Un Minuto con…

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

Gelato Italiano

Summer 2015 is almost over and by now you must have had your fair share of ice cream Roman Holidayfor the year. But wait! If you are visiting Sicily in September, you must attend “la Sagra del Sherbeth” in Cefalù – gelato and sherbet festival – to enjoy all the varieties of gelato found throughout Italy.

This is the area where modern-day gelato got its start. History tells us that the Arabs who invaded Sicily took advantage of the snow of Mount Etna and saved it in deep caves for use during the summertime.  The snow was then taken from the caves in July and August and flavored with juices from the many fruits found on the peninsula. They called this invention “Sharbat,” or “sherbet,” as we say in English.

By the 16th century, Bernardo Buontalenti, from Florence, delighted the court of Caterina de Medici with sherbet as a dessert that was modified to include new ingredients such as milk, nuts and other flavors. It was a big hit with the courts and, with the help of Sicilian-born Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, gelato had officially arrived north of Sicily and prospered.

GelatoCatherine de Medici was fascinated with Italian cuisine and promptly took the recipe to France, where her husband reigned.  Mr. Procopio was also invited to Paris, where he opened “le Café’ Procope”, on Rue de l’Ancienne.  The Café is still open today and is the oldest restaurant still operating in Paris today.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the art of traditional gelato-making was passed on from father to son, improved and perfected right up until the 20th century, when many gelato makers began to emigrate, taking their expertise to the rest of mainland Europe and the Americas.



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…

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

sulmona

The Italian “confetti” are almonds with a hard sugar coating and the town of Sulmona is its capital.  Confetti are traditionally given to friends and family during great occasions such as weddings (white confetti), birth (blue or pink confetti), baptisms, graduations and many other occasions in various other colors.  They are often eaten but are also used as decorations.

In Sulmona, the local shops are extremely creative and artistic as you can see in my recent photograph taken near Piazza Garibaldi. The arrangements and colors of the confetti are spectacular.

At weddings it is particularly important for Almondsfamily and friends to throw white confetti to the newlyweds.  In some cultures they throw rice but in Italy it is so much more appropriate and fashionable to throw confetti.

It is a symbol of good luck and it is said to represent good wishes, prosperity and above all fertility for the newlyweds.

The symbolism behind it all is that the almond represents a woman’s virginity and the white sugar coating is the protection and purity.

Often, friends and family shout out “prosperità,” and “felicità” when throwing them at weddings.



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…

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

Fast Facts: Quick snippets of Italian culture for your busy Tuesday

  • 842 years ago this week, on August 9, 1173, marked the first day of construction of the PisaLeaning Tower of Pisa. It was completed in 1370 after two building stoppages. In 1178, when the tower was three stories tall, construction was halted for some unknown reason. 96 years later, in 1272, construction resumed and 6 years later the tower had seven stories, a skyscraper for those days.
  • Italy and France produce 40% of all wine in the world.
  • Opera stars Luisa Tetrazzini and Nellie Melba are famous for more than singing – they are also known for foods that were named after them: Chicken Tetrazzini, Peach Melba and Melba Toast.
  • The parachute was invented 500 years ago (1515) by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • The city of Venice stands on 120 small islands. Many Jews lived in Venice in “Il Borghetto”.  The word Ghetto derives from this congregation.
  • coffeeeeBy 1763, there were over 200 coffee shops in Venice. Today the most famous one is the “Florian” in Piazza San Marco, which is worth the experience.
  • Italy’s annual consumption of coffee amounts to 10 pounds per person, while Scandinavia has the world’s highest consumption at 26 pounds. Nevertheless, the best espresso is served in Naples at the Gambrinus Bar.
  • There have been 266 Popes since Saint shutterstock_213549157Peter. The youngest of the popes was 18 years old (John Xll).  The first Pope, Peter, was born Jewish.
  • Enrico Caruso and Roy Robinson were the only two tenors in the 20th Century capable of hitting E over high C.
  • A painting of the Madonna in the Fiorano Castle, in the commune of Lodi in Lombardy, Italy, escaped without even being scorched when the invading soldiers set the castle on fire, yet the rest of the building was completely destroyed.
  • The Italian Renaissance painter Fra Lippo Lippi, while chaplain of the convent of Santa Margherita in Prato, ran off with Lucrezia Buti, one of the youngest and prettiest nuns.  She later bore Fra Lippo’s son, who also became a famous painter. Fra Lippo Lippi is famous for his images of the Madonna, and he used Lucrezia as his model.


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…

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

“Ferragosto”

Cruising from Venice to the Black Beach 2Sea in mid July few years ago, we docked at the port of Patras in Greece for a few hours.  Since the ship stopped only for refurbishments, most passengers decided to stay on board by the pool.  With our Italian friends we decided to go ashore only to find out that very few tourists were around.  We stopped by a café and had a long awaited espresso.   We were perplexed as to why the lack of business in July for this café owner in what I though was the peak of peak season.   Obviously, we asked what was happening.  Since he heard us speaking Italian he replied in Italian: “Stiamo aspettando che arrivano gli Italiani per il Ferragosto.”  Che fortuna!

In just a few words, the café owner waits a whole year to do a bustling business for few weeks in August thanks to the Italians going to Greece for their summer escape.

It seems that all of Italy stops to celebrate Ferragosto.

