Letters from Italia: radicchio to riso

table set for lunch
table set for lunch

As I ate breakfast, at a lazy 9:30, Remo was already busy preparing lunch, chopping leftover cooked veal for his tomato sauce and wandering out to the garden to collect a firm savoy cabbage and leaves of dark red radicchio, chopping them in a fine julienne for salad.

At 10:30 we had our first cappuccino at the osteria. We still haven’t seen one of Sandro’s old school buddies; apparently he’s due tomorrow. We’re now up to three espressi and one or two “cappuccio” a day. Not sure if they’re to blame for me having a hard time sleeping, or if it’s just too quiet here at night for this city gisavoy cabbage and radicchio from Remo's gardenrl.

Another glorious day, with snowy mountains looming in the distance. A friend in France wrote to say he’d been looking at the same mountains the day before from his village. Much too beautiful to stay indoors watching The Streets of San Francisco dubbed in Italian, so off we went in the Volvo. This time with a Tom Tom GPS stuck to the windshield to help us maneouver through the right roundabouts.

If you could paint your house any colour, what would you choose? There’s every shade here in the north — lots of salmon, terra cotta, ochre, blue, burgundy, pink, even pea green.  I asked Remo in my best Italian why he doesn’t have a yellow house. He’s obviously not a fan, and said he prefers white. I imagine they’re all quite beautiful against the snow in winter.

We set the Tom Tom for Arborio, discovered on our last trip. Of course, that’s where the name of the rice comes from. We’ve also been to Barolo, Barbaresco and Gorgonzola. It’s too early for planting, but the tractors are gearing up for another season. You can easily spot the rice fields, empty squares surrounded by embankments. In the fall they’ll be golden and glorious, stalks heavy with rice grains swaying in the breeze.

We parked at the caffe in the centre of town and walked to the rice shop down the street. The       arborio in Arborio  same senora we met last time, whose son grew the rice, stood behind a counter laden with colourful cloth sacks of rice, 1 and 2 kg. She recommended arborio over carnaroli for risotto, saying it absorbs more liquid and more flavourings. I also bought a bag of brown arborio, which I’ve never seen before. I may have to eat it alone since Himself isn’t a fan of whole grain anything.

 Of course we had to stop for a caffe. I left first, then wondered what was keeping Sandro. When I opened the door he was deep in discussion with the female barista and a regular about asparagus. Not only is it in season, apparently, but there’s a particular town on the way to Torino where it grows. Not called Asparagi, too bad!

Maybe I’d better set the alarm so we can get an early start.


  1. Hi

    I’m getting hooked on your stories……..wanna go to Italy now.

    Went home for Easter – Mum is doing really well – made her very good fish chowder and fish cakes and had two pieces of her apple pie (with grape nut ice cream).

    Hope Sandro is well…..

    Hugs Patricia

    • Would love to sample wholegrain risotto. Have you tried it yet? So enjoying your great stories. Makes me long to be in Italy, especially in spring.

      • The riso’s coming back to TO so will try it soon. The spring has been so wet and cold, even the Italians are depressed. But the last two days have been beautiful … if you’re in the sun! Trying to decide where to go to dinner in Casale Monferrato.

  2. I am also hooked on your stories. Every time you name another little town I look on line to see where you have been! You are so descriptive of your food, I may have to try some myself! Italy is definitely on my ‘to do’ list!
    Thanks for the tales from abroad!

  3. Aaaaah…your time in Italy sound lovely.

    Mom & I are also in rice country. We lunched on Shrimp Bog made with Carolina Gold Rice & are now checked in at a former rice plantation for the night.

    The azaleas are stunning!

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