Northern Italy and southern Italy have two very different cuisines. The south was influenced by sunny weather and Greeks and Arabs while the north had influences from France, Germany and Switzerland. The north has a cold climate so the food was more “stick to the ribs” type food. The north uses more butter and dairy than the south. It has great foods like white truffles and polenta.
White Truffles – Are from the mushroom family but taste nothing like a mushroom. They seem to stink to those that have never had them but the smell can build appetite to those that know these little delicacies. Truffles are the second most expensive food by weight (second only to saffron). They can be $5,000 a pound but a pound of truffles can season food for a small army. You can get a small to medium truffle for around $100. It is grated over pasta, eggs or risotto to add flavor and very thinly (paper-thin) sliced over veal. If you haven’t tried a white truffle you need to go to northern Italy around October to November. No other region in the world has been successful in cultivating these small wonders. France and southern Italy have black truffles which are good but not as good as the white ones.
Polenta – Corn meal that can be made in a pot and served like a thick soup or stew or it can then be poured into a baking disk and cooked into a bread consistency. Then you slice it into small squares. At the base of the alps it is served in all the local bars. After a day on the slopes or walking around in the snow, a drink and slice or two of polenta will warm you up.
Each region in the north has its own local cuisine. Italians make simple but delicious foods. They will only use fresh ingredients to cook their dishes. Time is still spent making wonderful regional dishes the same way their grandma or great-great grandma did.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Polenta, Regions of Italy, White Truffles
Tags: Cooking, Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italy, No Tour Touring, Northern Italy, Polenta, White Truffles
Is winter a good time to go to Italy? It depends on what you want to do! Northern Italy gets snow but if you are a skier this is perfect. Picture yourself in a small hotel at the foot of the alps. You have T-Bars up the mountain and at the end of your day you return to a warm hotel with a blazing fire. Maybe a drink and some warm polenta. Northern Italy is all about snow and skiing.
As we move away from the mountains to Milan we still have winter snows but Christmas time in Milan is beautiful. Christmas lights everywhere, warm people and great food. Don’t forget the Milanese fashion. Milan does everything first class. If you enjoy the character of New York city in the USA, then you will love Milan, Italy.
As you travel south to Rome you can still get cold weather and some occasional snow but again Christmas time is a celebration. We were in Rome in 2011 for New Years Eve and New Years Day celebrations. We got to see the Christmas lights and walk the main streets at midnight (closed to car traffic) and drink champagne under the Christmas lights. At Victor Emanuel (The “birthday cake” building) they set off fireworks at midnight.
Victor Emanuel Building Rome
Proceed farther south into Campania and beyond and winter is mostly in the mountain peaks. They can get an hour snow every so many years but it never lasts long as normal winter temperatures are in the 60’s. It is the rainy season in southern Italy. This can be heavy at times but is usually very tropical. Wherever you go, enjoy yourself and be Italian.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Champagne, Europe, Festivals, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Regions of Italy, Rome
Tags: Food, Italian, Italian Alps, Italian cuisine, Italian people, Italy, Milan, No Tour Touring, Polenta, Romance, Rome, Skiing, Snow, Southern Italy, T-Bars, Tourism, Travel, Winter in Italy