I left Paris a bit miffed as an Easy Jet agent chose me (the only person on the entire flight) to place my carry-on suitcase in one of those “does it fit?” contraptions, and although I’d just flown on three Easy Jet flights with no problem fitting my bag in the overhead compartments, apparently this time it was different.
I was in the midst of writing this post last Friday, when the terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. The sentence above was the beginning of my rant about Easy Jet charging me 55 euros. In light of what just happened in Paris, a nasty gate agent and having to pay double the cost of my flight in a baggage fee seems to be quite insignificant and unworthy of the space on this page. So I’ve deleted the rest of what I’d written and I’m taking a different path. Before I begin to tell you about my next adventure in Europe, I’d like to write a few words about my thoughts regarding travel in 2015 and in the future.
One of my readers sent me a message to thank me for my recent post on Paris; this is what she wrote:
Thank you for your wonderful memories and great testimony to this city as through your eyes will be my only visit. I think my traveling will stay within the confines of what I know…with your excellent narratives of the places I wanted to go, I feel like I have been so I just wanted to say thank you. -MB
Although I’m elated that she gained so much from my simple post from a small area of Paris, I’m also disappointed if the terrorist events in Paris, and those in Lebanon and Syria have dissuaded people from traveling in general. I know there are other people out there making the decision that they will never travel again. As long as we use simple common sense when traveling, I believe that we’re just as safe, or as vulnerable, in our own homes as we are when we’re overseas. I will continue to plan my travels just as I did before November 13, 2015 and I encourage you to do the same.
Now back to regularly scheduled programming…
Where was I heading on that plane from Paris? I was on an evening flight to Rome (Fiumicino) to meet my cousin, Denisa, who was flying in at roughly the same time, from London. We were to meet at the airport, rent a car and stay at a hotel nearby. Everything went as planned except we didn’t have access to the internet on our phones, or a map (long story), but short of one wrong turn, we arrived at our hotel with no problems and were ready to begin our short Italian holiday, after a good night’s sleep, of course.
In the morning, we had a typical Italian breakfast at the hotel which consisted of lots of fresh fruit choices, pastries, and more; and of course a frothy cappuccino!
It’s a good thing we wanted to get on the road early because this pool looked enticing, but we discovered that it would cost an extra 5 euros/hour to use it. This is the kind of extra expense that bewilders many tourists in Europe. Even Denisa and I were surprised and we’ve been to Italy many times.
Denisa had no time to plan our time in Italy due to her heavy work schedule, and I had to time as it was so last minute and I was travelling to so many places, so we really just got in the car with an idea to head south, and that was all. No hotel reservations, no itinerary, no wifi and no map. Yep, we’re Italian; not so great at organization. (If you haven’t seen this, I think it’s pretty funny and fitting in this case:
HEAVEN is where: The police are British, the cooks are Italian, the mechanics are German, the lovers are French and it’s all organized by the Swiss.
HELL is where: The police are German, the cooks are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and it’s all organized by the Italians!
We really hadn’t driven far at all when we noticed some interesting architecture and decided to stop. We were in Ostia Antica, which is very close to Fiumicino airport. We realized as we drove through, that the entire area was filled with Roman ruins and artifacts.
We entered a walled village, and although it was the middle of the week, it appeared that a wedding was taking place in the church. We wandered around to have a look. It was a very unique village, and we could only imagine how old it was.
We left and decided to take the coast road, and after stopping to dip our toes in the Tyrrhenian Sea we headed onto Via Appia, southbound.
We had pizza in mind for lunch, but as we drove we saw nothing that resembled anything like a restaurant or pizzeria (isn’t that always the case?)
We decided to go to Terracina for lunch as I’ve been there several times and we knew if we didn’t eat soon, all the places would be shut for the afternoon. Terracina is one of the beautiful seaside gems of the western Italian coastline, and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if we stayed there for our entire stay.
It wasn’t very busy in town, but there were a few people eating at La Marina Pizzeria, so we decided to eat here. Denisa wasn’t feeling fantastic, so she just wanted a salad and some bread, so it was up to me to decide on what I wanted. I asked what totani were, since they were on the menu with pasta, and the nearest I could understand was that they were a type of squid, but they are not called calamari. So I ordered paccheri con i totani locale con peperoni (pasta with local squid and peppers- for lack of a better translation), instead of pizza, since seafood seemed to be more prominent on the menu.
