Italian Holiday Greetings – Prep Yourself and Know the Protocol

Italian Holiday Greetings

The holiday trim and lights already are being prepped and strung across the ancient city streets of Italy. Mountains of panettone (Italian holiday sweet bread) dominate the supermarkets. Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching, and the exchange of Italian holiday greetings is ramping up.

Let’s talk about the most often-used Italian holiday greetings…

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QUID PRO QUO – When Latin Takes Two Different Routes

Quid pro quo

Don’t assume anything, especially when it comes to language.

Quid pro quo has been my most recent lesson in this regard. No, it doesn’t translate in Italy as “a favor for a favor” or when “an item or a service has been traded in return for something of value” as defined by Wikipedia. I was shocked to learn that the phrase always has been translated as “a disagreement” or “a misunderstanding”.  Wow, talk about Latin taking two very different paths.

My Italian family and friends have set me straight on Quid pro quo.

And, with quite a bit of incredulity and passion, I might add. There was plenty of both on my part as well. I studied Latin in high school for two years, and I asked how the literal interpretation of “this for that” could be interpreted as a disagreement.

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For Love of Frittelle

Frittelle, Italywise

Frittelle easily brings out the animal appetites.

What’s the big deal with frittelle?

After all, it’s JUST fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, right? That was my superior attitude until I remembered I had been a devotee of Krispy Kreme growing up. And vacations in New Orleans taught me to swoon at the first bite of a beignet. So who was I to pass judgment on yet another incarnation of fried dough? Italians adore this treat, and visitors easily become converts.

Also called fritole, these pastries originated as Venetian doughnuts. Traditionally they were served during Carnevale, but now you can find them all over Italy year-round, especially at local festivals, in all shapes and sizes––particularly the large “disk” incarnation pictured above. We even found a frittelle truck in the parking lot of Obi (an Italian equivalent of Home Depot). The basic preparation is fried, yeast-risen dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. But, more elaborate additions are found, such as raisins and pine nuts, and pastry cream fillings.

How can Italians eat so many sweets like frittelle?

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I’m a Fan of the Sisterhood

Nuns, Italywise

Sisters Just Wanna Have Fun – Photo by Jed Smith ©2017

This week’s post is going to be short, and a break from the two previous posts dealing with the very un-glamorous, but necessary, topics related to driving in Italy and car ownership.

Shall we talk about the nuns?

When I’m out and about with my camera and have my longer lens, so I can work more furtively, I go into high-alert when I spot members of the sisterhood. If you saw me at work you’d think I’d spotted George Clooney or Angelina Jolie. Yes, I chase the nuns with my camera like I’m a member of the paparazzi.

I love it when I see the nuns smiling and cutting loose a bit. Take for instance these animated sisters enjoying the festivities at the annual Barcolana, a huge sailing regatta in Trieste, Italy. These girls are happy to be part of the fun. Their faces and body language say it all. I’d say the ringleader of this group is the sister on the left. You almost expect her to start jumping up and down with excitement.

And when the nuns go shopping?

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Owning a Car in Italy and La Revisione

revisione, Italywise

Your revisione details must be affixed to your original libretto (registration)

 

This post isn’t going to be glamorous. It’s not going to transport you to romantic visions of being in Italy. It is, however, an important practical note for when you own a car in Italy.

What is the revisione?

It’s a scheduled inspection of your car to confirm all systems are functioning properly. It’s not so different from the inspections required in the States. But be forewarned, this is a pretty extensive check of your car and not one that you do last minute by driving up for speedy twenty-minute service. No, this isn’t normally an expedited process. In other words, be prepared to leave your car for several hours. And call well ahead of time to schedule your appointment.

What is the schedule for getting your revisione?

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Random Carabinieri Checks – Be Prepared

Carabinieri, Italywise

More and more, this arm of the Italian police is doing random stops and checking documents.

It finally happened to me––a random roadside check by the Carabinieri.

And thank goodness my driver’s license and car documents were in order. For months I’d be cruising past the Carabinieri random checks. Would they choose me and put out the dreaded red paddle in my path, signaling me to pull over for their inquiry? I’d passed so many of these stops in the last few months, without getting pulled over, that I knew I was well outside the law of averages and my time would soon come.

