The quiet side of Venice

Venice has to be one of my favourite cities in the world. I love the uniqueness of the lagoon city, its rich history, the connection to my family and, of course, the pathos that I feel when I observe the beauty of a city that was once glorious and powerful.

Because of this, it pains me to hear from people that have visited Venice that they did not enjoy their time there because it was too touristy, crowded, and smelly. I will admit that Venice can be these things, and it certainly is if you visit on a day trip and all you do is walk from the station to San Marco along the Strada Nuova, with the obligatory stop at the Rialto along the way. You’d feel slightly uneasy at the extravagant price for a gondola ride, or even a plate of pasta, and god forbid what you’d think if you ever decided to sit down for a relaxing coffee al fresco in the Piazza San Marco. Sure, you’ll admit that the medieval, gold mosaic ceilings of Saint Mark’s cathedral are beautiful, but when you’re pressed in amongst throngs of selfie-stick toting tourists on a boardwalk inside the cathedral because high tide has made the thing under water, you probably wish you were elsewhere.

The travesty about all this is that these people are so close to the Venice I love. All they need to do to get there is to cross a canal or take two stops on the vaporetto. For me, the Venice I love is the quiet Venice, of walking through narrow alleyways and crossing silent canals until you happen upon a beautiful piazza, of glimpses into walled gardens and hidden courtyards, of a Spritz at the bar followed by a cicchetto. It is setting out with the intention to get lost and the willingness to open your mind to truly observe all that you see. (Thankfully, being a series of islands, even if you don’t know where you are, you’re never far from an important landmark to guide you back on track.)

I would urge every visitor to Venice to seek out the city that exists outside the linear route from the station to San Marco. The memories you create of your stay in this mysterious, majestic city will be all the richer for it.

Venice, despite being an island city, is not without its gardens. Most are secluded and private, like this.

Venice, despite being an island city, is not without its gardens. Most are secluded and private, like this one.

Mazzorbo.

Mazzorbo, an isle in the Venetian lagoon, has farmhouses and farms.

The lagoon at sunset, with the isle of Lido glimpsed in the background.

The lagoon at sunset, with the isle of Lido glimpsed in the background.

Backstreets of Giudecca.

Backstreets of Giudecca.

Set up for lunch in Murano.

Set up for lunch in Murano.

Glimpses into another world.

Glimpses into another world.

There are some surprisingly wide, open spaces in Burano.

There are some surprisingly wide, open spaces in Burano.

Winter sun.

Winter sun.

The silent Venetian lagoon.

The silent Venetian lagoon.

Advertisements

Eight things I’ve learned about pasta since coming to Italy

Pasta and Italians go together like bread and butter. It’s one of the first things that most people think about when they think of Italy, to the point where there exists a stereotype of Italy in which Italians eat only pasta and pizza, nothing else. ‘Bah’, I thought to myself, ‘What a load of rubbish! I am Italian (-Australian) and I eat pasta only once or twice a week, tops.’. To me, the idea that Italians ate pasta almost exclusively was like the idea that Japanese people only eat sushi – I was certain that it was just a myth. How wrong I was.

Pasta is hugely important to Italians, and especially to the Italian guys, both young and old, that I live and work with. Pasta plays such a central role in the lives of these Italians, and there are so many ‘do and do-not’ rules that surround the acts of its preparation and eating, that I am almost inclined to describe the reverence in which the Italians treat it as religious.

DSC07692

‘What are you talking about?’, I hear my readers demand, ‘Pasta is such a simple food that any fool with some water and a jar of sauce could make it! How could it be so important?’. I hear you, readers. Allow me to elaborate.
(Please be aware that the following are generalisations and of course cannot be said to represent the views of all Italians.)

