Ciao a tutti! For January I would like to share a blog from Popsicle Society written by Ribana, a native of Romania who shares with us her love of travel in Italy through her writing.
About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”
Ribana recently traveled to a lesser-known, but strikingly scenic region in the northeastern-most tip of Italy, Trentino-Alto-Adige. Tentino-Alto-Adige is made up of many small towns nestled in valleys that are carpeted in lush greenery, at the base of tall hills lined with forests of deep green, perfectly proportioned, stately fir trees, which create a picture-perfect Christmas setting year-round. The Italian Dolomite Alps rise even higher in the background, their jagged peaks tipped with snow. When snowfall blankets both hills and valleys, thousands of tourists visit every winter season to enjoy winter sports.
From reading Ribana’s blog, Discovering Our World: Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, one can tell that she is truly enchanted by this region. Ribana’s panoramic photographs of each major city in the region are accompanied by a description the city’s historical importance and cultural highlights. At the end of the blog are mouthwatering images of the regions’ cuisine. Ribana’s blog has inspired me to put this charming region on my bucket list of “must see” places in Italy during the winter months. Read on and see what winter-time fun awaits you in this along this northernmost border of the boot of Italy.
“There is a region, in Italy, located precisely on the border with Austria and Switzerland, among the best known for the beauty of its mountains, but not only. Trentino Alto Adige is also nature, summer and winter sports, hiking and trekking, art and culture, the mountain massifs, with their glaciers that seem to sparkle in the sun, dominate this region.
Trentino is a real paradise for those who practice winter sports! Most of the Trentino landscape is dominated by the Dolomites, which constitute a unique environment recognized by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage Site.
There are 800 kilometers of slopes and also numerous snow parks, ski areas more suitable for families with specialized instructors and snow kindergartens.
Winter is great for winter sports lovers, although in some localities, such as the Marmolada, Stelvio and Tonale, it is possible to ski even in the summer months.
Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? Well, the new year is upon us and it is time to make some resolutions! Maybe you’ve decided that this is the year to take that dream trip to Italy you’ve been thinking about for some time.
Learning Italian will help to make contacts with family and friends in Italy, and learning about how to send an email in Italian may prove valuable with personal contacts as well as with making reservations at hotels and other sites of interest.
As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.
If we learn how to incorporate“commonly used phrases” when we talk about email and we send an email, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!
This post is the 28th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE
Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian
are used to talk about, send and receive email.
See below for how this works.
As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?
The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained atLearn Travel Italian.com.
Let’s Talk About… Email in Italian
Talking about the concept of email in Italian is tricky. For one thing, the word “email” is an English abbreviation for “electronic mail,” and this abbreviation is not easily translated into Italian. For another thing, the way English speakers and Italians talk about email has evolved with each technological advancement in communication, and will probably continue to change in the future. We may find that the terms we use in this blog today have been abandoned for different terms tomorrow!
But, let’s try anyway to talk about email the way Italians do — at least for now and hopefully into the 2020’s!
When talking about how an Italian views the concept of email, the first and most basic question to answer is, of course,
“How does one translate the word “email” into Italian? “
The Collins English to Italian dictionary translation of email is simple and makes sense for both Italian and English: la posta elettronica,which translates as, “the electronic mail.”
A single email message would be un messaggio di posta elettronica.
A person’s email address would be l‘indirizzo di posta elettronica.
Unfortunately, although these official Italian phrases make perfect logical sense, they are a bit too long for common, every day use. Since Italians, in general, easily accept useful foreign words into their language, it is not surprising that a quick look at the online dictionary Wordreference.com yields multiple permutations of English and Italian to translate the word “email.”
It should be noted here that the word “email” remains feminine when translated into Italian in all its various forms, since “la posta”or “the mail” is feminine in Italian.
Here are the different ways we can talk about email according to the online dictionary Wordreference.com.
la posta elettronica, la e-mail, l’email
il messaggio di posta elettronica, il messaggio email
l’indirizzo di posta elettronica, l’indirizzo e-mail
It is apparent from the above phrases that Italians have, over time, shortened their correct but very long descriptive phrase la posta elettronica to the shorter phrase l’email. This combination of Italian and English makes grammatical sense in Italian because the original word for “mail” in Italian is feminine and also because the Italian language generally eliminates the last vowel of the definite article la if the noun that comes after it begins with a vowel. L’email is commonly seen in written form on websites.
But, although l’email is correct grammatically, most Italians simply say “la mail.”
