Guest Post

Friday, 29 September 2017

A Gem in the Historic Centre of Ravenna: Passatelli, L'osteria Del Mariani

One Saturday evening we were wondering around the city Centre of Ravenna and suddenly a wide screen which was projecting something, probably a movie, located down the hall of a restaurant drew our attention. As we already had a reservation elsewhere for dinner we couldn’t stop at that place. We got so attracted to that atmosphere that we decided to return the following day for lunch especially because the exposed menu by the entrance didn't seem so expensive. We were right indeed!!! It was a traditional Italian restaurant with an interesting location: the facade had some banners draped on the wall while the indoor had nothing ordinary: it was an old cinema theater rearranged with a modern touch where love, passion and attention to details were evident. With the Birth of multiplex cinemas many of the cinema theatres have been abandoned. This entrepreneur came up with a brilliant idea to transform an old cinema to an elegant restaurant. The kitchen has a glass wall so we could see the staff at work while eating. They had a wide selection of wine and extensive options of food including veggie and vegan ones. We ordered the set menu: In fact for lunch, there is the special of the month for just €10.00, drinks not included. We didn't go wrong with that, and we had spaghetti with clam and octopus salad. It was just delicious. I'm sure that going for any of the other choices will never leave you disappointed. All of the dishes looked inviting and the price seemed reasonable. We didn't have any alcoholic drinks, we had water but I'm sure that they also have wine for any taste and occasion. We ended up paying € 27.00 only. The coffee espresso I had was one of the best I ever had. The staff was welcoming except a lady who didn't have a smiley face so seemed a bit angry and rough.  All the others were friendly, their service was prompt and efficient, in fact there were so many businessmen having quick lunch. The experience is worth repeating, perhaps for dinner. Dining in such a great setting with a movie could be a romantic solution. For me it is a must in Ravenna.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Sand Castle Community, Ontario

If I don't call the police my neighbor will

On our way from Toronto to Algonquin Park, we were  curious about the waterfront houses that we could see from the highway. As many of you already know Ontario is famous for its infinity of lakes, in fact during our drive we could see so many of beautiful water facing residences. This has intrigued us and we decided to exist at the next coming town to have a brief look closer. So we got into Sand Castel Estate, 90 minutes north of Toronto. We were surprised to see that it was a tiny gated village or community, with just one Street, well maintained with not more that forty houses one next to other. The first strange thing that we have noticed was there were no common parking lots. So we didn't know where to leave our car. We drove and drove back and forth to the only one street without finding a place, all of them were private. It was like you are not welcome if you are not one of us! There were no body around so we couldn't ask for help or directions. We then decided to leave our car by the road at the entrance of Sand Castel Estate. As soon as we got out of the vehicle we sow these boards signs that you can see on my picture here. One of those was saying neighborhood WATCH community. If I don't call the police my neighbor will! Oh my Gosh, it was so threatening. Suddenly while we were realizing what was happening,  a man between 50 and 60 years old came closer and asked if we were living in Sand Castel. We said him we were there just to walk around the lake. He didn't seem so happy! After just some steps towards the lake we saw some old people preparing barbecue and eating hot dogs. They were not interested on our presence. Nobody said something, they ignored us totally. The same old man who talked to us first stopped us while we tried to cross the park where the others were eating.  He said to use the pathway that we have never found. That man was a bit wary. No doubt, we were not welcome at all. We letf the park and went away from them in order to find the pathway to the lake. There were no pathways, access to it seemed possible only from the houses. Somehow we managed to get close to the lake but haven't been so easy. On our way back to our car we met another old man with a small dog. He asked if we have bought a house in Sand Castle, because some houses have been sold the week before to strangers and he hasn't met the neighbors yet. We answered that we were travelers from Italy and that casually we were in Sand Castle. He talked a lot with us about his daughter, his dog and he suggested us to try poutine. Even if he said a lot he maintained his strict attitude while talking to us. He said that some people there have their residences meanwhile some others like him, have their summer houses in Sand Castel. Most of them are aged between 50 and 70 or more. He also said that they all know each other. When we left him we met a couple getting back home from the barbecue. They also stopped a while asking if we have bought a house there. We answered as first. They were a kind of just married couple who have decided to buy a house in Sand Castle Estate at their second marriage. In Fact this is what the community seemed to me, aged ones living happily ever after!  Now I don't know if suggesting this visit to you readers. Because you are not welcome there. But I can say that it has been an interesting pause of our voyage to Algonquin Park. In case your curiosity takes you to Sand Castle Estate in Ontario, say them immediately that you are a tourist, I have noticed that their attitude changed when hearing this sentence, they then seemed most likely to welcome us. There is an other way of course: buy a spectacular waterfront residence located in the prestigious community of Sand Castle Estates, that leads to a pathway, ashoreline fire pit and extensive perennial gardens. When we reached our car back the same man we met at the arrival was still there, he asked if we were to leave. I said him yes, I also said that we understood that they are a very closed community. His answer was, yes we are!


