Ghost Hunting in Italy and a Holiday Dessert Cake with Farro

By , Contributor

Foods that have a history in Italy, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Chianti, pastas, and truffles, can all be found and experienced. But some of Italy's interesting personalities from the past can also be experienced in the form of ghostly encounters if you know where to look for a little touch of ghost hunting, Italian style.

Turin is considered the most haunted city in Italy because of its past famous citizens such as Nostradamus and others. It is said that places like Palazzo Trucchi di Levaldigi, which is housed in a local bank, has been nicknamed "house of the devil" because of its ghostly visitors with a noble past.

In Genoa, Palazzo Rossa, part of the ruins of the convent of San Silvestro in Piazza Cavour where many were condemned to death, has had many ghost sightings. The sightings are probably the unfortunate who met an untimely death.

The spirit of John Keats has been encountered in the museum at the former residence of Shelly and Keats (Piazza si Spagna 26) that has now become the museum for the two literary greats. And it is said that it was here that Keats dressed before his death.

But I can also add a tale of unexpected ghost hunting myself.

My residence in Rome is next door to one of the palaces of Lucrezia Borgia and was once part of the palace but has been turned into condos.We have had a few strange experiences and have been told that Lucrezia does come back to visit her palace every so often.

In Potenza, there have been reports of hauntings at the castle of Lagopesole, which was once the residence of Frederic II. Strange sounds and lights have been seen in the castle especially during the time of the annual Palio in August. It is believed to be related to the former queen Elena and her husband's conflict with an arch-rival.

While none of these ghostly apparitions have been scientifically proven, many people have reported such sightings. It makes for another fun way to explore and tour. I will be hosting a luxury cruise to some of these very places in May, 2012.

If you're looking for an easy, uncommon recipe for your Thanksgiving table that also brings to mind Italy's past, try a cake made of farro, a grain that has been around since ancient times. Serve it with vin santo, another wine from Italy's famous past that is still produced today.

Torta Di Farro (Farro Cake) (excerpted from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style)

4 eggs
4 cups (800 g) farro flour
2 cups (400 g) sugar
1 cup (200 g) milk
1 cup (200 g) vin santo
2 tsp (10 g) baking powder

Break all eggs into a large bowl. Add sugar and beat till foamy and eggs have become a pale yellow. Add the farro flour, a tablespoonful at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add milk and vin santo, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then add baking powder and mix well.

Line an 8” cake pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter. Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until firm. You can also use a tube pan pan that has been buttered and floured.

Remove from oven when done and cool in pan. Remove from pan when cool and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with vin santo.

If you ever had a ghost sighting in Italy, let us know!

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Celebrity chef and award-winning author Maria Liberati is considered one of the foremost experts on Italian cuisine and culture in the United States. Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for her best-selling recipe novel series The Basic Art of Italian Cooking and her blog. Maria divides her…

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