Un Minuto Con

Catherine de Medici
1519 – 1589

caterinaIn 1533 when Catherine de Medici was 14 years old, she married King Henry II and moved to France. The though of leaving her beloved sophisticated Florence and moving to unrefined France gave her chills.  She, therefore, brought with her several cooking paraphernalia, the “fork” in particular, as well as several master Florentine cooks to keep l’arte della cucina alive in the French Royal Palaces.

Food never before seen in France was soon being prepared using utensils instead of just fingers, spoons and daggers. She introduced the French to spinach, aspics, sweetbreads, artichoke hearts, truffles, liver crepinettes, quenelles of poultry, macaroons, ice cream and zabaglione just to name a few things.

In later years, she gained considerable politcal influence and was considered the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe.

The Florentine cooks stayed with her for many years and they trained les garcons de cuisine to become great cooks. In due time, a new art form was created and prospered.

Credit must be given to our French cousins for taking this cultural import and elevating it to an art-form that we now call  “Haute Cuisine

Next time you visit a French restaurant say Mille Mercis to Caterina de Medici.

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Roman Fun Facts for the Week

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

 

“A Roman Nose”

In Ancient Rome it was considered a sign of leadership if you had a Roman Nosecrooked nose, as a crooked nose obviously meant that it had been broken at some point. Most noses were broken in battles, thus it was the sign of a warrior.

Roman fountain“Il Nasone”

Today, Rome still honors the image of a crooked nose in all of its water fountains throughout the city, which have a crooked faucet.  The Romans refer to these fountains as “il nasone.”

 

Copycat Cities

Did you know there is a city called “Rome” on every continent? There are 13 cities and 4 townships called Rome in the USA alone.  But when you sing “Arrivederci Roma” you only think of the original:  “Roma non far la stupida stasera…”

Let’s make a Toast!

A toast, meaning a proposal of health, originated in Rome, where an actual bit of spiced, burnt bread was dropped into wine to improve the drink’s flavor and absorb its sediments, thus making it healthier.

make a toast

 



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 Statue of Freedom atop of the US Capitol building

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

The 19.5 feet tall statue, weighing 15,000 pounds, was created in Rome and the ship that brought it to America ran into a storm so severe that most of the cargo had to be tossed overboard.

Statue of Freedom

Before the ship reached the US, it was condemned and sold in Bermuda, where the statue was put in storage.  Two years later it finally reached Washington, but because of the Civil War, the dome of the US capitol could not be finished and the statue was not hoisted to its proper position for another two years.

 

Roma Crea la Fede e coloro fuori Roma ci Credono

Even though the Renaissance flourished in Rome, not a single Renaissance artist, sculptor, musician of any stature was born there. During the 15th and 16th centuries, practically all talented artists were summoned to Rome, mostly by the Popes, and when their projects were completed they almost always left.  Maybe if the Popes paid better wages and on time, many would have stayed on. Chi sa?

 



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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All Men are Created Equal

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

July 4, 2015 we celebrate the 239th Independence day of our great nation and that “All men are created equal.”

A tribute to Filippo Mazzei and Thomas Jefferson.

In 1773, spurred by his curiosity and interests, Philip Mazzei, a winemaker from Tuscany, set sail for Virginia to promote the cultivation of wine grapes, olives, and other Mediterranean fruits to the colonies.

Philip planted some of the first European vines at Colle, the property Mazzei had purchased for himself near Jefferson’s Monticello’s estate. But Mazzei’s interests did not end with viticultural work, his interest spanned the entire cultural spectrum and he believed that all men were free to dream and become masters of the universe.

Indeed, he found a good friend in Jefferson and the two renaissance men became good friends. Jefferson was fond of Italy and named his residence Monticello to honor Andrea Palladio architectural style.

Mazzei believed that “Tutti gli uomini sono ugualmente liberi e indipendenti” and Jefferson admired his philosophical belief that influenced him to include in the “Declaration of Independence” the phrase “all men are created equal.”  Mazzei went on to create a winery named “Philip.”

