Being Italian is not only a matter of birthright, not only a national membership; being Italian is an outright trip through a way of living and to appear to the world that embraces all aspects of life, from fashion to life style, from cuisine to gestures, in a mix of experiences to connect with Italian culture.
Italy is first of all, synonymous of fashion and elegance. All around the world, Italians are famous for their sense of style, which is easy to distinguish even when they are dressed simply. It’s called style and for an Italian it is such a very serious thing, one that is appreciated and imitated throughout the world.
I’m not able to tell you when a person’s natural inclination to good taste is born, but for an Italian it truly seems to be genetically established. Perhaps because we Italians take for granted this sense of style as we are raised with this great influence of design, so that our sense of taste is developed at a very young age. Style is detail, that’s the reason why research, experimentation and audacity have contributed to the Italian style around the world; that’s why artisanal products, creative studies, artistic laboratories and dedicated blogs are prominent and successful throughout the globe. These outlets lend to the world-renowned idea of Made in Italy. As often happens when they talk about Made in Italy, fashion and cuisine, which are not only a business field, but also translated in culture, history and in a life style with Italian beautiful taste. A cultural heritage made of history and creativity, hallmarks and prototypes of the Italian people to whom must be entrusted the style’s intellectual property. It is something to be proud of…
The Epiphany, or “Befana” in Italian, greets the Christmas Holidays and marks the beginning of Carnival. This particular event has old origins and it is of easy intuition considering the etymology of the word that descended from the ancient Greek, in particular from the verb ἐπιφαίνω, “epifàino” (that it means “to be manifested”), from the feminine noun ἐπιφάνεια, “epifàneia” (manifestation, apparition, divine presence). However, this celebration has is roots also in Pagan and pre-Christian roots. For this reason, it is a truly complex holiday that is representative of the place where it is celebrated.
In ancient times, in fact, the twelfth night after Christmas, after the Winter Solstice; the celebration of the death and rebirth of “Nature”, personified through the pagan figure of Mother Nature who had expended all her energy during the year, she appears in the form of an old and benevolent witch, who flies across the sky with a broom. Once she was dried, Mother Nature was ready to be burned and reborn from her ashes as a new “Nature”. However, before that, she used to give away little gifts and sweets to everyone, so that they could plant the seeds that will bear new crops during the following year.
The holiday, after the onset of Catholicism, got a new meaning, in addition to the one described above. During the same day, the commemoration of the visit of the Three Kings to baby Jesus in Bethlehem is also celebrated. The Three Kings, thanks to the Star of Bethlehem’s appearance, were able to reach the cave where Mary and Joseph’s son was hosted. To celebrate the happy event, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, (the Three Kings’ names), honored the new born with gold, incense and myrrh.
This custom of gift giving has been passed down from generation to generation and tonight this sweet little old woman will be working to bring gifts and sweets, inside the famous sock, especially to the children who have been good during the year. Those who haven’t will find their stockings filled with coal… the sugary one of course!
Hopefully, you’ve been good this year?
2016 is coming to an end and we need to get ready to inaugurate 2017 in the best way. After the Christmas culinary binge, it’s time to be prepared for the big dinner at the end of the year; the biggest and richest that ruins every diet. New Year’s Eve in Italy not only consists of good food, it’s mostly tradition and rite based on a series of customs with the goal to ensure abundance, wellness, and happiness for the entire year.
Here is a collection of the most famous and particular Italian traditions concerning New Year’s Eve. Please enjoy the following (and good luck too!)
Lentils and “cotechino”: Eating lentils at midnight on New Year’s Eve brings you fortune undoubtedly. It’s a tradition whose origins are disputed based on who tells the story. According to some people, these legumes are synonymous and symbols of long life; for others instead, lentils remind them of old golden coins; in fact it’s typical to give a money holder full of lentils with the wish that either they soon turn to coins of precious metal or to eat them with a good “cotechino”.
Bursts and fireworks: it seems evil spirits have some reluctance to loud noises. For this reason, during New Year’s Eve, it’s typical to shoot fireworks but mostly firecrackers that have the intention to scare devils and little demons and to keep away evil eyes.
Shards launching: one of the oldest and interesting beliefs is to throw against the floor some shards (dishes, glasses, trays) at midnight as a ritual to eliminate the bad physical and moral accumulated during the year.
Strenne: since the ancient Romans had the tradition of the “strenne” that used to be called streniarum commercium. During the night of New Year’s Eve, groups of young people go to the streets to sing Strenna’s song with the wish of New Year and gift requests. Receiving many presents will accumulate the abundance for the rest of the year.
