Why should you embrace seasonal travel?

At Italian Special Occasions, we are firm supporters of Seasonality, something we believe should be more than a concept - it is an actual movement for a more educated tourism. Why?

Seasonal travel means that you take advantage of the best seasonal time to visit a destination in terms of local events, of traditional food and recipes that vary according to the time of year, of a place that escapes mass tourism and is off the beaten track. With this type of travel, more people are conscious about seasonal festivals and authentic local features that they previously did not know of.

Fall grape harvest, a typical seasonal activity - image from olioevino.org

Fall grape harvest, a typical seasonal activity - image from olioevino.org

Apart from growing your personal cultural and geographic knowledge, seasonality helps the local economy and community by moving resources in the times of the year when tourism is usually low, and helps the environment by limiting the hordes of visitors that tend to travel in the same periods.

Seasonality can improve your traveler experience by exposing you to the authentic side of a local culture, history and food, and by allowing you to interact a lot more with locals.

For example, tourism in the Marche is on the rise – as we have seen, for a good reason. If you choose to visit the region during August, you would certainly find great sunny weather, but – most probably – also sultry days, thousands of tourists (both foreign and Italians who move to their summer homes), standard tourist menus, and possible unfortunate tourist traps… By choosing a different season, you can capture the essence of what the Marche are all about, and feel more connected with what surrounds you.

Have a look at this video by La Tavola Marche farm & cooking school, about a group who visited during spring (notice the short sleeves… sunny, warm but breezy weather!). One of the authentic itineraries they enjoyed was to forage for wild greens under the expert guidance of the chef, who helped them identify dandelion greens, poppy greens, grispigno… which they then used in their hands-on cooking class to create a rustic tart with the fresh picked wild greens, ricotta & prosciutto. The culinary adventure ends at the table with a dinner filled with local seasonal dishes!

Join the Seasonality movement! For ideas on when and where to travel, and what to enjoy in your chosen destination, have a look at Italy’s Seasonality Map by Italian Special Occasions.

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

 Subscribe in a reader

Traditional cuisine in beautiful Sardinia

Genuine ingredients, ancient traditions, rich flavors: Sardinian cuisine is a reflection of the local territory, an island that has been influenced by a variety of Mediterranean cultures, and yet has remained charmingly simple.

Typical appetizers & Sardinia's coastal landscape - image from gnv.it

Typical appetizers & Sardinia's coastal landscape - image from gnv.it

Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and Moors are some of the foreign powers that occupied the island for more than 2,500 years, until Sardinia became part of Italy in 1861. The result is a layered culinary heritage. For example, while “the continent” – which is how Sardinians refer to Italy – cooks the popular pasta like ‘spaghetti’ and ‘penne’, in Sardinia you will find the fregula, a pasta of Moorish origin that resembles couscous.

The gastronomy has two clear agricultural and marine identities, determined by the ancient communities of farmers and shepherds in the hinterland and of fishermen along the coast.

Pastoral and farmers’ cuisine

Our gastronomic journey starts with the antipasti, and Sardinia offers a wide variety of delicious appetizers. The most popular are the pork and wild boar hams from Villagrande and Talana, usually accompanied by mushrooms, olives and local cheeses like pecorino sardo and casizolu with honey. Bacon, loin and coppa are also appreciated. In the hinterland, cold cuts are often served with curdled sheep-milk called frue or frughe.

Malloreddus or gnocchetti sardi - image from mangiarebuono.it

Malloreddus or gnocchetti sardi - image from mangiarebuono.it

If you think that only one type of gnocchi exists in Italy, you have never heard of malloreddus, small gnocchi made of durum wheat flour that are seasoned with saffron and usually dressed with sausage sauce (alla campidanese). The culurgiones are another interesting first course dish: they are ravioli-style pasta filled with ricotta cheese and mint, or with mashed potatoes, mint and fresh local cheese.