  • First of all, it is not pasta. No, to the Italian lovers of pasta, it is always pastasciutta (pasta-shu-tta). From what I can gather, pastasciutta technically specifies pasta cooked in salted water and served dry with a sauce, as opposed to pasta in a soup. However, I see it more as a term of affection.
  • Italians add much more salt to the boiling pasta water than I am used to – they add two small handfulls rather than two teaspoons as I usually do. I chalk this one down to my inexperience at cooking, however, and I have since started cooking pasta in the Italian way.DSC06100
  • Overcooking pasta is a sin. Pasta should be al dente, and al dente in a way that may be seen as undercooked to some the first time they try it. Never follow the recommended cooking time on a pasta packet – in fact, I have not seen an Italian time the cooking of their pasta once. They always go by taste alone.
  • Pasta, as in the dry pasta with sauce, is always eaten first in a meal. The only exception to this rule is if there is an antipasto (entrée), in which case that is eaten first. Expect to hear many exclamations of surprise and ‘What the hell are you doing?’ if you eat, say, a salad before eating your pasta.
  • To follow on from this, when pasta is eaten, it deserves your special attention and concentration. You cannot put anything else on your plate when you are eating pasta. If you think you want to serve your plate with a little bit of pasta and a little bit of salad/meat so you don’t have to serve yourself again later, well, you’re wrong.
  • If, for some reason, the pasta has turned out to be lacking in salt, it is frowned upon to add salt to the pasta at the table. Instead, the Italians prefer to just add more cheese. I’m ok with that!
  • There are no such thing as pasta leftovers. Sure, some pasta may not get eaten when eyes are bigger than stomachs, but this goes straight to the bin. It is freshly-cooked pasta or nothing. I can see where they are coming from in this, but to me it is a little wasteful, and I still don’t mind reheating the odd dish of pasta now and then.
  • Italian pasta lovers eat pasta all the time. I’m telling you that they could happily eat a bowl of pasta for lunch and for dinner, seven days a week. At first, this was a shock to me and my digestive system. However, as the weeks rolled on, I didn’t feel particularly bloated even after eating a couple of decently-sized bowls of pasta in a meal, and I even found myself beginning to crave pasta if I hadn’t eaten it for a day!
Pici, a type of handmade fresh pasta, is unique to this region of Tuscany.

Pici, a type of handmade fresh pasta, are unique to this region of Tuscany.

Some people may consider the attitude that Italians have towards pasta (and other foods) as narrow-minded and inflexible, as a set of almost arbitrary rules created in fear of change. I, however, see it as a passion, and to me, a healthy passion is something that should be admired, no matter whether I agree with it or no. It’s why I tip my metaphorical hat when I see a pristine Australian (or American) muscle car drive by, even though I would never own one. Yes, Italians take pasta very, very, seriously, but only because they take food seriously as a whole. That’s why it is such a gastronomical delight to come to Italy, and why Italian food is one of the world’s foremost ‘cultural’ cuisines. Italy, I thank you for your crazy dedication to pasta. You’ve taught me a lot.

Unexpected pleasures.

Today was my first day off after eight straight days of vintage work, and I was determined to make the most of it by going sightseeing. I was on my own, the sun was shining, and the temperature was, in my opinion, absolutely perfect at 22 degrees. At this temperature, you can wear a short sleeved shirt and jeans during the day, then slip on a light cardigan in the evening, and you never feel too hot or too cold. Anyway, today was the day I would finally make it to the Val d’Orcia, and specifically to Pienza.

Like Greve in Chianti, Pienza has a special place in my heart because it is somewhere I stayed with my family when I was in Italy almost exactly twelve years ago. It’s a beautiful medieval town, set on a hilltop as they all seem to be around here. I like to think these towns are like this because people wanted to appreciate a nice view every day- although they were probably thinking less of views of mountains and valleys and more of views of invading armies.
Despite all of the tourists there (stay quiet in churches! Please!) it was lovely to just walk around and admire the sights. I made sure to sample the local delicacy of pecorino di Pienza by eating a panino filled with the cheese and some salame, and I visited a photography exhibition put on, unbeknownst to me at the time, by the guy who takes photos for pretty much all the (nice) postcards of Tuscany. Very inspiring.

Along the walls of Pienza.

Along the walls of Pienza.

Welcome, Country Cat. Welcome indeed.

Welcome, Country Cat. Welcome indeed.

On the way back home, I decided, on a whim, to stop by in another hilltop town called Montefollonico. I knew it was going to be beautiful when the little road leading to the town wound its way through a forest, but I wasn’t prepared for the splendour that would greet my eyes when I arrived. The town itself was lovely, of course. Narrow, winding streets and houses with flowers in the balconies everywhere, and about 99% less tourists than Pienza (I guess I was that 1%). However, the real beauty lay outside the town: there just happened to be a gathering of a local ‘Fiat 500 and derivatives’ car club. Ah, Italian car design is timeless. Instead of talking about what I saw, here are some photos!

Now this is my kind of slammed ride.

Now this is my kind of slammed ride.

The hallmark of a classic Abarth: that raised boot to allow for engine cooling!

