Month: August 2015

The History of Ferragosto in Italy

The History of Ferragosto in Italy

Happy Ferragosto everyone! It’s cloudy here in London and I’m sitting here reminiscing about all those Ferragostos in the past spent in Italy. All those hot, sunny days sitting with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all shouting at the table in a glorious cacophony of words, songs and plates and plates of food. But what does Ferragosto mean? When did it start?

Ferragosto is a public holiday in Italy as well as a major holiday in the Catholic Church marking the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. (Why do they call it the Assumption? Is it because they never found Mary’s body after she died and they assumed she went up into heaven?)

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In Monte di Procida, where my family lives, today is one of the finest days of the year. The main church in the piazza is called SS. Maria Assunta, dedicated to the Assumption, so they have to do up this festival in big style. There are three days of feasting in the piazza with lights, music and food. On the 15th, everyone goes to mass where the church is decorated in white and gold. After mass, there’s a giant procession with the statue of the Virgin Mary at the helm and a brass band follows playing the overture to Verdi’s Aida and all the people follow Mary down to the sea. In the evening, after everyone has busted their guts with a giant lunch, the beach fills up with people to watch the midnight firework display.

From Montediprocida.com
From Montediprocida.com
From minicrociere.com
From minicrociere.com

 

Growing up, I thought this was the way it was done all over Italy, but in lots of other places, most people just leave their homes to go to the beach. Curious about this, I started doing a little bit of research and interestingly, there’s a story behind this.

Ancient Rome

Ferragosto has its origins in Ancient Rome. The holiday was established by Emperor Augustus and took place after the first major harvest around 1 August. It’s possible that this also coincided with the pagan holiday of mid-summer on 2 August that marks the mid-point between the Summer Solstice (21 June) and the Autumnal Equinox (21 September). The ancient Ferragosto aimed to unify the August holidays and create a longer period of rest which stretched out to a few weeks. When Catholicism arrived, as they did with many other pagan holidays, they adopted Ferragosto and moved it to coincide with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and claimed the 15th of August as the official day of Ferragosto.

Fascist Era

The popular tradition of going away for Ferragosto began in the 1920s during the Fascist regime. The government, in conjunction with the various worker’s associations that organised trips, workshops, and events for the working class, offered a special promotion on train tickets during the three-day period surrounding Ferragosto. For the first time, working class families could afford to visit other cities in Italy as well as travel to the beach and the mountains. All these families, in order to keep costs down, would also pack food with them and this also started the tradition of picnicing on Ferragosto.

Today

All of this could explain why many Italians today take a month-long holiday in August, stretching back to the ancient Roman tradition of a harvest holiday. The 15th marks the mid-point of the summer holiday, a pseudo-religous pseudo-pagan mid-summer feast.

The film Pranzo di ferragosto (2008) (English title: Mid-August Lunch) is a spectacular film of a man named Gianni who inadvertently ends up hosting a Ferragosto lunch of elderly women in Rome at his mother’s house while his friends, who have left their mothers with Gianni, flee the city for the beach for two days of freedom. The film captures the emptiness of the city during the national holiday, the laziness inspired by the August heat, and the unexpected joy at finding yourself making the most of a less than appealing situation. Watch the trailer:

How will you celebrate Ferragost? There is a slight break in the clouds now and I think I’ll take a walk to the library and then through the farmer’s market and celebrate a little mid-summer repose.

Enjoy the day!

 

A little explanation about The Limonata Lounge

A little explanation about The Limonata Lounge

I’ve had this blog for over a year now and slowly I’ve been developing it into something that encompasses all the dreams that I have inside of me.

The Limonata Lounge is a place where you can embrace a solitude filled with light and beauty, comraderie and a sense of belonging. It’s not just a place that contains these things, but also a place where things happen, where you can create, think, learn, and let the beautiful parts of you shine outwards into the world.

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lemons copy

To me, it’s the place that exists inside of me of where I’ve always wanted to be. If you poke around the site, you’ll find out that I’ve always wanted to be in Italy. I was born and raised in New York, but every summer we would go to Italy, to a small town in the province of Naples, Monte di Procida where we had a house. Papa was from there and my mother was from the nearby island of Ischia, so we would always spend time there, too.

I was a lonely child. I had lots of siblings and cousins back in the States, but they were very much older than me and most of them were starting to get married and have children by the time I was born. But in Italy, there were so many cousins my age and there my solitude abated. I loved it there so much. Of hanging out by the sea, playing barefoot with my cousins in the garden under the lemon tress, of long evenings on the terrace. I loved the church bells, the sounds of the scooters zooming by, Neapolitan mothers in the surrounding houses shouting at their children, and of Paolino singing and selling produce through the microphone while passing the streets in his blue ape bursting with fruit and vegetables.

