Meet yout guide: this month is for Debora!

Welcome back to our “Meet Your Guide” post!

DEboraThis month we are going to meet Debora a very sweet guide from Milan, who’ll tell you all about food and history and fashion, afterall you’re in Milan!

 

Name:  Hi, I’m Debora

Nationality and Hometown? I’m Italian originally from Monza a town north of Milan.

Name of tour you lead and where: I’m very fond of our gourmet tours and I lead the Food Tasting Tour and the Beers&bites walking tour.

Monza's Formula Uno Circuit

Monza’s Formula Uno Circuit

If you are not from the city you are based in for tours, what originally brought you there? I was born and raised in Monza, which is mostly famous for the “Formula Uno” races. Monza is a tranquil town with a great historical center and a big, lovely park, the green beating heart of the city. I love enjoying the energy of a big city like Milan while working but go back home at night to a quite, comfy town where I can rest.

Debora (in red) during a food tour

Debora (in red) during a food tour

Your favorite part of the tour: The best part of the Food tour is the Brera district: one of the most beautiful in town. I love to walk about the area filled with locande, art galleries, caffetterias, osteria and to show the connection between art, culture, history and the Milanese cuisine to all visitors.

Drogheria Milanese

Drogheria Milanese

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: Milan is a metropolis where one can find all sorts of place and personally I like very much shops like “Temakinho” where fine sushi is served with Brasilian cocktails! Despite the many original offers one can find, Milan has a deeply rooted gastronomic culture, that you can discovery at design and fashion restaurants like “Dametra” or “La Drogheria San Marco”, here traditional cooking is served, rivisisted or fashionably served to fully immerse oneself in the Milanese style.

What’s next on your travel bucket list? I wish to visit the entire world! But The United States are very high on my list!

Bergamo's Duomo

Bergamo’s Duomo

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? When visiting north Italy, my suggestion is to plan a long stay in Milan and use it as “base” to travel around the smaller cities, like Monza (my hometown), Bergamo and Mantova all while experiencing the locals life in Milan.

If Debora convinced you, don’t hesitate and book you foodie tour in Milan!

Warm up your winter with an Italian cappuccino

What’s better than a hot, foamy cappuccino to start the day?

Hot cappuccino

Hot cappuccino

For us, cappuccino is like morning fuel, it’s absolutely necessary to start the day and it has to be foamy, creamy and hot. Italians are used to good food and they are extremely demanding about it. After all, a good cappuccino can make your day and a bad one, on the other hand, may ruin it.

The secret for a perfect cappuccino is the foam that should come in a rich, creamy and consistent layer. You can ask for some cocoa powder or cinnamon on top.

But what is this cappuccino? Basically consider that is based on a regular espresso, milk and foamed milk. The creamy foam strictly requires whole milk.

The perfect pairing for a perfect breakfast is with a buttery, fragrant brioche. Yes, we know that the correct name for this pastry is croissant, but we call it brioche anyway. If you want to feel and act like a real local, try to order breakfast standing at the counter and saying: Cappuccino e brioche, per favore!

Usually we don’t order a cappuccino in the afternoon since it’s considered a breakfast drink. I mean, they’ll serve it to you but if you want to feel like locals, don’t order it after 11 a.m. ;-).

cappuccino-e-brioche

cappuccino-e-brioche

But what’s the origin of this drink? First of all, the name literally means hood, or rather small hood, since it recalls the brown color of the habits used by the Capuchin friars. The first version of this drink appeared for the very first time in Wien, where the first cafés were opened in 18th century and where once a Capuchin friar, asked the barman to mild his coffee with some milk and spices. The first cappuccino was born.

When Austrian have conquered the central and northeastern Italian territories, they  brought with them their habits, “Kapuziner” included, and it became popular mostly in the area of Trieste.

Actually the cappuccino as we know it, descends from these first versions, but has some differences and it became popular only from the beginning of the 20th century, when the first coffee machines were patented by a brilliant, young Italian mechanic born and raised in Milan: Luigi Bezzera. From then on, it has spread all over the world!

Being so proud of our fellow citizen (and being cappuccino addicted), we couldn’t not include this drink in our Food Tour in Milan. The first stop of the tour is in a bakery that smells like fresh bread where we taste cappuccino and a sweet pastry. Drooling? Come and taste a cappuccino in Milan with us!

