Sunday, July 30, 2017

This blog has now closed

This blog has now officially closed. It's been an interesting ten years.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Paolo Villaggio has died

The enormously popular Italian comedy actor Paolo Villaggio has died at the age of 84. He was part of the large number of gifted comedians who played clueless, hapless characters but who were actually far from it in real life.

What made him so famous back in the day was his persona as the oppressed little guy, a clerk or other employee who was unlucky both on the job and at home. Here he is as Fantozzi, his most famous role. He has missed the bus (literally) and is terrified of the possibility of being late for work. Watch the whole thing, it's worth it. For other videos, go to YouTube and search under Fantozzi.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Frugal pasta recipes from the New York Times

The New York Times has a good compendium of pasta recipes that they say are frugal, although the asparagus pesto (love it) may not be too thrifty. They feature a lot of the ingredients I love, like lemon, anchovies and cauliflower. Definitely check it out.

In a separate article, the Times also provides some eggplant recipes from Sicily, where eggplants are big (as they should be). You'll find them here.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Italian proverbs: chi puo' non vo

This isn't actually a proverb, but a proverb-like saying found on a building in lovely Ascoli Piceno in north-central Italy (see below), in the Marche region of Italy. Ascoli is well worth visiting. While there, don't miss the local specialty of olive ascolane, scrumptious local stuffed olives.

As I was saying before my attention was waylaid by considerations of food (happens all the time). In Ascoli they have a number of sayings sculpted on the front of buildings. Here is a pithy statement from 1529 on why life is not all it could be:

Chi po non vo/chi vo non po/chi sa non fa/chi fa non sa/et cosi' il mondo mal va.

In modern Italian:

Chi puo' non vuole/chi vuole non puo'/chi sa non fa/chi fa non sa/e cosi' il mondo male va.

In English:

He who can doesn't want to/he who wants to can't/he who knows doesn't do/he who does doesn't know/ and this is how the world goes badly.

This is actually pretty deep when you think about it. And on this cheerful note, I wish you a happy Fourth.

Friday, June 23, 2017

New York Times article on historic Italian libraries

Here is an unusually good article on historic Italian libraries, published recently in the New York Times. It has to do with ancient libraries seen from the perspective of the tourist (albeit cultivated) and not the scholar. As shown in the piece, these libraries are not just about books and manuscripts but also about beautiful art and architecture.

Despite being a trained librarian and mega book lover, I myself neglected this aspect in my twenty years in Italy. I passed by the Marciana in Venice many times and never went in. This is mostly due to the forbidding nature of many of these places, which are carefully guarded and not tourist-friendly. Which is understandable, to a certain extent.

If you go, make sure to prepare beforehand and confirm rules for access.