How to get A free coffee: the Pending Espresso

Dear Reader,

Italians are masters of many noble inventions and deeds, most of them taken from unnoticed customs in other countries where they did not receive much attention evidently. Truth to be told, we did not invent pizza, pasta, coffee but we certainly invented the way the rest of the world conceives, serves and drinks coffee, starting from the linguistics of it (espressocappuccino, latte macchiato, etc) to the steam-driven espresso machine (first pioneered by Angelo Moriondo in 1884), to the more stylish brands (Illy and Lavazza, my favourite). If coffee has a spiritual home, this is it. Italy.

Today 🙂 let me delight you with some Italian coffee culture.

“Work is that annoying thing that we do between one coffee break and another” – by Maurizio Crozza

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The Espresso-macchiato:  an espresso literally “stained” with a light amount of steamed milk. This is my friend Riccio‘s favourite although she might have transitioned to the more tasteful marocchino, another great invention from north of Italy, which carries a mix of espresso, cocoa powder and milk froth.

In Italy having coffee is a form of art: is a ritual that may be practiced more times in a day depending on the need, before a meal, after lunch, a work break, etc. Come to a bar and live the full coffee experience. A bar, normally very crowded and noisy coffee house, is where people gather to have coffee and meet friends, discuss politics and sports. It’s where they start their day and, at times, where it ends along with an aperitivo.

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This is a typical bar in Rome, more specifically in Ostia Antica, my home town. Normally crowded, this bar is located right outside the train station.

The barista, the man or woman behind the bar who prepares the coffee is key element to this tradition. He joins random conversations, debates, he or she is normally friends with the regular customers. Coffee gives us morning boost, helps digest our food, avoid nappy desire and open the evening together with aperitivos. In few words: coffee rules our lives.

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Cappuccino, my absolute favourite: 50% hot milk, 50% espresso with foam to the top usually had for breakfast. Traditional Italians would curse me if they knew I have cappuccino also after meals, even if I ate fish. I don’t care because it’s just too good.

But let’s go deeper into Italian culture and tradition and explore a very unknown term to most foreigners: a pending espresso, or caffé sospeso or caffé pagato (paid coffee).

The caffé sospeso is a concept mostly unknown to rest of the world, a very old Italian tradition that enchants many because of its romantic simplicity: gifting an espresso to somebody.

Born in Naples during Second World War, this habit came to symbolise solidarity in a very critic moment in Italian history. Those who could afford an espresso at the bar normally would pay for a second coffee to pay for a coffee many times they would pay for another one which would be left pending. This pending coffee would later be given to anyone who wished to have it (normally it would be someone poor or homeless).

In that very moment of our history, coffee became a sympathetic and philanthropic gesture made by any happy person entering a bar.

Precisely because a person was happy, he or she would decide to have an espresso at the bar and pay for an additional one to be assigned to anyone. In few words, an espresso was offered to a stranger, any stranger coming into the bar later on.

This person, aware of the tradition, would go to bartender and ask if there were any pending coffees.

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Nino Manfredi on the most classic Lavazza Caffé ad of 1986.
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A Bunker’s Legacy

Dear Reader,

Let’s pick up from where we left off, right at the entrance of Mussolini’s Bunker in Soratte, a 14 km long nest of tunnels and secret chambers.

This is the view of Soratte as we were arriving. From afar you can appreciate the abandoned military stations

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And the actual town of Sant’Oreste, evacuated by the Nazis in 1943 to make it a secret refuge.

