Italy's green heart, Umbria
Not as famous as its neighbor Tuscany, Umbria is the only Italian region that has neither a coastline nor a border with other countries. Its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy, and influence on culture make Umbria a hidden treasure for many tourists.
The so called “Italy green heart” boasts a setting of magnificent landscapes. The jagged Apennine Mountains lead to rolling hillsides that flatten into lush valleys blanketed by fields of wildflowers.
In many ways, time has bypassed these villages of stone buildings and winding cobblestone streets. These ancient enclaves share similarities, including a central square and churches adorned with architectural touches outside and art treasures within. The Etruscans, Romans and medieval feuding families have left their indelible imprint on Umbria’s pretty hill towns, where history seems to creep up on you at every corner.
Some of Umbria’s gems are Perugia, Assisi with its saintly calling, Orvieto and its gothic wonder, Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and its jumble of narrow Medieval streets, and Norcia. Each of these towns has enough to keep you busy for a day or more and none is more than a few miles from the next making Umbria manageable and straightforward to explore.
Foodies are in their element here with the rich earthiness of the tartufo (truffle), fine cured meats from Norcia and full-bodied local wines finding their way onto the menus. The olive oil produced in Umbria is considered among the best in the country. A famous local wine, Montefalco is named after the delightful little hill town which is surrounded by vineyards.
It’s hard to put your finger on what sets Umbria apart – some quality to the light, a haze to the hills, a certain gentleness to landscape – but once you’ve visited you’ll understand, and wonder how this varied and beautiful region ever languished in its neighbour's shadow.
Umbria Jazz festival
The Umbria Jazz Festival has become the place to be for all jazz and good music lovers. It is one of the most important jazz festivals in the world, and for sure, the most important jazz festival in Europe. Born as a street festival, it has been held annually since 1973 in Perugia. Over time, it has evolved into a modern festival without forgetting its libertarian and nonconformist origins. On its stage have performed the legends of International Jazz such as George Coleman, James Brown, Miles Davis, Elton John, Earth Wind & Fire, Carlos Santana and many more.
For this 10-day fest, the heart of Perugia becomes a global musical village where every hour you listen to the sounds bouncing through the medieval buildings and squares. It’s not only a real godsend for fans of good music but also a haven for food-lovers as well. Several locations host free concerts for their customers with incredible restaurants, wine bars and pubs.
Among the big events this year, an original, Dee Dee Bridgewater, is returning. She is a very special guest for the Festival. In 1973, she was just a girl who sang in the remarkable Orchestra of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis and was the one who opened the first show.
The title alone "Tenco, singer-songwriters and Jazz," announces a fabulous program for a very special evening dedicated to Luigi Tenco and more generally to Italian songwriters’ contribution to Italian Jazz Music. Some of the biggest names on the stage are Gaetano Curreri, Paolo Fresu, Mauro Ottolini and Orchestra, Gino Paoli, Danilo Rea, Giuliano Sangiorgi.
Bellagio and its Gardens
Bellagio is known worldwide as "La Perla del Lago di Como", The Pearl of Lake Como.
This beautiful town is located exactly halfway between the two southernmost branches of the lake, upon the cape of the land mass that divides Lake Como in two. The city center occupies the top of the promontory. The southern part of Bellagio, via Garibaldi, is populated by a variety of shops where visitors can find local food, leather goods, clothing, perfumes, and much more. These alleys are also full of shops and restaurants... and stairs, too! So wear a pair of comfortable shoes and get ready to do a lot of ups and downs.
After walking on the romantic lakeside, you can't miss the Gardens of Villa Melzi.
A trip to Bellagio is incomplete without a visit to this amazing strip of gardens with rare exotic plants, ancient trees, hedges of camellias, groves of azaleas and gigantic rhododendrons that line the lakeshore and are harmoniously inserted into the hilly scenery of Bellagio. I Giardini di Villa Melzi are a manicured landscape that was once the playground of Francesco Melzi d'Eril, count of Lodi and Vice president of the First Italian Republic in the time of Napoleon, decided at the beginning of the 19th century to build a summer residence at Bellagio. The villa was built between 1808 and 1810. Under the trees, along the shore and at the intersections of the paths, are Egyptian sculptures and Roman statues which add to the romantic atmosphere of the garden.
This year the gardens are open from 25th March to October 2017.
The Reggata of the Ancient Marine Republics!
Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice, the famous ancient Marine Republics (Repubbliche Marinare), were the protagonists of a historical rivalry on the water. This rivalry continues today with a famous competition held at sea, which is called the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare, certainly a unique and exclusive event that mirrors the history of these amazing towns, and which boast a long maritime tradition. If you can, try to attend at least once in your life not only for the sport but also to see history brought to life.
The Regatta (Palio) of the Ancient Maritime Republics is a competition on eight-oared galleons among the crews of the cities of Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice. The event is held in a different city each year, usually in June (this year, in Pisa), combining a fascinating historical and cultural message with a spectacular competition. These four cities have competed in the 2,000-meter race since 1956.
Each of the four boats competing represents one of these “maritime republics” with the sculpted figure head at the prow of the boat proudly declaring the boat’s alliance — the winged horse (for Amalfi), the winged dragon (Genoa), the eagle (Pisa) and the lion (Venice). The regatta is always preceded by the solemn historical parade. The four cities are present with actors that wear colorful costumes reproduced by ancient models, flags, trumpets and drums. Every group has the assignment to remember and to re-enact episodes and characters of the maritime history of its own city, and therefore of the whole country and its role in the Mediterranean Sea. A sea that unites the contenders and has a double meaning: once scenery of sour battles, but also net of communications and exchanges built by navigators, merchants, artists and scientists of the four Maritime Republics, it represents the most extraordinary example of interaction between different people and nations.
Two Towns to visit in Spring: Spello and Noto!
Spello is an ancient town and of Italy, in the province of Perugia in east central Umbria and when you enter the ancient fortress walls of the town you step back in time; walking through medieval gateways, past Roman ruins, and shopping in small delis that have been run by the same family for generations.
Spello may be small (8500 inhabitants) but there are many things to do. Apart from walking through town or visiting the many churches and museums, there are cultural events throughout the year. The most important annual event is the Infiorata flower festival, on Corpus Domini Sunday (usually late May or early June). For months, the inhabitants of Spello (and many outsiders from Italy and abroad) collect flowers in the mountains (or more recently buy some extra ones) to cover the entire streets of Spello with intricate flower images. Some of the pictures are so refined and detailed that it is almost impossible to notice the flowers- they appear as paintings. The event has grown over the years and now attracts tens of thousands of visitors during the night from Saturday to Sunday. While more than 50 flower artist groups assemble their competing images, the visitors walk around and look on in awe.
The town of Spello is really charming, it’s all texture—rose coloured stone walls, crumbling terracotta roof tiles, stone pathways, and weathered wooden doors.The town has aged well and its citizens maintain it with pride. Flower pots adorn balconies, walls and stairways, it’s a riot of colour in spring.
Noto is an architectural supermodel, a baroque belle so gorgeous you might mistake it for a film set. Located less than 40km southwest of Syracuse, the town is home to one of Sicily's most beautiful historic centres. The pièce de résistance is Corso Vittorio Emanuele, an elegant walkway flanked by thrilling baroque palazzi and churches. Dashing at any time of the day, it’s especially hypnotic in the early evening, when the red-gold buildings seem to glow with a soft inner light.
Although a town called Noto or Netum has existed here for many centuries, the Noto that you see today dates to the early 18th century, when it was almost entirely rebuilt in the wake of the devastating 1693 earthquake. Creator of many of the finest buildings was Rosario Gagliardi, a local architect whose extroverted style also graces churches in Modica and Ragusa.
Infiorata Festivals in Italy!
Tracing its origins to the 13th century, the Infiorata flower tradition as we know it today, dates back to the seventeenth century. It seems that the first flower carpets were made on the 29th of June 1625 in the Vatican Basilica by Benedetto Drei, head-florist at the Vatican, and his son Peter, who used flower petals like mosaic's tesserae to decorate the basilica on the day of Saints Peter and Paul's feast, the patron saints of Rome.
The infiorata artists use flowers with various nuances of colour and their petals to create both simple and elaborate designs on the streets leading up to their churches and abbeys. After months of work on the actual design of the painting, they first sketch them on the floor in chalk and mark each line with soil or coffee grounds. Then comes the job of filling in the marvelous creations with flower petals,using individual petals the way painters use the colours on their palette: broom for yellow, goat’s rue for blue, carnation for red, and wild fennel for green, etc. Some tapestries also use entire flowers and other greenery, making for more three-dimensional scenes.
Best Places to visit in March
The famous marathon in Rome is organized on the third or fourth Sunday of the month. The marathon runs its 42km stretch through many picturesque streets of the city. Its starting point is at the Roman Forum, after which runners will pass by some of the best known monuments and locations of the capital, including the Vatican. The finish line is, every year, by the Colosseum. The marathon is quite popular and people from all over the world take part in it, and there is even a shorter route for casual runners.
Wine lovers would have a wonderful time in Italy in March, since the largest and the most important wine festival takes place in the month of March, in Verona. The festival is known as ViniItaly. During the festival, can sample some of the best known wines of Italy, including local ones made from the vineyards around Verona.
For those who like medieval festivals and events, the Palio dei Somari, a donkey race, may be quite interesting. The event is held in a picturesque medieval village known as Torrita di Siena, in Tuscany, quite close to the city of Siena. The event takes place on the 19th Marchand a historic parade is also a part of the celebrations.
International Women's Day
To many, Women’s Day is remembered in honour of March 8, 1857 when a strike by garment workers in New York led to the formation of the first women's union in the United States. Sixty years later, Russian women led a strike calling for "bread and peace" during the twin horrors of World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1945 the Union of Italian Women declared that this special date, March the 8th, should be set aside to celebrate womanhood across the country. Italians are fond of this celebration, even if some criticise it as being an excuse used by men to make up for a year long of neglect toward their partners. It is also criticised for being more and more of a commercial and marketing initiative, with its civil and political meaning pushed every year further in the background. Feminists movements also criticise how some women celebrate this holiday, by having wild women-only nights, going to male stripper shows and so on. Basically, they celebrate women’s day by behaving as men for a night. What does happen in Italy on the 8th of March, then? The symbol of the day is the yellow mimosa and expression of female solidarity. The origin of the custom is lost, but it is said to have started in Rome after World War II. Men began giving the mimosa to their partners, friends, co-workers, and family give to their significant others, colleagues, mothers and sisters blossoming branches of this tree. Scent of mimosas fills the air and reminds to every one not only the meaning of this day, but also that spring is nearing. Everybody tries his best to be extra gentle and caring with all women. Today, it has evolved and now women also give mimosa to each other. While men show all their love for women, society as a whole remembers the importance of women, their important contribute to the betterment of our society and their sacrifices, celebrates their achievements. Cultural demonstrations and political rallies remember to all of us all fights women had to endure for their rights and what is till left to do in order to have every member of society, male or female, treated in perfect equal way.
Carnival of Venice
After a long absence, the Carnival of Venice returned in 1979. The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of its efforts. The redevelopment of the masks began as the pursuit of some Venetian college students for the tourist trade. Since then, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for the Carnival. One of the most important events is the contest for la maschera più bella ("the most beautiful mask") which will be judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.
Carnival of Viareggio
The Carnival of Viareggio was born in 1873 when there was the first parade of festively decorated carriages in the historic Via Regia, the heart of the old town. It was transferred to the Promenade at the beginning of the twentieth century and it has grown in size and popularity year after year. In 1954 the newly RAI sent his first outside live TV just from the Carnival of Viareggio, making it a big media event. In 1958 the report of the parade was broadcast in Eurovision. Nowadays it is the largest Italian folk event with a budget of € 5 million per year.
In 1946, after the Second World War the Carnival of Viareggio flourished again. In 1954 it was chosen as a major media event to merit the first live television outside of the newborn RAI. Four years after the commentary it was in Eurovision. In 1960 the burning of shacks in via Cairoli, where the floats were built , failed to stop the Carnival. The floats yards have been moved away for forty years in the hangars of Marco Polo street.
In 1984 the National Lottery of Viareggio was combined with the competition of the first category floats and in the years 1988-1989 the Italian television “RAI UNO” on Saturday night was dedicated to the confetti of Viareggio.
In 2001 was inaugurated the new Cittadella del Carnevale , an extraordinary architectural complex entirely dedicated to the creation and preservation of the Carnival of Viareggio.
Sixteen Hangars, where the allegorical floats are built, overlook on a giant elliptical square. The Cittadella is also the place where during the summer the major outdoor events take place. Here visitors can find two museums, one dedicated to the history of the Carnival floats and the other to Carnevalotto , a valuable collection of works of art created by contemporary designer
These days the Carnival of Viareggio is even more the protagonist. Every year on Mardi Gras the Carnival of Viareggio is live on national television (RAI 3) to invade into television screens of Italy with the cheerfulness of its spectacular floats. Each year famous guests, politicians and sports figures come in Viareggio to admire their papier - mâché effigy as well as thousands of people decree the success of the event.
The Carnival of Viareggio fills a whole month of daytime and nighttime festivities with parades of allegorical floats, local parties, masked balls and festivals of all kinds.