Sunday, 24 September 2017

The most used dressing in the world: Balsamic Vinegar

Many of you know about Balssmic Vinegar but most of you don't know the difference between the traditional balsamic dressing and industrial balsamic dressing. The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar  comes from a tiny city called Modena. It has a long procedure, ages in small barrels made up of different types of wood, then it is evaluated by the Commission of certified tasters. After passing a strict test, it is bottled and marked.  The tasters express their evaluation through scores, necessary to classify the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena as refined and aged at least 12 years or very old and aged at least 25 years; these are the only two acknowledged types. Its rich flavour and taste make it able to satisfy the most variable unimaginable matchings. It is to be very expensive of course. Here comes the industrial one: a remake of the traditional one, a cheaper one for the public. There are so many industries in Italy producing it; among them Varvello with its head office in Turin. Seems that since two years it is necessary having a branch in Modena in order to maintain the production of the industrial balsamic dressing. This is a reason why Varvello celebrated today its new branch in Modena with its building projected by Archilinea of Sassuolo. Its is a high-tech industry with just two employers: everything is automated. Mr. Luca, the manager, with 27 years of experience in this field, can guide you around the factory, really worth a visit seeing the production of one of the world most used dressing.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Aileen Arulrajah's BharataNatyam Arangetram

Bharatanatyam is a major genre of Indian classical dance originated in the region of Tamil Nadu. Traditionally, Bharatanatyam has been a solo dance performed exclusively by women and expressed Hindu religious themes and spiritual ideas and it is the oldest classical dance tradition of India.  Nowadays it is practiced around the world by both women and men where the Tamil culture is still strong. Many western people are now trying to learn Bharatanatyam but it seems very difficult for them to learn as it is impossible to teach them the meanings therefore the face expressions. The style is noted for its fixed upper torso, knees flexed out combined with spectacular footwork, a sophisticated vocabulary of sign language based on gestures of hands, eyes and face muscles. Bharatanatyam Arangetram is the debut on stage of a former student. This performance follows years of training. Like many other Indian classical dance forms also Bharatanatyam performs an Arangetram once the time has come for a disciple. This moment is accompanied by music, a singer, and obviously the guru who has followed the student as the director and conductor of the performance and art. Miss Aileen Arulrajah, a girl of just 15 years old with long hair and daughter of Sri Lankan parents, has finalized her studies in Canada with the guru Siva Thiviyarajan and performed on stage with musicians (T.N Balamurali on Violin, Geerthanan Thiviyarajan on Mirudangam and Sruthi Balamurali on Sitar) and the vocalist Babu Parameswaran. It took place at the Meadowvale Theatre in Mississauga Ontario on the 16th of September 2017. Aileen's performance was unbeatable not only in her steps and movements but especially in her expressions. She has been able to best express the grace of the discipline, she gave a good meaning to the word Arangetram. She danced for more than 2 hours leaving all the audience incredulous. The word Arangetram in fact in Tamil Language means ascending the stage by a dancer on the completion of formal training, it marks the way for a dancer to perform alone or to give training to other dancers. Once a dancer has completed training he or she should have an understanding of classical music and many other aspects that I can’t make you understand. I had an opportunity to spend some time with Miss. Aileen Arulrajah and I can say that she is a lovely person. Still now I wonder how such a sweet 15 years girl like Aileen can dance like that. Her parents must be proud of her. A special attention goes to Madam Kumutha, the makeup artist and her assistant. They really did a great backstage job! Aileen can now move forward!!! We can just congratulate her and wish her the best for her future decisions with Bharatanatyam. Here following you can see some pictures of her day. I focused my photos on backstage activities because I know that usually people pay attention to the "frontstage" and forget totally of what's happening behind the screen: lots of works went on there and specially it has been a place where I could feel not only Aileen's emotions but of each hidden person. She looked like a princes among them!



