An Italian Vocabulary for the Games at Sochi

luge Armin ZoegglerThe  XXll Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to open in Sochi Russia on February 7, 2014. The main events are scheduled at the Sochi Olympic Park on the coast of the Black Sea and the ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana in the Western Caucasus. Italy will send 113 athletes to compete in ice hockey, speed skating, figure skating, curling, biathlon, X-country, alpine and freestyle skiing,  ski jumping and Nordic combined, snowboarding , bobsleigh, luge and skeleton.

Speaking the language of the Winter Olympics in Italian begins with the pronunciation of Sochi (Sochee) pronounced So- key in Italian. In the Italian language ch has the sound of a k as in the word Chianti. So So-chee is So-key. Here are a few other translated words for watching the games like an Italian.

The Olympic Games –  i giochi olimpici

Athlete  – atleta

Winter sport – sport invernale

Black Sea – mar nero

Ski resort –  stazione sciistica

Figure skating  – pattinaggio artistico, pattinaggio figura

Ice Hockey –hockey sul ghiaccio

Cross- country skiing – sci di fondo

Alpine skiing  –  sic di alpino

Ski jumping – salto

Bobsleigh – bob

Curling – curling

Snowboarding –  snowboarding

Luge – luge or slittino which means to swerve

Biathlon—biathlon

*Italians know a bit about the Olympics, hosting the Winter Games at Turin in 2006 and Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and the Summer Games in Rome in 1960. Winning a total of 235 gold medals makes Italy the 5th most successful country in Olympic history. The Italians will certainly be watching the XXll Winter Olympics to see Armin Zoeggeler compete in the luge. At  age 40, Zoeggler is regarded as the greatest luger in history looking to win his sixth medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

She’s Got a Ticket to Ride

airline keyboardI’ve been traveling to Italy once or twice a year for the last 15 years on business and pleasure. That means I’ve spent a fair amount of time on various airline booking sites trying to find the best fare. Independent travelers like me often feel that finding the best (and I’ll explain my idea of what is best) flight is a little like Clint Eastwood’s famous line in the movie Dirty Harry – “Do you feel lucky? Well do ya punk?

I’ve spent endless hours on the internet searching to find the best and most budget conscious airfares to Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice and Zürich. Playing Russian roulette with a loaded credit card watching the fares go up and down faster than a window of opportunity.  And that may be the biggest problem – if you see what you feel is a good fare should you jump on it or should you wait?  There are differing opinions on this; each has their strengths. I tend to start my search as early as I can, usually 3 months in advance of my departure date and continue looking until I am about 30 days out.  However depending on where you want to go, and more importantly what you want to do and where you want to stay, this may or may not work. Sometimes you get very good airfare only to find that the hotel etc. you wanted to stay at is fully booked.

So how do you find the best travel deals? It all depends on what your needs are. Do you favor one airline over another? Are you flexible with your travel schedule including time of the year? Do you mind layovers  and the number of connections (a hidden clause on most budget airfare sites)?  Are all the connecting flights operated by the same airline or are you flying off brand? Is the airport you will be flying from and to a consideration and how much will it cost for transportation once you land? Airfare is just one consideration in your whole travel experience and the cheapest airfare may not be the best when factored into the overall goals of your trip. There will be tradeoffs. You may be willing to spend a little more on airfare to avoid the 12 hour layover,  attend that cooking school in Tuscany scheduled for one week in September or spend Carnevale in Venice.

I generally start my search with TripAdvisor. Over the years I have found it to be a reliable source of information. So much so that I have made the effort to post several reviews.  I’ve also used Orbitz TravelocityKayakExpedia,HotwireCheap Tickets and Travelzoo.

Lately  I’ve noticed a few new upstarts like Route Happy that include a “happiness” factor (roomier seats, nicer planes, high flyer ratings and best entertainment ) and flight searchers like Momondo with robots that search hundreds of sites simultaneously to give you an overview within seconds. If color-coded  graphs appeal to you sites like Hipmunk display search results with different colored bars representing different airlines and total flight duration, including layovers. GetGoing, a  flight finder with a Pick Two option will give you a discount if you give it two destinations and let it pick one (or something like that?)