The raw material of the Carnival of Viareggio is papier-mâché or rather the paper mold. It was invented by the manufacturer from Viareggio Antonio D'Arliano in 1925. Paper mold allowed to build huge works, but light at the same time. Models in clay, plaster casts, newsprint and glue made by flour and water are the simple ingredients of the biggest show of its kind in the world. The philosophy of recovery and recycling through an only manual technique are the basis of the event.
The Carnival of Viareggio has its mask: Burlamacco.
Burlamacco was created by painter and graphic from Viareggio Uberto Bonetti in 1930. Since 1931 the mask has been the protagonist on the official poster as symbol of the event. Bonetti was inspired by the masks of the “Commedia dell’Arte”, but he designed Burlamacco in a futuristic way: he wanted to summarize in the mask two highlights times of Viareggio’s life: the summer (with the colors white and red which were the typical colors of umbrellas on the beaches during theThirties ) and the Carnival.
Carnival of Ivrea
In this commemoration every year the new version of the Carnival is celebrated as Festival involving the whole town, during which the community of Ivrea can show its self-determination.
The heroine of Carnival is the Miller’s daughter (Mugnaia), and at her side the General (Generale), who since the early 1800s has had the task of assuring the smooth running of the event, along with his Napoleonic General Staff (Stato Maggiore), composed of brave officers (Ufficiali) on horseback and pretty sutlers (Vivandiere).
Completing the gallery of historical figures are the Assistant Grand Chancellor (Sostituto Gran Cancelliere), Magnifico Podestà guarantor of freedom in the city, the parade with the Flags of the Parishes (Bandiere dei Rioni) represented by the Abbà and the Pipes and Drums (Pifferi e Tamburi).
To fill the city with color and scents, there is then the famous, spectacular Battle of the Oranges, in which the fighters identify strongly with the people’s rebellion against tyranny.
In the battle the people, represented by orange throwers on foot without any protection, pelt oranges at the feudal lord’s army, personified by others throwing oranges from horse-drawn carts, who wear protective masks reminiscent of ancient armor.
In order to show their involvement in the event, from the Thursday before Lent all townspeople and visitors who take to the streets wear the “Phrygian cap” (Berretto Frigio), a red stocking-like hat that shows their support for revolt and therefore their aspiration to freedom, as it was for the heroes of the French Revolution.
Travel to Italy in December: what you need to know
Weather - December isn’t always Italy’s coldest month, but it’s close. Snow is common in many parts of the country, particularly in the mountains and at higher elevations, and even sometimes at sea level (snow falling in Venice is one of the most beautiful winter scenes you’ll see in Italy). And where it’s not snowing, it’s likely to be raining. Italy’s southern regions are almost always warmer than their northern counterparts, but December still brings cold temperatures to the south. The crowds that flocked to the beaches in August are headed into the mountains to go skiing or snowboarding by December. Whether you’re planning a ski trip or not, you might look into visiting a ski resort town in December – many are also natural hot springs, with spas that will warm you to the core no matter what the weather is outside.
The thing is, it might be sunny at one point and snowing the next.It would be smart to bring warm clothes, a small umbrella, and water resistant shoes.
Some average temperature ranges for different parts of Italy are:
- Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
- Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
- Southern Italy: 55-60°F (13-16°C)
And, as always, check the current extended forecast for where you’re actually going just before you leave – when you’re packing is the perfect time – so you can find out in advance if it’s unseasonably cold or warm.
Holidays and Festivals - The first major holiday in Italy in December is the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, but December’s main holiday is Christmas. It’s one of the more important dates on the Italian holiday calendar, although the most important holiday of the Christmas season is actually Epiphany on January 6th. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many Italians spend time with family, but you can join in on Christmas Mass said in churches throughout the country. There are also often religious processions and bonfires, as well as Christmas markets set up in piazzas. Because Italians give gifts on January 6th as well as December 25th, those markets are also typically up and doing a brisk trade through the entire month of December. The day after Christmas is St. Stephen’s Day in Italy, which is a less important (but still national) holiday. There are also regional festivals and holidays in December that might be extremely important in one town and not the next – such as Milan’s patron saint’s feast day on December 7th.
Best ski resort in Italy
Italy is also blessed with a number of giant ski areas. For beautiful scenery and variety of terrain, the central core of the Dolomites is unbeatable. The Dolomiti Superski lift pass covers 12 ski areas and a mighty 1,220km of pistes linked by 450 lifts, plus the occasional bus ride. Included on this pass is the famous Sella Ronda – a circular network of lifts and pistes around the Gruppo del Sella, a majestic limestone massif, taking in a host of resorts.
This compact, value-for-money village lies at 1,880m, with lifts going up to 3,088m. It's one of the few Italian resorts to be snowsure from late October to mid-June, thanks to the Presena glacier at 3,000m, which is why Italian national ski teams train there. The marked runs are mainly suited to beginners and intermediates, and Passo Tonale is also linked by lift to the slopes of Ponte di Legno and Temù, which offer advanced skiers and riders more challenges. They're all covered on the Adamello lift pass and the ski areas have been rebranded as one entity in recent years, going by the moniker Pontedilegno-Tonale.
A new gondola makes the glacier more accessible, going from Passo Paradiso (2,585m) to Passo Presena (3,000m). Non-skiers can also use the lift to enjoy panoramic views of the Italian Alps.
However, the overriding reason for a visit is the gentle open slopes that form a near-perfect nursery area for learning to snowplough and gaining confidence, without the threat of more accomplished slope users whizzing scarily by.
The resort was developed mainly to service the slopes, with a road running through the middle, and features predominantly chalet-style buildings. It's generally quiet during the week, but comes to life during the Italian holidays and at weekends.
The lively and family-friendly village of Corvara, along with neighbouring San Cassiano which is smaller and quieter, is situated at the crossroads of two huge intermediate playgrounds. The local Alta Badia ski area gives easy access to the Sella Ronda circuit, and both are rich in cruisy, confidence-boosting red runs that are usually well groomed. They're also home to some delightful mountain restaurants.
Each day you can venture as far afield as you dare before turning for home and ensuring you have time to catch the last lift. At sunset, the cliffs and crags of the Dolomites turn an extraordinarily vibrant shade of pink. The panorama is so enchanting that your eyes are perpetually drawn to the skyline, and sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on the snow at your feet.
This is a high-altitude resort with fabulous long runs, and even in the driest Italian winter top-to-bottom snow conditions are virtually guaranteed from December to the end of April. Plus, there's good grooming and snowmaking on key runs. Cervinia claims 160km of pistes covered on the local lift pass and is also linked by lift to Zermatt in Switzerland.
It’s somewhere Italy should be proud of. Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, felt exactly the same and decreed in the 1930s that the then embryonic resort should change its name from the Swiss-German-sounding Breuil to Cervinia, to reflect the Italianate glory of the mountain above it.
Cervinia isn't the prettiest resort in the Alps, with some rather ugly architecture, but its slopes offer a wonderful playground, dictated by the easy gradient of its seemingly never-ending runs. These allow beginners and wobbly intermediates to gain enormous confidence in an extensive high-mountain area.
Cervinia is a high-altitude resort offering decent snow in the driest winters
The 8km Ventina red run, with breathtaking views of 4,000m peaks, descends a mighty 1,833m from the top of Plateau Rosa (3,480m) all the way down to the resort, and if completed without a stop is guaranteed to turn even the strongest legs to spaghetti.
Italy’s chicest destination is an ancient mountain town in the Dolomites surrounded by soaring cathedrals of sandstone. The centre is dominated by a green and white bell tower and a glittering confection of grand 19th century mansions.
Despite being variously occupied over the centuries by foreign invaders, including Austria and even the Americans in 1945, Cortina has stubbornly maintained a spiritual independence of its own. While the residents of surrounding towns and villages primarily speak Italian or German, native Cortinese cling to their ancient Ladin language to converse among themselves.
Cortina's 115km of marked slopes (covered on the local lift pass) are divided into separate areas, and best suit intermediates and experts. There is a handful of tricky black runs, plus countless off-piste opportunities in good snow conditions. It's connected via a bus ride into Sella Ronda circuit (all covered on the Dolomiti Superski pass). The free bus takes you to Passo Falzarego and the cable-car up to the 2,788m summit of Lagazuoi. From here you head down the Hidden Valley to the hamlet of Armentarola and on to San Cassiano and the rest of the circuit.
In Cortina itself, the business of skiing and snowboarding plays second fiddle to the social sport of seeing and being seen outside and inside the elegant boutiques and antique shops lining the Corso Italia, the pedestrianised main street.
Encroaching twilight is the signal for Cortina to come out and play. A colony of voluminous fur coats and designer ski wear gathers noisily in the Piazza Venezia at the start of the evening passeggiata. Much later, the party atmosphere is transferred to intimate wine bars, expensive restaurants, and a smattering of softly-lit nightclubs.
Cortina hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and its pedigree as a centre for winter sports should be impeccable. However, in recent decades there’s been a lack of investment in the lift system and a consequent failure to attract significant numbers of international visitors, although this is changing – it's now about 50:50 Italian to international visitors according to the resort.
And Cortina is starting to widen its appeal further by developing new experiences; the Col Gallina refuge in Passo Falzarego offers the starlight room, a standalone bedroom sleeping two with walls and ceiling made of glass for an unbeatable stargazing experience. The refuge also offers excursions on fat-tyre bikes, plus snowshoeing excursions to a restored soldiers encampment with a guide in historic uniform. Diehards can choose to spend a night in the barracks.
Sauze d'Oulx had a reputation in the 1970s and 1980s as a sort of Magaluf with moguls, where pub was more important than piste, and many of its strong British youth following never made it on to the snow before midday. These days it has cleaned up its act. The charming Italian village that it once was is now back on form, but fortunately the party atmosphere never went away.
The village has an attractive, cobbled centre, but most of the resort is made up of modern, block-like buildings. Out of the centre, there are quieter, more secluded areas.
Sauze has some of Italy’s best pistes, with undulating terrain linking to the resorts of Sansicario, Sestriere, and across the French border to Montgenèvre and the rest of the Milky Way – a vast, linked area with 400km (or 251km according to the Schrahe measurement) of pistes served by 66 lifts. The local slopes are spread out across a wooded mountainside. At the heart of these runs is Sportinia – a mid-mountain collection of restaurants, hotels and a nursery area.
The 200km Monterosa ski area is one of the most underrated in the Alps and Champoluc is a charming village, with a typically Italian laid-back atmosphere and some decent bars. The scenery is beautiful, there’s a general lack of crowds in the area, traffic is slight, and it has a British ski school.
From the village, a gondola takes you up to Crest, where the beginner slopes are situated. From the nearby hamlet of Frachey, reached by free shuttle bus, a funicular gives more direct access towards Gressoney, Alagna and the rest of the Monterosa area.
Childcare is extremely limited in Italy because Italian families tend to bring along granny and grandpa to look after the little ones. Therefore, if you are travelling with small children it makes sense to choose a destination where a British tour operator provides all the necessary childcare.
A big plus point in Champoluc is the presence of a ski school run for the guests of tour operator Ski2. Instructors are a mix of British and English-speaking locals and teach children from four years old. The company also runs its own nursery with British nannies. The Italian ski school Scuola Sci Champoluc has a good reputation for teaching both adults and children, too.
Livigno is one of the most inaccessible resorts in Europe. It takes the best part of three hours to get there from Innsbruck, and even longer from Italian hub airports. It’s worth the long journey, though, not only for the quality of its parks but for its low prices and reliable snow cover.
The remote village is strung out along 10km of mountain road that comes to a full stop in winter at a heady 1,816m, close to the Swiss border. Not for nothing is it nicknamed Little Tibet. It's a great beginner and low-intermediate area, with terrain on both the Mottolino and Costaccia/Carosello sides of the valley. The main park is on Mottolino, with kickers to suit all abilities and a super-pipe. There are also rails and an airbag for perfecting tricks. The second main park is at Carosello, and is geared more towards intermediates. It also has a large airbag, rails, tabletops, plus a boardercross course. Two more parks – Amerikan, near the Carosello gondola, and Del Sole, near the centre of town – are aimed at beginners and children. Cable Park, near lift 20 on the Costaccia side, features a variety of rails, boxes and jumps of varying difficulty. A special cable lift pulls you from the top to the bottom of the park. Helmets are compulsory in all parks.
The essential component for a weekend on the slopes is easy transfers from a choice of airports with lots of flights. Courmayeur lies less than two hours from both Turin and Geneva. This charming, traditional mountaineering village is situated in the lee of Mont Blanc at the Italian end of the Mont Blanc tunnel, with Chamonix in France at the other end.
Well-heeled Italians from Milan and Turin arrive in numbers on Friday evening. They throng the pretty pedestrianised Via Roma, with its smart designer boutiques and comfortable cocktail bars. You may be forgiven for thinking that the pistes will be crowded in the morning, but, fortunately, only a small proportion hit the slopes. They come for the party rather than the pistes.
Restaurants both in town and up on the mountain are of a particularly high standard, and Courmayeur is one of the spiritual homes of the long lunch.
The ski area, which best suits confident intermediates, isn't huge and can easily be covered in a weekend. The off-piste terrain, however, offers a considerable challenge. There are classic off-piste runs from the Cresta d'Arp (2,755m) at the top of the lift network, while the new SkyWay Monte Bianco cable car from Entrèves, a five-minute drive from Courmayeur, provides access to some serious descents, including the famous Vallée Blanche. The cable car opened in 2015, replacing the Helbronner cable car and taking skiers up to Punta Helbronner (3,462m) in a rotating cabin which gives 360-degree views.
