Ankle Broken in Alghero

An amusing tale of pain, angst, laughter and the emergency medical system in a tourist town –

Love the school. Could I win the lottery and stay here?

Pintadera is the fabulous Italian Language school in Alghero, Sardegna. Pintadera and I have a love-hate relationship. I love Alghero. I love Nicola – my first Italian friend and the ace administrator. I love the teachers.  I love organizing groups of American students for the school.  I hate studying. Maybe that is why after studying Italian for a pazillion years, I still sound – well – not very Italian.

Sometimes our subconscious gives us what we want – just not the way we would want it. Just as I was thinking, do I have to go back to class, pop went my ankle and I fell on my ass. Actually, I was dashing around the historic center of Alghero solving some of my groups housing issues when I fell off of a step. DUUCK! I screamed! A waiter came running. A darling gas delivery man came running. Nicola came running. I looked at all of them and simply said, my ankle is broken. One, two three – heft – the beached whale was now balancing on one fin.

Everyone sprang into action. Cars are’t allowed into Alghero’s old town.  Nicola raced to bring hers a bit closer. The darling delivery man tossed me like a canister of gas into his L’api three wheeled mini delivery truck and whisked me along with the other canisters to where Nicola was parked. With lots of help, I hopped into the car and off we went to an orthopedic emergency room.  I had never heard of an emergency room just for broken body parts – though Jack who skied said there were lots of those near the mountains.

Nicola procured a wheel chair, I crawled into it and she wheeled me into the waiting room.  There was a sign on the door to the medical team that said “ring when you arrive.”  Nicola pressed the buzzer.  A nurse came out and Nicola pointed to me, told her I was part of the Italian Healthcare System and that I had probably broken an ankle.  The nurse nodded and closed the door.  Nicola went back to work.  I plopped the wheelchair near the door and turned to the people waiting.   Like I would in the doctor’s waiting room in Pontelandolfo, I asked Chi è l’ultimo?  The person who came in before me raised a broken arm.  I settled in the wheelchair and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  The nurse would come out and yell a name.  That person would drag a broken body part to the door.  Ambulances with tourists speaking a variety of languages and writhing on stretchers went straight into magic door.  After two hours of folks seeming to get called randomly, I asked the nurse if there was a list.  She said, si. Anybody guess where this story is going?  What did I not ask the nurse?

Three plus hours later Nicola comes back with my husband, Jack.  You haven’t been seen yet!  She rang the bell and berated the nurse who then asked for my tessera sanitaria – health insurance card and went back in.  OK – I should know better.  What did I not ask the nurse an hour or so earlier?  Am I on the list?????  Duh!

They whisked me in to see a doctor who looked at my ankle and ordered an X-Ray.  Jack wheeled me to X-Ray.  There was a paper over on the pillow but not the whole table and as I climbed up to be scanned I wondered how many pairs of dirty shoes had preceded me.  Next stop a second doctor and a nurse.  They looked at the scan and said the ankle was broken.  Did I want a plaster cast or a boot?  The boot of course.  They explained that the system paid for plaster but not a boot.  I said I’d pay for it and could they put it on.  Nope they couldn’t put it on because they only do plaster casts.  I asked if I could get copy of the X-Ray.  Jack whisked me back to X-Ray and I was told I had to pay €7 for a CD.  Not a problem.  Off we went to the counter to pay – which was closed until the following morning.  Again, I didn’t ask the right questions.

God Bless Nicola who was my Florence Nightingale and drove us to a medical supply house.  The owner was putting up an “out for coffee” sign when she saw Nicola and asked if she wanted to join her.  Nicola pointed at me and explained we needed a boot.  The store was up a giant curb and then 5 steps.  Italy isn’t the most handicap accessible place to visit.  The owner brought out a wheelchair.  I squeezed into it and Jack pushed me around the block to a second door that was quasi ramped.  Boot on and bought.  Now I needed a wheelchair.  There was no way in hell that I could manage crutches on uneven cobblestoned streets.  The store would take a week to get one in, but the Sisters of Misericordia loaned hospital equipment to people.  Next stop Misericordia!  Problem – American sized butt and Italian sized wheel chairs.  Again, I squeezed into one and Jack and Nicola were able to wheel me back to our rented house in the historic part of town.  The cobble stones are rocks of a variety of shapes – not smooth pavers.  That meant Jack was probably herniating himself pushing me up to our house.  DUUUCK – the very step I fell off of guarded the entrance to the house’s courtyard.  Somehow without me tipping over onto my head they managed to hoist me and the chair up to the terrace.

