city, day trip, Europe, food, italy, Uncategorized

Strada delle Orecchiette, Bari Vecchia, Puglia, Italy

Making Orecchiette Pasta with an Italian Nonna

Pasta comes in all different shapes and sizes and each region of Italy is renowned for its own special pasta shapes and traditional recipes.  The Pugliese region is no exception and is known for lots of different pasta varieties like Cavatieddi, Trocoli, Cavatelli or Capunti, but Puglia’s most famous pasta shape is of course handmade Orecchiette pasta which translates to ‘little ears’ in Italian. It’s used to make the most iconic dish of Puglia – Orecchiette con Cima di Rape (which is orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe).

Bari is famous for the Strada Arco Basso, better known as Strada delle Orecchiette where women prepare, dry and sell fresh orecchiette pasta right outside of their homes. This is the most charming street and it’s absolutely one of the best things to do in Bari. 

Bari, the capital of Puglia, is the third largest city is southern Italy after Naples and Palermo, and it is full of charm and history. This old and quaint city right on the shores of the Adriatic Sea is full of beautiful piazzas, churches, museums, little shrines, orecchiette and it is just full of character.

We met this older gentleman, and he walked a little around with us for a while telling us about Bari.

Bari Vecchia, which means Old Bari, is the ancient heart of the city, which in fact is medieval, with mazes of entangled little streets, beautiful shrines devoted to the adoration of the Virgin Mary, plants and flowers, colorful banners and laundry hanging from balconies wherever you turn. One of my favorite ways to explore a new place is walking aimlessly around and getting lost for a little while. The narrow streets and alleys of Bari Vecchia are the perfect location for wandering around and exploring this way. White cobblestone streets open to charming corners, small piazzas and reveal picturesque churches and colorful buildings, it is full of character everywhere.

If you have a little extra time, there is also the Murat Quarter. Built in the 19th century, this is the heart of modern Bari and the city’s main shopping district. It is located just south of the Old Town and extends from the promenade to Bari Centrale, the city’s main railway station.

There are lots of things to do in Bari, but we came here exclusively for the Orecchiette. No trip is complete without a visit to Strada Arco Basso, better known as Strada delle Orecchiette watching the women of Bari make fresh pasta in front of their homes. 

About 100 meters from Castello Normanno-Svevo is an archway known as Arco Alto at the edge of Bari Vecchia. It is not difficult to find at all. Rustic wooden worktables, dusted in semolina, spill out onto the street with local women handmaking orecchiette right there in front of their homes. It was such a great experience to see the local women making pasta with amazing speed whilst at the same time chatting back and forth in local dialect and watching the world pass by.

Orecchiette pasta resemble little ears, which is where they get their name. Traditionally it is made simply with a combination of fine semolina flour and water. Not even salt needs to be added… It is a culinary tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation and the ladies make it look effortless.  

Making fresh Orecchiette pasta together with an Italian Nonna on the side of the street, was on our bucket list the moment I knew we were traveling to Puglia. Travel experiences like this is what I cherish the most. I want our kids to learn, try and experience different things, food and cultures. Making our own pasta was exactly all of that and I am so glad we were able to make it happen.

We first received a lesson and demonstration on how to make Orecchiette. The semolina flour and water are mixed together to form a dough. The dough is then kneaded and kneaded into tidy mounds and cut into pieces. Then it was our turn:

Starting in the morning until the afternoon when all the pasta is sold, the women are sitting outside or just inside their doorways, making and selling fresh pasta. The doors of the houses were wide open, so we got a glimpse into their kitchen and lives as we passed by.

We learned that the perfect orecchiette is about 3/4 of an inch across and slightly domed shaped to hold pasta sauce well.

First the dough is rolled out like a snake. The skinnier the snake of dough, the smaller the final orecchiette pasta will be.

The next step looks easy, but it takes years of practice. A small kitchen knife is used to cut off a piece from the snake of dough and in one smooth movement, smush and drag the piece to flip out and make the shape of the orecchiette. We had a very patient teacher that showed and taught us over and over.

Finally, the formed Orecchiette are left to dry on wooden-framed screens for several hours.

We took our self-made pasta and bought some more, got a couple more ingredients at a market and headed to our rental home to cook our Orecchiette pasta.

I am not sure if it was because we made the pasta ourselves, the fresh ingredients, my Italian husband/chef or the amazing place we stayed at, but this was one of the best pasta dishes we had ever tasted.

Have you ever been to Puglia?

