Dream of Italy Header


Friday, December 21, 2012

Gritti Palace Hotel Re-Opening in Venice

Venice's Gritti Palace hotel will re-open in February 2013 following a 15-month renovation. (Unfortunately, it will not be in open in time for Carnevale which is at the end of January this year.) The palace which was originally built in 1475 as a private residence is part of Starwood's Luxury Collection. All of the hotels 61 rooms and 21 suites have undergone extensive renovations. The hotel will now be the site of the Gritti Epicurean School, according to Travel Weekly.  Read more on Venice here and more about the hotel here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Puglia: Around The Table

Our friend Ylenia Sambati shares this special guest post on Christmas in the region of Puglia: 

It’s written Puglia but you read it as baroque, miles of uncontaminated beaches and olive groves, traditions, spectacular farmhouses (masserie) and a bespoke culinary culture that makes the area becoming one of the best enogastronomic destinations in italy.

Great food and wine is year round to be honest..but Christmas is all about smells, delicious tastes, lights strung across streets, Christmas carols in churches (in Lecce we have some amazing gospel choirs and a huge number of churches for singing..perfect!), little markets, presepi (nativity scenes) and children ready for their holiday season and gifts.

Both children and adults crave for receiving gifts from their Babbo Natale and finish their Christmas holiday time (for breakfast or after their meal) with the popular pandoro and panettone.

Meals take place in the different houses of the family: nonna or zia is the best place to go for the 25th lunch! A nap after that big meal is usually their preferred activity, although many of them play “tombola”, the Italian bingo (I have some amazing memories playing tombola with my grandparents and using beans or orange peels to mark the boxes with numbers…awww). And if the house has a fireplace, burning the orange peels is the best way to make the house smell or oranges.

The people of Puglia start celebrating with food and family many days before the 24th. Their beautiful Christmas tree is usually ready from the Saint Lucia feast (13th December) and it is from that date that in many families the making of traditional cakes to offer to friends and relatives start.

In Puglia it means a number of days spent around the table with family and friends savouring the traditional meals and pastries. Whether sweet or savoury, Christmas time in Puglia is an authentic festive delicacy and is to be fund on every table with the same menu for each family. Yes we are so very traditional and eating the food of December is such a joy for local people. A feast for senses to which will follow a diet the month after but never mind!

It is very common in this area, infact, to visit somebody and offer them traditional Christmas cakes. December is the month totally devoted to family friends: a special time spent for hours around the table – most of the time cooking together – or with friends in their house. It is also the time when local student living in other regions of Italy come back for the holidays and for whom mums prepare tons of food and traditional cakes. A variety of flavors mixed to a deep sense of love for the family and the house.

Local bakers transform their windows in an authentic celebration of sweet traditional amazing flavors. The most popular ones are the pittule (the way we call it in the Salento), which are fried dough rolled out in small circular shapes and swirled with honey or mulled wine (vincotto) – or even better in their salted version with vegetables or anchovies inside – and the very popular purceddhruzzi, delicious balls of sweet yeast dough, flavored with orange juice and lemon zest, then baked in the oven or fried in olive oil and drizzled with honey and carteddhate ribbons of pastry twisted into circles and covered with either warmed honey or mulled wine, pine nuts or colored candies.

Actually there are more sweet flavors we usually have in December with the addition of almonds, dried figs dressed with toasted almonds coated with chocolate and quince jam, honey and ricotta cheese in sweet-making. Ever tried a “crostata (pie) di ricotta e cioccolato” in Puglia? Please do, you won’t regret it.

Today we will make purceddhruzzi with the famous Lecce pastry chef Luca Capilungo in his pastry shop in Lecce.


Dough –

1 kg di flour
40 g of yeast
2 dl olive oil of very good quality (combine this oil with the flour and the yeast dissolved in a glass of water until it becomes elastic)
Juice of orange
Zest of 1 lemon

Leave the dough rise for at least three hours.

You will need oil for deep frying (remember to put them to drain on paper towel to remove excess oil)

Topping –
Vincotto (mulled wine) or honey
Sweet cinnamon
Icing sugar
Colored sprinkles, pine nuts, chocolate chips

Thursday, December 06, 2012

What One Woman Learned When She Moved to Tuscany + WIN A COPY of "At Least You're in Tuscany"

In our November 2012 issue of Dream of Italy, Jennifer Criswell wrote about the surprising things she learned about Italian culture and everyday life when the thirtysomething moved from New York City to Montepulciano. In an excerpt of her article What I Learned When I Moved to Tuscany, the author of the new book At Least You're in Tuscany (see below for how to enter to win a copy), talks about "the Italian dryer mystery":

I have been living in Tuscany for four years and have now grown used to some of the things that often raised my eyebrow in the beginning or left me befuddled. When I first arrived I was convinced that I’d somehow moved back in time as well as to a new country.

Lighting my stove requires a match and the gas that powers it is in a tank nestled below. Laundry is hung outside to dry in summer and winter, and I have discovered that from September until April the sun won’t hit my windows and therefore the clothes on the line will still be damp when I bring them back in. Why no dryers?

During my seasonal work at a local winery, I frequently field this question from unsuspecting tourists who are surprised to learn that their villa hasn’t provided a dryer. Electricity is expensive here. It’s as simple as that. There are some people who have dryers and do use them occasionally, but the amount of energy they consume makes it a costly enterprise.
It’s the same issue with the heat. If you visit Tuscany in the winter months, you will often be asked to pay a surcharge for the heating. This is done to discourage guests from turning the heat on in the morning and then heading out for the day.

To make my heating oil last throughout the winter, I have gotten on the schedule that one of my Italian friends suggested. She turns her heat on an hour in the morning to take the chill off and a couple hours in the evening after dinner. It definitely doesn’t keep you toasty warm, but most people will also have a fireplace or stove to supplement their heat.

And if you are like me and don’t have one of these magic fire boxes, a hot water bottle helps unfreeze toes…back in time, remember?

Here's your chance to win a copy of Jennifer's book At Least You're in Tuscany!

Just leave a comment below answering the question, If you could move to Italy, where in Italy would you like to live and why?

Comment on/or before December 20, 2012. A winner will be chosen at random and will receive either a paperback or ebook version of the book.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Learn the Art of Butchering in Italy

Join cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns for hands-on workshops with Italy's Master Butchers

Part One: Pork, From Slaughter to Culatello
January 28 to  February 2, 2013
Master Butcher/ Chef Massimo Spigaroli

Part Two: Beef, From Nose to Tail
February 18 to 23,  2013
Master Butcher/ Chef Dario Cecchini

Email Pamela@FoodArtisans.com to learn more.

(This is an ad)