New World Foods on Italy's Plate

We all know how much Italy has influenced the United States over the past four or five hundred years. From the Genoa native Christopher Columbus in the 15th century and the waves of Italian immigrants which permanently changed the demographics of the East Coast in the 1800s, to the great contemporary fashion and design houses dictating trends from Milan today, Italy is a constant presence in America's history and culture.

But what of how the New World has influenced Italy? Though you can certainly see your share of Levi's and Timberland boots on the streets of Rome and Florence, and tourism and exports to the US are a large slice of the Italian economy, arguably the most important influence the Americas have had on Italy since Colombus' first voyage has been on cuisine.

Spaghetti al pomodoro(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

With the love Americans show daily for pizza, pasta, cappuccino, gelato - the list goes on - it may seem like this culinary influence has run almost exclusively from Old World to New. But a close look at some of the ingredients in Italy's most iconic dishes reveals that without a number of fruits and vegetables indigenous to American soil, many of these favorites wouldn't exist today.
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What We're Drinking, Part 3: Outstanding Italian Beers On Our Table

It's that time of year again when festive menus are planned, hostess gifts purchased, and holiday wish lists compiled...which is why it's the perfect moment to update our annual roundup of what we've been drinking and collecting during the last 12 months of our Italian travels.

forst-beer-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Our past editions have focused on the quintessential Italian beverage: wine. Though domestic - or, more accurately, regional - reds and whites are still by far the most popular choice in Italy, the explosion of Italian craft beers over the past few years has drawn our attention and we have been impressed with the excellent brews that are on the market.

So the next time you are visiting the Bel Paese, or are looking for a unique gift or pairing during the holidays in the US, consider trying one of Italy's creative artisanal beers and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised!
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Italy's 2015-2016 Opera Season

Each winter in Italy, the new opera season kicks off in some of the world's most sumptuous historic theaters in cities from north to south. As professional singers and opera fans, we are always curious to see what trends and news come with each year's season. This year Brian has noticed a few that stand out:

  • Verismo - the style of opera produced in Italy at the end of the 19th century through the 1920’s and one of our favorite genres - is back!
  • Rarities are showing up on a number of theater programs this year
  • La Fenice remains a good venue to see the classics; La Traviata seems to be getting the most play this year

Opera Glasses(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

If you are interesting in seeing an opera while traveling in Italy this winter, here are some notes regarding the most important theaters:
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So, You Want to Visit a Spa in Italy...

Italy, with its healthy work/life balance and cultural propensity for careful grooming, is an excellent place to indulge in a bit of luxurious pampering. You'll find a variety of spas and spa-like facilities from north to south - with high standards of professionalism and hygiene, and relatively accessible rates - offering anything from the purely relaxing soak in a hot spring to a more pragmatic mani/pedi to counter the wear and tear of an overseas trip.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo(Photo by GHT via Flickr)

Here are a few basics to help you navigate Italy's spas:
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Visiting Italy in Winter: Do and Don't Destinations

So, you're thinking about taking a winter trip to Italy but aren't sure if it will be worth the effort to visit in the off-season?

dolomites-winter-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Though our favorite times of the year to explore Italy are spring and fall when the weather is mild but the tourist crowds are still manageable, there are certainly destinations in Italy which will delight and captivate even during the winter months. If you are contemplating visiting any time from December to March, here are some spots to avoid and others to consider.
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