Sunday, 5 April 2020

Recipes for a tasty Easter break plus yeast tip

Despite shortage of supplies because of the panic-buying caused by coronavirus emergency, I managed to find some products at the supermarket that prompted new recipes. Eggs and flours were out of stock for a while, as well as toilet paper, but I had some limited stock at home so I could have fun and mess about in the kitchen as usual. Yeast was a problem at a certain point but my mother in law told me to use a tbsp. of lemon juice and a tea spoon of bicarbonate of soda instead of dried yeast to make pizza. The result is not exactly the same but good enough.


I experimented with Morello cherries and coconut flour making cakes, biscuits and panna cotta. Here are the recipes:

Morello cherries biscuits

You need: 250 g of self-raising flour, four tbsp. of canola oil or sunflower oil, 100 g of golden caster sugar or Demerara, 50 g of morello cherries, one egg.


Soak the cherries in some liquor mixed with water. Beat the egg with sugar then add the flour and canola oil. Finally add the cherries plus part of the liquor. Let the dough rest for half an hour then roll it out. Cut the biscuits with a biscuit cutter (I used biscuit cutters inspired by Easter shapes) and place them on a greased tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180° C. if you wish you can decorate the biscuits with melted chocolate, icing sugar and coloured sprinkles to make them look spring-like.

Panna cotta with morello cherries

You need: 500 ml of double cream, 250 ml of milk, 150 g of sugar, 50 g of morello cherries, one sachet of vanillina or some drops of vanilla essence, 13 g of gelatine leaves.


Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water and the morello cherries in liquor mixed with water. Cook the cream plus milk, sugar and vanillina on the hob until it boils. Remove it from the hob, squeeze the gelatine leaves and add them to the cream mixture and blend it in a blender. Finally add the morello cherries and pour the mixture in a slightly greased Tupperware container. Chill it for three hours at least before serving.

Donut cake with morello cherries

You need: 100 g of rice flour, 150 g of sponge self-raising flour, two eggs, 80 g of melted butter, two tsp. of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 80 g of morello cherries, 130 g of golden caster sugar; to decorate: strawberry white chocolate and sugar flowers.


Beat the yolks with the sugar, add the flour, the melted butter, the baking powder plus bicarbonate of soda and the cherries with the liquor. Whip the whites stiff and add them to the mixture as well. Pour the mixture in a greased donut tin cake and bake for half an hour-45 minutes, or until it is ready, at 180° C. When it cools, microwave the white chocolate and spread it on the top then decorate with sugar flowers.

Coconut cake

You need: you need: 150 g of coconut flour, 200 g of sponge self-raising flour, two tsp of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, four tbsp. of canola oil or sunflower oil, three eggs, 150 g of icing sugar, 80 g of glacé ginger, 200 ml of coconut milk; to decorate: apricot glaze, coconut flakes, sprinkles.


Mix the yolks with the sugar, add the flours and the oil, plus the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda. Then add the glacé ginger and the coconut milk. Pour the mixture in a greased tin cake and bake for half an hour-45 minutes, or until it is ready, at 180° C. When it cools, spread some apricot glaze on top and sprinkle with coconut flakes and coloured sprinkles. A perfect Easter treat!


Sunday, 15 March 2020

Coronavirus outbreak

Keeping busy: reviews and workshops

The development of Covid-19 in the past few weeks worried me because of my family in Rome. Luckily my mum is fine and my sister too. They stay at home as schools and shops are closed except for supermarkets and pharmacies. They are following all the rules the Italian government has recommended. I contact them through WhatsApp and Facebook every two days. My mum is lively as usual. Speaking of coronavirus regulations, she mentioned Mussolini’s motto, obbedire, credere e combattere (obey, believe and fight), with a belligerent stare. I had a good laugh as it sounds quite exaggerated and funny in coronavirus context. My sister is all right. Her school is closed and she is teaching distance learning at the moment. Her husband works in a hospital and is in contact with people infected but they have strict measures to follow and protect themselves from the virus. I cancelled my holiday in Italy during the Easter break and am planning to visit Italy but not before the summer. It will be hard not to see my family until July or August but the emergency is too serious, hopefully it will pass.


