More Than A Mocha: Torino’s Sweet, Rich Bicerin

You can visit Torino without tasting a Bicerin, but then you’d be going against the advice of noted gastronome Alexandre Dumas.

The writer who was best known for his novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo was also publisher of L’Indipendente, a Neapolitan newspaper that supported Italian Unification, as well as the compiler of Le Grand Dictionnaire De Cuisine, an exhaustive compendium of recipes, ingredient definitions, and food anecdotes published posthumously in 1873.

Dumas, who visited Torino during the Risorgimento (early 1860s), said:

“I will never forget Bicerin, an excellent drink consisting of coffee, milk and chocolate that is served in all the coffee shops.”

Continue reading More Than A Mocha: Torino’s Sweet, Rich Bicerin

Italy’s Alpini Corps: The Traditions Beyond the Feathered Cap

The grey felt cap adorned with a black raven feather worn by old northern Italian men and some modern-day camouflaged troops is known as the Cappello Alpino. This recognizable cap signifies that the wearer is or was a member of the Alpini, an elite corps of the Italian army that is most closely associated with World War I and is the oldest mountain infantry in the world. Continue reading Italy’s Alpini Corps: The Traditions Beyond the Feathered Cap

CAMERA: Torino’s New Photography Museum

On October 1, the city of Torino (Turin) inaugurated Italy’s newest museum. CAMERA, the Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, will showcase Italian and international photography in a 2,000 square meter space just down the road from the Museo Nazionale del Cinema and other sights in Torino’s historic center. Continue reading CAMERA: Torino’s New Photography Museum

Three Italian Villages Where You Can Buy a House for Less Than A Cup of Coffee

Gangi, Sicily

The Daily Mail reports on three depopulated Italian towns — Gangi (Sicily), Carrega Ligure (Piedmont), and Lecce nei Marsi (Abruzzo) — that are offering real estate for about €1 down…plus a commitment of €25,000 in renovations and upkeep.

They are set in villages which are just a hairs-breadth away from becoming one of Italy’s fabled ‘ghost towns’ – places where natural disaster, lack of jobs and even pirates have driven locals from their homes in search of a better life.

Source: Buy a house in the gorgeous Italian countryside for just £1: Village homes being ‘given away’ to stop blight of ghost towns (but you’ll need to promise £18,000 to do them up) | Daily Mail Online

Italy’s Most Unusual Religious Relics

Examining the ampoule of San Gennaro's blood
Examining the ampoule of San Gennaro’s blood

No matter if you’re a devout Catholic or a curious non-believer, you should make a point to check out a few of Italy’s many religious relics.

More than 2,000 years of Christianity has produced numerous fascinating, if not gruesome, stories. And it seems that for every Biblical tale, there is a relic housed in Rome, the Vatican, or in one of Italy’s thousands of churches.

Here are a few unusual relics that you can put on your next Italy itinerary.

Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is one of Italy’s most famous relics, housed in the Cathedral of Turin (Duomo di Torino) in the Piemonte region. The Shroud is a linen cloth that bears “the image of a man who appears to have been physically hurt in a manner consistent with crucifixion.” In short, the image on the Shroud bears a striking resemblance to the collectively agreed upon image of Jesus Christ and is thought to be Christ’s burial shroud – thus, the relic’s significance among Christians.

As with all religious relics, the Shroud’s authenticity has been doubted. Even the Catholic Church has yet to formally endorse the Shroud. And a recent scientific study confirms the shroud as a relic of the Middle Ages (i.e., NOT 2,000 years old). Nevertheless, this sacred relic (called Santa Sindone in Italian) is well-protected by the Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud.

Because of the Shroud’s delicate nature, it is not always on display. Check the Torino Tourism website for updated information.

