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10/31/2011

VOLTERRA. BETWEEN LEGEND AND REALITY

An Halloween tale.....




Volterra was originally an important Etruscan city:
the ancient Velathri.
This is a typical medieval village, surrounded by walls and characterized by the imposing Medici Fortress, an ancient prison. It’s perched atop a hill, between the Cecina and Era valleys, surrounded by the typical Tuscan countryside, among the incredible scenery of geothermal Larderello’s area, the manifestations of the geysers, the forests of the source of the river Cecina and the suggestive salt flats. 


According to the book of Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” saga, in Volterra, hidden among the peaceful local population, live the Volturi, the oldest and most powerful vampire family in the world. 




It's all made ​​up. Even the mysterious Feast of Saint Mark, who has never been the patron saint of this ancient city.

A disappointment? ... .. Not at all.

In Volterra, there really is magic and this has ancient origins (pre-Christian), in pagan cults of the goddess Diana and the Moon, in the traditional Italian witchcraft of Aradia, the queen of witches, the protagonist of a real gospel dedicated to her. 




Here is the tale hearded from an old farmer who lives in the countryside around the city.

"The pilgrim of the House of the Wind" 

There is a farmhouse at the beginning of the climb which leads to Volterra and is called “the

House of the Wind”. 
Near it once stood a small building where lived a couple of

newlyweds. They had one beloved daughter.
Gradually she grew, and the only thought of her mother, a very devout woman, was that she had to become a nun. But the girl did not like this idea, saying that she hoped to marry like all others. One day, looking out the window, heard the birds singing joyful in the trees, she told her mother that she hoped one day to have a family of her own, like those birds: a happy brood. The mother was so angry that slapped her. The little girl wept, but replied with courage, even if it had been beaten or treated badly, he would find a way to escape and get married, because she had no intention of becoming a nun. 

On hearing this the mother was frightened very much, because she knew the character of her daughter, and was feared that she already did that a scandal for the beating he received. She remembered an old lady who was known for her intelligence, her knowledge and her power of persuasion, so she thought, "This is the best person to induce my daughter to become an obedient girl, filling her head of devotions to become a nun." 
So she sent this sensible woman, who was immediately appointed as governess and companion of the girl who, instead of quarreling with her ​​guardian, loved her a lot.


In fact, the housekeeper was not Catholic and did not push the girl into a life as a nun, which moreover do not approve of.
It happened one day that the young woman thought to heard the housekeeper in the next room, whose door was open, get up and go out onto the large terrace. The next night she repeated the same thing and, standing silently without being seen, she found the old lady who prayed on their knees in the moonlight.


This behavior seemed to her very strange, especially since

the lady murmured kneeling words that the girl could not understand and that certainly not
were part of religious services.  
Having observed this strange fact several times, the girl finally apologized and shyly told her governess what she had seen. 


Then the latter, after thinking a little and tying the girl to keep the secret, because it was a matter of life or

death, the woman spoke as follows:

"When I was young, like you, I was educated by priests to worship an invisible god. But

an elderly woman, whom I trusted very much, once told me, 'Why worship a god that

you can’t see, when the moon is visible in all its glory? Love her. Invoke Diana the goddess,

the Moon, and she will answer your prayers. You will have to follow the Gospel of the Witches and Diana, who is the queen of the fairies and the Moon."


Then the young woman, convinced, converted herself to the worship of Diana and the Moon and, having prayed to find a boyfriend, was soon rewarded by the attention and devotion of a rich and brave knight, who was really more wonderful that someone suitor could wish for.



But the mother was furious, and when the gentleman appeared, she ordered him to leave the house because her daughter was destined to become a nun or die.  
So the girl was locked in a cell on top of a tower and was subjected to severe suffering. It would also die if the mother had been able to establish itself.




Then in the dire need the girl begged Diana to set her free. Suddenly she found the prison door open and was able to escape with ease. Then, having obtained a pilgrim's dress, she traveled far and wide teaching and preaching the religion of ancient times, the religion of Diana, Queen of the Fairies and the Moon, the goddess of the poor and oppressed people.


The fame of her wisdom and her beauty spread everywhere and the people worshiped calling her “The Beautiful Pilgrim”. 
The mother, hearing those words, began to hate her daughter and,
after many difficulties, managed to put her back in prison. Here again the woman asked the girl if she wanted to become a nun. 
To this question the young woman replied that it was not possible, because she had left the Catholic Church and now adored Diana and the Moon.




The mother, considering the daughter lost, handed her to the priests to be tortured and put to death, as used  to happen to the witches. 



But people did not agree, because they adored her beauty and goodness, and there were few 
who had not benefited from her charity. 



With the help of her boyfriend the Pilgrim got a last grace: the night before being tortured and

put to death, she was be able to go out with a guard in the palace garden, to pray.

She did so and, pausing at the door of a farmhouse, asked Diana to free her from

the terrible persecution to which she was subjected.
  

In the meantime, parents, priests and all those who wanted her death were in the building,

monitoring that she does not escape.




Suddenly, in response to the prayers of the girl, there started a very strong wind and broke out a terrible storm. 
 A storm that had never seen before, which destroyed the palace and carried away with all those who were inside. 
Not even stood a stone or a living soul among all those who were in it. 
The young woman fled happily with her ​​boyfriend and married him.
The farmhouse where the girl had stopped to pray still exists and is called by all "the House of the Wind." 

The original "House of the Wind"



[From “The Gospel of the Witches” - CG Leland]

Well, Volterra is not the city of Volturi vampires, but the place of Aradia and her good witches. 



