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Live Like an Italian is published by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois, USA.
Image via Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s blog.
Letta received from the president Giorgio Napolitano on 24 April 2013 the task of forming a new government, after weeks of deadlock following the 2013 general election. On 27 April 2013, Letta formally accepted the task of heading a new grand coalition government (with support from his party, right-wing People of Freedom and the centrist Civic Choice) and presented the list of members of his cabinet.
The third youngest Italian to become head of state, Letta became Italy’s first prime minister to appoint an African Italian to a government post when he made Cécile Kyenge his minister of Integration.
Here are some of the fun prizes you can win:
Today, the world of wine mourns the loss of Franco Biondi Santi, one of the greatest producers of Brunello di Montalcino. The following is a translation of a press release issued by the Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino, including a remembrance by consortium president Fabrizio Bindocci, winemaker at the Tenuta Il Poggione where Mazzoni wines are produced.
“One of the greatest symbols of Italian wine’s quality and excellence in the world has passed away. Without a doubt, he was one of the most important architects of the success of Brunello di Montalino on an international level. Thanks to him, Brunello is one of the best known and most appreciated made-in-Italy brands. With his passing, the Consortium and the entire appellation not only lose a great producer but also a very great man who was known for his profound sensibility and humanity. We owe a great deal to him and we are sure that his example and his ability will be carried forward by those who will succeed him in his leadership at the winery. The next time that the Council meets, it will consider potential initiatives to honor his memory in the best way possible.”
These were the words with which the President of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino Fabrizio Bindoci remembered Franco Biondi Santi, who had led the Tenuta Greppo di Montalcino since the 1970s.
The Mayor of Montalcino, Silvio Franceshelli, also shared his condolences with the Biondi Santi family and added: “I am profoundly saddened by the passing of a figure who gave a great deal to this land. It is thanks to him that Montalcino is so well known throughout the world and at such a high level. He was a man who enriched Montalcino and we will forever be grateful.”
In 1934, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry recognized Franco Biondi Santi’s grandfather Ferruccio as the “inventor of Brunello.” In 1994, Decanter awarded 10/10 (a perfect score) to the 1891, a wine that was 103 years old at the time. In 1999, Wine Spectator rated the 1955 Riserva as one of the “best twelve wines produced in the world in the twentieth century.”
Above: A bee feasts on the blossoming flowers of a rosemary bush. Easter and the arrival of spring are a time of renewal and rebirth.
In many ways, Easter is a “bigger” holiday in Italy than Christmas is.
Indeed, until the time of the Napoleonic conquest, many Italian city states observed and celebrated the new year at Easter and not the week after Christmas as they do now.
Above: A wild rosemary bush in Puglia.
Easter and the official arrival of spring are a time of renewal and rebirth. And while many Italian families certainly will gather for Christmas celebrations in December in their hometowns, Easter is the yearly holiday that nearly all families will celebrate together.
And no Easter celebration is complete without roast “Paschal” lamb that has been seasoned with rosemary, a traditional spice used in Italy — especially southern Italy — for lamb.
Happy Easter to you and your family from the family at the Live Like an Italian blog.
We’ll see you next week. Buona pasqua…
But as bothersome as the snow and rain can be, he says, they are good for the vines.
Emilio Pucci, the darling designer of the 1960s icons such as Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, lived a charmed life and nurtured a successful career in the international fashion industry.
Born into Florentine nobility in 1914, Emilio Pucci lived a life of privilege from the very beginning. An avid skiier, Pucci was awarded a scholarship to Reed College in Oregon, which would later provide him with one of his first prefessional design opportunities.
Shortly after World War II, while skiing in Switzerland, a photographer from Harper’s Bazaar asked Emilio to design a line of ski wear for a winter edition of the magazine. His use of fitted, stretchy fabrics caused an immediate sensation.
The international jet-set quickly became fans of Pucci’s designs while passing through the resort island, where he lived. This caught the attention of such famous stores as Neiman Marcus, whose owner encouraged him to expand his line from bikinis and scarves to blouses and beyond. His fame in America was solidified and his brightly-colored, geometric patterns became ubiquitous among the fashion savvy.
