Month: March 2017

The meaning of "digestivo" and how it is

The meaning of “digestivo” and how it is

The term “digestivo” or “digestive” does not refer to one drink, but a class of drinks that are enjoyed after a big meal with the aim of settling the stomach and helping you feel not-quite-so-full.

Drinking them dates back to the Middle Ages, when people all over Europe believed in the medicinal properties of alcohol mixed with sugar and herbs. Although the doctors are still out on the medical benefits of drinking medium to strong liquors after a meal, the fact remains that you cannot say you have enjoyed a real Italian meal unless you top it off with a shot of the hard stuff.

Popular digestives include limoncello, grappa, amaro, cynar, amaretto, and if you’re feeling brave, sambuca which has enough alcohol to make a horse giddy. If you step off the beaten track in Italy you will also discover all types of nice post dinner tipples made from local fruits and herbs. Don’t be shy, they are always worth a sip.

Do you know the Fiorentina Steak?

Do you know the Fiorentina Steak?

A bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine T-bone steak, covers all of the characteristics of Italy’s best dishes: a specific cut of meat from a specific cow prepared in a very specific way all within the confines of a specific region.

In the case of the enormous bistecca fiorentina, it’s a T-bone steak cut thick from the loin of a Chianina cow raised in Tuscany.

The Florentines tend to prefer the higher cuts, nearer to the rib cage, which contain the fillet known as bistecca nella costola, whereas beyond Florence in Tuscany you’ll likely get a bistecca nel filetto, a lower cut that tends to be smooth and more melt-in-your-mouth.

The Florentines argue that the bistecca nella costola comes from a more used muscle, meaning it’s more flavorful.

The Ravello Concerts in Italy

In April: The Ravello Concerts in Italy

Ravello is a popular destination for travelers year-round but it fills up even more during select dates in the spring and autumn for the annual Ravello Arts Concerts.

Far from the throngs of summer tourists, this is a time when music lovers fill the gardens and banquet halls of the historic Villa Rufolo for concerts.

Although it began as a chamber music festival, the event has expanded to include jazz. Today it boasts more than 1,750 concerts during the two concert seasons, meaning there is something to suit the taste of almost anyone.

Things to see in Il Grande Museo Del Duomo

Things to see in Il Grande Museo Del Duomo

In a masterstroke of archaeological detective work, the curators and artisans of the newly-expanded Florence museum, Il Grande Museo Del Duomo, have reconstructed the original façade and put many of its beautiful sculptures on display. By painstakingly studying a single 16th century drawing by Bernardo Pocetti, artists and researchers rendered a scale model of the lost façade from resin and marble dust. In the same room they have restored Lorenzo Ghiberti’s “Gates of Heaven” Baptistery doors to their original position vis a vis the facade in order to fully recreate the original vision and iconographic relationship between the Cathedral and Baptistery.

Greatests things to see:

  • Lorenzo Ghiberti’s two masterpieces: The more accomplished of the two bronze doors depicting biblical scenes is the one facing the reconstructed Duomo Façade.
  • Donatello’s Penitent Magdalen (Maddalena Penitente): Michelangelo himself called it the “Gates of Paradise” and it’s this door’s copy that draws the crowds in the Piazza. Perhaps the more historically significant door is the North Door.
  • Michelangelo’s Other Pieta: Visitors to St. Peter’s know you can’t miss Michelangelo’s depiction of loss and motherly sorrow in the Pietá, but not all of the artist’s works were resounding successes. As an old man Michelangelo returned to the scene of the Jesus’ crucifixion to begin work on another Pietá intended for his own grave.
The Coffee in Italy

The Coffee in Italy

For coffee drinkers, there’s little better than enjoying a coffee in Italy.

Just remember, Italian coffee isn’t like coffee in your local Starbucks.

Read our complete guide on how to drink coffee like an Italian, to learn when, where, what, and how to drink coffee in Italy.

From a regular “Caffè” to a cappuccino, a caffè macchiato to a caffè latte, coffee is ubiquitous in Italy but there is a considerable amount of regional difference.

Of all the coffee-crazy cities in Italy, Trieste has, by our humble reckonijng, the finest coffee and cafe culture.

Its long history as a tax-free port brought some of the first coffee beans to the city during Europe’s first coffee craze in the middle ages.

Today Italian coffee king Illy has its headquarters there and the city still imports many other brands as well.

The Iconic Mona Lisa

The Iconic Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a painting that hardly needs an introduction, but perhaps a few words on why you should see it – and you definitely should – will whet your appetite for an image that is so ubiquitous it often seems a little commonplace.

The Mona Lisa is not the most artistically accomplished painting in Louvre, nor the most beautiful, it’s not the most emotive or even the most awe inspiring.

He painted the Mona Lisa with a technique of his own devising called “Sfumato” in which he layered coats of semi-transparent paint washes one on top of another to create a sense of three dimensions using light and dark.

Mona Lisa’s smile has been the subject of countless works of art criticism, mostly because of the ambivalence that it suggests.

Finally, and more prosaically, the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 and not recovered for a full two years – leading the world to believe one of its finest works of artistic heritage was lost forever.

What it is an Italian aperitivo?

What it is an Italian aperitivo?

An aperitivo is often described as being similar to the American happy hour, but in reality, it’s much more than that. An aperitivo is a pre-meal drink specifically meant to whet your appetite.

This happy hour have been invented (or effectively marketed) by the distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano. He claimed that his special combination of fortified white wine and various herbs and spices stimulated the appetite and was more suitable for ladies to drink than red wine.

It thus became one of the first popular aperitivo drinks.

Today, the simple drink has evolved and spread south to encompass those glorious couple of hours all over Italy – generally between 7pm and 9 pm – when Italians meet to relax over a glass of wine or a light cocktail and finger foods.


Who was Saint Valentine? The strange but the true story

Who was Saint Valentine? The strange but the true story

The better question is ‘who were?’ Depending on who’s counting, there are between 12 and 14 Saint Valentines, including a Spanish hermit and a woman – Valentina.

As far as anyone can tell, the Saint Valentine of Valentine’s Day was one of two guys preaching the good word in Rome in the third century. One of these two was martyred on February 14th 269, thus giving us the date for his eponymous day. After he was killed, Valentine’s remains sat in the Catacombs of San Valentino for a while before moving to Santa Maria in Cosmedin where they were visited by pilgrims for many years.

So Valentine’s Day is basically a sham invented by a poet in order to make his lines rhyme? Not exactly.

Shortly after Chaucer mentioned love on Valentine’s Day, real life lovers began to send each other love poems on February 14th. To put that another way, people have been writing valentines to their loved ones for over 500 years, so even if there’s no direct connection to a guy who was murdered horribly by ancient Roman pagans, it’s still part of a serious legacy of love.

The amazing italian Lasagna

An iconic food: The italian Lasagna

Lasagna is a wide, flat pasta noodle, usually baked in layers in the oven.

Traditionally lasagna wasn’t made with tomatoes; only ragù, béchamel sauce, and cheese, usually mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano or a combination of the two.

Even today, only a bit of tomato or tomato sauce is used in a traditional ragu, unlike most Italian-American dishes, which are basically swimming in tomato sauce.

This concentrates the flavor of the meat but sometimes is a little jarring for American palates.