Monday, 18 September 2017

Seeking for the canadian typical food?

We all have that food which is typical of our country so it is normal that when traveling abroad we seek for the food of that country. Specially if you are Italian, you have such a lot of variety that changes from region to region, so you expect the same from the other countries as well. Seems not all the countries have their own food! During our vacation in Canada, we went around looking for items with canadian origin and ahime' it have been difficult to find them out. We asked the people we met but never we got a satisfactory answer.  Here following I just write down the answers of the ones to my simple question: which is the typical food of Canada?
1) A lady of Sri Lankan origin living in Bramton said that they mostly eat rice. Canada have a lot of immigrants from all over the world. At the first place there are Italians, at the second place Chinese and at the third place Indians and so on. This is a reason why their food incorporate all these countries. 
2) A lady with Italian roots we met at the supermarket in Toronto said that Italian can never eat like the Canadians. They have good meat but  nothing special. 
3) A man of Colombian origin in Aurora at the mama's bakery said their typical food is supposed to be fish and chips because Canada was a British colony.
4) A canadian man we met in Sand Castle suggested us to eat something called poutine, a dish made of patatos and cheese. He also said that humburgers and hot dogs are typical.
5) Two canadians living in Quebec, we met at Algonquin Park suggested us to tast some corns.
6) A girl of Indian origin in Trenton suggest us to taste some humbugers.
Finally at the end of my vacation I can just say that if you are Italian, you will never be comfortable with what they offer. Only big cities like Toronto are offering some international foods but most likely Canada is a fast food nation. The only restaurants open after eight pm were the big hamburgers sellers like Tim Hortons, Mc Donald's and etc. Most of our day in Canada we ended up with a glass of tea because we were tired of eating fast foods everyday. Denny's franchises are for me the best among them. Sadly they are only in most major cities. The good thing about them is that they are open until late night not only with hamburgers bur also with good salads and meat.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Blue Lagoon Iceland

One of the natural Wonders of the world

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, located between Keflavik and Reykjavik. It is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland and indeed it is a must. We read that it is always crowed but since it covers a huge area and everything is perfectly organized, while inside we didn’t felt the crowd at all. It has been for me a real oasis of relaxation. Reaching the lagoon with our rented car has been very easy. It was a very short driving distance away for us as we were sleeping in a bed and breakfast close to Keflavik. We drove about 20 minutes to enter into the geothermal landscape. The road was in a good condition. It would not have been so far away from Reykjavik as well, about 50 minutes driving I think. In case you don’t have your own car, so many shuttle busses are running frequently from both Keflavik and Reykjavik airport. Taxies were also running from the main cities so you have no excuses. The beauty of the nature around was unbelievable, we were flabbergasted. Every single angle was impressively beautiful that it took a while for us to reach the entrance. We stopped everywhere for photos and videos. Before going don’t forget to check out the opening hours because it changes every month. I was there in September and it was open from 8am to 10 pm. They sell a variety of packages, from the standard one, which cost € 50.00 to the luxury one for € 400.00, which probably I would have wanted but it was too much for my pocket so I went for the standard one and I can say that I can’t complain anything. Everything has been fine with my choice.I paid about € 8.00 extra for towel because I didn’t take mine from home. The volcanic origin keeps the water warm so it was pleasant feeling the hot water while outside it was cold. I was just like flying!!! It was simply fantastic!!! We had some beers once inside the water, everyone did that! Remember that every single extra you go for is expensive so also the beers were but no one seemed to care about that any more. Pricey but what a great feeling it was! We spent about six hours just floating and relaxing. There face mask pots located in every angle which can be used every time you want. The place in the middle of the lava fields was not comparable with any other common swimming pools in the cities. I didn’t want to go away from there, the view during the sut set was just amazing. It was expensive but we both felt it was a must-see in Iceland, definitely worth it. Although if you are not enough lucky to have a good weather, in my experience I still say that it is a must do for Iceland. Even with rain, wind or fog, once you are in the warm water it just doesn't matter anymore, you will forget everything else. I think the bad weather conditions actually could add a little bit of welcome mystery. Would definitely go back. The ones who have enough money in their pocket can also dine and sleep there, should be a great lifetime experience. Specially after the whole afternoon spent there you feel so relaxed that getting back to your place could be tiring. When I finished having shower I ended up with wanting a bed there right away for laying down with a glass of wine on my hands. Blue lagoon will last forever in may heart.