On July 4th, remember to toast Mazzei and Jefferson and celebrate that “Tutti gli uomini sono ugualmente liberi e indipendenti.”

All Men 1

What also happened on July 4, 1776? King George III of England noted in his diary: “Nothing of importance happened today.”

Boy! Was he out of touch.

 


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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La Pietà

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

Pieta 2On April 4th 1964, the SS Cristoforo Colombo ocean liner carried the Pietà from the Vatican to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows.  The Pietà was put in a crate that was filled with plastic foam, which was lowered onto a rubber base in the first class pool where the least damage was likely to happen to it.

During the actual loading, the SS Cristoforo Colombo Pieta 1had been put in dry dock so that she would not move and jeopardize the crate and its content. Only easily removable snap hooks secured the crate so that it could be released easily in case of accident.

The thousands of persons visiting the Vatican Pavilion got a chance to see Michelangelo’s greatest artwork.  Not too many Americans took European Vacations in those days hence bringing the Pietà to New York, thanks to Cardinal Spellman, was truly a brilliant idea.

Pieta 3On November 3, 1965, I was on the first class deck of the Cristoforo Colombo and I watched the Pietà being reloaded for its return trip to Italy. Hardly anyone was around.

One thought came to my mind that in 1964-1965 the Italian Line had four ships in its fleet serving Italy; they were the Michelangelo, the Raffaello, the Leonardo Da Vinci and Cristoforo Colombo.

It would have meant a lot to Michelangelo Buonarroti  (1475 – 1564) if the Pietà would have been transported on the SS Michelangelo named in his honor.

 



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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Pawnbroker

Nice to Know

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

Pawnbrokers

The traditional symbol of the pawnbroker three golden balls (photo above)  is derived from the Medici family coat-of-arms, who ruled Florence in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The symbol was spread by the Lombards, Italian bankers, Goldsmiths and money lenders who set up business in medieval London.

“La Cipolla” The Onion

A must in all Italian kitchens was named after the Latin word “Unio” meaning a large pearl.

la cipolla

Il Calendario Gregoriano

Thanks to Pope Gregory XIII tweaking the Julian calendar and realigning the earth with the heavens, a new calendar was derived. England and the American colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar. On Sept 14th. 1752.

Miraculously the Pope made 11 days disappear. Therefore, if you went to bed on Thursday, October 4th 1582, when you woke up the next day it was Monday October 15. 1582.

I believe all the folks were mesmerized by listening to the Gregorian Chants throughout the lost 11 days.



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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Un Minuto con…

shutterstock_160386785

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

At Versailles, during the reign of Louis XIV, it was considered gauche to knock on a door with your knuckles. Instead one scratched the door with the little finger of the left hand, and for this purpose courtiers let that particular nail grow long.

Fast forward to the end of the 19th Century in Southern Italy, as well as in other parts of the world, you will find distinguished men with long pinky fingernails.  Certainly, this tradition was not to copy the French aristocratic style, but it ushered in a new status symbol.

By the 1900’s, 80% of Italy’s population was engaged in agriculture and hence working in the fields was a common undertaking.  By growing a long fingernail, men were able to convey to his fellow citizens that he had arrived and he no longer toiled the land. This minor move up the social scale was very important and needed to be communicated to the world. Certainly with a manicured fingernail one could not possibly be a peasant.

This custom was short lived as Italy shifted from an agrarian to an industrial economy but will it reappear again in the future? As we enter the digital age and electronic gadgets are available to the masses, you are just a click away to explore the entire universe.

A little tap on your iPad, iPhone, or iWatch will display apps or a small keyboard to access everything you want to know. Unfortunately, keyboard and app displays are getting smaller and smaller with every new digital toy that comes out.

I would not be surprised if one day we will revert to having a long and pointed fingernail to be able to accurately aim at the function just like having a Stylus pen.

