Posts Tagged ‘southern italy’

Eating Out in Southern Italy

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • October 19th, 2010

It’s no secret Italy is famous for its food. The local pasta dishes, fresh, seasonal produce, robust red wines, exotic seafood, sinful desserts, homemade liquors … need I go on … are some of the best in the world and I’m lucky to live in a region that is exalted even more so for its delectable cuisine.

antipasto calabrese

See what I mean?

Even though the food is simple and straightforward, deciphering menus and choosing courses can make eating out in southern Italy a challenge. Here are a few tips to help with that.

Courses (in chronological order):

1. Antipasto
Antipasto is the Italian equivalent of the appetizer and in many cases, contains both hot and cold dishes. Cold plates are typically lean cold cuts, such as prosciutto or salami, assorted cheese, particularly Pecorino and olives or bruschetta. Hot dishes are typically prepared in-house and can include anything from potato and peppers, eggplant, grilled vegetables or other chef specialties.

In traditional Calabrese trattorie, the antipasto is typically overly generous and diners can easily fill up on the first course. However, you wouldn’t want to do that, because then you’d miss the primi.

Primi Piatti at Mercato Centrale

2. Primi
Primi, or first plates as we’d say in English, are usually either pasta or risotto dishes in southern Italy. Some restaurants allow diners to choose a sampling of their first plates so they can try more than one dish. I *love* this tradition! :-)

3. Secondi
Secondi, or second plates are typically meat or fish entrees. Vegetarians might choose a secondo platter of mixed grilled vegetables, but otherwise, vegetables or other side items are rarely served on your secondo plate. If you’d like a side item, be sure to order it separately when you place your order.

4. Contorni
Speaking of side items, contorni is the side item heading you’ll see on a southern Italian menu for side items. While side items vary by restaurant and region, you’ll usually find salads, potatoes, vegetables and local specialties listed here. Notice that salads are never served before the meal like they are in the US. If you order a salad, it will be served alongside your secondo dish, in a separate plate.

5. Frutta
Most .. make that all … southern Italians I know finish their meals at home with a serving of fruit, however they rarely order it in restaurants. Still, it is on the menu and if you’d like to order fruit to finish your meal, you’d do so after your second and side dish course.

tiramisu

6. Dolci
Oooh, desserts! If you made it through the rest of the meal without pasta coming out of your eyeballs, you might want to order dolci. To be sure you are getting the best bang for your, uhm, euro, ask your server which desserts are homemade and order one of those.

7. Caffè o Liquori
Most restaurant meals are completed with either a caffè (shot of espresso, not a cappuccino) or a shot of digestive liquor. In Calabria, Amaro del Capo is a popular choice, as is the old southern Italian favorite-limoncello.

Tips:
1. You do not have to order something for each course. Many Italians do … but you don’t have to and you won’t be the only people in the restaurant who don’t. I never do.

2. Diners are typically charged a cover charge, called coperto, in southern Italian restaurants, so if you see an extra €1-€3 charge, per person, added to your bill, you’ll know why.

3. You do not tip in southern Italian restaurants. Let me repeat that … Do Not Tip in southern Italian restaurants. I can always tell when a restaurant I’m in is accustomed to serving American tourists … one word comes out of my mouth and they are hanging around expecting a tip. Servers are often either the restaurant owners or one of their children and unlike America, staff servers are paid the minimum wage. If you tip, you are making it harder for those of us who live here to, well, live here.

4. Doggie bags are frowned upon … so, don’t ask. Arrive hungry and plan to spend as long as you like savoring your meal.

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria group tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: Sara’s Kitchen, BrianandJaclyn and Premshree Pillai via Flickr

An Old Man and His (Italian) Food

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • September 27th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I’ve written a great deal over the last four years about my adorable-yet, somewhat food-obsessed, Calabrese father-in-law. It seems no matter how much he makes-and piles into my plate-or how much I finish … he’s just never satisfied.