But it is not all about pasta! The delicious panada is a calzone-style pie made of puff pastry and filled with lamb meat (or eel), potatoes and sundried tomatoes. The zuppa gallurese is an oven-cooked soup with Sardinian bread, the stringy casizolu cow cheese, spices and pecorino cheese. For a feast of colors and flavors, we recommend the pane frattau: at its base is the traditional flatbread (called pane carasau) dipped in broth, layered in a lasagna style with grated pecorino, tomato sauce and topped with a poached egg!

Moving on to the main courses, we must start from the most popular one: the su proceddu or porceddu is the piglet (usually weighing 4-5 kg or 20 days old) that is slowly roasted on a spit and seasoned with myrtle and rosemary. One of the island’s most ancient culinary traditions is the roasted suckling lamb, with a soft and white meat that has an intense flavor. But the most particular cooking style is the carraxu method, in which meat (usually wild boar) is cooked in an underground hole, something that gives the meat a unique flavor!

Seafood

Each of the main sea towns has its own set of fish recipes. Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, features typical dishes such as the fregula pasta with clams; sautéed mussels and clams; and the cassola fish soup.

Fregula with clams - image from wikicucina.it

Fregula with clams - image from wikicucina.it

In and around Oristano, locals love eels, gattucio (small-spotted catshark) and mullet eggs or bottarga, which can be enjoyed as thin strings with olive oil or can be grated on pasta.

The Catalan influence is obvious in Alghero, due to its colonial past. Not only is Alghero the only Italian city to have Catalan as a co-official language, but the local cuisine also has features that are typical from Barcelona and surroundings. For example, the popular lobster is cooked in a Catalan style, i.e. boiled with tomatoes, onions and celery, and accompanied by a sauce that is obtained from the lobster’s head, to which lemon juice, salt and pepper are added.

Finally, breaded and fried sea anemones – called orziadas or bultigghjata - are a favorite sea delicacy from north to south in Sardinia.

Mouthwatering desserts

Seadas! Image from blog.giallozafferano.it

Seadas! Image from blog.giallozafferano.it

Gluttons, beware! Sardinia offers a never-ending basket of sweet delicacies. However, we have selected some of our favorites, which are desserts that also embody the main characteristics and ingredients that are most commonly used in the island.

The seadas are quite famous even abroad, thanks to the peculiar combination of intense flavors in the thin-rolled pastry: the sweetness of the honey joins the saltiness of the pecorino cheese and the bitter-sweetness of the lemon!

Almonds are at the base of the Gattò de mendula, a crunchy dessert with toasted almonds and seasoned with orange peel.

The delicious local Mediterranean honey gives a unique ivory color to the torrone di Tonara (nougat); while the orilletas, made with flour and eggs, are fried and then dipped in a steaming syrup of honey and water!


Join Italian Special Occasions in a delicious foodie break in Sardinia or in your favorite Italian region! Contact us now for your customized quotation

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

 Subscribe in a reader

5 unusual wedding venues in Italy

Churches, castles, historic villas, gardens… romantic and classic is by far the favorite wedding style for most couples. However, can you also tie the knot in a way that is unique, uncommon, and even more fun and unforgettable than a classic wedding? You bet!

Italy, often considered as the perfect destination for hopeless romantics, also offers a number of unconventional venues for a no-ordinary wedding with Italian style, creativity and – of course – the romantic charm that makes this country so special!

Here are 5 unusual venues for an unforgettable wedding in Italy.

Wine Cellars

There are thousands of fascinating wine cellars in Italy, and some make it possible to organize a sensorial wedding experience for you and your guests. For example, Florio Winery in Marsala, Sicily, features historic and imposing cellars dating back to 1832. Here, you can tie the knot next to 1400 barrels and 140 majestic arches, followed by wine tasting on the panoramic terraces overlooking the sea. Just imagine what a fantastic combination of history, eno-gastronomy and nature this offers!

The entrance at Florio Winery in Sicily - image from duca.it

The entrance at Florio Winery in Sicily - image from duca.it

Underwater 

That’s right – you can find underwater wedding venues! To be fair, the cases of ‘diving weddings’ in Italy can be counted with only one of your hands. In the most extreme of cases, a couple decided to exchange their vows surrounded by 19 sharks in the Aquarium of Cattolica (Rimini, Emilia Romagna) to sensitize the public opinion on the practice of finning, which causes thousands of sharks to die every year. They wore their wedding clothes on top of the diving suits, and – protected by a cage – they enjoyed the wedding with the sharks in the water, and with human guests on the other side of the glass!

