has already been posted. November Reviews

    Although I enjoyed this memoir about this couples travels in Italy, I did not really find it excited me. I hope that does not mean I have been living here too long for a travel memoir of Italy to inspire me. Personally I feel this is more suited to the first time visitor or virtual traveller to Italy and better read in small doses as it did tend to be repetitive in parts. The repetitiveness was a shame as I felt it was due to poor editing as were some of the mistakes I found. Mistakes I hasten to add that those that do not live here or speak any Italian I doubt will even notice, so I am not going to be pedantic and will not even mention them in detail.

    The Cinque Terre is one of the couples favourite places and it also saddened me somewhat to be reading this so soon after the recent disasters caused by flooding in the area. That withstanding they covered many of the major tourist centres on their annual holidays, including Roma, Florence, Venice, Milan, Orveito, Siena, Naples, Sorrento and Positano. A wide selection indeed. Some of the things that they had to say about various places and the way things work here in Italy did niggle me a bit at times. Again this was probably a case of knowing both the places and the vagaries of life in Italy, a little better in some aspects, not others) than this intrepid pair of adventurers. Also one must remember that this was the early nineties they were writing about for their first trips and times have changed a lot since then.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Italy has got under this couples skin and really enriched their lives, otherwise why would they still be coming here, as we are led to believe they still do. I would be very interested in a sequel as I think they may have learnt a lot more about Italy since those early days. Although even on those early trips they soon learnt to relax and go with the flow, it is the only way to happily exist in Italy.

    ‘Passegiata strolling through Italy’ certainly has a lot to recommend it to lovers of all things Italian, who wish to immerse themselves in the personal details of the Husak’s adventures.

    Since 1993, Glen Grymes Husak has made an annual pilgrimage to Italy. Glen brings her background and insight as an English teacher and museum docent to the history and art of Italy.

    Glen Grymes Husak has travelled with her husband Al to Italy since 1993. Their adventures in Italian cities and villages and growing love for the Italian experience provide the inspiration for her writing. She brings the background and insight of an English teacher and museum art docent to historical sights and art of Italy. She tells her friends that she enjoys writing about Italy almost as much as being there.
    In more recent years, Glen and Al have added other Mediterranean destinations to their travels but always end up in Italy. They have not found a place that they like better. The author is I believe currently based in Houston, Texas.

    Other sources of information used in this post :-

    Author's Goodreads Profile

    G.G. Husak's Official Website


    I also post these ‘Italy in Books’ reviews on my other blog.
    LindyLouMac's Book Reviews

  • Monday, November 28, 2011

    Olive Harvest 2011 – Milling from Olive to Oil

    Once we had decided that five days picking was more than enough, certainly in one stretch, the next task was to get the olives to the mill. A good job we did stop when we did as we only just got them all in the X-Trail and the Smart Car would really have not been much help would it! If you have not yet read my post on our picking and would like to do so just click on this link. Olive Harvest 2011 – Picking
    Loaded and ready to go!

    Off we then went on a short drive to the Oleificio in Montefiascone, where they were expecting us. We had arranged to arrive with our crop sometime on the Tuesday morning when we we would be given a more precise appointment for our milling.

    Arriving at the mill olives are unloaded into a large crate.

    Our crate is the one in the top left hand picture and when we left on Tuesday it had been moved into the warehouse area for storage, photo top right. Before leaving we confirmed in the office that our slot for milling would be the next day, Wednesday 16th November verso (towards)2pm.

    Having been through this process before we warned my sister that we were probably in for a very long afternoon at the mill. Fortunately she did not seem to mind, although she did take her book as I suggested she never actually got to read it, as she found the whole process interesting, well I she seemed to! We arrived at the appointed time and our arrival was acknowledged immediately, however it was probably half an hour later when someone decided to tell us that due to a breakdown during the night, they were running a couple of hours behind, so why not go off somewhere else for awhile. We took the advice and went off to the station to check the times for my sister’s train to Roma the next morning, we were unable to buy her ticket though as the Tabac (where they sell train tickets) was of course closed for the afternoon as were most of the local shops. There is a new branch of Todis in Montefiascone opened on 26th October which is unusually ‘orario continuato’ continuous opening with no afternoon closure, so we did a little food shopping before returning to the mill for our rescheduled appointment.
    On our return we located our crate, now outside, see the bottom row in the mosaic above, just before 4pm our turn arrived. The crate was weighed we were given our ticket, for use later to pay for the milling process which is calculated by the amount of oil produced, then the olives were loaded into the hopper and the process began. The olives would appear as olive oil in approx two hours time, I followed the process as best I could in these photos. The first mosaic of photos show the olives being weighed, before being tipped into the hopper, the leaves are then separated from the olives by being blown and deposited in the basket outside, see bottom left of picture, before the olives are sent off into the milling machinery.

