Travel Like Mozart

You think you know Italy. You’ve traveled to Rome, Venice and Florence. You’ve been to Siena, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi coast and Como. You’ve been to Pisa, Parma and Pompei and basked under the Tuscan sun. Seen the towers of San Gimignano and drunk the Brunellos of Chianti. Bravo fellow Italian traveler you’ve just began to discover Italy!

There’s much more to see and learn about Italy and like the proverbial onion or tip of the iceberg you need to dig deeper and peel away the layers of  “show and tell” travel to discover Italy beyond the beltway. Mozart toured Europe as a child, something that was not commonly done at that time. Traveling with his father and other members of his family he performed for various courts and dignitaries. Journeys that exposed him to many different styles of music (notably Italian and German) with lasting impressions that influenced his destiny as a composer. Mozart made three trips to Italy with varying degrees of pleasure and success but uncontested in the wealth of ideas that strongly influenced his artistic development.

mozartOn your next trip to Italy, travel like Mozart, go further afield and look for something completely different. Besides Assisi visit La Verna, a Franciscan retreat in the centre of the Tuscan Apennines, where Francis received the stigmata. Discover that there’s more than wine in and around Chianti, visit San Giovanni d’Asso near Siena for truffles with a side trip to an Italian terme. Drive the historical route of the Brenta Riviera and visit the Palladian villas  of the Veneto near Vicenza. Stop at Trattoria Porto Menai dall’ Antonia along the canal in Mira for a spectacular feast of scampi giganti griglia (giant shrimp, grilled) with prosecco to drink.

You may have seen the Sistine Chapel but the mosaics of Ravenna will leave you with an equal sense of wonder. Leonardo’s Last Supper is amazing but Giotto’s interpretation, located in the Scrovegni chapel on the estate grounds of a Paduan money lender’s son who in atonement for his father’s sins sought redemption through art, is in many ways as intriquing as Leonardo’s masterpiece in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Discover antica farmacia (pharmacies) where healing ingredients from nature create an Italian sense of benessere. They can be found all over Italy if you know where to look. Visit Ferrara, Verona, the Gonzaga court of Mantua and Bellagio for a romantic view.

Learn new things  about Italy to add to what you already know and come up with something completely different in your travels. I guarantee you’ll never think of  Italy the same afterwards and never think about having a cappuccino after 12 noon.

The Red Passion Collection – What does an Italian Sourceress conjure up for Valentine’s Day?

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What does an Italian Sourceress conjure up for Valentine’s Day to See and Savor Italy?

Traveling in Italy, sourcing products for CosituttiMarketPlace , brings me to artisan producers and generational families who have a passion for the cultural and culinary history of regional Italian food and la bella vita . Here is a collection of some of our favorite food, wine, art and design for the Red Passion of an Italian inspired Valentine’s Day.  A desirable collection that shares the color Red and the Romance of Italy.

Francis Francis X7.1

I could have begun the Red Passion Collection with an iconic red Ferrari but I was looking for something a little more attainable and Illy’s Francis Francis X7.1 iperEspresso machine may be it. The signature lipstick red curved design by Italian architect Luca Trazzi makes brewing a cup of espresso a work of art and a whole lot of fun.

Campari and Red Wine

Campari has always been my favorite Italian aperitivo. This bitter-sweet, bright red herbal liqueur is made from over 80 different herbs whose recipe remains an everlasting family secret. Among the Brunello, Chianti and Super Tuscans that get most of the wine media’s attention there are a whole group of bold, full-bodied Italian red wines and pale rosy sparklers that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. Here are a few to consider.

  • Brick-red or garnet Barolo and Barbaresco – the King and Queen of Italian wines from Piemonte
  • Ruby colored Barbera d’Asti another Piemontese wine with aromas of juicy black cherry, ripened blackberry and plum
  • Rose-red Brachetto d’Acqui – a semi-sparkling frizzante with a natural sweetness reminiscent of rose petals, strawberries and raspberries with a low alcohol content (5.5%)

Aceto Balsamico

In the pantheon of Italian food products one type of vinegar stands above all others, Aceto Balsamico from Modena. Rich, glossy, a deep red-brown, a true balsamic vinegar gets its color from the skillful cooking of the grape must and the aging in wooden barrels and its complexity of flavor from the passion of those who make this unique Italian condiment. It is a tonic, digestivo, a gastronomic treasure of Italy with a depth of flavor that enlivens a variety of foods. Our favorite-drizzled over flakes of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Chianti Red Wine Jelly

The passion and color of Chianti red wine combines with organic apples from the Arno Valley to create a chutney-style jelly, a unique condimento or perfected glaze with a sharp yet sweet flavor that complements grilled meats, pork, lamb, roasted chicken and more like this deliciously different for Chianti Cranberry Sauce.