The hallmark of a classic Abarth: that raised boot to allow for engine cooling!

The shape of even the regular Cinquecento is timeless, I think.

The shape of even the regular Cinquecento is timeless, I think.

Racing Lancia Fulvia.

Racing Lancia Fulvia.

Chiesa di San Leonardo in Montefollonico.

Chiesa di San Leonardo in Montefollonico.

Montepulciano 2014 vintage update

It has been a busy few weeks here in Montepulciano, and hence it is only now that I can squeeze in enough time on my day off to do anything other than go to the shops (it is a great feeling to be able to go to the shops after you haven’t been able to for a week) and zone out reading news articles on the internet. The reason for this is that the grape harvest is now in full swing, and right now I am in a relatively quiet few days in the middle, in the eye of the storm, as it were.

Foggy mornings have been unusually common for early autumn,

Foggy mornings have been unusually common for early autumn,

This season has not been the most forgiving on the grapes. The beautiful weather in late August has given way to one or two rainy days a week, which unfortunately spoil the beatiful, sunny mid-20s weather that we are getting when it isn’t raining! Things are therefore difficult for the winemakers- they have to decide whether to harvest the grapes early because they are beginning to show some signs of disease, or leave them out on the vine to ripen their delicious flavours a little longer. It is a balance, and one that must be assessed day by day with visits to the vineyard. Hence, when rain is forecasted, sometimes the grapes need to come in at short notice, no matter what! Needless to say there have been some busy days.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – the reports are that the mild weather has lead to some decent quality grapes in vineyards where the pressure of disease is low. Furthermore, there are always things to be done in the winery to make up for lost ripeness, such as ‘salasso’, or bleeding off, where a portion of juice is removed from the crushed grapes before fermentation to allow the remaining juice to get more flavour and colour from the skins. Interesting techniques, all of them, and it is certainly a great opportunity for me to learn.

Grapes arrive at all hours, from the early morning to the middle of the night.

Grapes arrive at all hours, from early in the morning to the middle of the night.

In the time since my last post, I’ve helped out with quite a number of things around the winery. I’ve helped orchestrate the arrival of many tonnes of grapes into the winery, I’ve helped sort horns for the making of biodynamic preparations, and I have of course done a lot of cleaning. Perhaps most interestingly, though, I was able to help with the harvest of grapes destined for the esteemed Vin Santo! Vin Santo is a dessert wine made from grapes that have been dried inside on straw mats for a very long time (4+ months) before being crushed, fermented, and aged in oak barrels for a many years. There’s a lot I can say about Vin Santo, but for now, I’ll just say that I found it very interesting that the grapes were some of the first to be harvested this season!

Anyway, that’s enough talk. Here are a few photos; I apologise for the quality, but I’ve been too busy to take out my nice camera!

Huge Trebbiano bunches about to be harvested for Vin Santo. Or is that Malvasia?

Huge Trebbiano bunches about to be harvested for Vin Santo. Or is that Malvasia? Loose bunches are best as they allow for plenty of air flow during  drying.

Vin Santo grapes getting set up for the long drying process.

Vin Santo grapes getting set up for the long drying process.

Horns for biodynamic preparations. These have been filled with excrement and buried in the ground. Multiple times.

Horns for biodynamic preparations. These have been filled with excrement and buried in the ground. Multiple times.

A wine fair in (Greve in) Chianti

I am trying to take every opportunity that I can here in Italy to explore and travel. Because I’m working and not here on a holiday, that generally means I have to travel the weekend. Now, I am a morning person, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else say before. I’d much rather get up early and walk to the bar for a coffee (drunk at the bar in two or three minutes: Italian style) than have a night out at a ‘discoteca’ and then spend the next half-day in bed.

This weekend, I had done my morning washing and felt like going somewhere after lunch. “Maybe the picturesque Val d’Orcia?” I thought to myself. When I floated the idea at the lunch table, one of my housemates mentioned that maybe I might like to go with them instead to a wine fair in a town called Greve in Chianti, in the middle of the Chianti Classico wine region between Florence and Siena. At the mention of this town, my ears pricked up; twelve years earlier, I had lived there for two months in an apartment overlooking the main piazza, even going so far as to attend the local school. This, combined with the fact that I want to try as much wine as I can while I am here, made the choice very easy: Greve in Chianti it was to be!

The main piazza at Greve in Chianti.

The main piazza at Greve in Chianti.

Clever artwork adorned many of the stalls around the festa.

