Despite what people might think, some of the best things about Tuscany are simple pleasures. From food to art to wine, Italy is often thought to be synonymous with decadence, supreme beauty and complicated feasts that take all day to prepare. However in the region of Tuscany, cucina povera or the peasant kitchen is the traditional, very modest and yet still incredibly delicious type of cooking that characterizes most family meals. Specifically, if you’re visiting the Siena area, there is one type of pasta that fits this description perfectly: the simple and yet oh-so-tasty, pici pasta.
Being an Italian-American living in Italy, I often encounter questions on Italian culturalisms. Sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I don’t. But, I am always eager to share when people ask me what it is like having family here in Italy. I like this question because it is one of my favorite things about my life here. I may not get to see my family that often, since they live 6.5 hours in the car away from Florence, but I always know they are nearby-ish if I need them.
Visiting Italy, it is easy to be overwhelmed with religious imagery and after some time, the saints and images of the Virgin Mary can tend to blur together. Sometimes, even more confusing, it is hard to know who a particular saint is, or why they are so important. In Italy, cities, towns, churches and monasteries often take their names after specific Catholic saints and knowing a little bit about who is important and why can help make the experience a lot more enjoyable. This knowledge gives you insight into the history, beliefs and ideals of the people and places you visit, and can even help with identifying which monuments and churches are not to be missed. One particular saint worth remembering is St. Catherine of Siena, one of only two patron saints of the whole country of Italy, as well as being patron saint of Siena.
Monteriggioni is a small medieval village, idyllically situated on the top of a hill, still surrounded by an entirely intact, formidable wall. It is on the medieval road, Via Francigena, a famous pilgrimage route that connects Rome to France and Canterbury. Additionally, Monteriggioni was even mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, who noted the towns impressive towered walls, comparing it to a crown. Tourist groups often pass by this small hamlet, in favor of the nearby San Gimignano, but Monteriggioni is worth a visit all on it’s own. Below are five reasons this tiny hilltop hamlet is sure to steal your heart.
If you’ve never had Pecorino cheese directly from Italy, you’re in for a treat. This sheep’s milk cheese can be hard or soft and comes in hundreds of varieties. Despite this, there are four main types, which boast being the “holy grail” of Pecorino. All four enjoy protected PDO (Protected Destination of Origin) status (known as DOP in Italian). This means that pecorino accompanied by this distinguished label is produced in a manner and location specifically outlined by the European Union, often adhering to ancient standards. Everything from the aging of the cheese, the type of sheep that can produce it, to the way it is cured, is tightly controlled. The following four protected variations of Pecorino are all unique, delicious and absolutely should not be missed while you’re in Italy – they only place where you can truly enjoy them in their freshest (or oldest) form.
Montalcino is one of those idyllic Italian towns that, once visited, is difficult to forget. Part of its intrigue is because it still looks almost exactly as it did in the 16th century. In fact, it is still surrounded by complete, fortified walls. The location of Montalcino only adds to its splendor, as it is situated just south of Siena, in the beautiful Val d’Orcia nature park. Breathtaking Montalcino is bordered not just by imposing walls, but brightly colored wildflowers, rows of cypress trees, softly rolling hills and charming vineyards and olive groves. In a place so perfect, there is a lot to see and do, but there are few things in particular that absolutely should not be missed.
Pronouncing and using words correctly in Italian is a challenging but necessary skill to acquire when learning the language. A misplaced or a mispronounced letter can entirely change the meaning and botch what you’re trying to say. I saw this first hand when one night at aperitivo. My husband wanted to order the classic Italian before dinner cocktail called a “negroni.” Unfortunately for him, he very politely and very seriously asked our waitress instead for a “negrone” a very derogatory term for a large black man. In the end, over hysterical tears of laughter, he did manage to get the drink he wanted and escaped with only a slightly bruised ego. We still laugh about this today and really we’ve all been there; it is so easy to make these mistakes! Below I’ve compiled 5 (not entirely for polite company) easily mixed up words. You’ve been warned!
Some people have asked me why I chose the name “The Lost Fasano” for my blog/instagram/twitter. The reason is complicated but it stems from a simple premise. When my husband and I decided to move back to Italy, we knew we were taking a leap. We knew that (at the time) neither of us had jobs or any idea if we would find them and we had just come from a similar trust fall situation that landed us unemployed in San Francisco. However, what we did have was faith. We had faith that it would work out, and if it didn’t, it would still be OK. We believed in each other and in ourselves and most importantly in that little voice in our hearts that told us we were making the right choice. So, if everything is so great, why am I still lost and why Fasano?
It’s that time of year again. No, I am not referring to Christmas. I am talking about cold and flu season. The time of year my germaphobe self particularly loathes. If you thought being a germaphobe was a hard knock lifestyle in America, it’s a downright torturous in Italy. You see, Italy has some rules and ideas about sickness that we don’t prescribe to as Americans. And, as such, it means that one, there are more germs floating around than there should be, and two, the modes of catching said germs are entirely different. So, in honor of the inevitable sniffles, I give you: Rules about getting sick in Italy
Summer is officially over, but as the days slowly cool into fall, I can’t help but feel grateful. I am grateful because this summer, was largely different than all the other ones I have passed in my life. Not because I was in Italy or it was particularly amazing or exciting but I had a real epiphany that I just can’t shake, even now as the daylight fades. Continue reading