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Summer in Italy – Estate in Italia

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The summer season is in full swing in Italy now. I’m always been impressed at how effectively Italy encourages their tourists to stay. If only the rest of their government was as successful. Summer anywhere in Italy is filled with festivals, sagre (the local food fairs celebrating an individual food) and palio events (competitions usually of medieval events). While it’s a crowded time with lots of tourists, there are so many different places to go and things to see it’s worth the crowds, and the memories of those experiences last a lifetime. Beaches Sabaudia Beaches SperlongaSeasidenear Cinqueterre Since the country is a penninsula, there are beaches, unbelievable beaches in almost every region, and those landlocked areas have lakes. So many beautiful places to explore. So much truly fresh seafood!   Fish lunch Sorrento   Get there in June or July if you want to be sure everything is open. Throughout the country summer is travel time. Although most Italians never leave Italy for their vacations, they all take time away from jobs and city for a real rest. Maybe it’s because I was a resident, but Rome in summer is really special. In addition to all the tourist attractions of the museums, mounuments and churches, Rome has so many special events in the summer. “Estate in Romana” covers all types of events. Estate Romana is sponsored by the city council of Rome and provides an incredible programme for those who visit the Eternal City during the summer. The programme lasts for 100 days and 100 nights and features over 1,000 events, concerts, exhibitions and live performances.Rome Musicians     While events are held throughout the city, it is the River Tiber that steals the scene. The Tiber Island, for example, hosts an open-air cinema with a great, handpicked selection of national and international films, while the riverbanks fill up with food stands, pubs and temporary stores.Romans love to have fun, love to eat and are always interested in a party. And, just about all of it is free. If you’ll be in Rome anytime from June through August, check out the program from Estate Romana – http://www.estateromana.comune.roma.it/. While I’m most familiar with Rome, most of the other regions have similar full programs, especially of performance, music and food experiences available. If you plan on being in a particular region,google the website for the commune and it will give you all kinds of events. I’ll write about some of the other special programs I’ve enjoyed in Gubbio and Castel Madamma and Cinque Terre in another blog entry. While in Rome, recently, I found a relatively new rental in Trastevere in a really convenient area that is to die for. Whether you are only in Rome for a short time or a longer stay, you should investigate this fabulous rental. Trastevere is livelier and more energetic and much less reserved and stodgy than the other side of the river. The location is perfect for exploring Trastevere and all of Rome’s attractions are still within easy walking distance as well. It’s always taking a chance renting an apartment without the certainty of the area and the apartment. Photos are notoriously difficult to judge how happy you’ll be. Well, I was soooo happy with this rental I wanted to share it with everyone. It’s on a quiet street, and it’s brand new furniture and fixtures, but the original integrity of the building still resonates. I could easily live in this place full time, it’s bright and airy, has a wonderful private outside area for dining al fresco and even a spa! I can’t wait to go back.living room 1 While I was alone, it actually can sleep 8 with two bedrooms and two baths.   This is the smaller bedroom (which sleeps 4) bedroom bed           The master bedroom (and bath) spamaster bedroom

Here’s the rental agency link. http://www.romesweethome.com/Luxury-Two-Bedroom-Trastevere-Botanical-Garden.html

I loved how convenient it was to everything. A great area to be living – right down the block is the “Casa delle Donne”Casa della dona Thursday which has home cooked lunches for the public at very reasonable prices.   Their lovely garden patio area has a beautiful magnolia tree that is several hundred years old and on Thursdays, they have a fresh market of products from Abruzzo there.  And, they have a summer Jazz festival in the garden area all of July with women jazz artists.   You are only a few blocks from markets and two blocks from the Botanical Gardens, which are well worth visiting.   And, if you are lucky enough to find it available to rent in July, in addition to all the Rome events, there is the Festa de’ Noantri -which dates back to 1535 in Trastevere. It starts off with a procession in honor of the Madonna del Carmine and begins eight days of celebrations with music and street performances, a street race and food, always lots of food.

Whether you rent here or elsewhere, rent early. Summer is a very busy time in Rome. I get so excited about Rome in the summer. It’s hot, and crowded, but it’s Rome! I’ll do some of the other regional summer events in the next blog.