Cheese! Shark guest at the underwater wedding in Emilia Romagna. Image from wikinewforum.com

Cheese! Shark guest at the underwater wedding in Emilia Romagna. Image from wikinewforum.com

Underground

A few towns across Italy also allow you to get married in their historic underground vaults. The best example is Lucca (Tuscany), famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls built with the “trace italienne” fortification. Orvieto (Umbria) allows weddings to be celebrated in one of its mesmerizing grottoes, called “Grotto of the Old Mill”, where the monumental remains of a XIV-century mill dominate a wide room of Etruscan origins. While some find the idea awkward and uninspiring, others appreciate the fact that the underground vaults are a magical place, full of lure and history. 

Mysterious underground ambiances in Orvieto and Lucca

Mysterious underground ambiances in Orvieto and Lucca

Trullo

A trullo (or trulli for plural) is a traditional dry stone hut with a conical roof that is typical in Apulia, specifically in the Itria Valley on the Murgia karst plateau. While the first trulli settlements date back to the Bronze Age, most of the peculiar structures that still stand today were built between the 18th and 20th centuries, either as temporary rural storage or as houses for field laborers. There are few authentic and strange buildings like the trullo where you can tie the knot around the world. And, if you choose a trullo in the town of Alberobello, you can boast that your wedding took place in a UNESCO World Heritage Site! 

The lovely trulli for a fairy-tale wedding in Apulia. Image from matrimonio.com

The lovely trulli for a fairy-tale wedding in Apulia. Image from matrimonio.com

Cable car

If you, your spouse and your wedding guests are not afraid of heights and love the mountains, you will blow everyone away if you choose to tie the knot in a cable car, suspended in the air on the dramatic mountain peaks of northern Italy! In the region of Trentino Alto Adige, for example, the largest cabin of the modern Merano 2000 Cable Car can become a fantastic wedding venue, complete with a violinist that provides the soundtrack to the magnificent views of the Adige (Etschtal) valley and your magic experience.

Would you get married in the sky? Image from donna.nanopress.it

Would you get married in the sky? Image from donna.nanopress.it

Are you dreaming of a destination wedding in Italy? Let Italian Special Occasions provide you with 360-degree assistance in the planning and organization before, during and after this special occasion, for you and your loved ones!

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

 Subscribe in a reader

Magic Emilia: castles, gastronomy and folklore

Castello di Torrechiara - image by Davide Bolsi

Castello di Torrechiara - image by Davide Bolsi

Did you know that the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna comprises two historical areas respectively called Emilia and Romagna? In today’s post, we will explore the western and northeastern portion, Emilia, which comprises the provinces of Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Ferrara and part of Bologna. In particular, we will focus on three aspects that make the area ideal for weddings, family & friend reunions, and foodie trips: castles, folklore and gastronomy.

Parma and Piacenza feature a number of mesmerizing castles, fortresses and palaces, which you can explore through thematic tours, such as history, art, gastronomy and romantic trails. In addition, you can spice up the way you reach and admire these strongholds, for example by traveling in vintage Italian cars or by flying in hot-air balloons.

The castles of Piacenza and Parma can be admired from hot-air balloons too! Image from castellidelducato.it

The castles of Piacenza and Parma can be admired from hot-air balloons too! Image from castellidelducato.it

No matter what your favorite themes and transport means are, you will enjoy a wonderful journey through time: from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, through Baroque and Enlightenment periods, Romanticism and the Belle Époque, up to the Twentieth Century. You will learn about the history and the deeds of important Italian families, and the impact they had both at local and national level, such as the Borbone, Pallavicino, Sforza, Malaspina and Visconti families.