Clever artwork adorned many of the stalls around the festa.

I got a little lost on the way, but after an amazing drive through the forested hills we descended into the town of Greve in Chianti. All of the action was in the main piazza, with individual stores set up for each winery. Cost of participation to the fair was €10, which granted you a wine glass to keep and a voucher for seven tastings of your choice. With so many stalls, it was hard to choose, let me tell you! At the recommendation of one of my Italian friends, we tried through 5 of the 6 wineries in Lamole, a town located high (400-600m) in the hills of Chianti and whose wines were more pale in colour and elegant in structure than wines of other parts of Chianti. I quite enjoyed the floral nose and drinkability of one wine where the producer openly admitted they used white grapes (Trebbiano) along with Sangiovese: in other words, old-style Chianti. ‘I Fabbri’ had some nice wines too, and the female owner was very friendly when she found out we were in Italy to work for the harvest.
Aside from the Lamole producers, we also tried wines from other areas of Chianti. While I can’t remember all that I tried, I made sure to taste wines from the Australian-owned (for now) ‘Castello di Gabbiano’, and ‘Castello di Vicchiomaggio’ stands out in my memory as one producer that I quite enjoyed, even if the wines were on the more generous side.

The gang. Note the perils of asking a stranger to take a photo with a manual-focus lens!

The gang. Note the perils of asking a stranger to take a photo with a manual-focus lens!

Tasting the wines of Lamole at some of the stalls.

Tasting the wines of Lamole at some of the stalls.

It would have been impossible to do all this wine tasting on an empty stomach. I had two pannini while I was in Greve: one before the tasting at Bar Lepante (not bad, not especially good) and one after, a heavenly combination of fresh crusty bread, prosciutto with fat that melted in my mouth and a little pecorino cheese. This is the sort of thing I’d have for my last meal on earth.

Greve in Chianti, it was great to visit you again.

Heaven between two slices of (unsalted) bread.

Heaven between two slices of (unsalted) bread.

Chianti and cheese.

Chianti and cheese. Oh, and schacciata all’uva!

This tractor chugged to life even after all these years. "I think I can, I think I can..."

This tractor chugged to life even after all these years. “I think I can, I think I can…”

Maccelleria Falorni. Brings back memories.

Maccelleria Falorni. Brings back memories. Mostly of a bathroom that smelled of salami.

 

Bonus creepy photo: driving home in the evening.

Taxi Driver.

Taxi Driver.

Simple pleasures

One of the things I love so much about Italy, and Italian food, is that they embrace seasonality. When fruits are ripe or vegetables are harvested, they eat them, and eat a lot. When they are out of season: too bad.

Now that it’s early autumn, it’s not just the grapes that are getting ripe. Scattered around some of our vineyards are wild fig trees, which fill the air around them with the succulent scent of their fruit. I absolutely love figs, but because of their squishy nature when ripe, they are almost impossible to find in fruit shops in Australia (and expensive when they are there).

It is one of my simple pleasures in life to stop by these fig trees when we pass, pluck a ripe fruit from the tree, and eat it, no matter how sticky my hands become. It is the taste of autumn, of vintage. Figs are only here for a short while, but I savour them all the same.

IMG_4292

IMG_4295

Vintage begins!

Two weeks after my arrival here in Tuscany, vintage has finally begun! We harvested our solitary vineyard of white grapes – Chardonnay – in the evening of the last day of August. This particular fruit comes from a vineyard near Cortona, and goes into making a wine of the barrel-fermented, oak-matured and relatively complex style.

The white receival area is set into the side of a hill.

The white receival area of our winery is set into the side of a hill.

Time was against us. The past two weeks of nearly perfect weather were to give way to a cool change during the night of August 31st, almost as if on cue for the end of summer. With the cool change was to come rain, which is not an ideal occurrence during harvest. You don’t want any water to dilute the sugary goodness you’ve been cultivating in those little grape berries all year long!

Despite watching an unfolding tempest draw nearer and nearer as the night went on, we fortunately managed to harvest all of the grapes before it started to rain. Catastrophe avoided.

In goes the Chardonnay.

In goes the Chardonnay.

It started raining not one hour after the last grapes came in.

It started raining not one hour after the last grapes came in.

Once the grapes were received, they passed through the gentle embrace of the press and into a cool tank, where the heavy grape solids will settle and the juice will be await its time for fermentation. The magic process of turning juice into wine will begin soon!