Pucci was commissioned to design uniforms for Braniff Airlines and he even designed a logo for the Apollo 15 space mission.
His marriage to Baronessa Cristina Nannini produced a daughter, Laudomia, who would design for the label after Pucci’s death in 1992. Luxury giant Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy bought a controlling stake in the company 2000 and began to bring in famous designers to create for the label such as Christian Lacroix.
The recognizable swirls and angles of Pucci’s prints remain a staple of high fashion and wardrobes of the jet-set today. They have achieved a classic status in the fickle fashion industry, a significant accomplishment by any measure.
Image via Wikipedia.
The nativity scene is part of the popular Christmas iconography all over the Christian world, but nowhere is it elevated to such an art form as it is in Naples.
While Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with introducing the first living nativity scene in 1223, scenes with statues are mentioned in Neapolitan church documents as early as 1025. The current style of presepio napoletano, however, began its evolution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
A Neapolitan nativity scene (image via the Wiki).
What sets them apart is that the holy figures are set in the midst of scenes from every day life, usually life from the eighteenth century. Great pride is taken in the construction of these pieces which is respected as a true art form in all of Campania.
The nativity scene is of greater cultural importance than the Christmas tree and is constructed and displayed in most homes on December 8, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. The baby Jesus figurine is placed in its crib on the night of Christmas Eve.
On via San Gregorio Armeno in the heart of Naples’ historic center, artisan shops sell presepio scenes and figurines year round. In addition to the holy characters, the classic characters to be found in the nativity scenes include the pulcinello, fisherman, monk, female gypsy, and Bacchus.
Recently, many artisans have taken to creating figurines of contemporary characters as well. The famous Neapolitan comedic actor Totò is probably the most popular, along with Eduardo de Filippo. Prominent Italian politicians can even be found, as well as Americans such as Barak Obama.
Saint Nick is not only a popular cultural icon in the United States, he is celebrated and honored in Italy as well on December 6th, the feast of San Nicola.
Born in 270 AD, San Nicola was raised in the former ancient Greek port city of Myra, in modern-day Turkey. His parents were wealthy, but died in an epidemic when he was young. Nicola was raised by his uncle to be a priest, and he eventually became bishop of his city.
In his life, he was known for his generosity, having given his entire inheritance to help the poor. The most popular story of San Nicola is that he helped a destitute man with three young daughters who had no money for a dowry. In those days, lacking a dowry meant that a girl was destined to be sold into slavery, most likely as a prostitute. Hearing his story, Nicola secretly tossed a bag of gold through the man’s window on the three occasions of the daughters’ coming-of-age. These bags are said to have landed in the shoes left by the fire overnight to dry (some say the bags landed in their socks) giving birth to the tradition of hanging stockings for Saint Nick.
He is also the patron saint of sailors (among many other things) and many namesake churches have been erected in port cities all over Europe. Traveling back from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his ship encountered a horrific storm. As the sailors panicked, Nicola quietly prayed and the storm ceased. For this he is associated with protecting the seafaring men of the world.
San Nicola is the patron saint of Bari, where half of his relics are stored in the Basilica di San Nicola. It is said that inhabitants of this city sought to save his remains from the impending Islamic occupation. In 1087, they took the larger bones and left the smaller pieces, which were eventually transferred to a church in Venice.
The Festa di San Nicola marks the beginning of the Italian Christmas holidays and children all over Italy receive a gift from him on December 6th. He gave birth the the Italian icon, Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), and the jolly Santa Claus that we know and love in the United States.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Ever heard of Jovanotti? Well, keep your ears open because he is making a grand attempt at an American crossover.
Jovanotti (real name Lorenzo Cherubini) is an mega-star in Italy. He’s been on the scene since the late 80s. His music started out as fun, ebullient rapping, but very quickly evolved into songs with a socio-politcal conscience.
His most famous song, l’Ombelico del Mondo, is a true party anthem that is still faithfully played in discoteche all over Europe.
