Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Blue Grotto

Per anndare d'accordo co il vicino - devi stare con un-occhio aperto e l'altro non serrato.
(To get on with your neighbours - you must go with one eye open and the other not closed.)

Nooks Of Naples:  The island of Capri boasts beaches, amazing vistas, a funicolare that goes to the town center where pedestrian walkways twist along white washed buildings, and the Blue Grotto.  It's a resort island now.  But if you take the 2km walk from the town center to the other end of the island, you also find what remains of Tiberius' villa.  

I already wrote about his summer residence in Sperlonga and his hapless fate with women.  What I left out was that Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and spent the rest of his life in Capri, where he built a large complex and remained until his death.  He left the ruling of Rome to the cruel and ruthless Sejanus.

The two historians who documented Tiberius' life, Tacitus and Suetonius, claim that by the time he lived in Capri, he was a paranoid man who indulged in sexually depraved activities.  He even purportedly had two servants whose names were 'Sphincter' and 'Saddle.'  His subjects in Rome often referred to him as 'Biberius' meaning 'Lush'.  Upon his death at the age of 77, he was denied the usual divine honors of a Caesar and mobs of people in the streets of Rome yelled "To the Tiber with Tiberius."  (At that time, the corpses of criminals were usually disposed of in the Tiber River.)

Today, sheer cliffs and beaches make this island beautiful.  The Blue Grotto is the main tourist attraction, which would be a wonderful experience -- if it wasn't also a rip-off.

We pay a fee at the harbor and a boat takes us along the sheer cliffs until we reach the opening of the grotto.  Here, we're required to pay another 10 Euro (per person) to get into a row boat.  The rower then tells us to lie down in the boat.  He pulls at a chain strung through a small rock opening and the boat rushes inside.  We enter a dank hole -- I mean a cave -- where ambient blue light shines from the bottom of the water on one side.  The rower sings a song from the Spanish group, 'Gypsy Kings,' his voice echoing throughout the cave along with the many other rowers.  When we leave the grotto, the rower asks for an additional tip... and then asks for an additional tip to the one we just gave him.  All in all, the experience leaves us with a Tiberius-like sense of fiduciary perversity.  (I'm sorry, but it does.)

Getting There:  You can catch the ferry to Capri almost once every hour of everyday at the port in downtown Naples.  For more information, the Capri tourist website is excellent.

La Cucina Napoletana:  Capri cuisine has its own particular flare.  Some of the more well-known dishes include stuffed calamari, wild quail, capri style ravioli, and caprese cake made from chocolate and almonds.  The island also makes its own wine "Capri Bianco".

But for today, I'd like to continue on my ancient Roman recipes... and for two more posts.  After that, I'll have translated enough recipes to create a several-course meal of ancient dishes.  And I've found something simple that's also perfect for these sweltering Italian summer days of August.

Omelette Al Latte
(A New Type of 'Sugar Omelette')

Apicio writes:  Four eggs, a half liter of milk, 25 grams of oil, all well combined.  Put a bit of the oil in a thin frying pan, make hot, then add the prepared mixture.  When one part is cooked, turn it over, put on a tray, drizzle with honey, dust with pepper and serve.

(This recipes makes enough for 4 people)
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon oil
generous amounts of honey
generous amounts of pepper

Take the eggs, milk, and oil and combine together.  Put a little oil into a frying pan for omelettes and heat.  Then pour in the eggs with milk.  Let it thicken and when it reaches the necessary consistency, turn it with the help of a plate and let the other side cook as well.  Slide onto a serving platter.  Douse the omelette with honey and dust with pepper.

(This is another recipe from Ricette Della Cucina Romana A Pompeii by Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti)

Make sure to eat this dish while on a 'depraved' island.

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