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Schaffhausen, Switzerland

The amazing Rheinfall / Rhine Falls

The Rheinfall / Rhine falls is the largest waterfall in Europe and is located close to the border near Schaffhausen in the Northeast of Switzerland. There are many other waterfalls that have greater drops and are much longer, but the Rhine Falls is the most powerful. Because of melting alpine caps, the water flows at an impressive rate of up to 600,000 liters per second during the summer. Even though, it is only 23 meters high, it is about 150 meters wide, making the Rhine Falls very impressive, powerful and loud.

The Rhine Falls is around 15.000 years old and originated during the last ice age. Because of tectonic shifts , the Rhine River was forced into the current riverbed. First the stream met the glacial deposits – gravel, clay and sand. Once the glacial deposits were washed away, it met with a large block of hard rock. That’s why the river became wider and more shallow before leaping over this rock, forming an enormous waterfall.

There are several different parking lots on both sides of the river. We parked very conveniently on P2 and only walked a couple of minutes downhill to get to the site. If you have read some of my other posts, you know we are known to visit many places in the late afternoon and early evening. This works out great for us, because most of the crowds already left for the day and everything is covered in the golden afternoon light. We started our walk at Schloessli Woerth, which also has a restaurant and a boat dock for tours.

We decided to walk the promenade along the water towards the falls. There is an information point, playground, benches and several view points which are all free. The entire walk around the Rhine Fall basin was about 3 kilometers long.

The river Rhine is really special to me. I grew up in a small village right next to it and even saw it from my classroom window at school everyday. (The Rhine is the largest river in Germany and it flows from the Alps to the North Sea. ) We had visited family at Lake Constance, so it was the perfect opportunity to make a stop at the Rhine Falls. I am so glad we did. It is an amazing sight.

These waterfalls have been formed in a sharp bend of the Rhine which is why it offers so many impressive views.

We walked by several little platforms and viewing points, discovering little side waterfalls and different angles.

What a gorgeous view with the castle in the background.

The highlight for the boys was dangling their feet inside the water on one of the platforms. They had seen several people do it and since it seemed harmless with the handrail, I let them join the fun. Little things (if they are not dangerous) makes kids so much more excited about a place. I want my kids to want to travel with me and have fun while doing it. Little things like this can make their day and they will always remember the Rhine Falls. It also gave me a great picture opportunity.

This viewing platform was one of my favorites. The views were spectacular, the sun was setting perfectly and we had the falls almost to ourselves. In the middle of the Rhine Falls stands a large rock that has withstood the elements for thousands of years. The rock can be reached on one of the boat tours, which must be impressive. Virtually in the middle of the waterfall, visitors stand on platforms that jut out and partially hover over the Rhine. We will be back for that Rhine Falls.

Next up was crossing the water to the other side of the falls for more spectacular views.

We continued on the path which led us over the railway bridge that was built in 1857. There is a small pedestrian pathway right next to the railroad, which crosses the river, just above the falls.  I highly recommend to walk across the bridge and admire the falls from this amazing viewpoint. 

We were greeted by these cute cows. I am not sure if they always stand there, but the kids loved it. Of course we had to take cow pictures in Switzerland, even if the cows were made out of plastic.

Schloss Laufen

Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall on the southern bank towers on a rocky cliff high above the waterfall. Most visitors (including us) stroll directly through the inner courtyard of the castle to the “Känzeli”, a spectacular viewing platform directly over the thundering Rhine Falls. From here you can get the best views of this imposing natural spectacle. In addition there is also a new visitors’ center, a children’s playground and the “Historama” (interactive exhibition about the Rhine Falls and its 1000-year-old history ) . Schloss Laufen has an entry fee:

Entrance per person CHF 5.00 per person.
Included in the ticket price: access to the Historama and the viewing platforms.
Children 6 – 15 years CHF 3.00
For groups from 15 to 29 persons, CHF 3.00 per person.
For groups with more than 30 persons, CHF 2.00 per person.
Tickets for visitors in a wheelchair, with a pram and groups of 15 or more are only available in the Visitor Centre.

Since we did not book a tour and didn’t have too much information beforehand about the Rhine Falls, I found this sign very interesting. I normally plan and get to know some facts before visiting a place, but sometimes like here, I didn’t have time and appreciated this great sign even more.

Facts & figures
 
Width of the Falls
150 metres
Height of the Falls
23 metres
Depth of the basin
13 metres
Age of the Falls
approx. 15’000 years
Capacity of flow in summer
approx. 600’000 litres per second
Capacity of flow in winter
approx. 250’000 litres per second
Lowest capacity of flow
1921, 95’000 litres per second
Greatest capacity of flow
1965, 1’250’000 litres per second

The path to the viewing platform was steep, rocky and had lots of stairs. So much more fun for the kids. We even had to go through the rock several times.

