Sunday, September 22, 2013

Italian Recipe: Piadina

Today I made piadina for lunch and they turned out perfect.

I fell in love with piadinas in Cremona.  I try to visit the piadineria whenever I can.

I brought home their menu for reference.  I called to check on getting a franchise several years ago, but they only support the region of Italy.  (

Rosa found a recipe which uses olive oil instead of lard (strutto).  We made them together in May at home in Cremona.  I brought Italian flour and leavening home with me.   My attempt to make authentic piadina has been successful!

Rosa’s Piadina

Makes 6 small piadina 

250 gr flour
125 gr milk, warmed
1-2 T olive oil
2 T lievito madre

Mix all the ingredients all together.  Let rise in a warm spot until the dough has risen a little and feels soft.
Divide into 6 small balls.  Roll each with a rolling pin on parchment paper which has been dusted with a little flour.  Cook one piece at a time on a cast iron or non-stick skillet. Cook 1-2 minutes each side.  Fold and fill with cheese and or ham.  Let warm until cheese has melted.  Add lettuce and sliced tomatoes if desired.

Rosa’s Piadina 
500 gr farina
250 gr latte
1-2 cucchiai d’olio

Mescoli tutto insieme.
Fai lievitare per circa mezz’ora.  Poi dividi in 5 palline, le stendi con il mattarello e le fai cuocere su una padella calda circa 1-2 minuti per parte.  Buon appetito!

From Wiki: 
Piadina or Piada is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in the Romagna region (Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna and Rimini). It is usually made with white flour, lard or olive oil, salt and water. The dough was traditionally cooked on a terracotta dish (called teggia in the Romagnolo dialect), although nowadays flat pans or electric griddles are commonly used.
The Piadina has been added to the list of the traditional regional food products of Italy of the Emilia-Romagna Region.  (

22 April train to Cremona

At this moment it's 10.00 on Monday. I'm sitting on a bench, under clear blue skies and warm sun, in front of Chiesa Santa Maria Novella. This piazza was just renovated this year. They've repaved and replanted grass and little plants in little plots. I've read that this piazza was a magnet for undesirables because of its previous run down condition. Odd for one big reason: it sits right in front of the local carabinieri station (Police)

In keeping with efforts to make the piazza a community place to bring the children, a little food fair has been setup for a week.  I found a flyer. It's the Slow Market. The huts which house each vendor must belong to the city. These same stands are used for the German Christmas Fair in Piazza Santa Croce. Today I see about 20 vendors.

I felt hunger pangs. I have a pear and yogurt with me but now I'm thinking I need more. I bought a hunk of cheese and a piece of salami. Hanging from the rafters I saw cellophane cones of dried oregano. I bought two for Rosa and Marta. As I was walking away, I realized I needed one too. Too late to go back. I lingered in the sunshine too long.

I was 15 minutes early to SMN, the train station. I checked the electronic departure board.  The train to Milano via Bologna is 25 minutes late. I see all the trains are late, which is unusual. So we all, lots of us, stand here and wait. The beggars make their rounds, twice. The same ones who I always see here. Checking the ticket machines for missed change and the coming right up close to ask for money.

The ride from Firenze to Bologna is fast, about 30 minutes. I jumped off, validated my ticket and put it away in my purse. My passport is in a pouch, which is tied to my belt loops and then hidden under my clothes. I have my money stored in various locations. Being pick pocketed once was a lesson in spreading out in more than in place, identity documents, money and credit cards.

I located the paper Partenza (departures) schedule board to see how and when I can catch the next train to Piacenza. I had luck. At binario 6, the train is there and is leaving in 8 minutes. Knowing where the elevators are helps a lot.  I walked fast, took an elevator down, walked down the underground corridor to the sign for Binario 6 and took another elevator back up.  The train was still there.  I jumped onto the last car, asking twice, "per Piacenza?"  The first group of young men looked a little scruffy, but they were polite and held the door open for me. The second check, I asked another passenger inside the car.

That last car was first class, so I dragged my bag thru to the next car. Luckily the aisles are wider than normal, so I was able to roll straight through. The place in between cars is always full of young men. Perhaps they like to smoke there? They were polite and held the door open so I could squeeze through.

No room for me and my bag, so I had to prop it up in front of someone's knees, while I took a seat several rows away. That snack car, ringing its bicycle bell rolled through two times. The aisles need to be clear.

