Your Italian Travel Tips – It’s Ferragosto! Let’s Party Like the Romans

Ferragosto on the beach from "Take Me Home Italy" blog
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

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.

Maryiln writes:

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.

Click on this link to read the full blog: It’s Ferragosto! Let’s Party Like the Romans

 

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Wine: In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo by Tom Maresca

How the Italians were able to win over the US market for high quality wine. Fascinating article.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo

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.

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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…

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Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Oregano (Origano) and Zucchini (Zucchina)

Italian-American Gardening tips - herb oregano
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! This week I will share about how to grow the herb oregano and 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,  and watch me it in action as I cook the dish by clicking the Instagram link if you want!

Check out my Insatgram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing oregano and zucchini.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about gardening!  

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Herb Oregano – Origano

 

Italian-American Gardening tips - herb oregano
Oregano – just getting started growing in my garden

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.

 

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 Italian Summer Squash – Zucchina e Cucuzza

Zucchina is one zucchini in Italian
Two zucchini plants growing side by side in the garden.

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.

Male zucchini plant
Male zucchini flower on a long stalk from my garden

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.

 

Cucuzza 

Image from www.specialtyproduce.com

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 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.

 

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Zucchini with Tomatoes and Oregano

Stewed zucchini, tomatoes and oregano
Stewed zucchini and tomatoes with fresh oregano and a slice of crusty Italian bread.

Watch the method in time elapse photography as I cook this dish on my Instagram channel by clicking here:

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That’s Italian! Zucchini and with tomatoes and fresh oregano (origano) from your garden – an easy-to-make and delicious vegetable side dish for summer. Even your kids will love this! Just sauté onions (don’t let brown) and zucchini with a pinch of salt a little olive oil. Add tomatoes, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Delizioso! Delicious! #osnap #chicagogarden #chicagogardener #chicagoland #italyinamerica #italiangardens #italiangardenstyle #oregano #oreganoplant #summersquash ##origano🍃 #origanofresco🌿 #origanofresco #zucchinirecipes #zucchinis #zucchina #zucchiniplant #summersquash #howtocook #howtocookzucchini #italianfood @italynearme #howtocookvegetables #howtocookvegetablestew

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Ingredients: 

olive oil, 1 onion, 3 medium-size Zucchini, 6 plum tomatoes, fresh oregano, salt

Method: 

  1. Coarsely chop the onion, zucchini and tomatoes. (See the video for the method to chop these vegetables.)
  2. Pour olive oil into a large frying pan with high sides or a pot large enough to accommodate all the vegetables, heat briefly, and then add the onions and a pinch of salt.
  3. When the onions have softened, and turned clear, add the zucchini. Cover and let zucchini cook on medium heat to soften, stirring occasionally. Do not let zucchini or onions brown.
  4. When zucchini ha softened, add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste with a few grinds of pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat. If needed, add a little water.
  5. When the tomatoes have softened, add the oregano and cook until the herb has softened.
  6. When all vegetables have softened, but are not mushy, they are done!  The finished vegetable dish should have a little bit of “juice” and can be served in a separate small bowl if wanted.
  7. Serve with Italian bread to “sop up” the juices.

Buon appetito!

 

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – Matera: European Capital of Culture 2019

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

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!

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Orna O'Reilly: Travelling Italy

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.’

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Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Basil (Basilico) and Parsley (Prezzemolo)

Basilico, Italian sweet basil from Italy
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

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!

Check out my Insatgram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing Basil and Parsley.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about growing or using these herbs!  

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Herb Basil – Basilico

 

Basilico Basil
Ornamental basil with leaves of different sizes and colors

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.

 

Basilico, Italian sweet basil from Italy
Italian “sweet” basil with a broad leaf for cooking

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.

 

Caprese Salad

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!

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Caprese Salad: Let’s use our fresh basil (basilico), heirloom tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil to make this flavorful salad from the Italian island of Capri. The secret is very ripe tomatoes and a little sea salt to allow the tomato juices to escape and blend with the olive oil. Buon appetito! #osnap #chicagogardening #chicagogardener #chicagogarden #italyinamerica #italiangardenstyle #basil #basilico #basilico🌱 #basilsalad #tomatoandbasil #tomatobasil #basilandtomato #basilandtomatoes #freshbasilandtomatoes #buffalomozzarella #buffalomozzarellacheese #buffalomozzarellasalad @chicagolanditalians @niafitalianamerican @sons_of_italy #freshsummersalad #freshsummertomoatoes #italianfood #italiangardens #italianfood

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Italian Herb Parsley – Prezzemolo

 

Prezzemolo Italian parsley
Italian flat leaf parsley growing in an Italian clay pot

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.