He’s blamed me for my husband’s decline (his words, not mine) in appetite and tries to urge the fork forward with promises of delicious bites of Italian delicacies.

So, really … I should have this coming.

A few weeks ago, we were at our daily lunch meet-up-yes, he cooks for us every day-and I noticed he had a special new glass, fully decorated and colored with sparkling, flying Winks fairies. I just couldn’t resist.

expat life in italy: nutella cups

“Nice glass, Nino.” I tell him with a grin, wondering if he realizes his glass is the envy of every 12-year-old girl on the street. “Where’d you get it?”

“Hrmph!” He cut his eyes at me, perhaps sensing my glee.

Not willing to let it go, I persisted.

“But it is so cute,” I told him. “I’m jealous. I want my very own glass, too.”

He ignored my last remark, my husband called me a mafiosa and we finished our meal.

A couple of days later, that conversation forgotten by almost everyone, he showed up with a surprise.

I was standing at the door to our bed and breakfast when he grunted and pushed a small, Nutella-filled glass in my hands.

“There you go,” he told me.

“You eat the Nutella … you get your own glass. Then,” he said pointing to the colored blue and white decoration on the glass, “you will be a champion!”

I looked down and noticed that yes, it was indeed a glass of champions, decorated with bright blue and white drawings in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup Soccer match that Italy bombed.

I laughed. Loudly.

“Thank you,” I told him.

He shook his head at me. “Tisk. You eat all of the Nutella first. Then, you you’ll have your own glass … and then you can say thank you.”

I don’t know why it should surprise me that he jumped at the chance to have me independently eat 200 grams of soft, creamy, chocolate and hazelnut Nutella, but that little present kinda made my day. Yes, two weeks have passed and the would-be world champs are still sitting in my cupboard, 2/3 full of their creamy deliciousness.

But, I’m working on it.

Until then, I thought about sneaking his glass when he wasn’t looking, but there is just something about my 78-year-old father-in-law, drinking his daily Pepsi in that pink and orange fairy glass, that I just can’t destroy.

So, I guess I’ll have to wait … and really, what better excuse is there for finishing off your very own jar of world champion Nutella?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria group tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: Blondie and Brownie

Marrying a Foreigner, Part II: Logistics and Practicality

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • September 7th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

Earlier this week I noted some tips and hints for adjusting to life when you are married to a foreigner, and many of my expat friends weighed in with their own experiences. While adjusting to your new life and learning to merge your cultures is always a good thing, getting to that point might not be easy.

No, I’m not talking about falling in love and the inevitable, if only temporary, long-distance relationship, I’m talking about the practical side of marrying someone from another country.

While the rules and regulations vary widely depending on each person’s nationality, where you get married and where you decide to live, the following sites should get you started. Note: I am an American woman married to an Italian man, therefore, most of the following examples are based on my experiences with these countries.

Marrying a Foreigner

1. Websites

Official (and well-researched unofficial) websites are a prime source of information for people wishing to marry an Italian. Here are few sites you might find helpful.

UK in Italy

US Department of State Naples: Marriage of a US Citizen

Travel.State.Gov: Marriage in Italy

ItaliaAmerica.org: Italian Dual Citizenship

ImmiGroup.com: Marrying and Sponsoring an Italian

2. Forums

While official websites are a great source of logistical information, forums are usually visited by people who’ve been there and offer a great combination of practical know-how and useful tips. Some helpful forums and topics include:

Expat Forum: Marrying an Italian

Expat Forum: Marrying an American

Immigration Boards.com: Marrying an Italian

Expats in Italy: Getting Married Forum

Expats in Italy: Atto Notorio

3. Blogs

While many bloggers visit forums and talk about their experiences marrying a foreigner there, they also write blog posts and articles on their sites. Some particularly helpful expats I’ve come across include:

Ms. Adventures in Italy (My personal go-to expat when I was marrying my own Italian in 2007.)

From Australia to Italy (My Calabria-based counterpart who is chronicling  her marriage to an Italian.)