A few years ago, Jovanotti put up shop in New York to begin winning Americans over, one small venue at a time. In October, he kicked off a domestic tour that included club dates along the east coast, an Austin CIty Limits gig, as well as a date in LA and some smattered across the midwest.
He has been in the hearts of Italians the fabric of their culture for decades and whether you know him now or not, he is soon to become a household name in the USA as well.
His most recent release is Italia 1988-2012. Check it out!
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
The Live Like an Italian blog is thrilled to announce the arrival of Mazzoni Pinot Grigio, the latest release from the historic partnership between two of the wine world’s greatest families — the Franceschi family in Montalcino and the Terlato family in the U.S.
(Click here to read about the two families’ relationship, now spanning two generations.)
There’s a reason why Pinot Grigio has become a household name in the U.S.: it’s the ideal grape for producing crisp, fresh, and refreshing white wine with balanced alcohol and bright tropical and citrus fruit aromas and flavors.
In Europe, wine lovers have known this for centuries. But in the U.S., it wasn’t until Anthony “Tony” Terlato — the patriarch of the Terlato family — first introduced a Pinot Grigio to American consumers in the late 1970s that the grape variety began to began to explode on the American wine scene.
Tony had traveled to Italy in search of the next great white wine from Europe and it didn’t take long before he realized that Pinot Grigio had all the right stuff to become America’s favorite white wine. (He retells the story in his autobiography, Taste: A Life in Wine.)
Mazzoni’s Pinot Grigio is made from hand-picked Pinot Grigio grapes grown in the high elevations of Montalcino (where Brunello di Montalcino is made). The altitude is essential: cool summer evenings are what helps the winemaker obtain the classic crispness in the wine and achieve the freshness that makes Pinot Grigio such a wonderful wine for pairing with food.
No one knows Pinot Grigio better than the Terlato family. This is just one of the reasons they asked the Franceschi family to help them create this wine: expertise in fine winemaking and some of the best growing sites in Tuscany make this wine one of the most exciting arrivals from Italy in years.
Click here to email a Mazzoni specialist for more information on where to find Mazzoni Pinot Grigio.
The peschereccio, or fishing boat, is the simple subject of so many images of quaint Italian life. It contains the essence of the sea, and the promise of a fresh seafood dinner next to a sweating caraffe of cold white wine. It is the symbol of life in a seaside village, the reminder to take it slow, a reminder of the past that still exists in the present.
Now that the sun is going down on summer vacation and everyone is getting ready to return to the workdays of September, think of the fishing boats and the seagulls. Try to remember that life is, indeed, sweet.
You can follow the harvest at Tenuta Il Poggione’s blog, Montalcino Report.
Image via Binocle.
Ahhh, to live like an Italian and take the month of August off! This is a tradition with a long history in Italy as well as most of Western Europe.
On average, the Italian worker gets 42 days of vacation per year, and many of them take the bulk of it (if not all) in August. Ferragosto, August 15, is a national holiday in Italy, and generally marks the start of vacation season.
The productivity of the entire country declines as bodies lie sizzling in the sun to obtain that sought-after bronze glow that every Italian admires.
The risk of finding signs like the one above (chiuso per ferie means closed for vacation) but around such destinations as the Vatican in Rome and the Uffizzi Gallery in Florence you’ll always find restaurants, shops and hotels that accomodate travelers.
For those of you out there who want to take the road less traveled, this is the series for you. For every Uffizzi gallery or Amalfi Coast, there is another, less visited cousin.
We’ll start with the beautiful Island of Ischia (EES-kee’ah), the less famous but no less glamorous sister to Capri. There are technically 4 islands in the Gulf of Naples. Capri, Procida, Vivara, and the largest, Ischia. (We say “technically,” because Vivara is a national park and is attached to Procida by a pedestrian bridge.)
Nicknamed l’Isola Verde (the green island), it certainly doesn’t disappoint with its lush beauty. Although one might think that it’s verdant flora is what gave it this moniker, it’s actually named for the green-hued tufa rock that is its foundation. The surrounding water can rival the limpid, cool green, blue, and deep turquoise of Capri.