    As mentioned above the leaves have been separated as the olives make their way into this first stage of the milling process where they are washed and ground.

    In the next stage of the process the pulp is transferred into tanks, there are six in all and they are used in rotation, our olive pulp was designated to tank number two.

    An impressive looking beast here are some close ups of the procedure, notice how red the pulp is going down the tube in the first photo, top left!  The operative kindly opened the lid so that I could photograph the pulp entering the chamber.

    While we waited for the oil, I will took a few photos around the mill, including where the waste product from the procedure is transferred to. It appears to lose its colour looking at the last photo ‘ stuff’ which had been around for awhile maybe used as a compost product but this is just a guess.

    The setting sun, Montefiascone Duomo and general environs of the mill.

    The green lights indicate that the pulp is ready for the next stage and the chamber is emptied as it passes through the next batch of machinery to the final stages, the waste product is removed and ends up where I showed you in a previous collage. It gets exciting as the procedure enters the final stages as you wait for your very own olive oil to appear.

    Which it finally does and to our delight the operatives told us that not only was our oil of a very good quality, but in fact even better it was excellent, they knew this because of the transparency, just take a look at the large photo!

    We are very pleased with the end result and I hope you have enjoyed my very basic description of the process, any mistakes are my own!

    For those of you that are new to this blog and may be interested in the previous Olive Harvest posts, here are the links.
    Olive Harvest - Phase One – 2009
    Olive Harvest - Phase Two - 2009
    Olive Harvest 2010 - Che Disastro!Travel Tales
    Olive Oil 2010
    and the prequel to this post  Olive Harvest 2011 - Picking
    Lots more photos can be viewed in in My Flickr Albums in the collection entitled Olives and Olive Oil.
    Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection

    Mosaic Monday
    This is a series which I participate in from time to time and I have done so with this post. Welcome to News From Italy to anyone who has called by from Mosaic Monday at Little Red House and of course all my supportive readers who call by and leave comments both here and on my other blogs.
    LindyLouMac's Book Reviews - LindyLouMac's World in Photos  - Travel Tales

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Friday Photo – Marta in the November sunshine

    As you know I sometimes have a few single photos to post here that are relevant to our life in Italy and therefore this blog and this has probably meant that most of you realise how keen I am on photography.  It would hardly go unnoticed as most of my posts do have rather a lot of photos!

    What many of you probably do not know though is that for the last eighteen months I have contributed almost daily to a Photography Blog - Beautiful World but sadly it is closing down on December 8th. I have decided that I do not want to stop experimenting and learning, so I have transferred my work to a new blog and will continue to post my favourite photos there. The purpose of this new blog is to share the world I have learnt to appreciate so much more through the camera lens. A lot of the photos will be off subject for News From Italy, hence the separate blog where I can be more diverse in my posting.

    I would love you to join me on this journey and am therefore hoping that some of you will be willing to give me some encouragement and support for this project by following me there.

    Looking forward to seeing you there. LindyLouMac's World in Photos

    No this is not the photo I published there today but one of Marta in the November sunshine. Have a lovely weekend everyone.

    Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Olive Harvest 2011 - Picking

