Have you ever dreamt of winning a ticket to a whole new life?
5 star reviews on Amazon
One woman’s transformative, inspirational and humorous trek
through Greece, Turkey and Italy.
Sometimes you have to let go of everything to find what you really want.
Greek islands, Summer…
Bronté finds herself backpacking through the Mediterranean, but it’s not all paradise.
Reeling from the end of her marriage, the loss of her job, and with no place to call home Bronté hadn’t hesitated to pack her bags when she unexpectedly won an airline ticket to her dream destination, with spending money included!
With nothing left to lose, she had set off into the unknown with no itinerary, no experience, and a hastily filled backpack. After losing access to her money on her first day, being poisoned on her second day, and finding herself sleeping on a beach next to travellers on the run from organised crime, her adventure takes her on an hilarious tour through the underworld of backpacking.
This is a story about transformation from helplessness to power, hopelessness to faith, and anguish to joy. Set against the backdrop of breathtaking Mediterranean islands, vibrant Rome, enchanting Tuscany, and captivating Turkey, Bronte connects with the beauty of nature to restore her shattered heart and confidence.
But how will she be able to go back to normal life after this journey? Should she stay in the arms of her belly dancing boyfriend? And is the amount of byzantine icons in a city a good indication of whether she should settle there?
“I listened, I let myself go where my heart took me and it never took me ‘back home’. It took me to a new one.”
“From a dark, gaping hole of plans that had fallen through, and a life that had never worked out the way I wanted I had trodden step by step, carrying nothing with me except what was required, staying constantly in the present. Somehow I moved forward just by being, just by stepping, just by continuing to look at the sky, talking to the people around me, and being out on the road each minute, each hour, each day. Although I had wanted to stay still, crying on a Greek beach waiting for someone to rescue me, I found that moving into the unknown was so much more interesting and, in the long term, truly fulfilling.”
A compelling and candid story. An odyssey of self-discovery that fundamentally questions how to live and find happiness.
November is the time for this years batch of Vino Novello or ‘young wine’ to be released. A red wine, it is produced in a way that accelerates fermentation and has no tannins. Like a Beaujolais, it is fresh, fruity and deep. Italians have many, many rules as a society and a large quantity of them are related to as suggestions (like lanes for traffic) except when it comes to food and drink. The rule of Novello is that it is only available from October 30th until sold out (usually by the end of the week). It does not keep well so needs to be drunk immediately (I am just relating the rules).
2. The color of the sky.
Rome’s sky turns turquoise in Autumn, its sharp blue the perfect back drop for its burnt orange buildings, and perfectly seen through leafless trees.
3. The food.
Autumn is the time you feel like (and enjoy) eating again after the sweltering humidity and heat of the summer. Oranges from Sicily, mushrooms from Tuscany, fresh pork sausages from the countryside near Rome all go well with Vino Novello as do the chewy salami‘s and tangy sheep’s cheese (pecorino). Vegetables such as Funghi porcini mushrooms, artichokes and the very Roman puntarelle appear back on the market after their long summer rest, and last sometimes only a few weeks so all of a sudden everything has funghi porcini or artichoke in it. Food is seasonal in Italy and therefore looked forward to. The sense of anticipation and reminiscing is shared and joined in by everyone. If you go to a friends house for dinner in Autumn you know that artichokes, puntarelle or funghi porcini will be on the menu.
4. The sun
Finally you can sit in it. Avoiding the sun was the past time for the past six months but now it is sought out. Sitting in the brilliant Autumn sunshine is a legitimate past time and reason to go outside. It can still warm, is too bright to look at and bathes everything in happy yellow autumn. It also goes well with a glass of Vino Novello.
All over Rome, communal vegetable gardens are being prepared for Winter. Pruning, weeding, digging and raking are all activities being undertaken. Everyone lives in apartments in Rome so these small plots of land are a hive of activity being undertaken in the brilliant autumn sunshine, often followed by a glass of Vino Novello (just saying).
I grew up in a suburb with lots of leaves where every autumn i delighted in diving into big piles of them and throwing them up in the air with my dad frantically yelling ‘don’t do that, there’s probably dog poo in there!’ Rome, having mostly trees that shed their leaves rather than evergreens, like in Australia, is full of leaves. Just one of the many delights I discovered when I first came here. You can go to any large park in Rome and literally drown in leaf pools. You can run through the middle of them and throw leaves up in the air to your heart’s content and mostly they don’t have dog poo on them. Or you can just scuff them up under your feet in your local neighborhood. No one rakes them up and they sit there for weeks until an Autumn deluge comes along and washes them away.
7. The peace
Summer holidays are over, children are back in school, tourists are back at work. The summer squalls and winds are finished. Leaves float gently down like stars. Vision is clearer through sparkling sunlight. The evenings come quickly and quietly, nothing stirs.
8. The temperature
It’s cool for the first time since April. The mornings are fresh and crisp, the days sunny and bright, the evenings cold. Perfect for Vino Novello.
9. The mood
The city rests. The violent rain lashed storms have washed the city clean from the detritus of the summer. Things are ticking along.