1. Take advantage of smaller crowds and lower prices (but not too soon)
Lower prices are one of the best things about fall in Italy. The diminishing crowds are not too far behind. Like cooler temperatures, lower prices begin to creep into the country at the end of August and last through the winter except for a mini-rise around Christmas. There are also fewer locals on holiday as schools start back up in mid-September and businesses that were closed for August reopen. Fall really is the budget travelers’ best friend, but timing is still very important.
But remember: Don’t jump the gun. In high-trafficked destinations like Rome, Venice, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi coast, high season prices run through September and even the start of October. To take advantage of lower accommodation prices in September look to travel in more off-the-beaten-path areas like Puglia, Abruzzo, or Molise that don’t get as many foreign visitors. If you want to go to the classic places and still avoid crowds while enjoying lower prices, come as late in the season as possible – think October and early November.
2. Marvel at the colors
Autumn in Italy is a sustained color explosion. Escape the cities to tour Italy’s parks and trails and enjoy the changing leaves. Try some hikes in the Apennines in le Marche, Abruzzo or Umbria or simply driving through the countryside in Tuscany or Emilia Romagna. Italy’s deciduous trees usually show their best fall colors in October but depending on the year they could begin to change as early as September and continue into November. For those who can’t or don’t want to leave the city, head to a park such as Florence’s Boboli Gardens, Milano’s Parco Sempion, the beautiful Borghese Gardens, or the Appian Way in Rome.
3. Choose your temperature
In the early fall in Italy usually enjoys fantastic weather. In fact, as far north as Venice, temperatures can often be expected to reach the 70s and 80s through September. Compare that to the sweltering heat of August and things are starting to look pretty good. Late September is usually still warm enough for a swim in the sea and even October in Italy conserves temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Around late October and into November you can start to expect more rainy days mixed in with the sunny ones, especially when visiting northern cities, like Trieste. But overall fall in Italy has the most reliably good weather of the year– you can basically choose your temperature based on where you’re headed! Head to the north for cooler, more “autumnal” temperatures. The middle of Italy usually stays a few degrees warmer than its northern neighbors and the south will still be balmy as late as November, at which time it becomes pleasantly mild.
4. Head to the harvest
For hundreds of years fall in Italy has been a time to harvest food and celebrate those harvests – and for good reason. Fall brings an abundance of mouth-watering produce from the rich soils that have always blessed the Peninsula, especially olives and grapes. In the last decade some vineyards and olive orchards have begun to allow visitors to help with the harvest – there is nothing quite as rewarding as picking grapes then enjoying the wine that has been produced from the same fruit in years past. It’s an authentic slice of traditional Italian culture that, if you plan right, the whole family can participate in. Not that you have to harvest the grapes to enjoy wine. If you’re headed to Tuscany or Umbria the fall is also a fantastic time to hit the vineyards for wine tastings and tours either on your own or on an organized tour.
Other foods harvested between September and November include almonds, chestnuts, white truffles, and produce like arugula, broccoli, potatoes, and zucchini. If you love eating, the fall is really one of the best times to visit Italy and try some of the different regions’ most delicious seasonal cuisine.
5. Celebrate at a local sagra
In the autumn, sagre, or festivals celebrating a local food or wine, pop up all over Italy. If you can catch one it will be the highlight of your trip. In the fall, there’s a festival for every taste depending on the town. Wine, chestnuts, chocolate, truffles, porcini mushrooms, fish, polenta, and even potatoes are just a samplings of the food that have their own festivals somewhere in Italy. We adore sagre because they’re another very authentic way to experience the local produce and culture of any given area, usually with hardly any other tourists. Try chestnuts in Piacenza; mushrooms in Torino or Putignano; truffles in Gubbio, Umbria, or sausage in Messina, Sicily.
Delicious Truffle in Italy
The white truffle is most famously found in the Piedmont region of Italy, near the city of Alba. Every autumn the warty treats are plucked from between the roots of oak, hazel, poplar and beech trees. They are sold at the truffle markets during the International White Truffle Festival of Alba. It is partly this festival and partly clever marketing that has resulted in the Alba truffle becoming the most revered truffle world-wide. However, many believe the Tuscan white truffle found mainly in Siena and Pisa is just as flavoursome and much better value for money. For this reason more and more truffle lovers are starting to flock to Tuscany during the fall months for a truffle experience with more of an intimate and less commercialised atmosphere. It is the perfect place and time to try, buy and even hunt truffles.
The Trifolau are serious about keeping their truffle finds and locations secret and generally hunt for truffles at night. Aside from the secrecy it is said that the scent of the truffle is stronger at night, and is therefore easier for the truffle dogs to find. Originally truffles were hunted with female pigs as it was thought that the scent from the truffles resembled that of the male pig pheromone. Unfortunately truffles were also considered a delicious treat by the pigs, and many a truffle never got as far as the kitchen! Also, as one hunter commented “It’s much easier to get a dog in the back of the car!”
The dogs are trained from a young age with pieces of strong smelling cheese which are buried and the dogs are sent to find them. Eventually small truffles are buried for the dogs to find. Alternatively, it is possible to send a promising dog to truffle-hunting school. In all it takes around four years for a dog to become fully trained. A good hunting dog is invaluable, and each year there are reports of experienced hunting dogs being poisoned by rival hunters. Once the dog indicates a possible find the trifolau uses a narrow spade to dig up the truffle without damaging it, and then returns the earth to the hole so that truffles can regrow for another year. All attempts to grow truffles in artificial environments or from seed have so far failed. It would seem Mother Nature knows her stuff and is not prepared to give up her secrets so easily.
There are a number of festivals to celebrate this expensive delicacy. The largest and most popular of these is the Tartufo Bianco di Alba. There is also a festival at San Giovanni d’Asso (25 miles south east of Siena) held over two weekends in November. The quality of the truffles is on par with those sold in Alba and San Miniato - but the prices are not nearly so high! San Giovanni d’Asso also has a museum dedicated to the truffle.
If you have purchased a tartufo blanco (white truffle) it is best to consume it as soon as possible as they do not keep for very long. With a white truffle all you need to do is slice it very finely or grate it over baked or fried eggs, or plain pasta. Cooking a white truffle will actually lessen the flavor. However, the opposite is true of the black truffle which needs to be sautéed in butter to bring out the best flavor, again this is best served with plain pasta.
Tesori Italian Pottery
Holiday Shopping Opportunities
Featuring a contemporary Tuscan pattern in rich autumn shades for your fall entertaining or Thanksgiving buffet.
Three shopping options:
#1 – Sat., Dec. 3rd, 10 a.m to 3 p.m in our store room/garage in Lowry. 20% off
8501 E. Alameda, Bldg. 16 – Garage 16-3
Check our website: tesoriitalianpottery.com
Then come poke around in all the pottery.
#2 - Set your own date to shop. Bring 2 or 3 friends to
our storeroom/garage and receive 20% off.
Call 303-907-9837 to schedule your private shopping experience.
#3 - Check our website: tesoriitalianpottery.com.
Choose the pieces that you want. Call 303-907-9837
and we will deliver them to you.
Towns for Chocolate Lovers!
The first region that comes to mind when talking about Italian chocolate is the Piedmont region. The capital of the region, Turin, has a long association with the cacao delicacy. Cacao was brought to the city by the end of the 1500s when Catherine, daughter of Filip of Spain, married Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. At the European courts, the food was originally consumed as a drink, appreciated for its invigorating properties.
The first cioccolateria (a forerunner of today’s cafes where the hot cacao drink was served) was opened in Turin in 1678, as testified by a written document granting chef Giovanni Antonio Ari regal permission to sell the creamy chocolate drink for six years. In the following years, many other Turinese chocolate shops followed, gradually turning the city into a European centre of chocolate making, with a daily production averaging 350kg at that time.
It was also in Turin that the Frenchman Doret developed the first machine for processing cacao and mixing it with sugar and vanilla, giving birth to the first solid chocolate bars.
In one way or the other the entire Piedmont region contributed to the development of the chocolate industry in Italy and in the rest of the world. It was, for example, the Alba-based company Ferrero which made the local pasta gianduja, a hazelnut and chocolate paste, world famous under the name Nutella.
Originally, gianduja was created in response to the English embargo on cacao during the Napoleonic wars. To curb the embargo, Turinese chocolate makers had the idea to mix the chocolate with hazelnuts (which were abundantly available in Piedmont, more specifically in the Langhe hills), creating the famous hazelnut and chocolate paste. We definitely recommend you to also try the delicious giandujotti (gianduja bonbons), invented by the Turin-based chocolate manufacturer Caffarel.
Another chocolacate-based icon of Turin is the bicerin, made of espresso coffee, chocolate and whipped cream. Invented at Caffè al Bicerin in 1763, the drink was a favorite among Italian and European aristocracy and artists.
Another Italian town famous for its chocolate, is Modica, one of the late baroque towns of Sicily located in the Val di Noto. Modica’s chocolate (cioccolato modicano), produced according to a special recipe that is said to date back to the 1500s, has a very singular taste and texture.
The recipe is believed to descend directly from the Aztec tradition brought to Sicily by the Spaniards during the Spanish occupation of the County of Modica. It is exclusively a cold-working process, during which there is no conching of the chocolate mass. During the conching stage, modern chocolate is heated at high temperatures to produce a perfectly smooth texture that melts in the mouth. Instead, during the production of Modica’s chocolate, the chocolate mass is kept below the temperature at which sugar melts, throughout the process, which gives the cioccolato modicano its typical granular texture.
Modica’s chocolate is also very natural as it is made solely with hand ground cacao and sugar, without added cacao butter, lecithin, emulsifiers or other additives.
As you stroll through town you will find many chocolate shops selling the famous Modica chocolate with different natural flavorings. In many of these shops you can also taste various chocolate products and local sweets.
Don’t miss the old Dolceria Bonajuto, in the beautiful historic center. Founded in 1880, this confectioner’s offers a whole range of delicacies flavored with the typical Modica chocolate, as well as almond sweets.
Two of the most famous historic chocolatiers in Napels are Gay-Odin and Scaturchio. The latter one, renowned since 1905 for its Ministeriali, is located in the historic center of Naples, on Piazza Domenico Maggiore.
Legend has it that during the early years of the unification of Italy, Francesco Scaturchio, founder of the chocolate shop, fell in love with a chanteuse, and to conquer her heart he invented a chocolate medallion with creamy filling, the Ministeriali. The delicacy, confectioned according to a secret recipe, comes in two different shapes.
The other famous chocolatier, Gay-Odin, was founded by Isidoro Odin and his wife Onorina Gay. The historic shop, located in Via Vetriera 12, was frequented by Oscar Wilde during his stay in Naples in 1897, by poet di Giacomo and by Eduardo De Filippo, the star of Neapolitan comedy. The mahogany furnishings and floral window are reminiscent of the free Liberty style created by the engineer Travisan who renovated the building in 1922.
For those of you who want to try the chocolate delicacy in its liquid form, close to the way in which it was consumed a few centuries ago, we suggest to order a cioccolata calda at Gay-Odin. The thick, dark, creamy, hot drink, which is still handcrafted and charged per per 100g (etto) and looks similar to a melted chocolate bar, has kept close to the original hot chocolate drink that was en vogue among the bella gente in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Perugia is home to the Perugina chocolate and to one of the most important chocolate fairs in Italy, Eurochocolate. In Perugia there is also the Casa del Cioccolato, the famous chocolate museum founded in 1997.
Another institution in Perugia dedicated to chocolate is the Pasticceria Sandri, the most ancient pasticceria of Umbria. It is still run by the descendants of the same family of Swiss confectioners Schucani who came to Italy in the 1800s. The beautiful pasticceria with vaulted ceilings and Liberty-style furniture sells sweets and chocolate based on a fusion of the Swiss and perugin traditions.
Chestnut festivals in October
Here are some of the best:
In Treviso Province, (Veneto)there are so many chestnut festivals that you could spend the whole month going from one to another but three of the biggest are:
Chestnut Festival in Combai, 8th – 31st October
This festival takes place from Tuesday to Sunday, from 09.00 till midnight, visitors can enjoy tastings of sweet dishes, honey and ice cream based on chestnuts whilst in the streets there will be exhibitions of almost forgotten crafts.
Combai chestnuts are produced over an area of 274 square kilometres and historically, chestnuts have always been important to the economy of the town and eleven others in Treviso Province. Medieval documents describe the soil of the area as particularly suited to the cultivation of chestnuts and the nuts are almost elliptical in shape.
Tarzo Chestnut Festival weekends until 17th October
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in Tarzo visitors will be able to taste chestnuts and other typical local products. The chestnuts here are again those known as “marroni di Combai.”
Market and Show of Monfenera Chestnuts Pederobba, weekends until 31st October
On Fridays from 19.00 and Saturdays from 10.00 in the Piazza IV Novembre at Pederobba there will be a display of products from Pedemontana del Grappa. Then, from 10.00 on Saturdays there will be other food stands and, from 18.00, dance displays in the streets. On Sundays from 10.00 there will be craftspeople in the square with gastronomic stalls open from 20.30. Tastings of local products, in particular those flavoured with chestnuts, will be on offer.
Chestnut Festival in Marradi (Tuscany) 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st October
In the town of Marradi on every Sunday in October, the 47th edition of the Sagra delle Castagne will be taking place. Marradi is on the Tuscan border with Romagna, so the festival will reflect romagnolo traditions as well as Tuscan ones.
