Month: January 2017

How to enjoy the best wines in Florence

How to enjoy the best wines in Florence

Tuscany is synonymous with Italian wine culture abroad, and opportunities to discover the local wines paired with gorgeous scenery and delicious food abound in this region.

Perhaps the most famous Tuscan name in the wine world is that of the Antinori family, who have been making wine for 600 years and whose award-winning wines first caught the attention of international wine collectors in the latter half of the 20th century.

Travelers wandering through the area of Siena will not want to miss Montalcino, the heart of production for Brunello di Montalcino fine wines and one of the best day trips from Florence.

The town itself – perched on a hilltop with what seems like an unending list of wine shops and an impressive medieval fortress – is definitely worth a visit, but it is the local wineries, such as San Polo, that will leave a lasting impression on all who set foot on their grounds.

In addition to the two main winemaking areas of Chianti and Montalcino, Cortona/Montepulciano and Bolgheri offer stellar wines and experiences.

Avignonesi is a breathtaking property near Cortona making exceptional biodynamic wines and offering visitors tours of the winery along with scrumptious meals at their on-site restaurant.

The coastal wineries of Tuscany – in particular Tenuta San Guido and Guado al Tasso – make blends of international varietals that have been known to rival the best Bordeaux wines.

Rome’s Birthday Celebration

Rome’s Birthday Celebration

Rome celebrates its birthday in typical Roman fashion, with a party that lasts for days. To commemorate the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC there are traditional events such as the tracciato del solco, or trench-digging ritual, re-enactments of the Palilia ceremony honoring the agricultural goddess, mock gladiator battles and other nods to the Eternal City’s almost-eternal history.

The celebration culminates in a costumed parade beginning and ending at the Circus Maximus. There’s no better way than this lighthearted Italian festival to truly partake in the city’s rich history. This year it celebrates its 2,770th birthday!

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

When is an old marble statue not just another old marble statue? When it’s one of the oldest and most influential statues in the world.

What you probably don’t know is that the vast majority of those statues are copies made by Romans of Greek originals.

Not only are these original greek statues much older than their Roman copies – often by hundreds of years – they are also much, much rarer.

Not bad for a lady who is 2,200 years old and counting.

What is the “Gothic” culture in Europe?

What is the “Gothic” culture in Europe?

Gothic can refer to three different, but vaguely related things.

1: Various ancient Germanic tribes of Europeans whose numerous sackings of Rome helped bring about the fall of the Roman empire.

2: A type of horror literature written in 18th and 19th century Europe featuring gloomy old castles and ruins, lost loves, terrible weather, and, occasionally, vampires.

This literary movement is distantly related to the terrible adolescent fashion trend that includes pale makeup, black hair dye, terrible music, and lots of angst.

None of these things have much direct connection to Gothic buildings, for which we need to turn to Gothic’s third, and most useful definition for our purposes: an architectural style developed in Northern Europe, specifically France, during the late medieval period that features the use of pointed arches.

Pointed arches are so characteristic of the building style they are also called Gothic arches.

There is, of course, a bit more to Gothic architecture than that, but for our purposes, just remember that the easiest way to identify a Gothic building is to look for pointed arches in the windows or the ceiling vaults.

Italian Carnevale

Italian Carnevale

Though Venice’s world-famous carnival festival receives the most attention, it’s not the only carnival celebration in Italy.

Most of the major festivities for this quintessential Italian festival come alive on the weekends, especially the final weekend of the celebration.

Farther south, Viareggio has wonderful Carnevale celebrations each Sunday during February with massive man-made floats.

Finally, on February 28th you can go to celebrate Carnevale in Ivrea, a small town in Piedmont whose carnival celebrations conclude with a massive food fight with – brace yourself – oranges.

Italian Epiphany

Italian Epiphany

In Catholic tradition, the Epiphany is when the three wise men finally reached the baby Jesus to worship him and give him their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

Today, it’s also an important Italian festival for children because of the arrival of La Befana, a friendly, if somewhat ugly, old lady who arrives on a broomstick and fills children’s shoes or stockings with candy. Most stores and markets will be closed on this day.

Italian Salumi

Italian Salumi

So what exactly are “Salumi”? Think of them as Italian deli meats or Italian cold cuts.The word salume literally means “Salted meat”.Though most Italian salumi are made from pork, you can find salumi made from wild boar, deer and even horse.

Actually, there are hundreds of different kinds of salumi in Italy.

Italian cured meats vary based on region, fat content, casing, seasoning and methods of curing. Prosciutto is by far the most famous type of salumi. Made from the leg of the pig, it is a dry-cured ham that comes either uncooked or cooked.

Prosciutto Crudo di Parma is perhaps the most well known in the world of salumi, named after its hometown of Parma, though Prosciutto di San Daniele vies heavily for the world’s attention.

Prosciutto di Parma is aged about 10-12 months, while San Daniele is aged 15-18 months and is much sweeter than Parma ham.