I have become somewhat addicted to the olive oil produced by Quattrociocchi, in the countryside near Alatri, about 40 minutes away by car from Frascati.
My mother has too. One of my sisters in the UK has too and every time my mother goes over to visit, she takes three to four 3-litre cans of their Olivastro oil with her. It’s that good. It is organic. It was won prizes all over the world, indeed I daresay it might even be the olive oil that has won the most prizes globally?.
I did an introduction-to-olive-oil course last year with Marco Oreggia, he of Flos Olei fame. It was very interesting and I will eventually get around to writing a post about it. Anyway, Quattrociocchi gets 98 out of 100 points in their 2016 Guide (which is the Flos Olei guide I have at the moment). Just to give you an idea, another olive oil which I love and is very well known and highly thought of, Marfuga, from Umbria, gets ‘only’ 95 out of 100 points. The Quattrociocchi olive oils contain phenolic antioxidant levels that are off the charts – which means it is incredibly good for boosting our health. And at Eu12 per litre I would say that it is also very reasonably priced. Whatever, we get through their oil as if there were no tomorrow.
Going to fetch the olive oil has frequently turned into a little jaunt for my mother and me, with lunch being thrown in for good measure. When my friend Sally came to visit for an all too brief stay last September, it coincided with my having completely run out and needing to go, otherwise I would have postponed, naturally. The three of us (Sally, my mother and I) got there later than we had hoped for and when reached the restaurant we normally go to, we found out it was its weekly closing day. The long and the short of it is that we ended up having lunch in one of these ‘Autogrill’ stopover places on the Autostrada (the Motorway). We could have done worse I suppose, and Sally is never one to comnplain anyway, but still …
Which is why, just the other day, the weather being so sunny and promising, I thought I’d surprise my mother as to the location of our post-Quattrociocchi shopping. She insisted it was her treat, and I insisted I would choose where. And that’s how we ended up having lunch overlooking the sea at Sperlonga. Just to make up for our Autogrill lunch of six months ago.
Sperlonga is a very sleepy town in Winter and is not even wide awake now, as it readies itself for the Summer tourist season. And that made it even more special an atmosphere to be sauntering about in. We ended up having lunch at “Il Portico”, very civilised and pleasant. And all in all, we had a very special mother-daughter outing. Now, it’s not every day that I take this long and go so far just to buy some olive oil! But since life can indeed be so busy, and hard or disappointing, or just plain tiring a lot of the time, I try my best to imbue my ‘to-do’ list with ‘to-enjoy’ moments. I hope you enjoy looking at the photos too. I just love the sea! I just love the blue skies!
Sperlonga sits atop two stretches of beach: this one is on its left. There are the remains of the ancient Roman villa of Tiberius on this beach. If you look closely on the horizon, on the other hand, you can just about make out the island of Ischia.
Here, the island of Ischia is much easier to spot – almost floating on the horizon. This beach is going to be very busy in a few weeks’ time but right now it was just dreamy to behold. Some intrepid people were even bathing in the sea!
And this is the stretch of coastline to the right of Sperlonga. What looks like an island, there on the horizon, is actually the promontory of San Felice Circeo. It is said that Odysseus/Ulysses was drawn there by the sorceress Circe. She turned his men into pigs but he was so clever and so damn macho and sexy, I suppose?, that he managed not to be outwitted by Circe and have his men turned back into men again. They/He enjoyed staying with her for a year before resuming their journey to Ithaca, and he back to his wife Penelope (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circe).
All of Sperlonga is white-washed. Perched on top of a scraggy promontory to keep safely out of reach of marauding and pillaging Saracens, its streets are very narrow.
It looks a little ‘Greek’, doesn’ it. Adore this hue of blue.
One has to be fit to live here … Can’t imagine people doing a weekly shop here. More likely a half-day shop!
May is the month of roses …
My mother enjoyed her fried anchovies.
I was a little greedier.
Love the bougainvillea.
A huge ficus!
An olive tree.
Time to go home. An espresso and off we go.
The weather is grey and it’s drizzling and the sky is a murky pale grey as I write this post, sigh. Nothing like the blue of the sky and sea and the dazzle of a sunny day to make life come more ‘alive’.
The poet Ungaretti is famous for his one-liner “Mi illumino d’immenso”, which rolls off the tongue in a very Nabokovian sound-pleasing way in Italian. Its title is “Mattina”, meaning morning. It was printed in 1918 for the first time within an anthology entitled “Cielo e mare”, i.e. The Sky and The Sea. Sometimes it takes a poet to know how to be pithy about the beauty and wonder of life.
Quoting from an article in The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/may/31/featuresreviews.guardianreview6)
“To Italians, it’s perhaps the most famous poem of modern times: a tiny piece just seven syllables long, four shorter than a single line of Dante. The title is “Mattino” (Morning), and you don’t need to know Italian to catch the beauty of its sound:
A rough translation would be “I flood myself with the light of the immense”, though the vagueness of that is alien to the poem’s terse musicality. The open vowels and the repeated ms and ns create a mood of wonder, evoking the light of a new day starting to flood the sky. The two lines capture something deep in consciousness that responds to this great but commonplace event out there in the external world.