The Marradi chestnut is also famous and is said to be particularly delicious. Visitors will be able to taste it fresh, roasted and in products such as pasta, cakes, jams and formed into marrons glacés.
At lunch and dinner time the self service restaurant “Il Riccio” will offer traditional local food such as Marradi polenta, roast meats and, of course, local wines. In the streets there will be artists, musicians and attractions for children. On Saturday evenings roast chestnuts and mulled wine will be distributed.
Chestnut Festival in Aritzo (Nuoro, Sardinia) 29th – 31st October
Aritzo is famous for the production of chestnuts and walnuts and every year, over the last weekend of October, visitors are offered chestnuts from overflowing, traditional baskets. The chestnuts can be tasted fresh, roasted, boiled or as ingredients in other dishes and, to clear your palate afterwards, why not taste “carapigna”, the local lemon sorbet?
During the festival there will be art exhibitions, street theatre, processions, music and cookery demonstrations. You will also be able to taste roasted suckling pig and see displays of the traditional, handmade wooden furniture of the area.
Chestnut and Wine Festival in Zafferana Etnea (Catania)
Sicily, 31st October
This is a great day which is the culmination of the “Ottobrata” (October Festivals) of the town of Zafferana Etnea which lies on the slopes of Etna in Sicily. There will be art exhibitions, photographic displays, street artists and an exhibition of the puppets used as models in Sicilian cart painting. In the evening there will be musical events and food tastings in the town’s main square.
The Greenway, along Lake Como
There are lots of excellent hikes near Lake Como, but the 10.5 km (6.5 mile) long Greenway is one of the best because there are sights along the way. It’s a well marked path between Colonno and Cadenabbia, on the lake’s Western shore, across from Bellagio and South of Menaggio. Since it goes along the lake it’s accessible from various points, so choose to hike all of it, or just part if it.
The Vièl del Pan path in the Dolomites
This trail has incredible views of the Marmolada, one of the most famous mountains of the Dolomites. The mountains are big, but that doesn't actually mean all the hikes are difficult or long. One of the best things about hiking in the Dolomites is that the ski infrastructure operates during the summer, so even non-hikers can take the lifts up and enjoy gorgeous views, then take the lifts down again. As an added bonus the baita or refugi serve lunch all summer.
Sella-Herbetet Traverse, Gran Paradiso, Valle d'Aosta, Piedmont
The Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso in the Graian Alps is a staggering wilderness of jewel-coloured lakes, forests and some of Italy's highest mountains, including its eponymous 4061m peak. This classic hike takes you right to its heart. From the town bridge in Valnontey, the Alta Via 2 leads on an old mule trail uphill to 2588m Rifugio Sella, a former hunting lodge of King Vittorio Emanuele II. Between here and Casolari dell'Herbetet, a park ranger's base to the south, hikers will find a short, airy traverse with a length of chain for protection.
Selvaggio Blu, Sardinia
Often hailed as Italy's toughest trek, the Selvaggio Blu or the 'Wild Blue', isn't for the faint-hearted. Threading its way along the Golfo di Orosei on Sardinia's east coast, this is an epic, off-the-radar trek that requires mountaineering experience. Signs and water are desperately lacking, trail finding is tricky (even with GPS) and the going can be tough. Sardinia's epic Selvaggio Blu involves several dramatic abseils. But it's worth it. The multi-day hike takes you along one of Italy's wildest and most isolated coastlines, with deep gorges, impenetrable vegetation, cliffs dipping up to 800m and unrivaled views of the Mediterranean. Old shepherds' and charcoal burners' paths weave past silent coves and dramatic overhangs. Unless you are familiar with these parts, however, you're going to need a guide.
Sentiero degli Dei, Amalfi Coast
True to its name, the Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) presents a God-like canvas of southern Italian landscapes, with tremendous views of the rugged, densely wooded Lattari mountains that swoop down to the glittering Mediterranean and distant glimpses of Capri. The Amalfi Coast's Sentiero degli Dei offers views all the way to the island of Capri. Following an elevated, often rocky mule trail linking Positano to Praiano, the path unzips some of the area's least-developed countryside. You'll traipse past terraced hillsides, lemon orchards and macchia (scrub) of rosemary and holm oaks. A flight of 1500 steps unfurls down to Arienzo, where you can pause for a refreshing dip.
Corno Grande, Abruzzo
Presiding over the jagged rockscapes of the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, one of Italy's largest national parks, 2192m Corno Grande ('Big Horn') is the highest peak in the Appenines. Take the via normale (normal route): it's a surprisingly straightforward climb along moraine-streaked slopes to the summit with some easy scrambling on the final leg. The peak provides travellers with mesmerizing views of the rippling mountain range and the Adriatic, a distant glimmer on the horizon, as well as tantalising glimpses of Europe's southernmost glacier, the Calderone. Experienced hikers can choose the alternative ascent that zigzags directly to the summit, a much tougher climb. In the quiet of early morning or late afternoon, you might spot a nimble-footed chamois or a royal eagle wheeling overhead. The best window for this hike is from early June to late September when the mountain is free of snow.
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands, Sicily
The hike up to Stromboli's perfect pyramid of a volcano, thrusting spectacularly above the cobalt sea, certainly has the wow factor. It's not every day, after all, that you get to trek up to a permanently active, smouldering cone. The most captivating of the Aeolian Islands, Stromboli is a whippersnapper in volcanic terms, only formed a mere 40,000 years ago. For nature lovers, the climb to its crater is one of Sicily's not-to-be-missed experiences. The hike is as diverse as it is exhilarating, with wild capers and Sicilian broom lining the trail; it gives adventurers great panoramas over Stromboli town as well as starker, high-level elevation landscapes that contrast with dramatic sea views. Go at sunset to witness the crater's fireworks at the 924m summit as day fades to night, then hike back down to town by flashlight in the pitch darkness. Authorities strictly regulate access – you can walk freely to 400m, but you'll need a guide to continue any higher.
Outstanding beaches in Italy!
San Vito lo Capo is a charming coastal town in the Trapani area with a great beach. Extending below Mount Cofano, a high pointed limestone cliff visible from a distance, San Vito is near the Zingaro Nature Reserve and the hamlet of Scopello, where some scenes of the movie Ocean's Twelve were filmed in 2004. San Vito is known for its couscous, a local specialty, and the town holds a festival dedicated to this food at the end of September. A good place for a vacation, and Erice and Segesta, two of Sicily's historic jewels, are not far away. This might almost be considered a "secret" spot known to few tourists, presently popular with Germans.
The Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks) is a rocky cliff on the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle, southern Sicily, Italy. It has become a tourist attraction due to its unusual white color. The Scala is formed by marl, a sedimentary rock with a characteristic white color. It lies between two sandy beaches, and is accessed through a limestone rock formation in the shape of a staircase, hence the name. The latter part of the name derives from the frequent raids carried on by Moors. In August 2007, the municipality of Realmonte applied for the inclusion of the Scala dei Turchi (together with the nearby Roman Villa Aurea) in the UNESCO Heritage List.
Tuscany’s Elba Island is home to many gorgeous beaches, but Spiaggia di Sansone might just top the list. Its pristine shore—a mixture of white sand and smooth white pebbles—leads you to the most transparent water you might ever see. It’s shallow, too, so it’s popular with families and for snorkeling.
The picturesque Cala Pulcino is located on Lampedusa, the largest of the Italian Pelagie Islands. You’ll need to hike over rocks and through thick vegetation to get there—for about half an hour—but upon arrival, you’re rewarded with powdery white sand, spectacular views, and the endless blue Mediterranean in front of you.
Chiaia di Luna is quite easily one of the most scenic beach settings in Italy. The beach is essentially a narrow crescent of silky sand at the base of a towering, 328-foot volcanic rock wall curved in a half-moon shape—hence its name. It’s located on Ponza, the largest island in the Pontine Archipelago, which is dense with spectacular beaches.
Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle is located on the amazing Riviera del Conero, this super-secluded beach is accessible only by shuttle or boat from Porto Numana. The shore is made up of fine, white pebbles, which lead into the striking, emerald green Adriatic. The best views are from the ocean, where you can admire the steep white cliffs of Monte Conero towering over the beach before you.
Monterosso al Mare, part of the Cinque Terre, can get quite crowded with tourists in the summer months—but that doesn’t make it any less gorgeous. Facing the Ligurian sea, the beach at Monterosso al Mare boasts perpetually warm waters and gentle surf, and there’s a pretty seaside boardwalk tucked behind its sandy golden shore.
Beautiful Towns in Sicily!
Modica, like the other towns in the Val di Noto, was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style. It is divided into two parts, “higher” Modica and “lower” Modica, which are connected by numerous flights of steps. Palazzi and houses rise from the bottom of the gorge seemingly stacked one on top of the other. Magnificent churches, with their inspiring domes, bell towers and intricate facades, punctuate the red-tiled roofs and one is struck by the uniform beauty of the whole.
The centrepiece is undoubtedly the beautiful Church of San Giorgio, though the “Castello dei Conti”, surveying the town from atop a rocky outcrop, is also very impressive.
Modica is custodian of a 400 year tradition of Sicilian chocolate-making. Being part of the Spanish kingdom for so many years meant that Sicily was often one of the first recipients of the new foodstuffs being brought back from South America. Cacao was one of these and today Modica still specialises in making granulous chocolate, often flavoured with chilli pepper, cinnamon or vanilla, that is based on Aztec methods and recipes. Chocolate shops abound and, for the real chocoholic, it is sometimes possible to watch the “chocolatiers” at work.
Marsala is internationally famous for one thing: wine. Its inhabitants, however, while being extremely proud of their amber nectar, are equally enthusiastic about their town’s long, illustrious history.
The present-day name, deriving from the Arabic “Marsa Allah”, meaning “Port of God”, gives us an idea of just how strategically important the town once was. Before the Arabs, however, were the Romans, and before the Romans, the Carthaginians. It was these latter, under Himilco, who built the huge port and unassailable stronghold of Lilibeo in 396BC as a replacement for Motya (or Mozia), which had been destroyed the year before by Dionysus I of Siracusa.
A few hundred years later it was the turn of the English, who did not, however, come to conquer, but rather to make wine. The first man on the scene was John Woodhouse, who stumbled across the local wine in 1773. He liked it (and by some accounts drank copious quantities of it!) and thought that it might be popular in his native country. If the wine was to survive the long ocean voyage, however, it would need to be fortified with the addition of alcohol – thus was born Marsala wine. It proved as popular in England as Woodhouse had hoped and he moved permanently to Marsala to begin mass production in 1796. Several other Englishmen followed, including Ingham and Whitaker.
Wine was not the only thing to link England with Marsala, however. The Cathedral, built on the site of an old Norman church, is dedicated to that most famous of English Saints, Thomas Becket.
Today, Marsala is a pleasant, relaxed place to visit and the lovely, recently restored, mainly Baroque old town centre is pedestrian friendly and easy to walk round.
Most people probably come to take a tour of the wineries and we thoroughly recommend this. There are, however, other things of interest, including the aforementioned Cathedral, the “Baglio Anselmi” Archaeological Museum, complete with a Phoenician boat from the First Punic War and, nearby, the saltpans and nature reserve of Il Stagnone, the fascinating Phoenician island of Mozia and the beautiful Egadi Island archipelago.
Situated deep in the Sicilian hinterland, at 721 metres above sea level, stands Piazza Armerina, one of Sicily’s most frequented tourist spots.
However, it is not the town that most people come to see, but the famous Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO Heritage site. Built in the middle of the 4th Century AD as a hunting lodge by a Roman patrician (it is not known for sure who the owner was) the Villa is home to some of the best preserved and extensive examples of Roman mosaics spread over around 3500m?.
These extraordinarily vivid mosaics, probably produced by North African artisans, deal with numerous subjects, ranging from Homeric escapades and mythological scenes to portrayals of daily life, including the famous tableau of girls exercising in their “bikinis”.
The Villa was built in four main sections: the main entrance with its thermal baths, a peristyle with living area and guest rooms, the private rooms of the owner, complete with basilica (public hall) and a triclinium (dining area) and elliptical courtyard.
If you’re there in mid August (12th, 13th and 14th), a visit to the “Palio dei Normanni” is a must. This event, a competition of knightly combat and horsemanship, records the heroics of the Norman invaders who ousted the Arabs from Sicily in around 1060. The town still has ties with its Norman saviours through its dialect, a kind of Gallic Italian brought to the area by the Normans and the subsequent influx of immigrants from Lombardy.
Summer in Tuscany: The Palio in Siena
The Palio horse race has its origins in the distant past, with historical records indicating horse races in Siena already taking place in the 6th century.
The Palio is much more than a simple event for the Sienese, it actually is a large part of their lives since the time of their birth. Each person belongs to a Contrada, participates in the life of the Contrada and the organization of the Palio throughout the entire year. The Sienese live the Palio with great passion and you'll certainly be able to see this if you have the chance to attend one of the races.
