Postcards from Italy

Fave dei Morti: A Sweet Treat for A Bittersweet Holiday

Americans may have their candy corn and color-themed Reese’s Pieces, but Italy has a seasonal sweet much more tempting come the end of October.

fave-dei-morti-italy-cr-rebecca-winke(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Pasticcerie throughout central Italy begin turning out fave dei morti (sometimes called ossa dei morti)--beans (or bones) of the dead--a few weeks before All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. These soft almond cookies, sometimes laced with cinnamon, citrus, or rum, are covered in granulated sugar and baked into an oval bean (or slightly longer bone) shape until just barely golden.
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Bologna: The Stopover Worth a Stay

Though Bologna is perfectly positioned as a stopover between Florence and Venice, this bustling university town—the largest in Emilia Romagna—can easily be considered a destination itself.

Street view in Bologna(Photo by Kosala Bandara via Flickr)

Famous for its excellent cuisine, home to the world’s oldest university (and with a history shaped by the millenia-long conflict between the secular academic world and the religious Catholic one), and with an elegant city center offering excellent shopping and sightseeing, take time to spend an overnight here before moving on either north or south.
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Italian Tailoring: A Custom Experience

Italy is known for its sense of style, and while it is the contemporary fashion and design that grabs headlines, even the most cutting-edge runway styles are firmly rooted in this country’s decidedly less flashy but equally revered tradition of quality tailoring.

(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Though there are certain cities especially known for their bespoke clothing (Naples, for example) and shoes (Florence, for example), almost all major Italian towns have at least one historic workshop (sartoria for tailors and calzolaio for shoemakers) where exacting skill and precision combined with an unerring eye are passed down through the generations of a single family.
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Italy's Cool Cats

They bask in the sun, alone or in pairs, draped languidly at the base of tinkling fountains in public piazzas, across picturesquely-crumbling ancient ruins, on doorsteps and windowsills of sleepy villages.

They watch you with half-closed eyes, daring you to stare back. If you show any interest, they either startle with their avid attention or offend with their contemptuous indifference. They are casually sleek, mysteriously attractive, offhandedly photogenic, and quietly ubiquitous.

kitten-motorino-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

No, we’re not talking about Italian men. We’re talking about Italian cats. Read More…

Hunting Truffles in Italy

Of all the pleasures unique to Italy in the fall—the soft, golden light, the balmy days and crisp nights, the relative post-summer calm of many of the cities and towns—perhaps the most memorable comes in the form of the deceptively humble yet truly divine truffle.

black-truffles-patrico-umbria-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

One of the world’s most expensive delicacies, truffles can be found all year round depending upon their type and terrain, but the most abundant season is the late autumn when the wood-covered slopes of the central Italian Apennines of Umbria and Tuscany and the Alps in northern Piedmont become treasure troves for local foragers and their faithful trained assistants.
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Italy's Islands: Capri

Capri is an island so enchanting that it was used as an idyllic retreat already in the first century AD, when the emperor Tiberius would escape to one of his twelve villas scattered on the hilltops overlooking the Mediterranean for a bit of respite from the chaos of Rome.

rowboat-capri-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

And who are we to argue with Tiberius? Two thousand years later, visitors still flock to this fairytale spot just off the coast of Naples, with its sweeping view over the entire expanse of the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast and dramatic shoreline dotted with secret coves and sea grottoes.
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Feast Day of Saint Francis

Italy is a land of holidays, first among them feast days dedicated to a number of patron saints. Each town in Italy holds a special allegiance to a particular saint, and commemorates the anniversary of his or her death with a mixture of solemn Masses and processions, and festive fairs and fireworks.

assisi-view-mt-subasio-umbria-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Of all the saints’ days in Italy, one of the most widely celebrated is the Feast Day of Saint Francis, which falls on October 4th. Patron saint of Italy (though not, oddly, of his home town of Assisi), Saint Francis is one of the most beloved of all historic figures in the Catholic church, and the current Pope’s choice of Francis as his papal name has only added to this humble figure’s worldwide popularity. He’s especially noted for his inclusion of animals in his preaching and many churches worldwide offer a blessing of the animals in honor of his feast day.
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The Bella Figura: What to Wear in Italy this Fall

Though events like last week’s freak storm in Florence remind us how hard it has become to predict (and pack for) the weather, there are still a few guidelines that remain to help travelers visiting Italy in the fall months of September, October, and November choose the right items to tuck into their suitcase.

via-tornabuoni-florence-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr) Read More…