We bet that now you’re dying for a cappuccino :-)

Autumn in Tuscany: the traditional Mushroom Soup recipe

Autumn in Tuscany is marvelously colorful  and smells like mushrooms and chestnuts. Imagine how cozy could be to savor a hot, fragrant soup looking at the foliage outside the window…it really warms body and soul.

Autumn in Tuscany

Autumn in Tuscany

Mushrooms are typical in traditional cuisine and bring us back to a time when the ingredients were the seasonal ones and when people used to cook what the nature had to offer. Also that’s why the original recipe uses mixed mushrooms, since this is what you find when you go pick them! A mixture!

Still nowadays in countryside, grandparents go to find mushrooms in woods with their grandsons and they teach them how to recognize the good ones (if you’re not an expert, do what we do, go to a good shop and buy safe mushrooms ;-)).

Mixed mushrooms

Mixed mushrooms

Here there’s an easy and tasty recipe for you, to enjoy this special comfort food with your family and friends. The ingredients and the preparation are simple, like in most of the traditional Italian recipes.

What you’ll need (4 servings)

  • 800g mixed mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 ripe red tomatoes
  • chopped parsley
  • 1l vegetable broth: face the truth,the secret is in the broth, if you’ll prepare it fresh, your soup will  taste far better. It takes a little longer but at the end you’ll  say: I made it!
  • home-baked sourdough bread (I’m pretty sure that your favorite bakery sells it ;-))
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

How to prepare it

First of all, mushrooms should never been washed, but gently wiped using a damp towel.  They’re spongy and washing them under running water means spoiling them since they’ll absorb the water and will lose their aroma. After that slice them thin. Boil for few seconds the tomatoes, peel them and remove the seeds.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, sauté the garlic, then add mushrooms and pepper. After sautéing a couple of minutes , add chopped tomatoes and all the broth. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15 min.

How to serve it

Toast the bread slices and settle them at the bottom of the soup-tureen, pour the hot soup on them and serve it!tuscan-mushrooms-soup

Give your soup a twist ;-)

To make it extremely lavish, pour your mushroom soup into single soup-tureens and cover the surface with some grated Parmigiano, put in the oven and wait until it makes a crispy, golden crust then serve it…hot and delicious!

Like many traditional recipes, the traditional Tuscan mushroom soup is 100%  vegetarian, have you noticed it? And if you serve with gluten free bread is also enjoyable by who needs a gluten-free diet, a truly delicacy for everyone!

And least but not the last, let’s talk about the wine! As every good meal deserves, also the mushrooms soup needs to be paired with a good red wine and our option goes for a bottle of red Chianti, the king of Tuscan wines. It will soothe the palate and the soul.

If it happens to you to come to Tuscany, grant yourself a treat and join our Food Tour in Florence, a real dive into the food tradition and a chance to visit traditional places spotted by locals!

GRAPPA AND ITS MULTIPLE USES

If you have in mind to visit destinations in northern Italy you can’t ignore grappa. Let’s say it, in Italy a meal can’t be considered finished until you drink the so called ammazzacaffè…which can be literally translated into “coffee-killer”, since is meant to dull the caffeine effect.

A glass of grappa

Each Italian region has its own traditions in terms of ammazzacaffè, but we can say that if in southern Italy usually restaurants serve the world-famous Limoncello, in northern Italy what will arrive on your table is grappa. Of course many restaurants have Limoncello, but since you’re here, why don’t try something local? And honestly after a rich Milanese menu there’s nothing better than a little glass of grappa to help the  digestion. After all, as old (and wise) people say: a devil drives out another.

If you’ve never seen it, imagine that grappa can be transparent, golden or brownish and contains around 40% alc/vol. It comes from the distillation of pomace and, exactly like for wine, the taste depends on the grapes used to make it and on the aging. If aged in wood barrels, the color turns into yellow or darker and it gets a nice vanilla taste.

Let's spray some grappa!

Let’s spray some grappa!

In our Milan Food Tour, we figured  out a way to taste it…by spraying it! Our clients decide if to spray it directly in their mouth or on a hand and then to smell it…Don’t worry, for tougher people small glasses are provided ;-). We picked a variety of grappa distilled from a sweet grape, with a nice floral bouquet of honey, vanilla, almond and fruits like apple and pear. We promise, even the most hesitating person was surprised by how sweet and smooth it can be.

