Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Expat Women Confessions



Living in Positano is not about lounging around on a sunny beach all day and having beautiful views to console you when things get rocky at home or at work. A holiday here does not easily translate into everyday life especially if you are an ex-pat from a faraway continent.

Living in Italy in a small summer tourist orientated town with barely any winter entertainment because your friends move out at the first hint of cold is not everyone’s cup of tea. It can be a lonely experience.

Small cultural problems surface which can test your sanity like battling with bureaucracy at the town hall, dealing with medical care in a language you are unfamiliar with or the lack of suitable local schools. Plane tickets to return home become a big part of the budget.  But above all it is the frustration with the laid back local’s attitude to problems and ‘this is the way things are here’ acceptance which makes lobbying for services and changes to the system almost unheard of.

I didn’t imagine that life would be easy when I moved overseas as an expat. I really missed family get-togethers and holiday traditions, and lost the support system of life-long friends. I was grateful for being able to understand the dialect in Positano as well as speaking Italian as it made my integration easier in a town that was already used to accommodating foreigners. It was difficult adapting to the confined spaces in Europe after a lifetime in Australia and comforts of home I took for granted were quickly forgotten as I pulled on extra sweaters in winter rather than stand on ducted heating for warmth. Now of course, the internet (when it works) has made the world a lot smaller and communication over long distances an everyday affair and helps keep one’s sanity.

A new book has been launched this month together with a competition on It is full of tips that I wish I had read when I moved overseas 20 odd years ago:

Expat Women: Confessions - 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad

51lZKw72FCL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_ This comprehensive guide book written by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth for expatriates or want-to-be expatriates discusses chapter by chapter a real life situation which can arise living abroad. It offers sensible advice for any practical or psychological problem, reassurance and weighs up the positive and negative aspects of the decision-making. I was surprised at how much I have in common with these women!

Among the many examples of the situations the book deals positively with are those covering guilt over aging parents, loneliness, visa, alcoholism, trailing spouses, holidays, families,repatriation and reverse culture shock. It also talks about coping with the feeling of having no real home base especially for those families who work intensively in many countries. It has comprehensive tips and encouragement. Living as an expatriate can be bewildering culturally but is also an enriching experience opening a sea of opportunies.

As @downatheel mentioned on Twitter:

 ‘Usually I live the adrift feeling of living abroad. Today an anchor would be nice’.                       This book would be good anchor to hang on to.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Slow Food in Positano : Carciofi Imbottiti or Stuffed Artichokes

There is no better place to linger over a meal on holidays or weekends, than one in which you can watch ships cruising past in the distance or waves crashing on the shore.
Meals on the Amalfi Coast and all of Southern Italy often involve the simplest fresh locally seasonal ingredients. Frozen ready made meals are unheard of and pizza if not home cooked, is a meal that comes directly from the wood fired oven in the restaurant closest to you, rather than a packet. Time and care is taken in preparation from scratch and often recipes are ‘family hand-me downs’ generation to generation.

Spring seasonal food in southern Italy is heralded by fresh asparagus from the mountains, Fava beans (broad beans) from the garden and artichokes from the shop.

I love finding artichokes as extras on menus at Positano in April and May as I can be sure they are fresh and cooked in a traditional way. Roasted in coals, conserved in oil, with pasta or potatoes, as a parmigiana ingredient instead of eggplant, artichokes are sought after and valued in Southern Italy. The exquisite Island of Procida in the bay of Naples even has its own Artichoke Festival in April!

When the artichoke season unfolds in Italy in early Spring, my family squeals with delight when they hear that tasty stuffed artichokes are on the menu at my place. They love them prepared this way so much that my son used to ask for  them before he could talk by miming the action used to eat them. I shared the recipe with Anna Savino from Itali Anna who said they were a big hit at her place too.

The basic recipe I use comes from my mother-in-law, and was a poor man’s meal, using left over pieces of stale bread rather than breadcrumbs but essentially the recipe is the same. There are no measurements here. If you like olives, add extras; same for capers etc. I use about 5 to 6 olives per artichoke and the same for capers. You will have to take your own initiative regarding the amount of breadcrumbs depending on the size of the globe.

They take a bit of time to stuff leaf by leaf but if you are only making a couple, life is simpler. They really are a slow food, as they are eaten leaf by leaf by holding the leaf with your fingers and scraping the flesh off with your teeth which is messy and can take a while as you can imagine. But they are oh so good!