This difference in the official written form and the spoken form of the Italian word for “email” may originate from the difference in pronunciation between the English and the Italian letter “e.” In English, the letter “e” can be pronounced with a long “ee” sound, as in “week” or short “eh” sound, as in “bed.” But there is no long “ee” sound associated with the Italian letter “e,” and this may lead to confusion for an Italian when attempting to say the word “email” with the correct English pronunciation. So, it is more simple in spoken Italian just to leave off the “e” in email, and say “mail.”
In the same way, note that a single email can be referred to in Italian as both the grammatically correct “un’email” and “una mail.”
Below is a summary of the Italian phrases to describe email in Italian. The most common conversational Italian ways to say “email” are listed in the first column in bold letters.
la mail l’email
la posta elettronica
email in general
una mail / la mail un’email
un messaggio di posta elettronica
a single email
l’indirizzo mail l’indirizzo e-mail
l’indirizzo di posta elettronica
the email address
Now let’s talk about what to say if an Italian asks for your email address and you would like to reply in Italian.
The question: “Qual’è l’indirizzo mail?” is used for the English, “What is your email address?”
It will be important in this situation to know that the English word “at” used for the symbol @ is referred to with the visually descriptive Italian term “chiocciola,” which literally means “little snail.” And the “dot” in the English “dot” com is called a “period” in Italian, with the word “punto.”
Italian email addresses often end in “it,” for Italy, and the abbreviation is usually pronounced as an Italian word. For email addresses that end in “com,” com is usually pronounced as a word, similar to English but with an Italian accent, of course!
The letters “it” and “com” may also be spelled out, using the Italian name for each letter. For the ending “it,” the Italian letters are pronounced “ee tee.” For the ending “com” the Italian letters are pronounced “chee oh èmme.”
Below is a sample email address that uses the name of this blog as a person’s first and last name, first written, then as it would be pronounced by an English speaker and an Italian speaker:
Conversational Italian “at” aol “dot” com
Conversational Italian “chiocciola” aol “punto”com
Finally, how do we talk about sending and receiving an email?
Two verbs are commonly used to describe the acts of sending and receiving an email. The Italian verb mandare is probably the most common way to describe the act of sending an email, although the verbs inviareor spedire, older terms for “snail mail,” can also be used.
The verb mandare just means “to send,” though, and Italian will follow this verb with the clarification “via mail.” As noted above, other variations might include “via email” or “via la posta elettronica. “
When an Italian has received a message, he or she can use the verb ricevere, which means “to receive.” This event would, of course be in the past tense, as for example, “Ho ricevuto una mail.” “I have received an email.”
Remember that if you have received an email “about” something, the English word “about” is often expressed in Italian with the preposition “su.” The preposition suis then combined with the Italian definite article (il, la, lo, l’, i le, gli) before the noun that describes what the email will be about. The different combined forms are: sul, sulla, sulo, sull‘, sui, sulle, sugli. More detailed information about combining prepositions is found in the Conversational Italian for Travelers reference book Just the Grammar.
“Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione?” translates as: “Have you received an email about the next meeting?”
Interestingly, if one person hears the notification sound that an email has “arrived” at another’s device, he or she may call out, “È arrivata una mail,” meaning, “An email has arrived.” Remember to use the feminine form of the past participle for arrivare,which is “arrivata“ for the email that has just arrived! In the same way, an English speaker would notify someone with the line: “You have a message.”
When one needs to check their email, the Italian verb controllare, which can mean to check, to control,orto verify, comes into play. One friend might say to another: “Controlla la tua mail!” for “Check your email!” Or, you may be advised: ” Controlla la mail in arrivo!” for “Check the email that is coming to you!”
Some background: When I traveled to Europe last year, I signed up for several of the WALKS tours. I was so impressed by the organization of the tours and the quality of the tour guides that I decided to become an affiliate advertiser.
This is why, as you may have noticed, there are two new images that mention WALKS of Italy on the sidebar of this blog.
One image provides a link to one of the WALKS tours, and will take you directly to their website, so you can check out the company yourself and, of course, purchase a the “Venice in a Day” tour.
The second, brightly colored image of a tourist map of Italy on my sidebar
is directly above a link to a page I have created that lists the many other tours that WALKS of Italy offers in Venice, Rome, Florence, and Milan.
These links will also take you directly to the WALKS website, so if you find one you like you can make a purchase.
I do receive a small fee as an affiliate partner with WALKS, as mentioned on the page if you click one of the links on this blog. For this, I thank you all very much!
For anyone planning their trip to Italy in 2020, consider a WALKS of Italy tour. If you do choose to take a WALKS tour, please feel free to leave a comment about your experience on my More WALKS of Italy Tours page.