 

The Blood of San Gennaro

It’s hardly surprising that a hot-blooded place like Naples would have a relic made of blood (see main photo above). Each year, the city of Naples awaits the liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius (San Gennaro), which is stored in an ampoule in a reliquary in the Naples Cathedral. An early saint of the church, having been beheaded during Emperor Diocletian’s anti-Christian raids in the 4th century, San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples. The liquefying of his blood, which can happen up to 18 times per year, is thought to signify a miracle and helps protect Naples from calamities, such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Michelle Fabio explains more about the Feast of San Gennaro for Italy Magazine. She has also posted a link to the video of the Procession of San Gennaro, which you can watch below:

The Holy Foreskin

(Currently Missing)
David Farley’s book An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town was one of the inspirations for this post.

In his book, Farley writes about the town of Calcata, located in the region of Lazio (Rome’s region), where the Holy Foreskin – yes, the skin from Jesus Christ’s circumcised penis – was kept for centuries until its disappearance in 1983.

Farley has devoted himself to this subject, so you’d do well to read his book to learn about the relic and Calcata, which is known as a “village of freaks.” But here’s an interesting tidbit: apparently Saint Catherine of Siena wore the Holy Foreskin as a ring. Now that’s some devotion.

Sacra Cintola - Sacred Belt, Prato

Mary’s Holy Belt

The Virgin Mary didn’t leave behind a piece of her body for future Christians to revere. But she did leave behind a belt.

The story goes that Mary gave this sacred accessory to Apostle Thomas as she ascended to heaven. The Prato Cathedral acquired the relic in the 14C and has kept it in a precious silver reliquary ever since. In fact, a special chapel was built to house the relic and the church also commissioned artists Michelozzo and Donatello to build an exterior pulpit, from which the relic is ceremoniously displayed to crowds below.

Unlike the Shroud of Turin, the Sacra Cintola is made of a more durable material – green wool – so the church readily displays it five times a year: Christmas, Easter, May 1, August 15, and September 8.

Prato is located in Tuscany, just north of Florence, so it is hardly off the beaten track should you wish to visit.

Relics in Rome

Being the center of the Christian universe, Rome has, perhaps, the most holy relics per square mile of any other city in Italy. And here you will find some wonderfully odd ones, including:

  • Saint John’s severed head in the church of San Silvestro in Capite (also the National Church of Great Britain in Rome)
  • Saint Valentine’s head in the Santa Maria in Cosmedin (the rest of the body is in Terni, Umbria)
  • The head of Saint Agnes, located in a side chapel of Sant’Agnese in Agone (the huge church that fronts Piazza Navona)
  • The “doubting finger” of Saint Thomas (in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme)
  • Papal innards in the church of SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio near the Trevi Fountain
  • Saint Francis Xavier’s forearm in the church of the Gesù (the rest of the body is in Goa, India)
  • The Santo Bambino in Santa Maria Aracoeli
  • And “evidence” of souls trapped in purgatory at the Museo delle Anime del Purgatorio (nicely explained by Jessica at WhyGo Italy).

I’ve barely even scratched the surface of all of the unusual relics one can find in Italy. So, what’s your favorite? Please leave your comment below!

Photos (top to bottom): sangennarofeast.org, Wikipedia, Gwilbor.

October 2008 Article Round-Up

Sometimes I’m not always sure if anyone is actually reading Italofile. As I’ve said, it is a true labor of love. Still I like to imagine that there are regular readers out there who enjoy discovering with me the destinations, hotels, art, schools, churches, etc., that make traveling in Italy so rewarding.