    After our Olive Harvest being so disappointing last year we were really hoping for a better one this year. In fact it turned out better than we had hoped for, but unfortunately we did not have the labour to complete picking in the time we had allowed this year. Two years ago when we had a massive harvest of 1,074 kilos it took four of us, two sessions of four days to pick this quantity!
    Our friends who have helped us for the last few years were this year unavailable, but fortunately my sister was able to time a visit to help us and some other local friends managed to give us a few hours between them. This meant that for the majority of the time it was just three of us harvesting, for the four days we had allowed. With the mill accepting a minimum quantity of 300 kilos we decided we needed to carry on for a fifth day, which pushed our harvested weight to the 380 kilos.  With time and labour there is no doubt we could have harvested a second batch, but quite honestly as this amount was going to provide more than enough for our own use and family and friends that we share with, we decided to call a halt. Shame about the unpicked olives but there you go, that’s life, no one else wants them as everyone has more than enough of their own!
    David and I have been harvesting olives every year since our arrival in Italy in 2004 and quite honestly we sometimes feel we have been there and done that! Having an Olive Grove is hard work needing attention throughout the year, although of course it is extremely rewarding to produce your own olive oil. For those that do not know from previous years we harvest all our olives by hand, just using little rakes something like a child’s sand toy. This method ensures that there is very little damage to the olives during the picking, but it is of course a slow and labour intensive method. Rewarding work in the sunshine though, we have always been lucky with our timing of the harvests as regards the weather, only getting soaked to the skin once, as heavy rain arrived just as we were completing picking one year, with no option but to carry on.
    We were certainly lucky with the weather this year. My sister had beautiful blue skies to enjoy while she was here and it was a pleasure to be outside in the sunshine all day.
    I will follow this post up with one about the milling process soon but for now I will share photos of the harvest from November 10th to November 14th inclusive. Good timing as the following morning we had our first frost, although it disappeared quickly and we had another glorious day of which we spent a good few hours of at the mill, but that is for next time.

    For those of you that are new to this blog and may be interested in the previous Olive Harvest posts, here are the links.
    Olive Harvest - Phase One – 2009
    Olive Harvest - Phase Two - 2009
    Olive Harvest 2010 - Che Disastro!
    Olive Oil 2010

    Lots more photos can be viewed in in My Flickr Albums in the collection entitled Olives and Olive Oil.
    Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection
    Ciao Christy - La Dolce Vita
    This is a series which I participate in from time to time, welcome to News From Italy to anyone who has called by from this link about sharing La Dolce Vita in Italy.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Saturday Snapshots – Narcissi in our Garden


    I have not shared any flower photos from our garden since Our Garden in September and as I doubt I will write any more such posts this year I thought you might enjoy seeing the Narcissi that have come into bloom this month.

    I am off to enjoy lunch followed by a walk in the sunshine having spent this morning preparing posts for News From Italy on the recent Olive Harvest and I have also published a post on Travel Tales - Hong Kong Park.  I am hoping that some of you will be interested in following Travel Tales and encouraging me that this new project is worthwhile, although I think it is going to make a fabulous online scrapbook of our travels, even if no one reads it.

    Have a great weekend my friends where ever you live in this Beautiful World.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Olive Harvest All Done


    After five days of picking by hand with just three people the majority of that time we are extremely pleased with the results. We probably could have continued picking for another three days but quite honestly we felt we had done enough and we did not want my sister to spend her entire holiday working!

    We were just hopeful that the results of our labour and that of friends who were able to lend a hand for a couple of mornings were going to be worthwhile. Well they certainly were as the statistics noted here show, it was an excellent percentage yield.

    I will follow this post up with a couple more about the process from picking to oil as it will be no surprise to my regular readers that I took loads of photos to share with you.

    Talking of photos and sharing with you those from our recent trip to Asia, I have decided that as there are so many it would be better to start a separate blog rather than overload News From Italy with off subject posts. I am hoping that those of you interested in travel will follow me over there, for now I have just reposted the posts already shared here, but lots more to follow shortly. The new blog is called Travel Tales and there I will share our life adventures outside Italy, I am looking forward to hearing what you think.


    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    San Martino – St Martins Day - November 11th.

    San Martino.
    Photo of stained glass designed by the students of Art of Aosta)

    This date is important in Italy for more than one reason!  Firstly it is when festas are held to celebrate the Vino Novello (the new seasons wine) in some parts of Italy. In fact on this day last year our own wine was ready for sealing, as the fermentation process was complete. San Martino 2010  We did not make any wine this year as we knew that we would be away travelling when it needed attention. Instead we made grape juice which we will enjoy as a breakfast drink over the winter. 
    November 11th is the official feast day for San Martino - Saint Martin was born in a Roman province in what is now Hungary, a Roman citizen whose father was an army officer and himself became one, later giving it up to become a monk. He is the patron saint of soldiers and wine-makers!  Hence maybe the celebration of Vino Novello on this day!
    Historically the story goes that while he was riding at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers, he met a poor, freezing beggar, cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with him. That same night he dreamt of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given to the poor man and thanking him for his compassionate gesture. It is also said that at the moment he shared his cloak, the sun came out and that is why in Italy, a period of sunny, warm weather with clear skies and mild temperatures of around 21C/70F, occurring during early November is called Estate di San Martino.