But speaking about habits, how do we serve it in Italy? Basically we drink it straight in small glasses, or we add it to the coffee to make the so-called caffè corretto (literally “corrected coffee”). The quantity served depends on you and on where you are, don’t be surprised if in simple trattorie in country side we bet that they’ll pour you a bigger quantity of it! If you’re hosted by a local family it may happen that after dinner the host proudly opens for you his liquor cabinet and describes you the features of each variety of grappa in it.

If you don’t like to mix your coffee with grappa, you can “rinse” the cup with some grappa after that you finish the coffee. Just put a little amount of grappa in the cup, stir and drink…yummy!

But grappa’s multiple purposes are not finished yet! It can also be used to give a twist to a simple fruit salad. The best is with peaches, just slice them, add some sugar and some grappa and eat them…you’ll be surprised by the taste! Same with gelato, try to put some on top of your vanilla, pistachio or chocolate gelato and tell us if it’s not delicious.

Last but not least, try to put some on meat before putting it on the barbecue, it will give it a special taste and the meat will be more tender.

We bet you’re curious now, then join our walking tour in Milan, learn about grappa’s multiple, creative uses and make a toast with us.. Cin Cin!

About Prosciutto, Culatello and other treats

Summer is around the corner, and we are convinced that some tips about Prosciutto, Culatello and other treats could be useful for your summer parties :-)

From the green, gentle hills of the province of Parma, come some of the most refined Italian specialties: Prosciutto di Parma, the Culatello and last but not least, the Parmigiano.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

The real Prosciutto di Parma is produced following a rigorous, traditional method where no preservatives are involved, but only salt, skill and care. The real one is not too salty, has a delicious perfume and melts in your mouth when you eat it…mhhh. To be sure that you’re buying real Prosciutto, check carefully the skin of the prosciutto that you’re buying and look for the crown-shaped brand PARMA.

On the other hand, the Culatello – the King of cured meats – which comes from the best part of the leg of the pig, looks similar to the Prosciutto but is drier, the slice has an oily surface and the taste is stronger. Also the production is different, since instead of being aged in dry places, is kept in humid, old caves and, believe us, all of it gives them the distinctive, unique flavor.

When you buy Prosciutto or Culatello, be sure that the host slices them fresh under your eyes, like it happens during our Milan Food Tour. And as we say to our guests:  eat them with hands, they will taste even better!

How to taste them

When you have such great ingredients, the best recipes you can prepare are the easiest ones.

Italian flair on a cutting board

There’s nothing better than putting some prosciutto, some Culatello, chunks of Parmigiano and black olives on a old-fashioned wooden cutting board…easy and tasty.  Ah, don’t forget crusty bread, a good glass of wine or beer (a good Bonarda or a fresh ale could be perfect) and a little bowl of aromatic honey to put on the cheese.

 

Prosciutto e Melone

Prosciutto e Melone

Prosciutto e melone

When it’s summer, buy a sweet orange melon, just slice it and wrap some Prosciutto around each slice..the sweet-salty combination is literally delicious.  You can serve them as an appetizer before lunch or dinner and accompany with a glass of white wine like a Vermentino or a Chardonnay.

 

Parmigiano reggiano

Parmigiano reggiano

Formaggio con le Pere

(Veggie option, go for cheese!)

In Italian there’s a sentence which sounds more or less like this: Don’t let the farmer know how good cheese is with pears. Seems obscure? Just try to pair Parmigiano chunks with ripe sweet peer slices and a glass of Sangiovese or Cabernet and then let us know.

Share your experience with us!

PS: If you want to taste Culatello and other treats, if you’re fallling in love with italian food, please, discover this 10 things to do and see in Milan ( there’s our Beer Tour, too!)

Meet your guide in Florence: “la Vale”

Meet your guide in Florence: “la Vale”, she’ll lead you thru the city’s  alleys to discovery Florence and Tuscany flavors.

valentina

Valentina

Name: Valentina

Nationality and Hometown? I’m a genuine Florentine.

Name of tour you lead and where: I lead the Food tours of Florence, as well as Segway and Bike Tours!

Why you chose to become a touristic guide? Because I simply love Italian art and history and I want to spread my knowledge to the world.