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Mussolini must have had a typical Roman catacomb design in mind or else a cult structure for its own bunker as the result is a classic hypogeal refuge. It’s chilly and creepy at the same time. The first thing that got my attention were the warning signs all over the place, both in Italian and German

 

And many more

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Notice the warning signs in Italian and then in German. This place, a true piece of Italian engineering, was also exploited by the Germans: after the armistice in September 1943, the German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring settled in Soratte and forced the local inhabitants of Sant’Oreste to flee the area. He and his troops remained “secretly” inside the bunker for about ten months hiding in the many tunnels they found inside. He liked the place enough to continue some construction works and even added a restaurant decorated with fake windows for him and his troops. I believe Mussolini though was the author of the hospital.
The bunker proved to be highly valuable as it served as unbreakable shield against the 12 May 1944 bombing carried out by two Allied B-17 teams departed from Foggia, Puglia, in the southeast of Italy.
At some point the Commander escaped but not before giving one last order: burn and bury the crates and boxes that contained gold stolen from the Banca d’Italia. Such treasure, dear Reader, is either a legend or never found… Fascinating.

As we kept going inside the air became colder and colder.
There were maps here and there

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Map depicting German control.

And a beautiful radio station

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And the infinite line of tunnels filled with old tracks

The range of tracks we found along the way

Gas masks of unknown date I’m afraid, probably during the Cold War given the look they have

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And finally one of the many back door exits 🙂

Mussolini wanted an Anti-atomic Bunker like Hitler’s

Dear Reader,

It was the year 1937 when Benito Mussolini decided to start the construction of a bunker which is unique in his kind. He probably got the idea from Adolf Hitler as he was coming back from a visit to the Fuhrer around those months. In fact, after meeting in Munich, Hitler took Mussolini to a state visit; they toured around Germany and it is quite possible that during the visit Mussolini got a glimpse at Hitler’s underground bunker/art gallery, where he collected many pieces of art taken from all around Europe during the occupation.

Anyway, after the visit Mussolini came back to Italy and began the construction of his own bunker right on Monte Soratte. The bunker would serve as a private art gallery and as a refuge against bombing.

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They say that Mussolini chose this hill for several reasons, these are the results according to my research:

1- Mussolini himself thought the hill looked like his own head. In fact, it is not strange to hear it called Monte Mussolini.

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Curtesy of Youtube: this photo aims to show that Mussolini’s profile resembles the skyline of the hill. 

2- Some friends who study energy and esoteric explanations to life have told me that Monte Soratte is a big bag of energy that serves as self protection: rumor has it the hill was targeted and bombed several times but due to its unique energetic field bombs never hit the ground but instead they all exploded at mid air. They say that it could probably be explained by the immense calcareous formation that leads to an infinity of natural tunnels that somehow dampened any sort of impact.

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Stanito is standing in front of the many many back doors you find at this site. If you take a peek you can see trucks that used to carry the art collected and that should have been kept safe and hidden.
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The bunker medical station is still there, you can still see the original equipments and beds.

And this is only a small part of all that needs to be known about this curious place.
Next post, Stanito will take you inside the 4 km bunker. Stay tuned…

How thick is an ancient column?

Dear Reader,

there are those things that arouse my curiosity and push me to find answers to the most unusual questions, such as: how thick is an ancient Roman or Greek column?

This came after I was face to face with a dissected Greek column in Selinunte, Sicily. I had never seen one before, at least not cut down like that 😀

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Glad the weather permitted it, this is my own favourite photo of Selinunte. Note the sea in the background 🙂
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A perfectly dissected Greek column cut in many roundels. These are the remains of Temple G. In Selinunte, unlike other sites, each temple is identified with the alphabet letters.

The city of Selinunte rises on a hill, not far from the sea, between Marsala and Agrigento. First inhabited by Sicani and then by the Phoenicians, Selinunte was a Greek colony since the end of the sixth century B.C. Now this site is considered as the most imponent in all Europe, quite rightly. Here I found numerous temples, shrines and altars.
All the temples here in Selinunte are all built following to the canons of the Doric order which is the oldest greek architectural style. It is easy to identify as its main features are simplicity and essentiality which give a sense of order and divine immortality, contrasting the fleetingness and frivolous chaotic world.
The Doric order has columns with no base and with a very simple capital. In other words, Doric buildings were the least decorated. Archaeologists believe that Doric architectural buildings, which were built in stone and covered in stucco, evolved from wooden buildings that were very similar.

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Doric style column, this one seemed smaller than the previous Ionic styled. These are the remains of Temple F. 

