Natalie Rae

How Italians Fall in Love

 

With the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.

The international language of amore requires no translation, but how exactly do Italians fall in love?

On Valentine’s Day, many couples will gift each other baci, a chocolate “kiss.” But every other day of the year? Here is how Italians do love- from dating, to meeting the family, and saying “I Do”:

Coffee

Ask for directions:  While you will still hear calls of “ciao bella” down the street, a more popular pickup line is to ask for directions.  Online dating has yet to become a popular way to meet future beaus in Italy, so asking for a bit of help gives you an excuse to approach the object of your affection and strike up a conversation. Once you have the directions you probably didn’t need in the first place, you can offer to buy him/her a caffè.

First date: Forget the cinema, most Italian first dates involve a walk and a bit of conversation.  Inviting your crush on a passeggiata, and maybe a gelato, means you don’t have to commit to a fancy dinner or drinks up front. If things go well, you will eventually become “fidanzati,” or boyfriend and girlfriend.  However, if you want to continue to woo your beloved, you better download Whatsapp.  The popular messaging service is how friends AND lovers keep in touch through out the day.

Meeting the parents: If things are getting serious, you will have to take a deep breath and meet the family.  When dating, you go to the parents, rather than waiting for them to come to you. While it might be more comfortable to meet on neutral ground like a restaurant, more often than not you will be driving out to mama’s house to eat a home cooked meal.  Praise your beloved to his or her parents and clean your plate of all you’re served if you want to make a good impression.

Vineyard wedding

Next come marriage: Italian weddings begin with the civil ceremony, but only after announcements have been made in newspapers and other public forums to allow time for any objections to be aired.  For many couples, the city hall wedding is the main service, while others will plan for a large church wedding days or even weeks after. Regardless of the ceremony type, the meal is the real event. Think multi-courses, with food and wine flowing all night.  At the end, send the happy couple sends guests home with even more treats – confetti (sugar coated almonds).

 

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


10 Italian New Year’s Resolutions to Make in 2016

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  1. Make pasta by hand: A true cornerstone of the Italian diet, fresh pasta does not have to be intimidating or require special machinery. All you need is some water and flour, plus enough patience to pull and push until the dough is just-right-sticky.  Grab a rolling pin or even a bottle of wine to flatten the dough and cut with a knife.  Congratulations- that is casarecce: homemade, free-form pasta! In 2016, conquer this kitchen staple.
  2. Toast to a Tuesday: Italian living is about enjoyment, not excess. Rather than saving up all those lovely bottles for a special occasion, pop one open for lunch.  Italian meals almost always feature a glass of wine, to help with digestion of course! There is no reason not to raise a glass, savor the little things, and toast to a regular Tuesday. Cin cin!
  3. Break out your fancy underwear: On New Years Eve in Italy, it’s traditional to wear new red underwear for good luck. Italy gave the world famous lingerie brands such as La Perla, so luxury underthings remain in style beyond December 31st. This is the year to ban the boring briefs.
  4. Speak your mind: Everyone has an opinion, and Italians are not shy about sharing them. If you are making your tomato sauce wrong or wearing too few clothes on a brisk day, your neighborhood nonna will be sure to let you know. In 2016, express your self with confidence.
  5. Call your mother more often: Put that new iPhone to use and ring mama. Staying connected to family and friends is one of the best ways to start off 2016 on the right foot.
  6. Explore your hometown: You don’t have to hop on a plane every time the travel bug bites. Italians are embracing slow travel and staycations and you can resolve to do the same this year.  Imagine the familiar streets with new eyes and seek out the hidden gems in your own hometown.
  7. Start an herb garden: You don’t need a green thumb to add a bit of spice to the kitchen. Hearty herbs like basil can be grown on any windowsill through spring and summer. Plan to create a small kitchen herb garden to add fresh homegrown Italian flavors to any dish you whip up in the coming months.
  8. Save electricity, save the world: You would be hard pressed to find an Italian home with a dryer. Electricity is too expensive, making fancy clothes dryers a luxury that most Italians skip.  Cut down your bill and embrace green living by doing laundry the Italian way: hang it out!
  9. Dress up the dog: Man’s best friend is truly a part of the family, so why should puppies be left out when it comes to fashion? Doggy sweaters, boots and raincoats are all in heavy rotation in Italy during the colder months. Resolve to take the dog on more walks (in his new puppy outfit).
  10. Make your house a home: Home is a sanctuary and a place to welcome friends and family throughout the year. Most Italian homes are brimming with personality to mark the space.  Make a resolution to add small touches that will transform even the most basic apartment into a refuge to enjoy every day of 2016.