Despite this, the poetry environment I regularly attend in Woking area is very busy, though a bit affected by the pandemic. There are monthly readings at The Lightbox the last Thursday of the month and at The Keep in Guildford the first Monday, plus occasional readings and showcases at the Poetry Café in London and at Cranleigh Arts Centre. Then there is the Stanza group at the Maybury centre on the third Tuesday and the Woking Writers Circle meeting on the Third Thursday. I try to attend every event but sometimes other things overlap and I feel so tired in the evening that I prefer to stay at home. Attending poetry readings fuels my writing as I cannot always read the same poems so I need to write new ones. At a reading, Dónall Dempsey gave me an exercise book some time ago; it belonged to his sister. It is called Aisling, visions in Irish, and it is inspiring me to write with its turquoise cover spotted with bright leaves and the ruled pages.  At the moment I am mainly writing about cooking connecting it with family relationships and states of mind. I also published a few poems here:



My proposal on The Testaments by Margaret Atwood has been accepted at the conference organised by Accute in London, Ontario. I will attend the conference and present my paper in June, exciting! For the occasion, I decided to spend the whole month of June in Canada. I am planning my journey which will be focused on my research on Atwood’s work but will also give me the opportunity to have a holiday and see my Canadian friends again. I am planning to stay in Toronto for two weeks and study at the university libraries. I will also meet some Atwood scholars at the Department of English Literature at the University of Toronto. After Toronto, I would like to go to British Columbia and will probably meet my friends Pam and Crystal who live in the west. It will be a stimulating experience that will add material to my thesis and to my life journey.

The PhD research is going well. I have four chapters now and am going to complete the fifth chapter soon. I have also part of the introduction done. The maximum word count is ninety thousand words plus or minus 10% leeway. I have about seventy thousand words at the moment, so I think I only need one more chapter to write and complete the introduction plus conclusion. I believe that I will have a good draft by the end of summer. I should end by 2020 or the beginning of 2021.
 
Family things are going well too. My daughter Valentina is moving to Surrey at the end of March. My other daughter has just graduated at Bunka Gakuen University in Tokyo, an exciting experience that gave me the occasion to re-visit Japan. my youngest son is getting ready to spend three months in Nepal with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and my oldest one, who just came to Tokyo as well, is having his good time with his wife in Leeds. Luigi and I stick to our routines and have a bit of fun from time to time visiting museums and exhibitions and going to Southbank concerts. Here are some exhibitions I visited and reviewed:





I also reviewed a few books and wrote some articles, here are the links:




Richard Hawtree, The night I spoke Irish in Surrey: https://londongrip.co.uk/2020/01/london-grip-poetry-review-richard-hawtree/



My review on The blue boob club by Daphne Milne will be published on South 61.

I am busy knitting long long scarves for my daughters and my daughter in law with a nice soft wool I found at Hobby & Craft’s shop. I am also making bags with fabric and crocheted purses to sell at fairs (http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/?Readings_%26amp%3B_Fairs ) and I am working on new
paintings for spring exhibitions. I gave up embroidering poems at the moment but would like to go back to it as I started a new one some time ago with the famous phrase from The Handmaid’s Tale: Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum (Don't let the bastards grind you down), in red on a white cloth. I am currently working on a round shaped canvas depicting a painting that combines mandala motif with red autumn leaves. I chose acrylics for the final pieces but I am still working on several drawings using mixed media to find the right composition and colours. The piece will be a mixture of abstract and figurative painting and should convey engagement to a centre in both a loose and controlled way. Maybe too many ideas to fit in one painting.


My Canadian interests brought me to read more books on Canadian culture and literature. Besides Atwood’s work. I am reading Indigenous literature such as the book by Kaitlyn Purcell I reviewed for The Temz Review, an online magazine in Ottawa (https://www.thetemzreview.com/scarano-dantonio-purcell.html ), and the amazing novel Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. It is the story on an Indigenous boy brought up in a farm by a foster parent he calls old man. The boy feels the land around him as if it is alive. He knows how to hunt and survive in the wilderness merging with the environment. His biological father, on the other hand, though brave and passionate with adventure, is ruined by alcohol and debauched life. Cultural and physical deprivations mark deeply the father’s life in contrast with the son’s dignity expressed in his simple life despite his young age. The boy wishes to take care of his father in his final days though the father never took care of him. In the novel, the presence of the woods, the land and the animals strikingly combines with humans in a harmony that is not necessarily peaceful but it shows the acceptance of both life and death, fight and surrendering. The tone is factual at times, especially in dialogues and in the descriptions of the work at the farm, and lyrical as well, poetic in some parts. A sense of profound empathy with nature develops throughout the novel; this shapes the Indigenous identity and fosters their dignity whose source is in their own land.

