Destination weddings, Italian style

Wedding in Catania, "Carrozza in Piazza Duomo" by Giovanni dall'Orto (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Wedding in Catania, “Carrozza in Piazza Duomo” by Giovanni dall’Orto (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Does the Villa Caesar Augustus on Capri sound like your ideal wedding venue? Maybe you are more inclined to exchange vows on the Lovers’ Walk  along the Amalfi Coast. Or take a few of your friends on an antique sailboat and tie the knot on the water. Destination weddings in Italy come in all shapes and sizes.

Commercial wedding organizers are prepared to help you plan a wedding just about anywhere in the Italian South. (No doubt the north, too, but that is somebody else’s blog!) Here are some examples:

A 1950s Italian wedding.

A 1950s Italian wedding.

Sicily: A seventeenth century baroque castle near Taormina offers garden weddings for up to 250 guests, with on-site catering and hotel rooms for about 50 people. Enjoy music and dancing ’til dawn.

Calabria: A medieval chapel attached to a nineteenth century luxury residence near Cosenza, with religious ceremonies available in the chapel or civil ceremonies in other parts of the venue.

Basilicata: A masseria, or large farmhouse, in the hills, has been converted to a beautiful wedding venue with lots of privacy, and a more informal environment.

Apulia: Need space for 800 of your closest friends? Get married on the beach at Monopoli. The club has a private beach and restaurant–with parking for 500 cars.

Campania: Romantic to the core, Sorrento offers numerous wedding venues, and the possibility of a religious wedding inside the medieval cloisters in the historic center of town. Stunning views of the Gulf of Naples and Vesuvius.

A wedding in Amalfi. © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0

A wedding in Amalfi. © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Abruzzo: In a castle near Chieti, you can host your reception dinner in the cantina, the castle’s winemaking cellar, surrounded by enormous wooden casks. The castle sits among grapevines on a hillside above the Adriatic Sea.

One Italian wedding website, Slow Dreams, has an especially helpful page on legal factors involved with marrying in Italy. A Google search for ‘wedding venues in Italy’ turned up nearly three million hits–you won’t have any trouble finding a wedding planner to help you. If you have accomplished the first step–finding your lifelong partner–see what Italy has to offer for your perfect wedding.

Timpano–the big drum of baked pasta!

If you saw the movie The Big Night which I reviewed last week, then you’ve seen timpano, an Italian dish I had never heard of before watching the film. I tried to buy the cookbook written by actor Stanley Tucci’s mother but it is out of print, so I’ll be scouring for a used copy. In the meantime, I find that the internet is full of recipes for timpano, and I’m going to share some links with you to find them.

I have never made this dish. I now live in a household of two, and making a six-quart baked pasta is a little intimidating, not to mention the complexity of the dish. Have you made it? Is a smaller version possible? I have to admit, we do have a pretty big gathering for Christmas and I think this may be our next Christmas or Christmas eve dinner!

Here are some links to recipes:

There is one in Los Angeles Magazine online.

And another with a video tutorial! from Coco’s Italian Market.

This one from Epicurian is made in a 10″ or 12″ springform pan, but from the list of filling ingredients, I don’t know how it could fit in that size pan.

And here’s another adaptation, just for the fun of it–with lots of good photos of the construction process. And it’s a little smaller, so maybe I’ll try it for a dinner with some friends.

Movie Review: The Big Night

big night movieDo you enjoy hearing a little Italian when you watch a movie? Me too! And that’s one of the things I really enjoyed while watching The Big Night. Though it takes place in America, many conversations between Italian characters are in Italian (with subtitles). This 1996 movie has a great cast–Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Minnie Driver, Isabella Rossellini, Ian Holm, Allison Janney–and the acting is great.

An Italian restaurant, run by two immigrant brothers, is on the brink of failure. One big night could change their fortunes–and they throw everything into it. Although not every aspect of the characters is adequately explained, they are realistically flawed characters and I found myself rooting for their successes and wincing at their failures.

This is a wonderful “foodie movie” and if you have ever been comatose over too much wonderful Italian food, this will bring back all the memories.

The Big Night is available on Netflix, so pour yourself a glass of wine and trade the popcorn for some bruschetta. After you’ve watched, tell me what you think of it.

Adriatic beaches in Italy

Italy is a country of coastlines, and those include many beautiful beaches. Broad swaths of sand stretch into the distance at some of them. Tiny white crescents hide between rocky cliffs at others. While the beaches of Tropea and the Amalfi coast get lots of attention, there are also lovely beaches on the Adriatic, Italy’s eastern coast.

Like most beaches in Italy, you will find neat rows of sun umbrellas with lounge chairs, available for rent for a few Euros. Here are some photos and links to whet your appetite:1024px-Alimini_Otranto 1024px-Termoli_Spiaggia_di_Sant'Antonio Vieste pizzomuno Rodi_Garganico

Note: Nude beaches became legal in Italy in 2006. Click here for an article in English about them. Most of the beaches mentioned in the article are in central and northern Italy. Here is another article, in Italian, about the first nude beach in Abruzzo. There are others around southern Italy too, if you want to seek them out.

Rules of the table: Dining etiquette in Italy

Cappuccino_Loves_ItalyEverywhere you go, there are certain dining practices, expectations, and rules. In Argentina, mate (a tea) is served in a gourd with a silver straw, and is passed from person to person around the table. In Morocco, if you take a bone from the stew, you are expected to suck out the marrow. In Russia, table settings typically include a vodka shot glass. Japanese chopsticks are different from Chinese chopsticks.

I have always found Italy pretty laid back about rules in general, but there are some “food rules” that continue to come up. Cappuccino (and coffee with milk in general) is for morning. Don’t twirl spaghetti using a spoon. (That’s for children.) And please for the love of all that is edible, do not put cheese on seafood dishes.