10. The olives
The first time you discover you have a friend that has an olive grove and who requires help with picking olives, you think yourself blessed and so so lucky to have landed a friend such as that. After you have helped picked olives for this friend you find that you are busy every November ever after. Olives are great to eat, especially with a glass of Vino Novello, picking them is not great.
Private tours available via the Tour page on this website or https://www.facebook.com/romandaze/
Read more about Rome in: ‘Roman Daze – La Dolce Vita for all Seasons’.
Some things can’t be homogenised, commercialised, mass produced or copied. Thank goodness. You have to wait until they come around again, like the seasons of the year. A lot of things in Italy are like that. Some see that as an archaic attitude to life, lacking rationale (economic in particular), and a wasted opportunity. But not all experiences can be bought or made, sometimes they are just to have. And its in the having and savoring, without a desire to do anything else with them, that Italians excel; and why their lifestyle and culture is so envied and, ironically, copied………
Its exactly eight years since I last tasted the tart little tarts, filled with fruit from the orchards and fields that surround them deep in the heart of the countryside south of Rome. The paddocks are lined with glasshouses that supply the city with its peaches, figs, tomatoes, and berries. Buffalo cows that produce the milk for mozzarella meander the streams that flow down from the rocky mounts behind them. into the sea just in front of them. We search for the small, nondescript little cafe that we always stop at, about half way into our journey from the city to the sea and yes, it is still there!
And so are the tarts……… I choose blackberry and as I bite into it thank goodness that some things stay the same, that some things are a genuine expression of their local resources and culture. I thank goodness that the owner of the bar still serves these tarts, as she watches me. No doubt wondering why a foreigner, who has probably lived all over the world (I have), would bother to look so happy and satisfied at a roadside stop somewhere between Rome and Naples. But I have come literally half way around the world and waited eight years for these little dense, well built, rounds of fruit.
We continue on our way to Sperlonga, a beautiful white stone, seaside town built on top of a cliff. Its staircase, which begins at the sea, twists and turns up the mountain through caves designed to be blocked off so that invaders (including a pirate called Red Beard – really!) couldn’t reach it. The water at Sperlonga is a particularly high quality due to the underground springs of fresh mineral water that bubble up through the seabed, in bursts of freezing cold water, in the otherwise 22 degree, translucent blue, undulating body of sea.
At the bottom of the cliff the large stone, knee height pool that fills with natural spring water is still there, built for the women of the village to do their washing in and take advantage of the clean, cold water. Italy bursts with fresh, cold drinking water from the ground for its citizens. Where ever you are it seems the earth sprouts forth the enticing and the necessary to enable and cherish life and encourage it to stay (or return) right here at its source, enjoying and relaxing in its abundance. Maybe that is why the residents are so thankful to their local Saint, who presides in a full life sized statue over the beach.
It is hot and sunny, the perfect day for our first swim of the year/season. We have our lunch in the shade of the Saint, giving thanks and celebrating our first swim with local buffalo mozzarella, local tomatoes and a zucchini and ricotta strudel from this months La Cucina Italiana cooking magazine, http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it
When I first arrived in Italy, I was fresh from back packing around the Greek islands. I wasn’t carrying any cook books in my backpack. The internet didn’t exist and cookbooks in English were rare. I knew how to cook but not how to use Italian ingredients (I had no idea what to do with an artichoke and some months it is THE main vegetable on offer), or cook Italian food (and many of the ingredients I was used to were unavailable – pumpkin, ginger, coriander, self raising flour). I was especially not used to only using seasonal produce. I was so stunned the first time I asked for strawberries and everyone in the shop laughed at me. So I needed to learn how to cook in Italy and I needed to learn Italian. In the days before the internet, La Cucina Italiana monthly magazine did both. I learnt all the Italian words for food and cooking terms, including local expressions like ‘a string of oil and 2 fingers of milk’, as units of measurement. It helped that there were a lot of pictures, step by step guides and special features each month on what to do with the in season vegetables and fruit, as often you couldn’t get much else.
“Do you have anything besides zucchini?” I once asked my fruit and vegetable seller.
“What do you mean? We have dark green zucchini, light green zucchini, baby zucchini, zucchini flowers, why do you need anything else?”
So in zucchini season its helpful to have a few recipes for zucchini. I have translated it so you don’t have to learn Italian as well. See below for recipe. Serves about 9.
Slice up finely and length ways (called a listerelle) about 6 zucchini (not the baby ones) with a bunch of spring onions and fry them for about 10 minutes in some italian extra virgin olive oil (its really important to use this oil and not another type), with salt, pepper and sage, oregano or bay leaf.
Mix together 300g ricotta cheese with 200g of fetta cheese, some salt, pepper and a small dash of italian extra virgin olive oil.
Mix the cooled, cooked vegetables in with the cheese and spread it on a sheet of flaky pastry. Put another sheet on top of it and close the edges so it is as rectangular as possible. Make some slits on the top of it and brush it with egg yolk. Bake it for 20 minutes at 180
Contact me for one of my private tours in the Tour page on this website or my Facebook page – Roman Daze
Read more in: ‘Roman Daze – La Dolce Vita for all Seasons’, Melbourne Books, 2013
Available at all bookstores nationally within Australia, FAO Bookstore Rome, and via Amazon, Kobo and ibooks.