Local traditions and culture in Italy

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Italy

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    Shop/restaurant hours and customs

    by goodfish Updated May 6, 2014

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    Once upon a time it was very much the custom in Italy to close up shop and go home for lunch and a nap in the early-to-mid afternoon. What with a certain amount of globalization and catering to tourism, more places are open all day than used to be but you'll still find the doors closed and lights off for a couple of hours (usually somewhere between 1:30 - 4:00) at some of them.

    When entering a shop it's polite to greet the salesperson with "buon giorno" (good morning/day) or "buona sera" (good evening). In fact it's the first thing you should say - or respond back with if greeted first - upon entering any business at all. They're lovely phrases which will just roll off your tongue once you've done it few times.

    Restaurants that cater to locals usually do not open at night until 7:00 - 8:00, and eating late is very much the norm. Meals are often lingered over for several hours: dinner out in Italy is an event to be savored and not rushed. Expect to order at least two of the 4-5 menu courses per person, and not to share a pizza if that's going to be your entree: usually only done if eaten as an appetizer - although that rule has gotten a lot looser, and it's fine for children to share. Most restaurants are closed one day a week (often on Sunday) and tend to be on the small side so the best of them book up in advance. Don't have a reservation? Plan to eat early, and show up at the opening hour to snag any still-available seats.

    Watching your pennies but enjoy a glass of the grape? Try the house wine (vino della casa). They will be available in either red (rosso) or white (bianco) and by the glass, 1/4 liter or 1/2 liter carafes. While not always stellar, they're usually perfectly drinkable.

    Soft drinks, if available, can cost more than wine so stick with water (served from a large bottle, either sparkling or "still") if you're a non-drinker or on a budget. You will be charged a small amount for that bottle of water, and you may see a mysterious couple of euro tacked onto your bill for "pane e coperto" as well - which is essentially a service charge that is neither tax nor tip but perfectly legal. Oh, and that bill could take a long time coming unless you ask for it as Italian waitstaff aren't big on bothering you constantly like they are here. Ready to go? Signal your server and ask for "Il conto, per favore." Chances are they'll speak some English so if you can't manage that, just ask for the bill, please.

    Most restaurants post menus with prices outside the door so you can match budget to estimated tab. They may or may not have English translations but with a small phrasebook and help from usually friendly waitstaff, you'll figure it out. If you want to eat like the locals, avoid places that advertise tourist menus or list their fare only in English. You'll find a lot of these around the sightseeing hotspots, and they're often expensive and mediocre. Credit cards may or may not be accepted: ask before being seated if you don't have plenty of cash in your pocket.

    Closed between 1:00 - 3:00 PM
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    Money matters

    by goodfish Updated Mar 16, 2014

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    Tickets to museums, tchotchkes to bring home to the rellies, massive amounts of gelato….all of this takes cash and I don't mean U.S. Jacksons. Italy is part of the European Union (EU) and their monetary system is the euro so you're gonna have to get yourself some of those. Where do you do that? Same place you do at home: an ATM. Yessirree, put your card in, punch in your password and amount, and out come euros - if you have money in your account to begin with, of course. Most machines have instructions in English.

    Credit cards? You can use those just like at home too but not in every shop, restaurant or even hotel: Italy is in many ways still a cash society so you're always going to want a daily stash at hand. Most of Europe has also switched over to chip-and-pin cards versus those which are swiped so most U.S. cards won't work (yet) in some ticket machines and at pay-at-pump gas stations.

    A couple of things you should do to prepare for your trip:
    • Call your bank and make sure your ATM/Debit card is connected to networks that are widely available abroad, and change your pin if it's not currently a 4-digit number. While you have them on the phone, tell them where and when you'll be traveling so they note that on your account. Banks sometimes freeze cards when they detect unusual activity that may indicate theft/fraud, and you don't want THAT to happen on your trip! You'll want to check on your daily withdrawal limit and raise that if it's very low. Most banks charge fees for each international withdrawal: a flat usage fee or a small percentage for the currency conversion. If yours is a flat fee, pulling larger amounts a few times is more economical than pulling many smaller amounts. Ask your bank about fees specific to your card.