Once we arrived at the platform, we were rewarded with an amazing view and sound. This was my other favorite spot of the day. We could feel the roar and vibration of the water through our entire body. We even got a little wet from the spray of the falls. This was an experience that I will never forget. This is the place to see, hear and feel the power of the falls.

This place is also one of the photo stops of the Grand Tour of Switzerland.

I hope you liked our visit to the Rheinfall. Follow us for more of our travel adventures.

Look through and download the official brochure of the Rhine Falls in English and German. The brochure is also available in French and Italian.

Rheinfall_Prospekt_de_en_2021_web.pdf

Comment below of your favorite place in Switzerland.

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Dunnellon, Florida

Tubing on Rainbow River and Rainbow Springs State Park

One of my favorite summer adventures last year was Tubing on the Rainbow River by Dunnellon….. In case you have never heard about this town, it is about 100 miles northwest of Orlando. There’s no better or more relaxing way to experience this magical river than tubing! At least it is for me…. I wasn’t sure if Chris or Olivia would be too excited to float in the rather cool water….The water temperature averages 72 degrees year-round. It is a little fresh going inside, but I promise it will be perfect about 1 mile down the river and the sun will be almost too much by mile 2.

There are different tubing experiences available. We decided to launch from K.P. Hole, a Marion County Park, and floated approximately 3 1/2 hours down the river. There was also the shorter option available from the State park which would have lasted only about 2 hours. I was unsure before if tubing from K.P. Hole park was not too long, but time went by way too fast and I wish, there would have been a 6 hour experience available.

We went tubing together with my sister and her husband, which made it even better. To stay attached, we tied our tubes together with ropes. We also brought waterproof bags, reusable water bottles (the only ones allowed), goggles, snacks, hats and of course sunscreen.

Despite being 30 feet deep in some places, it feels like you could reach out and touch the bottom since the water is crystal clear. We saw turtles, fish, dragonflies and forests of aquatic grass that provide food and habitat for many of the creatures that live here. Although everyone wonders about alligators, we did not see any.

As I mentioned before, Oliva would have not liked to be in a float for that long or even touch the cold water, so we resolved that problem and rented a kayak in addition to the tubes. It was the perfect solution, because we also transported all the drinks, snacks and even towels.

It was the perfect day and it was over way too fast. It was peaceful and beautiful. And it inspired us to visit more springs in the future.

 Tubing season runs April to October. On summer weekends, both Rainbow River tubing operations generally reach capacity, so early arrival is important,

The next day we visited the Rainbow Springs State Park to see the waterfalls. We love to visit waterfalls, but Florida doesn’t have too many…. So I was excited to find out there were some at Rainbow Springs.

Rainbow Springs State Park is magnificent and we strolled through shady gardens laced with azaleas, oaks and magnolias. The walkways are paved and even though some are a little steep, they are still pretty easy to navigate.

The walkways pass by three man-made waterfalls and a native plant garden. When we visited in August 2020 only two waterfalls were working at the time. We continued through the garden and passed many relics (remains of old animal cages) of the glory past, when the park was a private attraction.

At the end of the path, begins a small Butterfly Garden. The sun was casting the perfect shadow on the entrance gazebo, it was warm and other than butterflies, we were the only ones there. It felt so peaceful and perfect.

To our surprise, there was more… A small trail right out of a fairytale lead us to three nature trails through natural oak hammock and sandhill communities.

We did not have a map, so we just followed the colored markers of the trail. There is a blue, yellow and white trail and we decided to follow the blue trail.

It had rained the previous days, so the blue trail (which is the closest to the water) became muddy and inaccessible. We decided to go for the yellow trail instead. The trails offers both river and phosphate pit overlooks…..

This area was the first place where phosphate was commercially mined in Florida. The deep pits and spoil piles left behind were recovered by the forest and are looking unreal in a normally very flat Florida. What a surprise when the first pit suddenly appeared in front of us. (My batterie had died, so I didn’t take any pictures.)

The most fascinating thing were the changes throughout the trail. We started in a forest, followed by sandy terrain punctuated with ravines created by mining and restored by nature. It did not even feel like Florida. At times we felt lost, because we couldn’t see any markers. I would have loved to see more along the paths, but it made it also more adventurous. It was also very overgrown and felt a little longer than the miles on the sign. I still found it magical and we did not meet anybody during our walk. I highly recommend a hike on these trails and hope we will be back one day…