ReallyRome (A Really great resource on, among other things, marrying an Italian.)

Moving2Italy2 (Extensive resource on moving to Italy, with a section on marrying an Italian.)

It is important to note that each case is unique and there is no one size fits all when it comes to marrying someone from another country. Additionally, laws can change from year to year and Italian consulates, at least in the US, seem to have varying procedures, as well. It is always important to contact your local embassy or consulate before proceeding and get a detailed list of what you need to do before the Big Day. As in most cases when dealing with bureaucratic situations, it is a good idea to allow yourself plenty of time and an even better opportunity for you to practice your patience.

In bocca al lupo!

Do you know any other useful sites, forums or blogs for people wanting to marry a foreigner? If so, please leave them in the comments!

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: Life 123

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Learning to Love Less

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • August 17th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I was visiting good friends last summer in Texas-we were sitting at one of our favorite Mexican cantinas, sipping on frozen lime margaritas, talking about the good ‘ole days and catching up on the last few years.

“I just love Italy,” one of my peppy ex-Sorority sisters gushed. “I could soooo see myself living there.”

I smiled as she gazed dreamily out the window, no doubt imagining herself strolling to the weekly market each Monday, sipping on stout Italian wine in the evenings, spending her days-riding on a Gondola or dining outside the Colosseum. She exhaled, “It’s just such a beautiful country.”

Not wanting to burst her idealized bubble of the life I’m leading, I politely agreed-because it is true, Italy is a beautiful country-and kept quiet. But secretly I wondered … could she really live here?

As my southern Italian counterpart pointed out last week, you can’t uproot your life back home and replant that baby here in Italy. It is a whole new country world and while we love it here, we’ve definitely learned to live without some of the luxuries of our American lifestyles.

Here are three things I’ve learned to love less here in Calabria.expat life-starbucks

1. Variety

You often hear people say, “Italians love food,” when in fact, what they mean is, “Italians love Italian food.” Especially here in Calabria, diversity, restaurant variety-heck, even a foreign food shelf-are had to come by. I’ve learned to live with this by importing my must-haves, like Velveeta cheese and Starbuck’s vanilla syrup, kicking up my personal non-Italian food recipe list and creating variety in the Italian food we eat and love.

2. Instant Access

One of the hardest things for me to get used to-if one could say I’ve gotten used to it-is learning to live without the instant access we are accustomed to in the US. There are no 24-hour pharmacies-actually, even finding an open pharmacy on Saturday or Sunday is a challenge, customer service calls regularly go un-answered-even during “working” hours and paperwork can take years to get approved.

Still, I believe I can learn something from these would-be frustrating experiences-and that, my friends, is patience. Italy has taught me patience in a way I never could have learned in the United States … and for that, I’m thankful.

expat life-gadgets

3. The Latest Greatest

No doubt if I lived in the US, I’d be on the i(insert latest gadget here) bandwagon. Being in southern Italy, far from the peer pressure that comes with having an office job and well-paid friends, I’m sheltered, in a way, from needing to have the latest, greatest gadget. Many expats in Italy have other priorities and luckily, keeping up with Rossis, isn’t one of them.

Tina and I have weighed in-now it is your turn. What have you learned to live without in your expat adventures?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photos: CarbonNYC and Ivyfield via Flickr

Planes, Trains and Boats…getting around Southern Italy

Tina Ferrari
  • By Tina Ferrari
  • August 5th, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmediamuseum/

image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmediamuseum/

On a recent trip to Palermo, followed by a visit to Naples, I had the opportunity to experience just about every kind of public transportation option that Italy has to offer.

It all started with a two-hour train ride (8 Euros) to Bari, where I would then catch a bus to the airport.  The national railway network is Trenitalia, and they have regional and express lines that go just about everywhere.  In my case, it was a regional train.  Upon leaving the train station in Bari, I walked to the tobacco kiosk to buy my bus ticket (80 cents) to the airport.  Having done this before, I knew to be aggressive when the bus came and make sure I had a seat on the bus.

