The Epiphany

dsc05091The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  That historical date is rooted as the three Magi presented its’ three gifts to the baby Jesus twelve days after his birth.  The Feast of the Epiphany or “little Christmas”  is an important holiday in

Italian culture.  Aside from the religious significance, the fabled “Befana” features prominently in Italian tradition.

If one is not familiar with La Befana, the translation is a witch.  She is more or less an old woman who flies on a broomstick on the eve of January 6th delivering gifts and sweets to all the good children in Italy.   The bad children receive lumps of coal in their stockings.  According to legend, the three Magi stopped at the old woman’s house asking for directions.  The Magi invited the old woman to join them on their journey however the old woman replied she was too busy.  The old woman has since regretted it and now visits all the children of Italy once a year.

As in large festivals across Italy, La Befana has regional celebrations. The Befana is also interpreted as a symbol of discarding negative experiences of the past year and bringing in the new. For example, Veneto holds a symbolic bonfire called the “panevin.” In other northern regions, bonfires are held and glasses of mulled wine and Panettone are served. Venice holds gondola races dressed in Befana costumes. Residents in Rome and Florence display a puppet in the window. Let’s not forget Christmas markets all over Italy partake in the celebration by selling toys (giocatolli), nuts, fruits, and cheeses. However way you celebrate La Befana…we leave you with a traditional poem.
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col vestito alla “romana”
viva viva la Befana!!
Porta cenere e carboni
ai bambini cattivoni
ai bambini belli e buoni
porta chicchi e tanti doni!
[English]

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all broken
With a dress in Roman style
Up, up with the Befana !!
She brings ashes and coal
To bad nasty children
To the nice good child
She brings candies and many gifts!

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10 Things Why We (and You) Will Love Italy in Autumn

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10 Things Why We (and You) Will Love Italy in Autumn

We may spend the rest of our lives composing a list of reasons to love Italy. As hard as it was, we managed to condense an autumnal list of why travel to Italy is an ideal time.   Here goes:

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10. Cooler Weather.

Traveling to Italy in late spring/summer can be great if heading to the beach but it also means heat. Vacationing during autumn, you can take in the sights during afternoon hours, stroll along the via, and eat al fresco all with a cool breeze gently whirling about.

9.   Shopping.

Italy boasts lots of sales at the end of summer but fall will have the latest fashions and trends right off the runway.  Everyday Italians love to be fashionable so we say be your own Influencer and post away  your Italian fashions on Instagram.

8.   Boots.

Following the shopping deals, a must on your list are Italian boots! Italian made shoes and boots are made with exceptional quality in the hottest styles of the fashion world.   Put on your Persols and kick up your brand new shoes.

7.   Better Deals.

The summer months are considered high season for travel in Italy.  Tourists from the around the world occupy hotels and guided tours usually to full capacity.  During fall, you can take advantage of the discounted rates across the board from air, hotel, and admissions.  Better weather, less crowds, and lower prices make for the better deal.

6.   The Countryside.

While hiking or driving, the Italian countryside is like no other. The trees and mountains morph into a rainbow of fall hues and ideal to put those photography courses to good use. Orange and yellow foliage turn views into real life art.

5.   The Opera.

Fall is opera and theatre season.   Imagine yourself in the town square watching enactments of Romeo and Juliet in Verona or sitting in La Scala listening to the powerful baritones of a soprano. Outdoor stage plays is a treat for the passerby where the town square is filled with the sounds of arias.

4.  Soccer.

Take in a soccer game. Italians are notoriously passionate and naturally over their biggest sport.  Delight in heated discussions over Serie A players of their favorite home town team.  Basketball may be following their tails but calcio can viewed in every bar in every town when there is a big partita happening.

3.  Fall Dishes

Two words: pumpkin ravioli.   Real Italian food is a sumptuous pleasure for any season. Italians will eat in season, which means butternut squash, chestnuts, figs, and cured meats during autumn. Dishes fill tables all across Italy with tortellone and ravioli in squash sauce. Grapes and figs paired with pizza and prosciutto are found on various menus.

2.   Harvest

Autumn is the best time of year to fully experience harvest.   Italians make way for the incoming year during harvest season including olive oil, truffles, chestnuts, and wine. Small towns to large cities host festivals in celebration of harvests. Fall in Italy is a perfect time to sample an abundance of food in its purity.

1. Wine

Oenophiles can delight in wine season. Who wouldn’t love to sample Brunellos, Sangiovese, and Chianti in the height of autumn harvest? Need we say more?

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The Beginner’s Guide to Best Italian Wines of 2017

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October is wine making season and oenophiles everywhere are celebrating. Wine can be daunting to choose depending on region, year, and reviews. There is no question that Italy is one of the biggest wine producers in the world. In 2017 alone, Italian imports grew by five percent despite early frost and rainstorms. The wine world is expanding exponentially with domestic and foreign imports from places such as South Africa, California, and New Zealand. Although wines from these areas can be quite good, we put together a list for the tried and true in Italian wines. Here is our Beginners Guide of Best Italian wines of 2017.

Lambrusco
A blend of several varietals native to Italy made in a semi sparkling form. It is actually one of the oldest blends originating in Italy. Lambrusco has a slight fizz and pairs well with a cheese and charcuterie plate.