As an aside, I’d like to mention that we use some pretty interesting equipment here in the winery I’m working at. Despite the grapes coming from a vineyard around 20 minutes away by car, each 2-tonne load of grapes came on the trailer of an individual tractor rather than all together at once on the back of a truck. The trailers are pretty tricked-out too, and are fitted with a vibration function and a sorting screen to sort out some undesirable berries. There’re a whole lot of impressive machines awaiting the start of the red harvest too, but that’s a story for another blog post. Until then, I hope the rain stays away and the weather becomes warm again.

Conical open fermenters standing ready for some red grapes.

Conical open fermenters in the winery standing ready for some red grapes.

My first week working in Tuscany

The first week working at any new place is always daunting, and this is especially true when it’s your first job after graduation. Will you know enough about what to do? What will the other people be like? Will it be something you enjoy? In most cases, these worries fade quickly with time and experience, and this is exactly what has happened with me and my job here in Montepulciano (so far, anyway!).

Some small paperwork and formalities aside, I spent my time this week almost entirely out amongst the vineyards. The winery I work for has a number of sites, stretching from Montepulciano to Cortona. Being in Tuscany, most of the plantings are devoted to Sangiovese, along with some Cabernet, Merlot, and of course Trebbiano and Malvasia to make the esteemed vin santo. The season has been an interesting one so far apparently: 200mm of rain since July has swelled the grape berries to the size of 10c pieces and has created some concern with regards to disease. It’s not all dire though- the weather has been just about perfect for ripening since I’ve been here, being sunny and in the mid-to-high 20s, and is set to be so for the foreseeable future. As the Sangiovese vines are only just going through veraison now (for non-winemakers, this is when the berries turn from green to red and start to accumulate all that delicious sugar that will eventually become alcohol), we are all hoping this weather will continue for another month or so.

A sea of vines.

A sea of Sangiovese vines.

An old vineyard interplanted with Sangiovese and Malvasia/Trebbiano with the Val di Chiana in the background.

An old vineyard interplanted with Sangiovese and Malvasia/Trebbiano with the Val di Chiana in the background.

We did various things out in the vineyards. Early in the week, we were looking for the eggs of the European Grapevine Moth, a cheeky little pest whose larvae eat grapes, spilling juice everywhere as they do, and allowing for infection by nasty moulds such as Botrytis. The eggs are really tiny and hard to see, but it’s important to check how many eggs there are and the stage they’re at so spraying for control can be timed effectively. This is especially important because the company I work for is organic and the sprays work best on the young larvae just after they’ve hatched.

This trusty Fiat Panda carried us all around the vineyards.

This trusty Fiat Panda carried us all around the vineyards.

Hard at work. You can see the hilltop town of Montepulciano behind us.

Hard at work. You can see the hilltop town of Montepulciano behind us.

Aside from counting eggs, we checked traps for the presence of pests, and counted grape bunches and weighed berries to estimate yields. All in all it wasn’t difficult or exacting work, but it was good to get acquainted with all of the vineyards and to just enjoy the beautiful Italian late-summer weather. It didn’t hurt that whenever I looked up, I was treated to the sight of the medieval hilltop towns of Montepulciano or Cortona, either.

Here’s to a good harvest in 2014.

La Tabaccaia: My living quarters in Tuscany

Part of the perks of being at the winery I am currently working at in Tuscany is that I was given a place to stay, free of charge. Before I arrived in Italy, I was curious as to what form this accommodation would take. Would it be a straw bed in the loft where they dry the grapes for vinsanto? Or would I be put up in a hotel somewhere nearby? It turns out that it was neither, and in fact I am staying somewhere very interesting.

At the entrance to our place, with a typical Tuscan vista in the background.

At the entrance to our place, with a typical Tuscan vista in the background.

The place I am staying at is called La Tabbacaia. It’s an old tobacco warehouse and processing plant that served the many tobacco fields that used to exist in the area, turned offices and warehouse for the winery, turned accommodation for the vintage casuals. I was surprised at the tobacco connection, but in fact there are still a few tobacco fields left around the area, so I got to see the plant for the first time. It’s not quite as pretty as the sunflowers and grapevines that make up the rest of the Val di Chiana.

Our house - La Tabaccaia

Our house – La Tabaccaia. We stay in the wing on the left.