 

Prezzemolo Italian flat leaf parsley
Italian flat leaf parsley

 

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.

 

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Great summer squash dish using your garden fresh French persil, Italian prezzemolo or parsley! Make a persillade from Provence region of France and add to a vegetable saute. Your kids will love eating their vegetables! Method: Chop parsley and then garlic finely. Mix together and chop again. Saute yellow squash and zucchini in olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add persillade mixture. Violà! #chicagogardening #chicagogardener #chicagogarden #italyinamerica #italiangardenstyle #franceinamerica #franceinamerica🇫🇷🇺🇸 #osnap @niafitalianamerican @chicagolanditalians @sons_of_italy #herbgarden #herbs #herb #parsley #parsleypants #parsleyhealth #prezzemolo #prezzemoloevitale #persil #persillade #frenchcooking #frenchcookingathome #frenchcookingclass #frenchcountrycooking #cookingfresh #frenchprovincialcooking #cookingfrench #frenchherbs #italianherbs

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Catnip and gray cat
My cat Gracie protecting her favorite herb!

Fathers Day Saying from Dante – Father of the Italian Language

Dante Alighieri Duomo in Florence

Fathers Day Saying from Dante

Il 16 di Giugno

Buona Festa della Papà!

Happy Father’s Day!

Auguri! = Best Wishes

a tutti i padri, nonni, e bisnonni del mondo!

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

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!

I

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:

https://www.albanesi.it/frasi-celebri-modi-dire/frasi-di-dante.htm

Venice, Dad's favorite city
My father enjoying a gondola ride in Venice, his favorite Italian city, with me and my children in 2013.

Your Italian Travel Tips – Productive Relaxation, Italian Style in Panicale

Blogging in Italy Panicale in Umbria
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

For May 2019, I am featuring Judy and Len, a retired couple who now live part time in the town of Cortona in the Umbria region of Italy, and write the blog Blogging in Italy.

I was intrigued when I read Judy and Len’s latest blog to see that they had visited a town so small it is not easily found on the map and is definitely off the radar for most tourists. The town is called Panicale, and I had never heard of it before.  I found Panicale on my map of Italy by locating Florence in Tuscany and then heading steadily southward through the towns of  Arezzo and Cortona.  Finally, I crossed into the region of Umbria, where Lago Trasimeno (Lake Trasimeno) came into view. Along the southern fringe of the mountain range that borders Lago Trasimeno, I finally found the town of Panicale, which is the topic of their blog.

The blog “Productive Relaxation Italian Style” is a charming description of how the couple Judy and Len spent a typical day in Italy enjoying the people, food and scenery, and includes many photos of Panicale –  which, as it turns out, is a hidden gem of a town that has a history dating back to the Romans.  Included in the visuals is a beautiful ancient map of the town. Oh – and you will also find the secret of how to grow a hearty crop of your own zucchini this summer, as the couple are avid gardeners.  What better way to spend a part of your day Italian style – even if for now, it is only to read about it?

Judy and Len’s philosophy can be found in this excerpt from their blog “Productive Relaxation, Italian Style”:

In Italy, there is a sight commonly found in smaller towns – men sitting on benches, or standing in small groups, discussing everything from local politics to international sports events. Meanwhile, their wives are shopping, visiting, cooking, cleaning, etc.  What they all have in common is the phrase: Siamo in pensione, or, we are retired. 

We, too, take this retirement thing seriously. Take productive relaxation for example, not an oxymoron but instead an art.

To read the full blog, click on the title: Productive Relaxation Italian Style

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – Weird Italy Laws by Margie for Pesce d’Aprile

Margie Miklas blog Weird Italian Laws
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

For April 2019, I am featuring Margie Miklas, an author and travel blogger who writes the blog Margie in Italy.

When I first read a recent blog of Margie’s entitled “Weird Italian Laws,” I loved the insider’s perspective and touch of humor that she used to describe these unusual Italian laws.  It came to mind that many of these laws were surreal – almost too fantastic to be true!  And yet, they are all still a part of Italian law!

In short, I am posting a blog about unusual laws in Italy on April Fools Day, but this is no April Fool! By the way, Italians celebrate April Fools Day on April 1st, as we do here.  In Italy, the holiday is called, “Il Pesce d’Aprile,” which is a reference to the many jokes that people play on one another involving… fish. (Has anyone experienced this?  Leave a comment below if you have!) The origin of April Fools Day is unknown, but according to Wikipedia may have started with ancient Roman holidays called l’Hilaria or  l’Holi induista, both connected to the spring equinox.