A different novel is Fools Crow by James Welch. It recalls the world of Plains Indians’ life before they were almost wiped off by the diseases brought by Europeans and the slaughtering carried out by the American army.  The attempt to maintain the memory of how this world was and why it is still so relevant for the Indians’ identity is at the core of the story. They show a very different mentality compared to the aggressive and exploiting-targeted western view. The land, intended as plants, animals, rocks and whatever is part of it, is at one with humans, according to the Natives. The land cannot be dominated but acknowledged and understood. Indians are sort of protoenviromentalists and their point of view, which colonisers thought was naïve, is now revealed as visionary in today’s global scenario. The Indians rituals, beliefs and hunting practices are evoked and described in the novel, an epic of a past world that faded and needs to be remembered in storytelling, that is, in language, to maintain its power and ensure identity. The story is centred on the rise of White Man’s Dog who steals horses at first, then becomes a warrior renamed Fools Crow, as he fooled the Crow chief making him believe he was dead then he killed him. The stories are about war, love, revenge and survival. They form the legacy of the Indigenous peoples and testify to their resilience.


Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga is a reportage of true stories that happened between 2000 and 2011 in Thunder Bay (Ontario) where seven Indigenous students went missing and were eventually found dead. They lived in a residential school far away from home and suffered persistent casual racism and deprivation that brought to their deaths. The government seemed absent or complicit in its indifference. The white western culture and the Indigenous people are depicted as distant one from the other. This unrelenting attack to Indigenous lives and culture, which started with the arrival of the first European settlers in North America in 17th century, is considered a cultural genocide. It was a real persecution to prevent transmission of Indigenous identity and values. The White Man annihilated them culturally as he could not destroy them completely physically. In Talaga’s work, testimonies mix with dreams, prayers and accusations. She reports that the abuses of residential school (a story that seemed to belong to the 19th century) lasted until the 1960s and the last school was shut down in 1996. Suicides due to deprivation and abuse are still common in Indigenous communities. Young people disappear, especially girls. Five of the seven students’ bodies, the ‘seven fallen feathers’, were recovered in a river. Talaga remarks that:

Indigenous communities continue to lack the basic necessities of life, including clean water, safe housing, working fire trucks, basic health care, and access to education.

The inquest for the seven deaths began in October 2015 and ended in June 2016 but, according to the author, the families did not have any explanation about their children’s death. The jury said that four of the seven deaths were ‘undetermined’ and the other three were killed but they did not know exactly what happened. It seems that Indigenous people are considered second class victims for the police; so, the Indigenous peoples of Thunder Bay often use social network, such as Facebook and Twitter to spread stories of assaults. However, the author mentions some improvements, such as more control due to the installation of CCTV cameras and more funds have been assigned to the high education of the area.

Enthralling readings I enjoyed thoroughly.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Spring is on the way

I was very happy to go back home after my Christmas holidays in Italy. I had had my break and a good time with friends and family. I was ready to return to my routines and relax for a few days before starting to work again on my thesis and at UCA Farnham. As soon as I arrived home, I unpacked the luggage, did some laundry and reorganised my book shelves, reviewed files, blog posts and knitting work. Cleaning my Fiat 500 was also a priority, and hard work, as it was in miserable conditions probably due to my travelling around Surrey. I caught up with emails and did the supermarket shop as well. I found some cranberries and Seville oranges at the greengrocer’s so I experimented a new cake and made marmalade (recipes here below).