We had a little drama one exit before Modena. The conductor came through to validate tickets. Nice because he told me to get off at Fidenza, which I might not have known a few years ago. My ticket says Piacenza  to Cremona, which is not exactly true. Nice he reminded me and even better, I understood him.

12.28 binario 6 Bologna per Piacenza. Fidenza a Cremona

A few seats down, someone had to buy a ticket. As the conductor stood there, an immigrant came up to tell him, that he also needed to buy. But something was wrong, because the conductor told him to get off subito. Then he pulled out his cell phone and made a call to report the non ticket holder. I watched and the next stop, the guy did jump off. I didn't see if the police were waiting.

Parma stop. Time to pay attention. Fidenza is coming up. I know there is no elevator there. I'll have to drag this bag down and up. I have no idea how long I will have to wait for the next local train to Cremona.

1.45 at Fidenza. There is no elevator here, of course. With my movers brace still on, my bag and I have gone down and back up to Binario 4. No stress because there is no rush. Only 22 minutes to the next train and there are already five of us waiting. It's overcast and a little cooler here. It feels like rain but hopefully it holds off. There is no shelter out here. I saw water in the down stairs corridor. Looks like it was raining earlier.

I see a message in Italian from Rosa on my Italian phone. 'Let me know where you are at 5.00 and I'll come and get you.'  I don't consider myself bilingual yet, but I am making progress. I feel the same joy understanding as when I eat chocolate. It's a great feeling.

2.20 on the train for Cremona. It's a new train! The outside is covered over totally with graffiti but inside, the seats are new and the windows have no scratches.  Also a new intercom with announcements. And a new whistle! I think we're traveling faster too.

What a pleasant surprise! We came in on the tracks near the station. Ovest I think. I don't need to go up and down and stairs. No one will be waiting for me, but it's not an issue.

I found the restroom to be spotless clean with big rolling doors on the stalls, so one can keep luggage with you at all times. As I rolled through the station, I saw more changes. The magazine stand is either gone or moved to another location. The woman who ran that stand was always cranky. I learned years ago not to touch anything!  Point and buy only.

I had two hours to pass so I walked through town slowly. It was a little chilly.  I couldn't locate the hot chocolate shop. And then it started to rain. I have an umbrella with me at all times, but that doesn't keep my bag wet.

At 4, I called Rosa and told her my location. So close, she said...just go home. Luckily Marina had returned home a little early. The outside gate was already open, as was the door to the building. But I buzzed anyway to alert Marina.

I rode the elevator up and when the door opened, there stood Marina, welcoming me home. Amazingly my comprehension was 100% as she spoke and hugged me.  I was dead tired.

I unpacked the bag before the wetness seeped in, filling the tops of both twin beds with my clothes, accessories and gifts. Just as I was about to change out of my sweaty clothes, Rosa arrived. I love this family so much. Hugs all around and then I raced into the bathroom to clean up.

I asked Rosa for a something to eat. We went to her place (across the hall) and she fed me cheese and crackers and lots of water. It was just  what I needed to revive, hugs, clean clothes and food.

One by one, everyone arrived. Next was Primo. I have to repeat, I love this family.

Marina opened the door for Marta, carrying baby G. He took one look at me and his face changed from a smile to astonishment. A stranger, in his home, why, how? It all showed on his sweet face. And then he started crying. Hard.

Marina had his dinner all ready and Rosa put him into the high chair. Baby G switches hands quickly and quietly here.  It was an amazing dance to watch. One moment Rosa is feeding him little bits of soft goat cheese from her finger. Then Marta is feeding spoonfuls of a delicious smelling vegetable-cereal-cheese soup.  I glance away and Mario is feeding him. In the meantime, pizza is being made in the kitchen.

At some point Mattia arrived too! More hugs.

Someone brought me the first pizza. Ohh so delicious. I was so tired I could have just laid my head down right there. We all enjoyed pizza, which is just as good as that from any restaurant. For dessert diced banana, kiwi, apple (macedonia) lemon juice and sugar .  Served cold with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We played with iPhones for a little. Primo suggested I download "Whatsapp" so we can all share pictures and chat, for free with WiFi.

At 8.45 we were all done for the day. I fell asleep looking at the glowing constellation of stars on the ceiling of my bedroom.

21 April, Firenze Sunday, Mostra at the Fortezza da Basso

I slept until 11am. I always sleep so peacefully when I arrive. That, plus exhaustion. The noon church bells were ringing as I left my room. I had eaten the rest of the torta della nonno during the night when I woke up hungry and had no food for breakfast.

