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A Big Cover-up

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

Over 47 Million tourists visit Italy every year. People flock to Italy to appreciate its history, poetry, music, lifestyle and art. They particularly appreciate the magnificent artworks in museums, churches, private collections and all statues seen in every piazza and public space all over the peninsula.

Over 10% of the Italian GDP comes from tourism.  The paintings, statues and monuments beckon individuals from all over the world to visit Italy.  Art is a reflection of who the Italians are.

70% of the world’s art treasures are found in Italy and Rome enjoys a lion’s share. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Bernini and all the talented artists have created masterpieces that keep on giving enjoyment and pleasure to the world and will continue do so for many years to come.

Statue of David

But for one day last week, to safeguard a business deal with Iran worth over $18 billion, an unidentified official decided to cover up ancient nude sculptures during the visit to Rome by Hassan Rouhani, fearing that the President might be offended by the nudity of our great patrimony.

To safeguard the interest of a business deal, a message was sent to the world that Italy was more interested in securing a deal than defending their glorious artistic history. Art is for everyone and the Italians must preserve it for the world and nothing must come in between.

Siamo tutti orgogliosi del nostro patrimonio nazionale – We are all proud of our national heritage. Difendiamolo! – Let’s defend it!


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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The Festival of Candelora

By Patrick O’Boyle, Esq.

A Pasca Epifania “tutt’e ffeste vanno via”. Risponne ‘a Cannelora : “No, ce stongo io ancora” – (Easter said to Epiphany, “Now all the holidays are gone,” and Candlemas spoke up and said, “I’m still here!”) – Old Neapolitan saying.

candles

In Italy, February 2nd is traditionally the feast of Candelora, a day which received its name since preceding Mass on this former holy day of obligation, there is the traditional blessing and procession of beeswax candles for the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day which celebrates the Presentation of Christ in the Temple forty days after Christmas.

The special blessing of candles on this day was the cause of the feast being named Candlemas in Medieval England, the name by which this special day is known in the Anglophonic world. For centuries it was considered the final day of the Christmas Season.

In some parts of Europe, Candlemas remains a public holiday with schools, offices and businesses closed. Many Candlemas traditions such as crepes in France, special cakes in Italy and the forecasting of winter’s end in Germany continue to this day. Candlemas is the origin of the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition known as Groundhog’s Day.

In the region of Campania, in Naples and on the Sorrento Peninsula, where once the streets were ablaze in candlelight on this feast day, its gastronomic roots survive in a sweet dessert called migliaccio. Migliaccio is a type of pudding made with semolina flour, eggs, milk and butter in the towns of the Sorrento peninsula, baked in the oven and served dusted with powdered sugar.

migliaccio

In Naples, the same recipe is used with the addition of ricotta which in this variety makes migliaccio much like the filling of the world famous sfogliatelle. Besides being known as a dessert for Candelora, migliaccio, called in Neapolitan, “Mugliaccio,” was an opportunity to use up the dairy and eggs that would soon become prohibited during Lent which always follow Candelora, hence the dessert became known as a dish typical in a way of Carnevale.

Just like the Germanic custom of the Ground Hog, Neapolitans as well think of the day of Candelora as a harbinger of spring. Cannelora , ‘state dinto, vierno fora – (On Candlemas the summer comes in and the winter goes out”).

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Lost in Translation

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

When traveling abroad always keep in mind that the locals do their utmost to communicate with the visitors. However, at times their literal translations distort the intended meaning. Here are some signs translated into English:

  • “Please use escalator on your behind.”
  • “Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.”
  • “Open seven days a week, and weekends too.”
  • “This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact, crowds from allover the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.”

Hotel

  • “In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.”
  • “The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.”
  • In a Rome laundromat: “Ladies, please leave your clothes here and spend the rest of the afternoon having a good time.”
  • “Do not run on the stairs – use handrail”
  • In a department store: “Dresses for street walking”
  • “Our stockings cost more but they are much better on the long run.”
  • At a hotel reception desk: “Please leave your values at the front desk.”

Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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A moment in history…

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Italian economy was booming with a growth rate of around 6.2% per year.  Today, many look back and wish they could enjoy such a strong economy again. This rapid growth was sustained by ambitious Italian businessmen opening up new industries in hydrocarbons, manufacturing, reconstruction and modernization of many Italian cities such as Milan, Turin and Rome. The Marshall Plan was also very effective in jump-starting this amazing post-war economic growth for Italy.

Big Italian cities attracted many workers from villages throughout Italy and by the mid 60’s the small towns became even smaller. Despite the loss of inhabitants, small towns also benefited from the economic boom as well.

The mayor touched by the story kept a donkey’s trail intact for a few years until the donkey passed away and a short time after the old man passed-on too. It was an end of an era.