You’ve probably deduced that I really enjoyed my lunch since it’s the featured recipe for this post, right? It was the perfect meal for a hot day with the light, quick sauce, seafood and veggies. I knew then I would have to try to re-create the dish at home! Denisa had a few bites and agreed, it was delicious. (RECIPE BELOW)
We had a refreshing drink, then the chef brought us a sweet, local wine to try. I took one sip and was back in France at Chateau Guynot! Although it was a locally made wine, it totally reminded me of the pineau I had been tasting in France, just three days earlier!
I was amazed at how similar the pineau and passito wines were to each other, and how it seemed to make Denisa feel much better!(An interesting side note: as we were having lunch here, our Zia Francesca and Zio Carmine (from Canada), cousin Gianfranco and Zia Iolanda were about 5 minutes away, visiting one of my mother’s good friends from France who happens to live in Terracina, but we didn’t know this until later!)
After lunch, I wanted to take Denisa to the top of the nearby hill to the ruins of an ancient Roman temple called Tempio di Giove Anxur (Temple of Jupiter Anxur), where I’d visited before, but didn’t mind seeing again. The views from the top alone, are worth the visit.
We watched a short video on the history of the site, then went exploring and picture-taking. The temple was built on this strategic site for protection, but also as a place of worship. This is also where Circe supposedly lived and turned enemies into animals. Here’s an interesting article which touches on mythology of the area.
We headed back down the hill to Terracina and were so happy to be in the air-conditioned car. It was such a hot day.
We then made our way to Sperlonga, the next beach town, and a place I often visit when I am in Italy. (We are only about an hour away from our mothers’ village in this location). Old town Sperlonga is a hilltop town where no cars are allowed in the center, simply because there are no streets. Which leads me to warn you about the parking situation in Sperlonga (or lack thereof). We circled about three times and almost got stuck in a tiny parking garage before we found a spot just outside the town. However, you’ll see it is probably worth seeking out a spot. Here are some photos of Sperlonga.
A few more photos and we jumped back in the car. I will skip what happened next (let’s just say you’d be reading for quite a while), but we’d connected with my mother’s friend and headed back to Terracina to spend the night there.
Now for that lovely seafood recipe. I made it once, and honestly, it tasted wonderful! I wouldn’t change anything. I actually made the recipe with half a pound of pasta, but I’ve put amounts for a full pound. I used frozen calamari, but if you prefer, use fresh or even make it a real “sugo di mare” and add scallops and/or shrimp, for example. Here’s my version~
Paccheri con Sugo di Mare (Paccheri with Seafood Sauce)
inspired by La Marina Pizzeria in Terracina, Italy
2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, (2 crushed, one finely chopped)
fresh parsley, chopped (amount, as desired)
1 cup (8 oz) of tomato puree
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 small sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
salt and pepper (hot pepper flakes are optional)
about 1 lb of calamari rings (and or tentacles, if fresh) or seafood mix (I used frozen)
1 lb paccheri pasta, smooth or ribbed (use rigatoni or a large tube shaped pasta if you can’t find paccheri)
a few fresh basil leaves, torn
Boil water for the pasta and cook as directed; while the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.
Place the olive oil, garlic and parsley in a large, deep sauté pan, bring heat up to high and before the garlic browns, add the tomato puree and stir quickly.
Drain the pasta when it’s al dente, and stir the paccheri into the sauce. Mix gently, but well.
Add torn basil leaves and serve hot.
- 2½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, (2 crushed, one finely chopped)
- fresh parsley, chopped (amount, as desired)
- 1 cup (8 oz) of tomato puree
- 1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 small sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper (hot pepper flakes are optional)
- about 1 lb of calamari rings (and or tentacles, if fresh) or seafood mix (I used frozen)
- 1 lb paccheri pasta, smooth or ribbed (use rigatoni or a large tube shaped pasta if you can’t find paccheri)
- a few fresh basil leaves, torn
- Boil water for the pasta and cook as directed; while the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.
- Place the olive oil, garlic and parsley in a large, deep sauté pan, bring heat up to high and before the garlic browns, add the tomato puree and stir quickly.
- Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, red pepper slices and salt, stir and cook for 2 more minutes, then add the calamari or seafood.
- Cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until just cookied (don’t overcook the seafood or it will be tough). Taste for salt, add freshly grated pepper and remove from heat.
- Drain the pasta when it’s al dente, and stir into the sauce. Mix gently, but well.
- Add torn basil leaves and serve hot.
To be continued…
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