Amarena Sour Cherry Jam

You’re almost tempted to drink this jam made from the viscola cherry of the Marche by Morella Austera as the aroma of wild cherries and deep ruby color reminds you of a wild cherry wine which they also make! We use it in a variety of ways on muffins, toast, as a topping for ice cream, yogurt or panna cotta and as a filling for our Italian thumbprint cookies.
Italian Red Sauce

Botanically related to the mandrake, or “love plant”, the tomato was once believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac, said to be able to “lead a man like a dog”. It certainly has led a lot of men to the table as a sauce, seasoning and ingredient. Cooked tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant making Italian red sauces ideal for a heart healthy Valentine’s Day like this Tuscan Red Sauce made with Sangiovese Wine.

Venice and Verona

Venice “La Serenissima” is perhaps the most evocative and romantic of all Italian cities and Verona a city so famous for love that it gets thousands of letters simply addressed to “Juliet. Two of our favorite cities in Italy and the setting for two of our favorite movies about Italy. Against the evocative background of Venice, Casanova (played by Heath Ledger) finds the true meaning of love all while avoiding the Inquisition and in Verona Club di Giulietta, a group of volunteers keep the romance of Juliet alive by answering letters that have been left for her in Verona for over 70 years. One letter inspired the movie Letters to Juliet. Listen to one of Shakespeare’s most beautifully sung sonnets.

Obvious and Less Obvious Verona

Be sure to look beyond the obvious when traveling in Italy. Enter the city of Verona. Tourists travel here for the obvious Romeo and Juliet experience and to see the famous Roman Arena on Piazza Bra, one of the biggest and best preserved arenas from the Roman Empire. Or to cross the Ponte Scaligero and visit Castelvecchio, a 14th century fortress with M-shaped merlons that run along the walls of the bridge and castle.

The Castle and Bridge were my first introduction to the city in 1999, a stop-over on a road trip with my Italian cousins on our way to Venice. On this trip I would be spending more time in Verona and I began with dinner.

A walk down from Piazza Bra along Via Mazzini (a pedestrian only street) will lead you to well-curated shops, chic boutiques and restaurants that preserve the gastro-history of the Veneto. One of these restaurants is Ristorante Greppia on Vicolo Samaritana. The street, a small-secluded alley-way (vicolo), takes its name from the Biblical Samaritan woman and the restaurant from the courtyard tavern where horse drawn carriages took travelers to the train station. The tavern was called greppia (manger) because it was the place where the horses ate. A less than obvious place for one of the best meals I have had in Italy.

Greppia is described as a restaurant of cucina tipica Veronese and although it serves food and wine typical of the region, there is nothing common about the experience you’ll have dining here. The food, hospitality and atmosphere at Ristorante Greppia were exceptional. We ate in the upstairs dining room but there is a brick vaulted dining area downstairs that looked very nice. There were 6 of us including 2 children and everyone couldn’t be happier. I had the Tortelli di zucca mantovana (pumpkin ravioli) and it was as good as I have had it in Mantova and Ferrara. I definitely plan to return for the fegato di vitello alla veneziana (sauted calf’s liver with onions).

After dinner we spent time walking to Piazza delle Erbe, one of the most picturesque squares in Italy sight-seeing the buildings, towers and sculptures in and around the square including Palazzo Mafei, topped with six  sculptures of the gods Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, Hercules and Minerva. Then there are churches guarded by hunchbacks (Sant’Anastasia), piazze, bridges, gates and gelaterie including Gelateria Savoia (said to serve some of the best gelato in the area) that all bear a second look. The first time I traveled to Verona I saw the obvious and like many of my travels in Italy, Verona deserves a another look to see and savor a city.

Valentine’s Day Graffiti

Graffiti is an ancient Italian tradition that began in Rome with the “scratching” of slogans, notices, curses and comments on the city’scolumns and walls. To this day graffiti writing is practiced throughout Italy often to the shock and dismay of tourists who don’t understand the social, political and romantic implications.

In Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, thousands of star crossed lovers have written their names on the entrance walls to Juliet’s house which at one time were completely covered with graffiti. It is a long standing tradition that is now confined to panels placed at the entrance with sticky notes and torn sheets of notebook paper replacing the graffiti. Although not completely condoned by the Italian establishment graffiti writing is actually encouraged during the Valentine’s Fair in Verona. 

On the two days of the Valentine festa the front door of Juliet’s house is completely covered in love letters which on 14th are taken down and judged. The Cara Giulietta (Dear Juliet) prize is awarded for the most beautiful love letter which is archived together with those from past celebrations.