Lo and behold, this weekend I found that I have at least one reader! Maribel wrote in to tell me that last year I missed a New York Times article on “Tortellini Lessons at the Source” in Bologna. Thanks, Maribel! And, with that, I thought I’d provide another round-up of recent articles, from the NYT and elsewhere:

New York Times
In Turin, the Olympic Glow Hasn’t Yet Faded
Monastic Doors Open For Travelers
Milan: Princi (a must-visit bakery)

The Washington Post
2,000 Years After Vesuvius (Stabiae)
In the Eternal City, Walk in a Roman’s Sandals
Rome On Two Gelatos A Day
Good Libations: Bassano del Grappa, Still the One (Veneto)

Los Angeles Times
Art Springs to Life in Gardens Near Rome
Planning Your Trip to Rome’s Gardens
Planning Your Trip to San Marino
Planning Your Trip to Vatican City

Wall Street Journal
Venice Crossings: A Traghetto Tour
In Italy, A Monastery Getaway (Umbria)

The Independent (UK)
City Slicker: A Guide to Genoa
The Hip Hop Guide to Tuscany’s Treasures

The Guardian (UK)
The Insider’s Guide to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Instant Weekend: Florence
Flying Visit: Le Marche Is Olive-Town
Letting Catania Out of the Bag
Going Solo: Venice
Flying Visit to Lake Garda

Sydney Morning Herald
Dining in the Sky the New Way to See Milan
See Ya Later, Gladiator
Floating Through a Dream (Venice)

The Telegraph (UK)
Rome: Eternal Love
Palladio: 500 Years of Architectural Wonders
Sicily: Golf in the Shadow of Mt. Etna
Michael Howard’s Venice

Yes, this is an exhaustive list. But I’m sure I didn’t find everything. So, I’m depending on all you Maribel’s out there to help me out by sending me links to articles and other tips you think would be worthy of posting on Italofile. Thanks again!

Italy Article Round-Up

In case you missed these recent articles on travel to Italy…

New York Times
Sicily, Through the Eyes of the Leopard

The Washington Post
See Naples…And Eat

Sydney Morning Herald
Ready for Super-Bol (A Search for the Best Ragu in Bologna)

Los Angeles Times
Exploring Sun-Splashed Venice’s City Squares

The Guardian (UK)
Instant Weekend…Turin

The Boston Globe
Eat Them All, Pray For More, Love the Neopolitan Pie
Ancient Capri Still Casts Its Powerful Spell

Seattle Times (Rick Steves’ Europe)
For Italy In the Extreme, Go to Naples

The Independent (UK)
See Italy – From the Wheel of a Ferrari
Lyrical Charm in Capri

The Vancouver Sun
How To Enjoy Rome With the Kids

The Financial Times
Do You Need Another Reason to Visit Florence?

Italy Article Round-Up From the Past Few Months

Here are some of the Italy travel articles you may have missed over the past few months.

New York Times
Prato, Italy: In Tuscany, the Revealing of a Forbidden Love
Bread-Making and Truffle-Hunting in Italy (Piemonte; actually a short review of two tours)
Bologna, Italy: Finding New Life in the Arts
La Dolce Vita, Both Day and Night (Readers Picks in Rome)

The Washington Post
They Got Game. In Several Languages. (About European (and Italian) basketball leagues)

The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Italy: An Insider’s Guide (a list of the 30 best things in Italy; a bit similar to our recent posts “20 Things We Love About Italy” parts 1 and 2.)

The Guardian (UK)
Eternal Attraction (Rome)
Venetian Bites
Big City Bites: Parma

Los Angeles Times
20 Ways to Take Back the 20% Our Dollar Lost to the Euro (great advice from Rick Steves; not specific to Italy, but there are several Italy tips)

Bend Weekly (Oregon)
Serene Pleasures of the Veneto (via Copley News Service)

Sydney Morning Herald
Life in Ruins (Siracusa, Sicily)
A Cloister Walk with Thee (Assisi)

New Zealand Herald
Venice Calls – and to Hell with Explanations (a sort of Eat, Pray, Love piece on traveling alone to Italy)

Designer Outlets in Italy

Update 5 August 2015: This is one of the most popular posts on Italofile. I’m not sure how so many readers arrive here, as the post is ancient by online standards. So here are a few more current resources for you:

I have not had a chance to re-vet all of the places listed below, so I advise you to do some extra research before making your itinerary.