I soon went back to my studies focusing on my thesis and on two presentations I delivered at the end of January. One was at the University of Reading on the Edible woman, Reshaping the body: symbolic anorexia in The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, for the Gender and Sexuality Research Network’s Seminar Series; the other one was at the Centre for Myth Studies at the University of Essex on Intertextual references and myths in The Handmaid’s Tale

(https://essexmyth.wordpress.com/2020/01/26/intertextual-myths-handmaids-tale/ ). They were both enthralling experiences with riveting discussions at the end of the sessions that gave me new ideas for my thesis. My article on cannibalism in The Edible Woman was published on the review Exchanges (University of Warwick) in January as well, here is the link: https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/article/view/446


We managed to see the pantomime too at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking as soon as we came back from Italy. It was performed according to the best tradition with the ventriloquist, the twelve days of Christmas and the five toilet rolls tossed here and there, usually among the audience, a man
dressed in woman’s clothes (Aladdin’s mother) and Strictly Come Dancing dancer, Brendan Cole. Bobby Davro was amazing; he imitated the voices of celebrities and politicians, including President Trump, and though there were a few weird jokes, it was great fun. I love the way the audience is involved in pantos, it is pure entertainment as it should be, and according to Brendan Cole, Strictly is a panto too. At the end of the story there was a final twist when Aladdin was knocked out by the sorcerer and Jasmine took his place fighting against the villain and winning. Fantastic!

With the new year, I realised that my hair has definitely changed and my body has changed too. I don’t know how, but my hair has become curlier, almost crispy. I thought it was the shampoo or the fact that I go swimming once or twice a week. I changed shampoo and used more conditioner and hair oil but there was no change. Then I thought it was the English weather, particularly humid this year, but when I went to Rome for Christmas for two weeks my hair kept the same shape, only the
hairdresser managed to straighten it. My hair has never been like spaghetti but it was far straighter just a year ago, and I have photos to prove it. Maybe it is that it became thinner with aging. It does not look so bad after all and it fits my face that has become larger; it seems as if I got a perm.

My body has changed too. I get tired more easily and if I want to keep active, I have to balance my activities. Therefore, I do my ‘intellectual work’ in the morning (PhD work and writing) or early afternoon leaving house chores, crafty stuff, knitting and crochet for the late afternoon and evening. Reading, creative writing and reviewing are my happy breaks. My legs and arms are still thin but my waistline has become suddenly larger and though I exercise it doesn’t seem to go back to how it used to be. Finally, my back aches and I have to rest or do some exercises the physiotherapist recommended to ease it. It is not a nightmare but I need to adapt my lifestyle to my new conditions.

I take breaks from time to time from my studies to recharge my brain and also to go back to my thesis with fresh eyes. Starting a new creative project always helps me. Bags, scarves, a new Halloween dress for my daughter Valentina, or granny squares, give me a relaxing interval and fuel my creative side. I work as well as an academic mentor at UCA Farnham, that is, I support students in their research and in delivering their work on time. It is a rewarding job that gives me money and also keeps me in contact with the academic world and with university students.

Lately, I started to draw and paint again attending Chobham art group and Woking Art Society’s meetings and workshops. I have worked with all kinds of media in the past since I was a teenager, from tempera to oil, acrylics, watercolours and mixed media. Since I came to England, I especially developed watercolours and mixed media, which I love, using intriguing new products and techniques. It is a rewarding and relaxing activity that also gives me the opportunity to meet people that share my same interests, but it is a commitment as well that needs focus and dedication on a certain project you decide to carry out. For me at the moment it is mainly drawing and painting leaves and flowers though in the past I also painted shells, stones, still life and landscapes. There will be opportunities for exhibitions in Woking and in Surrey area in spring and summer and I hope I will have enough good pieces to display.


In line with my artwork, I am also planning to take part in art and craft fairs to fund my summer journey to Canada and my son’s fundraising for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). He will sell his origami and artwork and I will sell my jewellery, handmade clothes and bags, scarves, knitting and crochet stuff, as well as my artwork. Here are the fairs I am going to attend:

Friday 28th February: Kenley Market, Kenley Memorial Hall, Kenley CR8 5AB, from 8 until 12.

Friday 20th March: Kenley Market, Kenley Memorial Hall, Kenley CR8 5AB, from 8 until 12.

Saturday 25th April: Guildford Guildhall, Guildford GU1 3AA, from 10 until 5.

Saturday 2nd May: Cranleigh Village Hall, Cranleigh GU68AF, from 10 until 4.

