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Italy

Travel Inspirations: A Series

Italian Espresso & Cappuccino

Travel inspires me in a myriad of ways. Each trip, whether foreign or domestic, leaves me altered in some way that is reflected in my home, my cooking, my writing, and my way of life. In the past, I've only written about my journeys. For this sporadic series, I am going to write topics such as what I've brought back from my travels, what has made my travels easier, and even a recipe now and then. To be clear, no one is sponsoring me or paying me to recommend any products I may mention.

My first subject is Italian espresso. I am a coffee perfectionist. I never drink from the office coffee pot,nor do I order coffee when I'm out unless I know exactly what kind it is. At home, coffee is made exclusively in my own espresso machine. I do however love boutique coffee places, such as Porto Rico Importing Co.. They have two locations in Manhattan and one in Williamsburg. There, bags and bags of beans cast off intoxicating scents that surround my brain, leaving me drunk with desire for freshly ground, freshly brewed Columbian coffee.

But I digress. While other blogs can tell you about the glorious scenery and foods of Italy, this post is about espresso. On my first trip to Italy one of my first stops was the enchanting city of Siena. Certain travel moments remain frozen in time and one of my favorite memories is the first morning I stood at a bar and ordered uno cappuccino et uno brioche con marmelade. The small thrill of being understood when I spoke Italian was immediately overshadowed by the taste of the beverage and the flaky freshness of the croissant, followed by the explosion when I bit into the center of the pastry and the orange jam exploded in my mouth. As soon as I scooped the foam from the bottom of the cup with my tiny spoon, I ordered my second cappuccino. I went back every morning. This is still my routine every time I come to Siena.

In Italy, cappuccino is only appropriate at breakfast. Period. No exceptions. You drink it standing, not seated at a cafe table. If you are seated, you might as well wear a sign around your neck stating: TOURISTA. Depending on how late in the morning it is, you may see others at the bar indulging in alcohol, a "spritz," which is considered a mid-morning pick me up. It's usually made with Campari, prosecco, seltzer, and served over ice. At lunch, there is wine. No wonder Italians siesta in the afternoon. When they awake, there is a need for an espresso to revive them.

Italian espresso changed my life. Specifically illy brand espresso. Every time I left Italy, I cried as I drank my final airport illy. Then, I had an epiphany. No matter the cost, I would order illy at home. If I couldn't live in Italy, I could drink Italy. I was over the moon to discover that my favorite Italian beverage had a subscription service and would deliver my beloved espresso to my doorstep every month. After extensive research, I purchased my espresso machine, one that can also make cappuccino and steam milk. In the interest of saving my bit of the planet, I did not want plastic capsules which are available to fit certain machines. I decided to try the ground espresso as well as pods.
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I discovered that not only did I love the product, I was thrilled with the company. There is a family who owns the company and Andrea Illy is a conscientious man who strives to keep his coffee high quality. As a regular subscriber, I have been rewarded each year with a gift. One year, it was sweet porcelain cups. Another, it was a thermos. But the best reward of all is the continued quality of the product as well as the responsive customer service. If you call, you get a human!
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Every morning I make espresso. The mere thought of my Italian, indulgent coffee bliss gets me out of bed every morning. It's not just me. The first thing family and friends who visit ask is if I would mind making them an espresso. With pleasure.
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As if I wasn't impressed enough by their coffee, illy recently sent me the below email explaining their continued commitment to sustainable coffee:

"On May 18, 2018 Illy was in Colombia to celebrate an important moment for the country, and our company: A victory that's helping integrate the ex‑revolutionary armed forces of Colombia (FARC) into the nation's economy through the production of high quality, sustainable coffee.
For four decades, much of the project farmland had been used to cultivate ingredients for the illegal drug trade that financed the FARC group's operations. Now this land represents an investment in peace, following the end of the violent insurgency in the area.

We are proud to share that our chairman, Andrea Illy, met with representatives in Colombia to sign an agreement of understanding that established, among other things, a system to help share illy's best agronomical practices with as many as 600 former FARC guerilla fighters.
We agreed to purchase coffee lots that meet our standards
directly from the group.
Words From Our Chairman:
“We want to tangibly contribute to the complex peace process, working alongside the people and the organizations that are joining forces to make this happen.”
- Andrea Illy

Although the coffee is imported from many places such as Columbia, the tradition feels Italian to me. Every morning when I sip my espresso, I am transported back to an early morning in Siena. Cerulean blue skies contrast against the dusty red of the brick and clay that built the city. Vendors are outside washing their sidewalks, opening their shops, and preparing for their day. Windows are open and the clatter of breakfast dishes and morning chatter float above the narrow street as I walk to my favorite cafe to stand and drink my lovely breakfast cappuccino. Ciao!
Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think! www.illy.com

Posted by teethetrav 06:56 Archived in Italy Tagged espresso cappuccino spritz siena_italy sustainable_products sustainable_coffee illy Comments (0)

