6 June 2015, Amalfi Coast
I arrived here yesterday, on the 5am train, to catch a connecting train that never arrived: I chose to believe that there was a reason for this, and I decided to stay here in this town, whose name I do not remember, and which is not marked on any of the tourist guides. Maybe it was the smell of the sea that drew me here? Maybe it was the idea that I could write to you from the terrace of an inn, and once again describe the picture in front of me. And this is what I see: narrow roads and houses that literally seem to be crawling up the steep sides of the streets. People asleep on small camp-beds that they have set up on their balconies.
I can see all of human life here in the street, as if the sea itself wants me to see these things. But I would prefer you to see them: I know how much you like solitude, and it's clear to me that, here, you can never feel alone. Campania does not allow that. Maybe this region knows better than you what is good for you, maybe it simply cannot understand how anyone could want solitude and silence when there is so much to say. Or how anyone could want to stay inside, when there is so much to see outside. When, outside, there is the sea.
It's been years that I have asked myself what it would be like to finally eat a proper Italian pizza in Italy. The mozzarella arrived this morning: the owner of this small inn dropped a small chest down on a long rope from the terrace, the deliveryman below placed the mozzarella inside, and the woman pulled the chest up quickly, before letting it come down again. The man collected the money that she had left inside and left her the change, and the woman pulled it up again, quicker than before.
With gestures and the few words that I have managed to learn, I asked her what use the chest - that seemed to come from the set of a 1950s film - was. "The chest? Oh, this way, I don't have to bother with the stairs", she replied with a smile and a shrug, and it seemed like for the first time I understood the phrase "there are no problems, only solutions to find". There are still new ways to discover, and jobs to invent, it seems.
It is no surprise that pizza, that magnificent dish, was created here. We can imagine that everything has a point of origin, buried under the surface: joy, fear, love. If that is true, then without doubt somewhere below the spot where I am sitting now, the birthplace of pizza, is the origin of imagination itself.
Yours, as ever
Journeys into flour 6 - the Amalfi Coast
Melt the yeast in a little warm water and add the sifted flour. Melt the salt well in a little warm water, and add to the mixture, before starting to work it. Now you can start to work the mixture: fold it over onto itself from the edges to the centre and roll it each time, until it becomes a single, elastic and compact dough. Place it in a pan, cover with a cloth, and leave it to rest for two hours. Once it is rested, start preparing the dough: using a little flour, work it once again, and then leave it to rest on a wire tray for about 4-5 hours, covered with a cloth (preferably the cloth should not be in direct contact with the dough): it will become soft. Once it has rested, you can start to work it with your hands: gently use a rolling-pin covered with flour, and start to press the dough down with your fingers from the centre towards the edges, turning it over more than once. All the air inside the dough needs to be pressed out towards the edges, which should be around 1-2cm high.
Now we can make the topping: cut the mozzarella into thin flat pieces, and spread out the tomato sauce on the pizza with a spoon, followed by the mozzarella, a little drizzle of oil, and some of the basil leaves. Cook the pizza in a pre-heated oven at maximum temperature for around 8-10 minutes. Otherwise, you can bake the pizza on a reflective stone plate pre-heated to at least 250°C: it will absorb heat and maintain the necessary temperature for sufficient time to allow you to then cook the pizza in a grill for 4-5 minutes. If you have an external wood oven, it is even better, pizza needs rapid cooking at high temperatures.