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Mouth-watering Figs!

Figs love the Mediterranean climate in Italy. You can find these yummy fruits in family gardens all over Italy ripening from September – October. Depending on the variety they are available from summer thru fall.

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They date back all the way to ancient times. They are even mentioned in the Bible. In ancient Rome, the fig was deemed sacred and it was thought to be a bad omen if a tree perished. It was said that every house had one and they have been found for centuries in Tuscany.

Okay like we need any more reasons to visit Italy!!!! Bologna-1Italians have loads of traditions as I discovered. Figs are the fruit of the Ficus tree and some believe it is good luck to have a fig tree in your yard. They are a great source of fiber and full of vitamins and minerals. They can add a burst of sweetness to all kinds of dishes with their soft, chewy texture.

Sadly, where I live they cannot over-winter outside and I just don’t have enough room to bring a tree inside. Once a fig ripens they don’t last very long and perish pretty quickly. Select figs with nice deep color with no bruises and with a sweet fragrance. Do not wash them and store them in your refrigerator for maybe two days max .

Here are some ideas on how to use them.

I love figs with some prosciutto, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar or honey. This is a recipe by Ina Garten that I adapted by adding balsamic vinegar at the end called Roasted Figs with Prosciutto which you can find on Food Network. This is a lovely quick appetizer.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto

Ingredients

20 large fresh ripe figs (about 1 1/4 pounds)

20 thin slices Italian prosciutto (8 ounces)

Good olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Snip the hard stems off the figs and cut the figs in half lengthwise through the stem. With a small sharp knife, cut the prosciutto in half lengthwise into inch-wide strips. Wrap a strip of prosciutto around the center of each fig half, with the ends overlapping. Brush with olive oil and arrange cut-side up on a sheet pan.
  2. Roast the figs for 10 minutes, until the prosciutto is a little crisp and the figs are warmed through. Serve warm.
    • Level: Easy
    • Total: 30 min
    • Active: 20 min
    • Yield: 10 servings

How about on a pizza or crostini?
Simple prep is best to keep that luscious flavor and texture.
Have you tried fig jam? I love it on cheddar cheese or apples.
Try a panini maybe with ham, cheese and fig jam. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

I made this Flatbread before my figs were gonzo! Yum!

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Fig Goat Cheese Flatbread by Last Ingredient

 

Fig Goat Cheese Flatbread

Makes 1-12-inch flatbread (I used store bought pizza dough)

For dough 2/3 cup warm water 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar 1/2 teaspoon olive oil plus more for bowl 1-1/2 cups bread flour plus more for work surface 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For flatbread:
2 teaspoons olive oil
10-12 fresh figs, sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 handful baby arugula
1 teaspoon minced chives
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the yeast mixture and process until a ball of dough forms. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface.
Place the dough directly on the grates and grill for 3 minutes with the lid closed until the crust has grill marks and has puffed up. Turn over the crust and grill for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the crust from the grill.
Brush with olive oil and arrange the figs in a single layer leaving a 1/2-inch border at the edge. Scatter the walnuts, goat cheese and arugula on top. Sprinkle with chives, sea salt and pepper before serving.

Here’s another:

FIG, GOAT CHEESE & PANCETTA CROSTINI

By: Giada DeLaurentiis

SERVING SIZE:

20 Crostini

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups dry red wine, such as Pinot noir

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey

6 dried Mission figs (about 4 ounces)

2 whole star anise

3 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 loaf country white bread or baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices, and then cut into shapes, optional

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sliced fresh mint, for sprinkling

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium saucepan combine the wine, 2 tablespoons of the honey, the figs and star anise. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the figs are plump and tender, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the figs to a cutting board to cool for 5 minutes. Then cut the figs into 1/4-inch slices. Discard the anise and bring the liquid back up to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the mixture is thick and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Transfer the syrup to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Place the pancetta on a baking sheet and bake until the slices are crispy and brown, about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool then roughly chop.