SEGUSO: The man, the glass, the poems

Glass-blowing is at least one thousand years old. The tradition of glass defines the island of Murano which lies across the canal from Venice. Glass, to me, is magic and fascinates me. It’s a substance that is indefinable really. A molten liquid which is blown by mouth, spun by hand, baked in a furnace until it becomes a solid. Yet it is a solid that is fragile, often transparent, and can be amongst the most exquisite, ethereal objects known. Giampaolo Seguso comes from a family who, for more than six hundred years has created glass. Born in Murano, his father Archimedes and his uncle Angelo were the creative force who preceeded Giampaolo. Giampaolo is a passionate creator of glass and, it turns out, of words.
I was honored to attend a reading of his poetry book, The Home of the Heartbeats, on May 9 at the Italian Cultural Institute in NYC. To my amazement, each poem has its own piece of glass with the poem etched on the object. Seguso read about fifteen poems from the book and the pieces were on display. He is as passionate about his words as he is about his craft. 9CD67A362219AC6817075A76F0724D35.jpg

My favorite poem and piece of glass is SNOW. Here is a line:
Later, by the stove, we crumble our minutes amid smiles, staring eyes and embraces.
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Another is I ATE MANY CHERRIES which starts: I ate many cherries in my grandfather’s garden…
He not only ate cherries in the garden, he learned his craft generation after generation. It amazes me and leaves me in awe, jealous that he has always known who he is and what he could be. He spoke of seeing himself as one in a long line of relay runners, passing the torch, one to another.

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Posted by teethetrav 10:49 Archived in Italy Tagged venice nyc murano italian_cultural_institute seguso_glass Comments (0)

A House in Sicily

A Book Review

A House in Sicily

I haven’t blogged for a long while. I’ve been working on some other projects and (of course) travelling. I thought I’d resume the blog with a review of a book about travelling. The charm of this memoir, A House in Sicily, is its delightful narrator and her storytelling ability. Daphne Phelps tells the story of how she happened to inherit a home on a hilltop in the Sicilian town of Taormina. With virtually no money to care for the house and property, she turns the place into a small hotel and invites her friends from England to come and stay for a small fee. These friends include artists and literary luminaries such as the cranky Roald Dahl, Bertrand Russell, and even Caitlin Thomas. Rumor has it that Greta Garbo once stayed in the house for a summer, although Phelps was too classy to admit this. The book is a series of vignettes about her guests, the struggle she had to keep the house and navigate through the Sicilian legal (or not so legal) system, and about the characters who inhabit Taormina. If you have been to Taormina, the book will make you want to go back. If you haven't, the book will entice you to go. Either way, it's worth reading. By the way, Casa Cuseni is still a hotel where you can stay. I, for one, am planning to do just that.

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Posted by teethetrav 14:28 Archived in Italy Tagged travel italy books sicily taormina memoir Comments (0)

Pig Roast with Sting!

Fantasy come true

Tuscan Pig Roast at Sting & Trudie's Place

Here's two of my fantasies rolled into one: Sting and his wife are hosting a pig roast at their estate in Tuscany and (for $2200) the public is invited!

Anyone interested in taking me?

Tender is the night at "Divino Tuscany"
Tuscany is an iconic region that, over the centuries, has produced some of the world's most celebrated wines. A land of unparalleled beauty and extraordinary cuisine, it has an abundance of art and architecture that has prompted UNESCO to populate the region with a cluster of World Heritage sites. "Divino Tuscany" brings together all these features in a 4-day Luxury & Wine Event for wine connoisseurs and VIPs that will take place in Florence and Tuscany from June 2nd to June 5th.

The event provides one-of-a-kind experiences in superb settings with the participation of an exceptional roster of hosts to pay tribute to Tuscany's outstanding winemaking tradition. Over the course of four incredible days, attendees will take part in a breathtaking sequence of wine tastings, seminars, special dinners and enthralling entertainment.


Il Palagio, Sting's Tuscan villa
Wine is the leading theme, but the event encompasses all that revolves around the nectar of Bacchus. Historic wineries, castles and palazzos belonging to ancient, noble families will be opened up just for attendees, and sumptuous food will be served in exquisite surroundings by restaurateurs of the caliber of Giorgio Pinchiorri of Florence's renowned Enoteca Pinchiorri. The program includes an inaugural concert by world-famous violinist, Joshua Bell, and a farewell country barbecue at Il Palagio, Sting and Trudie Styler's beautiful private villa in the Valdarno. For full details of this exceptional event, see our full package description.

Guiding spirits of this signature event are James Suckling, former Senior Editor and European Bureau Chief of "Wine Spectator" and one of the world's most influential wine critics, and IMG Artists, the global leader in arts management and a leading producer of cultural and lifestyle festivals. Founding vintners from the Antinori, Frescobaldi, Mazzei, Ricasoli, Il Borro, Petrolo and Castello Banfi estates are also slated for participation. Designed with the highest level of excellence in mind, "Divino Tuscany" is destined to set a new standard in event creation to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification.

Posted by teethetrav 13:48 Archived in Italy Tagged food travel italy wine tuscany sting pig_roast Comments (0)

La Fenice

Venice Opera

DSC02376.jpgIn John Berendt’s book The City of Falling Angels he writes about the mysterious fire that destroyed La Fenice opera house and nearly destroyed all of Venice. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see an opera while I was in Venice and see the magnificent renovation. La Fenice is a golden, sparkling treasure. If you go, be sure you are a buying a seat where you can see the stage. In Italian opera houses, many seats are available where you can’t see without standing and leaning over. It’s kind of like parts of Yankee Stadium. Buyer Beware!
This banner was hanging outside when I visited. DSC02373.jpg Anyone knowing what it means, please comment.

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Posted by teethetrav 05:49 Archived in Italy Tagged venice travel italy opera john_berendt la_fenice Comments (0)

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