To get to Sicily, I flew from Bari to Trapani, which is about an hour or so from Palermo.  It was a Ryanair flight that cost me next to nothing  (11 Euros plus taxes, coming to 18 Euros), the catch being that there are no assigned seats (so you have to fight for a good one) and then you have to listen to several sales pitches for perfumes and lottery tickets.  The flight was one hour and passed by very quickly.  And of course, this being Italy, the people onboard applauded when the plane landed.

To get from Trapani to Palermo, where I would be staying for a few days, I used the shuttle bus service known as Terravision.  For 12 Euros I had a seat on a nice, air conditioned bus, and was let off in a nice area in downtown Palermo.  From there I walked to my bed and breakfast because I had already gotten to know Palermo a bit previously.

I had some time scheduled in Naples, where I was meeting a friend.  Since Sicily is an island, the obvious solution was to take a boat. (Though you can take the train, which sits on a barge for the aquatic part of the trip).  The company I used was Tirrenia, and I opted for a night boat so that I could sleep, as it’s an eight-hour trip.  I reserved a bed in a women’s cabin (though you can also reserve your own cabin) and was pleased to find out that the boat had a restaurant as well as a self-service cafe and a lounge with a full bar. Not bad!  The total price for the boat trip was about 70 Euros and it was well worth it, as when I woke up and looked out the cabin window, I saw Naples in all its splendor, lit up by the golden morning sun.

This is something I really like about living in Europe: the public transportation is so varied and available that you can go anywhere you want for a reasonable price.

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes at AffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

There’s More than Munchies in the Mezzogiorno

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • August 5th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

Last week I wrote a post at my site, My Bella Vita, that was a spin-off of a post written here at ACC by my fellow expat-in-southern-Italy and travel blogging friend, Tina of Tina Tangos. My post, A Few Things to Love About Southern Italy caused quite a stir when it was posted on Facebook because, gosh darn it-three things to love just ain’t enough.

… or so they said.

Still, it is important to note that there are more than munchies in Italy’s Mezzogiorno. With that in mind, here are three southern Italy traditions I’ve grown to love!

1. Eating on Schedule

Yes, I said there are more than munchies, but that doesn’t mean food isn’t an integral part of our lives. Here in Calabria, we live (and die?) by our mealtime schedule. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner more or less at the same time every day-a routine I mourn for when stateside meals have me dashing through a Chic-Fil-A or filling up on frappuccinos.

Why is this important? I eat less and feel more satisfied here in Italy than I do when I’m in the states.

2. Walking is Expected

My husband was shocked the first time he visited me in Texas and noticed that I drove around a parking lot three times looking for a suitable spot.

“You just passed a row of empty places,” he told me.

“Yea,” I told him, oblivious to his intention. “But they are so far.”

“Cherrye,” he told me. “We are young … it’s not raining … we can walk.”

It seems obvious now, but willingness to walk is a cultural thing-one I’m glad I picked up on and have adapted into my life … even back home.

Just last Christmas, my mom, husband and I were rushing to finish our lists. We told Mom to drop us off on the street-because we could each walk where we needed to go quicker than we could battle pre-Christmas Eve traffic. She did. And yes, people looked at us strangely, but I’d gone to two stores and my husband had shopped in one in the same amount of time it took my mom to get through traffic and find a parking spot.

Why is this important? In addition to the obvious health benefits of walking , I feel stronger and have more energy when I walk often.

3. Finish up with Fruit

Ok, so maybe it *is* all about the food, but I love that we finish off every lunch and dinner with a serving of fresh fruit. Often this fruit is from our garden-oranges and mandarins in winter months, plums and figs in the summer, but sometimes we supplement with watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, strawberries and cherries. Delizioso!

Why is this important? I’ve found eating fruit after each meal helps me stay full longer and since I’m on a schedule, it ensures I get enough fresh fruit each day.