I now became a prisoner in the house.  Not able to get out of the place without lots of help and certainly not able to wheel myself on the streets.

Guess I won’t  be dashing over to Central Mediterraneo Pintadera for those  Italian Language classes.  Be careful what you wish for or even think!

Ci vediamo!

Wine Tasting with Giuseppe Izza

Agronomo – in English it is an agronomist – one who studies agriculture. Dr. Giuseppe Izza has indeed developed a career based on the wonderful edibles that grow in Sardegna.  I met him – not talking about slow food or tasting the fresh vegetables brought to Alghero by local farmers – but DRINKING WINE!  The event was organized by my favorite Italian Language School – Centro Meditteraneo Pintadera.

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Dr. Izza conducts an incredible workshop on the wines of Sardegna, wine tasting, wine history, wine glasses, what to eat with wine – well just about everything one needs to know to appreciate a good glass of a beverage that starts in the vineyards of Sardegna. Some of those vines have lineages that go back to the Romans in 238 BC.  For example the white Nuragus goes back 3000 years!!!  Other grapes began their journeys a wee bit later and came with the different peoples who controlled Sardegna during its history. For example – the Vermentino – white – from France or the Torbato from Spain.  These grapes have lineages much more noble  than mine.

We were all chomping at the bit to start tasting the wines that Dr. Izza had brought with him.  But NOOOOOOOOO!  First we had to learn how to really taste – not just gulp down that red for a quick thirst quenching buzz.  Babies, he said, have the best sense of taste.  They don’t think about it – now he was not talking about the 3 year old who wouldn’t eat anything green.  His point was that adults are choosy.  Babies eat with their eyes, hands, noses and mouths.  They explore their food – look at it, smell it, taste it.  He encouraged us to – at the first tasting of something – to exam its look, really smell it, then slowly taste it.

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Look at Jack – he’s all excited.  Dr. Izzo is opening a bottle for us to taste.  What?  We have to wait?  Chill Jack – first one has to pour.  We were told to only fill a wine glass to where the glass starts to get bigger – open wider – that allows the smell to evaporate up.  Hmmm. Next, really visually examine the wine.  What is the color?  If you tilt the glass does that create “unghia” – nails in Italian but we would say legs. What are the color undertones?  Then, rotate the glass and evaluate the fluidity and arches.  We all put our glasses next to our handouts so that we could really see the color – it was hard – some of us were staring at the sunset on the Alghero harbor.

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We went through the process with a number of both red and white wines.  It was interesting how our individual tastes and experiences created diverse perceptions of each wine.  I might think something had undertones of oak and cherry and Jack would laugh and say – not at all.

Dr. Izza is an enjoyable presenter.  He is a great communicator and had us thinking, laughing and of course drinking. The hours whizzed by and we all left the table with a better understanding of not only the heritage of the local wines but also how we can all be more discernible tasters.  I would recommend any of Dr. Giuseppe Izza’s classes.  You can follow his food adventures on his FaceBook Page or e-mail him at g.izza@tiscali.it.  Find out where he is doing a lecture and go!  The easiest way is to work with him is to join me in Alghero, Sardegna this October on the  Nonna’s Mulberry Tree Trip!

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Ci Vediamo!

Alghero’s Angelina Demartis

Angelina Demartis è una brava donna anche una insegnante di cucina meravigliosa!  Con lei ho imparato a prepare Malloreddus alla Campidanese, Culurgiones, Cozze Gratinate e Bianchini. Durante questa classe abbiamo parlato solo in italiano!  Gulp….

Angelina Demartis is an incredible cooking teacher. Even though she only spoke Italian and some of the people in our class only spoke English, her non verbal communication skills, animation and love of cooking conveyed the techniques we needed to make some scrumptous Sardegnian fare. 

Whoa, I’m getting ahead of myself. You are wondering where I was when I found her, how I found her and what we made.  Sorry for letting my enthusiasm for her class and the incredible food I tasted in her kitchen get in the way of linear storytelling.