I’ve just mentioned a few of the many airfare finders and flight searchers out there. Remember all sites are apt to use cookies tracking your wants and needs with enticing ticket prices to manipulate your choice.  Getting a ticket to ride may be more confusing then ever with matrixes and apps that analyze every permutation.  Caveat Emptor but then again today’s airfare searches give you all the tools you need at your fingertips to customize your travel and for independent travelers like me we often find ourselves considerably lucky.

Slicing Through Italy

berkel meat slice -b80-americanoButcher W.A.Van Berkel began producing meat slicing machines in the late 1800’s in Holland. The quality and innovation of his design quickly differentiated him from his competitors. The concave blade and machine movement allowed a more precise cut especially favored by European meat markets.

The proper slicing of salumi and salami in Italy is both an art and a science and the Italians saw the benefit of having the right machine to do it. Proper slicing is essential to maintain the true flavor components of the meat. Meat slicing aficionados believe that a sleek thin slice of salami allows the real true flavor of the artisan product to come through. Berkel slicers became renowned throughout Italy and to this day are favored.  Emilio Mitidieri, a maestro Italian slicer in San Francisco has a passion for the essence of “issimo”, as in slicing to the thinnest, sourcing and refurbishing vintage Berkel meat slicers from Italy which by the way were manufactured in Indiana (my home state) during the 1920’s. The Berkel slicer Indiana (Model B) with a floral fly-wheel was made in La Porte, Indiana and remained in production for a decade. Their quality, historical innovation and art nouveau style make them highly collectible and many remaining are being restored here and in Italy for those who would like to preserve a piece of industrial history.

Hungry in the Middle of the Night

What would you do if you were hungry and woke up in a luxury hotel, in a foreign city, in the middle of the night? That’s the question the ad men at San Pellegrino pose in their TV You Tube featuring Italian actor Pierfranceso Favino called Live in Italian – Practice the Art of Fine Food. Evidentially other people have been intrigued by this fantasy question as well. In one month 487,170 views were posted.

Favino says he once lived the same experience as the You Tube video while working on a movie in a small town in Southern Italy. There was only one restaurant in town and after some time catering to the hungry actors the owner just gave them the key and told them to let themselves in. Presumably to cook their own meal!

Cooking_GroupWhat restaurant would you like to have carte blanche to cook in to live like an Italian? I once cooked in the kitchen of my friend Rita’s hotel ristorante in Castell’Arquato, an Italian town located in the Val d’Arda near Piacenza. We made pasta and petto di tacchino, turkey breast stuffed with prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It wasn’t the middle of the night and I did have help from a wonderful chef but it came very close to  Favino’s  fantasy experience.

The Wise Men of Ravenna

three wise men san apollinare nuovo and ravennaTraditionally on January 6th, the Three Wise men or Magi visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna an early 6th century Byzantine style mosaic pictures their arrival from the East in stunning, exotic colors and intricate costumes.

One of the main reasons for going to Ravenna is to see some of the finest and most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in the world. In 330 AD the Christian Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the west to Byzantium in the east. From 500 to 700AD, the Adriatic Sea town of Ravenna flourished as an early Christian center influenced by the culture and art of Byzantium, decorating its church ceilings and walls with mosaics.

Visiting Ravenna is like looking into a jewel box and discovering a hidden treasure. Behind the somber basilica exteriors are shimmering mosaics of such quality that Ravenna has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the “outstanding universal value and remarkable significance” of the mosaics.

The Three Wise Men from the East  can also be found on the mosaic image of Byzantine Empress Theodora in Ravenna’s Basilica of San Vitale. The hem oftheodora her imperial cloak of is embroidered  with the figure of the three Magi.  While visiting the sites of Ravenna you’ll want to stop for a piadina, an Italian flatbread filled with Parma ham, sausage, cheese or vegetables. Cooked on a low-rimmed  terracotta or cast iron pan called a “testo“, it is typical of Ravenna and the Romgana region of the eastern Adriatic.  A hand-held street food paired with a glass of Trebbiano or Sangiovese di Romagna perfect for discovering the mosaic beauty of Ravenna.