Ischia has several sandy beaches and a wealth of thermal water spas. In fact, thermal water is what made the island famous to begin with. Fango, or mud enriched with rich volcanic water is a draw for many each year and is what built Ischia’s traditionally German and British tourism. A day pass for these thermal parks averages around 30 euro. Inside you have access to several pools, natural saunas, lounging chairs, beach, and all of the glorious sea views that you can handle. You can of course pay more for massages or other beauty treatments once inside.
If history is your interest, there is a museum housed in Villa Arbusto in the town of Lacco Ameno that displays one of the purported Nestor’s Cups. Displaying one of the first written records using the Greek alphabet, the island is proud to have found this treasure locally. There is also the Castello Aragonese on the eastern side of Ischia, in the town of Ischia Ponte. The castle is built on a steep volcanic rock that is attached to the island by a pedestrian bridge, hence the name of the town. The first fortifications were built in the fifth century B.C., with the majority of what is seen today being comissioned in the mid-fifteenth century. It is a breathtaking site, both to behold from Ischia Ponte as well as from the castle itself.
Ischia is also rich in shopping and great dining. It’s hard to eat a bad meal! There is fresh fish, high fashion, and a bumping nightlife to suit all tastes.
Though this island isn’t tourist-poor, it definitely is not heavily touristed by Americans. The best times to go are May through July, then September and October. August sees a crush of Italian tourists and hotel rates are highest and beach space is limited. Compared to Capri, however, the hotels are quite the steal. You can even find short-term apartment rentals everywhere if you know where to look.
There is nothing not to love about Ischia, it really has something for everyone. It makes for a romantic vacation for two, as well as a family-friendly destination. Getting there is easy. Just take a ferry or hydrofoil from one of two ports in Naples and within 1 hour you will disembark into a paradise few of your American friends have even heard of.
Last week, we posted about one of our favorite Italian movies.
Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano lives in Argigento, Sicily, where he solves crimes with Sherlock Holmes-like acumen.
But the thing we like the best about the novels is the descriptions of life in Sicily.
The best news is that many of the books in the series have been translated into English and are available from publisher Penguin.
As we say in Italian, buona lettura (happy reading)!
Image via Crime Scraps.
There is no other film more closely associated with the greatness of Italian cinema than Rossellini’s timeless classic Rome, Open City, written, directed, and produced in 1945 in Rome not long after German forces had abandoned the Eternal City (image via Wikipedia).
Shot entirely on location in Rome using mostly ordinary citizens who had never acted before, this film — considered by many to be one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of all time — launched the Italian Neorealist movement, one of the earliest “waves” of Italian filmmaking (and literature) that would captivate audiences and critics in Europe and the United States.
Not only did this film introduce moviegoers across the world to some of Italy’s leading actors — like Aldo Fabrizi and Anna Magnani — it also changed the way the world viewed film as an artistic medium. Rossellini’s novel approach to filmmaking created and forever redefined film’s power for social commentary and artistic greatness. And while the film is screened every year in film studies programs across the world, it has never lost its power to move viewers.
If you’re new to Italian film but want to verse yourself in the great cinematic works that reshaped the twentieth century with their artistry and humanity, Rome, Open City is the best place to start…
Above: The Lido di Ostia near Rome (photo via BeachesZone).
So many of you out there are getting ready to travel, and hopefully your European jaunt will include at least one great Italian city. Since it’s summer and no Italian cultural experience is complete without tanning like an Italian, we want to point you in the direction of some of Italy’s best urban beaches.
Maybe you’re doing 48 hours in Venice or Rome and want to get a little beach time in? Visiting Naples and can’t make it to the Amalfi Coast? Never fear, there’s always a Spiaggia near.
In Venice, just a quick boat ride across the lagoon will get you to Venice Lido. It’s home to the Venice film festival, and the setting for the Thomas Mann’s classic novel, Death in Venice. There are two public beaches and tons of private areas to choose from where renting a beach chair and umbrella are possible.