    We are of course hoping for an Estate di San Martino while we pick our olives this year. Weather permitting we are starting tomorrow, my sister arrives this afternoon for a working holiday. Well she did ask if she could help this year so we have waited for her arrival. The barometer is rising and the weather looks promising, today Wednesday the 9th of November at 2pm the thermometer was reading 21C so maybe we will be enjoying an Indian Summer, let us hope so.  When we harvested our olives last year we had beautiful weather but a disastrous crop, but as you have already seen from my earlier photos Olives, it is looking a lot more promising for the 2011 harvest.
    I am sure many of you have heard the term Indian Summer before when referring to a spell of warmer than normal temperatures accompanied by sunshine and dry and hazy conditions in the Autumn months.
    In earlier times in Europe, “Indian summer” was called “Saint Martin’s Summer”, referring to St. Martin’s Day on November 11th.
    The phrase ‘Saint Martin’s Summer’ comes from France where it is still widely used. In Italy, St Martin’s summer (Estate di San Martino) was expected and celebrated as a rural tradition with ancient origins.
    By the ancient agriculture systems of Rural tenancy and Sharecropping the yearly rental of the lands traditionally ended just on November 11th, right at the end of the harvesting season, but still before winter.
    The St Martin’s Summer often occurs around 11th November and lasts for 3 or 4 days. It is so famous and popular that in Italy there are events and festivals in many Italian cities and villages. Born as a religious celebration, it has been turned into a range of wine and food events in which visitors have the chance to taste the new wine.
    I have not forgotten either that November 11th is also Remembrance Day but here in Italy servicemen who died for the nation are remembered on 4 November, when the ceasefire that followed the Armistice of Villa Giusti in 1918 began. Since 1977, this day has not been a public holiday, now, many services are held on the first Sunday of November.

    In Memory of those that lost their lives for us.
    Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection

    For followers that have joined me in the last year my previous posts about San Martino and the Wine Harvest can be read in the following links. San Martino 2010 and Indian Summer
    I am now off to spend some quality time with my sister.

    Photo of olives taken during our 2009 Harvest : Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Travel Tales – The Peak Hong Kong


    No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a ride up to The Peak on The Peak Tram and judging by the number of people we saw up there this year many tourists take the ride.  The Tram station is just across the road from The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens so when we passed by on our way to another park and saw the queue for those with Octopus cards (The HK Travel Card) was empty, as I suspect many visitors to The Peak do not have these, we decided on the spur of the moment to go up and take a look at the magnificent views.  We have been up there before but the panoramic views, when the weather is clear enough are worth seeing time and time again.

    The Peak Tram is probably the most enduring emblem of Hong Kong's unique past. It has seen war, been featured on films and television and played host to numerous dignitaries. Tens of millions of people from every corner of the globe have taken the ride, which affords a uniquely spectacular perspective of the city.

    By 1883 Hong Kong's population had reached 173,475 with some families starting to the Peak their home. Although the Peak Hotel had opened in 1873 and was attracting an eager clientele, reaching the Peak was dependent on the use of the sedan chair for transport. In May of 1881, the enterprising Scotsman Alexander Findlay Smith devised a plan to speed the development of new residences in the hill districts with the introduction of a new tram system that would connect Murray Barracks to Victoria Gap. In 1882 approval was granted and the Hong Kong High Level Tramways Company was born. With the commencement of service on 30 May 1888, the Peak Tram became the first cable funicular in Asia, extending 1,350 metres and connecting five intermediate stations. The Peak Tram, which was operated by coal-fired steam boilers then, ended up serving 600 passengers on its first day and about 150,000 in its first year.

    In 1926, an electrically powered system replaced the coal-fired steam boilers. However, following the Japanese occupation of Kowloon on December 11, 1941, the Peak Tram engine room was damaged in an attack. On Christmas Day in 1945, the Peak Tram service resumed but part of a Japanese shell was lodged under the main base plate of the two haulage drums. A 72-seat, lightweight all-metal tramcar was introduced in 1959 before the Peak Tram began service in its present form in 1989 following a HK$60-million overhaul to upgrade it.

