Coffee

Coffee in Italy

Coffee or caffè in Italy is a way of life. It is not guzzled in gallon sized mugs but sipped in small demitasse cups. It is what we call espresso. Italians love their caffè because it is not just a drink but a social activity. You meet friends and colleagues on the way to work and have a caffè. Their caffè is never bitter but it is strong and delicious. It is always drunk hot and quickly in a few sips.

Pavoni 2

Cafe Machine

Caffè is purchased at a bar. This is where Italians eat breakfast. Breakfast is a caffè and a pastry like a cornetto (croissant).

cornett02 cornetto1

Cornetto

This breakfast is fast and light. It is not as sweet as our pastries. It is not about sugar but taste. You never sit and drink 5 caffè in a row. You drink one and may return later for another and to meet a different set of friends.

I was doing consulting in Milan many years ago. I was working for a division of Olivetti. We met a 8 am to start our meeting. I put a schedule of what we wanted to achieve on the board. It took about half an hour. Then the president of the subdivision said, Let’s go to the bar! I thought, WOW they want to go to the bar at 8:30 in the morning? What I soon learned is that the bar is where you eat breakfast and more importantly get caffè. I was learning and enjoying life in Italy.

I never worry about getting breakfast with my hotel room. I know there is a bar on just about every corner. I can get the most delicious and light pastry and a great cup of caffè.

OK you want a big cup of coffee not so strong. No problem! You just ask for Caffè Americano. Cappuccino is very popular all over the world but no Italian would dream of ordering it after 11 am. There are Caffè coffee rules to be followed in Italy. There are also many types, with associated names, of coffee. My favorite name is Caffè Corretto (Coffee corrected – with liquor).

When in Italy go to a bar and have breakfast or lunch or gelato. It is not like bars elsewhere. They are family oriented and fun. I remember arriving in Rome one afternoon. I was tired and heading up the elevator of my hotel with my luggage. Two older American women got on with me. The one looked at me and asked, Are you American? I replied affirmative. They then asked where they could get something to eat before 7:30 pm. I said in Rome most places do not open until after 7:30. I suggested going to a bar. The one lady gave me a very stern look and said, Sonny, I have never been to a bar and I won’t start now. I had a good laugh and had to think, How unfortunately for them. They would never experience the simple delicious meals at a bar. Oh well you can not help everyone!

George

I will continue to do this BLOG while Jo Anne does her’s on southern Italy BLOG.

Categories: Bars, Cafè, Coffee, cornetto, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pastry, Sweets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Plan a Trip in Italy – Part 4

Where to stay is a big decision. There are many types of places to stay in Italy:

  1. American Hotels – These are large chain hotels with larger rooms (smaller compared to rooms in America) and usually the most expensive option.
  2. Italian Hotels – These are smaller hotels with smaller rooms at a very reasonable prices. Breakfast is often included with the room charge. You can get a private bath in your room or share a bath in the hall. We prefer private baths. Be sure you have this if you also prefer it.
  3. B&B’s – Like anywhere in the world these provide rooms and meals. The price is expensive and usually between the price of the large hotels and the smaller Italian hotels.
  4. Agriturismo – These are nice small family owned hotels that are part of a farm or ranch. The food is locally grown (usually on their property), organic and delicious. Rooms are modern and comfortable. You can usually also contract for lunch and lunch & dinner as well.
  5. House or Apartment Rental – These can be the largest and best priced depending on the area especially if you are traveling with other couples. In Paris we were four people and rented someone’s apartment. It was large, comfortable with two bedrooms and two baths. The price was cheaper than two hotel rooms.

Once you decide on what type of place you prefer, investigate options in the cities you will visit. Use sites like TripAdvisor to get other people’s opinions of the property. Remember that their opinions can be very different from yours. We never worry about negative reviews that say small rooms. We expect small rooms in Italy.

TripAdvisor

Be sure to investigate where your hotel/rental choice is located compared to the sites you want to see. Try to get centrally located hotels (these can be the most expensive but will save time going and coming to the sites).

Booking your hotel with airfares on discount sites like Orbitz can get you a discount on the hotel. Check multiple sites and compare prices. Look at pictures posted of your choice and determine if it is the right choice for you. Booking hotels on discount sites usually charge your card when you book not when you arrive. Hotels in Italian are Albergo or just Hotel (the H is always silent in Italian).

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If breakfast is not included do not pay extra for it. Breakfast in Italy is very cheap. You find a bar near your hotel (they are everywhere). At Italian bars you can get Caffè (espresso), Cappuccino, Coffee Americano (an espresso in a larger cup with more water) and mastery choices. A Caffè and cornetto will cost you between 2 and 4 Euros ($2.20 to $4.40). Italian croissants are called cornetto. They come plain, filled with chocolate or jelly and filled with cream. Pastries in Italy are not as sweet as in America. They are delicious.