    • Do the same with your credit card: alert them to where/when you'll be traveling, and check about any fees for international use. Unless you have the rare card without big fees for international ATM use, use CCs only for dinner, hotels and whatnot where cards are accepted, and not to withdraw cash. And make sure your card won't expire before the end of your trip; DOH!

    • Make copies - back and front - of your ATM and credit cards and keep those separate from the cards themselves. These will provide you all the necessary contact info should your cards be lost or stolen.

    • Take multiple ATM and credit cards in case one doesn't work or gets munched on: it's rare but been known to happen

    While on your trip:
    • Stay away from money-changing bureaus at airports and train stations: the rates are usually lousy. Same goes for hotel desks: use ATMs and, when at all possible, make your transaction at those connected to banks during business hours (they're usually located outside) in case you have a problem and need a human to help. ATMs not connected with banks are also known for less-than-optimal exchange rates.

    Just because your daily limit is ___ doesn't mean the ATM will cheerfully dispense that amount: some machines have limits on how much they'll process. If your transaction is rejected, try a smaller amount or try a different machine.

    • If using a credit card for a hotel or other purchase, always ask to be charged in euros versus U.S dollars to avoid paying double conversion fees: once from the merchant and another from your CC company.

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    Gelati: The answer to World Peace

    by goodfish Updated Nov 15, 2013

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    Why are Italians are so cheerful.. unless having to deal with rude and fussy tourists, that is? Gelati. Italian ice cream is in a class by itself: silky smooth and oh-so-intense. Even better, it’s a lot lower in butterfat than the American stuff - which keeps it from becoming rock solid - and usually fresher ‘cause the best is made almost daily.

    If the legend is true, ice cream as we know it was invented in Florence in the mid-16th century so they’ve had over 400 years or so to master the art. And what masters they are! We had the great good fortune of landing in Firenze for annual Gelato Fest and got to wrap our tongues around almost two dozen exquisite varieties churned by artisans all over the country. Yummy!

    So where do you get your mitts on this manna? Our members are full of suggestions for hunting down the most heavenly gelateria (geh-la-toe-REE-ah) in Italian cities and towns, and have noted some of those in their pages. Or ask a local; trust me, they’ll know. How do you do it? Easy:

    • Scan the freezer case. Very good gelato usually does not have artificial coloring so the creams should not be neon bright. Most shops will have little cards indicating the flavors - usually in Italian - with a small illustration of the fruit, nut or other main ingredient. In the cities it’s not unlikely that the staff will speak some English and will be happy to help translate. Fruit flavors often change per season so if peaches, say, are ripe, that’s when they’ll take advantage of the freshest produce.

    • In Italy, gelato is usually paid for before your order is scooped. Decide how many scoops you want - you don’t need to choose flavors yet - and place your order with the cashier: just tell them in English or indicate with by holding up your fingers. Pay and take your slip to the person(s) working the freezers.

    • Choose your flavor(s). It’s customary - but not necessary - to mix two together. If the shop isn’t very busy ask them to recommend a nice combo. If the line is out the door, try to pick your choices while you wait so you’re ready when your turn comes.

    • Hand over your slip, place your order, and choose whether to have it in a cup (coppa) or cone (cono). Some gelateria only offer cups plus this very soft ice cream tends to melt quickly in heat so to save the front of your shirt, go with a cup if the day is steamy.

    • Say "Grazie" and off you go. Some shops have little tables inside or out but while Italians frown on eating in the street an exception is made for gelato and sorbets. It's the perfect accompaniment for an evening passiagetta: the 'little walk’ that’s one of the more lovely of Italian customs.

    Eat it often and in large amounts: this stuff will fix darn near anything that ails you.

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    Coffee Culture

    by goodfish Updated Nov 15, 2013

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    Americans, blame the Italians for those $5 lattes that eat up your paycheck.