 

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


The Ultimate Gift Guide for the Italophile in your Life

Ah, the holidays.

As the end of the year and the festive season approaches, December is the perfect time to gather around the people that are dear to us.  If one of those people in your life loves Italy, well, we have the perfect tips on how to surprise them with a small gift from the bel paese.

1. Moleskine:

The choice of Hemingway (an Italy-lover himself), these small notebooks are now manufactured by a publishing house in Milan. High quality, ageless design and lightweight, these books are perfecting for jotting down to do lists, daydreams and trip itineraries.

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via Moleskine  

2. Moka Pot

A great Italian coffee does not require a plane ticket to Rome, or even a fancy espresso maker. All you need are some good beans, a few instructions and a classic stovetop coffee pot that is found in every Italian home. The most trusted is Bialetti, and this small gift can deliver great espresso for years to come.

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via Natalie Rae

3. Passport holder:

What better way to get excited for future travels than a beautiful passport holder? The dual purpose holders can protect documents while pretty-ing up a necessary piece of identification. There are hundreds of designs out there for any personality, but our favorites are timeless and made of Italian leather, of course.

Passport holder

via Gigi New York

4. Classic stemware:

Add a touch of sophistication to annual gift giving with wine glasses that can be used and treasured for years to come. For a made in Italy touch, check out the glasses from Luigi Bormioli, which offers stemware that will enhance the full flavors of your Italian wine.

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via Luigi Bormioli

5. Biscotti cookbook:

With so many occasions calling for a special treat in the coming weeks, biscotti recipes straight from Rome can come in handy. This lovely little cookbook shares the history of Italian cookies, with well-tested recipes that can be recreated in any kitchen.  These biscotti go well with everything from morning coffee to nightcaps.

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via Amazon.com

6. Lemon zester:

If it is already getting cold outside, simply imagine summer on the Amalfi Coast, with vibrant blue waters and hills covered in trees weighed down by citrus flowers. You can bring the taste of Amalfi anywhere with a simple lemon zester. Perfect for cakes, cookies, and even pasta, a bit of zest adds a new brightness to the winter holidays.

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via Amazon.com

7. Vintage map of Venice:

There are always new designers, artists and creative foodies innovating in Italy, but some things never change. The perfect example? Venice. This unique city is so hemmed in by canals that the streets have not changed in hundreds of years. A vintage map can be an inspiring piece of home décor, but it can double as a nearly usable map on your next trip!

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via BlueMonaclePrints

8. Taralli:

What goes perfectly with any glass of wine? Taralli. These simple snacks are served across Italy to tide you over before dinner.  They make an authentic and delicious hostess gift, and will keep crowds happy while you open another bottle of wine and put the finishes touches on your holiday feast.

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via Amazon.com

Happy Holidays!

 

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


The Beginner’s Guide to Montalcino

When it comes to exploring in Italy, Tuscany ranks among the top destination on every traveller’s list.  Florence, for example, is consistently voted as the top city in the world.

As gorgeous as Florence is, the real beauty of Tuscany is in the hilltop villages and rolling vineyards, and olive groves that blanket the famous region.  Seeking out the back roads and undiscovered towns is an Italo-philes dream come true.

One Tuscan destination that cannot be missed is the village of Montalcino in the famed Val d’Orcia.  Home of the Il Poggione Winery where Mazzoni Wines are made, this historic region is well known for making the most highly praised Brunellos in the world. To make the most of any trip, or to imagine one from home, follow our guide to the hilltop town.

The Il Poggione Winery in Montalcino

The Il Poggione Winery in Montalcino

What to see:

Fortress of Montalcino:

Tuscan towns tended to be built on hills for defense, with the height serving to deter invading armies, or at least offer a better vantage point to observe invaders from. The village of Montalcino was also a walled city for further protection and the fortress was built into the city walls in 1361 at the highest point.

Chiesa di Sant’Agostino:

Follow the street extending from the fortress to arrive at the 13th century church of St. Augustine.  A building that formerly served as a convent next to the church is now a museum which houses the most famous artwork of Montalcino- a beautiful sculpture of the Madonna by an anonymous artist.

Historic center:

With small winding alleyways, cobbled streets and stone houses, the historic center of Montalcino requires no itinerary. Explore the different corners, old abbeys and characteristic Tuscan feel.