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Tomorrow we will look at car rentals for your trip if you plan to drive.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agriturismo, Air Fares, Bars, Coffee, cornetto, Espresso, Europe, Food, Hotels, Italy, Pastry, The holidays in Europe, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Plan a Trip in Italy – Part 3

Ok now we need to take the information on where in Italy we want to go and what we want to see and create an itinerary. This is simply a list by date of what you want to see in each city you will visit. You need to leave days for traveling between cities. Make sure each item in a single day can be visited with enough time in a day. Don’t overload your days or you will be tired.

The day you arrive will most likely be after an overnight flight. DO NOT TAKE A NAP. This will mess up your internal clock. Get out and do something interesting. Eat meals on Italian time. Try to stay up until at least 8 pm. Then crash! You will sleep well through the night and awake on Italian time. If you take a nap you will wake up in the middle of the night wanting something to eat. This is an important trick to beating jet lag.

Leave time for breaks to get a coffee, gelato, snack or a glass of wine. Watch life around you. This is how you will meet locals and enjoy your trip more. It will create great memories of your trip to Italy. More importantly you will not be over tired.

Bar in Italy

In Italian bars you will be given a small snack for free with your drinks. Italians also drink water when they drink. This helps to overcome the effects of alcohol.

Your itinerary will insure you see everything you want but allow for spontaneity. If something new comes up … do it. Our spontaneous decisions yielded some of our best memories.

Tomorrow we will discuss finding a place to stay while in Italy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Coffee, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Itinerary, Traveling without a tour, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lombard Cooking

All over Italy you can find good Italian food but the north and the south differ in styles and foods. In the south we have what we think of as Italian Cooking. Red sauces, meatballs, pizza and lots of fish. In the north you have veal, white sauces, pizza and more meat. The north also has white truffles! These are a favorite of ours. Black truffles (Italy and France) are good but can’t stand next to a white truffle. They are rare, hard to get and expensive. second in cost only to saffron. Like saffron, you use it as a seasoning. So a small truffle goes a long way.

Risotto with White Truffles from Alba - Italy....

Risotto with White Truffles from Alba – Italy. photo by Simone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lombardy region of Italy is in the north and contains Milan, Largo Guarda and Largo Como. It contains the most people and has a diverse cooking style. Some of the foods known in this region are:

  1. Veal
  2. Risotto
  3. Polenta
  4. Cow’s milk cheeses
  5. White Truffles
  6. The bars have the best Panini in all of Italy at lunch time. They also have great pastries and coffee for breakfast.
  7. Great crusty bread
  8. Great Wines
  9. Chocolate and
  10. GELATO!

Most American’s think of this area as heavy creamy sauces but those are for the tourists. Milano has great pizzas, meat dishes, vegetables and cheeses. During the end of the year is truffle season and you can get fantastic pasta or veal with white truffles. These are expensive but worth a try. Milan is often overlooked as a tourist destination but We think it’s a great city. It is the fashion capital f the world. It has well dressed people and fashion is everywhere. Sit and try a pizza or a pasta. Visit the Duomo (cathedral), Galleria, and Opera House. Become a Milanese and enjoy life with a glass of wine. See the sales first in Milan. Walk the stores and enjoy the fashion. This is Milan.

Milan is also home to a great Leonardo Da Vinci museum, Duomo, the Opera House, the Galleria and the original Da Vinci’s Last Supper in the small church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Don’t miss these great attractions.

Last Supper Leonardp da vinci

George & Jo Ann

 

Categories: Bars, Bread, Coffee, Cooking, Duomo, Espresso, Europe, Food, Italy, Lakes of Italy, Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, Lombardy, Milan, Pastry, Risotto, Santa Maria delle Grazie, White Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Favorite Things we Love about Italy

Italy has so many things to love and be enjoyed. It has been the number one place many people want to go or have gone. It is a land of romance, beauty and healthy good food. It is a country that actually likes Americans. When you put it all together, what place could be better to spend your vacation?

We enjoy getting into the culture. We always meet new local people in our travels. We try the local foods and wines. We feel relaxed and happy when in Italy. Here are some of our favorite things to do:

  1. Meet and watch the local people. You can learn so much about a country that way.
  2. Eat local foods at non touristy restaurants. A Trattoria is our favorite place to eat but we also enjoy a good Enoteca.
  3. Gelato!!! Eat all you can get while in Italy. It is less fat than normal ice cream but tastes so much better.
  4. Drink the wine. Italians enjoy their wines. They don’t get drunk but enjoy a glass or two with dinner or at happy hour with the free food that is served.
  5. Swim at the beaches! We love the southern Italy beaches that are sandy (not the rocky ones). These are among the cleanest and nicest beaches in the world.
  6. Visit the big cities and major attractions but get out into the Italian countryside and visit small towns and mountain towns.
  7. Stay at small family run hotels, B&Bs or a Agriturismo.
  8. Eat the great crusty Italian bread and pastries. They are less sweet than our sweets but so flavorful.
  9. No trip to Italy is complete without COFFEE! Italians love their coffee (espresso).
  10. If you happen to be lucky enough to be in northern Italy in the fall … Eat the white truffles. These are unique to Italy. Other countries have the less flavorful black truffles but not the white ones.