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Near Montiano, Grosseto in the Maremma

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The Maremma in Spring is really beautiful
But it’s beautiful there all year.

Current Selections – Products and Prices

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You will come to think of me as your Personal Shopper in Italy. I can show you many things about the experiences of living, eating and shopping in Italy, all in the comfort of your home. At this time of year, the markets are filled with asparagus, artichokes and winter vegetables. Some of the finest of the late season foods are dried for use all year.

There are dried porcini — the most magnificent mushrooms you’ll ever taste Their fragrance is almost overpowering in their dried form. It is earthy and reminds you of fields and warm fires.

PORCINI – Dried Mushrooms   (Boletus Edulis)
Italy delivered Dec 013 Porcini Prices
50 grams (about 1 cup) $30
70 grams $42
100 grams $60   (100 grams is about 3.5 oz)

3 oz. re-hydrates to about 1 pound of mushrooms

Heavenly in risotto, or any soup, stew or pasta dish
Heavenly in risotto, or any soup, stew or pasta dish

POMODORI SECCHI – SUNDRIED TOMATOES
These most beautiful, bright sun dried tomatoes you’ll ever see.
From Campagna, they are richly flavored and can be used dried or re-hydrated. Don’t forget to use any of the liquid used to hydrate – it’s very flavorful and can add a depth of flavor and richness to any dish.

3 oz.  Price: $ 17.00                         8 oz. $ 35.00       Their flavor is so intense, a little goes a long way.

Here’s a great recipe for a dried tomato vinaigrette. Lots of flavor and fresh taste for any kind of greens.

Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon minced shallots
½ teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (any mix of basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint)
2 tablespoons chopped dried tomatoes, rehydrated in tepid water for 10 min.
1 small clove minced garlic
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except oil in food processor and puree about 4-5 minutes. While processor is running, slowly drizzle oil into other ingredients. Yield is about 1 cup.

Campagna Sundried Tomatoes

I am so happy to be able to bring you spices from the world famous fresh market in Campo dei Fiori, Rome. This market has been in existence since the 13th century. While “Spezie Famose nel Mondo” (Famous spices of the world) has been there at least three generations, the Berardi brothers have increased the scale and size of their booth. Mauro has developed a way of flash freeze drying the spices so they retain their flavor a full two years if kept in the plastic bags they sell them in. Marco works in the booth, but I’m not sure he speaks any English, he’s the quiet brother. Marco, on the other hand is Mr. Personality and  is quick to pull out his notebook of press clippings from all over the world. While he promised for about ten years to create a website, I’m pretty certain it will never happen. BUT.. He has agreed to permit me to finally bring his spices to the US.

Spezie Famose nel Mondo
Spezie Famose nel Mondo

Right now, I have a number of the mixes:
The most popular is Campo dei Fiori Mix – it’s a combination of garlic, parsley, oregano, pepper, red pepper flakes and more.

Campo dei Fiori Mix –  2 oz.   $7.50,     4 oz. $14.00,   –    8 oz. $27.00

Puttanesca Mix    –  2 oz.   $7.50,    4 oz. $14.00,          –   8 oz. $27.00

Mauro’s Mix – This is without garlic and can be used with or without heat.     2 oz. $ 7.50,    4 oz.    $14.00   –    8 oz. $27.00

Red Pepper Flakes from Naples – Peperoncini
2 oz.  $ 7.00,    4 oz. $14.00     –    8 oz. $27.00

Cacio & Pepe – (This is really a extra fine ground pepper)
2 oz.  4.65,     4 oz. $ 9.50,       8 oz.   $18.80

L’Aquila Saffron threads .5 gram jar $20.00

I’ve still got some really flavorful, fruity extra virgin olive oil – it’s from the Tivoli area just outside Rome, made in a small commune that takes the olives from the tree to the frantoio (press) within 4 hours. It’s fresh, fruity and mostly to be used as that last drizzle on a dish before it’s served. The last little touch that makes anything outstandingly fresh and really fine tasting. I have a few 8 oz. bottles which are $20.

Olio Nuovo from Tivoli
Olio Nuovo from Tivoli

Please note our prices are based on current availability and exchange rates. Email your order requests and we’ll reply immediately with what we can deliver immediately. Contact me for information on how to order.

In April I will have Tuscan and Umbrian honeys, olive oils and jars of mostarda from the north. Mostarda is a delicious sweet-spicy condiment used on everything from cheese to meat dishes.
I’ll be in Tuscany (Florence, Orvieto, Siena) Umbria (Rieti, Spello, and probably Perugia) and Abruzzo (L’Aquila) and possibly Bari and Palermo. If you have any special requests please let me know and I’ll be happy to accommodate you.

Contact us for orders, questions or requests.

email:  expresslyitalian@aol.com

Ph:  310-337-1391 or  0039-339-674-0879

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Buon Natale – Christmas in Italy

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Christmas In Italy is a magical experience everyone should enjoy at least once.

In Italy it’s always about the food, so naturally, Italians revel in the holiday season. There are many special dishes served only at this time of year. There are regional baked goods that are unique to each area, although now more are available throughout Italy and even in the United States.  Panettone seems pretty easy to find these days, although, the ones shipped here for US consumption are not nearly as tasty or varied as those available in Italy.

I especially love the holiday markets which are throughout Italy. Although some of the biggest are in the northern part of the country like Trentino-Alto Adige and Emilia Romagna. Florence, Rome and Naples are also filled with the holiday spirit. The most famous market in Rome is in Piazza Navona. There are fewer crafts people and more mass-produced items in the market than in years past, but the spirit is still contagious.  Christmas Market, Piazza Navona

There’s lots of music, singing and families enjoying the season wandering from booth to booth around the fountains. It’s magical at night to see the fountains lit and flowing amidst the crowds.

Rome’s holiday season stretches much longer than ours. Christmas eve is the traditional feast of the 7 fishes (in some parts of Italy it’s 5, 9 or more or just ‘feast of the fishes’). Many families still hold strongly to this tradition, whether it’s actually 7 dishes or less. Usually there will be some fish antipasto, then a seafood pasta and definitely baccalà and anguilla (eel) if you are in Lazio. Christmas Day is less prescribed. It’s just enjoying family and as many dishes as you can imagine. Our most enjoyable Christmas in Rome was spent with our Italian family. I think we were 24 or 25 people in all. We managed to fill the room with a few tables and everyone moved around to talk with everyone else, while more and more food was served. And, then, Santo Stefano Day, which is the 26th of December. It’s a national holiday and often families will tour the nativity scenes (presepe) in town. In the town of Putignano in the region of Apulia they celebrate with a big Carnival, which, incidentally, is the oldest in the world and has been held for 616 years.

Generally, Italians celebrate the holiday season until January 6th, the feast of the epiphany. It is also the day La Befana arrives. And, the story of La Befana is one of my favorites. Gifts arrive with La Befana (the witch) who preceded Santa Claus and possibly even Christianity in much of Italy. Especially around Rome the tradition of La Befana is still very strong. The tale of La Befana, who was an old crone who was famous for cleaning her house and working in her kitchen is this. On the first Christmas, the Magi stopped by her house, asking directions to Bethlehem. She made them dinner and they told her, “We’re going to see the Christ child, want to come along?” “Impossible,” she replied. “There’s all these dishes to wash and the kitchen to sweep!” So the kings went on their way. Then, as the old woman was sweeping, it hit her: Did I make a terrible mistake? Could they really be going to see Jesus? She ran out the door to try to catch them holding onto her broom. She kept running, until her broom lifted her off the ground and she was flying.

La Befana
La Befana
And, she’s been flying the night sky on the Eve of the Epiphany ever since. She delivers goodies to children, hoping one of them is the Christ child. She knows no child has been perfect all year, so she fills their stockings with a mix of treats – coal (actually a really delicious black rock candy) and all types of sweets. I’ve brought back flying Le Befane for many of my friends who love this tradition as much as I do.

Have a wonderful holiday season. Felice Anno Nuovo (Happy New Year)