    From its earliest days of operation, The Peak Tram has been the focus of artists and photographers who have tried to capture its spirit while simultaneously documenting its service. From amateur shots meant to preserve a personal memory, to professionally prepared views intended for commercial sale, The Peak Tram has proven itself a particularly compelling subject. The early years of operation seem to have produced the most varied scenes, with shots taken not only at both the upper and lower stations, but also at many points along the way. These views were reproduced by a small number of Hong Kong printing companies as black and white postcards which were then hand-coloured to enhance their beauty. From all evidence they were highly popular, with elegantly handwritten notes sent around the world commenting on the remarkable views and surprisingly efficient and comfortable service.

    By the end of the Second World War, photographers seemed less enthralled with the tram as subject matter. Perhaps its novelty was wearing thin in the face of new advances in transportation, or was overshadowed by Hong Kong's rapidly changing skyline. Cards from the late 1960s and 1970s focussed more on the newly built Peak Tower and the panoramic vistas that some visitors claimed yielded views as distant as Macau.

    Throughout its long history, The Peak Tram has remained one of the most visited and photographed sights in Hong Kong by offering not only an enviable view, but also a quiet respite from the city below.

    For a fuller account of The Peak Trams History please visit my source of information. The Peak

    The best way of letting you view a large selection of photos easily is by sharing some collages.

    I hope you enjoyed the photos I selected to share here, there are more if you are interested in the album The Peak Tramway at Flickr.com

    Previous Travel Tales The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Saturday Snapshots – Olives

    The olives are looking healthy and ready for the forthcoming harvest which hopefully weather permitting we are planning for the end of next week, while my sister is staying as she has expressed an interest in helping and an extra pair of hands is always welcome.

    Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Travel Tales – Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens


    A Halloween Welcome to the Gardens!

    Travel Tales is what I have decided to call the series of posts I have planned, to share some photos from our recent travels to Asia to visit our eldest daughter. I hope those of you coming here to read about Italy will not mind too much if I diversify with these articles as it is at the request of some of my readers, that I share our experiences here. I am hoping you will enjoy them!

    The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens were one of our favourite places on our first visit to Hong Kong last year, so it was somewhere we decided to revisit very early on in our trip this time. It is such a surprising oasis of peace right in the city centre amongst all the skyscrapers. We did not spend much time there this visit as we had a couple of other destinations planned for the same day and had after all seen it all before albeit at a different time of the year. Although if I lived in Hong Kong I would certainly spend many happy hours there with my camera, there is so much to see. If you want to see more photographs of the Gardens taken last Spring you are welcome to peruse my Flickr Album  China 2010 - Hong Kong Volume 4

    The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens ( 香港動植物公園) is one of the oldest zoological and botanical centres in the world. It occupies an area of 5.6 hectares at Mid-levels, on the northern slope of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Founded in 1871, its first stage had been opened to the public in 1864. The Zoological part of the name was in fact only added in 1975 when the Gardens were renamed to reflect the increased number of zoological exhibits.

    The park was previously named Bing Tau Fa Yuen (「兵頭花園」) "Bing Tau" literally means "the head of the soldiers" or the "Commander-in-Chief". Some said it was named such way by the Chinese because it was once the private garden of the governor. Other said Bing Tau was just the phonetic transliteration of the first two syllables of the word botanical.

    At the southern entrance to the gardens, at Upper Albert Road, is a memorial arch dedicated to the Chinese who died assisting the Allies during the two World Wars. The inscription on the lintel reads: "In Memory of the Chinese who died loyal to the Allied cause in the Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945". The granite arch in the shape of a paifang was erected in 1928. Reference to the Second World War was added later.

    Memorial Arch

    By far the easiest way of letting you view a large selection of photos easily is by producing some collages, the photos can be viewed individually in larger format in my Flickr Album by those of you interested in more detail. Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens


    The photograph in the middle of this second collage is a bronze statue of King George VI which was erected in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of British colonial rule over Hong Kong (1841–1941).

    More can be learnt about The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens by visiting Wikipedia and the Official Website.

    The complete set of my photos can be viewed in the Flickr Album Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens