orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

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Friday, 22 May 2009

on the Giro d’Italia and the heatwave

I know I haven’t posted for a while, we’ve been pretty busy with various things, so this’ll be quite a long entry today I think.

First of all, there’ll be a break in the riveting and popular series “Our Terraces” today to make room for some current sport coverage. Yesterday we had a rest day as the Giro d’Italia came to town. Yes I do like watching a bit of sport. As a kid growing up in Bremen, I used to watch home matches of Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion. I still like football, but prices to go to stadiums aren’t what they used to be and I’m getting rather disgusted with the play-acting, feigning injuries, complaining, winging and whining and plain cheating in the modern game. I also used to watch speedway, but other motor sports, like Formula 1 in particular, these days seems to be decided behind desks and in courtrooms, not to mention horrendous entry prices for a couple of hours of watching noisy cars going around in circles.

I watch other sports, mainly on TV, but there is no other sport I can think of, which you can watch for free and get THIS CLOSE to the top athletes:

This is Lance Armstrong, the undisputed superstar of world cycling. This photo was not taken with a fancy zoom lens, I just shoved the camera right into his face and was evidently even closer to the man then the TV cameras on the other side of the road.

Yesterday’s stage was a 60 km individual time trial through the Cinque Terre and was dubbed “the killer stage”. Rider’s were racing through this hilly coastal stretch against the clock rather than against each other. I have been to cycle races before. I saw the Tour de France a few years back as they skirted Germany, but we had positioned ourselves on a steep downhill stretch and the peloton was past within a fraction of a second. The only lasting memories were the smell of burning rubber as the 180 odd cyclists hit the bend at over 70 km an hour and the accompanying motorbike, which nearly ploughed into a nearby chip van. We saw the Giro the last time they passed as well, twice in fact, but both time on flat bits with the group being compact and passed in seconds.

But in a time trial you can watch each rider coming passed you one by one for 3 ½ hours. The stage was from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore involving 2 steep uphill sections (one of them I have cycled myself before). We decided to position ourselves above our old haunt of Levanto, just over half way into the race. It was a great way of spending the day. We had a picnic with us, a couple of beers and shared into the banter with other fans. I even dusted up my old “proper” camera, I found I still had some film for it and it does have a decent telelens on it. However the photos from that camera won’t obviously be ready for a few days, hope they still develop real films.

Here’s another shot in the meantime of a Russian rider called Andriy Grivko:

We had originally planned to cycle towards the race, which would have involved similar tough climbs to the professionals, but decided against it, as we are in the middle of a heat wave, which leads me smoothly onto the next subject. Last Friday, the 15th, it made a half hearted attempt at some rain, the only time this month. Saturday summer arrived with a vengeance. Daytime temperatures are the highest ever recorded for Italy for May with the mercury climbing well into the 30’s. Our daily cycle rides to the land and work on the land itself has all slowed down a bit and both of us have caught quite a bit of colour already.

This also means that crops are ahead of their season. Broad beans, alas are now finished. I managed to conserve a few in brine, but to build up a proper store of them I really do need to plant 2 terraces of them. Peas are ready and we are eating masses of lettuce. Strawberries are abundant and sweet cherries have already been and gone. They had a very small crop this year and birds ate most of the rest. Sour cherries are coming on as well though and they are as plentiful as ever. The first tomatoes are in flower as are the first courgettes and we water practically daily.

Earlier in the spring, when all the wild herbs were starting to perfume the air, I thought how great it would be to capture all these aromas and maybe making some liqueurs from them. I didn’t know how though and decided to find some recipes, quickly forgetting about my resolution again. Last week we were in La Spezia and I found a recipe book on a book stall along the seafront: “500 recipes for jams, preserves and liqueurs”. It’s fantastic! It not only has some great recipes for all the traditional liqueurs, but it has suggestions for making drinks out of base materials you would normally throw away: an Amaretto from apple pips, liqueurs from cherry, peach and apricot stones or the skin of melons, cherry leaves as well as a variety of wild and cultivated herbs and spices.

Most of the are really easy to make too, although they take a while before they are ready. I already have 2 brews on the go: Granny’s Digestive (I can’t help thinking that grannies in Italy have more fun, mine used to such a sweet after dinner) based on lemon balm and a Wild Cherry Ratafia with sour cherries and cherry leaves spiced with cloves and cinnamon. Looking forward to the results.

On Saturday also we had the inaugural session of the “Luni Wino” Wine Appreciation Club at our house. About a dozen of us tasted our way though some Italian wines and I believe a good time was had by all. It sort of was the launch of my new little venture, although it mostly was a social event.

I was going to have a wee rant about pests after I went on a bit on weeds recently, but Susan is already in bed and I better finish here for today. So there’s something to look forward to as well as the next installment of the cut-out-and-collect series “Our Terraces”.

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