Ciao a tutti! For October, I would like to share details of my recent visit to the ancestral hometown of my Occhipinti family, which is called Ragusa, and is located high in the mountains of the southeastern tip of Sicily.
About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.” I’ve been featuring travel bloggers in this series, but this month I will use this feature to show a bit of what I’ve just experienced in Ragusa in “travel blogger style,” with my own emphasis on language and history.
Before starting our virtual blogging tour of Ragusa, it should be mentioned that, due to the popularity of the BBC series Detective Montalbano (Commissario Montalbano), based on the detective novels of the brilliant Andrea Camilleri, who the world lost this past July 17, 2019,
the ancient Baroque towns of Ragusa and nearby Scicli and Modica, along with many places along the coast of Southern Sicily, have come into the forefront once again.
Yes, it is true. I am a HUGE fan of the Detective Montalbano series! Over the years, this BBC series has helped me to gain an understanding of how people really use common Italian expressions (most of which, of course are not found in textbooks, and which I try to focus on in my own books and blogs).
Anyone who has attended even one of my Italian lessons has heard my recommendation for using the Detective Montalbano series as an aid to learning Italian. Listen to the characters as they interact, pick out the phrases you understand and focus on how these phrases are used. Some characters will be easier to understand than others, just like people in real life. One caveat—don’t try to understand the character Catarella, who speaks his own version of Sicilian/Italian that even the other characters often mention they do not understand!
Actually, it is amazing that I waited until this late in the blog to mention that I visited many of the locations where the Detective Montalbano series is filmed!
If anyone else is a fan of the Detective Montalbano series, you should know that the entire set of the Montelusa police station is now on permanent exhibition in the city of Scicli and that the Montalbano character’s villa at Punta Secca is now a tourist attraction, along with the restaurant Enzo da Mare a little further down on the beach. There are even “Detective Montalbano” tours on the internet. If you’d like to create your own tour, simply download the sites of interest from the Ragusa Turismo Site on the internet.
You will need a car to visit the sites outside of Ragusa, though, as the train is not very efficient in Sicily (or so I am told).
Particulars of Visiting Ragusa
Transportation (or lack of it) to your hotel:
Ragusa Ibla, or the historic, older section of Ragusa, is an ancient city, carved into the side of a mountain, with narrow, winding cobblestone streets that are interconnected by many steep and just as winding stairways. As such, most of the city is protected by a limited traffic zone. Tour buses and city buses, along with a train station, are located in lots at the base of this mountain city. So, practically speaking, the first thing to do once you have booked your hotel is to contact the hotel before you arrive (either over the phone or through the Internet), the best way to get from those lots to the hotel front door! Many hotels will send a porter to help with luggage, and many drivers know also that it will be necessary for them to get out of the car and to walk with luggage to get their guests to their hotel door. It is always better to arrange this beforehand to eliminate confusion and any hidden fees.
Where I’ve stayed:
Given the size and age of Ragusa Ibla, it should be noted that accommodations are provided mainly through bed and breakfast style hotels.
The exception is the San Giorgio Hotel, which is literally built into the side of the southern part of the mountainside of Ragusa Ibla. I did stay at this hotel in 2016, and found the staff so pleasant and accommodating (the concierge actually took it upon himself to help me find the location of my great grandfather’s home) that I would recommend this hotel for those who want a more formal stay. Some of the rooms do not have windows, though, given the location, so I would ask about this if it is a concern. Otherwise, the hotel furnishing were modern, the hotel itself was clean, breakfast was lovely, and as I’ve mentioned the staff were wonderful, and even overly concerned that I enjoy my stay, some even mentioning their cousins with the Occhipinti name.
I have to admit that I chose the bed and breakfast I stayed at just recently for my 7 day trip based mostly on photos of the breakfast selection I found on the internet! After several evenings of searching, I came upon the breakfast room of the lovely Hotel Sabbinirica, and chose to stay in the guesthouse around the back of the main hotel. The guest house was spacious and clean, with a small courtyard, although it did not offer a view of the city. And the breakfast did not disappoint! Every day the owners were on sight to make fresh espresso drinks to order and the breakfast table was laden with fruit, many varieties of Sicilian pastries (with new ones to try each day), Sicilian cheeses, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, toast and cold cuts. Juices, as usual throughout Italy, were freshly squeezed. And the breakfast room was charming, a mixture of the old and new, built into the side of the mountain.
The owners came to pick us up from the parking at the foot of the mountain in a motorized golf cart and drove us to the entrance of the bed and breakfast, showed us our room, and very kindly gave us directions on how to reach the main piazza (which was not far away) with the restaurants for dinner. At the reception were pamphlets that held suggestions for tours, both group and private and notice of a bus schedule to the surrounding town. To the side of the reception area was a small boutique filled with handcrafted Sicilian pottery and embroidery.