Margie Miklas is also the author of several popular travel books that describe her experiences while traveling in Sicily and Italy.  I truly enjoyed reading her book, My Love Affair with Sicily prior to visiting Sicily for the first time myself.  If you’d like to learn more about her books, visit her Amazon author page.

In her own words, the author says about her books and her blog about Italy:

You’ll read about the good and bad in Italy but always with a special love for the Italian people. This isn’t your typical guide about what to see in Italy. It’s experiential, informative, and hopefully entertaining.

You’ll feel my  my passion and also my frustration at  times about how things are in the Bel Paese. You’ll see my photos, but they won’t be the same ones you’ve seen a hundred times on other sites or in guidebooks. I share a glimpse into the heartbeat of Italy and a sense of its people.

 

To read the full blog, click on the title: Weird Italy Laws

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Your Italian Travel Tips – Artworks You Don’t Want to Miss in Sicily

Sicily, City of Siracusa

 

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

For February 2019, I am featuring the blogger Rochelle Del Borrello, who lives in Sicily, and who writes the blog Sicily Inside and Out.

So many Italian-Americans are of Sicilian descent, as I am.  But many of us know very little of the treasures that can be found on a visit to Sicily – the largest island in the Mediterranean with a history of art, architecture and culture that dates back to antiquity, even before the island was conquered by the Romans. In particular, Sicily is known for the beautifully preserved ancient ruins in Agrigento, the ancient historical cities of Siracusa and Palermo, the natural wonders of Mount Etna and the Aeolian Islands, and dazzling Arab-Norman and Baroque  architecture, with no less than 7 sites in Sicily designated as World Heritage Sites.

This series of two blogs “Artwork You Don’t Want to Miss in Sicily” was published on the website for Italy Magazine, an online publication that features Italian travel, language and culture. The link to the articles in Rochelle’s blog will also introduce you to this Italian gem of a magazine. Thank you, Rochelle, for providing us with a guide to some of the richness that is truly Sicilian.

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Sicily Inside & Out

Remember to follow my advice on how to avoid Stendhal Syndrome on your next visit to Sicily:

The best way to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the beauty of art and history, especially in Sicily where art seems to grow ever more elaborate, is to space out your museum visits.
I have shared my own personal bucket list of artworks you don’t want to miss with Italy Magazine, who has published it on their webpage.

Click on the image below if you’d like to read my suggestions.
sicily art1
Part two in my series of artworks you simply must not miss on your next visit to Sicily has also been published.

Thanks to Italy Magazine for sharing my love of fine art.

Click on the image below if you’d like to read more suggestions.

sicily art 2
Sicily is a must visit place for art lovers, it is filled with priceless works…

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Your Italian Travel Tips – The Seven Secrets of Bologna – True or False?

La Brutta Figura photo of a canal in Bologna
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

For January 2019, I am featuring a blogger who lives in the Veneto region, who writes the blog La Brutta Figura (Unlocking Italy).

The author does not share her name with us in her blog, but I immediately took to her personable writing for its honesty and humor about what it is like for a Scottish expat to to live in Italy.  Plus, I love the name she chose for the blog, which translates into something like, “to make a bad impression” and has overtones of the strength and tenacity it took for her to adapt to the Italian way of life. This title is, of course, is the exact opposite of the well-known Italian saying that most Italians desperately strive to live by, which is “fare una bella figura.”

In her own words, the authors say about herself:

Initially this blog was a way of sharing my expat story, which naturally involved daily episodes of ‘la brutta figura’, but as I got to grips with participating in local traditions (mainly alcoholic as we are in the Veneto), began to travel the length and breadth of the boot, and learnt enough Italian to feel really at home in this mad country, I decided instead that I wanted to share these cultural experiences I have and non-touristy places I visit, that come from living in Italy, not just holidaying here… I am a travel writer with an incurable addiction to writing about Italy. It might be one of the easiest countries to be a writer in – Italians live like they’re in poetry, theatre, ballet. Us writers just need to record what we see. I contribute to several publications where I’ve written about a wine festival on Isola del Giglio, about surprising Italian inventions, abouthow to live la dolce vita, and about the so-called ‘most beautiful room in the world’.

I have never visited Bologna, although I’ve passed through on the train from one larger city to the next many times.  Each time, I vow to return and stay for at least a day or two to enjoy the unique architecture, visit Università di Bologna (founded in 1088 and the oldest continuously operating university in the world) and, of course, sample the rich Italian food with its generous use of butter and cream that has earned her the nickname “La Grassa” (literally “the fat one”) .

After reading this blog, I felt a bit closer to the spirit of the city of Bologna and I am even more intrigued about what I may find there when I finally do get a chance to visit.  I hope you are too!

To read the full blog, click on the title: The Seven Secrets of Bologna: True or False?

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.