This October a group of thirteen of us headed to the best Italian language school ever – Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera.  As part of our language lessons, we had the opportunity to practice our linguistic gymnastics in the kitchen of Angelina Demartis.  She is a graduate of the Instituto Professionale per Operature Dei Servizi Di Ristorazione – Settore Cucina.  Then went on to university and now by day teaches Italian and History. By night, she cooks and cooks and helps other folks learn to do what she loves to do – cook.

We climbed the three flights of stairs – yes I paused on landings – wondering where we were going, who our teacher would be and what we would be eating.  The what we would be eating was on everyone’s hungry mind.  This gorgeous, smiling bundle of energy and love – Angelina Demartis – opened the door and we at once knew we had entered foodie heaven.  The working space is a large kitchen that leads into a larger room, that leads out to a great roof top patio with a sea view.  Ahhhhh.  After lots of hugging and kissing and putting a glass of sparkling water in each of our hands she began to tell us what we would be making.  Lucky for us, she had prepared handouts in both English and Italian. 

We learned how to make two typical Sardegnian pastas. The first was Culurgiones – it is a filled pasta formed to look like a shaft of wheat.  Of course mine looked like a blob of dough but I kept on trying.  What makes this pasta interesting is that it is made with three types of flour.  Regular farina 00 – flour, semola rimacinata – finally ground semolina, and integral – whole wheat.  The Culurgiones were stuffed with mint, potatoes and two kinds of Sardinian cheeses.  Malloredus alla Campidanese  is a pasta made with semolina flour, saffron and water.  Simple and delisious with a simple tomatoe and sausage sauce. 

Angelina is not only a foodie but an incredible actress – we really didn’t need a translator to understand what she wanted us to do.  Besides the pasta, some of us cleaned mussels, made the stuffing for the mussels and the lucky ones got to make the super sweet and yummy Bianchini – meringues.

Guess what we did after we made all this glorious food?  We sat down, drank wine and had an incredible dinner that included not only what we made but other tasty morsels made by our hostess.  Buon appetito

What you thought I was  going to share the secrets of how to make the pasta and sauce?  Watch the video and you’ll pick up a few tricks.  Better yet, next October join us on our second Nonna’s Mulberry Tree trek to Centro Meditterraneo Pintadera.

Cooking With Angelina Video

Ci vediamo!

Eating My Way Through Alghero

The historic center of Alghero, Sardegna is chock full of eateries serving everything from tourist drek like crepes and waffels to exquisite Sardinian fare.  Guess where we ate?  Yup – if it was Algherese style food – or any Sardegnian traditional yummy – you would find us there.

Jack and I are incredibly fortunate because our pal, Nicola Schroeder – one of the administators of ace language school Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera – has lived in Alghero for over 20 years, knows we are foodies and has never given us a bad recommendation.  Pintadera is not just a school it is a bastian of information on all things tasty in Alghero.

As part of our two week language immersian course, Nicola oranized a welcoming dinner at Tratoria Lo Romani, Via Principe Umberto 29. The menu was a wonderful introduction to artigianal Sardegnian fare.


Owner, Gigi treated us like family. We started with antipasti della casa (selezione dei migliori salumi e formaggio sardi) – think platters of antipasti including melted cheese, fried red peppers, roast pork with carrote e zucchine, sardinian prosciutto two kinds of hard sheep’s milk cheeses, roasted vegetables and cubes of vegetable frittata. We groaned and kept on eating. Next ravioli with cheese, potatoes and mint. Gulp, I asked is there more?  Of course. Mallereddus alla campidanse – Sardegnian mini gnocchi followed.  Carafes of local red and white wine were constatnly filled. Burp. What? Now he is plying us with Sardegnian digestivi – two types of Mirto and limoncino.

To see if if our love for Lo Romani was true love or just starving tastebuds kicking in, we went back on our own. Gigi recomended Granchione with linguine.  Granchione?  Hmm – in my best Italian I said “non capisco”.  Gigi replied – linquine is spaghetti.  How about Granchione – big crab.  Crab is my favorite food in the world and the thought of big crab had me salivating.


