FAMILY TRAVEL – VIAGGI
A happy Monday in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples in Italy, isn’t hard to achieve. The fact is that the natives long for Mondays in the summer. All the tourists come for the weekend, so they are catering to whims all weekend long. “Put the umbrella over here.” “Per favore, bring me a prosecco.” “It’s 1 a.m., I’m buzzed, and I locked myself out of the villa…again.” True story. These are just a few of the antics with which the natives of a beach lover’s paradise have to deal.
On Monday, many of the travelers go home. Often, the natives get a reprieve. Things are just a little slower until they hit Thursday again. So, Monday is met with pleasure. An American with an office gig, I have a hard time getting used to this upside down calendar. But every now and then in Ischia, I give in and head to the beach on Monday morning. It’s like starting the week off with meditation.
While my American colleagues are still snoozing, I’m taking a dip in the sea. Or with my feet dug in the sand, I’m writing in my journal. The views are spectacular. For a writer, it’s a way to discover inspiration. You can close your eyes, zone out, and conduct some introspection. The ideas flow from there. Even if you’re not a writer, you can appreciate this form of recharging yourself. Join me on this fine Monday morning in pictures.
A Place in the Sun
This morning, we changed up our beach routine. We headed for Luigi a Mare, which is both a beach front for renting lounge chairs and a restaurant. The plan was to spend some time on the beach first. Then, we would walk to the back and eat one of the sublime lunches at the restaurant. Our friend is a chef there. He sent over a delightful apperitivo. That’s a small pre-meal bite, usually accompanied by an alcoholic beverage. Those who know me are probably wondering if I partook. I definitely ate the cheese and chips. But I left the alcohol for my husband and the chef to enjoy beachside. Still, I’m sure many of you are imagining yourselves sipping prosecco while drying off right about now.
One of my favorite things to do at the beach in Ischia is to watch the boats – sailboats, motor boats, row boats, yachts. They are sometimes completely still in the middle of the sea. Seeing the island by boat is something I’ve done a number of times. And it is always remarkable; you always discover some new nook or giant rock protruding out of the water or patch along the shore. However, when you’re on the sand looking out at the boats, you can use your imagination. I like to make up stories about where the boat is going or where it has been. Of course, you can make endless speculation about who is aboard.
First Small Bite
“Crudo” means raw in in Italian. This is how many people like to sample Ischia’s fresh shellfish. I am not the biggest fan. But my husband “cooked” the shrimp for me by drenching it in lemon. It wasn’t bad. My husband devoured it with a big smile on his face. If you’re into it, then Ischia is the place to eat it.
On this lovely little tray, we received salmon, breaded swordfish, and a lightly dressed salad of thinly sliced octopus with fennel, tomatoes, and capers. It was perfect in its simplicity. My favorite of the three has always been the breaded swordfish. But I found the salad slightly tangy and refreshing on a hot summer day. You easily could make a whole meal of this antipasto. We split it in two. Already, we were feeling full. But who could resist the “primo piatto” that was still to come?
Treasures of the Sea
My favorite meal in Ischia is any pasta dish with clams. While I love to eat clams in the United States, too, the taste is entirely different here. It’s better in Ischia. Obviously, here all the fish is fresher. You often see the fisherman lifting the goods out of the sea and handing them over to the chefs cooking for you. These beauties are called vongole veraci. The small size and two little tabs attached to each give away their identity. They are sweeter and lighter than any clam I’ve eat in the U.S. This gives a distinctly different taste to the pasta. Unlike in the U.S., Italian clam pasta recipes never call for anything but clams, its juices, olive oil, and maybe light seasoning.
Aglio olio, which means garlic and oil, is the standard meal in a pinch in Italy. Everyone knows how to make it. However, this version includes a bed of raw shrimp under the traditional pasta. My husband says it brings new life to an old favorite. I don’t know about the taste because I’m not the biggest “crudo” fan. But the presentation is sublime.
The Sweetest Ending
In a previous post, I explained how these cannoli will be the death of me. But I will die a happy, happy woman. Honestly, cannoli are not usually my thing. But these are traditional like the ones in Sicily, the originals. That means the fried dough shell is stuffed with a smooth ricotta filling. But the base of the ricotta is goat’s milk as opposed to cow’s milk, which is all we know of Stateside. You will eat these cannoli and think of nothing else. Getting your next fix will become your life’s goal.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.