In 1957, FIAT launched “La Nuova 500” and later the 500 Giardiniera and the Vespa Company introduced the APE along with new motorized farming machines.  Now the contadini, were mobilized and could reach their campagne on the outskirts of the villages much faster.  They became more productive and enjoyed a new prosperity.

Many villages were able to secure funds from the government to rebuild their infrastructures which brought new life to small and remote areas.  Unfortunately, some older folks did not accept all the changes and modernity and wanted to hold on to their traditions by using their mules and donkeys to aid them with their farming chores. By 70’s only a few donkeys remained.

donkey

A die-hard old man decided to complain to city hall that the modernization of the town made it difficult for him to lead his donkey through the town, especially that the old, hilly passages were laid with smooth and slippery pavers. He wanted the town mayor to preserve certain trails to accommodate the needs of the folks who still kept to their old ways. The mayor replied sarcastically by saying that he was probably the last individual defending a dumb animal like a donkey and it was time to change.

The offended farmer replied. “How dare you refer to my donkey as a dumb animal! You should be aware that when I served in the Italian army during the 1935 Ethiopian Campaign, our military engineers had to build roads in the colonies but had no time to do any surveys needed to build proper structures.  Consequently, the engineers relied on the donkey’s trails to build the roads in a timely fashion.  You see, donkeys always take the road of least resistance when climbing up hills. By relying on the donkey’s natural instincts the engineers built great roads in Africa from the donkeys trails and gained valuable time.”

 


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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Italian Proverbs for the New Year

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

Italian parents and grandparents were always there to guide us. Inevitably they always summed up their philosophy of life with a good Italian proverb.  Here are the top Italian proverbs to guide your through 2016 and start your new year off right:

“A ogni uccello il suo nido è bello”  – There’s no place like home

“La filosofia è quella con la quale or senza la quale la vita segue tale è quale”. – No matter what others believe in, live your life your way.

Water under bridge

“Acqua passata non macina più.” – It’s water under the bridge.

“O sta minestra, o sta finestra.” – Take it or leave it.

“La gatta frettolosa fa i gattini ciechi.” – Haste makes waste.Cat

“Far d’una mosca un elefante.” – Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

“A chi dai il ditto si prende anche il braccio” – Give them a finger and they’ll take an arm.

“L’abito non fa il monaco” – The habit doesn’t make the monk.

“Al bisogno si conosce l’amico.” – A friend in need is a friend indeed.

“Batti il ferro quando è caldo.” – Strike the iron when it’s hot.

Strike Iron

“Cane che abbaia non morde.” – Barking dogs seldom bite.

“Chi cerca trova” – Seek and he shall find.

“Chi fa da se fa per tre.” – If you want to do it right, do it yourself.

“Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro.” – Finding a friend is like finding a treasure.

“Padrone sono io, ma chi comanda è mia moglie.” – I’m the boss but my wife is in charge.

 


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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“Big Cheese” or “Big Wheel”

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

Are you the “Big Cheese” or the “Big Wheel” among your business friends?

The Big cheese

The terms “Big Cheese” and “Big Wheel” come from the Medieval times and were terms of respect for those who could afford to purchase an entire wheel of cheese, rather than just a few grams at a time. Expense was an issue and only the wealthy and powerful of Italian Medieval society could show off by purchasing an entire wheel of cheese, as a status symbol.

It is no different today. A wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano weighs 80 lbs., 18 inches in diameter, 9 inches high and aged 24 moths. Want to buy the entire wheel? It could set you back $2,500.

As delectable as it is impressive, the show-stopping wheel of Parmigiano from Parma is sure to make a statement of prosperity at any gathering, including at your office party to show your staff who’s the boss.

The next time you feel the need to show off, skip the Gucci and the Prada. Cheese wheels are the new status symbols.


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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Christmas Trees in Italy

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

 

The world’s largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio TreeGubbio, in Italy ‘s Umbria region. Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire, the ‘tree’ is a modern marvel for an ancient city.

 

 

Murano-glass-christmas-treeVenice’s Murano Island renowned throughout the world for its quality glass-work is home to the tallest glass tree in the world. Sculpted by master glass blower Simone Cenedese, the artistic Christmas tree is a modern reflection of the holiday season.

The Vatican ‘s heavenly evergreen, St. Peter’s Square in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.

A Christmas Carol

How about the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol that has always baffled everyone. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? Here’s why!

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality the children could remember.

      -The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

      -Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

      -Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.-

     -Four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew,    

      Mark, Luke & John.

 -Five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five

      books of the Old Testament.

     -Six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

     -Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold   

      gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,

     Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

   -Eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

   -Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy     

    Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,

    Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

    -Ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

    -Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful   

     disciples.