The Palio is a pretty complex event that has gained additional rules through the centuries, as well as traditions and customs, many which only members of the contrada are aware of. Below is a highlight of some of the main rules and traditions of the Palio, which should be useful in better understanding the event. The Palio horse race takes place twice a year, one the 2nd of July (Palio of Provenzano, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano) and on August 16th (Palio of the Assumption, in honor of the Virgin Mary's Assumption). During this special occasion, the main square in Siena, the Piazza del Campo, is prepared for the race as the ring around the square is covered with tuff clay. Ten out of the seventeen contrade take part in each race: seven are those that did not participate in the previous race on that day, while the other three are drawn by lots. The Palio actually takes place over 4 days, the race taking place on the fourth day. The first day is for the "Tratta", or the drawing of the lots and assignment of the horses to each of the Contrade. Therefore, each of the Contrade picks their jockey but not the horse, they are drawn and only known at this time! Before the official race there are 6 trial runs or heats, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The fifth trial, the one run the evening prior to the official Palio, is called the "prova generale" or general trial, while the last which takes place the morning of the main race, is called "provaccia" or bad trial given the little effort the jockeys put into it in order to avoid tiring the horses too much. The jockeys always mount their horses without a saddle. The Palio prize is called "Drappellone" or large drape, a large painted canvas each year designed and created by a different artist and which the winning contrada displays in their contrada museum.
On the day of the Palio race the city is in full turmoil and the entire day is dedicated to the event. Around 8 a.m., in the chapel next to the Palazzo Comunale, the Bishop celebrates the "Messa del fantino" or mass for the horse jockeys. Shortly after the mass the last trial takes place in Piazza del Campo, the one called "provaccia". At 10.30 a.m. within the Palazzo Comunale and in the presence of the mayor, the "segnatura dei fantini" takes place. The name of the jockeys are confirmed and cannot be substituted from that point on. At around 3 p.m. each Contrada performs a blessing ceremony of its horse and afterwards joins in the large parade in historical costume, with over 600 participants, that winds through the city. The parade arrives around 5 p.m. at the Piazza del Campo, and ends by around 6.30-7 p.m. Shortly thereafter the explosion of a firecracker signals the entrance of the horses into the piazza. As the jockeys come out, each one receives a whip made out of ox sinew which they can use to prod their horse or to irrate the other opponents in the race.
The race starts off in the "Mossa", an area set up on the piazza delimited by two long pieces of thick rope. The "Mossiere" then calls the Contrade in the order in which they were drawn and checks that the assigned positions are respected. The first 9 Contrade take up their assigned positions in the area between the two ropes, while the last one, the tenth, enters this area at a running gallop thus signaling the start of the race. This only happens when this last Contrada decides to make the attempt to start off the race. If the start is not considered valid (this is the case if the jockeys are not in their assigned spots), a shot goes out to signal the jockeys to get back into place. This starting phase within the "Mossa" is more complicated than it seems, as the space is small and the horses are right next to each other. Rivalries run deep within the Contrade and competition is high and the worst result is to see the "enemy" Contrada win the race. The wait for the start of the race can thus be extremely long and last into twilight. If all goes well the start of the race can start at any time. The horses must run three laps around the Campo, overcoming dangerous points such as the very narrow curve of San Martino where collisions between the wall and between horses have led to many falls in the past (the main reason why many animal activists oppose the Palio). The first horse that crosses the finish line, even if he arrives without his jockey, wins the race. The winning Contrada receives the Drappellone, as the victorious Contrada members head towards the Church of Provenza (after the July race) or towards the Duomo (after the August race) for the "Te Deum" or prayer of thanks.
Amazing Amalfi Coast!
Thirteen municipalities are located on the Amalfi Coast, many of them centered on tourism. The most important are:
Vietri sul Mare ("Vietri on the Sea") is a popular tourist destination because it is a convenient place to start the Amalfi Coast drive. It is the last or first town on the Amalfi Coast and inhabitants like to call it “The First Pearl of the Amalfi,” claiming that the Amalfi begins at Vietri, which is just west of Salerno. Vietri is the origin of dishes, flowerpots, vases and tiles found in restaurants, hotels and homes throughout the Amalfi area.
Ravello is a town and situated above the Amalfi Coast with approximately 2,500 inhabitants. Its scenic beauty makes it a popular tourist destination. It was founded in the 5th century as a shelter place against the barbarian invasions which marked the end of the Western Roman Empire.
Amalfi lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto (4,314 feet), surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery. The town was the capital of the maritime republic known as the Duchy of Amalfi, an important trading power in the Mediterranean between 839 and around 1200. In the 1920s and 1930s, Amalfi was a popular holiday destination for the British upper class and aristocracy. It is the main town of the coast on which it is located, named Costiera Amalfitana, and is today an important tourist destination. A patron saint of Amalfi is Saint Andrew, the Apostle, whose relics are kept here at Amalfi Cathedral.
Positano is a small picturesque town with splendid coastal views, on the famous Amalfi Coast. The town itself is perched on an enclave on the face of a hill and winds down towards the waters of the Amalfi Coast. Naturally beautiful, the town attracts thousands of visitors every year. All year long, it is always full of people, but if you are planning to visit Positano, it would be best to schedule your trip during the spring season. Positano has been featured in several films, including Only You (1994), and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), as well as more recently in Kath & Kimderella (2012) and being mentioned in the 2009 musical film Nine in the song "Cinema Italiano". It also hosts the annual Cartoons on the Bay Festival, at which Pulcinella Awards for excellence in animation are presented. From July 1967 and through most of the 1970s, Positano was home to singer-songwriter Shawn Phillips and where most of his best-known work was composed. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones wrote the song "Midnight Rambler" in the cafes of Positano while on vacation.
What is a sagra?
Sagre are organized all over Italy, in several towns. Most of them are dedicated to some common ingredients such as: mushrooms, local cheeses, pork, or truffle. There are some important sagre that take place each year in every region of the country. Here is a short list of some of the most famous sagre, listed per month.
"O cippo di Sant'Antonio" (Naples) - January
This event takes place in Naples on January the 17th. The town is lit up with bonfires called "cippi." People celebrate Sant'Antonio, Saint Anthony, around the fire. The typical food served is soffritto, a soup based on pork meat.
San Biagio. La festa delle "panicelle" a Taranta Peligna (Chieti )- February
This festival is based on a traditional food: the panicelle, a typical bread of the area of Chieti that presents the shape of a hand and it is distributed to the population after having been blessed.
"Trato marzo" a Pinzolo (Trento ) - March
This sagra is based on a funny tradition, according to which people go up to the hills and say aloud: "Trato Marzo." The sagra lasts three days during which funny events and tricks take place.
La "diavolata" ad Adrano (Catania) - April
This is celebrated on Easter Day and it is based on a theatrical performance of Good fighting Evil in the main square. The stage is divided into two parts: on one side is heaven and on the other, hell. The performance focuses on the characters, representing the two opposite and contrasting worlds.
Festa del Calendimaggio ad Assisi (Perugia) - May
This festa finds its origins in the Renaissance and it was celebrated in honor of spring. It is accompanied by a local representation with characters symbolizing episodes of the Middle Age.
Il "cavallo parato" a Brindisi (Brindisi) - June
This event is based on a local folk tale. The town is full of colors and the inhabitants of Brindisi parade with a white horse, il cavallo parato, that carries the tabernacle on its back along roads full of flowers.
Sagra pesce e patate (Barga- Lucca) - July
This fish and potatoes festival takes place from July 22nd to August 16th at the Barga Football Stadium "Moscardini." Starting from 19:30 people can taste fried fish and chips. However, other dishes are served such as grilled meat, cold dishes, and home-made cakes and desserts. This sagra is accompanied by music entertainment and dancing. Moreover, there is a special area for children where they can play.
Festa del vino a Montefiascone (Viterbo) - August
This is a typical sagra celebrating wine and it includes a visit to several wine cellars where many different types of local wines can be tasted. The event is also linked to a historical tradition, according to which the abbot Defuk made his servant select several taverne, taverns, having the best selection of good wines. It is in Montefiascone that he found a wine, Moscatello, which was judged as the most delicious of all. In honor of this wine sagra, the inhabitants of Montefiascone stage a parade reminiscent of the event.
Maria Santissima della Montagna a Taurianova (Reggio Calabria) - September
This sagra is based on a one-week celebration in honor of the Madonna dei campi, the Virgin Mary of the fields. In this festival is an opening bonfire, and it closes with a lottery where a veal is put up as a prize. Local biscuits, mostaccioli, and "nzudi" are served during the festival.
La Madonna della "stella" a Palagiano (Taranto) - October
A little church is dedicated to the Madonna in a little town near Palagiano. On the first Sunday of October the inhabitants of Palagiano gather to go to mass celebrated by the local priest. Later, the pagan festival takes place: tagliatelle with tomato sauce are served on tractors and given to the participants
Madonna della Salute a Venezia (Venezia) - November
The festival was established in 1631 when the town was freed from the plague. Starting from that moment the Virgin, Madonna della Salute, has been celebrated. Every year a procession is held and local cakes are served.
Fiera a Lenna (Bergamo) - December
A traditional winter market is held with the festival of Lenna. It gives people a chance to buy presents for Christmas. Moreover, there are several local stands that attract many people, infusing the event with a wonderful Christmas atmosphere and enthusiasm.
This is only a short list of some festivals held in the country - many others are organized all over Italy, more than a hundred events. Therefore, just visit one of the several websites about sagre in Italy and see details for all of them, including information about the theme, month, day, and activities. Any one of them will be well-worth a visit.
Matera: European Capital of Culture
Even The New Yorker has an article about Matera. Known as "la Città Sotterranea" (the Subterranean City), Matera is located in a remote corner of southern Italy in the small region Basilicata. It’s not the easiest place to reach which is why it has managed to remain relatively unknown, especially to foreign tourists.
Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the "Sassi di Matera" (meaning "Stones of Matera"). The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, and these dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now Italy. The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcareous rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of them are really little more than caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi a street lies on top of another group of dwellings. The ancient town grew up on one slope of the rocky ravine created by a river that is now a small stream, and this ravine is known locally as "la Gravina".
In the 1950s, the government of Italy used force to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. The Sassi was considered an area of poverty, since its dwellings were, and in most cases still are, uninhabitable.
The present local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented, and it has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi with the aid of the Italian government, UNESCO, and Hollywood. Because of the ancient primeval-looking scenery in and around the Sassi, it has been used by filmmakers as the setting for ancient Jerusalem like Mel Gibson for The Passion of the Christ.
Today there are many thriving businesses, pubs, and hotels there.
On October 17, 2014, Matera was declared Italian host of European Capital of Culture for 2019.
Race of the Candles
The race takes place every year on May 15th on the eve of the feast of the city’s patron saint, St. Ubaldo. The statues of St. Ubaldo (patron of bricklayers), St. George (patron saint of haberdashers) and St. Anthony the Abbot (patron saint of donkey breeders and peasants) are placed on 3 tall, heavy wooden ceri or pedestals (meant to represent candles). The event consists of a race. Ceraioli (pedestal bearers) carry the ceri on their shoulders and run down the city streets and then up to the basilica of S. Ubaldo on top of Mount Ingino. A charming ritual precedes the race. The spectacular raising (the alzata) of the ceri takes place in Piazza Grande at noon and then the ceri are toured around the piazza 3 times. After being displayed in the city streets, they are placed in Via Savelli until it is time for the race. A procession with the statue of St. Ubaldo takes place in the afternoon and travels to the end of Via Dante, where the bishop blesses the ceri. Then the race starts down the city’s main streets. Once the ceri are back in Piazza Grande, they tour around it 3 more times and end up in front of Porta dell’Angelo (gate) where the ascent up Mount Ingino begins. The ceri are stored in the basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, while the statues of the 3 saints are brought back into the city amidst singing and a torchlight procession. The origins of the feast may date back to propitiatory rituals for the spring, but only its Christian and celebratory nature honouring St. Ubaldo is historically proven in documents.
Sicilian breakfasts that will make your day
Deep-fried ciambella is soft, sugary and greasy… the perfect choice for doughnut lovers who are feeling a little adventurous on a hot sunny day!
Iris is another deep-fried delicacy, filled with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips, if you’re feeling extra-adventurous. It’s worth every single bite! An oven-baked version of this beauty is also available in most patisseries.
Pasticceria mignon literally means ‘small patisserie’ and it comes in hundreds of delicious varieties, from small cannoli (aka cannolicchi), to cream puffs and mini-cakes.
Things you don't know about Florence and Rome
Shopping in Florence means leather
Shopping is a popular activity in Italy for both tourists and Italians. Savvy shoppers know that different regions in Italy are known for different things, and it only makes sense to buy what’s local. In Florence, that means leather. There are leather shops all over Florence, and two places in the historic centre that transform into outdoor leather markets during the day as well. The prices are negotiable at the outdoor markets, and there are exceptional deals to be had (especially if you’re good at haggling), but these markets are also havens for pickpockets – so don’t get too mesmerized by the leather smell and forget that your purse is wide open. If that leather smell does take over, however, don’t be surprised if you return home with a new selection of belts, purses, wallets, jackets, and shoes.
If you order a steak in Florence, you’d better have a big appetite
Let’s face it, as much as anyone love pasta there comes a time when you just want something else for dinner in Italy. In Florence, you’re lucky, because one of the city’s specialties is steak. But before you get too excited about it, make sure you’ve got at least one other person in your dinner party who’s interested in sharing the steak with you – these things can feed 2-3 people. The bistecca alla fiorentina as it’s known, is usually a T-Bone or porterhouse cut, and it’s huge. When you order a bistecca, you just order a bistecca. Technically, yes – you could order it well-done, but resist that urge. The steak you’ll be served will be rare, but that’s the way it’s meant to be – and cooking it more than that will actually reduce its flavor.