Are you a foodie? Then you cannot miss the “Dinners in the Castles” experience with Michelin-starred Chefs from Emilia Romagna: an exhibition and tasting of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Prosciutto di Parma, Culatello di Zibello, Coppa, Pancetta and Salame from Piacenza, the special salt from Salsomaggiore Terme, D.O.C. red and white wines from Parma and Piacenza’s hills.

Parmigiano-Reggiano factory! Image from parmigianoreggiano.it

Parmigiano-Reggiano factory! Image from parmigianoreggiano.it

Emilia’s rich gastronomic offer and quality products make the area an important protagonist of the Expo Milano 2015 event. Arguably, the Prosciutto di Parma and the Parmigiano-Reggiano will be the main made-in-Italy protagonists of the most important fair of the year, which revolves around the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” (for more on the topic, please read Expo Milano 2015, a journey of tastes and seasonality across Italy).

Our next gastronomic pit stop is in Ferrara, northeast of Emilia Romagna’s capital Bologna. For its beauty and cultural importance, this lovely town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The local cooking tradition is characterized by many typical dishes that can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

The signature first course is cappellacci di zucca, which are a kind of ravioli with pumpkin filling, Parmigiano-Reggiano and flavored with nutmeg, that are served with a sauce of butter and sage. Among the main courses, the salama da sugo is the queen of Sunday tables: it is an unusual mixture of pork meat seasoned with wine and spices. Seafood is an important part of the town tradition, and grilled or stewed eel from the Po River delta is especially appreciated. Pampepato is the name of the most popular Ferrarese cake, created centuries ago by the nuns of the convent of Corpus Domini: it is a spiced chocolate bread enriched with almonds and candied fruit, topped with a thick layer of melted chocolate!

The Piazza heats up and gets ready for the Palio in Ferrara. Image from paliodiferrara.it

The Piazza heats up and gets ready for the Palio in Ferrara. Image from paliodiferrara.it

Ferrara provides also the best example of Emilia’s local folklore, thanks to the world’s oldest palio (horse race) that takes place here. The Palio di Ferrara, also known as Palio di San Giorgio, first took place in 1259 to celebrate the victory of the local marquis Azzo VII “Novello d’Este”. Twenty years later, the palio was instituted as an official event of the town, to be celebrated on 23rd April in honor of St. George (Ferrara’s patron) and on 15th August to celebrate the Virgin Mary.

Nowadays, the Palio di Ferrara is held on the last Sunday of every May, to commemorate an extraordinary race that took place in 1471 when marquis Borso d'Este was named First Duke of Ferrara by Pope Paul II. A costume parade and a show by flag throwers kicks off the celebrations, with all participants dressed up according to the fashion style of the late 1400s.

The exhilarating races (also in medieval costume) are run in the historical Piazza Ariostea, a square surrounded by numerous buildings that have a great architectural value. The whole event is simply breathtaking, and takes you back to the Renaissance, a period during which Ferrara stood as one of the major cultural capitals in Europe.

Are you planning a special occasion in Italy? Make it extra special and unforgettable by providing your guests or clients with authentic experiences that reveal the hidden traditions and precious spirit of local Italian communities. Contact Italian Special Occasions for ideas and for a customized quotation

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

 Subscribe in a reader

The eco-museums of Friuli Venezia Giulia: heritage, crafts & territory

A panoramic shot of the Val Resia. Image from valresia.moodem.it

A panoramic shot of the Val Resia. Image from valresia.moodem.it

When visiting countries in the so-called ‘developed world’, we often assume that ancient traditional crafts are a thing of the past and that they no longer exist in the modern world. However, this is not always true. At local level, many still preserve the vocation and trade that was passed down from earlier generations.

In Italy, the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia proposes a new way of discovering such gems in hidden places off the beaten track. How? With the so-called “ecomuseums”, which are a form of innovative museums that preserve, interpret and communicate the identity of the local communities.

Ecomuseums are places where the population takes care of the local heritage giving value to the landscape and to the material and immaterial cultural assets preserved there. This ensures the protection of the territory and its biodiversity, and also the renewal of life and work practices, local productions, and traditional knowledge.

