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6 Tips You Need to Know Before You Visit Italy

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1. Ditch the sweatpants. Long haul flights and cross-country train rides are no excuse for resorting to pajamas outside of the house. Treat a travel day as an opportunity to get started on your holiday style. If you are going to be stuck in a small space with strangers, make the best impression and embrace la bella figura.

2. Get the friends and family discount. Being on a budget doesn’t have to mean staying home. Well, at the very least it doesn’t have to mean staying in your own home! Savvy and budget-conscious Italian travelers know how to take advantage of staying with friends and family in different parts of the county to get a break from the everyday reality of their own current city. Call ahead and start calling in favors to book a free room — just be ready to return the favor! (Now, if we could all only be so lucky to have a family in Sicily, Sardinia, Cinque Terre, Florence, Capri…)306542_10101542825517116_1161858606_n

3. Carry-on only. Checked baggage fees? No, thanks. Invest in a sleek wheeled carry-on, fill it up as much as humanly possible, and find a way to make it fit in the overhead storage. In planes, this saves time and money. On trains, it means you can keep a better eye on your baggage so someone doesn’t “accidentally” step off with it before you reach your destination.

4. Pack that tiny swimsuit and rock it. Body confidence is at 100% in Italy. If you have been dying to wear that little bikini or know you look awesome in that speedo, well why deny your fellow holiday-goers the privilege of seeing you rock it seaside? You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to wear your own clothes. If you like it, pack it. If you pack it, leave your insecurities at the door and wear it with gusto.

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5. Don’t forget your Ray-Bans. The iconic sunglass company may have been founded in America in the 1930s, but it has been owned by an Italian luxury brand since the late 1990s. The insanely popular Wayfarer design is a staple in Italian style, and a small chic way to incorporate Italian fashion into your travel wardrobe. If Ray-Bans aren’t your thing, you can still remember the mantra: accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. More is more…especially on vacation!

6. Take the time off. Really. Take it totally off. Many Italians take the entire month of August off. It may not be practical, but it sure is enjoyable, and you have to treat yourself. There is no “checking in with work real quick” when you are in vacation mode. Even sharing photos on Facebook and Instagram does not need to happen in real time. Tune out and shift fully into the travel experience.

Buon Viaggio!

Traditional Italian Recipe: A Spinach Soufflé

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Some of my favorite parts of an Italian meal are the antipasti, or appetizers. Recently when I was in Rome, I went to one of my favorite traditional Roman restaurants and saw tortino di spinaci, or spinach soufflé, on the menu, so I ordered the rest of my meal to match the flavors of that amazing appetizer.

Tortino di Spinaci is too delicious to enjoy only once in a lifetime, so I knew right away that I’d have to come home and recreate this dish. Mama makes her soufflés with a delicious combination of spinach, gruyere and Parmigiano, which is how I made this recipe. Instead of serving it in the dish in which it was cooked, I pulled it out to show the delicious layers and colors, which is quite an impressive presentation to wow your guests. Read the rest of this page »

How to Eat Spaghetti Like an Italian

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It’s an age old dilemma; how does one eat spaghetti gracefully? Unless you plan on eating pasta with your hands or reenacting Lady and the Tramp, you might want to study up.

Managing the pasta can be a difficult process at first, but with some practice, you’ll be eating spaghetti like an Italian in no time. In our humble opinions, eating spaghetti is still easier than using chopsticks, so so you’ll be a pro before you know it!

Below are a few easy tips that will help you eat spaghetti politely and elegantly. Take a stab at it and let us know how it goes in the comments below! Read the rest of this page »

An Italian Recipe for Winter: Pasta With Lentils

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Pasta con le lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils) – via Simona Carini

On New Year’s Eve a steaming pot of lentils with sausages and slices of cotechino was always on the dinner menu at home in Perugia. In preparing this festive comfort dish with the aromatic smell and strong flavor of cured pork meat, my mother followed a tradition meant to bring prosperity, as the lentils have come to symbolize coins. As a child, I didn’t know that the lentils we ate were quite special.

Umbria, the region in the heart of Italy of which Perugia is the capital city, is renowned for the cultivation of various legumes: the lentils from Castello di Norcia I ate as a child, lentils from the Altopiano di Colfiorito, cicerchia beans and others. Read the rest of this page »

How to Master the Art of Italian Coffee Culture

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If no meal in Italy is complete without wine, no day is complete without coffee. The cult of coffee is central to Italian life.  From stovetop moka pots, to affordable coffees sipped at the neighbourhood bar, there are almost as many ways to order coffee as there is to make pasta!

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As with anything in Italy, there is a right and a wrong way to do coffee.  This short guide to Italian coffee culture will help you find the drink to satisfy any caffeine craving.

Caffè – a shot of espresso served in a small ceramic cup.  Ordered first thing in the morning, taken during a 5-minute mid-morning break, after lunch, in the afternoon, after dinner, or any time. No need to call it an ‘espresso,’ it is simply “un caffè.”

Caffè macchiato- if you find a straight caffè too strong, you can asked for coffee ‘stained’ with milk.  A shot of espresso with a small amount of milk foam on top.

Caffè americano – the Italian-take on American style drip-coffee (which is sometimes called acqua sporca or dirty water). An Americano is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, diluting the concentration.

Caffè lungo – sometimes confused with an Americano, a caffè lungo is a ‘long’ pull on the espresso machine.  This allows more water to filter through the espresso, and results is a slightly diluted shot. Read the rest of this page »

Pici al Ragu di Carne: An Italian Pasta Recipe

In my recent travels through Tuscany, I visited this little village on top of a hill called Sant’Angelo in Colle in Montalcino, where Mazzoni Wines are produced. I had an amazing lunch at Trattoria il Leccio, where they specialize in the region’s famous pasta called “Pici,” which is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti with a wild boar ragu sauce.

Pici is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti.

Pici is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti.

I told the owner that I wrote a blog about Italian cooking and he invited me into the kitchen to see how Pici is made. His Nonna (grandmother) was in the kitchen making this regional pasta and she showed me the process and gave me tips on how to roll and stretch the pasta perfectly.

Over the burners on the stove was a large pot of ragu that had been simmering for hours. She walked me through a recipe and told me, “Devi avere pazienza,” or “Be patient.” The sauce takes over two hours to become so rich and delicious.

To bring a little bit of Montalcino to the United States, we’ve provided you with a traditional Pici recipe below. With this recipe, I hope you’ll make your own fresh pasta. There is a great tutorial here if you’ve never made Pici before. Don’t be afraid of the dough; not only will you impress your guests, but you’ll notice the difference in the taste and texture of this special dish.  Read the rest of this page »

5 Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt

If you’ve been to Italy, you know there are a few differences between American and Italian customs. While there are pros and cons to both cultures, we think the U.S. could take a few pages from Italy’s book when it comes to living La Dolce Vita (the sweet life).

Take a look at our top five Italian customs that we think should be adopted in American culture.

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via Shutterstock

Read the rest of this page »

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