I’m on the top of the world and looking down on creation

It’s not every day you get to be on top of the world, but today I was. Well, maybe not the very top, but at least the top of the Bay of Naples, towards the southern tip of Italy. Today was the day that I walked up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. This volcano is not just a breathtaking site which gives you the opportunity to soak up the coast of Italy, no, to me it was much more than that. To me, it represents everything I love about History and the journey I’ve taken to getting here. You see, Mount Vesuvius was responsible for the destruction of the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The ash initially destroyed but then preserved these ancient sites and they have formed the very basis of my studies in Ancient History. I was first exposed to the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum through my Year 11 and 12 Ancient History teacher. Sadly he is no longer with us, but he taught me the value and importance of History and awakened the ancient cities for me. He showed me that down the coast of Italy some hundreds of years ago, the residents of Pompeii were waking up, putting bread in the oven, having their daily leisure baths, when the sleepy Mount Vesuvius started to grumble, shattering pillars and homes in its wake. As I stood on top of this once-destructive volcano I tried to imagine those final moments and how the panic and fear would have consumed many. I thought back to my days as a History student and could now completely empathise with those victims. It’s funny how travel can make History come alive, and how it can have the power to alter the way that you see the world. I thought back to my high school History teacher and thought how much I would thank him for sharing his love of History with me if he were still here.

But this time it was me telling the story of these ancient cities to my Year 11 and 12 History students – 22 of them in fact. I had helped to organise an ‘Ancient History Tour of Italy’ and twenty-two of my students have agreed to go on this adventure with me. I pointed towards the old cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, I pointed to the spot where Pliny the Younger wrote his ‘eye-witness’ account of the eruption. I watched the jaws drop, the eyes open, the smiles widen. I had managed to share my love and passion with my students and connected travel and history for them.

Before I left I took one final look at one of Mother Nature’s creations. I leaned over the railing to look down in to the crater. How ominous and scary it still looked after all these years. On my way down the mountain I took off my teacher hat and put on my tourist hat. I purchased a 5euro bottle of wine from a vendor halfway down the mountain. Why? Well the label said ‘Mount Vesuvius’ and I just couldn’t leave without taking home a souvenir.

Pizzeria Aurora, Sorrento Italy

Sorrento is the perfect place to visit in Italy – it’s nice and close to major historical sites (such as Pompeii and Herculaneum), is just a ferry ride away to the BEAUTIFUL Capri and the Blue Grotto, and it is also home to some incredible restaurants.

We were so lucky with our hotel as it was opposite a beautiful orchard that grows lemon and produces its own Limoncello. We walked through the orchard nightly on our strolls to the main street in Sorrento, the Corso.

Sorrento is a coastal town in southwestern Italy, facing the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Perched atop cliffs that separate the town from its busy marinas, it’s known for sweeping views and Piazza Tasso, a cafe-lined square. The historic center is a warren of narrow alleys that includes the Chiesa di San Francesco, a 14th-century church with a tranquil cloister.

Our favourite restaurant in Sorrento was by far, Pizzeria Aurora. It is situated in Piazza Tasso, the main square of Sorrento and offers a wide selection of Pizza, (fifty different types!!!!), backed in a traditional wood oven. It is managed by the Terminiello Family who have a steep history with Italian restaurants going as far back as Canonic in 1898.

Legend says that the world most famous pizza, the pizza margherita, was born in 1889, when the chef Raffaele Esposito, to honor the Queen Margherita of Savoy, prepared three kinds of pizzas: pizza Mastuncola with lard, cheese and basil, pizza Marinara with tomato, garlic and oregano, and finally a pizza with tomato and mozzarella, with tomato, olive oil, mozzarella cheese and oregano, whose colors intentionally recalled the Italian tricolour.

I had been craving some vegetables as it wasn’t something I saw regularly on the Italian menus. I decided to go with the closest thing I could find to a plate of veggies – a beautiful Italian Minestrone soup. It was absolutely delicious and one of my foodie highlights of the trip. I also had a Caprese salad – such a simple dish but seriously (I know I’ve said this a thousand times) the tomatoes in Italy are too good.

Lis x

P.S. I broke my ‘only go to a restaurant once’ rule – when in Rome! Well, when in Sorrento!

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Vacanze Romane, Italy

If you’ve been reading the blog you’ll know that I recently took on the (mammoth) task of taking 22 students to Italy during the school holidays. It was a long flight – 14 hours from Sydney to Dubai and then another 6 hours from Dubai to Sydney – and we were running on adrenaline during our first day in Rome. We visited some Churches around the city, as well as the Trevi Fountain, and then stopped at the Piazza Navona for some lunch.

