This delightful initiative is run by Architects without borders Piedmont and an association called Terra Terra.

The oven, entirely constructed in environmentally friendly or low impact material represents the kitchen as heart of the community, a place to meet up and do something constructive together.

The very act of baking harkens back to primitive activities  (think sharing a meal in the cave) and bread making in particular, as bread is very much a staple food.

The oven is a charming alternative to mass-produced, anonymous consumption of food and a chance for communities to mingle and share experiences related to cooking and to life in general. The creators of the oven had in mind the traditional village oven around which people would queue, chat, gossip and generally open up.

The over called, Il Focolare, is currently being built by voluntary helpers and people who want to hone in on their construction skills, so if you happen to be near Turin on 9th and 10th June be sure to pop into the PAV (Parco Arte Vivente- Living Art Park) and check out the latest stage of development.



Pavia Wine 2012

As promised after Beer Food at the Castello Visconteo in Pavia, we couldn’t miss out on Pavia Wine the following sunday.

It was boiling hot, not the organiser’s fault although let’s face it May would have probably provided better weather for tasting full bodied reds. Unlike Beer Food the event took place in covered first floor of the castle beautiful, but not very breezy.

Also unlike Beer Food there was absolutely nothing to eat! Now I know that if you are a proper wine connoisseur you are very likely to do that spitting into a bucket thing instead of drinking the wine, but this was not the tone of the event. Even the sommerlier seemed rather (very) drunk. Every 15 minutes some salame from Varzi was brought out only to disappear within seconds as the ravenous crowds swept in.

Most of the local wine producers were there, with some new names we didn’t know although the usual favourites are Giorgi, La Versa and Mazzolino. A lighter Buttafuoco was a nice surprise.

This place is a really little find. After cramming into an impossibly small and inanely crowded  bar for an overpriced aperitif we strolled towards the second flat we were going to view that day and  in Via Casale we found this really cool bar/shop. Basically selling wine and olive oil on tap it also offers the option to buy a small glass of wine (about the size of a shot glass) and a board with cheese, salami and ham and bread sticks.

What is really impressive is how cheap it all is. One glass of wine is 1 Euro and the food, served on a wooden cutting board cost from 3-6 Euro. Trust me, you won’t get anything cheaper in this area.

But it’s not just cost that attracts people here as the atmosphere is delightfully informal and unpretentious. When we finally move I’m going to make this a regular.


If you live or are holidaying in Italy this year with your dog you’ll be pleased to know that dog-friendly beaches are becoming ever more common. As Ezzie is a boxer, and therefore a dog with a short soft palate and suffers the heat a lot we also wanted to select a beach that not only allowed dogs access, but that also let them pop into the sea for a refreshing swim.

Thanks to Onoreveole Brambilla (one of Silvio’s bunch, but worthy of my respect nonetheless for her pro animal campaigns) there is a pretty good website in Italy called Turisti a 4 Zampe where you can select the tourism outlet that you need (hotel, restaurant, private or public beach) and area you are visiting to get a list of dog-friendly places. When I manage to figure out how I’ll be putting their banner on this site too.

Anyways there are 2 public beaches in Pietra Ligure where your puppies can swim with you, these are Ex Leonessa and Ponente. We visited Ponente.

The daily price to use a deck chair, sun bed and shade was 13 Euro. This covered 2 people and one dog. Additional dogs or people cost another 3-5 euro. On all beaches in Liguria you can haggle for a discount if you arrive in the afternoon. It’s not always a success but when it is it’s well worth it.

We set off from a sweltering (and rather shaken) pianura padana where temperatures were 27°C but arrived to a chilly, wintry Pietra Ligure- just the weather Ezzie loves.

You have to keep the furry babies tied op on the beach but in the sea you can let them off. As it was freezing we had the beach to our selves. Here is the link to the full regulation by the local council of Pietra Ligure.

We’ll definitely be going again as it was a lot cheaper than private establishments that quoted me around 40 Euro per day and great fun for Ezzie. Happy swimming!

Lately there has been a lot of talk about what kids are eating at school. After all, they spend most of their waking time at school and what they eat there should fuel them in their development and sustain them as they learn and play. Right?

Maybe not as trawling the web reveals that not only are variations in what is regarded as a suitable school around the world meal huge, but it looks as though factors such as cost savings and competition in the adult world are affecting what kids eat.

I’ve found a couple of things on the web that really make differences stand out.

On the ‘sublime’ side we have these elaborate cartoon bento boxes lovingly made by stressed out (and a bit competitive) mums…

And for the ‘ridiculous’ we have the blog-sensation called NeverSeconds which documents the school dinners served to a UK 9 year old called Martha Payne.

The images come from her blog and are enough to make you balk.

So what are your thoughts? Ideal balance school dinner anyone?

It’s not every week that something is going on in Pavia, but now it almost is with Beer Food just gone and Pavia Wine coming up on Sunday 3rd June (www.paviawine.it)

Beer Food felt had the festival feeling nailed-it even rained! Admittedly we managed to stave off the downpour and only get a few drops, but it just added to the grungy barbecue feeling of it all.

So, Beer Food was set up by an association called ‘Amici della Birra’ to promote specialty beers. They managed to nab a top venue- the inner court of the castle at Pavia and charging only 3EUR for entry they had it packed pretty soon.

Various stands offered barbecued meat, sandwhiches and chips as well as focaccia, farinata (ligurian focaccia made with chickpea flour) and a whole load of highly caloric comfort food.

Assortments of cold meats

Classic festival food 

A find: Il Giusto Gusto, a sandwhich chain present in various places including Piacenza

‘Plin’ special ravioli from the Langhe area in Piedmont

One of the great things about panna cotta is that if you are having a dinner party you can prepare this the morning or the night before and not worry about pudding while you get everything else ready.

You will need the following:

500 ml cream

3 sheets of gelatine

1 vanilla pod

25 g icing sugar

chocolate sauce or favourite sauce to garnish

First you need to put your gelatine leaves in water to soak in cold water.

P our your cream and icing sugar into a pan on low heat and mix in.

Then split your vanilla pod length-ways and add to the pan.

You will now need to squeeze the water out of your gelatine and add it to the pan, stirring until it dissolves. Remove your pod and pour into your moulds.

Leave for five hours then immerse the mould in warm (not boiling!!) water to ease the panna cotta out of the mould and add your topping of choice. I’ve marked 3 of my panna cottas with red food colouring as they were made with soy cream anathema to my friends but lifeline to the dairy intolerant!