You can also find all the information on my website here: http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/?Readings_%26amp%3B_Fairs

At half term we celebrated my husband and my daughter Valentina’s birthdays. We travelled north where Vale lives, met my eldest son and daughter in law in Leeds and had a cosy party with Valentina in Fullerton. It was great fun. We had prepared a Futurama theme party with pictures of the purple haired Leela and clothes for Vale with Leela printed on. She loved it. She showed off all the clothes and stuck Leela’s pictures on walls and windows. She also drew Lela again and again on a roll of paper and watched Futurama videos. The social services told us they will move Vale south at the end of March in the Redhill area as she is an adult now (she is twenty) and cannot stay in Fullerton any longer. We are happy about the move as she will be nearer to us, about an hour drive, so we can see her more often and spend more time with her.



In Leeds we went to a new pizzeria, Livin’Italy (https://livinitaly.com/ ), an exciting place. We had intriguing cocktails, such as Italian Stallion, Sbagliato, Sardinian Millionaire and Eager Porno Star Martini, and excellent huge pizzas (20”) we shared, and finally delicious artisanal gelato (ice cream). A cool place with superlative food.
 

The weather has been very windy and rainy this year but daffodils and crocuses are poking out as ever and some trees have white and pink flowers defying the gale. The risk of coronavirus lingers which seems worrying (we have planned a trip to Tokyo to see my daughter’s MA graduation at Bunka Gakuen University) but let’s hope that all will end well and spring will come at last with mild sunshine and new treats for this challenging year.



And here are the recipes:

Cranberry cake

You need: 250 g of white flour, 100 g of sugar, 2 tbsp. of cranberry sauce, 80 g of melted butter, 2 tsp of baking powder, 2 eggs, 50 g of dark chocolate chips; to decorate: cranberry sauce and 100 g of melted dark chocolate.


To prepare the cranberry sauce you need to boil the cranberries with some water, Demerara sugar and a stick of cinnamon. For the cake, beat the eggs and the sugar, add all the other ingredients and bake for half and hour-45 minutes at 180°C. When it cools, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave and pour it on top, then add one or two tbsp. of cranberry sauce.

Marmalade

You need: 1 ½ kilo of Seville oranges, 1 kilo of sugar.

Boil the oranges for one hour. Keep half of the water. Peel and scoop the pulp of the orange removing the pith and pips. Chop half of the peels then simmer the pulp, peels and water for 1-2 hours or until it is ready.


Superb!

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Recipes from Rome


I experimented new recipes with my mum in Rome as usual. They were for the Christmas festivities but are good all-over winter time. Here they are:

Cake with ginger and dark chocolate

You need: 300 g of flour, two eggs, 100 g of Demerara sugar, 100 g of melted butter, one and a half tsp pf baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, one tbsp. of ground ginger, 200 g of yogurt or four tbsp. of milk. To decorate: 100 g of dark chocolate, 75%, the peel of an orange, half a tsp of ground ginger and one tsp of Demerara sugar.


Warm the butter with the Demerara sugar and the ginger. Beat the eggs and add all the other ingredients together with the butter and ginger mixture. Stir until you obtain a smooth mixture. Pour the mixture in a greased round tin cake and bake at 180℃  for half an hour or until ready. Let it cool and prepare the decoration melting the chocolate with 10 g of butted and a tbsp. of milk. Cover the cake with the chocolate mixture and let it cool. Cut the peel of the orange in small pieces and boil it with two tbsp. of water, the ground ginger plus Demerara sugar. Let it boil for 10-15 minutes then decorate the top of the cake with the orange pieces and pour some of the water on the cake.

Small panettone

You need: 400 g of flour, two egg yolks, 50 g of raisins, 50 g of mixed peel, the zest of an orange, 50 g of melted butter, 50 g of sugar, 12 g of dry yeast, a pinch of salt.


Soak the raisins in warm water and some drops of liquor (optional). Beat the eggs with the sugar, add the melted butter and the rest of the ingredients. Add the raisins and the warm water as well. Knead the dough and cover it with a wet tea towel. Let it rest in a warm place for two hours.  Knead the dough again, divide it in small portions and place them in paper cases. Cover the cases with film and let it rest in a warm place for an hour. Bake at 180℃ for half an hour or till ready. Dust with icing sugar to finish.