In Rome, tan as the Romans do. The beach isn’t exactly in the city, but a quick 35 minute train ride with get you to Ostia Lido. It’s a great escape from the heat and you’ll run into many other Romans escaping as well. There is also Santa Marinella which will take about 45 minutes by train. While these beaches are far from being at the top of the list of Italy’s best, they have been cleaned up and provide the hot, beach-craving masses with blue, sparkling Mediterranean water.
Naples has arguably some of the prettiest water and most dramatic scenery of all of Italy’s urban beaches. Spiaggette (small sandy beaches) and scogliere (stone beaches) dot the coastline of the city in areas like Chiaia, Mergellina and Posillipo. The latter is home to the storied village of Marechiaro with its tiny sandy beach and classic architecture. Heading west just a bit, you’ll find Bagnoli with its long stretch of beach that hosts a variety of bars and discotechs that fill with the Neapolitan youth on any given night of the summer. No matter where you choose to fare il bagno (take a swim) in Napoli, you’ll be delighted to enjoy a breathtaking view of Vesuvius as it stands watch over the ancient city.
Above: One of the many gorgeous stretches of coastline in Tuscany. Photo via Nautica La Marina.
When people think about summertime beach going in Italy, the famous Amalfi coast in Campania (southern Italy) is the first place that comes to mind.
Few realize that Tuscany has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe.
When the staff at the Tenuta Il Poggione (where the Mazzoni wines are made) takes its summer vacation (the last two weeks in August), most go to Castiglione della Pescaia, about an hour’s drive from the winery.
Photo via Affittacamere “Giannetti”.
Think you’re on too much of a budget to be able to travel to Italy? Think again. There are so many ways that you can shave euros off of your day to day expenses, and they will add up to big savings.
Let’s start with the biggest expense by far — lodging.
Traveling on a budget does not have to mean staying in a youth hostel. As this is a fantastic option when you’re 21, the lack of privacy and stifling curfews can far outweigh the benefit of the low price. The next best option is to find an affittacamere.
Affittacamere is the Italian term meaning rooms for rent, but not just any rooms. They are defined by law as “structures composed of no more than 6 rooms, located in no more than two furnished apartments where lodging is furnished .” So basically, they are rooms for rent (sometimes in private homes) that are not part of a hotel. A private bathroom may not be included, but you are always guaranteed the privacy of your own bedroom.
The best places to take advantage of an affittacamere are small towns that have become suddenly touristy (think Cinqueterre) without the infrastructure to support the throngs of visitors demanding beds. Many locals in such areas own small apartments or rooms here and there, and have jumped on the touristic bandwagon to make a little extra money. (Large cities like Rome have an abundance of cheap hotels, you just have to stay in the seedier parts of town to find them.)
Many guidebooks provide phone numbers to little old ladies renting rooms. They often fill up quickly but don’t be afraid to ask these initial contacts if they know of another person with an affittacamere available. Often, a brother or cousin just might own an extra room or two as well. Train and bus stations in small towns can also be a place to meet a local recruiting newly arriving visitors. There’s NO guarantee that you’ll find someone waiting, but if you feel adventurous (and lucky), winging it could bring results. This approach is not for the faint of heart!
Another option in university towns is to stay in dormitories. When the students are in Feria, many open their doors to visitors needing beds at a reduced cost. Again, you might have to use a community bathroom, but the room is usually clean and cheap.
So what can you expect to pay? In high season, you can find rooms that could be as low as 30% of the cost of a basic albergo. There is a wide range of prices that changes from city to city, so start looking. A great travel adventure is never out of reach.
Mazzoni Rosso Toscana IGT is the fruit of a collaboration between two Italian families.
Based in Florence, the Franceschi family has been growing wine grapes and making fine wine in Tuscany since the Renaissance. Today, their Tenuta Il Poggione estate in Montalcino is widely regarded as one of the greatest producers of Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most coveted and collected wines, made from 100% Sangiovese grapes.