Giulia

This is the famous Giulia

Your favorite part of the tour: I like the fact that our tour introduces my customers also to the shop owners who participate in presenting Florence culinary traditions, making the tour an unconventional one because it isn’t only the guide who speaks. But, to tell the truth, I enjoy too much teasing Giulia at the “balsamic vinegar tasting”, I always drive her mad :)

Which is you favorite local restaurant: Mmm…If i have to pick one, I choose “Buca Lapi” I love it especially because is one of the historical restaurant in town. I like best of all their hand-made pasta, the Florentine steak and the great wine selection they offer. Make it a stop of your trip!!

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss: One must-do thing in Florence is to get lost and wander in the Oltrarno area, the side out of the touristic shops and attractions, where one can meet the authentic Florentine spirit and people. Santo Spirito

Favorite Travel Quote? “Be the change you want to see in the world” which is more a life mantra, but is applicable also to travelling.

What’s next on your travel bucket list? First place on the bucket list is Mongolia, since I want it to be special, I’m taking extra time and care to plan this journey. As for next trip, it certainly is to Greece to the complex of Meteora, I just can’t wait!

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? Interact with the locals! Florentines are very amusing and you can learn a lot from everyone as well as having fun with them. Do’t be offended if they play you jokes all the time, it’s just the way we are.

Lampredotto

Lampredotto

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving? Easy question: lampredotto! You might wrinkle your nose at hearing what’s made of, but believe me when I say you must it try before criticize! And I won’t say what it is, for you have to come here and taste it.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? I remember this one time I was on a Bike&Food tour of Florence with a female volleyball dutch team, who were very beautiful girls and everyone would turn their head to look at them. I convinced them to sing Holland’s national anthem while we were pedaling along the city’s boulevards, by the end of it even ambulances and police drives were honking at us for appreciation!! It was hilarious!

What do you like most about leading tours? I take satisfaction at interacting everyday with people from allover the world, who teach me new facts about their country while I stand as a channel between their culture and mine.

When you’re coming to Florence, book your tour and ask for Valentina if you want a tasty introduction to the city and a good laugh!

MEET YOUR GUIDE IN MILAN: PAOLO

Paolo, your guide in Milan

Come meet Paolo, your guide in Milan!

On our monthly interview we’ll introduce you to your guide in Milan, if you’re going to book a Food Walking Tour he’ll be the one showing you around!

Name: Paolo

Nationality and Hometown? I’m Italian, a genuine, native Milanese!

Name of tour you lead and where: I lead the Milan Food Walking Tour, to introduce you to our culinary traditions and history.

Why you chose to become a touristic guide? I am a tour guide because I love Milan and I want to share its history with you, who come to visit this wonderful city!

Your favorite part of the tour: I can’t tell which is my favorite, because each stop of the tour has its distinctive traits and the owners of the shops where the tastings take place, are nice and friendly and all with a different story to tell. Just walking about Brera district is an experience!

Pizza al Padellino

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: The pizza by slice of Pizzeria Gaffurio, cooked in the “padellino” with a wood oven! Perfect for a quick meal at the end of the day or between tours.

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss: Milan has many beauties. The monuments and churches of the city are marvelous, but if I have to choose I’d say: the Duomo, the Sant’Ambrogio Basilica and the Navigli (canals, “i canali”) area

Favorite Travel Quote? “I am not the same having seen the Moon shine on the other side of the world” by Mary Anne Radmacher. The sky isn’t the same from everywhere but the only way to find that out is to travel the world.

What’s next on your travel bucket list? On my bucket list’s top is the Trip, with capital “t”: I’m planning to take the Trans Mongolian Express!

Lodi

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? Save a day to visit a small medieval town. People tend to admire only the visible, forgetting what is used to be like before the grandeur of the marbles. In Italy there are many medieval villages and all are beautiful and all are worth spending one of your days visiting.

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving?

Risotto Giallo (Zafferano)

The saffron risotto, without a doubt. Make sure to eat at least once the “risotto giallo” the traditional and most representative dish of Milano.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? Well, all the tours are unique so it’s hard to tell. What makes the tour worth leading though, is when someone tells me the they never thought that Milan could be so fascinating!

What do you like most about leading tours? What else but meeting people from all around the world, a refreshing experience to compare customs and tradition of one another’s country!

How do you like your beer?