    Traders from the East brought coffee to the port city of Venice back in the 16th century along with tales of cafes where people gathered to socialize and gossip over cups of the rich, exotic brew. The first Venetian coffee bar opened in 1640 and the jones for java took off like a house afire across the city and to other major population centers around the country. In the 1980’s, the marketing director of a small, American coffee-bean business got a firsthand look at Italian coffee culture while on a trip to Milan and raced back stateside to pitch his vision of branded cafes to the brass...who didn’t go for it. He ended up buying the company a couple of years later and wasted no time changing the idea of coffee as just a beverage to an event; a social opportunity; a destination. Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, is now one of the wealthiest people in the U.S.

    But there are no Starbucks in Italy. Yet. Maybe never.

    Coffee is taken seriously in The Boot. The first shot of caffeine is usually tossed back quickly, standing up, at a favorite bar on the way to work. Repeat midmorning, mid-afternoon and again after dinner. It’s served in tiny china or glass cups and always consumed where it’s purchased. The idea of walking about with a 20-ounce paper cup of joe? Horrific! Coffee with milk after noon? Barbaric! Served from a pot which has sat for hours? Disgustoso!

    So forget about running to the nearest convenience store for a plastic-lidded quart of super-hot Columbian: ain't gonna happen. Having a civilized cup of coffee, Italian style, is a delicious habit that’s easy to acquire and just as easy to enjoy. It also gives you the opportunity to use the washroom facilities: a bonus in lavatory lacking Italy.

    We like to pick a bar with tables on the street so we can do some people watching. It costs a little more than standing up at the counter inside but our feet usually need the break. Here are some of the varieties you might order:

    Caffè: this always means espresso, strong and served in a demitasse cup
    Caffè Macchiato: espresso with a small bit of frothed milk
    Caffè Macchiato Freddo: espresso and dash of cold milk
    Caffè Freddo: chilled espresso
    Caffè Doppio: double espresso
    Caffè Americano: espresso diluted with extra hot water
    Caffè Corretto: espresso with a shot of liqueur
    Cappuccino: espresso with steamed, foamy milk and my favorite. This one, incidentally, was named after the pointed hoods of Capuchin monks - the shape of which is often copied in its top dollop of foam. Technically, these are only consumed in the morning but as I don’t eat lunch, I’ve ordered them in afternoon and have yet to have a barista faint dead away on me. Just never have them after dinner, OK?

    None of them will be as hot as you’re probably used to and will be served with a small spoon, packets of sugar and often a crunchy little biscuit on the side. Sometimes you’ll be asked to pay for your coffee in advance but the bill may also be delivered with your order. They normally only cost a couple of euros but could run a bit more at fancier bars or heavily-traveled tourist areas. Gustare il vostro caffè!

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    "Un birra, per favore!"

    by goodfish Updated Nov 13, 2013

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    I am not a wine lover. In fact the very smell of red wine gives me a headache - although I can handle some whites. Needless to say, on our first trip to The Boot I was a little concerned about an end-of-day pint in a country known for the grape? Thanks to the reassurance of some sympathetic VT'ers I had many happy Beer O'clocks! The popular Italian beers tend to be light and fizzy so if you lean towards dark, full-bodied varieties, they may not be to your liking. Me? From a seat in a lively piazza, lush green park or near a 2000 year-old pile of history this hot, tired and thirsty traveller very cheerfully drank whatever cold, amber-colored brand was available.

    Smaller bars generally have only a couple on tap, a handful in bottles, and they'll likely be the leading Italian brands: Peroni, Moretti or Nastro Azzuro. I did see Beck's a couple of times, and was unfortunately served Heineken more than once. Good news for beer lovers? Craft brews have taken off like a house afire and there are now hundreds of those to be found if you do some research: we had some very good ones at a restaurant in Monterosso.

    On a tight budget? Buy your brew at a shop and drink it back at the hotel. Beer is fairly reasonable in Italy to begin with but self-serve will cost a couple euros less.

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    Beggars, scams, counterfeits and peddlers

    by goodfish Updated Nov 13, 2013

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    I'm purposely not putting this topic under Warnings and Dangers because encountering these sorts is neither dangerous nor anything to be overly concerned about. They can, however, be uncomfortable for visitors unused to the prevalence and /or aggressiveness of panhandlers, street hawkers and whatnot around tourist hotspots. The dark part to all this is that some of these people were trafficked to Italy with promises of work only to be exploited by organized criminal groups; a sad problem in other parts of the world as well.