As of January 2015, there are 4 ecomuseums in Friuli Venezia Giulia… let’s explore them together!

Ancient traditions and sewing techniques on display during the I Mistirs Festival. Image from ecomuseomistirs.it

Ancient traditions and sewing techniques on display during the I Mistirs Festival. Image from ecomuseomistirs.it


I Mistîrs Ecomuseum

This ecomuseum was born to preserve and enhance the heritage of the community in the Valley of Paularo. Here, work is seen as the link between the population and its territory. Accordingly, “I Mistîrs” focuses on the safeguard of ancient trades and the rediscovery of forgotten professional figures.

The ecomuseum combines the “culture of knowledge” with the “art of being able to make” through ethnographic collections, animations and workshops. When visiting the Paularo Valley you can plunge into the everyday life of the past, learn old working techniques and witness the use of original tools.

There is also a special event that celebrates specifically such local traditions: at the end of August, the local population from Paularo and the surrounding Carnia area reunites in the Fieste dai Mistîrs, a festival during which artisans showcase their ancient crafts and techniques in the streets.


The Waters of the Gemona area ecomuseum

As the name suggests, this ecomuseum is centered on water, which is at the origin of the formation of the territory. In fact, the Ecomuseum of the Waters extends over the Osoppo-Gemona plain (the so-called Campo), an alluvial plain completely surrounded by reliefs and crossed by the Tagliamento river.

The landscape of the Osoppo-Gemona plain. Image from fieraecomusei.it

The landscape of the Osoppo-Gemona plain. Image from fieraecomusei.it

For centuries man has been intervening in this area, taking the waters and administering the underlying hydrographic network, digging irrigation ditches and raising embankments, building factories and producing energy.

The ecomuseum proposes a new model of territory management that preserves the natural sites (sources, lakes, rivers) as well as the material and immaterial culture (irrigation ditches, mills, wells, life and work practices, traditional knowledge). The objective? To ensure that the area develops in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable way, with the participation of the local community.

The Ecomuseum of the Waters houses the Museum of milling art, a Water documentation centre and an Educational workshop at the disposal of teachers, students, researchers and tourists.

Lis Aganis Ecomuseum

This is the ecomuseum of the Friulan Dolomites, and operates in a mountain and rural context in which the preservation of the identity and the safeguard of the local heritage are essential conditions for the growth of the territory itself and of its communities.

Traditional tools used by local blacksmiths in the Friulan Dolomites. Image from ecomuseolisaganis.it

Traditional tools used by local blacksmiths in the Friulan Dolomites. Image from ecomuseolisaganis.it

The ecomuseum promotes the use of the community heritage and assets for environmental and landscape protection, for cultural and civil promotion, to recover knowledge and traditions, and to hand these down to the young generation.

Your itinerary at the Lis Aganis Ecomuseum revolves around water, stones and trades. Events, exhibitions, competitions and research activities involve the local population as well as visitors in cross-disciplinary projects that allow you to explore and keep alive the heritage of the local community.


Val Resia Ecomuseum

The Resia Valley is a magic Alpine valley surrounded by wild nature and inhabited by a population that has been able to keep its own language, culture and customs almost unchanged over time. The local ecomuseum aims at enhancing the community by providing ideas and evidence to identify and classify all the peculiar natural, historical and cultural aspects of this territory.  

The idyllica Val Resia. Image from valresia.moodem.it

The idyllica Val Resia. Image from valresia.moodem.it

The Val Resia Ecomuseum is mainly a set of physical and cultural paths to be followed with one's body and mind to "explore" the valley and the people who lived and live here, including the path of the ancient Glaciers, of the Alpine huts, of the Stavoli shelters and the path of Music.

You will notice signs that guide hikers through these mesmerizing paths: the choice of writing the boards in two languages - Italian and Resian - also highlights and enhances the ethnical and linguistic uniqueness of Resia.

Would you like to explore a different side of Italy? To discover knowledge, uses and traditions that have been preserved and revived by local communities? Discover hidden, yet rich and lively gems with Italian Special Occasions!

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

 Subscribe in a reader