Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cold fusion - a breakthrough in Bologna?

Thanks to my friend Massimo, I've been privy to some exciting, possibly revolutionary news from Bologna. Most people are unaware that some extraordinary experiments are going on with a machine that can generate energy from cold fusion (fusione fredda). Cold fusion is a type of nuclear reaction that occurs at low energies or temperatures. The invention, called the E-Cat machine (energy catalyzer), was developed by Dr.Andrea Rossi , an entrepreneur, and is now undergoing worldwide scrutiny after a successful test of the device was run on October 28 in Bologna.

Rossi has "developed what he claims to be a simple system for generating what would be, essentially, endless and incredibly cheap energy." (Mark Gibbs, Forbes online, Oct. 30, 2011, from

This "technology utilizes tiny quantities of nickel powder and hydrogen gas as fuel, while producing large amounts of energy in the form of heat. Importantly, the energy is produced without emitting any pollution, utilizing any radioactive materials, or producing any nuclear waste. Simply put, the E-Cat offers the world a source of cheap, safe, and clean energy."  (Sterling Allen,, from

I first heard about Dr.Rossi's experiments from Massimo in March, but due to the skepticism that has been a constant factor in the reports coming from Bologna, little mention of it has been made in Italy or the rest of the world. (In fact, Massimo is the only one of my Italian friends who had heard about it.) However, Dr. Rossi performed a test a few days ago that has won over many of the skeptics and it now looks like his invention has the potential to change the world as we know it. Still, Rossi is viewed as either a madman or a genius, and there are many unanswered questions about his invention. Is it a scam or the real deal? Chissà? Only time will tell.

Massimo was present at the test last week, had his photo taken with Dr. Rossi, and can be seen in the background with his wife Sofia in several news videos that are online. They were even visible in one shot on the national news televised in Italy. Perhaps some day soon he can say that he was a witness to history in the making.

Andrea Rossi (on the left) with Massimo
Since science isn't my field, I won't attempt to explain how the E-Cat works, and I have not been able to fully comprehend the implications that this invention could have for the world. But some say that if Rossi's invention actually works, it will be the most important invention in all of human history.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A special kind of treasure

One of the treasures I brought home from Italy this year is a small bottle of homemade balsamic vinegar, made by my friend Marvi in Modena. To give you an idea of how small the bottle is, the photo below shows it sitting next to my Bialetti Moka Express coffeemaker. So I'm using the vinegar sparingly, a few delicious drops at a time. 
the bottle seems dwarfed by the Bialetti
One way that I can do this is by pouring a few drops of the intensely flavored, thick, syrupy liquid over jagged pieces of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Squisito!

Parmigiano Reggiano con l'aceto balsamico di Modena

I was telling Marco and Marvi that I used their l'aceto sparingly, and they laughed, telling me not to worry: when the bottle is empty, I simply need to come back to Modena to fill 'er up again!

All in good time. Meanwhile, the weather is still warm and sunny here, and I have time to work in the yard and watch the leaves changing colors.

(While visiting me in Zagarolo, Marvi brought with her a small bottle of l'aceto balsamico made from the family's 30-year-old stash of grape must. For those who don't know, Modena is famous for its balsamic vinegar, and the best variety, aged at least for 20 years, is VERY expensive. Most versions of balsamic vinegar in the U.S. have little relation to the real stuff. )

Friday, October 7, 2011

La vendemmia Bolognese

The wine harvest in Bologna

It's time for la vendemmia!  All over Italy, grapes are being harvested and transformed into many kinds of vino italiano.  Lately I've been hearing from my friend Massimo about the vendemmia that is taking place near his home of Bologna.

First Massimo told me about a food festival that he and his family (wife Sofia and daughter Erika) came across one Sunday afternoon in Bologna's centro storico. There were many booths selling fall fruits, vegetables, jams and wine, among other things. They also came across a booth where children were allowed to jump in a vat and stomp grapes, the way wine making was done many years ago.

i ragazzi pigiano l'uva (children stomping the grapes)
Massimo's family was also invited to attend la vendemmia at his friend Fabiano's house in the country, where a machine called il torchio (winepress) is used to squeeze the grapes. Il torchio has been in existence in one form or another for many years, so la pigiatura dell'uva (grape stomping) nowadays in Italy is done mostly for fun. Massimo sent me a few photos of the wine making process that went on at Fabiano's house. The end result: vino Moscato (Moscato wine) for family and friends.

 le uve arrivano in ceste di legno (the grapes arrive in wooden crates)
Fabiano e suo madre riempiono il torchio
(Fabiano and his mother filling the winepress)
Sofia preme l'uva sotto gli occhi attenti del padre di Fabiano.
  (Sofia pressing the grapes under the watchful eyes of Fabiano's father.)
Grazie mille a Massimo per le foto e la famiglia di Fabiano per la vendemmia!
Many thanks to Massimo for sharing his weekend outing at Fabiano's!

Massimo also sent me a link to a High Definition video he created and posted on YouTube about the wine-making. It's fabulous!

Wine Harvest in Bologna

Hopefully I'll have the chance to see a similar operation at the Cantina del Tufaio during my stay in Zagarolo next fall. For more on la vendemmia, here's the link to an article with more information from the Florentine, an English bi-weekly magazine published in Firenze:

Grape stomping time in Italy

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Food for Thought

Dante, Firenze, 2011

"It is our choices...that show what we
truly are, far more than our abilities"
- J.K. Rowling