During Roman Times:

Ferragosto started during the Roman times around 18 BC under Emperor Augustus to celebrate “Feriae Augusti” the harvest at the end of a long period of intense agricultural labor and under a very hot summer sun.

During Fascism:

The popular tradition of taking a trip during Ferragosto arose under Mussolini regime.  In the latter part of the 1920’s, during the second half of August, the regime organized hundreds of popular trips through the Fascist leisure and recreational organizations of various corporations.  During this period of mass exodus from the cities, Mussolini increased train schedules and discounted the train fares for all. (By the way, the trains all ran on time!) This initiative gave opportunity to the less well-off social classes to reach the seaside and mountain resorts.

Post World War:

After World War II, the big manufacturing companies the likes of Fiat, Pirelli, and many others, were operating at full capacity thanks in part to the Italian Economic boom of the late 50’s and 60’s.  The dilemma for the industrialist was that, by allowing their employees to take vacations at various times, caused a severe slowdown of production in the summer months.  They welcomed Ferragosto and closed down the production lines for the entire vacation period of two weeks.  By shutting down the factories they saved money and had 100% efficiency when all the employees returned to the assembly lines in September.

Ferragosto Today:

Today the Italian economy is less dependent on manufacturing and shifting more towards the service industries and needs not to close down the shop for two weeks in August any longer.  I’m advocating for “Ferrestate” so that the Italian workforce will take their summer vacation at any time from June to September.

In so doing the tourism industry will benefit economically and my poor Greek Café owner friend in Patras will be busy for 4 full months each year instead of just two weeks.

 

Stay tuned – we should soon rethink “La Settimana Bianca”  

Beach 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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In Defense of Napoli

Last week, Business Insider published an article by reporter Sarah Schmalbruch in its Travel section, titled “Why no one wants to travel to Naples.” 

NIAF President and Chief Operating Officer John Viola wrote a letter in response to the article, which was sent to both Schmalbruch and Business Insider. You can read it below. 

NAPOLI 2

 

July 31, 2015

To Whom It May Concern:

This is an open letter to both Ms. Schmalbruch and the officials of Business Insider in response to the article of July 30, 2015, entitled “Why no one wants to travel to Naples.”

First and foremost, let me say no matter what city is being referenced, I think it is irresponsible for a journalistic institution to allow its writers to pontificate on the ills or the strengths of any place without actually stepping foot in it.  This sophomoric approach to journalism is everything that is wrong with today’s overabundance of amateur writers masquerading as real journalists.

NAPOLI 4Naples is a city that one simply must experience to understand and I’d be hard pressed to imagine TripAdvisor is producing the best judges of any place.  Naples is a city that has drawn visitors for centuries.  In the 1700s and 1800s, no well-educated human being received that appellate without having visited this gem on the Mediterranean.

Today, while Naples may certainly have its ills, it continues to be one of the world’s most vibrant and authentic localities.  Perhaps Ms. Schmalbruch is looking for the package trips to stand in front of the Colosseum or take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice in a NAPLES 6“Disneyfied” version of Italy, but had she the courage to seek out authenticity, Naples would be my highest recommendation.  Coincidentally enough, it might be on those exact gondolas on the Venetian canals that she would hear the tunes of Naples’ world famous musical tradition, which has been exported across the globe and makes up the soundtrack of most people’s imaginations around Italy.

Danielle's Lemon pictureI think what insults me most is the criticism of Naples’ cuisine, and Ms. Schmalbruch’s assertion that there is too little to do to warrant a vacation to Naples alone.  From a
culinary perspective, not only is Naples the birthplace of pizza, the world’s most famous food, but the Neapolitan tradition of culinary excellence has been crafted by thousands of years of social and ethnic interaction in this vibrant city, from creamy mozzarella di bufala bursting at your fork and fresh fish from the bay, to spaghetti alle vongole and sfogliatella that cracks in your hand.

Any traveler should know that Naples has more to offer than most people can experience in a lifetime.  Besides the beauty of the bay and the vibrancy of the streets, Naples has world- class museums like the NationalArcheological Museum, home to all the treasures of Pompeii and the Farnese marbles, the Cappella Sansevero, home to the “Veiled Christ” NAPOLI 3which is probably the most beautiful piece of stone ever rendered by the hands of man.  At the heart of the city is San Carlo Opera House, the oldest and most replicated in the world.  You can sit across the street from that locality in Caffé Gambrinus, have the finest cup of coffee your lips have ever touched, and sit and watch teatro vivente, living theater, all in the shadow of Vesuvius.  Not to mention, Naples has more churches than any other city in Europe.

At the National Italian American Foundation, we are proud that 87 percent of the 25 million Americans of Italian descent find their heritage in Italy’s south of which Naples has always been the spiritual capital.  Sure, it’s a place that’s rough around the edges, but it’s a treasure only waiting to be embraced.  I would say to Ms. Schmalbruch that next time before she speaks about our beloved Napoli she should take the advice of Goethe and “see Naples and die.”

Respectfully,

john's signature

John M. Viola
President and COO
National Italian American Foundation
1860 19th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

NAPLES 5

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Un Minuto Con

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

Catherine de Medici
1519 – 1589

FINAL MEDICIIn 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.



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…

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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Un Minuto con…

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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Un Minuto con…

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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Un Minuto con…

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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