New year, new beginnings

2018 has passed and I now reflect on the year that was in Italian Soul.

Talking food:

Gennaio was all about the summer fruit, Nonno’s pickings from their nectarine, plum and apricot trees really shined – getting buckets full and stacking up the fridge, we were definitely set for a supermarket-free summer share of fruit. I’m grateful to the many migrants who planted fruit trees in the backyards of Melbourne so many of us can now enjoy freshly picked fruit. Later in the month Mum and I payed tribute to the Godfather of Italian food, Antonio Carluccio (1937-2017), by cooking up his Polpette di tonno e patate for lunch – a fantastic dish from his book Antonio Carluccio – The Collection. He will continue to be a culinary inspiration through his television programs and cook books. We will miss you Antonio!

In Febbraio Nonna continued to say that her garden was looking no good but to my expectations it was pretty spectacular. These are my favourite pomodori and the only place I find them is at Nonna’s. Keeping with the spirit of Antonio, Mum cooked up a dish from his best friend Gennaro Contaldo – Il Dentice di Gennaro, Sea Bream with very colourful Mediterranean flavours.

Aprile was Pasqua and another Lasagna from Nonna to enjoy. But all Giugno before the Winter holidays in Luglio I was waiting to head over to Nonna’s to make Bomboloni di Nutella e di Marmellata. Together with Cristina and Nonna we made these tricky Italian filled doughnuts that were definitely worth the hard work and they were a great finish after Nonna’s signature Torta di porri e patate. Later in the month I did some extensive vino shopping with Nonno to stock up on the good stuff and was happily accompanied back home with a casalingo (homemade) salame tradizionale thanks to Nonno and the meat man Zio Guerino.

After some period of hibernation to study for my final year of high school, Novembre was enjoyable. We went to the Mount Zero Olives warehouse to fill up our bottles with fresh biodynamic Australian olive oil. I think we can safely say olive oil is one of the true pleasures in life. Great for your health and to bring out the best flavours from almost any dish. At the end of Primavera we were lucky enough to hall in loads of ciliegie with Nonna & Nonno’s tree having a great year even though it was planted not long ago.

Natale 2018 involved lots of porchetta from both Mum and Nonna, as well as the pollo arrosto and yummy conchiglie (pasta shells) filled with spinaci and ricotta.

Telling stories:

In Gennaio Nonna recalled how her Nonna Silvia (1878-1966) was the most educated person in her family when growing up, and she always helped her with her school work. Things as simple as handwriting can highlight that, as I found in a document from 1902. In Marzo after hearing so much from my Nonna about her Nonna Silvia and in light of International Women’s Day on the 8th, I decided to write about this amazingly strong, hardworking woman. You can read that tribute to my 2nd great-grandmother here.

Couldn’t forget – in Luglio cousin Alex & Cristina brought in a new addition to the family, Nina (Polpettina), the greatest dog in the world. We hope Nina will be bilingual, as she is sometimes spoken to in both Italian and English.


In Settembre were the 90th birthdays of my great aunt (Nonno’s twin sister) Iride’s dear husband Beppe and my other great aunt (Nonno’s older sister) Luisa, an amazing milestone and we hope they continue to have many more wonderful years ahead. Later in the month after some discussion with my podcast genius cousin Gemma, we decided to start a new project together, and I’ll talk about this further on in the piece.

In Dicembre I was lucky enough to have a trip to Vietnam. It is such an experience when you immerse yourself into a new culture and a different way of life, something everyone should try and place themselves in. I visited my Vietnamese Australian friend Tom in Ho Chi Minh City, for which I am so thankful for him & his family’s hospitality, another great way to see how families live their everyday lives.

On Giorno di Natale it was fantastic to see a special homage to Nonno’s village of Apella, the wider Lunigiana region and its connections to Australia feature on national Italian television thanks to Barbara Maffei, local & co-caretaker of Agriturismo Montagna Verde, the local hotel, and Italian Australian Henry Landini, who was also born in Apella. Great to see the area gaining a wider audience and to hear Henry’s immigration story. It was also pretty awesome to have our Apella postcard image displayed full screen with my bisnonno Attilio & his donkey on TV! Also many thanks again to Barbara for sharing this blog and its purpose in the Italian newspaper La Nazione, and for her dedication in the preserving the history of the region.

So put simply: A year has passed, school is over, but the real life learning has just begun. What’s happening from here?

1. Podcast: something my cousin Gemma and I are very excited about launching in late Gennaio. A little intro of In Conversation with Italian Soul comes out on the 22nd!

2. Souls of Lunigiana reached over 200 ancestors from the villages of Apella and Taponecco in its first year, successfully saving their history and further preserving the heritage of the area. This year I aim to preserve many many more and would really appreciate any interested descendants to contact me if they have any information they would like to contribute, or would simply like to help out.

3. More Italian Souling right? Well, yes, much more. More recipes=more tasting, more travelling=more experiences, more stories=more interesting aspects to family history, more research=better results + more intriguing answers. How could I not continue?

Now I need your help – for me to continue my work, run this website, do my research, provide better content and run this year’s podcast, I need all the help I can get. Hit the donate button below to help me continue to run Italian Soul. Grazie mille e Buon Anno!!


2018 thanks to:
Nonna Elisa (Lisetta) Bastiani, the chef, the storyteller, the veggie gardener, the greatest
Nonno Ilario Bastiani, the handyman, the storyteller, the fruit picker, the greatest
Mum Rina Bastiani Aitken, Polpette chef, Dentice chef, photographer, supporter
Cristina Zordan, Bomboloni chef
Gemma Bastiani, Podcast project co-manager
Barbara Maffei, your support & connection
Also to my family & friends, supporters of Italian Soul, and all the Contributors to Souls of Lunigiana.

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