Some people have compiled and explained these rules, and one of the places to find them is a website called Etiquette Scholar, which can help you with dining and related etiquette just about anywhere in the world.

Life in Italy also has a post about Italian food rules, and the comments on it are fun and instructive as well.

And Conde Nast Traveler‘s website has advice for Italian dining from a couple of Italians.

I’m sure during my travels in Italy, I have broken lots of the “rules” and nobody made a big deal of it. I know I’ve had cappuccino in the afternoon. Hubby loves grated cheese on his seafood pasta. But if I see an opportunity to learn more about Italian life and culture by adjusting some dining habits, I’ll do it! Most often, Italians will be gracious enough not to point out your gaffe, but if they do, I hope you’ll be able to thank them for teaching you something new. Buon appetito!

Supper Party by Gerard van Honthorst, ca. 1619. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Supper Party by Gerard van Honthorst, ca. 1619. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Book Review: Tino and the Pomodori

Tino and the Pomodori coverTino and the Pomodori by Tonya Russo Hamilton builds an engaging children’s story around the growing, harvesting, selling, and eating of home-grown tomatoes. Equally engaging is the introduction of simple words and phrases in Italian.

Tino works eagerly with his grandfather to plant and tend their tomato garden. The life cycle of tomatoes is described in the course of the story, from planting seeds taken from the previous year’s tomatoes, to celebrating the harvest at the end of the season. Hamilton takes a more practical than scientific approach to growing tomatoes, so don’t expect a botany lesson–but sit back and enjoy Tino’s excitement, and the loving guidance of his grandparents, as they grow and eat their delicious pomodori.

The watercolor illustrations by Britta Nicholson are simple and rustic, suited to the story. The book is just out this month (June 2014) from Gemelli Press, and would make a lovely gift for a budding gardener or a young Italophile-in-training.

This is Hamilton’s second book. She wrote Wrestling with the Devil with her father, a memoir of his immigration from Italy and wrestling/coaching career. See my review here. Tino and the Pomodori is also adapted from her father’s early life in Italy.

Capodimonte porcelain–a royal tradition from Naples

In the early 1700s, porcelain produced at Meissen became all the rage in Europe. The King of Naples and Sicily, Charles VII, married Maria Amalia, whose grandfather Augustus II of Poland had founded the Meissen factory, the first hard-paste porcelain factory in Europe.

18th c. Capodimonte porcelain examples from the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). Photo: by Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons.

18th c. Capodimonte porcelain examples from the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). Photo: by Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons.

Pursuing his interest in the art, Charles VII founded the Capodimonte (top of the mountain) Porcelain factory in Naples in 1743. Production was well under way when Charles’ father, the King of Spain, died in 1759 and Charles took the Spanish throne and left the throne of Naples to his son Ferdinand. Before he left, however, he ordered the porcelain works demolished, and took the molds with him to Spain to found another factory there.

Ferdinand IV wasn’t so easily dissuaded–he had come to appreciate the porcelain art himself, and re-established the Capodimonte factory in 1772.  The detailed history (some found here) is more complex and involved a lot of experimentation with the porcelain “recipe”, hiring of various artists, chemists, directors, and so forth, and the establishment in Naples of an art academy.

Elaborate bisque figures, "The Triumph of Bacchus" from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Elaborate bisque figures, “The Triumph of Bacchus” from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Ferdinand was soon embroiled in Napoleon’s schemes for Italy, (I’ve posted about that before) and production of the royal sponsored Capodimonte porcelain ceased around 1818. The factory was purchased by Claudio Guillard and Giovanni Tourne, who continued to used the same mark as the royal factory. In 1834 the company was purchased by a Florentine, and about 1896 they combined interests with the Societa Ceramica Richard of Milan. They continue to produce porcelain in the Capodimonte style, and the style is widely copied today.

The Judgement of Paris, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Colorful and elaborate figures typically linked with Capodimonte style. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Judgement of Paris, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Colorful and elaborate figures typically linked with Capodimonte style. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the 18th century products are in museums or collections of the wealthy today. Are you interested in buying some later pieces? Here are some listing from Ebay.com. Some claim to be 19th century pieces, and others are newer.

QUESTION: What is your favorite art or craft from southern Italy? Please comment!

Ravello Concert Society: Classical music on the Amalfi Coast

The terrace at Villa Cimbrone. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The terrace at Villa Cimbrone. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

On a hilltop just a few kilometers from Amalfi, the town of Ravello has long been a haven for musicians, artists, writers, and actors. Founded in the 5th century, Ravello was named a World Heritage Site in 1996.

How did I miss it!!??

Although Ravello is linked with some very big names in the arts–Boccaccio, D. H. Lawrence, Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams, Paul Newman–but perhaps the most enduring connection is with the composer Richard Wagner. Villa Rufolo (built in the 13th century) inspired Wagner for the stage design of his opera Parsifal.

The garden at Villa Rufolo.

The garden at Villa Rufolo.

Wagner’s music continues to anchor the festival music of Ravello, as it has for more than 60 years, but a wide variety of classical music is included in the programs these days.

The Ravello Concert Society’s website is worth a visit–and turn on the sound! You will enjoy the classical music as you browse the wealth of photos and information they provide, including details of the coming performances and links to purchase tickets.

The Ravello Festival website includes additional performance information–though not all of it is in English.

The pulpit in Ravello's Duomo.

The pulpit in Ravello’s Duomo.

Performances are offered throughout much of the year in historic villas, gardens, and on a spectacular concert stage overhanging the sea.

Looks like another destination to add to my travel wish list.