Special carbonara

For four people you need: 400 g of fresh egg tagliolini, 100 g of prosciutto, 30 g of butter, four tbsp. of parmigiano, 150 g of double cream, black pepper, four eggs, some gin or cognac.


Cut the prosciutto in pieces and sauté it in a frying pan with the butter. Add the double cream and the liquor, let it simmer for a few minutes. In a bowl beat the eggs with the parmigiano and pepper. Cook the tagliolini in salted water. Drain them when ready keeping some of the water. Pour the pasta in the frying pan and add the beaten eggs and some of the water. Stir and mix the tagliolini until the eggs are cooked and serve with extra black pepper and parmigiano.

Spaghetti alla bottarga

A friend of mine, who is originally from Sardinia, prepared a special treat for me and my mum when we visited her. It is a simple delicious recipe with a Sardinian ingredient: bottarga di mugine, that is, the eggs of grey mullet.


For four people you need: 20 g of bottarga di mugine, three pieces of garlic cloves peeled and chopped, extra virgin olive oil, 300 g of spaghetti, fresh parsley.

Cut the parsley thinly, warm the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes without burning it. Add 15 g of bottarga, stir and turn off the heat. Cook the spaghetti in salty water and drain them. Add the bottarga sauce, the rest of the bottarga and the parsley. Serve warm with more fresh parsley on top.

My Sardinian friend also prepared special raw artichokes cut in pieces and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, bottarga and shaves of parmigiano, it was delicious!

Some treats from Moldavia

My mum’s carer, Tania, is from Moldavia. She prepared a treat for us that they always make in Moldavia for festivities. We call it insalata russa (coleslaw or egg salad), Olivie in Moldavian. To have a successful dish, the secret is in balancing the doses of the different ingredients. She also brought a cockerel that we boiled to make chicken broth for our evening soup adding pastina (little pasta in the shape of stars or small squares).


Olivie (coleslaw or egg salad)

You need: three potatoes, three carrots, six small pickled cucumbers, four hard boiled eggs, one pepper, half of a chicken breast or some salami, salt, pepper and mayonnaise.

Boil all the ingredients except the pepper, salami and pickles. Cut all the ingredients in cubes and mix them. Add salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Mix well and chill for one hour before serving.

Brodo di gallo

Cook the cockerel in water with one peeled onion, a potato, a carrot, a stalk of celery and a tomato. Add salt and let it simmer for one-two hours. Cook the pastina in the broth and serve warm with parmigiano.

Enjoy!


Friday, 31 January 2020

Amazing Naples

I spent one day in Naples with my husband, my parents in law and one of my boys. The trip is only one hour by train from Rome, very comfortable with Frecciarossa and Italo. It was a warm sunny day; Naples’ recently renovated railway station is modern, clean and welcoming, included the toilets, though a bit expensive (€ 1). The underground was spotless and looked new as well. The National Archaeological Museum was efficiently organised, though I found the captions a bit cryptic sometimes.

Visiting Naples was riveting and fascinating. The city has so many faces, all interesting, revealing cultural, artistic and social diversity that have been layered throughout centuries, as Pino Daniele brilliantly sings: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/napule-%C3%A8-naples.html. This is well explained in the Museum with artefacts that date from the 4th century BC. Unique Attic black amphorae illustrating Greek myths, helmets and gold jewels from Magna Graecia time were on display as well as Roman statues, some of them copies of Greek originals. There were statues and bronzes rescued from the sea near the blue grotto of Anacapri and at Punta Licosa. At the entrance hall a beautiful Neapolitan Presepe welcomes the visitor. It is circular showing the activities and products of the region with the nativity on top. The Presepe in Neapolitan tradition not only represents the nativity, it reveals an identity that mingles culture, art, religion, agricultural production and food of the region. It is an artistic expression appreciated by all social classes from aristocracy to ordinary people.


