Tag Archives: Italy

A Free, Christmas E-book from Dream of Italy


Just in time for the holidays, Kathy McCabe at Dream of Italy has put together Christmas in Italy: Traditions, Travel Tips and Recipes, an e-book free for the downloading. Says Kathy, “This 35-page guide… includes all of our back content on spending the holidays in Italy as well as plenty of new articles on how to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Italian-style, whether you are traveling or staying home.” She included an article I did for her on the holidays here in Venice, but there’s much more.

To receive your free, downloadable e-book, all she asks is that you subscribe to the Italian Dreams mailing list. Your download link will appear in your confirmation e-mail.

Buone Feste!

Celebrating the wines of La Tuscia

festedelvino2.jpgLa Tuscia Viterbese refers to the area surrounding Viterbo where the Etruscans once reigned; today’s communities celebrate their regional DOC and IGT wines with Feste del Vino della Tuscia. They began in late July, but if you’re in the area you still have until the 16th of August to enjoy some of these interesting, and likely lesser known wines along with local fare in a festive atmosphere, al fresco.

The festivals take place in the towns named for the DOCs they celebrate. These wines are light, refreshing and flavorful, with whites vinified from varieties like Aleatico, Trebbiano, Malvasia (more than one type of each), the native Greco, Grechetto; red varieties that include Sangiovese, Montepulciano (the grape), and Ciliegiolo, among others.

Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone is a blend of three white grape varieties. It’s a light and refreshing, produced in a variety of versions from dry to sparkling (also dry). The name (Latin for “It is,” or perhaps Italian for “Ecco”) has a delightful history; worth translating at LaTuscia.com (in Italian).

Vignanello is a town and a DOC, produced in the area just east of it. There are four versions are Bianco (one or two Trebbiano varieties, and two different Malvasia), Greco (which is the variety), Rosso (Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, maybe more), and Rosato (same blend as the Rosso). You might also find the Greco in a sparkling version, and the Bianco superiore, or at a higher alcohol level due to a particularly mature vintage or other factors.

GRADOLI (only Friday, August 14)
This DOC zone Aleatico di Gradoli is located in the area just north of the Lago di Bolsena, and the wine is produced from the  Aleatico grape. Don’t let the “dessert” category throw you however: though it’s not dry, its sweetness is balanced, fresh, and certainly worth trying.

You may also spot Tarquinia, Colli Etruschi Viterbesi (a larger DOC zone extending north and south of Viterbo), and even Orvieto, whose zone is shared with Umbria, not to mention IGTs (still regional with fewer restrictions than a DOC wine) such as Lazio, Colli Cimini, and Civitella d’Agliano.


The town festivals include tastings of both wines and local fare, music, wine carriage processions and even a neighborhood palio competition, this Monday night is the Calici di Stelle with tastings under San Lorenzo’s falling stars.

Most events take place in the evening, but also check with any of the tourist offices of the town nearest you for details, don’t to hesitate to call 334 284 2216.

www.prolocovignanello.it (ANSA)

Be an Everyday Hero: offer correct change.

It was once routine; today it rarely occurs to us to offer a cashier correct change. (Those who still do are the same ones who try to get the gas pump to stop on an even dollar amount. Yeah, we know who you are.) Even if we were to pay in cash instead of using a card, massive chain stores that amply fund their checkout drawers have eliminated change consideration, and the registers that spell out the exact amount for the cashier have practically atrophied our ability to calculate it. It’s the price of convenience, you might say.

When I make a purchase for $8.38, and I give the cashier a $20 bill, she punches register buttons expertly and $11.62 LEDs brightly on the screen. She then hands me $11.62 in cash (“Eleven and sixty-two”); I may or may not count it myself as I subtract 8.28 from 20.00 in my little head to make sure I come up with the same amount as Mr. LED.


In the days of yore, the cashier manually counted difference back to you from the purchase amount: “8.38, forty, fifty, nine, ten, and twenty.” She could count, I could count; we were all in agreement.

ii_franca.jpg This is more often than not the way it is still done in Italy (electronic registers notwithstanding). Somehow it’s assuring to me, the mutual importance of being able to count. But what is even more significant (and this is where your being the hero will come in) is having, or attempting to have, or apologizing for not having, change.

The closer you come to having the correct change for your purchase, the more your efforts will be (audibly, I might add) appreciated. Other than the look in your two-year-old’s eyes when they spot you after you’ve been away for an hour, it’s the easiest hero-status you’ll ever achieve.

When you purchase something for €8.38 and can pay with a €10 note instead of €50, you will instantly become a semi-hero. Have three cents (or centesimi), or even forty or fifty cents? You’re a mini-hero. And if you instead proffer the exact 38 cents, you have just been extraordinarily considerate and your efforts will be personally appreciated (listen for the relieved response of Grazie, Signora, molto gentile) and ecco! You’re a hero.

But wait…very often we have just come from the Bancomat with all its €50 notes, what are we supposed to do then? Apologize, of course. If you can manage a “mi dispiace” as you hand over a massive note for a small purchase (especially early in the day), you’ll show that you are not only aware of their circumstances, but that if you could, you would oblige. “Non si preoccupi,” will be her response. “Don’t worry.”

Your status has been elevated to Diplomat.

It’s the little things, even on a European vacation. Offering change when you have it is an effortless way to enrich your Italian tour in a very personal way.

A proposito:

For some delightful observations of life as a cashier (in France, no less) read Tribulations of a Cashier by Anna Sam. Hear or read the NPR interview with her here.

To tip or not to tip…

For whatever reason, understanding how and when to tip is one of the Top Ten concerns for Americans as they plan their trip. As I state in Italy: Instructions for Use, the guidelines are the same as for so many things Italian: dipende…it depends. [The contrast to us Americani is endearing: I’d wager that we are the ONLY culture that wants these rules so clearly defined before we head out, determined to be good guests and do exactly the right thing in as many situations as possible…an attitude, of course, that mystifies Italians, who will consistently forgive us and everyone else, whenever necessary, for just not being Italian.]

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