Wbat are some of your favorite traditions, food-related or not, in your new country?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: flickr, by PhotoLab XL

Summer Dress Code in Calabria

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • June 1st, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I’ve written a bit on how travelers should dress in southern Italy so they don’t stick out like the sore, sun-burned American/British/Australian/Canadian tourist they are. In fact, I’ve written tips for both men and women. But those were pretty general.

If you are visiting Calabria in the summer, you might have some doubts as to how to dress for the beaches. Here is a rundown on how Calabrians dress for the beach.

It is important to note that Italian men, women and children always strive to look their best and beach time is no exception.

You’ll see women dressed in cover-ups that accent their swimsuits and young girls in miniskirts with yes, belts. You might also see sparkly accessories-necklaces, bracelets, earrings, to name a few, or even ankle bracelets and rings.

Everyone will wear sunglasses and some people might wear hats.

Oftentimes men wear tennis shoes so they can more easily walk in the Calabrian sand. Old-timers might still wear their itsy bitsy teeny weenie speedos, but the younger generation wears good ole’ American-style swim trunks.

Of course, the men might be wearing chains, too.

Italians never-ever!-go barefoot, even at the beach so if they want to stroll along the shore, they’ll put on their sandals or tennis shoes.

Speaking of strolling, many Italian women I know put a long shirt or cover-up over their swimsuit for their strolls. And stroll they do. When I go to the beach with my Italian friends, we get settled in little chairs that are neatly placed near a table and umbrella and go for a walk, usually with our feet just inside the water.

Children dress more or less like they do at beaches in the US, but sometimes young girls-under three or four years of age-don’t wear a top … just the bottom.

People of all ages love Calabrian beaches and you will often see generations of families gathered near an umbrella, nicely tanned from weeks spent in the mezzogiorno sun. Click here for more on what to pack in your beach bag if you are heading to Calabria this summer.

Have you been to an Italian beach? Did you notice how the locals dressed? How did it compare to how you dress for the beach back home?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and travel consultant living in Calabria, Italy. She can organize a group Calabria tour or help you plan a custom itinerary for your family from her website, My Bella Vita.

Photo: Driek on Flickr

Easter in Catanzaro

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • April 6th, 2010

Last week we celebrated the Easter holiday in southern Italy. Like previous years, Calabrians spent the days leading up to the big event by attending and participating in various processionals throughout the region. Here in Catanzaro, the annual ‘a Naca event was-as always-a success.

Each year, event organizers gather in one of the city’s churches in preparation for their annual processional. The event is called ‘a Naca-pronounced with a strong a N-and is a living representation of the Stations of the Cross. It is accented by bold banners, towering statues and heavy wooden crosses, as well as hundreds of aptly-dressed parishioners from the major churches inside the city.

Organization of the event rotates annually, with a brotherhood from a different church in the community assuming responsibility. Attendees arrive early and in the end, thousands of people cram inside churches and along the streets in Catanzaro’s centro storico and watch the event with anticipation.

A trumpet and bass drum lead the group and create an eerily comforting rhythm and steady pace for the processional to follow. Perhaps one of the more charming aspects of the processional are the groups of children-the boys dressed like their adult-counterparts in white robes, while dozens of Mini-Marias trail along with their mothers and grandmothers.

Easter in Calabria

At one point in the event, a bleeding Jesus Christ is preceded by two thieves and their crosses, with three Marias somberly following behind him. It is a solemn moment for everyone in attendance and for a brief moment, the streets of downtown Catanzaro are quiet.

Easter in Calabria

After the event, the solemnity continues as the people of Catanzaro retrace their steps, return to their homes and begin preparing in earnest for the Pasqua and Pasquetta feasts that will follow. It is one of my favorite events here in Catanzaro and I’m just a wee bit sad I’ll have to wait another 12 months to witness it again.

Cherrye Moore is a Calabria travel consultant and freelance writer living in southern Italy. She writes about expat life here at Affordable Calling Cards and about living and traveling in Calabria on her own site, My Bella Vita.

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