    Begging is very common anywhere that's a magnet for large groups of people. You'll also see panhandlers - almost always women - parked outside the doors of many churches from whence they issue piteous appeals for money from both tourists and locals. We also noticed a number of parishioners dropping coins in uplifted begging cups as they left mass. In our experience beggars are rarely aggressive; ignore them, brush the more persistent off with a polite but firm "no", or drop a coin in the cup if you wish to.

    As not all beggars are legitimate, better choices for charitable giving are the alms boxes inside the basilicas. Not all "street people" are legitimate plus it's never wise to reveal the location of your wallet on the street: you never know who may be watching.

    Some of them cruise the local trains - jumping on and off, ticketless, at smaller stations and handing out written requests for money - but they've no wish to cause a ruckus that might alert FS personnel so they'll rarely engage you beyond issuing and collecting again their bits of paper.

    The hawking of counterfeit goods is also common...and illegal. Florence had posted signs around the markets warning tourists of this practice, and the dealers of fake handbags and watches scattered like mice when the polizia made their rounds. There are plenty of excellent, legally made Italian products to be had so don't buy this stuff, OK? You don't want to get arrested for that knockoff Gucci purse.

    Scammers also lurk about the piazzas, and the variety of tricks up their sleeves are too many to list here. The most visible is what I call 'String thing' - also known as the 'Friendship Bracelet Scam' - where you are engaged long enough to have some colored string tied tightly around your wrist for which payment is demanded. Common also in Paris, these scoundrels are easily spotted and just as easily deflected with a firm "No!" and a rapid departure. In general, you can figure that anyone who tries earnestly to engage (read: distract) you on the streets, at the train stations, in the piazzas, etc. is suspect: trust your inner radar and make a fast exit if something doesn't smell right.

    Street peddlers work the busy spots and along the outdoor cafes with boxes of sunglasses, water, umbrellas, hats and other items tourists commonly need. Although their persistence can be an annoyance, I cut these guys some slack for offering a product - abet a poorly made one - in exchange for your euros. The umbrella will probably fall apart before the end of the day (you see mangled brollys in trash bins everywhere) but hey, it might also keep you dry for a few hours if you need one. If a peddler is a real pest, pull out your New York Face, that firm "No!" and keep walking.

    Beggars, Rome Florence - San Lorenzo Market Illegal knockoffs, Florence String Thing scammers, Milan
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    It's church: behave.

    by goodfish Updated Nov 13, 2013

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    As I mentioned in my review about these budget-saving treasures, there are rules about churches that are good to know before you try to walk in the doors lest you find yourself firmly barred from them. Even though the biggest and best may be overrun with tourists, they're still very much houses of worship which demand respectful etiquette from guests.

    • Without exception you MUST be dressed appropriately: no uncovered knees, shoulders, midriffs or immodest amounts of cleavage, and no T-shirts with violent or otherwise objectionable graphics. They DO mean business and I've seen them deny entry/toss out both men and women who dared to bare their knobby knees or tank-topped torsos. When heading out for a day of sightseeing, leave the shorts at the hotel or don't pack them at all unless planning on some beach or hiking time. Some, but not all, churches will provide unattractive cloth or plastic cover-ups for offending flesh. The dress code also applies to the Vatican Museums in Rome and other sites where clergy may be present so do your homework.

    • Other rules for what churches do and do not not allow are specific to each: a printed or picture list of banned items/activities is almost always posted near the door and can include eating, cell phones, weapons, video cameras, strollers, backpacks, flash photography or any photography at all.

    • Silence is mandatory at some but even if keeping the lip zipped is not a posted requirement, kindly whisper so as not to disturb the folks coming for prayer or reflection. Keep the kiddies quiet and under control as well: no running, laying on the floor or climbing on monuments. Many churches have at least one chapel that is strictly for prayer and off-limits to visitors.