This dish was so perfectly prepared that I danced out the door and have told everyone I’ve bumped into to head over to Trattoria Lo Romani at Via Príncipe Umberto, 29. Yup, true love!

Nicola also recommended La Botteghina. You will notice that I have absolutely no photos of either of the two dinners we ate there. Why? Because it was all so incredible that we ate every bite before Jack looked at me and said “hey, you didn’t take any pictures.”

On our first visit I had absolutely the best piece of beef I have ever had in Italy. I’m not kidding. No one ever seemed to understand rare. This was a perfectly cooked fillet drizzled with red wine sauce. Jack had a tuna carpaccio that kept him up all night. Not because he was sick, but because he kept thinking about it. Our dinners that first night were so good that we went back with a large group. What a pleasant surprise! The restaurant has a rooftop terrace. Of course with my shaky knees that was a bit precarious but after we got up up up there the view was great and the sampling of sea foods we had was even greater. La Botteghina is also on Via Principe Umberto,63. (Labotteghina.biz)

Oops, it is 4 o’clock here in Alghero. You know what that means! It is cocktail hour! I better write about my third favorite restaurant and head on over to the bar for an apertivo.

One morning in Italian class my nose started twitching. The incredible smell of garlic being tossed in olive oil was wafting up from the restaurant below through the open windows of Pintadera. Who could think about Italian grammar. All I could think about for the next two hours was ho fame!!

Our Italian classes get out at 1 PM. Jack and I raced down the steps and slid in an outdoor booth at Al Refettorio.  The restaurant is located on Vicolo Adami,47. I had an insalatina di polpi – octopus – that was so fresh I thought I was swimming with it. Next I had a creamy baccala montecato. I had discovered this awesome dish on Murano and eat it whenever I see it. Jack loves tuna and had both carpaccio di tonno and grilled tuna. He raved about both.

What?  You think all we do is go out to eat?  Nah. We love our Italian classes and don’t cut them for a nosh. Besides if we didn’t go to class I couldn’t ask Nicola for restaurant recommendations.

Ci vediamo !

Learning Italian in Sardegna – Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera

Learning a language can be an onerous activity – especially if you are in your garret reading your verb lists by candle light.  I studied French for 4 years in high school and can barely buy bread in Paris.  Italian wasn’t spoken to me at all – well pass the mapeen and sta zitta – but that was it.

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My first real brush with the language was after my first trip to Pontelandolfo – in a year when the dinosaurs roared in tongues over the earth.  I was twenty-something and had come to visit the village of my heritage with my Aunt Catherine and two cousins.  We assumed that since Aunt Cat was born here and left when she knew the language well that she would be our translator – NOT.  She spoke the arcane dialect of Pontelandolfo.  I knew we were in trouble when we landed in Milano and she asked a question to be told “we don’t speak Spanish here.”  Thank the Universe I had a trusty Berlitz phrase book with me. 

I played with learning Italian but didn’t get committed until 1999 – the year I returned to Pontelandolfo with my family tree in hand and found my dad’s first cousins.  When I got home,  I went to Brookdale College, Somerset County College and finally Dorothea’s House in Princeton.  All experiences had their pluses and minuses.  Next, to nudge Jack into learning the language I researched immersion schools in Italy.  I would go to websites, send an e-mail and hear nothing.  Or worse, I would call – all saying they were multi-lingual – and no one spoke English and could tell me about the place.  Than I found Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera!  The school is located in Alghero on the magical island of Sardegna.

Love the school. Could I win the lottery and stay here?  I spoke with one of the directors, Nicola, and was assured that the classes were small – which they were capping out at about six people.  She speaks multiple languages flawlessly.  She told me about the teaching staff  – think Ph’ds who aren’t yawners.  The facility was up a flight of stairs in the heart of the old part of the city.  That location puts the school in the middle of the art and culture that makes Alghero fabulous.  It also means you are within walking minutes of the sea.  When she told me the price – I was sold!

On a sunny May day, Jack and I packed a notebook and pens and headed for Sardenga.  The sea surrounds the city, May means fewer tourists and cheaper airfare. We were not disappointed in our choice of schools or the location.  