Brush the bread slices with the oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

In a medium bowl combine the goat cheese, lemon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon honey, the chopped mint and the salt. Spread 1 tablespoon of the goat cheese mixture onto each crostini. Top with fig slices, pancetta crumbles and a sprinkle of sliced mint. Just before serving, drizzle with the reserved syrup.

Active Time
30 MIN
Total Time
45 MIN
Yield
Serves : Makes three 1/2-pint jars

This supersimple fig jam recipe—just figs, sugar and lemon juice—can be easily upgraded with white port and rosemary for an extra special treat.

How to Make It

Step 1

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs are juicy.

Step 2

Add the lemon juice and water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the fig jam over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 20 minutes.

Step 3

Spoon the jam into three 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Close the jars and let cool to room temperature. Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Notes

Variation: Substitute 1/2 cup of white port for the water and add one 4-inch sprig of rosemary with the lemon juice; discard the rosemary before jarring.

 

Never be afraid to try new things! I have plenty of suggestions for your Italy trip planning in my blogs. Here is a link to Bologna, the food capital of the world!

 

Fiesole

Just a short bus ride from Florence up into the hills brings you to the town of Fiesole. The quick side trip lays fabulous views of Florence at your feet. The city is laid out before you as a marvel of the Renaissance in Tuscany that it is.

Fiesole Belmond views-1

The first thing you see upon arrival is the Medieval Cathedral.

Fiesole Cathedral-1

Fiesole -1

We spent the day exploring the ruins of the Teatro Romano an archaeological site that includes a temple, the Roman theatre and the Baths.

The Roman Theatre was built somewhere between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century A.D.  The half-round ampitheatre allowed easy seat access and was used until the 3rd century A.D.

The thermal baths date back to the 1st century B.C. and included a Frigidarium to cool off after your hot bath, a Tepidarium which was the lukewarm space and a Calidarium the hottest water which was warmed by two ovens.

The Etruscan walls partially enclose the city of Fiesole and were a defense against enemies until 1125 when Florence conquered Fiesole.

After exploring the town on an insanely hot afternoon we walked partially down the hill to grab lunch at the Belmond San Michele. This is a very special property in the Belmond chain and again overlooks the city of Florence.  It was well worth making a reservation to join them for lunch. The property is stunning and I cannot wait to go back so I can experience the property properly as a guest!

Remember when travelling get off the beaten track! If you can’t afford to stay somewhere plan to go there for lunch. No restaurant that I have ever visited denies non-guests lunch.  Just make a reservation!

Then back to Florence!

Florence-1

Lake Como – Villas on the Lake

Did you know Lake Como is only about an hour’s ride from Milan? There are numerous grand villas that line Lake Como.  Taking the slow ferry gives you a glimpse at a few!

Lake Como villa
Villa on the lake
Lake Como villa
This screams Italy to me!

Villa Balbianello in Lenno is one of the most scenic residences on the lake and is famous for its terraced gardens.  It was originally built for Cardinal Angelo Durini and sits high up on a hill overlooking Bellagio and the lake. The Loggia Durini is a popular wedding venue. This location has made its way into a variety of movies like Casino Royale and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.

Villa Balbianello, Lenno
Lenno
Loggia Durini

Grand Hotel Tremezzo besides being a magnificent hotel has a floating pool! This historic property was recently renovated and very popular on the Lake. Enjoy the restaurants or the spa.  Terrace dining has you looking over to Bellagio. While here be sure to stop next door and visit Villa Carlotta. Built in 1690 it features a lovely Italian garden. Again, if you are taking the ferry to Bellagio or Varenna you can hop off in Tremezzo to visit here.

Tremezzo
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, floating pool

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is another lovely spot to stay, just lunch or grab a drink. The Villa was built back in the 15th century. The park is not part of the property and the Gardens at Villa Melzi are time better spent.