After our check-in, it was a long walk up the stairs each evening to reach the Hotel Sabbinirica from the taxi station at the Piazza Repubblica, or an even longer climb from the parking lot below. But, once reached, the hotel is on the same level as the lively main piazza that is lined with most of the shops and restaurants in town and hosts the largest church, San Giorgio at its far end. In the morning and evening, the hotel entrance boasted spectacular views of Ragusa Superior, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at this hotel.
There are many charming bed and breakfasts in Ragusa Ibla. If you have a favorite, please share your experience!
Where to eat for a special night:
There are many restaurants in Ragusa that offer local specialties, from pizza to formal dining with all courses (antipasto, primo of pasta, secondo of fish or meat, and dolce). When traveling, I usually choose the restaurant where I have dinner on the spur of the moment, based on the location I end up at after I finish exploring for the day (side street not main piazza), the menu (no pictures, local specialties) and the clientele (locals).
While I was not in Ragusa every evening, so I cannot give an exhaustive list of restaurant recommendations, I did dine at MareDentro twice for dinner, and loved their fresh seafood and preparation of traditional Sicilian dishes.
I also had one special dinner with my traveling companion at the Duomo restaurant of Chef Ciccio Sultano. The webiste Great Italian Chefs says: “One of Sicily’s best-loved chefs, Ciccio Sultano has traveled as far as New York to hone his craft. Now back home, Ciccio’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Duomo is the standard bearer for Sicilian haute cuisine, attracting diners from far and wide to the city of Ragusa.”
My experience truly lived up to the hype. Despite the fact that we had only ordered a primo and secondo course, we were offered so many “special” treats that the chef “would be so pleased for us to try” that I was truly dazzled. Not only by the number of offerings abut also by the style of the chef. I don’t usually take photos of the food while I am out dining, so I guess we will just have to go with this description of my meal from the Great Italian Chefs website:” It only takes a cursory glance at Ciccio’s food to see that these dishes are unmistakably his. His playful, artistic flair is always on display, and his plates are a unique combination of his avant garde character and his love and respect for the food of his home.”
“The restaurant “Duomo”, in Via Capitano Bocchierei, 31, is double Michelin-starred and considered one of the very best restaurants in Italy, while La Locanda di Don Serafino and La Fenice both have 1 Michelin Star… Is Ragusa the gourmet capital of Sicily?”
Oh, and by the way… gelato:
This is an easy one. Both gelato shops on the main piazza in Ragusa were fantastic, with unusual flavors I have not seen in other parts of Italy.
Short Historical Tour of Ragusa
Before the city of Ragusa was called Ragusa, it was founded by the indigenous people of Sicily and known in the world of ancient Greece as Hybla Heraea. The Greeks colonized much of southeastern Sicily and flourished, especially in Agrigento along the southern coast and Siracusa along the eastern coast. Southern Sicily in antiquity was considered a center of learning, with Archimedes (the philosopher and mathematician who discovered that 3.14… is pie), one of its most brilliant minds. Ragusa, however, remained independent from the Greeks, only to be overtaken by the Romans in the middle of the third century B.C. After this conquest, the city fell under the rule of many different peoples, but was finally given the name “Ragus” when under Arab rule. After the Norman conquest in 1060, the name was changed to Ragusa, which the city has carried to this day. In 1860, Garibaldi added Ragusa to the newly united Kindgom of Italy.
“Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbours, Noto, Modica, Scicli and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily.”
“Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now Ragusa “Superiore”, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now Ragusa Ibla. The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica.”
The town Ragusa Ibla is part of the Val di Noto UNESCO Heritage site and 18 of its buildings are protected by UNESCO patronage.
Short Walking Tour of Ragusa
A visit to the Commune Ragusa website yields a list of churches and buildings for a UNESCO walking tour of Ragusa, and in particular a tour of Baroque architecture, or the Barocco tour. There is a trolley that will take you on a tour as well, circling around the outer perimeter of the mountain to reach many of these sites.
Baroque architecture is said to have originated in Italy in Rome in the early 17th Century, and then to have spread into other parts of the Italian peninsula and Europe. By the mid-17th century, this highly decorative style was used to create churches with frescoes covering every inch of their walls and ceilings, which were held up by colorful, spiraled columns. The exteriors of government buildings and private homes were decorated with ornate, heavy balconies supported by heavy, statuesque corbels and framed by undulating ironwork to show wealth and power.