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Stuffed Artichokes
Fleshy artichokes with their stems, preferably round and not too big
Potatoes baby or cut into wedges
Salted capers, rinsed
Olives -green or black
A garlic clove
Artichoke stems peeled
Olive oil
Cut the stem off the artichoke, peel the stem of its fibrous exterior to get to the tender heart. Place stem directly in water and lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Peel two bottom layers of the artichoke’s leaves off and discard. If the artichoke has spines on the outside cut them off with a knife. Firmly hit the artichoke upside down on the chopping board to loosen the leaves and throw it into the lemon water too.

Place all the stuffing ingredients except breadcrumbs into a processor and chop roughly. Tip into a bowl and mix in breadcrumbs and a good douse of extra virgin olive oil. Starting from the outer leaves place a small amount of stuffing at the base of each leaf with a tea spoon, turning  and filling the  artichoke until you reach the middle.

If there is stuffing left over after you have filled them all, a little can be placed in its heart (centre).
Place artichokes in a shallow pot or tin. Peel baby potatoes and place them between the artichokes to help them stay upright. Place a little water at the bottom of the pot, add salt to artichokes and a generous round of oil on top. Cover tightly and cook for 20-30minutes depending on the size and tenderness of the vegetable.
Check regularly to see that the water does not dry out. The artichokes will be cooked when the outer leaf detaches easily from its base.

Rest them awhile, take your time and slowly enjoy the taste of Spring…

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I’m back!

Dear Readers,

I’m back in control of my blog!

Blogger finally answered my request and ousted the hacker who had hijacked my account. I will do my best not to let him back in, the scoundrel, although I really don’t know what the benefit would have been too him in the long run.

He has deleted pages including your bloglinks. If you have linked back to me please leave me a note in the comments so that I can exchange the favour.

I have included the two posts below that I wrote on my temporary blog  will I was waiting for some reaction from blogger so you have something to whet your appetite for holidays in Positano.

I am so happy :)

Thanks for bearing with me!

Zoom in on Positano


‘A picturesque cascade of pastel coloured houses tumbling seemly haphazardly down the mountain wall.’

How many euphemisms can one find on the internet for my pretty town…

Positano is justifiably one of the most photographed towns on the Amalfi Coast. The juxtaposition of the mountains, arched windows, bougainvillea and incredibly blue skies enchant the visitors all year round who click with glee for their photo memories.

But what do I see when I look at their photos?

I , like other locals, zoom straight into our home.

Visible only from the sea, from other villas in the neighborhood or from certain angles on the beach, our home is positioned such that I am certain that when I take photos of ferries headed for Capri or Sorrento, they are full of tourists clicking their shutter right back at me.


Sometimes I find recent photos on the internet or Facebook with detail of the neighborhood area so that I can tell whether the gardener’s covered the citrus trees, the wisteria’s finished flowering or, as in a few weeks ago, someone had been in our home.


I peered closely at the photo. I distinctly remembered closing the shutters on the seaside as the sun fades furnishings quickly here. But this time there was a shutter window on one side that was open.

I mentioned it to Hubby who told me the carpenter had probably been in to take measurements for mosquitoes nets on the house, but soon we had a phone call from the caretaker to tell us a window on the French door had been broken.

Apparently the warped old French door had not been  closed properly by the carpenter’s apprentice (it has to have a particular knee-jerk -hand held high -while pushing  and turning the handle to lock into place) and had been thrown open in a windy storm.

So, thank you for admiring the scenery, and keep those cameras clicking if you happen to sail past! 

Dolce Far Niente in Positano (reproduced from Bellavventura in Positano)

Even boats seem to get into the spirit of things here.

Rocking gently, floating on air, the crystal clear water can give the illusion of levitation when the sea’s transparence couples with the light at certain angles.

The video is a bit wobbly. I hope it doesn’t make you seasick.



I’ve decided to strike back at the hacker who stole my Bell’Avventura blog . It’s not just the blog but you, the faithful readers, the community who have given me confidence tuning in regularly, leaving lovely comments and linking back to my posts.

It’s inspiration too: I  can look at the mundane in Positano and wonder who wouldn’t want to be in my position and experience the simple things like first rays of the morning sun as they scrape the peak of the mountain flooding the gardens with light. The ups and downs are part of  everyday life but never so worthwhile as in the Amalfi Coast.

You may have wondered why I took so long to post. I’m out of touch with setting up a blog from scratch. What the heck, I can’t even get the header to look right! In any case, I have reported the incident to Blogger and I hope to get Bell’Avventura back one day but will set up home here for now.