Vasto Town Walkabout

21 July, 2011

To prepare for my trip to hot, secular Muslim Tunisia, I fixated on purchasing a skirt. That means my first shopping trip in Vasto town. At about 8h00, I started my day, with a walk down a quiet alleyway.

Vasto alleyway

Vasto alleyway

I thought it reminded me of the hidden Chinese 胡同 (hútòng) I’ve been through in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai–but then I realized that this is how old towns throughout the world (ie, places before the invention of automobiles) were probably built. Vasto was once known as Histonium in the days of ancient Rome.

Cappuccino and Apricot croissant--perfect start to the day!

Cappuccino and Apricot croissant--perfect start to the day!

Most importantly, I started the day with a cappuccino and an apricot filled croissant. I had no idea what the various fillings were when explained to me in Italian, so I just pointed, smiled, and found myself pleasantly surprised.

Random doorway

Random doorway

As an uncultured American in such an old town, I find the commonplace items the most interesting. There are many doorways peppered between shops along the streets that open into beautiful garden foyers. I’ve seen several with wells inside–like an urban oasis.

Huan Le Chinese Restaurant in Vasto

Huan Le Chinese Restaurant in Vasto

And, to prove that Chinese are everywhere, I went to the restaurant that has been in town for years and chatted briefly with the bosslady. The menu was quite typical, but I hear the Italianized Chinese is not as tasty as Americanized Chinese. I hope to find out in Milan, which has one of the oldest Chinese communities in Italy.

Last, I strode through Vasto’s park to take in some greenish vistas of the beachtown Marina below.

I want to live there.

I want to live there.

To round out my morning walk,


Notte Bianca

17 July, 2011

Last night, Vasto had their second annual “White Night” festival.

Notte Bianca Poster

Notte Bianca Poster

The all-night long street party featured a lot of loud music, vendor stalls, and crowds milling about the town center.  Supposedly, the beach fireworks didn’t go off until 2:30AM.

Balloons over the Piazza Diomede

Balloons over the Piazza Diomede

It was a very festive atmosphere with no other purpose than celebrating the night.

Live bands...

Live bands...

...and kiddie games were all part of the festivities.

...and kiddie games were all part of the festivities.

Also, one of the live bands played traditional Southern Italian music with accompanying dancers.  I believe this was a Tarantella.


Ipermercato Trip

15 July, 2011

Having heard about hypermarkets as a student of French, I admit that I was secretly excited to visit my first in Italy.  In an economic market, such places must surely be indicative of the locale’s culture and habits by providing goods that match demand.  I visited the E. Leclerc in the humble Centro Del Vasto.

From what I understand, hypermarkets are like the antithesis to American supermarkets, and seem to be converging on the space of the super Walmart.  While Walmart started as a discount retailer that is branching into perishable products, hypermarkets were outgrowths of supermarkets that began offering more and more varieties of goods.  The entrance (surprisingly) dropped us into a consumer goods bonanza of electronics, household goods, DVDs, and beach instruments (like umbrellas and snorkels).  You only get to the produce and foodstuffs by progressing through the ipermercato.  This setup seems to make sense from either a Walmart/Target or supermarket perspective where, for the former, clothes and toiletries come before foodstuffs and, for the latter, essentials like milk are placed in the back of the store.

What did I learn about the Italian lifestyle from this trip to the store?  Dairy, dairy, dairy.  Meat, meat, meat.

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Cheese, glorious cheese!

These are all yogurts, classified by usage

These are all yogurts, classified by usage

I always wondered how Parma went from being a leg to being a slice.

I always wondered how Parma went from being a leg to being a slice.

Ready to cook meat cubes for your pasta

Ready to cook meat cubes for your pasta

I suppose the biggest surprise I found is that the fresh produce section was so modest.  I believe that the reason for this must be the access to truly fresh produce found in gardens, shared by friends, and purchasable at open air markets.

An enormous pepper.

An enormous pepper


Abazzia di San Giovanni in Venere in Fossacesia

12 July, 2011

Today, we drove to nearby Fossacesia to visit the Abbey of St. John in Venus or Abazzia di San Giovanni in Venere.  The site is quite old, from the beginning of the first millenium, but restoration of the current architecture apparently started in the 1950s.

Abbey of San Giovanni

Abbey of San Giovanni

It’s an expansive site that overlooks Fossacesia Marina.  I can imagine a catered blacktie gala with white linen covered cocktail tables being quite charming here.

Another view of the Abbey

Another view of the Abbey

As an abbey, it has housed monks–however the signage does not seem to be that directive, so we didn’t see that part.  We did walk inside of the hall, however at around 19h.  The sunlight glancing off the tall stone walls and dark pews felt ethereal.

Interior of the Abbey of San Giovanni

Interior of the Abbey of San Giovanni

And, of course, the drive through the countryside was also quite nice.

A common sight: fields of sunflowers

A common sight: fields of sunflowers


La Dolce Vita

9 July, 2011

Today was my day off, and I was fortunate enough to spend it with my new friend, Mary Lou.  Mary Lou lived in the area until age 14, and then moved to the United States.  My luck to meet this woman, who raised her children to love both America and Italia, is tremendous.  Today, she introduced me to the magic of an Italian summer.

I am not one to argue with caffeine

I am not one to argue with caffeine

We started with a cappuccino and a walk on the beach–and in fact, Italians of all shapes and sizes seem to partake in this activity.  Already, at 9h30, the beach is crowded and the sun strong enough to make you want to float in the gentle Adriatic.  Along the walk, Mary Lou stops to talk to friends and the Italians update each other on events since they last spoke–which was yesterday.

Da Mimi

Da Mimi

For lunch, we follow the Italian tradition of going home for a two course, simple meal of homemade minestrone and a caprese with fresh buffalo mozzarella from the morning’s farmer’s market.  I am also treated to the most enormous figs (and sweetest) I have ever seen or tasted.

The largest, sweetest figs I've ever had

The largest, sweetest figs I've ever had

Then, it’s back to the beach for a nap and gelato.  Oh the gelato.  Italians seem to eat ice cream at least once a day, and occasionally twice.  Even though I am typically avoid cream based foods, the fig and peach gelatos I choose taste clean and refreshing.

Mary Lou and her Melone and Ananas Gelato

Mary Lou and her Melone and Ananas Gelato

After washing the day’s sand and sun away, Mary Lou takes her sister, brother in-law and me to dinner in the nearby village of Cupello.  Like many Italian towns, it is built on a hill and I am convinced that old style fiefdoms were entirely determined by the size of the hill one was lucky enough to inherit.  Cupello is definitely  on the small side.

Bruschetta al Pomodoro and fresh chiles

Bruschetta al Pomodoro and fresh chiles

Bruschetta al Prosciutto

Bruschetta al Prosciutto

Secondi: Scalloppine al Limone

Secondi: Scalloppine al Limone

Italians are (rightly, I think) strong believers in the postprandial walk.  So, we return to Vasto where Mary Lou shows me the local sights and we catch up with more friends in the street.  The evening is ended on a sweet note with a spoonful of gelato affogatto (“drowning” in some kind of liqueur) at a friend’s cliffside bistro.  In the sticky summer night, our laughs fill the air with the tinkle of spoons against glasses and the poetic farewell of “buena notte”–good night.

Vasto Marina lights

Vasto Marina lights


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