Ragusa is just one town in a group of nine towns of medieval origin located in the Val di Noto, or southeastern Sicily that were rebuilt in splendor in the new Baroque style after the earthquake of 1693 devastated this region. The other towns are: Caltagirone, Militello, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ispica and Scicli.
On the first day of our stay in Ragusa, we visited the cathedral of San Giorgio and the Later, we decided to follow the large, brown street signs from our hotel on the border of Ragusa Ibla to Ragusa Superiore. Below are some images from our tours of Ragusa to enjoy.
Sites of Interest
in and around
Church of Santa Maria delle Scale: location offers spectacular views of Ragusa Ibla. and is the oldest church in Ragusa. Occasional site of filming to use Ragusa Ibla as the backdrop for scenes in the Detective Montalbano series.
Palazzo Casentini—late 1700’s Baroque style
Palazzo Bertini—late 1700’s Baroque style
Church of San Giuseppe—Baroque church that houses many Baroque works of art; San Giuseppe is the patron saint of Ragusa, while San Giorgio is the patron saint of Ragusa Iba
Hyblean Archeological Museum—along the outskirts of Ragusa. Can’t believe I missed it this time around!
Shopping in Ragusa Superiore—My favorite shop for women’s fashion, Louisa Spagnoli is in Ragusa Superiore along the main shopping boulevard. More casual styles than the Louisa Spagnoli shop by Piazza del Popolo in Rome.
Castello di Donnafugata (means “source of health” in Arabic; when translated into Sicililan sounds similar to the Italian “donnafugata”, but does not mean “the woman who fled”)—large estate with villa with origins in the 14th century, but current style in each room preserved as a museum is from the 19th century. Occasional site of filming for Detective Montalbano series.
Marina di Ragusa—Loved walking on the boardwalk along the beach at Marina di Ragusa one evening. This is where the Italians vacation with their families and after dinner is the time to “fare una passegiatta” (take a leisurely stroll). If you like people watching, this is the place, as everyone is dressed in the latest summer styles to “fare una buona figura” (make a good appearance). There is a large boulevard along the boardwalk and across the street are many apartments for rent for a week or more, a few hotels, and many restaurants large and small catering to Italian tourists. Maybe for my next trip?
Ciao a tutti! For August I would like to share a blog from “Take Me Home Italy,” written by Marilyn Ricci, a friend who has recently moved to Italy and has been sharing her experiences with us through her writing.
About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”
And, what better way to explore Italy and provide travel tips than to live there? Marilyn has been able to experience first hand the important August celebration of Ferragosto. To Italians, Ferragosto is a very important family and religious celebration, with roots that date back to Roman times. Over the years, the meaning of Ferragosto has changed, but its importance has not diminished, and to Italians, it is still a very special holiday family get-together and summer fun, which brings the same excitement as the Christmas season later in the winter months.
Have you heard of Ferragosto? Ferragosto is officially a holiday on 15 August. Yet, for Italians, it is typically more than one day of celebration.
What IS Ferragosto? Where did it come from and why is it such a huge national holiday?
Back when Augustus was the Roman Emperor, in the year 18 B.C.E., he instituted the Feriai Augusti, a day of rest for the Emperor and his people. The day was dedicated to the Roman god of fertility and of the harvest. It was a time to celebrate and be fruitful as only the Romans could do.
Earlier this month, Lucio Caputo died at the age of 84. His passing didn’t attract a lot of attention outside the wine world, but within that micro-universe it reverberated enormously.
From 1974 to 1982, Caputo was the Italian Trade Commissioner in New York, at that time a position of incredible importance for Italian products in the United States, and most especially for Italian wine. He left the Italian civil service in 1983 (declining a fat government pension) to stay on in New York to found the Italian Wine and Food Institute, an agency he successfully headed for the next 30 years. The IWFI did a tremendous job over that period of promoting the best of Italian wines and food products. Its annual tastings and awards dinners were always highlights of the season for wine professionals.
But for those of us who remember what the situation of…
Ciao a tutti! This week I will share about how to grow the herb oreganoand it’s perfect Italian companion zucchini for one of my favorite Italian side-dishes, a simple “stew” of zucchini and tomatoes with onions and oregano. Even children who don’t like summer squash will love this dish!
As I’ve mentioned before, this summer I’ve had to start a new garden from scratch now that I have moved to the Chicago suburbs from Peoria. So I thought I would take a few photos and share some of what I’ve come to know about gardening with this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.”
For as long as I can remember, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America. My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.
Meanwhile, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen cooking our favorite meals with the fresh fruits and vegetables that my grandfather grew. She passed down the simple but delicious method for stewing zucchini with tomatoes and oregano to our family here in America. After reading about how to grow oregano and zucchini, you can watch me it in action as I cook the dish by clicking the Instagram link if you want!
