Time Illusion – Part III


TIME ebbs and flows.  PATIENCE is a virtue.

This is the third part of the “Time Illusion” trilogy, and once again it is based on my personal insights and learnings following a recent trip to Italy.   In this blog post, I share with you the importance of TIME and PATIENCE and how the two go hand in hand.

Read>> Time Illusion – Part I              Read >>  Time Illusion – Part II

The Importance of TIME

Bologna is a city known for its academic history and more recently for its culinary prowess.  Many foodies now flock to the city to enjoy the treats of the region, such as Bolognese sauce, Parma ham, balsamic vinegar from Modena and the famous Parmesan cheese. 

As well as writing and books, another passion of mine is cooking.   My husband and I are both avid foodies, my husband’s parents ran a very successful restaurant – so it’s in his blood, and hence our decision to spend a few days in Bologna.  As part of our culinary experience we signed up for a one-day intensive food tour, which was a very wise decision.

As part of the day-long tour, we would get to see Parmesan cheese being made, visit one of the oldest balsamic vinegar houses in the area of Modena, and see the process of making the famous Parma ham.    Oh, and we also got to sample and taste lots along the way, including a cheeky young Lambrusco Rosso, as well as numerous local dishes and wines over a long and leisurely lunch.

Now, my husband and I are no strangers to seeing cheese being made – we live in Switzerland and have visited a few cheese producers, and my husband has even made his own cheddar cheese.   However, what really impressed us with this tour was that we actually got to stand next to the vats where the actual cheese was being made, quite a different experience than being kept behind a glass wall for health and safety reasons.  It was really something as you felt up close and personal with the process – seeing each step as it happened and getting the full effects of the sounds and the strong smell too.

Now Parmesan cheese has only a few key ingredients: milk, rennet and salt.  And the fourth important ingredient is TIME. 

It takes time for the cheese to mature, with the huge cheese wheels being polished and turned for anything from 12 months to 3 years.   The quality of the cheese is tested and if it passes it receives the official stamp of approval.   Parmesan cheese is a valuable commodity and it has been known in the past that some banks in the region would accept them as collateral.

Black Gold – Balsamic Vinegar

Similar to Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar can be extremely valuable.    On our tour, we were fortunate to visit the oldest balsamic vinegar producer in the area.  A small family-run affair, where the process of producing this thick black liquid was explained to the group as we stood in a room filled with an array of wooden barrels. After harvesting, the grapes are cooked up and the barrels filled with the liquid. We learnt that it is a process of allowing the liquids to naturally reduce and it involves a convoluted system of topping up the barrels and adding new liquor to the biggest barrel.

Time again is a key factor – it takes at least 12 years to make the D.O.P. red label version, and it must pass strict regulations and tests to be approved, with the gold label product being at least 25 years in production.   It certainly is a labour of love with little reward.    Patience is key to success – and this family know about patience as they have balsamic vinegar dating back to when the firm was started in 1860 (this is not for sale). 

Often as writers, we rush to capture the story and that is a key part of the process.  However, we also need to learn the virtue of patience and take the time to edit and refine our works.   Like a mature Parmesan cheese or a 25-year-old Balsamic Vinegar – TIME is a key ingredient we need to incorporate into our books.   Allow TIME and PATIENCE to be part of our writing process and you, as the writer, and your readership will not be disappointed.

Link >>  Italian Days Food Tour

Link>>  Antica Acetaia Cavedoni




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Time Illusion – Part II


TIME stands still.   Frozen in TIME.  Transported in TIME.

Following on from my last blog post (Time Illusion – Part I), I want to share with you a different viewpoint relating to TIME, based on my recent visit to Italy.  I want to take you on a journey to explore the opposite end of the spectrum- away from speed; we will take a look at slowing down TIME.

Step back in Time

OK, let’s start with a walk around Venice.  

Venice truly is an incredible city surrounded by water.  It was built on a series of more than 100 islands in a lagoon. It is a city to which thousands of visitors flock to experience its rich history and to witness first hand its uniqueness.  No other city in the world can match it with its canals and magnificent buildings.   It is a city that captures romantic hearts across the world, and a place where many lovers and newly-weds enjoy being pictured as they float through the narrow city canals being serenaded on a gondola – you’ve all seen the photos.

My first impression of the city, from the water boat, as we cruised down the Grand Canal, was one of awe wrapped up with a tinge of sadness to see the decaying splendour of what must have been a majestic city.  Everywhere you looked you could see the shabby grandeur of its former past glory shining through.  

Even in the midst of the thronging masses on Piazza San Marco and as we climbed over the Bridge of Sighs, I could easily imagine the city as it would have been in the past.  I often find myself transported back in time. In place of all the tourists, it would have been bustling with traders and merchants – a thriving and lively place of commerce, street traders plying their exotic wears and the taverns overflowing with tales of intrepid adventures in strange new worlds.

However, Venice is a city surviving on borrowed time as its foundations slowly erode, and it some parts become submerged with high tides.   That aside, it is still standing and it certainly earns its place as one of the top cities in the world to visit. 

Pause – Time Out

It has something for everyone – even for a book lover like me.   Take a stroll down some of the quiet back streets and you might find your way to the oldest bookstore in the city “Libreria Acqua Alta“.   Step into an Aladdin’s cave of books – books piled high in the small courtyard, books overflowing in an old gondola, books in every nook and cranny.   There is a small corner with two seats beside an open shuttered window overlooking a canal – take a break for a moment and enjoy the pleasure of being in such a unique setting, especially as a gondola floats by.  

It is more about the journey than rushing to the destination – enjoy allowing your imagination to step in and see yourself transported back in time and view the place at a time gone by. Mingle with the ghosts and walk in their steps, seeing the place in a new light. Hit pause and take a moment or two to enjoy a unique experience and implant it firmly in your mind – a memory filed away, to be drawn upon in your future writings.

As a writer I travel through this world drinking in the experiences, moments and feelings and then storing them away, safely, to be called upon in my writing.  Each moment is fuel for a story, a setting or a character.   As we writers wield our imaginations, the seed must come from somewhere and travel is a great way to find many inspirational seeds.




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