Pecorino
A native to the Marche region, Pecorino is a dry wine with floral and fruit notes. The crisp wine, not to be confused with Pecorino cheese, has medium acidity and makes an excellent pairing with seafood, chicken,and pork.

Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo
If you’re looking for wine with great value and great taste, Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo makes our list. This hearty red wine comes from the Abruzzo and surrounding region. This wine makes a great complement with pasta and meat dishes.

Amarone della Valpolicella
It is best to save this red for a special occasion. It can be priced somewhere between $50 to $60 but very well worth it. Valpolicella is an area located just outside of Verona meaning “valley of many cellars”; a fitting name for the home of Romeo and Juliet. It considered the patriarch of the valpolicella grape and makes our list of a definite must try.

Falanghina Terredora 2016
One of Italy’s unsung wines is the Falanghina Terredora. This wine is big in the Campania region of Italy and bountiful on tables in Naples and the surrounding coasts. Full bodied with notes of pear and citrus fruits, try this
with a seafood risotto or other fish and poultry.

This harvest season, don’t be afraid to check your local retailer’s Chairman’s Selection or download apps such as Vivino and Delectable for the latest in Italian wines! In Vino Veritus!

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The Evolution of Espresso

The Evolution of Espresso

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Espresso: one of the most beloved universal symbols for coffee lovers around the world. As we celebrate International Coffee Day on September 29th, let us explore how espresso came to be.

In the early twentieth century, Luigi Bezzara, an inventor from Milan, was looking to create a “speedier” version of making coffee. He created a patent for an espresso machine to compact the coffee grounds and serve a type of “express” coffee. By 1905, Desidero Pavoni purchased the patent, and the first espresso machine went into production. The Ideale reached temperatures up to 284 ° and extracted coffee in 45 seconds. It is said the consistency is very similar to today’s modern day standards.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, espresso culture in Italy developed mainly for working class men. Bars quickly became a social setting for those looking for a quick caffeine pick me up during the working day. The term barista came about in the Italian vernacular in the late 1930’s. Barista was re-introduced in American coffee culture thanks to Starbucks. During the incoming decades, improvements were made to the Ideale machine. However the espresso machine changed the world when the Faema E61 was introduced to the market. Achille Gaggia invented the machine which essentially was able to extract the natural oils of the coffee bean which is known as crema. Ernesto Valente, the head of the Faema company, produced the machine and the coffee bar culture exploded.

Today, the espresso is as much ingrained in Italian culture as a cup itself. Locals, pedestrians, business professionals, tourists, and retirees enjoy a stroll in the piazza to their favorite coffee bar. Every topic of discussion can be overheard standing up over the bar with an espresso cup in hand. Travel to Italy and you will find a coffee bar in every corner of every street, every piazza, every city and town all over Italy. Whether you are a tourist or local, you can order a macchiato, doppia, or a regular espresso and you are served with a long spoon and glass of water. As with many other things, the Italians perfected the art of the coffee culture.

Then of course, a new love story was born of how the Italians influenced North American coffee culture in the latter part of the twentieth century. Howard Schultz, then marketing director for Starbucks Coffee Tea & Spice Co., visited Italy for a trade show and it was love at first sight. He took in the sights, sounds, and the passion of Italian coffee culture. He knew he had to bring it back to the U.S. As written in Washington Post, “I felt the unexpressed demand for romance and community,” he wrote in his book “Pour Your Heart Into It.” “The Italians had turned the drinking of coffee into a symphony, and it felt right. Starbucks was playing in the same hall, but we were playing without a string section.”

The art of coffee is enjoyed around the world and a symbol of the essence of life itself. Love, passion, and art are all combined when we share an aromatic cup of espresso with our neighbor, friend, and loved one.

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The Sweet Deal About Gelato

Want to know the difference between ice cream and gelato? Find out here!

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The Sweet Deal About Gelato

Source: The Sweet Deal About Gelato

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The Sweet Deal About Gelato

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Have you taken a vacation photo lately with a delicious ice cream in hand? Gelato is one of the great pleasures of taste and life. Italian gelato may be confused with imitations such as Italian ice, ice cream, or a cross breed of water ice and ice cream, which some may call “gelati.” If you have every eaten gelato in Italy or at an authentic gelateria anywhere outside of Italy, you know that imitators can never replace the true taste of gelato. What exactly is gelato? Ice cream uses heavy cream whereas gelato is made with whole milk resulting in a higher density and creamy texture.   In addition, the chemistry process of mixing, adding gas, and ratios all factor in.  It may not seem such a big difference however taste makes all the difference in the world once you sink your teeth into the sweetness.

Gelato has become serious business. Gelato masters have devoted their lives to the art of gelato and an art it is. Carpigiani Gelato University is located in Anzo D’Emilia, a short drive outside of Bologna. People from all over the world line up to hone their craft in gelato making by taking up courses. There is also a museum that offers historical origins of this sweet delicacy which is said to have originated in Mesopotamia.

Today, artisanal gelaterias offer exotic fruits and other unique flavors in season. If you happen to stop by a gelateria, the server may ask “coppa o cona?” Cup or cone? If you have a hard time choosing, take both.

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