About Italy – Italian Culture – The Renaissance & Italy’s Great Cuisine
Before the plane already lands, we know this vacation will be something special… this is Italy, after all, the country that gave us espresso, the Ferrari, Sophia Loren, Armani, biscotti and Franco Zeffirrelli. These are the final moments of anticipation before the adventure… our long awaited Italian vacation, begins.
But before we fling ourselves headlong into an unrestrained romance with current Italy, I want to take a moment to remember that Italy’s vibrant culture today has been born out of Italy’s long illustrious history. The Italian character… relishing adventure, open hearted, high spirited, fun loving and sentimental all at once, has evolved from a people who, down by the ages have ridden the global strength roller coaster and played all the roles the world’s stage had to offer… from conquerors to conquered. Like beneficiaries of a distant high uncle, we pause to pay our respects to a former time. Among Italy’s many distinctions, amidst the ebb and flow of her fortunes, her political highs and lows, shines a moment in history like no other. It is this moment that we modern tourists can thank for the warmth and brimming humanity of the Italian culture and character we will encounter on our travels.
…was born in Italy, and for three hundred years, from the thirteenth by the sixteenth centuries, Italian artists, architects, writers, scientists, engineers and thinkers, were the vanguard who led the way in breaking out of the formerly thin confines of the European medieval mind. They changed the world with their ideas and their exceptional creations. A parade of extraordinary masters like Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante and Michelangelo propelled not just Italy but western civilization forward into a new, undreamed of age of artistic, literary and scientific excellence.
The Renaissance was a boon to all the arts, including music. Innovation and explosive new ideas fueled the creativity of Europe’s composers and musicians, and of course, many Italians populate the pantheon of classical music history… Monteverdi is credited with creating the first opera ever written, and despite the modern advances, (some would say regression,) of current opera into the atonal range, the cornerstones of any opera company’s repertoire today keep the works of Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini.
Antonio Vivaldi invented the concerto in its present form and astounded his audiences with the before undreamed of speed and energy of his bowing on the violin. Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano. In the seventeenth century, prolific instrument maker Stradivari was making harps, guitars, violas, and cellos, and by the way, set the benchmark for violin makers for over 250 years to come. Many of the twentieth century’s most famous opera singers hailed from Italy… Enrico Caruso, Tito Gobbi, Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, Giuseppe di Stefano, Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti, to name very few.
Italian food is one of life’s great pleasures wherever in the western world one may be, but ask any traveler, Italian food eaten in Italy is a gastronomic high. Every vicinity has its specialties, from creamy risotto alla Milanese, authentic Neapolitan pizza, to the famous pesto Genovese… basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and additional virgin olive oil ground into an exquisite fragrant paste to toss on your pasta. Might in addition relax and forget the diet while we are on vacation. There will be time enough for the treadmill… Italy’s local recipes and regional culinary delights await us.
It’s not just the obtainable elements which are different, but ethnic Italian cooking styles vary with geographical influences. In Italy’s northwest, Valle d’Aosta, Piedmonte and the western edge of Liguria border France. consequently French influence like the use of butter instead of olive oil, is shared. If your trip includes a visit to Italy’s northeast, however, the closeness of Austrian-Slavic influences to the regions of Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, have led to Italian cuisine which is flavored with caraway, vinegar, paprika and cumin. You’ll find sausage, sauerkraut and goulash are shared on the menu here. In Italy’s northern grain growing areas they favor the fat-grained arborio rice for irresistible risottos, and creamy polenta dishes over pasta. In the south where it’s hotter, Mama’s Italian kitchen will characterize an abundant use of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
What To Expect on Your Italian Vacation
First time here? Italy has tremendous variety to offer the tourist. This country embodies temptation in many forms whichever way you turn. There’s the excitement and energy of Elegant Italy… the big city centers like Milan, Turin, Bologna and Rome. You will tour the grand piazzas and historic buildings, linger in the cafes and local haunts with ultra stylish, savvy, fact-conscious sophisticates; enjoy world class theater and opera, chic shopping and gourmet dining.
Float in surprise and awe by Renaissance Italy… Rome, Florence, Venice and Ravenna… places where baroque churches and palladian palaces, priceless art collections and historical treasures are so numerous you can’t go a block without finding another gallery or museum you just can’t miss.
When your mind and heart are on complete cultural overload, there is always the Italian Countryside to soothe your senses. Rent a villa in a charming Tuscan hill town like Siena, San Giminiano or Montepulciano. Relax, take time to analyze the beautiful vineyards and old medieval town centers in the vicinity. Discover the variety of quaint accommodations obtainable in Perugia and Orvieto in Umbria. Or for a change of speed book into one of the rural and rustic Bed & Breakfast establishments which are also working farms, known as agriturismi, where you become more than a paying guest. They make you an honorary member of an Italian family for the duration of your stay.
Tires on tarmac… the powerful jolt of interrupted speed… the reverse thrust of the 747’s enormous engines. We’ve just landed at Milan’s Malpensa.
Let the adventure of our Italian vacation begin!