If this appeals to you, visit Italy soon. Be happy! Be Romantic!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agriturismo, B&Bs, Coffee, Enoteca, Espresso, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Mountain Towns, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Sweets, Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Sweets (Dolce)

In italy desert or sweets are called dolce. Italians don’t normally eat a lot of deserts. Instead they will eat fruit or cheese after a meal. They do love their gelato on a hot day. Given a special occasion they break out all the stops. Here are some (but certainly not all) of their dolce:

  • Gelato – Italian ice creme that tastes better than ours and has less fat. How do they do it. It is always served soft not hard and icy.
  • Tiramisu – A wonderful dolce made with mascarpone cheese (a sweet cheese), cocoa, espresso, wine and lady fingers. We have had it both soft like a cream and firmer like a very moist cake. See picture below.

Italian Dolce - titamisu

  • Cannoli – A Sicilian dolce made with a crisp pastry and ricotta cheese and chocolate. When these are made correctly they are divine.

Italian dolce - Cannoli

  • Sfogliatelle – This is one of our favorites. a crust to die for. These are made crispy and flaky like the best Parisian Croissants. It has a light creme inside.

Italian Dolce - Sfogliatelle

  • Amoretti – small Italian cookies made with Amaretto liquor.

Italian Dolce - Amaretti

  • Biscotti – Crisp twice baked cookies that are normally dipped in coffee or wine.

Italian Dolce - biscotti

  • Pizzella – An Abruzzi dolce that is very popular in America at Christmas time. It is a waffle like desert that is crispy.

Italian Dolce - Pizzella

There are so many more types of dolce. Garrubbo has a website that lists many of these delights. Each town has special dolce made locally. Try each one you visit. Pastries are made fresh in Italy and enjoyed fresh. Only fresh ingredients, fruits and nuts are used. Breakfast in Italy is one of these delights and a Cafè. Enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Cafè, Coffee, Dolce, Espresso, Europe, Gelato, Italy, Pastry, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can I afford Italy

So you want to spend 6 months, a year or move to Italy. Can you afford food? The good news is Yes … Yes … Yes! Large cities are more expensive than smaller ones just like here in the USA. Eating out or buying food and cooking at home can be reasonable in Italy. USA Today wrote an article on the cost of food in Italy. They concluded:

  • Eating out is about $20/day. Breakfast at a bar is about $2.50, Lunch at a bar is about $ 3 to #6. Dinner at a trattoria is about $10 to $15. Breakfast is usually a pastry and coffee, lunch is a sandwich (panini and coffee or wine or beer and dinner is pasta or local meat/fish.
  • Buying food to cook at home is inexpensive. Fruits and vegetables are very cheap and usually grown organic locally. Meat or fish is local and reasonably priced. Pizzas can be ordered to take out (more so in the south).

Don’t be sucked into expensive hotel breakfasts (serving American breakfasts). Eat like you are an Italian. Bars are your friend even if you are not a drinker! They are very crowded for breakfast but lines move quickly. Same for lunch. Panini are stacked on the bar in a napkin. Eat what you want and drink water, soda, beer or wine. Some even serve pasta of the day and gelato (ice cream). Trattorias are a step up from the bar and have tables to sit and enjoy a meal. You can usually order pastas, vegetables, meats and fish. Order what is from local providers. If you are in warmer weather eat out side and enjoy life around you.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Coffee, Espresso, Europe, Gelato, Italy, Pizza, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Italian Coffee

We have all heard of espresso, even had in the USA. Most major metropolitan areas and restaurants serve it here. It is good but not what you get in Italy. How did Italy become such a nation of coffee Aficionados. Italy is a nation of coffee lovers. From the major cities to the smallest mountain towns, you find bars at every corner. Bars do serve alcohol but they serve a much more important purpose … coffee! Many Italians will not order a coffee at a restaurant only to go to their favorite bar and have one. The bars have wonderful machines like La Pavoni.

pavoni Pavoni 2

                                                    Home or small bar Pavoni                Bar Pavoni

These bars are crowded in morning and at lunch. Coffee is always in the forefront of Italian life.

Bar in Italy

Italian Bar

George had a business meeting in Italy many years ago. The meeting started as setting an agenda for the week. After the Director said, “Let’s go to the bar!”. George wondered because it was just 9am. But a trip to the bar was for coffee. Really great tasting coffee.

When we closed on our home in Italy, after it was finished, we all went to the bar for coffees. It is a tradition in Italy. Life seems to revolve around bars and coffees. We typically go to a local bar at the beach in Marina Casal Velino. It is directly across the street from the beach and Palm Trees. We have a pastry and coffee each morning. They have free WiFi so we can stay connected to the outside world.

Coffee came from Africa to Venice where it was introduced to Europeans. It quickly became popular. It was originally a luxury item and very expensive. When you visit Italy, order an espresso or a doppio (double). There is a Cafè Americano but it is stronger (but flavorful) than most American coffees. It is basically an espresso with extra water. Stay away from the Starbucks and be an Italian.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Coffee, Espresso, Europe, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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