Brewery” is a word that usually goes with the Germans or the Belgian abbeys, where the most famous artisanal beers were born. And it’s quite funny to think that they used it as a replacement for food, in their meditation and fasting periods!

All beers are delicious, and we all know that almost every country has its special golden nectar: from the delicate Blanche beers in Belgium to the Weizen beers in Germany, you will find plenty of flavors while travelling around: especially nowadays, beer is experiencing quite a renaissance: beer fairs, beer experts, beer lovers are popping out like mushrooms.

But… what about Italy? Italy is the land of wine, ain’t it? Why would we care about beer when we have this wonderfully rich acres of land?

We are probably known for our ‘pizza&birra’ dinners, possibly to consume while watching a soccer match: our beers, in the common thought, are light and sparkling, perfect to be drank in a warm summer night… “Una birra ghiacciata è proprio quello che ci vuole!”, you will hear that quite often when you walk around in town as soon as the sun starts to heat. And when the sun goes down, what’s better than a cool beer to drink with your friends?

Chair-Magazine-Birra-artigianaleAnd yet, during the last five years more or less, we assisted to a ‘beer rebirth’: in stores, just next to the most common brands – the big brown 66cl bottle, anyone? – it’s more and more easy to see some fancier package, to try some interesting taste. Italians re-discovered beer!

You don’t need anymore to dig deep to find a nice beer: stores are filled with strange bottles, but you can find also pretty cute ‘Birrerie” in town, who will let you try their own product.

These beers come usually from “microbirrifici”: if the subject was music here, I probably would have said that these breweries are indie, lo-fi, underground colorful experiences… And they’re experiences to be tried.

So, how are these new ‘indie’ beers? The styles are just the same as in all over the world, with a touch of creativity that makes perfectly understandable the idea of a beer with some typical Italian meal – yes, the one that you usually would pair with wine.

Let’s have a quick overview!

1) IPA

Screen-shot-2010-01-10-at-21.38.45-590x393Short for “India Pale Ale”, it comes from England, and it was originally meant to be exported in India: the long trip this beer had to take is the reason of its peculiar characteristics – like a higher alcohol graduation than the normal Ale, and the bitter-ish flavor of hops that comes right at the tongue.

Being not a delicate taste, goes very good with rich entrees and sauces: English like to drink it with red meat or strong cheeses, so why do not try it while enjoying a semi-old cow cheese (but pecorino will do as well) or some Parma? The bitterness and the slightly salty flavours will truly pop in your mouth!

2) SPICES AND CEREALS BEERS

Tired of the ‘normal’ beer flavors? What did these five girls say… Spice up your life beer! There’s a whole world out there where you can taste pepper-beers, ginger-beers, herbs-beer… brewers love to dare, and try interesting combinations.

Most of these beers are suitable for winter: imagine yourself walking on the cold stoney streets of our cities, desiring nothing more that somewhere cozy to go – then you’ll find a pub where they will hand you a nice pint of cinnamon beer and a warm hamburger sandwich. Suddenly it’s home!

3) LAGER BEERS

Yes, we do have our Lager: light alcoholic, golden and sparkling beer that goes perfectly with… pasta! Its moderate alcohol degree makes it good for a refreshing lunch with friend, a pic-nic, or a warm night on the beach.

It’s the most common beer in the world, that’s why it is so versatile. Have it cold, make a toast and enjoy summer!

pizza_birra…Wait! There’s something missing here, a very important question: after all this, what will happen to our beloved Pizza&birra?

Fear not, this is a pairing that will never disappear. To enhance the flavor of pizza, though, the common light and sparkling beer is not our best choice: pizza is still made of wheat, and its strong flavors may overwhelm the beer, and if the drink it’s too bitter it will ruin the dish.

Better will be try a stronger (in taste, not in alcohol, unless you don’t have to drive!) one: bocks or weizen will do their job. And, of course, we do produce them.

Thirsty after reading? Try some good beer with our Florence Beer Tasting, at the Beer House Club in Corso Tintori.. and discover which one best suits you!

 

Meet your guide: Federica on the Florence Food Tour

On this month’s “Meet Your Guide” we’ll introduce you to Federica, a nice and sweet florentine guide, who’ll teach you all about Florence and its’ fantastic culinary traditions. She leads the Florence Food Walking Tour so make sure to book a spot for yourself!