My plan for the day included checking Piazza Santo Spirito for a mercato, buying train tickets for Cremona and the Mostra, a once a year fair like event which showcases both locally international food and merchandise. I've planned this trip around the Mostra.

One thing I had to do this morning:  slow down my quick pace. Here, there is no need to be rushing. I can walk everywhere. Time to breathe and enjoy life. That's what I do best here. It's the secret of Italy. 

I crossed the Arno, taking pictures as I always do. Every picture I've taken from this spot it different.  The seasons, the weather, the lighting.  It always takes my breath away with its beauty.

When I reached Piazza Santo Spirito, I was surprised to see tents setup for the Bio (organic) Mercato. This is the third Sunday of the month and my most favorite Mercato.


I looked for and saw immediately, the basket lady. I love her hand woven baskets. She uses twigs and branches from her bosco (woods) to weave baskets. I could see from a distance that fresh lilac was draped over the edge of her table. In the fall, she spreads fresh herbs on the ground around her display.

I approached her table and of course I spotted a basket I wanted. I have so many smaller baskets. The one I chose is large but a little flat. It might fit in my suitcase...maybe. I paid her 35€ and she remembered me. 

For the first time in 12 years, she reached for me and kissed me on both cheeks. Then she leaned over to the table and pulled off a stem of lilac and put it in my basket. I thanked her and told her how much I love her baskets.

With a happy glow, I strolled the Mercato.

I only bought one other thing. Yumm. The crepe making older couple were present at their bench, making chestnut flour crepes, filled with fresh ricotta.  I've had these crepes before from this vendor.  I find myself craving them when I'm back in the USA.

The line was long but worth the 15 minute wait.   I caught a picture of the shy basket maker!  She's the woman in the blue and green sweater. For 2.5 € I had my crepe slathered with fresh ricotta cheese. So so delicious. My breakfast was complete. 


After a scenic photo of my basket on the bridge, I dropped the basket at the hotel and with an empty Longchamps bag for gathering purchases at the Mostra I started walking.

It always amazes me to find no tourists at this Mostra. It was only a 15 minute walk from Ponte Vecchio and the entry fee was 4.5€


I arrived at 1.30 and stayed until after 6 pm. Jet lag was such a deterrent from staying into the night.

I first went through the Italian exhibits, which included purses, clothes, jewelry, glassware, kitchen cabinets, ceramics, belts, toys, decoupage on antique wood and cupboard doors, hats, scarves, and even computer made objects, such as laser cut paper creations and a demo of several 3D printers.  Then there were food vendors. Spices, condiments, cheeses, salame, gourmet pancetta, gelato, chocolates and beers. 

On the international floor, I especially liked the Moroccan tangines. They were brightly colored with cheerful designs. I enjoyed looking at the beautiful African woman, as they tended their wares. I was more interested in their clothing and hair clothes. They dress with such style. They are so glamorous, shining in real beauty. The spice merchants are always a special treat for the senses. I think I may have missed one floor! I'm just realizing the American flag was flying outside, but I didn't see their display. Really, one needs a full day to see everything.  

 I took a lunch break and had a German 'prosciutto provenciale' with mustard. It tasted just like a good Virginia ham. Then, being hungry for fruit, I had a cup of freshly sliced strawberries topped with hot milk chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Just perfect. I ate every morsel. Then, not wanting to miss the chocolate vendors, I chose round balls of various chocolate types. 6 small balls for 5€. 

 I bit into the pistachio ball, to find an exquisite white chocolate center.  I made note of the vendors name. Now I have the perfect reason to visit Luca. I need to buy that chocolate again. 

At the end of my day I had purchased a purple leather belt, which was customized for me with a silver fish buckle. 18€!! 

Other things I bought:

A hedgehog hand puppet, made in Belgium 12€
Two small stuffed animals, 5€ each

A purple soft leather purse, 30 €

With my bag full, I walked back past the train station and purchased my tickets for Cremona, using the automated machines. 32€ each way. 

I arrived back at the hotel at 7.15. But, realizing I had nothing for breakfast I walked on past, thinking I could run into Standa market, near Ponte Vecchio

I had no night key, so my goal was to be back by 8.00. By 7.30, I had grabbed a banana, a pear, milk and yogurt. As I rounded the corner of the store, I ran right into a line of at least 50 people. Sunday night emergency shopping I guess. We all seemed to be holding just a few items. To my amazement, that line moved quicker than seems possible for Italy.  
I buzzed into the hotel at 7.55, just in time. My room shutters are just to the left of the overhanging room.