    • Visiting hours/days vary as well: some are open almost all day, every day, and others close for a few hours every afternoon and/or one day a week. Almost all of them discourage visitors during mass or other services so while it's OK to stand in the back and observe, put the camera away and don't wander the aisles. Trying to work through that wish list of chapels is nearly impossible on Sundays as the heavy schedule of masses leaves very little time in between to explore them.

    • Most of them are lit mainly by daylight alone and have very little other lighting. Flash and tripods are almost universally banned so if wanting snaps of the interiors of those which allow it, better have a steady hand and try to visit on sunny days for maximum light. Some have coin-operated lights trained on specific treasures that, for a euro or so, will provide a few minutes of illumination.

    • Lastly, a word to the parents of wee ones: small people (and even some of us bigger folk) who have been raised in the relic-free environs of Protestant churches will find the macabre displays of moldering bones and bodies in glass altars and reliquaries of some Italian Catholic churches both fascinating and unsettling. Expect some, er, interesting questions!

    Nope, no church for you two... ... or Ms. Sundress either. No cell phones, hats, loud talking, shorts... Your 6 year-old will want an explanation for this
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    Where's the bathroom?

    by goodfish Updated Nov 13, 2013

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    If you're a first-timer to The Boot, public washroom facilities will be an adventure. A good rule of thumb is to always 'go' just before you leave your hotel to avoid having to find or use a public potty as long as possible - although many really aren't all that bad once you get used to them. Don't always expect the luxury of toilet seats, TP, towels or soap, and pack along wet wipes and tissue. Some have attendants, and require throwing some change (usually around .50 euro) into a basket to gain entry so always have some coin in your pocket. Flushing is usually, but not always, accomplished by pressing a panel on the wall above the commode.

    The photo of the squat toilet above was taken at the Vatican, and they're common in train stations as well. Having spent enough time in the woods to know what was expected, it was still a relief to find these models to be the minority. Restooms at most museums, restaurants, bars and major attractions will thankfully be the familiar bowl type.

    Getting TO the biffy can be an adventure in-and-of itself involving journeys down steep flights of basement stairs and through dark, musty storerooms; an impossibility for persons with limited mobility. Sinks in public potties can be a puzzle as well. Can't figure out how to turn on the water? Look for foot-operated pedals - red for hot and blue for cold water - on the floor.

    There are bathrooms on all Italian trains but don't use them while they're sitting in the station for reasons I'll leave to your own imagination.

    Your biggest challenge will be locating loos at all: they are few and far between in Italy. Although every bar and restaurant has one, they're largely available only to paying customers and have often signs to that effect. We got used to taking several coffee breaks a day or stopping for bottled beverages/snacks just to be privy to the privies! Even museum facilities are often located behind ticketed entries so that access is limited. Plan ahead: use the restroom every time one is available 'cause your next opportunity may be uncertain at best.

    Desperate? Find the nearest McDonalds. Yes, they have Mickey D's in big Italian cities, and their bathrooms, just like in the U.S, are free - just don't expect them to be pristine. Nope, not even close.

    Squat Toilet, Rome Pedals for water Pull the level to flush
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    Plugging in

    by goodfish Updated Nov 7, 2013

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    Electrical outlets in Italy are different than in the U.S. so you're going to need to get yourself a couple of round-prong adaptor plugs, like the one shown in the photo above, for recharging your camera or phone. But depending on the appliance you may need a voltage converter or transformer, like the one in the second photo, as well. Their system operates on 220 volts/50 cycle AC versus our 110 volts/ 60 cycle; plug in any appliance that isn't compatible and you're going to fry it and probably blow the hotel fuses to smithereens besides.

    Check your gear before you go: if the tag says it works on voltages up to 220V or more and AC of 50/60, all you'll need is the plug adaptor. Anything less than 220V and you'll need a converter too. Most cameras, phones and laptops only need the plug but hairdryers, curling irons, hotpots, electric shavers and whatnot usually will require a converter. Do consider just leaving your dryer at home as many hotels provide them and even with a converter some can still end up a smoking mess. Simply HAVE to have your own? Buy one when you get there so you know it'll work.

