Monday, 6 February 2017

The Sabine Hills' own Goddess: Feronia, Goddess of Nature and Freedwomen

The Sabini, were an ancient tribe that ruled the land in which we now live. This mysterious tribe can trace its origins to as far back at the 8th century BC. Little is known (although more and more is being discovered) about them, but the Sabini co-existed in the same period of time as the Eutrusci, Latini, Volsci, Falisci, and centuries before the Ancient Romans. 

We (Guido and I) have a passion for local and ancient history, so we often visit historic sites to find out more about 'what was before'. We recently visited an archeological site called 'Antiquarium e Area Archeologica di Lucus Feroniae', at the foothills of the Sabine Hills. 

This vast site was only recently rediscovered, in the 1970's, and now offers a small museum with the amazing finds, that date back to the 7th to 5th century B.C. Many of the artefacts are dedicated to Feronia, the goddess of Nature, woods and springs, and of freedwomen, who was also known to have healing powers and the ability to bring peace among the different tribes. 

Lucus Feroniae was a popular meeting place for surrounding tribes due to the sacred cult of Feronia and the monthly markets held in this town. The archeological site we walked around contains a forum, market place, basilica, amphitheatre, temple, mosaic floors, thermal bath houses, ancient paved roadways: in fact a whole complex. I have included some photos here. Enjoy! 
(Post written by Sally)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Guido's Italian Sourdough Bread

Fresh out of the oven

The secret to making good bread is found in the quality of culture and the flour. I make my bread using a sourdough culture kindly donated to me by Signora Giacomina, a lady in the village. This culture is over 35 years old. They say the older the culture, the better the bread.

I always prefer using organic stoneground flour from an ancient water mill here in the Sabine hills. It's the same flour I use for all our Italian cooking classes.

Italian Sourdough bread
Ingredients:1 kg of stoneground flour, 400g of fresh sourdough culture, 650 to 700 mls of water, salt to own taste.
Start mixing some of the flour and some water and salt in a bowl. Add sourdough. Transfer all ingredients on to a worktop or wooden board. Start needing, stretching and folding the dough all the time. Make the dough into two loaves and place  them into two bread tins or on an oven tray. Let the dough raise overnight for at least 8 hours. Bake at 170 C in a convection oven (otherwise 200C) for about 40-45 minutes.

Olive oil, nuts, seeds can be added to the mixture.

Tips on fresh sourdough: The sourdough needs to be kept in the refrigerator and to be fed or 'refreshed' once a week. This means getting rid of half it (in weight), (which will be used in the new lot of bread you are making) and replace it with the same amount of flour and water. Sourdough can also be frozen for long periods. Once defrosted you can add half a spoonful of honey to help it to get 'active' again and be ready to use.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Olive Oil Farmers are jumping for joy in the Sabine Hills

We have had a few very cold days in #January, and the local #oliveoil farmers are jumping for joy! 'They say', just a few days of frost will help kill potential dangerous bugs/insects living in the it looks like we have a great beginning for the production of #Sabina #EVVO extra virgin olive oil in this area for 2017! Viva Italia!

'Behind the scenes' in the Olive grove: Now is the time for trimming the olive trees. 

Cutting the extra branches off the olive tree, helps the tree to receive more light, heat and air, therefore optimum conditions for producing more fruit... Although the olive groves seem tranquil at this time of year, the farmers are still working, preparing the olive trees to produce their best! 

So 'fingers crossed' for the 2017 Sabina D.O.P. extra virgin Olive Oil.

Pecorino Cheese: Fresh from the local shepherd in the Sabine Hills, near Rome

Just visited the local shepherd to get a 'wheel' or 2 of #pecorino (sheep) #cheese. It is a tradition in the #SabineHills, near #Rome, for the shepherds to make their own cheese from the milk their sheep produce. Sheep's milk is even sweeter and creamier in the #Winter and cooler months of the year.

So January and February are great excuse to eat even more of this delicious cheese. We can buy it fresh 'primo sale' or more mature. When we visit, Irena, our local shepherdess, she will ask how mature we would like our pecorino, and then select a wheel of cheese from her wooden shelves in her storage area 'cantina', where all cheese matures. You could not get more local 'zero kms' and fresher than this!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Traditional Italian food- Why it's so good?

What makes traditional Italian food taste so good?
From my experience it all comes down to the quality ingredients, the balance of flavours, plus the love that comes with those recipes handed down from generation-to-generation......

The good news is that Italian food doesn't only taste delicious, it can also be an economical way to eat.

Take a moment to read this article, called 'The Mediterranean Diet on a Budget' written by Sam Urq,  for 'Olive Oil Times'.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Sabina D.O.C. wines, in the Sabine Hills, near Rome

One way to choose a good wine here in Italy, if you know nothing about the grape nor the winery is to look for the D.O.C. label. The Italian Government has ruled that the wines offered in our area, just north of Rome in the Sabine Hills: the Sabina 'D.O.C.' (Controlled designation of origin) wine, should be a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes for red wine and Malvasia and Trebbiano for white.  There are many other ways to find a good wine, but this is a great way to start.

Visiting the Sabine Hills wineries makes a great Rome Day Trip and an opportunity to witness how wine is made naturally on a small scale, in a beautiful environment. Convivio Rome offers a Half Day Rome Wine Tour. For more information please contact us


Monday, 31 October 2016

The Sabina olive harvest has begun and the farmers are almost crying

We are now in the midst of this year's olive harvest and the organic farmers in the Sabine Hills are almost crying. They are picking earlier than usual, this year to salvage what olives they can. Some have been destroyed by the pest the olive farmers most fear: La mosca dell'olivo, the olive fly and other olives are not yet ready or already drying out on the tree.
Harvesting Olives using nets to capture the olives racked from the trees.

An olive farmer in Canetto, yesterday, told me "They need to harvest all olive varieties now, and get them to the olive press as soon as possible" He showed me some of the olives he had already harvested, gathered in the nets. Opening the olive you could see the damage the fly had already done.

Sabina Olives from an olive oil farm near Castelnuovo di Farfa

Not all olive trees in the Sabine Hills have been effected. The olive harvest in now in full swing.

Last year, the 2015 olive harvest was abundant, and the yield was high. However,  due to a mild winter plus hot and wet conditions in late Summer, the olive fly has once again, destroyed a lot of the olives organically grown in the Sabine Hills. near Rome. 

Gathering the olives in nets is hard work. Olive harvest happens just once a year.

Last year, the 2015 olive harvest was abundant, and the yield was high. However,  due to the last winter not being cold enough plus hot and wet conditions in late Summer, the olive fly has once again, destroyed a lot of the olives grown organically in the Sabine Hills.  They will produce what they can this year and hope for a better yield in 2017.