Oregano is a perennial, bush-like plant that is commonly used in tomato salads or combined with zucchini and tomatoes for a vegetable side dish (contorno). In the United States, oregano became popular after World War II, when it was brought back from Italy by American soldiers and became a common addition to tomato sauces in Italian-American households.
Oregano will come up each spring if planted directly in the garden, usually growing a bit larger each year. Oregano likes sun, but can also grow in partial shade. Trim frequently with kitchen scissors and dry or keep the leaves fresh in the refrigerator on the stalk. Significant amounts of oregano can be harvested early in summer and the plant will regrow. Allow to flower late in the summer. The plant is cold hardy and can survive a fall or spring frost, but will die back in the winter. Remove any remaining dead branches in the spring and the plant will grow for another season.
To harvest oregano, cut off the stem with its leaves. Then, use a small knife or your fingers to run down the length of the stem and remove the small leaves. Discard the stem. To dry,, bundle and hang from the stems upside down. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in an air-tight container away from heat.
Italian Summer Squash – Zucchina e Cucuzza
Zucchini in English, or zucchina/zucchine in Italian is a summer squash, also known as a marrow. The immature form of a marrow is called a courgette. The smaller courgettes, which have more flesh and less seeds than the mature summer squash, are used widely in Italian cooking. Zucchini is popular fried, stewed, and even hollowed out and stuffed, and usually served as an appetizer or a side dish. The zucchini flowers are edible and are often stuffed and fried as an appetizer.
Zucchini can be planted after the last threat of frost is over. Zucchini like well-manured, moist soil and can even grow on a compost heap (from personal experience)! Create a mound of soil and plant 4-6 seeds around the mound so the plants will grow next to one another. This will encourage pollination by bees, who can easily fly from one flower to the next.
Zucchini plants come in male and female varieties, although they look identical and have almost identical flowers. However, only the female plant will produce a zucchini, which grows from the base of the female flower itself. Male flowers will grow on a long, slender stalk. When the pollen is transferred from the male to the female flower, the zucchini at the base of the female flower will enlarge as the flower slowly becomes smaller and finally dies off. Some gardeners transfer the pollen from the male to the female flower on the tip of a Q-tip, hoping to ensure a large crop of zucchini fruit, but usually this is not necessary if enough seeds are planted.
For the most flavorful zucchini, harvest when 5-6″ long by cutting them off at the stem. Refrigerate with the short stem intact until ready to use. Be careful to check daily, or a giant zucchini may appear unexpectedly in the garden and most of the flesh will be replaced by seeds! Frequent harvesting will also encourage more female flowers to emerge and in turn this will produce more fruit.
Zucchini leaves are susceptible to fungus, and may turn brownish, but the plant should continue to produce fruit. Slugs and other insects may bore into the stem and cause the leaves to wilt and die. Sprinkling crushed egg shells on the soil may discourage slugs, who don’t like to slide over the shells. Planting zucchini in a different location each year will help to avoid the spread of these diseases to your crop next year.
To cook zucchini, simply cut off the stem and the opposite end and then cut the entire vegetable cross-wise into rounds or lengthwise into sticks or strips.
A famous long, thin, light green squash that is harvested in the summer from southern Italy and Sicily is known as “cucuzza.”Cucuzza (pronounced “goo-gooz” in Sicilian dialect) typically grows from 1 to 3 feet. Unlike a true summer squash, the skin from this squash must be peeled before cooking. There is a well-known Sicilian proverb that states, “Cucinala come vuoi, sempre cucuzza è!” meaning, “However you cook it, it’s still just squash!”
Cucuzza is also used as an endearing term for a young girl in a 1950’s Italian novelty song sung by Louis Prima called, “My Cucuzza.” He sings about the vegetable, “Cucuza grows in Italy down on the farm. It’s something like zucchini flavored with Italian charm… I call my girl cucuzza because she’s as sweet as can be.” To hear the song sung by Louis Prima in it’s entirety, click this My Cucuzza link.
Zucchini with Tomatoes and Oregano
Watch the method in time elapse photography as I cook this dish on my Instagram channel by clicking here:
Ciao a tutti! Once again, here is a blog with unique travel tips that I would like to share.
About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”
The post for June 2019 was written by Orna O’Reilly, in her blog “Travelling Italy.” O’Reilly is a former interior designer from Ireland, who also worked for many years in South Africa and Mozambique. Now living in Puglia in the south of Italy, Orna is writing full time and her award winning blog covers all things Italian. Orna regularly writes for popular Italy Magazine and for glossy Irish magazine Anthology. Word on the street is that Orna will have a new novel out soon, set in modern day Venice and Dublin… Hope to be able to share more about this novel soon!