Federica and Mr Marconcini

Federica and Mr Marconcini

Name: Federica

Nationality and Hometown?
Italian, originally from Incisa a nearby town in the country-side of Tuscany.

Name of tour you lead and where:
Food Walking Tour in Florence!

If you are not from the city you are based in for tours, what originally brought you there?
I moved to Florence because I love it and decided to become Touristic Guide because I want to teach people about this wonderful city.

Roasted Coffee Beans

Roasted Coffee Beans

Your favorite part of the tour:
My favourite part of the Food tour is the Coffee Tasting, because most of the people don’t know what an Espresso really is; or what type of coffee you drink everyday: Arabica or Robusta? And I bet you don’t know what Kopi Luwak is..?!

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city:
In the historical center my favorite place is “Sasso di Dante” a restaurant that’s right next to the Duomo, worth even only for the view on the Cupola, but the pasta and meat  dishes are good too! If you want to stay away from the city center and want to go for a characteristic Florentine restaurant than you place is “Il Papero Rosso”, beware:  you’ll have a fantastic time!

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss:
In Florence? Nothing can be missed! If I have to choose, I’d say the Santa Croce Church! It’s a most fascinating place, full of history and representative of the people that made Florence know and important throughout the world. It’s also the place where Michelangelo is buried!

Favorite Travel Quote?
“People don’t take trips… trips take people” by John Steineck, who really nailed it with this quote. It’s the travel itself that elevates one’s soul and character, every time you travel you change, because you experience another country’s lifestyle, another culture and other traditions.

What’s next on your travel bucket list?
I have Australia as first on the bucket list destinations….and this year I’m going to go! I have already everything planned out, this is like a dream that comes true, I can’t wait!!

What is your favorite Italian city to travel to?  
More than a city, I love to travel to Sicily- Sicilia. The places and history are amazing, the people are wonderful, welcoming and fun. Food it’s ecstasy and if you pair it with the sea view, it’s heaven! Nothing’s best that a nice restaurant at sunset, with view on the seaside.

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy?

That’s a hard one. One thing that I’d like to recommend is to enjoy every aspect of Italy, good and bad.

Handcrafted Gelato

Handcrafted Gelato

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving?
Gelato! And mind, I’m not speaking of ice-cream. We are talking about GELATO hand made by artisans, with fresh milk, fruit, cocoa, cream! Stay away from the high mountains of ice-cream on display in the bars, choose instead the real “Gelateria” (gelato shop) the ones that have flat trays of gelato, or those with covered Gelato bulks. Those are the ones you want to eat!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours?

Every tour has it’s memorable experiences so it’s hard to tell. Certainly the most curious time, was when one of my customer had her first taste of coffee ever in her life! She made a face, that probably was due to the bitterness, but all-in-all she liked it!

 

Typical Tuscan Cold Cuts and Cheese

Typical Tuscan Cold Cuts and Cheese

What do you like most about leading tours?
Ha, this is easy: meeting people from all over the world. It’s cliche, but’s the truth: people literally come from everywhere and food is indicative of one’s culture, and on this tour I present my traditions and tastes to people who compare it with theirs’ and it’s always a rich exchange of facts. Customers are not the only ones learning something new!

What makes your tour unique?
You’ll have to do it to know! J Well I tell very good stories and food facts that’ll make the tastings even more enjoyable.

 

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, book your food tour and we’ll take you to taste our country! See you in Florence!

WHAT IS APERITIVO?!

Italians love their drinks and food and aperitivo is the prelude to our rich meals. Aperitivo is meant to whets your appetite by “opening” your stomach for the feast that’s about to take place.
This is a must do when in Italy and you can bring your kids too, because nowadays you can have it also non-alcoholic !

 

Aperitivo was born in the late 18th century in Torino with Antonio Benedetto Carpano who created the first aperitivo drink: vermut.

Carpano Label

Carpano Label

Vermut is a herbed flavored white wine that Carpano started serving as a pre-meal drink in the central square of Torino, Piazza Castello. Soon afterwards the Martini & Rossi company started a mass production of this white and spiced wine, that we all know now as Martini, but is no longer classified as vermut because not strong enough.

Aperitivo started to spread all over Italy in the 19th century and has reached us to this days, with changes and evolutions. The traditional drinks are: vermutNegroniAmericanoSpritzProsecco. On the non-alcoholic side you can have Sanbittèr or Cordino, strong and bitter in taste, but soft for those who want to enjoy the happy hour without the dizziness!

ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

As said before, the alcoholic drinks are meant to “prepare” your stomach for the meal, but don’t overdo it, you wan to have some wine with your meal too!

Campari Negroni

Did you know that Negroni was born in Florence? It happened in the 1920s thanks to Count Camillo Negroni, who used to drink Americano in his favorite bar until one day, bored with the same drink, asked the bar-tender to add a sprinkle of gin – instead of the seltzer – to give it a twist. As we know now, it was then renamed after the count itself.

Americano is another usual aperitivo drink, that was actually born in Italy despite the name. It’s composed with Italian beverages: Campari BitterVermut and seltzer. Apparently it’s named after a popular Italian boxer, Primo Carnera, who used to have matches mostly in the USA and was himself called “The American Boy”.

Spritz is a most famous drink, originated in Veneto and quickly spread in all north-east Italy. It descend from a custom of the Austria soldiers that couldn’t handle the strength of the Venetian wines and therefore added a part of soda to their wines.

Spritz “Macchiato”

This practice turned into a popular drink, especially from the 1970s when Aperol Soda started to promote the “Spritz Macchiato” (stained or dirtied Spritz) which is the original base of prosecco and soda, plus a hinge of Aperol that adds a touch of reddish to the otherwise pale Spritz and a little taste of orange. Now is called simply spritz.

NON-ALCOHOLIC APERITIVO

You might not get the blur from the fumes of the alcohol, but this drinks have sugar just as well so don’t exaggerate with this either.

Crodino Bottle

Crodino Bottle

Sanbittèr is the first non-alcoholic  Italian “cocktail” mass produced and became famous quite immediately; it’s a sparkling infuse of fruits and herbs, with a bitter taste that recalls quite well an alcoholic drink. Another famous non-alcoholic drink is Crodino whihc is an infuse of spices. The recipe is kept secret, it’s know that is has coriander, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg and also this is quite bitter in taste.

APERITIVO FOOD

Don’t think that you’ll drink on empty stomach! Aperitivo is always accompanied by some delis.

Maybe it wasn’t this way since the beginning: just a few years ago during aperitivo you’d drink and nibble on olives, chips or crackers. But this is no more, aperitivo has evolved itself into a more complex snack with crostini, cold cuts (ham mostly), cheese, bruschetta and so on.

The latest and ultimate form of aperitivo is AperiCena: you drink aperitivo while eating on a “buffet dinner”, which varies from bar to bar, but basically you get all sorts of pasta dish, meat dishes, crudité with dips, along with the classic aperitivo food mentioned above.

Apericena Buffet

Apericena Buffet

Apericena is more expensive than aperitivo - around 10€ per drink, food comprehend – but you eat almost as much as on a meal, that’s why it became so popular among youngster. In the past years it spread all over Italy, even if is still more common in north-center of the country, and within all ages and kind of people.

WHEN…?

Aperitivo happens later than happy hour – without excluding happy hour itself

Now, the apericena or aperitivo time starts from 7pm more or less, but you can still get a drink starting from 6pm, so you can start by “opening” your stomach in preparation for the aperitivo. Between 9pm and 10pm, apericena ends.

If you’re on holiday in Italy and want to try it, know that you can’t start eating before 7pm and check also the prices, because if you don’t want to eat you have to specify it to the waitress when ordering your drinks. In some places during aperitivo time it’s mandatory to have also food therefore pay full price.

Santo Spirito, Oltrarno, Firenze

Santo Spirito, Oltrarno, Firenze

If it’s spring or summer, you have to seat outside, most bars don’t have tables outside and you might end up sitting on a curb, bench or wall, with a plate in one hand and the drink in the other, wondering how you’re going to eat or drink without resting your plate or glass on the ground. After a couple drinks it gets easier. Or you can practice beforehand at home.

Worst part of apericena, are the smurfs-size plates: you can’t get much to eat at one time and have to keep refilling your plate, but the trays of food are stock up continuously and you won’t miss anything.

Now you know all that you need to know to have a proper Italian aperitivo, it is a must do when visiting Italy so make sure to plan it in your visit! And if you need a closer insight on Italian food a guided food tour is always a good start.

So enjoy your Italian holidays and be Italian for one night having Aperitivo or Apericena.