Villa Serbelloni

Villa D’Este originally had a female convent on this site but it was later demolished to make way for a private residence.  It too has beautiful gardens.  In 1873 it was converted into a hotel and it has seen the likes of many celebs!

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Villa D’Este in Cernobbia

Did you miss the beginning of this series on Lake Como? Here is a link to Part One- Lago di Como – a series

Lake Como – Bellagio – Villa Melzi

If you visit Bellagio be sure not to miss the famous gardens of Villa Melzi. The gardens are open to the public but the 19th century neoclassical villa is not. It is said these gardens were a favorite spot for Franz Lizst, the famous composer and pianist and quite possibly where he wrote one of his most famous pieces, ‘Dante Symphony’. This Villa was built to be the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, one of Napoleon’s men.

As you enter you come upon this serene Japanese inspired garden and the Grotto.

Villa Melzi pond
Japanese Maples

Next you encounter the Moorish Pavilion with its sculptures and cypress trees. A pretty spot to rest a minute or just hop out of the sun. The views both north and south are lovely.

Bellagio Villa Melzi Moorish Pavilion
Villa Melzi Moorish Pavilion

Farther along towards the Villa is a lovely Plane (Plantanus x acerifolia) tree lined path with modern benches. A quiet spot to enjoy the views of the lake and the towns across.

Villa Melzi Modern benches arch
Modern benches arch

Right in front of the Villa is the Terrace and Lake Landing. The columns frame the views toward the Swiss Alps.

Villa Melzi
Terrace and Lake Landing looking towards Switzerland

As you wind your way around you link back to the beginning via a series of paths lined with specimen trees and statues.

Bellagio Villa Melzi-1-2

Ready for more Lake Como?

Bellagio- the “pearl” of Lake Como

This lovely village on Lake Como is known for its steep, narrow, stair lined cobbled streets with insane views of the lake. It is one of the most popular stops for tourists visiting the area along with the towns of Varenna and Como.

Bellagio is located at the junction where the “Y” shaped lake divides into two branches. Take it slow, walk around the lanes, stop for a spritz, check out the shops. Don’t miss Villa Melzi gardens or Villa Serbelloni or just walk out of town and explore. Be prepared though!!!! We did this and GPS didn’t work to well to get back into town and we really walked and walked and walked!  Dead end after dead end.

Bellagio road to Villa Melzi

Bellagio blog-8

The old town center faces the west branch of the lake and is lined with cafes and shops at one end is Villa Serbelloni.

Bellagio port area-1

Villa Serbelloni

Warning!!! Wear comfortable shoes as there are lots of stairs to access the higher part of the town.

Bellagio blog-4

In the center of town you’ll find Piazza della Chiesa and the bell tower of the Basilica of San Giacomo, a Romanesque church that can be seen from everywhere.

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Harbor and Bell Tower from Villa Melzi

Even if you aren’t staying overnight you can have a very special lunch at many hotels.  We walked out of town and stopped in at Hotel Belvedere with breathtaking views of the east branch. Lunch was incredible!!!! Hotel Belvedere overlooks the eastern branch of Lake Como and the views here are towards Lierna to the south and towards Fiumellate to its north. Either the dining room or the adjacent patio provide breathtaking views. Hard to believe we had the patio to ourselves while a few guests enjoyed the pool and sun deck. Many hotels welcome non-guests for meals. It is a way I have found to experience a locale I might not be able to afford. Also I don’t know about you but I hate hotel hopping! This kills two birds with one stone!

We took a day trip from Como via the ferries that run daily from Como.  Bellagio is an easy day trip.  The slow ferry takes 2 hours and makes multiple stops along the way and you can hop on and off to explore. There is also a fast ferry.  We took the fast ferry back to Como late afternoon. Get to the docks early and make sure you are at the right one!!! Just sayin’! You might want to stop in Tremezzo to see Villa Carlotta or in Lenno to visit Villa Balbianello. There are many small lovely towns to explore.

