Having narrowly avoided a minor car ‘incident’ today I just wanted to say a quick word about the Italian roundabout!
You probably already assume – and why not – that a roundabout, as the name implies, is for driving ‘around’ with the idea of keeping traffic flowing fluidly and thereby easing congestion.
However in Italy, home of design and creativity, the ‘rotonda’ or rotatorio’ has a much looser interpretation and a wider, more eclectic use.
Although most directives say that you give way to the left on entering a roundabout, you will still encounter those drivers who instead of slowing down on the approach and stopping, like to accelerate hard in a hark-back to the past when whoever arrived first had priority (or was ‘the winner’?!). They then continue to rudely thrust themselves through the quietly circling vehicles (this was the type I’ve just had an ‘incontro’ with!).
Then, as Gordon Craigie writing for ‘The Local’ describes, there are those drivers (mainly older) who have the philosophy of “if I don’t look at you, you’re not there” whilst easing out slowly – and dangerously – at 3km per hour, making everyone slam on their brakes and honk furiously.
And then there are those who prefer to avoid the ‘round’ part of roundabout and just go straight over! In the words of ‘Hidden Italy’…’don’t assume that Italian drivers will take a logical route through a roundabout’!
Now at least all these drivers, alarming as they are, are in motion, but there are other drivers who like to use the rotonda in a more relaxed, almost sedentary way. Somewhere convenient to drop off or pick up passengers (this has happened twice to me), a romantic rendezvous, business meeting, a quick (although not necessarily so) telephone break and even parking. I join Gordon Craigie in cautioning those drivers outside of Italy who have yet to negotiate the ‘rotonda’ “to be aware”….be very aware!
Well, I’ve had my vent now and I apologise for badmouthing Italian road etiquette – I do it with affection!
But I also have to say that there was an occasion earlier this year when I would have loved to have stopped on the roundabout (but I didn’t!), as I’d spotted a beautiful wildflower verge with butterflies and bees happily buzzing around and I wanted to check out more closely which flower types were there.
I’m not brilliant with plant identifying but I think there were some knapweed, scabious, red clover, oxeye daisy and cornflower, all of which I see are recommended for wildflower verges – and all of which are in fact edible. Although I absolutely wouldn’t recommend eating plants or flowers from the side of a busy road.
I’ve read that in the EU about 84% of crops are either partially or fully dependent on invertebrates for pollination (bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles etc.), not to mention that almost 90% of all wildflowers would become extinct if we had no insects to pollinate them.
The danger now is that these very pollinators are seriously threatened, with a third of Europe’s bee and butterfly populations already in decline and many on the verge of distinction. This is all thanks to the over-use of chemical pesticides, monoculture farming (lack of biodiversity) and climate change itself.
The main solution would obviously be to stop, or at least drastically reduce, chemical pesticides, whilst other remedies would be to build a greener infrastructure such as growing more hedges, wildflower meadows and areas for nectar-producing plants in order to encourage and nurture pollinators.
Road verges are a wonderful and so far under-used area for cultivating these types of plants and I’m happy to see more and more of them appearing on our roads….and roundabouts!
JUST A QUICK WORD ON BEES:
Bees of course are one of our main pollinators and in urgent need of protection. Maybe many of you have seen this photo on social media but it’s too adorable not to add here! I had no idea that bees sometimes sleep between 5-8 hours a day – and often in flowers. The text to this photo also said that bees have been known to snuggle up with another bee and hold each other’s feet….who knows if that’s true, but certainly they are here and I love the thought of bee-couples having their well-deserved siestas in flowers!
HOW ABOUT SOWING SOME WILDFLOWERS?
I think every step we can take, however small, to protect our wildlife (and our food chain) can make a difference. So, maybe like me, some of you might be interested in planting wildflowers to help attract more pollinators? Here are UK’s TV gardening legend Monty Don’s 6 steps for sowing wildflowers into grass to mimic a true wildflower meadow.
He particularly recommends having cowslip, birds foot trefoil, scabious and yellow rattle but a few others you could include are: red clover, tufted vetch, lady’s bedstraw, borage, knapweed, oxeye daisy and red poppy….there are lots to choose from, you just need to ask a good wildflower seed store.
(N.B. these wildflowers mentioned above are all edible except for birds foot trefoil and yellow rattle).
Here are Monty Don’s 6 steps:
1. Mow the grass really short
2. Rake out the thatch (existing dead grass and moss in the grass)
3. Aggressively rake to scarify and break up the soil
4. Broadcast/sow the seed, mix in to sand if that makes it easier
5. Lightly rake
6. Tread across seeded area
Do click on the link to watch the video: https://youtu.be/lQ-QIQajchU
With Christmas approaching, what about giving packets of wildflower seeds as gifts or as stocking fillers?
RECIPE: Mini Edible Wildflower ‘Pizzas’ with a Honey-Chili Dressing
These two mini ‘roundabout’ pizzas are great for a quick snack lunch or supper. To keep it easy, I used flatbreads for pizza bases and you can add whatever edible and pesticide-free wildflowers, herbs and leaves you can find (and safely identify!)….or you can buy some edible flowers and herbs in the market.
I made these earlier during the summer months and used flower petals from red clover, knapweed, sow-thistle and dandelion. For leaves I used dandelion, chickweed, rocket, spinach and lettuce….and as I’d found a couple of small wild strawberries I added those too! For the honey-chili dressing, I’m lucky to have local beekeepers and can find organic – and even biodynamic – honey but of course use whatever local honey you can find.
2 mini plain or whole wheat piadine (Italian wraps) or you could use pita breads or tortillas
50g feta cheese, crumbled (or more if you wish) – I’m using feta for it’s lovely salty taste
2 tsp good pesto (home-made would be even better!)
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp dried chili flakes (or more if you like it spicier!)
Salt & pepper
Any mixture of leaves you like e.g. rocket, dandelion, spinach, kale, celery leaves, basil, mint, beet and mixed salad leaves. Add any fruits or berries you prefer.
Put the grill on ready.
Meanwhile in a toaster, lightly toast the piadine/pitas/tortillas.
Take out and spread a teaspoon of pesto on one side of each one.
Then spoon 25g of the crumbled feta cheese on top of both.
Put under the grill for about 5 minutes or until slightly brown and bubbling.
Remove and put them onto a plate or serving platter.
Arrange on top whatever flowers and leaves you’ve chosen.
Drizzle with the honey-chili dressing and serve.