The bread in Florence is salt-free
Getting a basket of bread with your dinner probably won’t be surprising, but when you bite into the bread in Florence you may sense something’s a little off. You may not know what it is, but something’s different. In fact, throughout Tuscany you would have this same experience. Something is missing – it’s the salt. Tuscan bread is traditionally made without salt, and it’s been this way since the 12th century, according to one popular legend. That legend says that during the historical rivalry with Pisa, the Pisans thought blocking shipments of salt would force the Florentines to surrender in whatever battle they were involved with at the time. Instead, the people of Florence just made their bread without salt. Whether that legend has any truth to it or not, the fact remains that many recipes today that incorporate Tuscan bread benefit from the bread’s lack of salt. Things like ribollita and panzanella are full of flavor, and the salt-free bread soaks up all the fantastic flavors of the dishes without competing with them. Recipes using Tuscan bread may be great, but to non-Tuscans the bread on its own usually leaves something to be desired. In other words, impress your friends at dinner with your knowledge about why Tuscan bread is salt-free, but don’t feel bad if it’s not to your liking.
Florence is the birthplace of Stendhal Syndrome
You’ve heard of Stendhal Syndrome, right? Even if you haven’t heard of it by name, you’re probably familiar with it. It’s the idea that seeing so much outstanding art in rapid succession can cause someone to become lightheaded or dizzy. Well, you may be surprised to know that another name for Stendhal Syndrome is Florence Syndrome. When a French author who went by the name of Stendhal visited Florence in the early 1800s, he experienced (and wrote about) dizziness and faintness when he took in all the art. Fast-forward to the late 1970s when an Italian doctor noticed over 100 cases of the same set of symptoms of other people visiting Florence. It didn’t take long for the doctor to associate the new cases with the French author, and – voila – Stendhal Syndrome was born.
Rome is full of cats and they have squatters rights
If you have cat allergies, be aware that Rome is full of felines - possibly around 300,000 of them. There is a large cat sanctuary in the Largo di Torre Argentina and plenty of furry friends can be found prowling around the city's other ancient ruins. This is because a Roman law essentially gives cats squatters' rights - wherever five or more cats live together in the city, they can't be chased away.
You can drink from Rome's public fountains.
Many tourists don't realise that you can drink the water from Rome's 2,500 or so public fountains -- it's fresh, cold, and delicious. For many of them, if you cover the end of the spout, the water will shoot out of the hole in the top like a drinking fountain. The fountains are referred to as "nasoni" or "big noses" because of the shape of the spouts.
The coins thrown in the Trevi Fountain are donated to charity
Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain will ensure a trip back to the Eternal City, but it also helps feed the needy. The Catholic charity Caritas collects the coins and uses the proceeds on a supermarket program that provides rechargeable grocery cards to Rome's low-income citizens. Over a million dollars worth of coins are tossed into the fountain each year, or over $3,000 a day.
Some of Rome's Coolest Sights Are Underground.
If you are into the creepy, cool, and slightly morbid, don't miss out on touring Rome's underground sights, from the Mithraic cult temple underneath the Basilica of San Clemente to the Catacombs of Domitilla to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano.
Only About 10 Percent of Ancient Rome Has Been Excavated.
If you think all the mysteries of ancient Rome have been uncovered, think again. The ancient city is about 30 feet below modern street level, and some estimate that only around 10 percent of it has been excavated. Which makes sense, considering there are people living on top of the ruins - even the ancient cities of Pompei and Herculaneum are only partially excavated (about 25 and 20 percent, respectively).
History of Venetian Masks
Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during the Carnival (Carnival of Venice), but have been used on many other occasions in the past, usually as a device for hiding the wearer's identity and social status. The mask would permit the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention. It was useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters.
Venetian masks are characterized by their ornate design, featuring bright colors such as gold or silver and the use of complex decorations in the baroque style. Many designs of Venetian masks stem from Commedia dell'arte (a form of theatre characterized by masked “types” which began in Italy in the 16th century). They can be full-face masks (e.g. Bauta) or eye masks (e.g. Columbina).
Near the end of the Republic, the wearing of masks in daily life was severely restricted. By the 18th century, it was limited only to about three months from December 26. The masks were traditionally worn with decorative beads matching in colour.
Types of masks
Bauta (sometimes referred as Baùtta) is a mask which covers the whole face, this was a traditional piece of art, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding. The mask has a square jaw line often pointed and tilted upwards to enable the wearer to talk, eat and drink easily without having to remove the mask thereby preserving their anonymity. The Bauta was often accompanied by a red cape and a tricorn.
In 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government. It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers. Only citizens had the right to use the Bauta. Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general, direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies.
It was not allowed to wear weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce.
Columbina (also known as Columbine) is a half mask often highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers. It is held up to the face by a baton or tied with ribbon as with most other Venetian masks. The Columbine was popularised by an early actress in the Commedia dell'arte of the same name. It is said it was designed for her because she did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely.
The Medico Della Peste (The Plague Doctor) with its long beak is one of the most bizarre and recognizable of the Venetian masks. The striking design has a macabre history originating from 17th century French physician Charles de Lorme who adopted the mask together with other sanitary precautions while treating plague victims. The mask is white consisting of a hollow beak and round eye holes covered with crystal discs creating a bespectacled effect.
Today, the masks are often more decorative. The doctors who followed de Lorme's example wore the usual black hat and long black cloak as well as the mask, white gloves and a stick (to move patients without having to come into physical contact). They hoped these precautions would prevent them contracting the disease. Those who wear the 'plague doctor' mask often wear the associated clothing of the beak doctor costume. The popularity of the Medico della Peste among Carnival celebrants can be seen as a memento mori.
Moretta was popular in Venice as it brought out the beauty of feminine features such as the female head, body and mind. The mask was held in place by the wearer biting on a button or bit and was finished off with a veil. Servetta Muta translates as 'mute maid servant'. This mask has not been widely worn since 1760.
The Larva, also called the Volto mask, is mainly white, and typically Venetian. It is worn with a tricorn hat and a cloak. It is thought the word "larva" comes from the Latin meaning "mask" or "ghost". Like the Bauta, the shape of the mask allowed the wearer to breathe, drink, and speak easily without having to remove the mask. These masks were made of fine wax cloth and so were light and comfortable to wear, making them ideal for a night of socializing and dancing.
Arlecchino typically depicted in multicoloured costume comprised of diamond shaped patterns. Born in the poor district of Bergamo, the history of this mask is surrounded by mystery: a well-grounded hypothesys claims Michelangelo himself would have created it, by modelling it on the ancient mask of a satyr. In the traits of his mask some see a fool, some a demon: truth is, this mask developed over the centuries, thus shaping a figure as prismatic as the dress he wears.
As much as Arlecchino, Brighella is from Bergamo too. The name by itself (briga, brigare is Italian for quarrel, trouble, intrigue) explains this mask well enough: Brighella is colleric, violent, exaggerated in his behavior, womanizer.
Catlike and sordid in his quest for food, confirmed liar and persuasive in his love pursuits, always ready for intrigue, always in search for the next fight.
Pulcinella is a lazy and sneaky servant, who walks in an awkward way, gesticulates excessively and tends to show his happiness by outlandishly dancing, hopping and shouting. He likes living life day by day, exploiting every situation, often pretending to be poor, or rich or a thief, depending on what his aims are. He is spontaneous, simple, friendly, funny, talkative, adventurous, melancholic, feisty and very unreliable. The true meaning of Pulcinella, though, is deeper and goes beyond his appearance: he represents metaphorically the conditions of Naples' lower classes, who rebel against the aristocracy after having been abused and humiliated. He delivers, indeed, quite a strong social message to his public. What makes him so popular and special, though, is the way he decides to rebel: with irony and a smile on his face.
Decline of Venetian Carnival
By the eighteenth century the wearing of masks by Venetians continued for six months of the year as the original religious association and significance with carnevale diminished. On October 17th, 1797 (26 Vendémiaire, Year VI of the French Republic) Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a decline which also effectively brought carnival celebrations to a halt for many years.
The presepe is one of the most traditional symbols of the season, its history rooted deeply in that of Italian culture. Its creation is a ritual so entrenched in people's habits that many can’t renounce to it, even in today's day and age, when celebrations have become more modern. A presepe is a scene of the stable where Jesus was born, complete with figurines to represent Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Wise Men (to be added on the 6th of January), shepherds and animals. Depending on the size, the scene may include buildings for an entire village. Whether big or small, if you're in Italy during Christmas time, you'll always find a presepe somewhere. The country is so attached to this tradition, sometimes it even manages to argue about its name: debates about the correct word to use, presepe or presepio, have been going on since it can be remembered. In actuality, both forms are correct because they come from Latin, which accepted both praesepium and praesepe, although presepe is probably the most used today. The term mangiatoia (literally manger, but most commonly known in English as crib, when referring to the Nativity) is used for a three-dimensional representation of the nativity, usually placed in a hut or stable, with figures which can be moved around to the choice of the creator. While some may see the presepe simply as a tradition, it is actually very close to a fully developed form of art. Proof of its importance in Italy can be seen in the numerous markets and exhibitions set up for it, some coming alive with real people impersonating the main characters of the scene. The most famous of these markets is that of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples. San Gregorio Armeno is a city centre street, where several craftsmen exhibit and sell their creations. Famous worldwide, you'll find a special and magical atmosphere during Christmas. The market is a well known touristic attraction, visited every year by many seeking to experience the enchating atmosphere of a true Neapolitan Christmas. If you make it to the market this year (as every year in fact!), you'll be surprised to find some very peculiar characters to add to your presepe statuettes' collection: apart from classic figures like il pastore, the shepherd, il contadino, the farmer, il macellaio, the butcher, and il bottegaio, the storekeeper, you'll get to see figurines of celebrities or political leaders. The shepherd stands beside President Obama, a storekeeper sits cheek to cheek with the Queen of England: all of it is possible on the stalls of this amazing market. Traditionally Italians take out their presepe from its boxes on December, 8th. Some people start to build it on that day, others just modify an existing set and others still simply spray a bit of artificial snow and musk for decoration. No matter the size and the ornaments you choosen, you'll find a presepe in the home of almost all Italian Catholics.
Italian Christmas Markets are held many places, from big cities to small villages. They may last from a couple of days to a month or longer, often going through Epiphany on January 6. The Italian for Christmas market is Mercatino di Natale.
Top Italian Christmas Markets in Northern Italy
Trentino-Alto Adige Region in Northern Italy is one of the best regions for Christmas markets. Many mountain towns hold Christmas markets selling everything from tacky items to beautiful local handicrafts. After dark, the markets are decorated with lights and there are often other festivities to enjoy.
Trento, in the Trentino-Alto Adige Region, holds one of the best Christmas markets in a beautiful setting starting near the end of November and going for a month. The market includes more than 60 traditional wooden huts selling a variety of crafts, decorations, and food in Piazza Fiera. A large Nativity Scene is created in Piazza Duomo, too.
Bolzano, also in Trentino-Alto Adige, holds a daily market from the end of November through December 23 selling crafts and decorations in the historic center.
Campo Santo Stefano in Venice becomes a Christmas village in December with wooden houses set up in the piazza and stalls selling high quality Venetian handicrafts. There's also regional food, drink, and music.
Verona holds a huge Christmas Market with wooden stalls selling handicrafts, decorations, regional foods, usually starting in late November through December 21 in Piazza dei Signori. The city is illuminated with hundreds of lights and a display of nativities is held in the Roman Arena.
Trieste, in northeastern Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, holds its market, Fiera di San Nicolo, the first week of December. The market sells toys, candy, and Christmas items. In the same region, Pordenone holds a market December 1-24.
Milan hosts a Wonderland Village in the historic center from early December through January 6 with a market, ice-skating rink, and entertainment. Oh Bej, Oh Bej is a big market with several hundred stalls held near Castello Sforzesco on December 7 and a few days before or after. Bologna holds a Christmas market in the historic center from late November through early January.
Torino, in the Piemonte region, holds a Mercatino di Natale during December in the Borgo Dora area. Stalls selling a variety of merchandise are open all week and on the weekends there's music and entertainment for children.
Genoa holds a week-long Christmas and winter fair in December with exhibitions of arts and handicraft products and other items for sale.
Top Italian Christmas Markets in Central Italy
Frascati, a wine town in the Castelli Romani south of Rome, holds a traditional Christkindlmarkt from December through January 6, with many stands open during the day and until 9:30PM.
Florence Noel starts at the end of November. Kids can visit the house of Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) and there's a Christmas market and lots of colorful lights. Also in Florence, Piazza Santa Croce holds a popular Christmas market with many booths from the end of November through mid-December.
Lucca, in northern Tuscany, holds a Christmas market in Piazza San Michele, usually through December 26.
Siena, in Tuscany, holds several Christmas markets during December. Other Tuscany towns with big markets include Arezzo, Montepulciano, and Pisa.
Perugia, in Umbria, holds its Christmas market in the Rocca Paolina for three weeks in December. Spoleto also holds a big market.
Top Italian Christmas Markets in Southern Italy
Naples holds a December Christmas market near Via San Gregorio Armeno, known for its many nativity workshops. For the Christmas market, some vendors dress in traditional shepherd costume.
Sorrento, on the beautiful Amalfi peninsula in the Bay of Naples holds a Christmas market through January 6 in the main square.
Syracuse, Sicily, holds a two-week Christmas Fair starting the first or second weekend of December.
Cagliari, Sardinia, also holds a Christmas Fair for two weeks in December with traditional crafts, food, and wine.
