Posted by: Rachel | November 16, 2013

how to learn Italian (part 1)

I guess I should just plan on taking most of October and November off from blogging every year and stop feeling guilty about it. As soon as the weather starts to cool off here I become far more interested in getting back out into my yard than doing most anything else! And, this year I took a trip as well.

I went to Puglia.

Puglia is the “heel of the boot” that is Italy. The part I saw was full of olive groves (and yes, it was harvest season!) and occasional vinyards, coastal for the most part, and relatively flat which was good as it was a bicycle tour!

I love bike touring. This is the second bike touring trip I’ve done (remember Bruges to Amsterdam a couple of years ago?) and, for me, the pace is the thing. Walking tours are fine, but too slow – a corn field can eat up a morning. Bus tours are easy and pleasant but too fast – there’s a “what was that we just passed??” feeling much of the time.DSCN0033

So, I was lucky enough to take this bicycle trip. I went with friends. We decided to go a few days early since getting off a plane and on a bike isn’t easy without a few days to acclimate. That’s how we came to spend a few days in Matera. I read about it and it sounded beautiful if a bit rugged. It was both…

I’m going relive the trip a bit with you, so today we’re starting and stopping in Matera. Here’s what I can tell you. I have been lucky enough to travel a bit and I have been to some places that ooze old: Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, Pech Merle, and Pompeii, but those places are more like living museums than actual inhabited living places.

Matera is very much alive, and has been for hundreds of centuries, 10,000 (yes ten thousand) years or more. Almost impossible to wrap one’s head around! But from the “new” town you can see across the gorge to the original caves that were settled back then, and you can see how they have been used, reused, and are still being used today.

But I’m not here to give you a history lesson. I’m here to tell you that I had some truly amazing food! You know me, I think, so you know that I’m a pretty easy eater. No allergies (lucky) and no real dislikes. You probably also know that I like to try new things, especially when traveling.IMG_9464

The very first day we found a café that made such good panini that I ate three of the same kind in two days. Mmmmmm… speck, arugula, tomatoes, and burrata, which is the “ship in a bottle” of cheeses. Mmmm… put it all together, then grill it just a little. Words fail.

Oh and I went to the market. I love to visit the outdoor markets most anywhere I am and this one did not disappoint in the least. My only regret was that I had no kitchen! Ah well…part of the market

At first we couldn’t find the market. It is tucked away on three quiet side streets off one of the main squares, and we knew we were close but we figured we’d best inquire.

The two gentlemen we asked looked at each other, then (I can understand some Italian even if I can’t speak it) one said to the other “you take them”. He walked us all the way and seemed loathe to leave us! That’s how it was the entire trip; people were incredibly patient and kind, and went out of their way to be helpful!recipe text handwritten

One more story and I’m done for this post. At the market we saw some greens in a box and we were musing (in English) about what they might be (I’m pretty sure it was young cardoons).

A woman came up to us and explained (in Italian) what it was, then proceeded to explain (in Italian) how you use it in soup. In case we didn’t understand, she offered to write it all down for us. And, once she understood that we didn’t have a kitchen at hand she offered to cook it for us! Astonishing…

I could go on and on about the marching band, the lunch in the park, the hot chocolate as well as the coffee, but I gotta go take a nap. More soon again, my friends!



  1. This is what travelling should always be like – sounds like a wonderful trip!

  2. Delightful, will eagerly await part II.

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