Based in Napa Valley and Chicago, the Terlato family has worked in fine wine imports from Italy for four generations. Not only are the Terlatos known for having introduced American wine lovers to some of their favorite Italian wines — like Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, a wine that Anthony Terlato discovered more than three decades ago — they are also widely considered one of the leading producers of Californian Merlot.
When the two families began their partnership more than 30 years ago, neither could imagine the boom in Italian wine that would take shape in the 1990s. They had simply remained faithful to their belief that Italy was capable of producing superb, world-class wines that reflected the country’s unique climate and winemaking traditions.
In the early 2000s, the two families decided to bring their expertise in Sangiovese and Merlot together to create Mazzoni Toscana Rosso, a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grown on the Franceschi family’s historic Tenuta Il Poggione estate in Montalcino.
The result is a “Super Tuscan,” a wine that combines juicy, fruit-forward Merlot with the bright flavors and earthy undertones of Sangiovese — a happy marriage of the new and old world of contemporary winemaking.
In 2010, as part of their ongoing collaboration, the two families decided to launch this blog, Live Like An Italian, to celebrate Italian culture, history, gastronomy, and style and to share the joy of what makes Italy and Italian wine great — family and good friends gathered around the table in a celebration of life and love.
We recently came across this album cover and just had to share it here on Live Like an Italian.
It’s the cover of album of previously released songs that was released in Italy in 1965, the same year that the Beatles made their one and only trip to Italy, playing Milan, Genoa, and Rome.
We just love that they’re toasting with wine!
Photo via Tyson Williams Photography.
If you ever go to Naples, you can’t miss the sprawling Piazza del Plebiscito. It’s one of the largest piazze in the city and dates back to the early 19th century.
Although it was eventually named for the referendum that unified Italy, its construction was initiated by Napolean’s brother, Murat as a tribute to the emperor. This massive piazza is anchored on one side by the Royal Palace and on the other by the Church of San Francesco di Paola.
The Royal Palace most famously housed the Bourbon kings (I Borboni), but it pays tribute to the eight rulers in the history Kingdom of Naples with a line of statues lining the side that looks onto the Piazza.
The Church of San Francesco di Paola gives an imposing embrace to the opposite side of the square. When Joachim Murat first conceived the idea of the building and the square, it was not meant to be a church, but an extension of the royal brotherly tribute. The building was eventually converted, consecrated, and named for a 16th century monk who lived in the monastery that had occupied the land previously. The imposing pillars and domes remind one of the Pantheon, and it gives just the right flair of the dramatic to the west side of the piazza.
Today, Piazza del Plebiscito is a place for young lovers to park their scooters and embrace in the warm night air. It’s also a prime place to passeggiare, have a smoke, or people watch.
Under the stars and kissed by the salty mediterranean air, there is hardly a more beautiful place be on a Summer’s eve in Napoli.
Above: Una passeggiata in Brindisi (Apulia). Photo via Where to Go in Italy.
As the workday winds down and the hot summer sun begins to loosen its grip on the local central piazza, Italians take to the streets to perform a time-honored social ritual called la passeggiata (lah PAHS-seh-JAH-tah).
From young lovers to elderly couples to entire extended families, the locals take a leisurely stroll arm-in-arm to see and be seen. La passeggiata is performed in some of the most famous main streets and piazze in the world (from Piazza Spagna in Rome to Piazza San Marco in Venice), but even in the smallest villages, the local population comes out for a pre-dinner strut.
This is a time for catching up with friends, showing off new babies, and hearing the gossip about town. It is also customary in the larger cities to incorporate aperitivo into the passeggiata.
Seaside towns in the summer have an especially lively passeggiata. The hours can to extend to midnight, with the second passeggiata taking place after dinner. Children (and adults!) devour a fresh gelato while feeling the warm sea breeze and enjoying people-watching in the vacationing crowd.
If you want to fare la passeggiata like an Italian, leave your fanny packs at home. Put on your flashy new clothes, best cologne, and join the crowd!