Kiss under the mistletoe: mistletoe is considered to be the Gods’ plant. According to the Druids, the mistletoe was the demonstration of the Gods on Earth because, with its characteristic, it could be both curative and a mortal poison. The Anglo-Saxons too used to associate the plant to the Goddess Freya, Odin’s spouse, patron of lovers. The kiss under the mistletoe at the stroke of midnight is an old tradition, which advocates love and fertility.
Red Underwear: it’s not that clear where this belief comes from but, only to play around with history, we can say that starting from the ancient Romans, they used to wear red clothes (underwear too) for New Year’s Eve as a superstition to keep away the fear of blood and war. In Imperial China, during New Year’s Eve, long red paper banners were hung on the walls of the house for good wishes for weddings and fertility. Nowadays, to continue tradition, the underwear is given as a gift and then it is thrown away the day after.
Eating grapes: eating grapes it’s a tradition that, even if it’s so old, came up again in the last few years thanks to the Spanish New Year’s Eve that requests to do a countdown while awaiting the New Year. Swallowing a grape every second for 12 times symbolizing the 12 months of the year. Once again, the tradition insists that a finger is placed in a glass of Italian “Spumante”, and to pass it behind our ear or one of the people we’d like to wish good luck for the New Year.
Windows and doors open: a typical Russian tradition, but pretty common in our folklore too, is to open two windows and the door of the house at midnight. Opening the windows create a draft that keeps away the evil spirits, while the open door let in the good ones.
There are many other New Year’s Eve traditions and this list is only a start. On January 1st, be careful with the first person you will meet on the street: if he/she is an old person or a humpbacked it means luck and long life while if he/she is a child or a priest it will be a bad luck for the year that has just begun.
Just don’t forget to start the year with a big smile!
New Year is the time to start new things and expecting better happiness in life…
Best wishes and happy new Year to all!
Today is December 8th, and in Catholic countries, the holiday of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated. This day represents a true Catholic dogma, sanctioning Mary’s immunity to original sin: in fact, for the Catholic church each human being was born with the original sin and only Christ’s Mother was exempt; in sight of the coming of the Messiah and his mission on Earth. God, therefore, pleased that the Virgin’s womb should be the abode without sin, the divine Son became man.
In the Catholic devotion, the Immaculate Conception is also connected to the Lourdes apparition (1858) and ichnographically with the previous one at Rue du Bac in Paris (1830).
The festivity of the Immaculate Conception is extremely important in Italy, especially in the South of the Peninsula, because the Immaculate was the Patron Saint of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies. The holiday is celebrated with ecclesiastical rituals, often solemn, during which believers pray and honor Madonna’s simulacrum.
A day that has roots in religion and devotion, but doesn’t skimp the right accompaniment of the usual culinary tradition; in fact the Immaculate Eve requests that we abstain from meat, consuming seafood instead. The celebration is felt the on the 8th itself, with large and rich meals to honor a recurrence that is one of a kind.
Unlike the aperitif which is the step before dinner, the happy hour marks the end of a days work and the beginning of leisure in the company of friends, a good glass and a rich buffet that takes the place of dinner . The happy hour craze arouse when, especially in Turin and Milan, some locals came up with the bright idea of offering promotions at the end of the working day. From 6:00PM until late evening, this “prolonged aperitif” is based on pleasure and sociability in the very sense of the word. Today, throughout the country more and more locals and lounge bars from 7:00PM onwards prepare rich buffets combined with Spritz, Prosecco & Co. All at an affordable price which usually does not exceed 10 Euro.
Unlike foreign countries, the Italian flagship philosophy chooses quality alcohol without sacrificing the accompanying of snacks, finger food, and small delicacies that tickle the palate; in place of or with some saltines, olives or peanuts here, therefore, also welcoming elaborate dishes, ethnic dishes, vegetable dishes, sushi and sashimi expertly revisited and accompanied with typical food of the traditional Italian cuisine, through a search of flavors that suggests a 360 ° satisfaction.
But what are the drinks Italian people choose? Very easy to answer!
In the first place (as expected) our beloved wines: red, white or rosè, the true Italian does not give up its Mediterranean tradition, preferring this divine drink also to pay homage to the happy hour. The most popular appetizers follow in appreciation, like bitters and soda that tickle the taste buds and enhance the subsequent dinner flavors. Bronze medal for the evergreens as dry vermouth or its sweet version, depending on one’s preference, perfect for those wanting a lingering taste on the palate. At the end of the list we find the cocktails, beers and soft drinks: less common than the previous, but not as much the right ones to enhance taste..
The important point, however, is that for a true happy hour in perfect Italian style, the focus should fall mainly on the pleasure of being together and chatting (perhaps gesturing!) and abandoning oneself to the skilful Italian kitchen traditions and to knowing how to drink!