 

The distance between each column as well as their diameter can vary greatly: some of them are constituted by sixteen grooves with a diameter of 1.72 m (see my first photo with the dissected columns) while others have twenty grooves and a bigger diameter, ranging from 1.84 m to 2.00 m.

 

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This is what’s left of Temple A, a temple dedicated to the dioscuri Castor and Pollux.

 

Below I’m sticking out of Temple G.

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The Dying Floating City in the Sky

Dear Reader,

Stanito continues her pursuit of hidden gems of Italy that will take you to strange places…
Did you know that in Italy you still find towns where only a dozen people live? And did you know that there is a town that is slowly breaking town? This town, did you know it looks like a floating city in the sky for most of autumn-winter days?

Civita di Bagnoregio, dear Reader, it’s the town I’m talking about… and I’m going to take you with me as I continue telling you the story 🙂

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In Etruscan times, it was a sizeable city above fertile valleys and winding streams in what is now the Lazio region.
But those streams ate at the plateau and eroded its clay and sand base.
In every earthquake, exposed tufa stone and parts of  the city tumbled into the valleys
You can see the evidence today, in narrow streets that end abruptly at the edge of the cliff and in walls still standing.
The population today varies from about 12 people in winter to over 100 in the summer.

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Life is simple in Civita di Bagnoregio and the locals, not used to tourists, continue spending their days doing what they did decades ago; going to the local butcher, buying fresh bread and sitting outside talking to their friends and neighbours.
The village is riddled with tunnels and caves; some may have been Etruscan tombs. Some are used as wine cellars and cisterns
The reason Civita is so unusual is that it is disappearing.
They call it “the dying city” because, gradually, over many centuries, erosion and earthquakes have tugged away at the tufa rock until only this small part remains.


Everywhere you turn, the views across the collapsed hillsides and wide barren landscape,as far as the Umbrian mountains, are breathtaking.

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Earth Day

Dear Reader,

Today is Earth Day, an occasion to remind ourselves of the beautiful yet threatened planet we all live on.
As a gentle reminder, I have here some of my favourite nature photos I took on my trips and adventures 🙂

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This is happy turtle that was swimming in front of me. Cabo Pulmo, Baja California, Mexico.
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Wilde Baja California towards Ventanas. Baja California, Mexico.
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Relaxing female sea lion. Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
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Sea lion at sunset. Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
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Bird picking on iguana. Isla Isabela, Galapagos.
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Meditating iguana, Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
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Very cute lonely yellow bird, San Cristobal, Galapagos.
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Animals do get anxious around food. These two giant tortoises were fighting over food, San Cristobal, Galapagos.
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Stanito and giant tortoise, San Cristobal, Galapagos.
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Close-up of Monarch Butterfly, Michoacán, Mexico.
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Me and the Monarch Butterflies swirling around, Michoacán, Mexico.
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Friendly fox approaching us for food, Sibillini, Marche, Italy.
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Curious camel on the road, Matmata, Tunisia.
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Infinite palmarie, Tuzeur, Tunisia.

Happy 2016!

Dear Reader,
Happy belated New Year 🙂
Stanito staff is back home in  Mexico after a European adventure tail: Italy, Czech Republic and surroundings.
Some quick photos have been uploaded on the road but now is time to dig in the deep stories of the places we have visited starting from this week! So stay tuned in, dear Reader!

Before we dig into new stories I’ll share with you another short gallery of photos of Italy and Czech Republic. Photo quality is phone so please wait until I upload the real pictures 🙂

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This is Pitigliano. Also known as the Jerusalem of Italy due to its Jews community.
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The Old Spanish Synagogue of Prague. A true jewel.
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The beautiful Castle of Prague
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The Old Town Square of Prague.
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Cathedral of the Castle of Prague

Biggest Christmas Tree in the World

Dear Reader,

this is just one photo of this wonderful creation: the biggest Christmas tree in the world is in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy!

Stay tuned for the entire story on my next post 🙂 !

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This is the Christmas Tree seen together with the amphitheatre of Gubbio.