The Dolomites

Every so often it is good to visit a different part of the world – to do some strenuous activity, to find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, to accomplish the unthought of.  What made us decide to hike in the Dolomites, I can’t quite remember, but I know I was sure I couldn’t manage either the altitude or the arduousness of the trek over such mountains.  The Dolomites are part of the Alps that separate Northeastern Italy from Austria.

Nevertheless, a few months ago we signed up for a week’s stay in Val di Fassa.  We were once again in Italy, in Trentino.  This land had been part of Austria at one time.  It was ceded to Italy as part of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, and indeed this part of the world seemed as much German as Italian.  Place names are to be found in both languages and our hosts at the hotel as well as people we met on our excursions over the mountains switched effortlessly from one language to the other.

We found ourselves in a wonderful hotel called Al Piccolo in a town called Vigo di Fassa.  We were given a guidebook of hikes in the area and the rest was up to us.  So the day after we arrived we took a chairlift up (in the winter many of the trails we hiked in the area were ski trails) and hiked down from Passa Costalunga to Vigo di Fossa.

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View from Hotel Piccolo

I have never seen such beautiful mountains!  They are the living ages carved in the earth.  They seem to move, changing aspect as you approach.  Even though the hiker is the one on the move, the mountains tantalize and elude.  Can you ever reach the summit?  I could not, but I didn’t need to.  It was enough to be in their strange and magnificent presence.

The Hike from Costa Lunga to Vigo di Fassa

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Then we decided to do the excursion called Labyrinth.  The labyrinth, according to Joseph Campbell, is an archetypal symbol of re-birth, so I had hopes that some mystical change would occur.  The hike was supposed to be one of the easier ones.  And it was – at first.  We wound our way through high stones that formed a maze which ended on downward sloping rock scrabble.  I was very proud of Jim who proceeded quickly and mastered the rocky trail.  I was proud of myself too – for daring to cross rocky scrabble that challenged my balance.  I did not think that I could do it.  But I did.

 

Labyrinth Hike

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In between hikes we visited the Ladino Museum.  Ladino refers both to the original inhabitants of this area and their language.  It’s a language related to Latin and Germanic and is still spoken.  Folk traditions are still remembered as are local myths.

Next we went to Lake Fedaia –high, isolated and tranquil.  The hardest one, though was from Campitello to Sasso Piato.  We were about 8,400 feet up, above the timber line.  We took a chairlift along with a group of young men who were going to be hang-gliding from the mountain.  We could see them floating as we walked down.  It was a long and lovely walk, with a lunch stop half-way.  We passed back into the timber line and through cow pastures.  And made it back to our hotel in time for dinner.

Lake Fedaia

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Hike from Campitello to Sasso Piato

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The colored dots in the air are hang-gliders.

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Descending into the Timber Line

If you look carefully, you can see the hang-gliders around the jet trail.

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Meeting Friends Along the Way

 

Jim and I both loved the Dolomites!  We hope to return soon.  I particularly want to further explore the Ladino culture.

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Rabbit Italian Italian Style

Just before we left for Italy, a friend told me she had tried the recipe for rabbit that I had included in Ciao, Napoli.  Needless to say, I was delighted when she said she liked it.  When I was collecting my memories and impressions of the time we lived in Naples, I included recipes I got from friends, my cousin Maria, or that I tried (with some success) to duplicate from dishes we had at various restaurants.

The rabbit recipe was my cousin Maria’s.  She made it one Eastertime when we were visiting.  She gave me step-by-step directions while I watched.  I have since made it for my family and they liked it.  So, I offer it to my friends:

From  Ciao, Napoli a Scrapbook of Wandering in Naples

Although it’s only about fifty miles from Naples, the Cilento has a very different way of cooking. Since it is in the mountains, fresh fish is not readily available, nor are the abundant vegetable markets of the city. The cuisine is based on what can be grown locally and on cheese and fresh ricotta made from the milk of the ubiquitous cows and herds of goats and sheep. One vegetable that is a mainstay in the cuisine of the Cilento is pumpkin. It grows freely in Maria’s garden, and she often picks the flowers, dips them in batter, and fries them for dinner. She is able to discern which flowers will produce fruit, so she does not deplete her crop. Maria serves pumpkin slices roasted with olive oil and salt. The people of the village also raise rabbits. Maria presented us rabbit for dinner on Easter Sunday. She showed me how to prepare it, and I have since made it for family dinners back home.

 

Cooking Rabbit on Easter Sunday
Cooking Rabbit on Easter Sunday

Rabbit Cilento Style

 

1 rabbit, cut into pieces                4 potatoes

2–4 tomatoes                                Fresh basil, parsley, bay leaves

4 cloves of garlic                          1/2 cup of olive oil

 

Cut rabbit(s) into serving-sized pieces and place in a pot along with the potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with water and simmer until done, but take care not to overcook. Then remove the rabbit and potatoes and set aside. (The broth can be used for stock at a later time.)

Just before serving, chop garlic and fry it in the olive oil until transparent. Braise the rabbit and potatoes over high heat until the outside is browned. Serve hot with crusty bread and follow with salad.

 

But, I have since learned, there are other ways of preparing rabbit. Recently we were in Capri, where we had a small apartment with a nice named I Fiori di Lucia  It had a kitchen and Jim (my husband who is a sometime vegan) decided that he wanted meat.  What kind?  Pork or beef.  Or – we are close to Ischia and Ischia is famous for rabbit – maybe there is a traditional way to make rabbit on Capri.

So we went to the local butcher who said they make rabbit the same way as the do on Ischia.  He told me how and it’s also really good.  In his words, the rabbit is cooked a bianco  and is only macchiato with tomatoes.  He even gave me rosemary and bay leaves from his garden to season it.

We had a delicious dinner while enjoying the sunset on our last evening in Capri.

 

Sunset at Hotel I Fiori di Lucia
Sunset at I Fiori di Lucia

 

 

Rabbit Capri Style

 

1 rabbit, cut into pieces                ½ cup dry white wine

About 10 cherry tomatoes            Fresh rosemary and bay leaves

1 medium onion                           1/2 cup of olive oil

 

Cut rabbit(s) into serving-sized pieces and set aside.

Chop onion and cut tomatoes in half. Brown the onion in ¼ cup of olive oil.  Add the herbs, salt to taste and a little white wine if they get too dry.  When onions are transparent, remove from pat.  Add the rest of the olive oil and braise the rabbit.

When rabbit is browned, add the vegetables and remaining wine.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

 

ENJOY