What to eat:

Montalcino is famous for its red wine, so order a glass and select a meal that naturally goes well with the full bodied wine.  In Montalcino this could be pasta with a ragu made with wild boar (none as cinghiale), roasted pork stuffed with herbs, or ribollita – a hearty soup made with vegetables, beans and bread to thicken.  Finally, in addition to wine, Montalcino is famous around Italy for its honey.

What to pack:

The easiest way to get around Montalcino once you arrive is on foot, so cute but sturdy walking shoes are in order. Spring and Fall call for a light jacket, whereas summer temperatures can reach the high 80s. Winter brings rain and some wind, and while it usually stays well above freezing, a winter coat will keep you warm while exploring town.

How to get there:

Montalcino is located in the province of Siena, but is also close to Florence and Pisa.   The easiest way to arrive is to take the train from any of these three cities, as the regional line runs several times a day. Schedules are available on TrenItalia. Buses from Siena are also an option, and the closest main motorway is the A1 to the SS478 for those arriving by car.

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_nNatalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


How to Make A Perfect Cup of Italian Coffee

There are many rules about living in Italy. For example, it is unlucky to make a toast with water- only wine will do!

Furthermore, you should never trim your toenails or fingernails on a Thursday, do anything associated with the number 17, or go for a swim without waiting 3 hours after eating. 3 hours!

But when it comes to coffee, the only rule is that it should be enjoyed often. (Also, that it should be called simply “caffé” not “espresso”).

Making Italian coffee at home does not require an expensive espresso machine.  You can make fantastic Italian coffee on a stovetop in these easy steps.  All you will need is water, finely ground coffee, and a moka pot- a staple in all Italian kitchens!

  1. Unscrew the top chamber from the bottom, and remove the basket.DSCF0863
  2. Fill the bottom chamber with water up to the faint line, or about 1 inch below the top.DSCF0864
  3. Place the basket back into the bottom chamber and fill with finely ground coffee. Tap lightly to smooth, but do not pack the coffee.DSCF0870
  4. Screw the top chamber on and place over low heat.DSCF0862DSCF0873
  5. The moka pot works via steam, and you can listen for the coffee to begin to brew and spurt lightly into the top chamber. Turn off the heat when the coffee stops, but allow the pot to sit for a moment for the sought after ‘crema.’DSCF0874
  6. Pour and enjoy!DSCF0876

If you have a new moka pot, brew as above but throw away the first batch to break the pot in.

Once you have made Italian coffee at home, you can enjoy a hot caffé, or turn it into any kind of Italian coffee you like, from breakfast to dessert!

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_nNatalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.



7 Things Italians Think About Americans

As Italy-lovers, it is easy to come up with a list of traits we admire about Italian life, but after celebrating the good old US of A on the Fourth of July, we wanted to take a look at what Italians think of Americans.  The stereotypes that live on in the eyes of Italians are sometimes half-true, and a few are very funny.

  1. Americans work too much.
    14 days of vacation a year? Working 8-6 every day? Americans are officially hard workers. Italians both admire this trait (and the American economy), but at other times they recoil in fear at the prospect of so few holidays and time with family.
  2. America has the best honeymoon destinations. Did you come to Italy, or dream of visiting for your honeymoon or anniversary? Well, Italians dream of going to the U.S. for their post-wedding trips. America is a top honeymoon destination, with the most popular itinerary being a tour of California, a stop at the Grand Canyon, ending up to close the trip in Las Vegas.
  3. Americans like Italian food that is a little bit weird. It is. Meat and pasta together?? Meatballs should be served as a second course on their own, after pasta. Chicken Alfredo? Not a thing in Italy! And don’t get Italians started on cheese/peperoni/hotdogs inside pizza crusts. Italians are pretty sure Americans are doing a lot of things wrong in the food department.
  4. Americans get everything to go. Why get a take away coffee? Why eat dinner in your car? Italians see Americans as leading a more frantic lifestyle and always being on the move. Give yourself a break during the day for a moment of calm, instead of constantly running to the next commitment.
  5. Americans move houses, a lot. In Italy, the most typical kind of lease is called a 4+4. That’s four years, renewing automatically for another four years unless something goes wrong—so an 8-year minimum lease on an apartment! It is also more common to stay in the place you were born and raised. Italians watch Americans go off to college, often far from their hometowns and families, and wonder why we transfer ourselves to cities so far away.
  6. Each American eats a whole turkey on Thanksgiving, by themselves. Americans have the TV show Friends to thank for this one, but many Italians have heard rumors about Thanksgiving and the feast that goes along with it. One rumor that lives on is that Americans eat a lot on this day—an entire turkey to each person, rather than a turkey per party!
  7. Americans are hard to stereotype because the country is so big and the culture so varied. Sure, there are stories of loud-talking tourists, but overall Italians see America as a land of great opportunity, with motivated and professional people, funny food, but also very unique from each other!

