Experiencing the Mediterranean Diet firsthand, part 2

As we mentioned, Rhonda and Cathy both had the opportunity to travel to the island of Ischia off the coast of Italy earlier this year.  They participated in teaching a course that included a section on the effects of culture and environment on food and eating.  Getting off the beaten track was easy to do and both took advantage of fresh air activities.

Ischia is volcanic in origin (from the west side of the island, you can see Mount Vesuvius on the mainland).  The lower elevations are mainly under cultivation with grapes, olive trees, citrus groves and vegetable gardens.  The higher elevations are covered in trees and bushes, inter-wound with many hiking trails.  Climbing to the top of Ischia is a common objective for tourists and we were no exception.  The first part of the hike is through the farmland.  It was interesting to see that vegetable crops such as peas were often planted in between rows of grapes in a vineyard.  There were some terrific views of the shoreline from up on top.  The best part – the restaurant near the summit.  Thick sandwiches of cured meats, mineral water and beer awaited thirsty hikers!

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Ischia is also small enough that you can easily boat around it in a few hours.  From the ocean you get a different perspective entirely, and you see parts of the island that are extremely rugged, with very little sign of human presence.  We were lucky enough to see several peregrine falcons hunting along the cliff-tops.   After the bracing sea air, a pizza really hits the spot.  Ischia is near to Naples, where the pizza was invented and pizza makers adhere to specific rules for making pizza.  For example, you will never find an extra-large pizza – the rules say a pizza is a maximum of 33 cm.  Interestingly, the flour used for the crust is a blend of Italian and Canadian flours to give it the right properties.  We tried the traditional Margarita (tomato sauce, cubes of mozzarella, fresh basil) and marinara (tomato sauce, oregano, olive oil, garlic) pizzas.  In the traditional wood-fired oven, they take only 90 seconds to bake!