Archive for December 2015


When is a sandwich not a sandwich! When it’s a tramezzino! And when I told a friend I was writing a post about them she exclaimed “WHY THEY’RE JUST HORRIBLE SANDWICHES?” Not so fast…

In case you’re wondering…I have a thing for sandwiches…always have. I also have a passion for Donna Leon’s Venetian Detective Commissario Brunetti books! And the characters are always going to the bar for a glass of wine and a tramezzino! So…while in Rome I spotted those tramezzini from afar! The initial appeal is, once again with that Italians thing with presentation and packaging!

tramizzino 3When it comes to fancy English style sandwiches, I’ve made more than my share in my previous life as a caterer; probably thousands and thousands and you know what…I never get tired of trimming crusts!  Click here for my English fancy sandwiches.  Scroll down to find links to more delicious fillings!

So then I started wondering why the heck are there fancy sandwiches in Italy…I have a thing about these sorts of connections! Turns out the origin of the Tramezzino can be found in the Caffee Mulassano di Piazza Castello in Turin where it was devised in 1925 as an alternative to English tea sandwiches. And wouldn’t you know it, Italians being Italians, Venetians claim it first came into being in Mestre in the late 1940’s! Some are of the opinion that it was an import, bought to Turin or Venice by someone who had visited England… aha, I knew it! Personally, I like the idea that someone from England was doing the Grand Tour and requested them!

Poet and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio was credited with the naming of the tramezzino, “Italianizing” the English word “sandwich” and the Italian word means either “between the two” or a “little something in the middle” or a “snack in between.”

The tramezzino is made using soft, white bread with the crusts cut off. And then there are the fillings! Anything from shrimp and arugula; tuna, capers and mayonnaise; tuna, tomato and olive; tomato, mozzarella and lettuce; Proscuitto Cotto (cooked ham) and mayo or with the addition of cheese; and boiled sliced egg, asparagus and tomato. To qualify as a authentic tramezzino, the sandwich must be a delight to the eye and to the taste buds.  I ask you, what’s not to love??

Like I said, I spotted them with my well-trained tramezzini eye!

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Roman Holiday 2015

This time we spent 3 weeks in Rome…and yes to all of you who say “3 weeks”…really? Yes, really! We tried new places to eat that we  heard about and returned to a couple of ones we enjoyed on our past two stays in Rome. We DSC_7592-nx2visited the Castelli Romani with a good friend, stopping for this gorgeous view of Lago Albano.  And a few days later we went on a day-long jaunt up to Montefalco in Umbria with friends to get some wine…crazy right…well it was fun!

We finally made it to the Hassler Hotel for that drink in the bar we have been promising ourselves since 2010!  I highly recommend the Negroni’s! The hotel is situated above the Spanish Steps; thank god for the elevator to the top of the Steps!  We have a question about the redecoration of the bar done a couple of years ago, why??? It seems strangely at odds with the rest of the lobby.  Our waiter was a gem! He has worked there for something like 40 years and is about to retire in a few months…he didn’t care for the way the bar had been redecorated either!!

Visiting the Campidoglio is a must for anyone interested in the works of Michelangelo and we did visit it on a year ago…but we didn’t go to the Capitoline Museum there!! Seeing the replica statue of Marcus Aurelius outside is one thing but seeing the stunning bronze original inside (erected approximately 176 AD) brought tears to my eyes! Sadly, there seemed to be a number of works not on display…the pedestals were there but not the works of art?

DSCN9817 nx2On a visit to the VAG (Vancouver Art Gallery), last summer, I fell in love with a painting by Antonio Mancini called “The Sulky Boy” painted around 1886 and quite frankly “I wanted it”. Luckily we were there with a friend who said we could see more of his works, as well as other modern and contemporary art, in Rome at The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. Sure there were some well-known artists but it was such a pleasure to see works by many Italian artists that most of us have never heard of. The Galleria might be off the beaten track but it’s certainly worth a visit.  (The photo is the installation behind the reception desk at the entrance.)

As is the Villa Farnesina! This renaissance Villa is in Trastevere, was opened in 1510 and has rooms covered with gorgeous frescoes created by artists such as Raphael; absolutely stunning works of art. A Roman friend recommended we go to the Villa Corsini just across from the Villa Farnesina to view some of their paintings by Caravaggio…too bad for us…oggi la Villa e chiusa (closed today)…darn! Who knows why!

We can never get enough of t.v. shows about Italy! One talked about the Villa de Medici and its fantastic gardens, located at the top of the Spanish Steps next to the Trinita dei Monti. The gardens are touted as one of the best gardens in Italy, on a par with the Borghese gardens. Of course, we had to go! This 16th century Villa once owned by DSC_8175 nx2 ver 2Fernando I de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, is now owned by the French State with The French Academy in Rome being the tenants since 1803. This day things were not as usual…who knew! The Villa had been the site of a large wedding a day or so ago, therefore we were unable to see a lot of what we came for, including the famous, fabulous, facade designed by Bartomolomeo Ammannati! What we did see of the gardens was a bit of a let-down. The event trucks were all over the place, dismantling gear from the wedding which meant that tour groups were re-routed to see some of the apartments on the top floor. I thought that stone spiral staircase was going to be the end of me! Definitely not for anyone with physical challenges and that includes me! But I’m not quitting now! The rooms were wonderful, the ceilings covered with fabulous paintings by Jacopo Zucchi done around 1576/77 and the walls “faux” finished by Balthus in the 1960’s while he stayed there. He layered different colours of paint and then added textures to the wet paint. Apparently you can pay to stay but watch out for that staircase! The room known as the “Aviary,” painted by Zucchi was absolutely spectacular, with trailing vines, plants, exotic animals everywhere and “faux” draperies painted on the walls.

Never fear, I’ll be getting to the food soon! After all, it’s part of the “package”…right?

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