Each issue of Lodestars Anthology ends with a series of collectables, 200 word features on people, places and ideas that work together to make our featured country truly grand. Here is a selection of our Italian collectables; with food integral to this vibrant country, of course they come with plenty of flavour … and a dash of Campari.
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Stand in a room basking in the glow emanating from Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Wander around the Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with your neck craned upwards, staring at the behemoth archway, carvings and dome glass skylights. Get dizzy. Sit down and order a shakerato and collect your thoughts. Spend 25 minutes in a souvenir shop selling AC Milan and Inter Milan jerseys, trying to remember which one your boyfriend wanted, let alone which player’s number. Almost get into an argument with the shop keeper when you get the colours of each team mixed up. Spray every fragrance in every small boutique on yourself while (window) shopping along the Via della Spiga. Get lost (literally) in the historic Brera district. Partake in a culinary experience, dining on a saffron-infused risotto alla Milanese while a fleet of 30 Mini Coopers congregates in the piazza right outside. Take a sip of wine and kiss the tips of all five of your fingers at once, to complete the postcard-perfect scene you’re currently living out.
If on a summer’s day you find yourself standing in il Mercatale, the large piazza-turned-bus terminal beneath Urbino’s ancient city walls, look up. Against a sky of childish blue you’ll witness an orchestra of swallows filling the air, engaged in dizzying acrobatic feats above the city’s Palazzo Ducale. The juxtaposition is brilliant – a silent, staid Renaissance structure frozen beneath a sky abuzz with avian daredevils.
Urbino rises almost organically from the hilly landscape of the northern regions of Le Marche. The vibrant centre of a constellation of small, walled towns that freckle the countryside. One cannot understate its Renaissance significance. A city of art and learning, its court served as the inspiration, and later, the setting for Baladassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, the definitive 16th century account of courtly life. More importantly perhaps, Urbino is the birthplace of the Renaissance master Raphael.
Urbino’s labyrinthine streets are dotted with churches, oratories and chapels with the 15th century UNESCO listed Palazzo Ducale standing, as it always has, in the city’s heart while the 16th century university ensures students breathe life into Urbino long after summertime tourists have absconded.
D. W. Grunner
Comprised of 17 ingredients, in homage to the 17 districts of Siena, panforte is Tuscany’s most famous cake. Candied fruits, including cedro and orange peel, along with lemon zest, blanched almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios, are combined with flour, cocoa, sugar, honey and spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, cloves and white pepper – which are heated together, before being poured into a pan lined with rice flour paper to form a flat, sweet, sticky, dense cake.
Siena’s town archives attest to the fact that this fruit and nut cake has been made here since 1205. Legend has it that religious crusaders carried rounds of panforte with them on long journeys and that the cake was used as a form of currency in medieval times, paid each year in February to local monks and nuns. In 1879 Queen Margherita visited the town and in honour of the visit her moniker was added to the name, and thus panforte made to the traditional recipe, by bakers like the third generation Marabissi family in Chianciano, is now called ‘panforte Margherita’. A popular Tuscan Christmas gift, it is served after meals with Vin Santo, the local dessert wine.
Campari – bitter, aromatic, happiness in a glass. My ardour for the aperitif took me on a pilgrimage, a 27-hour commute from the Antipodes to the company’s headquarters in search of the secret recipe. A drink is the first order of business. Camparino, perhaps Milan’s most famous, and certainly best positioned bar on the edge of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is the birthplace of Campari; the famous liquor originally mixed, barrelled and bottled here in the cellar. Today, as everyday, aperitivo is served. Campari soda is the most requested aperitif. Although respect must be paid to Italy’s Negroni and Aperol Spritz.
The next morning at Campari’s now headquarters, Paolo Cavallo, director of the onsite museum, tells me of the company’s decision to open the exhibition space. “Our machinery is much less sexy than our ad campaigns,” he says. When I press Paolo for the recipe he is quick to respond. “It is a complicated formula of lots of different herbs, aromatics and citrus.” In the history of Campari only two people have ever known the recipe at any one time. “One family member and the CEO,” he says. “And I’m neither.”
SAILING IN SARDINIA
Sardinia is a sailor’s paradise with over 1,000 miles of coastline offering pristine white beaches, turquoise-hued coves, rocky promontories and time-forgotten fishing villages. Delicious food, heartfelt welcomes and a sense of tradition combine to make the yacht charter scene here one of the most popular in the Mediterranean – and with over 300 days of sunshine there is plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty.
Being only 12 kilometres from Corsica, both islands can be chartered, with the plentiful and diverse anchorages ensuring endless possibilities. Modern resort harbours allow for the discovery of unique surrounding villages or a spot of upscale dining and boutique shopping.
Most sailors focus on the northeast coast. The Maddalena Archipelago is a national marine park and once a permit is acquired, crystal waters reveal a seabed peppered with life and an abundance of dive sites. In the bays and harbours of the sophisticated Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), superyachts glide alongside skiffs on the shimmering sea, exploring luxurious towns and the intensely beautiful shore. There is freedom and adventure in sailing these warm waters, the extraordinary scenic setting a lure for all.