However, I’m a bit concerned whether SIRI on my iPhone will eliminate the keyboard and apps altogether in the future!


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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Un Minuto con…

 sardines

Packed like Sardines

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

Last week, I was forced to take a subway in New York City to avoid getting stuck in traffic and reach my destination on time . As the train approached the station, a fellow commuter said out loud .. “ Boy! the cars are packed like sardines”.

Wait a minute I said! Let’s give credit to the Italians for this nomenclature.

Sardines are known as Herring or Pilchards and are quite abundant in the Mediterranean and the Sardinians made good use of them by packing them tightly in cans to preserve as a great source of food with lots of protein, vitamins, phosphorous, Omega 3 fats, calcium, iodine and more.

The canning process for Herring or Pilchards was developed in Sardinia hence the canned goods were called Sardines and Napoleon Bonaparte helped popularize them.  Napoleon made good use of canned Sardines especially when he was planning to feed his army during his difficult Russian campaign.

Sardines are a super food now and “La Scolatura”  from the pressed sardines are a great source of Omega 3, which is a  panacea for good health.

However, Next time you are packed in like a Sardine in a subway car remember that there is no health benefit whatsoever when riding like one…you need to eat them quite often.


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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Festa della Repubblica

Photo Source: Italy Magazine

Photo Source: Italy Magazine

By Bella Vagnoni, NIAF Intern

In Italy, June 2nd  is Festa della Repubblica, a national holiday that commemorates the end of the monarchy. The history of the holiday dates back to 1946, when Italians voted to abolish the monarchy and adopt a republic form of government in its place. This vote came in the wake of World War II and the end of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist rule. Italians were more than ready for a change.

Festa della Repubblica, meaning Festival of the Republic, is a day full of celebration. While local, smaller parades take place all over Italy, the annual parade in Rome always draws the biggest crowd. Members of the Italian military, proudly waving Italian flags, march down the streets of Rome.

Photo Source: Style Italy

Photo Source: Style Italy

Additionally, the Frecce Tricolori flies over Rome and leaves behind a beautiful display of green, white, and red, as if the Italian flag is painted in the sky. One of the most revered traditions is the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Altare della Patria. The President, Prime Minister, and other state officials attend the ceremony in Rome. There is music, dancing, and of course—food!

Much like the American celebration of the Fourth of July, Festa della Repubblica is a national holiday. The government is closed, as are schools and most other local establishments. Internationally, Italian embassies and communities alike celebrate Festa della Repubblica. For example, in Chicago’s Little Italy there is a parade and wreath-laying ceremony to honor the republic that is still thriving in Italy today.


Bella Vagnoni is a sophomore at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she studies political science and plays on the women’s basketball team. 

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Un Minuto con…

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

giannini

Fun Facts

The Bank of Italy was founded in San Francisco, California, USA, in 1904 by Amadeo Giannini. It grew by a branch banking strategy to become the Bank of America and Italy and then on to Bank of America.

Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula.

The term, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” is from Ancient Rome.  The only rule during the wrestling matches was, “No eye gouging”, everything else was permitted.

La Luna di Miele” was a tradition that started 4,000 years ago in Babylon. For a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink.  (Mead was a drink made from honey and beer to assure conception).  Back in those days the calendar was lunar based, hence honeymoon.

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Giuseppe Verdi wrote the opera Aida at the request of the Khedive of Egypt to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869.

Rome was the first city to reach a population of 1 million in 133BC. London matched this target in 1810, and New York City reached the 1 million mark in 1875.

Berengaria, Queen of England (1191 to 1199) and wife of Richard the Lionhearted, never set foot in England. She lived in Italy most of her life while her husband was off on adventures and crusades.

festival-red_carpet

The Cannes film Festival was conceived by two French Journalist while they were traveling by train to the Venice Film Festival.

In 1763, there were over 200 coffee shops in Venice, but not one was a Starbucks!

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