The building consists of two large wings with a warehouse at the back, separated by a courtyard that lets plentiful light into the rooms. Huge metal doors guard the entrance to the courtyard so that it seems almost like we are staying in a fortress. I and my housemates live on the second floor of one of the wings, where the old offices used to be. My companions number four: two Italians, a Frenchman and a Brazillian, and we have all either completed or are studying a degree in winemaking. But I digress.

The gate to the courtyard.

The gate to the courtyard.

Our rooms are on the top floor, so we have to climb these stairs every day.

Our rooms are on the top floor, so we have to climb these stairs every day.

We have to climb a flight of stairs to get to our rooms every day, which means I am going to be quite fit by the end of my stay here. Excellent. This place has everything we could want: a nice kitchen, three showers and four toilets, a large living room and dining room and plenty of carparks. The only thing we have that we don’t want are the flies. Ah well, that is the Italian summer for you.

The living room.

The living room.

My bedroom.

My bedroom.

The property itself is huge. There’s a plantation of oak and walnut trees, apparently for wood, that form a little forest outside our windows. There are also a couple of abandoned buildings. My favourite is an imposing yet enchanted mansion encircled with an ivy-covered brick fence and locked behind iron gates. The building is HUGE, and must have been quite the sight back in the day. It’s a little creepy though, and I wouldn’t want to go there at night.

All in all, I think it’s a pretty nice base for my travels in Tuscany. Pretty nice indeed.

These imposing gates guard an abandoned mansion.

These imposing gates guard an abandoned mansion.

An empty farmhouse on the property.

An empty farmhouse on the property.

Teaching tradition: Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Gardens)

While I was in Singapore, I had to find ways to occupy myself during the days while my girlfriend was at work. There were only so many times that I could visit Orchard Rd with its crowds of people and ceaseless offerings to the gods of consumerism (heh); I longed for something different, something with more history. When someone suggested I go and visit Haw Par Villa, saying nothing more that it was ‘kind of like a theme park’ but abandoned, I knew I had to go.

It turns out that Haw Par Villa was the brainchild of Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the two brothers responsible for creating the magical salve that is known as Tiger Balm. Built on a hill, it was originally the site of a beautiful modern mansion overlooking the sea, but sadly the mansion had to be torn down shortly after it was built due to the ravages of World War II.

Haw Par Villa in its pre-war glory.

Haw Par Villa in its pre-war glory.

Aw Boon Haw was apparently a charismatic businessman, driving around the streets of Singapore in a car with a giant tiger on the front. To me, this is like if Steve Jobs had driven around with a giant apple of the front of his Mercedes. What a badass.

Aw Boon Haw's crazy Tiger car

Aw Boon Haw’s crazy tiger car

After the destruction of the villa, rather than rebuild the site, Aw Boon Haw decided to turn the grounds into a place where traditional Chinese values could be taught to future generations. A theme park, if you will, with an educational purpose. 

Gate at the entrance to Haw Par Villa

Gate at the entrance to Haw Par Villa

The park went through periods of success and decline, and today it stands abandoned, the paint on its statues fading, some descriptions missing, and many areas fenced off. It was fascinating to me, though I did not fully understand many of the stories (such as the demise of King Zhou).

Much of the park, like this grand building here, was closed and abandoned.

Much of the park, like this grand building here, was closed and abandoned.

The main attraction, and the one anybody who has visited the place will undoubtedly tell you about, are the ‘Ten Circles of Hell’. This cave-like building, replete with spooky mirrors and dim, dim lighting, was meant to show children what would happen to them if they sinned. It did show them, alright. In explicit, gory, miniature-figurine detail. I was a little shaken by the end, to tell the truth, and wished I could have taken some of the tea of forgetfulness that a kind old lady gave the sufferers after their allotted punishment was complete.

The entrance to the Ten Circles of Hell

The entrance to the Ten Circles of Hell

Pronouncing judgement

Pronouncing judgement

Brutal, brutal punishment

Brutal, brutal punishment

People in the tenth circle finding out what they would be reincarnated as.

People in the tenth circle finding out what they would be reincarnated as.

I’m glad I went to Haw Par Villa. It was weird, wonderful, and worlds away from the Singapore that most people see on Orchard Rd. I’d highly recommend it to any visitor to Singapore: it’s easy to reach by the station of the same name on the Circle Line. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the Ten Circles of Hell. 

Cute tortoises

Cute tortoises

Crab lady. Somebody please explain this for me.

Crab lady. Somebody please explain this for me.

There were statues of kangaroos and koalas there for some reason

There were statues of kangaroos and koalas there for some reason