The Limonata Lounge is inspired by these memories and I’m recreating that place that resides inside of me through this site. This site is about all the things I love: Italy and its history, cooking, traveling and making things. I want to share these things with you and hope that they may inspire you to follow your gut feeling and do what you love and create the place that you want to be in.

 

Recipe: How to Make (or not make) La Pizza Rustica Napoletana

Recipe: How to Make (or not make) La Pizza Rustica Napoletana

This past Saturday morning I was home and watching the Archway Farmer’s Market happening just outside the flat. I could see the cheese and salame stands from the window and I got a craving for something my mom used to make called ‘La Pizza Rustica’ – a cheese bomb of paradise that she made for Easter, made of ricotta mixed with eggs, grated parmigiano, and cubes of any other hard cheese and salame. She only made it once a year, thank god she did, because with one bite I could feel it making a bee-line for my thighs.

The word pizza may seem like a misnomer since what we think of as traditional pizza from Napoli is nothing this covered pie of decadence; although this is a Neapolitan recipe.

I had never made it before, but I like trying to make things my mother made and it makes me feel a little bit closer to her. So I went shopping downstairs at the market and with a little bit of help from Davide and the internet, I set out to make it. In the end it came out good, just the way I remembered it, but there was a little snaffu while cooking it that kind of made it look disgusting. But still, it’s too delicious to not share with you, so I’ll tell you how to make and how not to make this Pizza Rustica Italiana.

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(Other recipes call for a rich dough using suet, sugar, eggs, flour and butter and require you to bake the whole thing in the oven. Mamma used a simple pizza dough of flour and water and she then cooked it on the stove.)

La Pizza Rustica Napoletana

Equipment:

1 deep dish pan that you can cook on the stove (alternatively you can use a round dish that you can put in the oven because flipping it during cooking gets a bit tricky.)

1 rolling pin

Mixer (optional)

Dough

400 g all-purpose flour

200 g water

10 g yeast

salt

Filling

600 g ricotta

200 g milk

100 g grated parmigiano, pecorino or other hard cheese (I used a Trentingrana that comes from Trentino in the upper North East corner of Italy)

100 g of cubes of hard cheese (I used piave stravecchia)

100g of assorted dried salame cut into cubes (you could use ham too, especially if you don’t want it to be too salty)

1 egg yolk

sunflower oil

Instructions

1. For the dough, mix the yeast with the water and then mix it with the dough. You can use a mixer for this to really mix and activate the yeast and get the dough nice and soft. Otherwise you can use your hands to mix it all together until you get a somewhat sticky ball of dough and then knead it with your hands on the counter. Once nice and soft, put it back in the bowl and cover it with a plate or towel and leave it to rest and rise while you make the filling.

Watch Davide show you how to do knead dough:

 

2. For the filling, put the ricotta, milk, grated cheese and egg yolk in a bowl and mix well. Add the cubes of cheese and salame.

3. When the dough is ready, cut it in half and roll out two circular pieces. Roll out a bigger piece which you’ll use to line the bottom and the sides of the pan. Be careful to not roll it too thin.

4. Line the pan and sides with sunflower oil. Then place the piece of dough at the bottom of the pan, pressing into the side and letting the excess dough fall over the rim.

IMG_5362

5. Spoon the filling into the pan.

6. Place the other disc of dough on top and fold in the sides. Dust a good amount of flour on top.

7. Cook the pizza on low heat for 10 minutes. If it starts to burn a little you can sneak in some more oil from the sides.

8. Flip the pizza over and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

*This is the tricky bit. Take a plate and put it upside down on top of the pan. Make sure the top of the pizza, the uncooked part, has some flour on it, otherwise the dough is going to stick to the plate. With one hand on top of the plate, lift the pan and turn it over so the pizza rests on top of the plate with the cooked top facing up. Slide the pizza back into the pan.  (My problem was that I rolled the dough to thin so the filling exploded into an oozy doughy mess when I tried to flip it.

 

An oozy, cheesy, broken mess.
An oozy, cheesy, broken mess.

9. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place on a plate and refrigerate it for a few hours. Some people wait 24 hours, but I couldn’t wait that long.

Broken but still delicious the way I remembered it.
Broken but still delicious the way I remembered it.