Did we miss any Italian thoughts on America??

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


Relax Like an Italian: The Art of the Passeggiata

In most Italian towns and neighborhoods around 6PM, there is a natural gravitation towards the piazza, or town square. Summoned by an invisible force, well-dressed couples and families slowly amble towards park benches and stop to greet friends and neighbors.

The daily passeggiata is a tradition that is hard to resist and exerts its pull on people of all ages.  From the verb passeggiare, “to stroll,” a passeggiata is a “little walk” – less workout and more a chance to socialize after a day’s work.

Rather than heading home to shrug into sweatpants, or strapping on running shoes for jog before dinner, the goal is to dress to impress. The need to fare la bella figura, or make a good impression, means that a well-executed passeggiata is a true art form.

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Originally, the evening stroll was a time for marriageable young ladies to catch the eye of potential suitor. Now, the passeggiata fills a range of other social needs- from nonnas (grandmothers) catching up on gossip, to a cheap and pressure-free first date idea.

The walk can end with a small glass of wine at a local bar, or a cheeky gelato before dinner.  However, a passeggiata is not about getting anywhere in particular.  The main aim is to reconnect over a few laps around the piazza.  It allows friends and couples stroll arm-in-arm outside of the private space of the home, and nurture that true sense of community.

When traveling in Italy, if you are out at about at sunset, you will likely find yourself even unintentionally a part of the custom.  However, it is easy to recreate tradition wherever you are in a few simple steps:

  1. Take a few minutes to recover from the day. Freshen up and dress up a bit. In the winter, the moda (fashion) of choice is furs and hats, while in summer, pressed white linen should do the trick.
  2. Head for the main street or center of town.
  3. Greet everyone, and stop to share a few details about your day and your plans for the evening.
  4. Enjoy the most social time of day before heading home to a delicious meal.

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


10 Signs You Lived in Italy in a Past Life

1. Your hands are as important as your words. Everything you say is punctuated with a perfectly orchestrated hand motion.  Crazy weekend? You recount it with a flourish of the wrist.  Difficult boss? A shake of the fist. Don’t understand what someone wants? Purse your fingers together. Absolutely starving? Tap your tummy.  No story is complete with the hand motions that really get the point across.

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2. You dress to make an impression. Be that head-to-toe monochrome, or a perfectly fitted suit, your clothes make a statement about you.  You do not believe in sweatpants in the grocery store, unless they are designer and accessorized; and you would never leave the house without hair done and makeup perfectly applied.

3. Whatever  your shape, you work it. Most fabulous person in the room? That’s you. But you already knew that.  Your confidence is off the charts and anyone who says otherwise is crazy.

4. You don’t believe in using “inside voices.” Something worth saying is worth saying loudly. Regardless of if you are happy or sad, you are always pret-ty expressive. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are yelling out of joy or anger, but the one thing that is certain is that you are not shy about making a point.

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5. Family comes first. Your family is your biggest support system and you would never dream of putting anything before them. Holidays or events are just an excuse to celebrate together. You make time for family meals, and use dinner time to catch up and reconnect. You would do anything for your family without question.

6. Personal space—what is that and why would you want it? In restaurants, you pick the one table next to other diners, instead of sequestering yourself in a corner. On the bus, you are not afraid to squeeze into an impossibly small space.  At home, you hug and kiss friends and relatives with abandon.

7. Lunch is the most important meal of the day. You are perfectly content with a small breakfast and a coffee. (Well, lots of coffee). But if you had it your way, lunch would always be a multi-course affair with wine pairings. At a minimum, you always take your lunch break instead of hurriedly eating at your desk, savouring every bite and dreaming of sun-drenched summer feasts.

8. Say no to fad diets. Bread, pasta, pizza: you love it all.  You know there is nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence and feel no meal is complete without a hearty helping of carbohydrates.  Within a healthy Mediterranean diet, carbs are a cornerstone along with plenty of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, meat and seafood.

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9. Ordering coffee is an art. You know exactly how you want your coffee and you are not afraid to order it just right. Multiple times a day. With an accompanying and suitably long break to enjoy it.