Why didn’t someone tell me when I was younger that studying language in the place the language was spoken not only makes great academic sense BUT – you meet really cool people.  People who like to travel like we do – sans reservations, sans itinerary.  Just go, explore and do!  The people we met in our classes – Jack and I weren’t together – I was a bluebird and he was – well – on the little bus – anyway the people were GREAT. 

Jack has no idea what Mascha is saying.

Jack is studying – but who – I mean what?

We met two smart pithy women from Germany, a tall handsome Dutchman, and a really interesting guy who lived in Dubai but was from Tasmania!  Instantly, we all bonded over caffè, were forced to speak Italian or – gulp- English.  Since of course, everyone else spoke their language plus English. 

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Caffè and Conversation Between Classes

Since I can’t keep two languages going in my brain at the same time, the small full immersion classes worked for me. The faculty not only had advanced degrees in languages but I swear were all actors.  You have to be a an actor to communicate with six wildly wicked adult students who want to learn your language but really don’t understand a spoken word. 

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Jack gets personal attention from a great and talented teacher.

The classes focused on both grammar and conversation.  The homework did not make me pull out my teeth.  Every moment was very interactive.  No one wanted to put their head down on the desk and snore.

Smile guys the audienc is clapping.

Check Out Who Sings With the Professional Classical Group? – Yup, our teacher!

Not only does the school have a great graded curriculum, but they made all of the living arrangements for us too.  We rented a charming house for the two week course that was right in the heart of the historic center of Alghero.  That meant close to world class bars, restaurants and shops.

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Our New Dutch Pal Cooking Dinner at Our House.

Marion, another Berliner, sows up fo the last pizza party.

In a great local joint with our new found school pals.

Every morning, following the narrow cobblestone streets, we would walk to the school.  Classes ran for about four hours every morning – with a break to speak to the locals and have caffè.  Then we would find a charming place for lunch, Jack would go for a walk and I would sit, stare at the sea, pretend to write and drink Prosecco. The school also ran cultural immersion classes I took a cooking class that was scads of fun.  The hunky chef owns one of the local restaurants.  We started out shopping and then back to his kitchen to prepare a meal that we then ate paired with fabulous local wine.

Last time I swim with the dolphins.

The Tuna Was Really Fresh!

Note our Chef/teacher in the backgound  - cute too.

We Were Shucking and Yucking in the Kitchen.

Jack and I were so in love with the place that I convinced pals from Dorothea’s House to come too.  We went back one January – which means during Epiphany – the city was alive with holiday spirit and the staff of Pintadera made sure we knew what was going on and participated. 

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La Befana Was Everywhere!  Even Lots of Women Dressed as La Befana!

I would love to be in Alghero every January – anybody want to send me?  Huge gangs of men dressed in black and sporting berets moved as one up and down the narrow streets singing in tight harmony.  Children raced from one La Befana to another asking for treats.  The spectacular theatre featured free live entertainment.  The Living Manger Scene really touched me, the actors were all persons with disabilities who took their roles seriously and were applauded by all.

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Living Manger

There was so much to do and experience that sometimes “my dog ate my homework” for the next class at Pintadera.  The extras that the school provided included a wonderful walking tour of the historic center filled with tales of the season.  Another fun filled extra was a class on the use of your hands when speaking Italian.  No – we did not learn how to flip the bird – that is not – OK maybe they do it  – but it is not Italian.

Chiara uses those gestures when we are BAAAAAAAAD.

How About A Class in Italian Hand Speak!

Through shaky lenses we discover it might just be...

Great Bar Beneath January Apartment – All LOCAL Wines and Foods

In May the city is filled with sun and walking on the sea wall is magical.  In January it gets dark a lot sooner but walking on the sea wall is still magical.  I felt like a princess wrapped in a cloak an walking the castle walls looking out to sea, waiting for my prince to return.  There was so much life in the city during the holiday season that it was impossible to feel cold.  Also, it wasn’t as cold in Alghero in January as it was in New Jersey.

Why aren't the lights in Flagtown this cute?

Sea Wall At Night!  During the day I stared and stared.

Go to Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera and create your own story.  http://www.pintadera.info/

Associazione Culturale
Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera
Vicolo Adami 41
07041 Alghero (SS)
Tel: +39 079 917064 / +39 079 983311
Mobile: +39 328 885 7367
Skype: pintaderalgheroP