When it comes to an Italian Christmas, food is an important part of the tradition. But what exactly do Italians eat for their Christmas meals? Like everything else in Italy, of course, exact Christmas foods depend on the region. But here are some of our favorite food traditions!
An Italian Christmas Eve—only fish, please!
According to tradition, the meal for Christmas Eve, La Vigilia, doesn’t have any meat. It’s all fish and vegetables. That’s in keeping with most meals served on the eve before a religious festival in Italy: You’re supposed to have a giorno di magro, eating lean to help purify your body for the holiday. Whether the fish dishes that are actually served qualify as “lean,” of course, is another story! One traditional Christmas Eve dish is capitone (eel), although it’s becoming less and less popular. These days, more common fish include baccalà, octopus, and shellfish. In Rome, a favorite local dish is the pezzetti,which are fried cubes of ricotta or pieces of artichokes, zucchini, or broccoli; in Naples, a starter is a sauteed mix of broccoli and seafood. Then, of course, come the pasta dishes. These also vary. In the north, especially Lombardy and Piedmont, lasagna is covered with anchovies, parmesan, and seasonings. In Naples, it’s vermicelli with clams or mussels.
Christmas Day lunch
In the Christmas Day, lunch is the main meal. Pasta in brodo—pasta in broth—is a common kickoff to the meal across Italy, but particularly in the north. In Bologna, it’s all about meat-filled tortellini in capon (eel) broth; in Ferrara, the pasta’s stuffed with pumpkin filling. Then the lunch continues with meat and vegetables: roast lamb with potatoes, chicken with sweet pepper and tomatoes, artichokes, and salad. When it comes to the dolci or sweet dish, many regional recipes have now become national treasures. Panettone is a light, airy cake with candied fruit and raisins, originally from Milan. Pandoro is a light, airy cake made with a great deal of butter and is generally just dusted with confectioners' sugar, originally from Verona.
Pandoro is a traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, most popular around Christmas and New Year. Typically a Veronese product, pandoro is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section. It is often served dusted with vanilla scented icing sugar made to resemble the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps during Christmas. Pandoro appeared in remote times, the product of the ancient art of breadmaking, as the name, Pan d'oro, "literally:Golden Bread", suggests. Throughout the Middle Ages, white bread was consumed solely by the rich, while the common people could only afford black bread and, often, not even that. Sweet breads were reserved for nobility. Breads enriched with eggs, butter and sugar or honey were served in the palaces and were known as "royal bread" or "golden bread". The desserts consumed in the 17th century were described in the book Suor Celeste Galilei, Letters to Her Father, published by La Rosa of Turin, and they included "royal bread" made from flour, sugar, butter and eggs. However, the bread was already known and appreciated in the ancient Rome of Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century. That bread was made with "the finest flour combined with eggs, butter and oil". Virgil and Livy mentioned the preparation under the name Libum.The first citation of a dessert clearly identified as Pandoro dates to the 18th century. The dessert certainly figured in the cuisine of the Venetian aristocracy. Venice was the principal market for spices as late as the 18th century as well as for the sugar that by then had replaced honey in European pastries and breads made from leavened dough. And it was at Verona, in Venetian territory, that the formula for making pandoro was developed and perfected, a process that required a century. The modern history of this dessert bread began at Verona on October 30, 1894, when Domenico Melegatti obtained a patent for a procedure to be applied in producing pandoro industrially. Pandoro was also the last meal eaten by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini before his execution in 1945.
1) Learning a foreign language boosts brain power.
A foreign language is a whole new system with distinct rules, etymology, and meaning, which are just a few of the complexities of a language. Learning a new one puts the brain to task by recognizing this new language structure. As the brain works out meaning and makes full use of this new arsenal to express ideas, it sharpens skills on reading, negotiating, and problem-solving.
2) A person’s ability to multi-task is developed.
Multi-tasking is stressful to those who are not skilled at it. People who are multilingual are proficient at slipping from one tongue to another, one language system to another totally different language mechanics. This is a very distracting and demanding work, not only for the tongue and language faculties, but especially for the brain. People who have developed this are highly proficient multi-taskers and commit very minimal error when juggling various activities.
3) The onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s is stalled.
With other factors held constant, several researches suggested that multilingual adults experienced the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia at a later age of 75 compared to monolingual adults who had the first signs at age 71. The studies were conducted with other variables such as gender, overall health, educational level, and economic status, but there were no significant results that contributed to the mentioned diseases as significantly as the number of languages spoken.
4) Memory is improved.
The more the brain is used, the better its functions work. Learning a new language structure entails familiarizing with vocabulary and rules, and applying these memorized information into communication. This strengthens memory because the brain has built its ability to associate information with mnemonics and retains information better. Hence multilingual people have brains that are more exercised and quick to recall names, directions, shopping lists.
5) The mind becomes keener.
A study conducted in Spain showed that polyglots, or multilingual people, have alert and keen minds. They easily spot anything that is irrelevant or deceptive. The study was conducted comparing multilingual and monolingual subjects; and the former notably had the edge. The discipline that they developed in studying an unknown subject has molded them to become more perceptive. Thus, they learn to be critical-thinkers.
6) Polyglots are seen to display improved decision-making ability.
The decision-making ability becomes an easier process for multilingual people. Aside from the rules and vocabulary that go with learning a foreign language, there are nuances and vernacular expressions that a student of language frequently judges for appropriateness and hidden meanings. Decision-making becomes more prudent and discriminating.
7) The first language is improved.
A student of foreign language is exposed to a whole new language structure and makes him more conscious of vocabulary, grammar, conjugation, idioms, sentence construction, comprehension and conversing. Learning this new mechanics is usually done juxtaposed with English, or the first language. Hence, students become more aware of English and develop a good ear for listening to the subtle gradations of each language. The first language is usually not as thoroughly studied, for the simple reason that it’s a given. But with the new language on the other side, a student finds it important to look at English with more interest.
8) Performance in other academic areas is enhanced.
Because the brain is made to operate differently, it develops a variety of cognitive skills. Studies show that the benefits of learning a new language included higher scores on standardized exams in math, reading comprehension, and vocabulary by multilingual students compared to the scores of monolingual students. These were observed in ACT and SAT exams. Continued immersion was known to increase IQ and develop innovativeness in students.
9) It makes a person more flexible and open to other cultures.
Since a language is a doorway to a particular culture, learning a new language enables a person to have a broader understanding of that race or culture. Opening up to a culture allows you to be more flexible and appreciative of other ways of doing and looking at things. As a result, if you are multilingual, you have the advantage of seeing the world from different vantage points. In today’s interconnectedness, this is a valuable tool.
10) Foreign language expands career potentials.
With universal unemployment problems, a multilingual ability is definitely a competitive edge over others. It is an ability that tells of a person’s intelligence, flexibility, openness to diverse people, and decision-making skills. And these are just bonuses to the evident ability to communicate in several languages and cross cultural barriers.
11) It builds self-confidence.
Self-confidence is a natural consequence after summing all benefits of learning a new language. By simply mastering one skill, the other faculties are developed. People tend to gravitate around multilingual people because of their skills; others simply find the polyglots’ openness and quick-mindedness naturally attractive.
12) It aids in self-discovery and self-actualization.
It is an interesting outcome, not at all something that you list as your expected result when you embark to learn a new language. But trying to understand a language and the heritage that goes with it will put you in a position of self-discovery. It makes you come to terms with how you view the world and other cultures, and have more appreciation of your own. In the end, you come to terms with yourself, too.
The cognitive and mental benefits of learning a foreign language are instantly apparent. But it also brings a host of social, cultural and personal benefits. It is best introduced at the earliest age possible. But learning it at a much later age is still very much worth it. Delaying dementia and related diseases is good enough reason to learn a new language today. Parlate italiano?
When Italian chat, Hands and Fingers do the Talking.
ROME — In the great open-air theatre that is Rome, the characters talk with their hands as much as their mouths. While talking animatedly on their cellphones or smoking cigarettes or even while downshifting their tiny cars through rush-hour traffic, they gesticulate with enviably elegant coordination.
From the classic fingers pinched against the thumb that can mean “Whaddya want from me?” or “I wasn’t born yesterday” to a hand circled slowly, indicating “Whatever” or “That’ll be the day,” there is an eloquence to the Italian hand gesture. In a culture that prizes oratory, nothing deflates airy rhetoric more swiftly.
Some gestures are simple: the side of the hand against the belly means hungry; the index finger twisted into the cheek means something tastes good; and tapping one’s wrist is a universal sign for “hurry up.” But others are far more complex. They add an inflection — of fatalism, resignation, world-weariness — that is as much a part of the Italian experience as breathing.
Two open hands can ask a real question, “What’s happening?” But hands placed in prayer become a sort of supplication, a rhetorical question: “What do you expect me to do about it?” Ask when a Roman bus might arrive, and the universal answer is shrugged shoulders, an “ehh” that sounds like an engine turning over and two raised hands that say, “Only when Providence allows.”
To Italians, gesturing comes naturally. “You mean Americans don’t gesture? They talk like this?” asked Pasquale Guarrancino, a Roman taxi driver, freezing up and placing his arms flat against his sides. He had been sitting in his cab talking with a friend outside, each moving his hands in elaborate choreography. Asked to describe his favorite gesture, he said it was not fit for print.
In Italy, children and adolescents gesture. The elderly gesture. Some Italians joke that gesturing may even begin before birth. “In the ultrasound, I think the baby is saying, ‘Doctor, what do you want from me?’ ” said Laura Offeddu, a Roman and an elaborate gesticulator, as she pinched her fingers together and moved her hand up and down.
On a recent afternoon, two middle-aged men in elegant dark suits were deep in conversation outside the Giolitti ice cream parlor in downtown Rome, gesturing even as they held gelato in cones. One, who gave his name only as Alessandro, noted that younger people used a gesture that his generation did not: quotation marks to signify irony.
Sometimes gesturing can get out of hand. Last year, Italy’s highest court ruled that a man who inadvertently struck an 80-year-old woman while gesticulating in a piazza in the southern region Puglia was liable for civil damages. “The public street isn’t a living room,” the judges ruled, saying, “The habit of accompanying a conversation with gestures, while certainly licit, becomes illicit” in some contexts.
In 2008, Umberto Bossi, the colorful founder of the conservative Northern League, raised his middle finger during the singing of Italy’s national anthem. But prosecutors in Venice determined that the gesture, while obscene and the cause of widespread outrage, was not a crime.
Gestures have long been a part of Italy’s political spectacle. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a noted gesticulator. When he greeted President Obama and his wife, Michelle, at a meeting of the Group of 20 leaders in September 2009, he extended both hands, palms facing toward himself, and then pinched his fingers as he looked Mrs. Obama up and down — a gesture that might be interpreted as “va-va-voom.”
In contrast, Giulio Andreotti — Christian Democrat, seven-time prime minister and by far the most powerful politician of the Italian postwar era — was famous for keeping both hands clasped in front of him. The subtle, patient gesture functioned as a kind of deterrent, indicating the tremendous power he could deploy if he chose to.
Isabella Poggi, a professor of psychology at Roma Tre University and an expert on gestures, has identified around 250 gestures that Italians use in everyday conversation. “There are gestures expressing a threat or a wish or desperation or shame or pride,” she said. The only thing differentiating them from sign language is that they are used individually and lack a full syntax, Ms. Poggi added.
Far more than quaint folklore, gestures have a rich history. One theory holds that Italians developed them as an alternative form of communication during the centuries when they lived under foreign occupation — by Austria, France and Spain in the 14th through 19th centuries — as a way of communicating without their overlords understanding.
Another theory, advanced by Adam Kendon, the editor in chief of the journal Gesture, is that in overpopulated cities like Naples, gesturing became a way of competing, of marking one’s territory in a crowded arena. “To get attention, people gestured and used their whole bodies,” Ms. Poggi said, explaining the theory.
Andrea De Jorio, a 19th-century priest and archaeologist, discovered comparisons between the gestures used by the figures painted on ancient Greek vases found in the Naples area and the gestures used by his Neapolitan contemporaries.
Over the centuries, languages have evolved, but gestures remain. “Gestures change less than words,” Ms. Poggi said.
Philosophers have long been preoccupied by gesture. In “The New Science,” the 18th-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, who once taught rhetoric at the University of Naples, argued that gesture might have been the earliest form of language.
By some accounts, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein overhauled — or at least refined — his theory that language was used to establish truth, to inform, after the Italian economist Piero Sraffa responded to his theory with a single gesture: fingers brushing the chin, indicating “I don’t give a damn,” the classic antiauthority brushoff.
Such a gesture does not convey information; it negates it. “It’s a rebellion against power,” Ms. Poggi said, “a way of reacquiring one’s own dignity.”
Some tips to travel in Italy
Ladies, if you need a self-esteem boost, go walk through a market. Every man will be telling you how beautiful you are.
Don’t eat at any restaurant named after a monument, city or famous artist. These are usually geared toward tourists.
Drink the house wine. It’s delicious and almost laughably cheap for the quality that you get.
Tipping. You don’t need to tip in Italy. Of course most workers will not scoff or refuse a tip (though a few will), but it’s not necessary. Many Italians will only leave a tip for very exceptional service or will leave the change (a few euros) when paying cash. It’s a choice of convenience rather than rewarding service, and it’s nowhere near 10 or 20% of the bill. You’re already paying a supplement through the servizio (service charge) on your restaurant bill and/or the coperto (cover charge), sometimes both. You probably still want to tip a hotel porter for bringing up your bags, a helpful concierge or a thorough tour guide, and you can consider leaving 10 cents on your receipt at the bar when you order a coffee, but don’t sweat it.