    Adaptor plugs and converters/transformers can usually be found at luggage stores, in the travel aisle of big-box stores like Target or Walmart, and are best purchased BEFORE your trip.

    A note about phones: your U.S. model will likely not work on European systems unless it's unlocked, has a specific SIM and whatnot. It's all been too much for us to bother with so we don't even bring one: I use my itouch for sending/receiving email from home in free wifi spots.

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    Wonderful water

    by goodfish Updated Nov 7, 2013

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    Roman aqueducts brought fresh water to many Italian towns and cities for over 1000 years - and a few are still in use today. Generally, Italian water is very clean, very good and absolutely safe for travelers big and small but look first to see if the fountain or tap is marked "Acqua non potabile" or similar - which means not to drink from it.

    In Rome, public fountains both ancient and modern are everywhere so all you need is a refillable bottle to rehydrate on a steamy summer day. This is also a nice budget saver for the cash strapped. Tuck a few powdered drink packets into your suitcase for adding some pizazz.

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    Very cheerful cemeteries

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    If only more countries would have such colourful cemeteries like in Italy – the deceased would definitely be more happy! One example is of course famous San Michele, the cemetery of Venezia la Serenissima. Like here, the cemeteries are usually divided into several sections, according to the type of graves and the religious beliefs. Many graves are decorated not only with a photo of the beloved ones but also with marvellous statues, often referring to his or her life. And then of course there are the typical colourful “mass” graves, with very little space but a lot of decoration, usually plastic flowers and photos and small objects and electrical lamps, often as a flame, related to the beloved ones. The deceased play an important role for the religious Italians, that’s why November 1 and 2, ognissanti and giorno dei morti, are celebrated. In a way this reminds me of Mexico. During this time, each region has its local specialities in the pastry shops, for example the fave dei morti (last photo) in Umbria. Chrysanthemums are being brought to the graves, in yellow and white.

    Many monumental cemeteries in Italy are famous and guided tours are being offered. I think the most famous one is the huge Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno (in Genova) and Cimitero Campo Verano in Roma.

    © Ingrid D., April 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    San Michele - colourful cemetery San Michele - colourful cemetery San Michele - colourful cemetery San Michele - beautiful statue Fave dei morti, during ognissanti
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    This is MY chair :-)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    In many Mediterrean countries daily life happens outside on the streets, especially in small towns or in small quarters of bigger towns. People sit on benches and chat for ages, they meet on the streets to exchange the latest news or they just sit outside in the sun and enjoy the day or a break from work. And especially the older generation, mostly when they have retired from work, forms this image we love so much in Greece and Italy, France and Spain, and which is found in so many holiday photo memories. They just show “us” (aka the population which hunts for money and power and who has lost the ability to live a slower and happier life) how nice life can be.
    When I was in Bevagna (Umbria) I saw these two chairs outside in the street which represent this outdoor life so much, and even in a special way. These chairs are not only chairs where locals sit and chat, these are chairs which belong to two locals who sit there and chat. These guys made sure that no one else will sit there by having written “my chair” on the backrest. And not only this, it is their names and former profession written there: E de Angilino er postino (This is Angilino’s chair, he was the postman) and E de Cincino er ferroviere (This is Cincino’s chair, he was the railman). "er" is an old form of "era" = he was. Since I saw these chairs I desperately wish to come back to Bevagna when they actually sit there and chat. I hope that by then my Italian will have improved in such a way that I can join them chatting.
    (Thanks to Edvige, my Italian teacher, for having pointed this out to me when we were in Bevagna in Nov. 2009).

    © Ingrid D., March 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    MY chair, well OUR chairs
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    Buona Pasqua, lovely chocolate eggs

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Easter is celebrated throughout Italy although Good Friday isn’t a holiday. But the holy week is attended by special processions, often a life re-enactment of Christ’s passion on the evening of Good Friday. And of course Easter is the time when special sweets are prepared in the homes and also being sold in the pastry shops. One of these is a dove, symbol of peace. Of course not a dove as animal but as a pastry. Another typical sweet for Easter is the huge egg made of chocolate, hollow inside and filled with several sweet treats. These huge eggs are wrapped in colourful paper or come decorated with flowers and spring symbols made of icing. Very delicious and very much tempting to buy during a trip to Italy around Easter. But... it is difficult to transport these back home. I saw one of these chocolate eggs in Norcia and it took me approximately half an hour to decide that it will break in my luggage. But what a difficult decision! At least I have my photo as a memory and who knows, maybe one day I will live in Italy forever and then transport would not be a question anymore.