Orna writes this about Matera:
Dating back over 7000 years, the Sassi are said to be the oldest human habitation in Italy. After the inhabitants were rehoused in the 1950s, many of the caves were restored and, since the 1980s, many of them are now used as hotels, restaurants and homes for those original Sassi dwellers who wished to return.
Having an ancient biblical appearance, in most people’s imagination, over the years Matera has been the setting for at least twenty major movies. These include the obvious candidates, Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew’, though other less likely movies have been filmed there, such as last year’s ‘Wonder Woman.’
In the blog to follow, Orna tells us in detail not only about the history of Matera, but what it is like to visit the city today. After reading her blog, I felt like visiting myself, and hope to do so one day soon. All of the highlights of the town are mentioned, with beautiful photos so that one feels they are actually waking down the city streets of Matera with a friend. And, of course, it is important to read to the end of the blog to come to the recommendations for hotels and dining!
Four hundred metres above sea level, among the rolling hills of Basilicata in southern Italy, lies the haunting city of Matera.
It is bisected by a deep ravine through which the River Gravina flows.
The sides of this deep gorge are studded by ancient cave dwellings known as Sassi, where families lived from Palaeolithic times, right up to the 1950s when the inhabitants were rehoused by the Italian government with the aid of UNESCO.
In 1993, the Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was on the basis that it is the ‘most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem.’ The UNESCO website goes on to say that the ‘first inhabited zone dates from the Palaeolithic, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history.’
Ciao a tutti! Summer to the Italian-Americans I know means a garden of herbs and vegetables —of fragrant basil, parsley and pungent tomatoes allowed to ripen in the sun—at the very least!
This summer, I’ve had to start a new garden from scratch now that I have moved to the Chicago suburbs from Peoria. So I thought I would take a few photos and share some of what I’ve come to know about gardening with this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.”
For as long as I can remember, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America. My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York. As a small child, I knew that my fondest memories of summer would begin as I opened the large, decorative, black iron gate to enter what to me was a miraculous place – my grandparent’s a two story attached brick building that had my grandfather’s grape vines growing happily along the only free side. Out back, there was a small cement landing where the family gathered amid large decorative clay pots of herbs, with a pergola for the ripened grapes to hang from and provide shade, of course!
The rest of my grandfather’s yard was dedicated to all kinds of vegetables, perfectly staked in neat rows so that no space was lost on his small plot of land. I loved picking the fragrant basil, perfectly red, vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh, soft purple figs to take home. Yes, my grandfather even managed to keep fig trees alive during the cold NYC winters by bundling the branches up a pail and covering them with blankets, just so we could enjoy baskets of fresh figs for the summer. And enjoy them we did!
Basil is an annual plant whose leaves are valued for their use in flavoring Italian tomato sauces and in appetizers with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.
Two of the most famous Italian appetizers are Capresi Salad, from the island of Capri (tomato, mozzarella, basil) and Panzanella Salad (bread, tomato, basil). Fresh basil from the region of Liguria (nearby Genoa) is ground slowly with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese with a marble mortar and pestle to make the famous Pesto Genovese. To read more about this basil sauce, click on my blog Pesto Genovese Meets American Aquaponic Farming in Chicago
There are many types of basil that can be found growing in Italy and other countries. Italian flat leaf “sweet” basil is most often used in Italian cooking, and the basil from Liguria is said to be the most aromatic and have the most complex flavor.
Basil must be grown from seed each year. Do not sow outdoors, as basil plants are very sensitive to frost. Sow indoors and plant outdoors only when the last threat of frost is over for your region. Basil grows well in containers, but will need bright sunshine, at least in the morning, and almost daily watering; if exposed to sunlight all day, the leaves may wilt, but additional water the plant will quickly recover.
When small, white flowers appears in mid to late summer, pinch back the stem, removing all the flowers, and harvest of the leaves can continue. Otherwise, the plant will go to seed and die.
If a basil stem with a few leaves is cut from the plant and placed in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill, roots will soon develop. When a good root ball has formed, the basil stem can be planted in a small pot of soil and will develop into a larger plant. This is a good way to keep fresh basil available during the winter months.
To harvest basil, pinch off several leaves or pinch off the stem from the top of the plant. Wash the leaves, pat dry, and shred by hand to add to tomato sauces or salads. Southern Italians love the cool flavor of fresh basil, and will top a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce with freshly torn basil as summertime treat.