Happy hour at all!
Today I propose a short but interesting parenthesis to the discover the meaning of one of the most popular phrases and most resistant to the wear of time among us Italians:
A typical expression of the town of Pistoia indicating a walk in the center of the city, literally inspired by the swimming sport terminology, where, the term stands for the “path” that a swimmer does from one side of the pool to the other and swims back.
The phrase today is inspired by the expression “do a lap” and is usually used by the youngest to indicate a walk through the street of the city or back and forth along a main street. This started presumably, in the ’60s, a period that indicated in Italy, as in the rest of the world, the true return of humanity, ravaged by world wars. These are the years of carelessness, the economic boom and the frivolity and “laps” in fact, were all part of a preferred behavior of a people who made worldliness a myth that earned them the crown of style and elegance all over the world.
A true liturgy of relaxation that has ridden the decades and that, with the necessary changes made over time, has come to this day, as a symbol of enduring a real open air catwalk where entertainment, shopping and, of course, style reign … Italian!
Acciaroli, a small village of the Campania region divided between the Cilento park and its beautiful coastline, is the place where the elixir of life has been found! This is confirmed from a study conducted in conjunction between the University La Sapienza in Rome and the School of Medicine in San Diego, California:
“A remote Italian village could keep the secrets of longevity”
This stands out clearly on the ‘homepage of the University of California, the San Diego School of Medicine who is conducting a study on 300 centenarians in Cilento and particularly on over one hundred of them living in this small village. For the results it will take about six months.
“The objective is a study of the long life term of this group of three hundred people analyzing the genetics and lifestyle behaviors, such as their diet and movement. The results of this study on longevity may be applied in San Diego to patients or residents in the rest of the world”
reports Alan Maisel, head of the UC San Diego School of Medicine and professor in the cardiovascular department. The special interest lies in the particular feature of this village in Cilento: 30 centenarians for every one hundred thousand inhabitants, more than double than anywhere else. The long life of the inhabitants surpasses the national average even by eight years, with the women who are now living, on an average of 92 years (throughout Italy the average is 84) and men 85 years (national average is 79). The average life expectancy of an American life is 78 years, but only 0.02 of citizens reaches a hundred years.
Apparently the secret of Acciaroli is determined by several factors; first of all a very low rate of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. According to the researchers a contributing factor is the Mediterranean diet, with a strong use of rosemary and walking activity. Here the locals walk for kilometers every day, due to the conformation of the village, also making trips on foot to the nearby hills. But in addition to the living habits genetics is also under examination. In most Cilento centenarians there is a FoXo3 variant, a gene associated with longevity, studied by a geriatrician in Boston, Thomas Perle, who has found that these subjects also have a lower frequency of diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and Parkinson.
In short, genetics , climate and, above all, the Mediterranean diet which means that Italy is home of longevity!
Choosing the right wine for every dish and every occasion is a true art, and today I’d like to offer some valuable advice for pairing the right wine (obviously Italian) with the right food to enhance flavors and aromas!
The basic advice is to pair red wines with meat, white wines with fish and cheese and rosè wines with salmon. The key feature of Italian wines is that they have a strong regional trait where their typical character blends perfectly with the corresponding regional cuisine of origin. Therefore if you are dealing with a food typical of a certain region (and even more if that element is the main ingredient of the recipe) it’s a good rule to prefer a wine from the same region or geographical area. Just to give a few examples, a white wine of the Castelli Romani goes divinely with a pasta carbonara, while a Chianti is perfect with a Florentine steak, and a Cannonau wine is an excellent combination with a roast Sardinian suckling pig!
Another important tip to keep in mind is the so-called “color that unites”. According to this simple rule, white wines go really well with light colored foods (chicken, seafood, shellfish, fish in general, etc.), Red wines instead combine well with red colored foods (as for example game, red meats in general, lamb, entrails etc.), while the rosé wines go well with the same shade of foods (as for example grilled salmon, cold cuts, meat for barbecue, steaks and marinated pork etc.).
But when you really want to impress your guests, go for a combination “contrast”; because the daredevil encounter of a wine with a food can turn out to be an innovative and alternative taste of nuances to be discovered:
Passito wine with Gorgonzola cheese: this combination is perfect because the spiciness of the cheese is dominated by the sweetness of the wine.
Vernaccia of Oristano with spicy chicken: this wine leaves strong hints of spices, nuts and dried fruit, so that also this pairing is perfect!
Sparkling wine with soft cheese: an unusual contrast that allows you to try new fragrances, special aromas and unique sensations.
The secret, however, is to always choose quality, and there is nothing easier with Italian products…