   -Twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve

     points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

 

Now you know!



Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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Il Panettone 

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

As an Italian or Italian American, you can’t celebrate Christmas without sharing a Panettone with your family and friends. Whether you choose to eat it at the end of  “il Cenone di Natale,” with espresso o cappuccino in the morning, or simply having a slice with your favorite liqueur,  it puts you in the holiday spirit.  It is uniquely Italian and a tradition that is spreading throughout the whole world.

panettone

The Panettone was created in Milan at the time of Lodovico il Moro 1452 -1508, and it is still produced in the city by bakers and confectioners according to the traditional recipe.  One of the most popular legends of its origin is that a cook at the court had to prepare a sumptuous Christmas dinner to which many aristocrats were invited, but the cake, forgotten in the oven, burned.

On seeing the desperation of the cook, Toni, a young kitchen boy, proposed a solution: “With the leftovers in the pantry – a little flour, butter, egg, lime zest and some raisins – made this cake.  The cook told him, after seeing the cake, if we have nothing else you can bring it to the table.

The guests were all excited by the dessert and the Duke, who wanted to know the name of that delicacy, asked the chef, who revealed the secret:  This is “Pan di Toni”  (Tony’s bread) = Panettone.

Since then, many variations of the recipe were created but the original bread pastry with candied fruits and raisin is the only version that counts.

Buon Natale a tutti!



Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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“Il Presepe”

 By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

On December 8th we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Vatican ushered in the “Year of the Jubilee.”  For the Italians, it was the start of a joyous Christmas season.

The main focus for many Italians during this Presepe 4season is “il Presepe,” and many families dedicate hours to preparing the manger scene with figurines collected throughout the years, which bring a special and unique meaning of Christmas to each of them.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the first nativity scene in 1223. It was his attempt to place the emphasis of Christmas upon the worship of Christ rather than secular materialism of gift giving.  The scenes were live, usually by a cave, with a cast of people and animals from the area.  Over the years, as the traditions spread throughout the Christian world, the use of figurines replaced the live characters.

For many towns in Italy, it has become a livelihood preparing the figurines and each area
takes great pride and honor to do so. In the Avellino province the process of crafting the Presepe 1figurines is an all year round undertaking.  Three years ago, I was in the area and I enjoyed watching the craftsmen repairing and modeling new figurines to be sent all over Italy. It was July and I was experiencing the Christmas spirit in the summer time.

Over the years, the landscape of the “Sassi di Matera” has become a setting for many movies based on biblical stories, so a large scale “Presepe” would be in order. So Maestro Presepe 2
Francesco Artese, from Basilicata, designed a monumental set replicating the scenes of everyday life of the local and rural civilization that receives, in humility and simplicity, the Mystery of the Nativity.

 

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the unveiling this Nativity scene, as it was presented to Cardinal Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on December 7th. I encourage everyone coming to New York to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral to admire this wonderful masterpiece. While at it, take time to appreciate the wonderful restoration the cathedral has undergone.  Buone feste!

Presepe 3



Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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Did you know…

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

Ricotta cheese is not a cheese at all. It’s a creamy curd cooked twice. Ricotta literally Ricottatranslates to “re-cooked.” Similarly, the Italian biscotti are small pastries “cooked twice.”

Gelato has a much lower fat content than ice cream. It actually ranges from fat-free to 4%-6%, for the creamier flavors. Next time, when ordering gelato, don’t settle for just one scoop – It’s ok to splurge a little.

Prosciutto was banned for export to the U.S. until 1989. Mortadella and Speck were outlawed until 2000. Other meats, including cotechino, zampone and culatello are still banned today.

There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide. I’m sure next year someone will invent another shape!

Many of Shakespeare’s plays were set in Italy, including Romeo and Juliet from Verona,
The Merchant of Venice
and a few more.

Carabinieri
The Italian Carabinieri (police) uniforms are designed by Valentino. Someday, I would like to see our police officers wearing uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren!

 

The largest white truffle weighing over 3 pounds was unearthed near Pisa, Italy.  I’m wondering if the dog or pig that unearthed it got a reward.

The oldest olive tree in Umbria, Italy is reportedly to be
over 1,700 years old.  In Italy, an old, live tree on the property will increase the value of the house since the tree brings good luck.

The “Grammy Awards,” which started in 1959, awarded two great Italians: Domenico Modugno’s Volare for the record of the year, and Henry Mancini for the best Album of the Year.

And finally, my best Neapolitan expressions…

“Arricuord semp… Nisciun fa nient pe’ senza nient” – Loosely translated: “ There is no free lunch”

“ ‘cca nisciun e’ fess”  –  “No one is a fool here”



Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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