To dry basil, harvest the entire plant and either hand upside down from the stem or place in a paper bag. When the leaves have dried, they can be removed. Store leaves whole for best flavor, or crumble. Place in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see the method for the easy-to-make and delicious Caprese salad, which is said to originate from the island of Capri. The ingredients are the key to this “salad”: fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, soft buffalo mozzarella (from the water buffalo raised in the countryside near Capri, in the Campagna region) and fresh basil leaves. A touch of sea-salt to bring the juices out of the tomatoes that provide the acid for the “vinaigrette” and a drizzle of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil makes an exquisite summertime treat!
Parsley is a biennial plant whose leaves are valued for their use in flavoring sauces, stews, and salads. Finely chopped parsley is also used in combination with basil and lemon zest in the south of Italy, and is called “gremolata,” which is used in sauces and to top meat dishes. Italian flat leaf parsley is used for cooing; curly leaf parsley is used as a garnish.
Parsley is a hardy plant that will survive into the winter months. If planted in the spring, the plant will grow through the summer and even into the fall and winter, when the temperature falls. Since parsley is a biennial, it will bloom again the next spring, but the second year it will go to seed and die at the end of the season. Replant the third year and the cycle starts again! Parsley needs frequent watering. Pinch off flowers if the plant starts to go to seed too early in the summer.
To harvest parsley, cut the stem with kitchen scissors. Save the fresh stems to bundle with kitchen twine and put in sauces and stews for flavoring. The stems can be saved in the refrigerator for a week, frozen, or dried.
Remove the leaves from the stem by running the side of a large knife along the stem. Then lay the leaves out on a chopping board and chop coarsely with a large kitchen knife. Or, for finer chopped parsley bundle together before chopping.
To dry parsley, harvest the entire plant, bundle the stems together, and hand upside down. Or place in a paper bag. When the leaves have dried, they can be removed, crumbled, and stored in an air-tight container.
Summer Squash with Parsley
Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see the method for this easy-to-make side dish that combines fresh parsley with zucchini and yellow summer squash. A quick saute in a bit of olive oil and the addition of finely chopped fresh parsley and garlic at the end (called a persillade in French cooking) makes a colorful and delectable side dish for any summertime meal.
Fathers Day saying from Dante? Why? Well, I have to confess that the famous Italian poet of old, so famous that we all have come to know him by just one name – Dante – has crept unexpectedly into my life.
I have recently been reading Dianne Hales book La Bella Lingua, a little bit each night. The subtitle to this book is, “My love affair with Italian, the world’s most enchanting language,” and I would encourage every serious student of Italian to read this book to discover just how the Italian language we love so much came about.
In this book, we relive the “story” of the adoption of Italian by Italians as told through Dianne’s experiences in Italy; she discovers the facts of history, bit by bit, directly from scholars she interviews as well as from the families that she meets every day during the many months of the year she spends in Italy.
The third chapter is dedicated to Dante, who was born into an educated family for Florence as Durante degli Alighieri in 1265. At the beginning of Dante’s life, Latin was the language of scholars. Diane explains Dante’s genius as a poet in the Italian language that had been developing for hundreds of years before his time. Dante’s three volume Commedia(The Divine Comedy) was the longest serious work written in Italian up to that point, and earned him the title “Father of Italian.” The Renaissance developed in Florence as Dante was writing this book in the early 1300’s. Italians still study Dante in school today; his rhyming story-line of one man’s journey from hell to paradise, and the different characters he meets along the way, still permeate the culture in many ways.
After I discovered Dante’s history and place in Italian life, I decided I had to learn more. So, I went to an Italian website, and found several of Dante’s most famous phrases. I’ve reprinted his verse that includes a phrase about true love for everyone to enjoy this Fathers Day.
When I first read this verse written so long ago, it made me think of the type of love that can be shared by families even today. The type of love that parents show their children to let them know that they believe in them. The type of love that my father showered on his two daughters when he was alive, and for which I will always be grateful.
Do Dante’s words remind you of a loved one?
Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you! Happy American Fathers Day!
L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle:
«Alla mia grande capacità di immaginazione mancarono le forze;
ma Dio, l’amore che fa muovere il sole e le altre stelle,
faceva già girare il mio desiderio e la mia volontà,
come una ruota che gira con moto uniforme».
The love that moves the sun and other stars is verse 145 of the XXXIII canto Paradise of Dante Alighieri and the conclusion of the entire Comedy . Paraphrase:
This verse at the conclusion of the work is dedicated to God, and today used to refer not only to the greatness of divine love, but also to the love that all of humanity is capable of.
If you would like to read more famous phrases by Dante, here is the link: