The house must not rest on the ground, but rest, it must come from the ground,” said Lloyd Wright, and these words must have echoed in Scarpa’s mind so much that he inspired Villa Ottolenghi. Located in Bardolino, on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, this 1974 building looks like an ancient ruin, which is born, “from the ground, itself a piece of land with its roof-terrace stretched out on the lake”. The morphological configuration of the area, bounded on the west by a steep slope, to the north and east by an embankment, has in fact suggested to the man to bury most of the house in the ground and to play with interesting design ideas. The most striking of them is the roof that becomes a habitable place, inspired by the farmyard of the Veneto farms, a brick surface with irregular pattern from which to admire the splendid surrounding landscape as if there were no borders, as if the real roof it was heaven. Pure poetry.
In quarantined Italy, tenor Maurizio Marchini belts out “Nessun dorma,” from Puccini’s “Turandot” to the city of Florence from his Balcony. “Nessun Dorma”and concludes:
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!
And it was no coincidence that the Italian Air Force chose the very same aria (Pavrotti singing) as musical background for this synchronized fly-over with the Italian colors delivered by con trail. Very, very nice!
Italy is locked down in quarantine. On Thursday evening, David Allegranti, a journalist working for Il Foglio newspaper, shared footage of Italians singing a local folk song together in the darkened streets in Siena, a town in the countryâ€™s north. He wrote on Twitter, “In Siena, the city to which I am very attached, you stay at home but you sing together as if you were on the street. I was moved.â€
Though he did not take the footage himself, Allegranti told HuffPost he was still equally touched while watching and felt the need to share.
â€œThis video is touching,â€ Allegranti, who is based in Rome, told the news website. â€œThe first time I saw it I started to cry.â€
I took off my rucksack and lay down in a grassy hollow at the edge of the cliff. The sun was hot and soon I took off my shirt and then my boots and socks. The air was filled with the humming of bees and the buzzing of insects and from somewhere further up the mountain there came the clanking of sheep bells, carried on a gentle breeze that was blowing from that direction. Then a single bell began to toll in the valley, and other more distant bells echoed it, but they soon ceased and I looked across to the distant peaks which previously had been so clearly delineated but were now beginning to shimmer and become indistinct in the haze that was enveloping them. And quite soon I fell asleep.
I woke to find a German soldier standing over me. At first, with the sun behind him, he was as indistinct as the peaks had become, but then he swam into focus. He was an officer and he was wearing summer battledress and a soft cap with a long narrow peak. He had a pistol but it was still in its holster on his belt and he seemed to have forgotten that he was armed because he made no effort to draw it. Across one shoulder and hanging down over one hip in a very unmilitary way he wore a large old-fashioned civilian haversack, as if he was a member of a weekend rambling club, rather than a soldier, and in one hand he held a large, professional-looking butterfly net. He was a tall, thin, pale young man of about 25 with mild eyes and he appeared as surprised to see me as I was to see him, but much less alarmed than I was, virtually immobilized, lying on my back without my boots and socks on.
â€˜Buon giorno,â€™ he said, courteously. His accent sounded rather like mine must, I thought. â€˜Che bella giornata.â€™
At least up to now he seemed to have assumed that I was an Italian, but as soon as I opened my mouth he would know I wasnâ€™t. Perhaps I ought to try and push him over the cliff, after all he was standing with his back to it; but I knew that I wouldnâ€™t. It seemed awful even to think of murdering someone who had simply wished me good day and remarked on what a beautiful one it was, let alone actually doing it. If ever there was going to be an appropriate time to go on stage in the part of the mute from Genoa which I had often rehearsed but never played, this was it. I didnâ€™t answer.
â€˜Da dove viene, lei?â€™ he asked.
I just continued to look at him. I suppose I should have been making strangled noises and pointing down my throat to emphasize my muteness, but just as I couldnâ€™t bring myself to assail him, I couldnâ€™t do this either. It seemed too ridiculous. But he was not to be put off. He removed his haversack, put down his butterfly net, sat down opposite me in the hollow and said: â€˜Lei, non e Italiano.â€™
It was not a question. It was a statement of fact which did not require an answer. I decided to abandon my absurd act.
â€˜Si, sono Italiano.â€™
He looked at me, studying me carefully: my face, my clothes and my boots which, after my accent, were my biggest give-away, although they were very battered now.