  • Even if it is open every day of the year, pre-booking is essential to ensure the entrance. If you arrive without a pre-booked ticket, you are very likely to miss out.
  • Wait for the sun set to see, it creates scheming atmosphere.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sleep in a Monastery and Discover The Mistery

Monastero dell'Annunciata, Rovato

Franciacorta is well known for its wine but, they have so many curiosities than can take you to some interesting facts so don't stop with wine tasting.  One of those is The Annunciata Monastery of Rovato. If you are lucky enough, you will find someone at the reception who will tour you around the Monastery. Recently we have visited this place full of enigma. There are 10 or 15 minutes drive in a narrow street but the arduous road is compensated with the beauty of the place. Absolutely worth a visit and in case you have enough time, you can also walk up until there. There were two at the book shop by the entrance: a well-dressed lady around 55 and a man with beard around 60. We didn't pay any tickets. The lady was the one who guided us through the monastery, she was such an enigmatic person, she told us quite nothing about the history, we were just treated to a panoramic tour without understanding what was really happening there. This strange approach was the reason why we have begun to ask her some questions. Our first doubt was to know if the Monks are still living there or they have left to somewhere else. Her reply was quite cold. She told us that the only ones living in the Monastery right that moment was herself and one Monk, but she didn't tell us what happened to the others. It seemed she didn't want to clarify further. If the Monks are not living there anymore then where have they gone and what are they going to do with such a big building? Here came our second question. I asked her if there are any plans for the Monastery or they are thinking to keep it empty. This time the answer was enough ample. Yes, she said it is going to be a kind of Hostel for adults. All of their rooms are single with attached toilet except one which has three single beds. They don't want youngsters because the Monks are very old and they have had difficulties to manage the youth. Especially the Monks have to wake up early in the morning for the prayers and the youth like being awake in the night. This obviously would not concide with the Monks' lifestyle. Probably I have missed couple of information because I didn't understand her. If the Monks are not living anymore in the Monastery then why should they care if the youngsters stay awake during the night? And also, I understood that the Hostel was a plan for the future, she didn’t tell us that they have already tried it in the past. I kept this doubts for myself. There are several rooms and according to what she said it will cost per person around €20.00/25.00 per night without meals and € 40.00 with all the meals included. It is not a cheap price but you are going to sleep in a room where the Monks used to sleep once: that could be a good reason to spend. 
The veranda where the doors of the rooms lean out has a wonderful view, from where you can see the entire city at your feet. Proceedings with the visit we got to the refectory. Twist and turn guys!! The dinner tables were set for about ten people guys! Mmm! If there were only two people living there then why should they set the tables for ten? I couldn’t keep this doubt so I asked her about it. She said they always keep the table prepared in that way even if only two will be eating. That sounded a little bit macabre. As we continued walking one of us asked our guide the reason why she has taken the decision of living in a Monastery. I think it has been a very bad question because her face changed suddenly. She didn’t expect that question yet it was so obvious. At that point I intervened saying that it not usual for a lady to take such a decision. After few seconds of  awkward silence she said she had a vocation at the age of 20 and for personal matters she couldn’t follow her dream and now she finally had an opportunity to realize that dream of years ago. She said nothing more. It was quite clear that she didn’t want to go any further on this issue. So we changed the subject talking about the cleanings. She said that she is the only one cleaning and taking care of the entire area. Sometimes volunteers come to help her but she said the main work is done by her. I wondered how could it be possible, such a big area needs more workforce to be maintained. But I have decided to stop with my questions and also the others did the same as me. I better don't write in detail what she told us about the income of the Monastery: it seems that the Monks are renting hectare and hectare of  Franciacorta grapevine. That was it! We all thanked her for the visit and left the Monastery with too many confusions and doubts. Once got out we faced about this issue all together and all four of us had my same opinion. We all were wondering what was really happening there. The lady despite being a pleasant person, has not been exhaustive, she didn’t fully answered, we didn’t learn much more from her answers. When we came back to our hotel we asked the owners about her, they said they have never seen her. That was really strange because they used to go to the mass to the Monastery every Sundays. They also said that there is a fixed fat little housekeeper cleaning the Monastery. Everything about the Monastery was enigmatic. Now is your turn! Here is their phone number: +39 030 772 1377 call, reserve your room and discover the mystery! Don’t forget to update me, I’m curious!