You don’t have to order an antipasto, primo and secondo at every meal. Most Italians don’t eat an antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce at every meal – you don’t have to, either. Feel free just to pick a primo or secondo for your lunch and maybe splurge at dinner with a more robust meal.
Ordering before paying, paying before ordering in a bar. Many bars require that you get a receipt (scontrino) before ordering, especially if you see the cash register (cassa) sitting apart from where you’ll pick up the food or coffee, and you don’t see immediate table service. When in doubt, observe for a few minutes or just ask at the cash register how to proceed – you might say, “scusi, si paga o si ordina prima?” (Does one pay or order first?).
Drinking a coffee during a meal (other than breakfast). Coffee is used mainly to help digestion and to finish off a meal, and therefore at lunch or dinner it is ordered after the meal and dessert have been consumed. If you order a cappuccino to go with your spaghetti carbonara, expect a nasty look…from everyone.
Touching fruit & vegetables with your bare hands in a street market or supermarket. In a supermarket you should see plastic gloves and bags near the scales or throughout the fruit/veg section. Use them. In an open-air market, you won’t see these gloves because you are not expected to handle anything yourself unless explicitly told to the people working in the stall will do everything. Don’t touch the goods! Also, it’s considered pretty rude to tell the fruttivendolo exactly which fruit he should put in your bag.
A visit of Pompei
The city of Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the Comune of Pompei. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Researchers believe that the town was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC by the Osci or Oscans. It came under the domination of Rome in the 4th century BC, and was conquered and became a Roman colony in 80 BC after it joined an unsuccessful rebellion against the Roman Republic. By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, its population was approximately 11,000 people, and the city had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium and a port. The eruption destroyed the city, killing its inhabitants and burying it under tons of ash. Evidence for the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue citizens. The site was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery almost 150 years later by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The objects that lay beneath the city have been well-preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture. These artifacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed one to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died. Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years. Today it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.
A visit of Ercolano
Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Ercolano, was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanicpyroclastic flows in 79 AD. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in much of its original splendour, as well as for having been lost, along with Pompeii, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale, in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that buried it. Unlike Pompeii, the deep pyroclastic material which covered it preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even some 300 skeletons which were surprisingly discovered in recent years along the sea shore as it was thought until then that the town had been evacuated by the inhabitants. Ercolano was a wealthier town than Pompeii, possessing an extraordinary density of fine houses with, for example, far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding.
The Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands are a volcanicarchipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The locals residing on the islands are known as Aeolians (Italian: Eoliani). The Aeolian Islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to 200,000 visitors annually. Because the largest island is Lipari, the islands are sometimes referred to as the Lipari Islands or Lipari group. The other islands include Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo.
Taormina is a Comune and small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy, in the Province of Messina, about midway between Messina and Catania, located 206 meters above the sea level on a hillside of monte Tauro, one of the last peaks of the mounts Peloritani. Taormina has been a very popular tourist destination since the 19th century. It has popular beaches (accessible via an aerial tramway) on the Ionian sea, which is remarkably warm and has a high salt content.
Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily,Italy, in the Province of Catania, between Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. It is the tallest active volcano on the European continent, currently 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions. It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1,190 km2 (459 sq mi) with a basal circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Teide in Tenerife surpasses it in the whole of the European–North-African region. In Greek Mythology, the deadly monster Typhon was trapped under this mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder and king of gods, and the forges of Hephaestus were said to also be located underneath it. Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Top ten reasons to learn Italian!
4. If you like arts, music, design, architecture, opera, food, etc. this is the reference language. Knowing Italian is greatly beneficial in several career fields. Italy is a world leader in the culinary arts, interior design, fashion, graphic design, furniture design, machine tool manufacturing, robotics, electromechanical machinery, shipbuilding, space engineering, construction machinery, and transportation equipment
5. The Italian language is the closest to Latin, the common ancestor of all romance languages.
6. Italian developed from Latin and an estimated 60 percent of the English vocabulary also comes from Latin. Knowing Italian may help improve your scores in English.
7. No need of subtitles to see Fellini’s, Visconti’s and Pasolini’s movies!
8. A recent study showed that enrollment in Italian language classes at U.S. high schools and colleges is growing 15 to 20% faster than enrollment rates for Spanish, German and French.
9. Italian is recognized as one of the most beautiful spoken languages on the planet.
10. Italian has the highest number of words for describing food!
Benefits of Italian Dual Citizenship
- Reconnect with your cultural background and strengthen the fabric of your heritage.
- Travel safer abroad.
- Pass on the lifelong gift of Italian Dual Citizenship to other members of your family under 18 years old automatically.
- Access financial investment rights available only to EU citizens.
- Access medical benefits, including potentially free healthcare.
- Access educational benefits, including potentially free higher education.
- Leverage tax shelters and benefits.
- Seek health care treatments that may not be available in the United States.
- Vote for the Italian Parliament representative in your region.
- Serving in the military is not currently required of citizens.
Holiday in agriturismo.
Typically, an agriturismo is an independently-owned farm that the owners have decided to use partially — although usually only partially — for accommodation purposes. That means that, 90 percent of the time, you can expect that the owners of your “hotel” are, primarily, farmers. (Or people who have someone else farm for them). Your room is in the farm’s house, or an annex built nearby.
Unsurprisingly, the whole thing tends to feel rather informal: There’s rarely a reception area (or even other guests), you’re woken up by roosters, and you can often call just a couple of days in advance and still be accommodated.
Rooms also completely range, from large, independently-built mini-apartments to cozy, basic rooms in the bigger house. It’s important to note, though, that in our extensive agriturismiexperience, we’ve yet to be experience a room that was unclean or too expensive for what it was.
An Italian agriturismo will usually serve foods to guests prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or at least locally. This is one of the best parts of staying in a traditional agriturismo. At most farm-stays, your 30 to 50 euros per person gets you a full dinner and breakfast — made from the produce, eggs, meat, and often wine and olive oil that’s fresh off the farm. (Probably even from those chickens that woke you up that morning). And, since many of Italy’s best food traditions aren’t found in swanky restaurants, but in nonna’s house in the countryside, there’s often no better dining than at an agriturismo.
Some will allow the guest to actually participate in the activities surrounding the farm like grape or olive harvest. Despite the rural nature of the lodging, one might expect a rustic experience; yet many agriturismi (the plural form of agriturismo) feature rather luxurious accommodation as well as swimming pools.
Agriturismo: A short History.
Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, small scale farming in Italy became less profitable, and, as one might predict, farmers abandoned many farms to search for work in larger towns. But Italians value highly the traditions and produce of small scale production of food, and by 1985 a law defined Agriturismo, and many abandoned buildings and estates were restored, some for vacation homes, and many for agritourismo. These agritourismi allowed the small farmer to augment the income from the farm, and for vacationers to sample the bounty of a rural life in Italy.
Seven Stars Hotel in Italy
The hotel is blatantly luxurious but with great attention to detail. It possesses the most excellent installations and provides guests with irreproachable service. For Alessandro Rosso, owner of the Town House group, the Seven Stars Galleria Milano is “more than a hotel. It represents the art of city living.” It begins at the airport, where a chauffeured Bentley is there to pick you up and carry your baggage. Guests are asked to declare their preferences in the way of bedding, sheets and pillows before a majordomo is assigned to you who will satisfy all of your demands throughout your stay at the hotel.
Designed by the well-known architect, Ettore Mocchetti, the seven suites, located on the building’s most elegant floor, are each dedicated to a famous Italian musician. Mocchetti successfully combined the décor of this 1865 building with the elegance of Italian design. Taupe or ecru walls, curtains of precious silk, oak parquet floors, black wooden furniture, sumptuous Chesterfield style armchairs in vividly colored velvet, as well as the latest in modern technology are all a part of the sumptuous Galleria. There is no spa here, but each bathroom has golden taps and a spa bathtub. The same chic, design atmosphere of the suites exists in the salon-restaurant as well. Reserved exclusively for guests of the hotel, the Sinfoniaoffers a gastronomic menu, which changes every day, and the finest wines inItaly, to be enjoyed while contemplating the magnificent 19th century dome.
What, how and when drink coffee in Italy.
The number of places labeled “bar” in your average Italian city would make you think all Italians have a drinking problem. They do: a coffee drinking problem! That’s because a “bar” is actually what we would call a “cafe.” (And, confusingly, a caffè actually means a “coffee”…).
Most Italians drink coffee standing at the bar. Unless you really need to rest those feet, make like an Italian and order, and drink, your coffee at the bar. It’s often half or a third the price of sitting at a table, especially near a tourist site. And it’s where all the locals hang out!
At the bar, you usually have to pay for your coffee before ordering it. Not every cafe actually enforces this rule. But as a rule of thumb, it’s better to go to the cash register first and say what you’re going to get—”due caffè,” “un cornetto,” etc.—and pay first. Take the receipt you’re given and don’t throw it out; that’s what you bring to bar with you, and hand to the server, to get served.
Don’t order a cappuccino after noon if you want to “fit in” in Italy. Especially at local cafes that aren’t used to tourists, you might just get a very funny look! Italians have a thing about drinking cappuccino after noon. It’s just not done (some say it’s because the milk and foam makes it a replacement for a meal, and all that dairy upsets the digestion). And you’ll never see an Italian ordering a cappuccino after dinner.
The following are the different types of coffee drinks that you may find in a cafe that prepares coffee using the espresso coffee making method:
Americano: Also known as "Lungo" or "Long Black" and made by diluting 1-2 shots of espresso with hot water in order to approximate the texture, flavor and body of an American-style drip coffee. Said to have been originally devised as a sort of insult to Americans who wanted their Italian espresso diluted.
Breve: A term in Italian that means short and is used to describe an espresso coffee drink made with a half-and-half light cream or semi-skim milk instead of full fat milk
Caffe' Freddo: Chilled, sweetened espresso served in a tall glass, often on ice.
Caffe Latte or “Latte”: A ‘premium milk coffee experience’. Freshly steamed milk without foam served in a tall glass with a shot of espresso coffee.
Caffe Mocha: A combination of chocolate syrup and a shot of espresso, topped with steamed milk and a layer of micro-foam. Finished with a sprinkled of chocolate.
Cappuccino Chiaro: (AKA Wet or Light cappuccino): Cappuccino prepared with more milk than usual.
Cappuccino Scuro: (AKA Dry or Dark cappuccino) Cappuccino prepared with less milk than usual.
Cappuccino: “Cap”: A ‘traditional morning heart starter’. Steamed foamed velvety milk poured over one shot (1) of coffee oil extract made from 12gm of freshly ground beans producing 38ml of essence. Finished by topping with foam and a sprinkle of chocolate powder. Served in a pre heated vitrified ceramic cup.
Con panna: Like the beverage "macchiato", but whipped cream is substituted for steamed milk.
Corretto: Espresso "corrected" with a touch of grappa, cognac, sambuca, or other spirit.
Doppio: Italian term for double. Double Espresso or twice the amount of coffee and twice the amount of water. Basically it describes two shots of espresso in one demitasse container.
Espresso con Panna: A variation of the macchiato by substituting a dollop of whipped cream for the milk froth. Basically a Starbucks invention. Means in Italian "espresso with cream”.
Espresso Lungo: American term where a shot is extracted longer for a bit of extra espresso. Tends to maximizes the caffeine but will mostly produce a more bitter cup.
Espresso Romano: Espresso served with a lemon peel on the side. Whilst not a typical accompaniment in Italy it is commonly served with the espresso beverage in America.
Latte Macchiato: Steamed milk served in a tall glass rather than a cup that is “stained” by a shot of espresso coffee.
Long Black: Often called the “American”. It is the ‘benchmark coffee without milk’. It is pure coffee made from one & one half shots of coffee extract made on 16gm of fresh ground beans producing 50ml of essence blended with steamed water. Served in a pre heated vitrified ceramic cup with the essence floated over the top of a cup filled with hot/boiling water. It is a standard espresso (Short Black) but lengthened by the addition of hot/boiling water.
Lungo: An espresso made by purposely allowing more water to flow through the ground coffee than usual. (sometimes called an Americano or ‘long’).
Macchiato: Meaning “stained” - Described as ‘strong, marked or stained’. A touch of steamed foamed milk added to a double shot of coffee extract made from 24gm of fresh ground beans producing 75ml of essence. Served in glass.
Mazagran: A French drink composed of cold coffee and seltzer water. First created by the French soldiers in 1840 in the town of Argelia. A variation includes iced coffee made with maraschino.
Quad: An espresso drink made with four shots of coffee.
Ristretto: (Ristretto in Italian means "restricted, shrunk or short”) It is the richest and most concentrated espresso drink where less water but the same amount of coffee is used to make the beverage and creates a less bitter espresso. The extraction time is shortened producing as little as 3 oz of liquid per serving. Pure and intense espresso served in a demitasse cup.
Short Black: A ‘pure intense Italian favourite with a biting crème head. Contains 75ml of pure double shot (2) coffee essence made from 24gm of fresh ground coffee beans. Traditionally served in glass and is referred to as Espresso by European customers.
Crema di Caffè: Served in a small cup, not much larger than an espresso cup. It’s almost like a soft ice cream, and each coffee bar makes its own.