â€˜I think that you are English,â€™ he said, finally, in English. â€˜English, or from one of your colonies. You cannot be an English deserter; you are on the wrong side of the battle front. You do not look like a parachutist or a saboteur. You must be a prisoner-of-war. That is so, is it not?â€™
I said nothing.
â€˜Do not be afraid,â€™ he went on. â€˜I will not tell anyone that I have met you, I have no intention of spoiling such a splendid day either for you or for myself. They are too rare.
Picking, cooking, and eating flowers and wild herbs was once a common practice across rural Italy. From Naplesâ€™ sciurilli (deep fried courgette flowers) to Venetoâ€™s frittelle di fiori de gazia (acacia flowers doughnuts), most regions have a dish whose key ingredient is flowers. But after World War II, industrialization and urbanization led to the abandonment of this ancient tradition. Now, one woman is trying to bring it back.
Elena Rosa, whose last name literally means â€œRose,â€ is growing flowers, wild herbs, and rare vegetables in a two-hectare farm nestled between the wheat fields of rural Piedmont, about 30 miles from the snowcapped peaks of the Cottian Alps. Rosa grew up in Turin, Piedmontâ€™s main city, but spent summers with her grandparents in Ceresole Reale, a mountain village inside Gran Paradiso National Park. Thatâ€™s where she first learned about foraging.
â€œAs a kid, I loved helping my grandma picking vegetables,â€ she says. â€œI used to go out into the woods to look for wild caraway to make grappa.â€ Now, some 30 years later, sheâ€™s delivering flowers to the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant. …
Common recipes included soups and frittatas made with luppolo (hop flower), jams and infusions made with rosa canina (dog rose), and dumplings filled with tarassaco (dandelion). Flowers were also a key ingredient in popular herb digestifs such as Serpui, a grappa seasoned with wild thyme, and Genepy, a spirit made with eponymous genepy herbs.
â€œWild flowers and herbs are rich in vitamins and minerals, and they were especially important during time of famine, disease, or war to provide sufficient nutrition to the population,â€ says Alessandro Di Tizio, a graduate of the University of Gastronomic Science in Pollenzo who works as a professional ethnobotanist. …
â€œAfter World War II, many young people left rural areas to look for work in cities, and were no longer interested in foraging,â€ De Tizio explains. â€œAnd those who stayed could often do without foraging thanks to newly available industrial products.â€ …
Two years ago, Rosa purchased abandoned farmland in Gemerello, a rural area at the foot of the Cottian Alps. After years of job-hopping, from sous-chef in a top restaurant to manager in a construction business, she was looking to start her own organic farm. The initial plan was to grow to grow regular crops, but her foraging sessions with â€œgrandma Irideâ€ inspired her to start what she calls an â€œancient seed farm.â€
She now grows roughly 200 different seeds, ranging from rare vegetables to wild plants and flowers including nasturtium, cornflower, and dahlias. â€œI have learned that flowers are very nutritious and can be used for a vast range of recipes,â€ Rosa says.
Flowers of Blitum virgatum, commonly known as leafy goosefoot (left), and a rare breed of calliope eggplant grown by Elena Rosa (right). Elena Rosa (left) and Vittoria Traverso (right)
But starting an ancient seed farm was not easy. Italyâ€™s byzantine bureaucracy was in the way. â€œLocal health authorities donâ€™t know how to rate flowers,â€ Rosa explains. â€œI got a mix of surprised and skeptical reactions when I explained you can actually eat them.â€
[D]espite bureaucratic obstacles, her products are slowly taking off. Last spring, Rosa brought a sample of her produce to Michelin star chef Christian Milone, who runs the family-owned restaurant Trattoria Zappatori in the nearby town of Pinerolo.
When Milone was a kid, wild flowers and herbs were a staple ingredient in his parentsâ€™ kitchen. â€œFrittatas with luppolo (hop flowers) were one of my favorite dishes,â€ he says. Tasting Rosaâ€™s sample was like re-discovering long-lost flavors.
A month later, Milone was serving dishes prepared with Rosaâ€™s herbs and flowers. One such floral creation is crostino con erba ostrica, a bread crouton topped with Mertensia maritima, a wild herb known as oyster leaf due to its oyster-like taste, and garnished with violets, daisies, and cornflower petals. â€œItâ€™s like an oyster for vegans,â€ Rosa says.