Ferry Lake Como-1

Bellagio blog-8

Studio Tecnico Architetto Stefano Catti
Studio Tecnico Architetto Stefano Catti

While in Como check out the silk! Como is one of the best places to buy silk in all of Europe!

como cathedral-1

In upcoming blogs I will show you some other sights like Villa Melzi’s gardens and Villa Balbianello.

Did you miss the last 5 blogs on Lake Como? Here is a link to Lago di Como – a series, part One

Lago di Como, a series, part 5

There are so many things and places to experience on Lake Como that I could go on and on! Here are a few more sites from the city of Como located only an hour by train from Milan and perfect spot to call home base for visiting the lake.

 

 

Did you miss Lago di Como, part 4  

Lago di Como – Part 3; Lago di Como – Part 2 Brunate; Lago di Como – a series

Lago di Como, a series, part 4

On the shores of Lake Como in the town of Cernobbia is the 16th century Tivoli Palace named, Villa D’Este.  This former palace from the Renaissance era was converted to a high end hotel in 1873 and consists of the Villa and a 25 acre park.  Be prepared for stunning views of Lake Como!!Cernobbia Villa D'Este-1

Como-1-2

Also on the shores of Lake Como in Como is the Hotel Albergo Terminus which dates back to the 19th century.  The views of the lake are fabulous and its central location in the historic center next to Piazza Cavour, the piers , the funicular and a small train station makes it very convenient.

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Albergo Terminus

Did you miss  Lago di Como, part 3

Lago di Como – Part 2; Lago di Como – Part 1

Lago di Como, a series, part 3

Travel to any town in Italy and you will find beautiful churches. The Como Cathedral as it is known, is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and dates back to 1396. Architecturally fascinating, it mixes Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque features. This is a very important Gothic church in Northern Italy. This Roman Catholic cathedral stands in the Piazza del Duomo a lovely spot to people watch, have a drink or just hang out!

The Cathedral features a Rose window and a very impressive green Rococo cupola dome. The main portal stands between statues of Como natives as well as sculptures of Adam and Eve. The exterior also has sculptures of five other saints. Near the Rose window you will see a statute of God surrounded by other statues.

Como cathedral exterior night-1
Just another Monday evening in Como! Boys playing cards 🙂

The cathedral has ancient tapestries and paintings and is worth a stop inside.

The Coin department store near the Piazza has a cafe on the roof with lovely views of the Cathedral.

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It’s Spritz time somewhere!

Lake Como sits near the foothills of the Alps on the Italian-Swiss border and is only an hour by train from Milan. The city of Como makes a great home base to visit the other major towns on this lake like Bellagio and Varenna but there are many special towns lining this lake. If you can, hop the slow ferry getting on and off checking out towns like Cernobbia, Lenno and Tremezzo.

Stay tuned for more from Northern Italy! Did you miss Part 2? Lago di Como, part 2

Ready to go to Lago di Como -Part 4

 

Lago di Como, a series, part 2 -Brunate

When you are in the city of Como, Italy on Lake Como don’t miss the chance to ride the funicular up to the small town of Brunate which sits 2346′ above Como. Of course, if you are in no hurry you can hike up! The funicular opened way back in 1894. The breathtaking views of the lake and the town below can’t be matched anywhere! While there walk around or hike to the Volta Lighthouse for more outstanding views.

Funicular-1
Funicular to Brunate
Views from Brunate north-1
View from Brunate north towards Switzerland
 
Como cathedral-1
Como Catheral from Bunate’s Panoramic viewpoint 

Brunate house with flowers-1

Sitting high on the hill is the Church of Sant’ Andrea Apostolo in Piazza della Chiesa. This quaint lovely church is another nice place to stop and admire the view.

Lake Como Brunate Chiesa di Sant' Andrea Apostolo-1
Church of Sant’ Andrea Apostolo

Stay tuned for more from Lake Como! Did you miss Part 1? Lago di Como

Ready to go on to Lago di Como – Part 3

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