    © Ingrid D., March 2011, although I have uploaded the photo already in May 2009, but without description (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    Buona pasqua, oh delicious chocolate egg :-)
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    Spritz, delicious orange appetizer

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    When you visit Venezia or travel through Veneto and Friuli-Venezia you cannot help but notice the many people in bars who sip a bright orange drink. This is called Spritz. This name definitely does not sound like typical Italian and is in fact rather of Austrian remains. Its orange colour is originated in the type of bitter alcohol it contains, mostly Aperol but also Campari, Cynar, or Select. This is where a variation in colour from orange to bright red comes along with the Spritz. The other ingredients are white wine and water or soda and mostly an olive. When I was in Venezia I thought I should better avoid it during the day, because I thought of the alcohol and that I might end up staggering around almost dead drunk. But after my first Spritz I found that it does not make drunk at all and at the end I found myself having one together with a Latte Macchiato almost every day.
    In case you are also in doubt, try one in the evening and you will soon realise if you like it (the orange colour might not be appealing in the beginning) and how your system feels to decide if it also might be part of your stops in between sightseeing and walking.

    The best description of Spritz however is the one, Irena& Vladimir (@Zvrlj) wrote :-).

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    • Wine Tasting

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    Il caffè, an Italian institution

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    There is no word to describe Italia’s thick dark brown life giving liquid properly except that it is pure heaven. And it might even represent Italia better than churches, festivals, artists or pasta, pizza and all the other delicious food – il caffè is famous not only throughout whole Italia. Although to my experience it can only taste real in Italia. So far I didn’t find any caffè bar outside of Italia where they served it the way it is served in the country. Maybe because caffè is not only the liquid but the surrounding atmosphere? The click-clack noise, the barista makes when he empties the powder device? The characteristic sound of these huge machines when the water is heated and steam evaporates at the end? Caffè making is art and this becomes obvious when you stand at the bar and watch the barista doing his/her job. (Now that I write this, I realised that I hardly ever saw a barista woman…) They fill the basket with the exact amount of caffè powder (7 g) heat the water so that it has a temperature of 88°C and is running through the powder at 9 bar. After 25 seconds, the little preheated tazzina (cup) is filled with the magic liquid.

    A caffè bar is an insitution in Italia as is the barista, who is not just only a bartender but has to be trained and have a diploma from the Italian Espresso National Institute. And his job does not only involve to prepare caffè, he has also a very important role in the society of the people who come to his caffè bar: he is the one who knows the preferences of his customers, he is the major source for the local news, he is the one where one drops the keys in case when family, friends or mechanics come to one’s apartment later. A persona di fiducia (trusted person). Just stand a while in a caffè bar and you will realise how much he is the centre of the place. Another sign for the institutional character of a local caffè bar is the so-called caffè sospeso (well, more in the Napoli region but I heard that it is also popular in other regions). A guest drinks one caffè and pays two. The second one is this caffè sospeso and is meant for one of the next guests who is short in money or general of lower income. This is also quite characterising the bonds within Italian communities.

    Caffè, by the way, is rather reasonable in price. By law it is not more expensive than 1 Euro. But this refers to drinking it while standing! Another very much local custom for Italia: hardly anyone drinks caffè while sitting. Just watch a caffè bar for a while and you will see it. That's also why it won't help to scream at the prices in Venezia's Caffè Florian on Piazza San Marco: once you sit down to have your caffè, there is no law anymore for a maximum price :-) Ha.

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2011: link repaired.

    Caff�� doppio, oh my god how do I miss this.... Federica's caff��, served with love :-)
    Related to:
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