PAPPA AL POMODORO
TOMATO SOUP

 Serves 4



Ingredients

stale bread: gr. 300
ripe tomatoes or "peeled" gr. 500
two cloves of garlic
basil
a liter of broth
olive oil
salt
chilli



Preparation:

In a large pot saute the garlic cut into large pieces along with plenty of oil.

When the garlic turns golden add the chopped tomatoes, basil and red pepper.

Add salt and cook for a quarter of an hour.

Pour the hot broth, and when everything starts to boil, add the bread cut into thin slices, which have already removed the crust.

Cook another ten minutes, stirring frequently, be careful it does not stick. Then turn off the heat, leaving the rest with tomato soup.

After about an hour mix well and heat for a while '.

Serve the soup hot or warm with a little 'of olive oil.


HAPPY HALLOWEEN

10/21/2011

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Agrigento, Valley of Temples by night...

10/16/2011

MATERA. STONES, CAVES AND WIDE OPEN SPACES

Matera, world heritage by UNESCO since 1993, in the sixth century BC, was the hinterland of the great cities of Magna Graecia.
Its original nucleus, called Civita, is at the heart of the Sassi, where today stands the cathedral of the XIII century.

In Roman times the Civitas was fortified by huge walls, below which there were large open spaces, characterized by many caves and large boulders, so the two old districts were named Sassi (Stones).

During the Roman period were built here some "rural houses" that over time, especially during the Middle Ages, were expanded binding themselves to Civitas, creating two districts: the "Sasso Caveoso" and the "Sasso Barisano."




With the city built has always been a Matera dug in caves, a striking and surprising place.

The period in which the activities in the rock caves had a great vitality started from the seventh century AD and sees the massive presence of the Benedictine and Greek Byzantine monastic communities. Greek Byzantine monks took from their places of origin (Cappadocia, Anatolia, Armenia, etc.) their knowledge of living in the cave, which has been merged with the skills of local people in the excavation of tuff.



This way are made the chapels, churches, convents, all excavated in the rock.
The inhabitants of the Stones (the two ancient neighbourhoods), until the economic conditions were favorable, they built "above ground", using the caves as storehouses, cellars and stables.

In 1663 Matera, from Otranto Lands to which he belonged, was inserted in the province of Basilicata and became the capital until 1806, when it has been stripped of power.

This was the most prosperous period of the city.


From the first decade of 1800 until 1952, the city has gone through a period of decline, both for the many crises of the agricultural economy and the loss of its political and administrative role. 



Poverty was severe enough to push the poorest citizens to live in caves, equipped to accommodate both people and animals.



 
This miserable way of life survived until 1952 when, with the first of the special laws on the Stones wanted by Alcide De Gasperi (an important Italian politician), has initiated the transfer of over 15,000 people into new districts, purpose-built in the modern city.


 
The cave dwelling of Vico Solitario, not to forget the past



Near Piazza San Pietro Caveoso, we find one of the most spectacular ancient city ways, named Vico Solitario, where is a striking Cave House, now become a city museum, that represents the only opportunity to realize what was the daily life of poor families in the houses of Matera dug the Sasso Caveoso district.



A large rock cavity is framed by the arch of the entrance to the Cave House, the only thing built that relies on the cave, in which the home was obtained. The latest amendments to the prospectus is dated back to 1700.
In the only room, partly excavated and partly built, just the furnishings create a division of the virtual space.
We can imagine a poor and simple life style, including a miserable stove in a corner and, at the center of the house, a small table with a single plate, from which all used to ate. 
The bed consisted of two iron trestles, which rested on planks of wood and and a mattress stuffed with corn leaves (very high, to save the mattress from the  damp floor and to use the space below, usually home to a hen with chicks and place where to keep several things). Opposite the bed, between the rock walls,  was the stable with the manger which housed the mule. In addition there was a small partition, with the other stable, where are still visible a manger, the quarry of tufa, from which were obtained blocks of tufa, and a circular cavity used as a manure pit or storage area for the straw.


There was also a rainwater collection system. Clearly visible are the channel and the tank in which rain water was piped from outside the dwelling.


Near the house there are also an ancient cave neviera (here the snow, in Italy called neve, was collected and used for food storage), a natural cave and a rock church 
dating back to the IX - X century AD




How Pettole were born.

A woman had prepared the dough for the bread and began to rise, when it was called by a neighbor. The two began to chat amiably. They were not seen eachother for several days and had many things to tell. The woman was taken in his speeches, forgiving that he had made ​​the dough rise for bread. She remembered this too late: the dough, yeast too, was no longer good for bread. It had to be thrown away. The poor woman, sorry for the trouble, had not the courage to waste all that dough. Then she thought to do an experiment: she tried to fry the dough in the form of chopped donuts. The result was surprising: tasty donuts. Thus were born, by a woman mistake, the "pettole" of Matera, then they spread throughout the region.
There are two versions of pettole: the savory, which can contains tasty ingredients in the dough (black olives or broccoli or tomatoes, peppers, etc.) and the sweet version, which can be enriched in different ways depending on various traditions.



SWEET PETTOLE
Ingredients:

(Serves 6)

For the dough

 600 g. flour, 30 g.  of bread yeast, a pinch of salt

For the filling:
400 g. ricotta cheese, 150 g of sugar, a pinch of ground cinnamon, grated rind of half a lemon.

To decorate:
Powdered sugar, melted honey, oil for frying.

Preparation:
Dissolve yeast in warm water.
Mix flour with yeast, salt and warm water until the dough is soft but consistent.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rise for an hour.

In a bowl, the ricotta cheese with cinnamon, sugar, grated lemon zest, to make a paste.
Heat plenty of oil in a pan rests.

Create cavities in pieces of dough, fill with ricotta and close them.
Fry the
pettole.
Drain  pettole from oil and garnish them with melted honey or powdered sugar.