One of the most interesting pieces was Atlante Farnese, a copy from a Greek original, who holds the earth on his back, one of the most ancient representations of the earth and sky with the constellations in relief. Among statues of Venus Kallipygos or Callypige, Hera, Ercules and busts of emperors there was the exhibition of contemporary sculptures in metal work by Riccardo Dalisi. He is an artist born in Potenza in 1931 who worked both at the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Naples and with young people at the rough Rione Sanitá in Naples. His approach aims to establish a dialogue between design, sculpture, craftmanship and painting. It is a very creative work, surprising, unconventional, commenting in an ironic way to the apparently serious Roman statues. It offers a captivating comparison with the past and a possible reflection to the viewer between past and present.


The museum also displays Roman paintings that reveal an incredible modernity in the movement of the figures, draping and the use of perspective. The legacy of still life paintings from 17th century on to Roman paintings is clear, though the arrangement of the objects is still embryonic in the ancient works. Mosaics from the Casa del Fauno in Pompei and the famous ‘Battle of Alexander’ (2nd century BC) were on display as well. This is another clear source of inspiration for many paintings of battles, such as Paolo Uccello’s battles, just to give an example. They are impressive unique works I was happy I could admire.

After the museum we had lunch at Lombardi pizzeria with a delicious pizza margherita and fantastic desserts: babá (rum baba), cassata siciliana and a special cassata covered with dark chocolate. They were extraordinarily delicious. I also bought some Neapolitan sfogliatelle and cannoli for my mum at pasticceria Rescigno, then we entered Naples’ old alleys to reach Chapel San Severo and Pio Monte della Misericordia.


Walking through the ancient alleys I could glimpse what Naples is. Cobbled streets not exactly clean, with heaps of rubbish here and there and occasional cigarette butts or cans. Some buildings are dilapidated and laundry is hanging from windows and balconies. There are graffiti everywhere,
scratched facades then suddenly a medieval tower, a baroque church, the statue of a saint on a Roman pillar looking at the sky, or the entrance to the exhibition of Andy Warhol. The streets were crowded with shops and stalls selling pizza a portafoglio (‘wallet’ pizza), garlic and pepperoncino and dried tomatoes, fish, roasted chestnuts, mostaccioli and scaccia guai (talismans). It was enthralling; a sense of authentic carelessness, spontaneity and diversity that impressed me. I think that there isn’t any other place like Naples in Italy, and I hope it will be maintained as it is without renovating the buildings or tidying up the streets. People are very warm; you can start chatting with everybody not just about the weather but on any subject you have in mind. I loved it.
 
We also visited the Chapel San Severo and admired the masterpiece of the famous Veiled Christ (1753) by Giuseppe Sanmartino, a marble sculpture representing a reclined Christ giving the illusion that the body is covered with tissue. It is an impressive work both in its conception and rendering where the sense of decomposition suggested by the abandonment of the head and the folding and wrinkles of the veil contrast with the roundness of the shoulders and legs.

The ‘Sette Opere della Misericordia’ (the seven works of mercy) by Caravaggio is located at Pio Monte della Misericordia, a Catholic Charity institution founded in 1602, with a Baroque church. In the painting the movement created by the different figures representing the seven works of mercy is unique. They gather in the painting in the form of naked bodies and draped ones exposing their naturalness and ordinariness under the vigil eyes of the two angels embracing each other and hovering from above. It is a revolutionary piece denoting originality in the composition and outstanding skills.

Around the church there was a display of interesting sculptures by the Belgian artist Jan Fabre made with coral dust in forms of crosses interweaving with flowers, hearts according to Catholic iconography. The coral was donated by Neapolitan producers and the artworks now belong to Pio Monte della Misericordia.


I loved visiting Naples but there was no time to see everything, so I hope we will have a chance to go back maybe stay a few days. Back to Rome, I visited the exhibition Bacon and Freud: the School of London at Chiostro del Bramante near piazza Navona. It was very interesting with works from the Tate Britain and explanatory captions. There were a good number of works by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud and a few paintings by Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego and Michael Andrews. I reviewed the exhibition here for London Grip:


At the bookshop there were intriguing phrases printed on tote bags and purses, such as ‘In Art we Trust’, ‘All I need is Love and WIFI’, ‘Tell the truth and run’, ‘I love dogs and some people’, ‘I am not crazy I am creative’ or ‘I’m a woman, what’s your secret power’. After the exhibition I had dinner with my mum and my friend Ornella who is a fantastic cook. She prepared spaghetti alla bottarga, the recipe will be in my next post.