Recently in Italy category

Sicily

Sicily

I’ve been living in what is arguably the center of Europe for a while now (and I’m certain someone will get out their ruler and argue that technically, I don’t actually reside in the precise center of the continent – but let’s just go with that for the sake of the story), I don’t visit other countries as often as I’d like. It’s so easy to just stay home, not worry about airline tickets, packing, making sure you bring enough socks and don’t forget shaving cream, getting to the airport on time, the stress of unpacking everything to pass through security, and being herded onto, then cooped up in, a tight plane for a few hours in a seat that’s just barely big enough to hold a small child.

persimmons

The reward, however, is arriving somewhere, leaving the airport, and realizing you’re somewhere magnificent. Even if you have to nearly blow-up like a smoldering Sicilian volcano to get there.

Sicily

Sicily has been at the top of my list for a while now, but by the end of fall, less folks want to travel there. And because it’s not a popular winter destination, airlines heavily reduce their flights to Sicily and I had to do some sleuthing around to find out which one would actually take us there.

Continue Reading Sicily…

Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

Continue Reading Milan…

Il Gelato Centogusti

chocolate gelati

I’m very fortunate to have a gelato guide in Milan, because it’s a rather spread out city. And like many Italian cities, I’ve found some of the best gelaterias are located farther away from the city center. (Younger, less-established gelato makers can’t often afford to be in the expensive areas.) Unlike other Italian cities, Milan isn’t really a place that caters to tourists – which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that unless you have someone taking you around, sharing the best addresses, you won’t likely stumble upon great places like Il Gelato Centogusti.

Continue Reading Il Gelato Centogusti…

Spritz

spritz

Cocktail culture has sort of landed in Paris. I like cocktails but for some reason it just doesn’t seem right to drink them here. Perhaps it’s cultural since France is more known for as a country for wine and beer drinking rather than downing Screwdrivers, Cosmopolitans, and straight-up Martinis. A few cocktail places have opened where I’m told they serve decent drinks, and Mojitos have become omnipresent during les happy hours, but if you order a Martini in a bistro you’re almost certain to get a class of red Martini & Rossi with a dinky ice cube idling away on the surface.

And I have memories of trying to explain to a very confused café waiter how to make a martini for some guests who just had to have one before lunch. And even though I warned them away, out came a shot glass with one ice cube and some straight gin poured over it.

Campari

Tip: Not that I’m a cocktail expert, but if the waiter or bartender doesn’t know the kind of drink you’re ordering, I don’t recommend ordering one. Aside from a well-known aversion to icy drinks (I’ve been told they can freeze your stomach…ouch!), in their defense, ordering a cocktail in a French bistro is like going into TGIFridays and asking them to make you Bouillabaisse. Just because they have some fish in the refrigerator—or freezer—doesn’t mean that they’re going to whip you up a decent bowl of the classic fish soup.

Continue Reading Spritz…

Tasting Rome: Gelato, Pasta and the Market

porchetta

Whenever I go to a foreign city, within a few hours of getting oriented, I invariably find myself mentally preparing my move there. I walk around the streets, admiring all the shops and interesting people speaking beautiful languages, and looking up at the apartments with curving iron railings and linens hanging out to dry I imagine myself being a part of it all and making a new life for myself there.

rome

It happened when I moved to San Francisco, and I remember arriving and thinking that it wasn’t quite as pretty as people said it was. No one told me that South San Francisco, near the airport, wasn’t actually San Francisco. And twenty or so years later, when I moved to Paris, I was in for another shock.

I’m not a particularly good traveler; I like being home. (And I love my pillow.) So perhaps that’s the appeal of moving somewhere and staying put for a few decades. I can really get the feel of what living in whatever city I’d like, and come home and sleep in my own bed every evening.

Italy is a special place and many of us are quite fond of it. And why not? The people are friendly, the food is great, and Italians have an easy-going, sometimes boisterous nature, that I think appeals to Americans. Initially I’m usually reluctant to jump into a local restaurant, especially if I’m alone. But in Italy, if you show the slightest interest in the food, people are very excited to explain more about it. Whenever I’ve made the effort, it seems like they can’t wait to feed you.

burrata

You might be presented with a plate of mozzarella, a soft and supple cheese completely unlike the rubbery bricks most of us are used to, when cut with a fork, ooze out a sweet, warm puddle of milk.

Continue Reading Tasting Rome: Gelato, Pasta and the Market…

Rome, Again

Today, I’ve had gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And as I write this, it’s only 3pm in the afternoon.

lunch

It all started on this bright Sunday morning, when I made the onerous hike up to Prati, to Fatamorgana for their daring, wildly-flavored gelati. If you weren’t looking for the place, you’d probably keep going. But being the trooper that I am, in the blazing heat, I pushed past the crowds at the Vatican and trudged upwards toward my goal.

fatamorgana gelato

To say the walk was worth it is putting it mildly. This compact address scoops up some of the most astounding gelato I’ve tasted. I wasn’t quite sure what to order, as there were literally three kinds of frozen zabaglione and nearly ten various riffs on cioccolata.

I decided to go for it and had Kentucky, flavored with chocolate and tobacco, ricotta-coconut, and pure zabaglione. When I took my cup outside and spooned in my first bite, I almost started crying. In fact, I did cry a bit—it was so good.

Continue Reading Rome, Again…

Back to Torino

apero

Wait just a minute. It’s been about a week since I got back from Torino, and I told you about all the stuff I managed to jam in my craw at the Salone del Gusto, but I also spent a fair amount of time visiting some of the chocolate shops and caffès in this great city. Man cannot live by cured pork products and sheep’s-milk cheese alone, can he?

He must eat ice cream, and on occasion, drink.

gelato

The day of my arrival, I didn’t wait a minute. Moments after I tossed my suitcase in my hotel room, I made a beeline for Caffè San Carlo (Piazza San Carlo 156) for a couple of scoops of gelato, which I remembered so fondly from a previous visit. They didn’t remember me, even though I thought I’d made quite the impression that last time, when I stood over the giant gelato machine and tried to climb in.

Or maybe they were trying to forget?

Continue Reading Back to Torino…

Slow Food: Salone del Gusto (Part 2)

curedporkprodcuts

Now that I’ve had a few days to digest everything I tasted at the Salon del Gusto, I thought I’d show you a fraction of what was on offer.

ricotta vanilla beans

The event was an unparalleled opportunity to sample foods from all over the world, with a focus on Italy, of course, since that’s where the event takes place. That meant an abundance of cured pork products and Italian cheese, like handmade ricotta which you could taste just after it’d been made, but also Mexican Chinantla vanilla beans, so ripe, fragrant and oily…and a few bars of chocolate stacked up here and there.

chocolate bars

Continue Reading Slow Food: Salone del Gusto (Part 2)…