I do most of my shopping at sample sales in Rome, secondhand stores, and during the seasonal sales, so I am very keen to learn about other locations for discount shopping. Feel free to help me and other readers out with your recommendations by leaving a comment below!

And now, the original post…

We figure that few, if any, readers of this blog are flush enough to pay retail for Prada, Gucci, or any of the other Italian design houses currently showing their lines at Milan Fashion Week. That’s why we wanted to highlight Corriere della Sera’s helpful list of the fashion outlets, which are located all over northern Italy. We’ve provided the link. But in case CS’s list gets zapped from cyberspace, we’re recreating the list below. Please also note that this list is from a few years back. For a more updated list, with detailed descriptions of shops, check out Designer Bargains in Italy. Happy shopping!

LOMBARDY
Spaccio Luciano Soprani – Luciano Soprani’s outlet
(a bit less classic than Armani, but still very elegant)
Via Morosini 30, Milano, tel. 02-55183913
Spaccio Etro – Etro’s outlet
(clothings, tissues, scarves, shoes…)
Via Spartaco 3, Milano, tel. 02-798168
Factory Store Valextra
Bags, suitcases, shoes… by Valextra
Via Cerva 11, Milano, tel. 02-76003459
Factory Store Samsonite
Suitcases, bags, shoes… by Samsonite
Via Milano 18, Corsico (Milano) , tel. 02-4408363
Via Clivio 23, Viggiù (Varese) , tel. 0332-440200
Spaccio Kookai – Kookai’s outlet
(trendy clothing and so on for youth)
Inside via Quintiliano 33, Milano, tel. 02-58016368

TUSCANY
The Mall

Luxury factory outlet center with outlets by some of the greatest brands: Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Sergio Rossi, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Loro Piana
Via Europa 8, Leccio/Reggello (Firenze), tel. 055-8657775I
Pellettieri d’Italia – Prada’s outlet
Località Levanella, Montevarchi (Arezzo) tel. 055-91901
Fendi – Fendi’s outlet (clothings, parfums, shoes…)
Via Giuseppe Di Vittorio 9, Rignano sull’Arno (Firenze), tel. 055-834981

SAN MARINO
San Marino Factory Outlet

Via Tre Settembre n. 3 (1 Km dopo il confine)
REPUBBLICA DI SAN MARINO
Tel 0549-904014
www.outlet-spacci.it

LE MARCHE
Spaccio Della Valle
Factory outlet of the top shoes in the casual-chic style: Tod’s and Hogan
Via Garibaldi 134, Sant’Elpidio a Mare (Ascoli Piceno), tel. 0734-871671

ITALIAN SWITZERLAND
Fox Town
(Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferrè, Krizia, Dolce &Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, Missoni-Les Copains, Bally, Diesel, Esprit, Nike, Replay, Adidas, Johnny Lambs, Superga, Ralph Lauren, Richard Ginori, Etro, Samsonite…)
A great factory outlet center in a post-modern building very close (seven kilometres) to the border between Italy and Switzerland. There are 140 top Italian and international brands
Via Maspoli 28, Mendrisio – Canton Ticino (Svizzera) – tel. 0041-848-828888
www.foxtown.ch

PIEMONTE
McArthur Glen Designer Outlets
(Aspesi, Byblos, Dolce & Gabbana, Cacharel, Clarks, Lacoste, Fratelli Rossetti, Invicta, Levi’s/Dockers, Marina Yachting, Nike, Reebok, Stonefly, Valextra, Versace, Slam, Phard, Fiorucci, La Perla, Bulgari, Loro Piana…)
First italian outlet village. Near Serravalle exit on the motorway
Milano-Genova: there are over one hundred outles of the top brands, national and international
Via della Moda 1, Serravalle Scrivia (Alessandria), tel. 0143-686003
www.mcarthurglen.com
Spaccio Alessi – Factory outlet of the famous kitchen and tableware by Alessi
Via privata Alessi 6, Crusinallo di Omegna (Verbania), tel. 0323-868648