It’s crazy how my heart would race, passing these stops, even though I knew I had absolutely nothing to fear. And, just a few days ago, when the Carabinieri did indeed motion for me to pull over, I was nervous. Why? Well, it was my first time going through this type of check and actually, I was driving a loaner car from the car dealership while my revisione/inspection (more about that in next week’s post) was being done on my car. Would the loaner car’s libretto (car registration) be in order? Was the insurance up to date?

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Arm-in-Arm is part of the Italian Culture

arm-in-arm, Italywise

Walking arm-in-arm is part of the Italian culture ©2017 Jed Smith

Italians are passionate and affectionate

I think I can safely draw this conclusion after living in Italy for several years and observing the interactions amongst Italians. The photo above prompts me to pause and pay tribute to the visible bonds communicated by walking arm-in-arm. I’d also be remiss in not speaking to the greeting (and parting) of the kiss on both cheeks.

This photo makes me smile. There’s no question of the sisterhood of this fine ladies. And if you think this is only a sweet custom between women, and older people, think again. You’ll see people of all genders and ages walking arm-in-arm – families and friends alike.

Americans sometimes are a little put off by this.

Clarification of the above statement – not put off by observing this custom, but finding themselves in situations with new Italian friends and not knowing exactly what to do.

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My Italy Move, Several Years Later

Italy Move, Italywise

My enduring metaphor for life…

Here I am, several years after pulling the trigger on my Italy move. And I’m damn glad I made the decision, even though it didn’t turn out exactly as I envisioned. It turned out even better than I’d imagined. In the process I’ve realized one over-arching piece of wisdom:

You’d best get out of your head, and your pre-conceived ideas about how things are supposed to be.

I didn’t realize just how imprisoned in my head I was when I landed in Italy. My left brain was hungrily involved in a mass of thinking and problem solving – so much, in fact, I mourn the fact that I wasn’t fully present for my first days as a resident in this extraordinary country.

I share this in hopes of preparing you, if you’re about to embark on a life as an expat in Italy, for the shifts in your being that have the potential to be of seismic proportions. It’s easy to be lost in the romantic notions of the beautiful life awaiting you after your Italy move. But, the reality is, if you’re anything like me, 

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Becoming an Expat in Italy? The Devil is in the Details.

expat in Italy

Your documents are plentiful. Make sure they all match!

When you take the steps to becoming an expat in Italy you’ll soon learn that there is a good bit of bureaucracy, which requires standing in line, quite often, and developing advanced skills in patience. Italians take their paperwork and processes seriously, and if you’re American, like me, you may be scratching your head in wonderment at all involved in the simplest of tasks. You may find yourself just wanting to “get it done”, but I encourage you to slow down and make sure, when you are getting things like your permesso di soggiorno, your carta d’identità, your driver’s license, etc., all your personal information lines up. If not, your journey to becoming an expat in Italy may be a bit painful.

I’m writing this post to spare you, hopefully, some of the difficulty I’m now encountering

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Sportoletti Cantina, in Umbria, Makes Amazing Wine

Sportoletti Cantina

Sportoletti excels at making beautifully rendered wines at great prices

Fair warning. I’m going to gush. But, for good reason. Just over eight years ago a bit of research and persistence turned up recommendations by other wine lovers to seek out the Sportoletti Cantina, which is south of Assisi, and just north of Spello. I had been making a list of wineries to visit in nearby Montefalco, home of the spectacular Sagrantino (a BIG wine that ages spectacularly), when I came across this one fellow’s article urging readers to visit Sportoletti. I’m one to follow advice to veer off the beaten path. Boy, am I glad I did.

Sportoletti Cantina has been around since the late seventies

The family started out, playing around with several varietals. Years later, they’d focused their efforts for five wines – two red, two whites, and a dessert wine. Yes, they wisely decided on perfecting fewer wines vs having a huge selection. Today, Sportoletti produces somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter-of-a-million bottles of wine. And, guess what? Many of them make their way to the United States. I hope, by the time you’ve watched my video about this winery 

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