10. Italy is the place dreams are made of. You daydream about Italian vacations and buying Tuscan villas (with enough bedrooms for your entire family to visit, of course).  When you can’t be there in person, you still know how to adopt Italian customs into everyday life.

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


How to do Fast Food the Italian Way

When the first international burger joints opened in Italy, there was a protest. People stood on Rome’s Spanish Steps and handed out free bowls of spaghetti. This opposition to fast food became known as the Slow Food movement.

But there is no shortage of quality fast food in Italy. It’s just that Italians do fast food differently than Americans. The aim is to make a meal more portable, without skimping on ingredients. Traditional street food, or cibo di strada, shows that fast and affordable can be delicious.

Here are popular versions of Italian fast food that will satisfy any junk food craving and hit the spot when you don’t have the time or appetite for a three-course meal.shutterstock_187071668

1. Pizza al taglio

While pizza tonda, or round pizza, is more recognizable in restaurants, pizza al taglio is a quick lunch staple. Al taglio means “by the cut.” this flat, elongated rectangle of a pizza is massive. To order, the pizza seller holds a knife over the pizza, and you indicate how much should be cut off. Your custom-sized slice is then weighed to determine your price. This means that more toppings will cost you in the end, but the sky’s the limit in flavor combinations.

The slice can be folded over and wrapped in paper to eat on the go. And if you want home delivery? Well then you order by the meter!

2. Pizza Bianca

While the same size and shape of other types of pizza al taglio, pizza bianca is in a category of its own. This “white pizza” is toppings-less. The pizza dough is covered with olive oil and salt. The result is an irresistible snack that has just the right amount of chewiness and fluff.

To turn this snack into lunch, a large square of pizza bianca is cut in two, and stuffed with mortadella (a boloney-like Italian deli meat), to create a type of panino made with pizza instead of bread!

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3. Supplí and arancini

Crispy on the outside and filled with cheesy gooey goodness, these fried rice balls are the ultimate comfort food. Stuffed with rice, tomato sauce, and mozzarella and then covered in breadcrumbs, these fried goodies differ more in shape than in flavor. Supplí hail from Rome and are oblong in shape, while Sicilian arancini are more conical and usually slightly bigger. Both go equally well with pizza!

4. Sfogliatelle

Light and flaky dough is thinly layered to make sfogliatella, a pastry from Naples. They are usually topped with powdered sugar, so consuming the sweet treat on the go is likely to leave the eater dusted with white, but the risk to your outfit and your dignity is worth it.

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5. Arrosticini

This meat on a stick comes from the Italian region of Abruzzo. Typically grilled lamb skewers, arrosticini are cooked over an open flame. Politely eaten with a fork and a plate, the skewered kebabs are also easy to eat on the move, making them a simple but satisfying fast food.

6. Fritti Anything

French fries will seem boring after Italian fritti. Fritti means “fried,” and depending on where you are, just about anything qualifies. In the south, you will find pasta fritta – cooked macaroni fried in breadcrumbs and shaped in irregular globes. In Sicily and Tuscany, fried chickpea flour is popular. However, fried fish and fried vegetables are most common, and usually served in a paper cone for a speedy and dangerously good fast food.

With pizza by the foot, sweet pastries, freshly grilled meat, and countless other regional specialties, there is no need to settle for a bland burger ever again!

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog,An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


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. (more…)


How to Master the Art of Italian Coffee Culture

Coffee bar

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. (more…)


Italian Celebrations: The Holiday You Might Not Know About

The blur of the holiday season may seem to be fading into the background, but the Italian celebrations continue for one more day- La Epifania.

The Epiphany takes place on 6 January (the 12th day of Christmas), and is a national holiday in Italy.  While Babbo Natale has the 25th of December covered, the real star of the season is La Befana, who visits on the night of January 5th.

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6 Italian Christmas Traditions Americans Can Do

After hitting up the Italian Christmas markets, with all your gifts wrapped and Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) on his way, it is time to settle in and celebrate Christmas like an Italian.

1. Take in the lights | During Christmas, the concept of bella figura extends to cities and streets as well.  It is all about image, beauty and presentation.  Head out on foot to experience the twinkling lights, and never say no to roasted chestnuts and mulled wine along the way.

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2. Set up il Presepio | While Christmas trees are gaining in popularity, most Italian homes still set up a presepio, or manger scene.  All of the usual cast of characters are included, but to really deck out your holiday set up, you can opt for optional figurines like pizzaioli (pizzamakers) and tiny casks of wine (of course) to fill out the scene around Mary and Joseph. (more…)