We sat down to eat at Vacant Romane. It was a bit of a gamble, we really had no idea what restaurant was good – but it turned out to be a nice eat. The wine was pretty average, but I think the food made up for that, and it was lunch time so I guess bad wine was a good thing (I still had another 10 hours of supervision!!). In terms of location you couldn’t really want more. The Piazza Navona is arguably one of the nicest squares in Rome, built on the former Stadium of Domitian by Emperor Domitian in 86 AD. The Stadium was mainly used for festivals in ancient times. It is also a quieter alternative to some of the restaurants closer to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

I had been hanging out for a pesto pasta even before I reached Romen, so I thought I’d order that for my first meal in the land of food. In Italian pesto pasta is known as Linguine al pesto genovese. You know how when you go out with a group of people and you can’t stop staring at their food wishing you had ordered that? Well, luckily for me, I was that person being started at! The pesto pasta was absolutely delicious and I refused to order another pesto for the rest of the trip as I didn’t want to be disappointed. Lucky for you I’ve included a photo of my pasta below so you can drool 🙂 The other teachers and my Mum ordered pizzas, and we also got a Caprese Salad to share – there’s something about the tomatoes in Italy, so tasty (and red!).

Lis x

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Italian cooking tips

I am back from Italy and currently in a food slump. I ate too much, feel like I went up a dress size, AND I’m finding myself paying too much for food in Australia and not being nearly as satisfied as I was with my 6euro pasta in Italy! The trip was amazing, I can barely put it into words. Seeing Pompeii was breathtaking and only deepened my love of history. Seeing Capri and the Blue Grotto was also beautiful – an unexpected add-on to the trip but I’m so glad I got to experience it.

I’m in the process of writing about my foodie travels in Italy, but until then I thought I’d share some valuable lessons about food that I gained during my travels.

  1. Spaghetti should never be served in a Bolognese sauce – this really threw me as I always make spaghetti bolognese. Well-known Italian chef  Antonio Carluccio says that this is more of a “Western” add-on. He also says when cooking a Bolognese sauce you shouldn’t add herbs or garlic – instead, the intensity of the flavour should come from the meat
  2. Continuing on from Point #1, a general rule when matching sauces to types of pasta is the smoother the pasta, the thinner the sauce; the rougher the outside of the pasta, the thicker of the sauce.
  3. Having a dinner party and not sure how much pasta to cook? If the pasta is a starter aim for 50g dried pasta per person. For larger portions (i.e. as a main), cook 110g of pasta per person
  4. Don’t leave any food on your plate! We did this a couple of times whilst in Italy and the waiters were concerned we didn’t enjoy the food – we had to tell them we had just eaten so much already!
  5. When it comes to draining the pasta always save a cup of cooking water and never rinse the pasta – this washes away too much of the starch coating
  6. Preheat the serving bowl as well as individual bowls. Always have a deep plate for pasta. This is a nice tip that just somehow makes the pasta feel even more homely
  7. Good Italian wine goes with any good Italian dish! You should know this by now! 🙂

If you have any other tips feel free to fire away in the comments below!

Arrivederci,

Lis x

A toast to Italy

In just over a week I’ll be jetting off from Sydney to visit the wonderful world of pizza and pasta, otherwise known as Italy. When I decided to be a high school teacher I didn’t imagine I’d have the opportunity to travel across the world and be paid to do it!! The idea actually came about when I got a job teaching Ancient History. As part of the Year 12 course (thats the highest grade in the Australian school system), we teach Pompeii and Herculaneum – an Ancient city in Naples, Italy that was destroyed, and preserved, by  the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. We are taking 22 students to Italy to see this marvellous historical site! While we’re there we are also going to Rome and the Isle of Capri.

Pompeii

If there’s one thing I’m truly passionate about (apart from food), it is History. I find the study of Ancient History to be truly fascinating and helps us put our own lives into perspective, to understand that we’re a blip on a radar that has spanned thousands of years and will continue to well beyond our time. One day our society will be studied by high school students. And what a study it will be – our current society has had an abundance of political, economic, and social ideologies and events which will be the stuff of Historians for many years to come! Imagine even being studied as an ‘Ancient Society’ in the future. The future generation of students won’t be able to comprehend the fact that we were only using an iPhone 6 and that our cars travelled on the road instead of hovering- how ancient indeed!

If this was a History blog I could clearly  ramble on forever, however, to bring it back to the foodie theme, I must say how excited I am to sit in the Piazza sipping on some Vino and slurping down some spaghetti. Lex always says the tomatoes are better in Italy and he’s so right. The sauce is always better I find. Mum is coming with me on this trip and she’s looking forward to some gelato!

Italian food is all about ingredients and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.

Wolfgang Puck

If I seem to go missing from the blogging world, rest assured, it’s only temporarily. And while I may be having the time of my life nestled among history, culture and Italian food, please pray for me – I really can’t afford to lose a kid in Rome!

Lis x

Viafratelli

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