IN MORE THAN ONE REGION
Timberland Factory Outlet (shoes, clothes…)
* Via Piave 24/26, Pero (Milano) Lombardia, tel. 02-3536687
* Via Nazionale 9, Tavagnacco (Udine) Friuli Venezia Giulia, tel. 0432-46087
* Via dei Castelli Romani 15/a, Pomezia (Roma) Lazio, tel. 06-91602237
* Strada Statale 12 del Brennero 46, Vipiteno (Bolzano) Trentino Alto Adige, tel. 0472-767670 Armani Factory Store – Giorgio Armani’s outlet
* Strada provinciale per Bregnano 13, Vertemate CO, tel. 031-887373
* Via Merloni 10, Matelica MC, tel. 0737-782352
Dolce & Gabbana outlet
* Località Santa Maria Maddalena, Pian dell’Isola/Incisa Val d’Arno (Firenze) – Toscana -tel. 055-8331300
* Via Rossini 70, Legnano (Milano) – Lombardia – tel. 0331-545888
Diffusione Tessile – Factory outlet by Max Mara group
(Max &Co., I Blues, Marina Rinaldi…)
www.diffusionetessile.it
* Galleria del Corso 2, (Milano) – Lombardia – tel. 02-76000829
* Strada statale Rabuiese angolo provinciale Farnei, Muggia (Trieste) – Friuli Venezia Giulia -tel. 040-235089
* Strada Pontina Km. 28,400 – Pomezia (Roma)- Lazio – tel. 06-9105673
* Via Padana Inferiore Ovest 15, Legnago (Verona) – Veneto -tel 0422-602811
* Corso Francia 313, Collegno (Torino) – Piemonte – tel. 011-4157840
* Inside Centro Commerciale Valle Scrivia ,via Isorelle 15/B, Savignone (Genova) – Liguria – tel. 010-9761200
* Via Goleto 13/B, Boretto (RE) – Emilia Romagna – tel. 0522-964415

Photo © brooy

20 Things We Love About Italy – Part 2

Torino's Mole Antonelliana

We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s run-down of part 1 of 20 Things We Love About Italy. Hopefully, the list has given you more travel ideas and the inspiration to learn more about all of Italy’s 20 regions.

Now, without further ado, the remaining 10 favorites on our list:

11) Termoli, Molise. If Puglia (see #13) is the next Italian travel spot, surely Molise will follow. This beautiful beach town in Italy’s second smallest region is little known outside of the country and blissfully free of the tourist throngs (so far).

12) La Mole Antonelliana of Torino, Piemonte. This iconic building (perhaps you remember it as the symbol of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games?) may be one of the younger structures in the region, but it certainly has a cool history. Originally built to be a synagogue, the Mole now houses Italy’s National Cinema Museum. Besides a collection of thousands of movie posters and exhibits about early cinema in Italy, the museum presents a huge roster of films each month. This is great if your Italian is up to snuff.

13) Padre Pio, Puglia. If you’ve spent any time tooling around the shops near the Vatican, you’ve most certainly seen images of Padre Pio, the white-bearded Capuchin monk (originally from Pietrelcina in Campania) who lead a congregation at San Giovanni Rotondo and was canonized in 2002. Unofficially, for better or for worse, Padre Pio is Italy’s modern patron saint. What’s really random is that he’s now the patron saint of the New Year Blues.

14) Neptune’s Cave, Sardinia. Long known as a playground for the jetset, Sardinia is more than just beaches. Because of the island’s geography of rocky promontories spilling into the sea there is a vast network of underwater caves, or grottoes, to explore. Chief among them is the Grotta of Nettuno, which spans about 1 kilometer, includes impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations, and is a great cure for beachside boredom. Take a boat tour of Neptune’s Cave or, if you’re feeling more active, approach the grotto from the 656-step staircase that leads from Capo Caccia.

Beautiful Taormina Sicily
Beautiful Taormina, Sicily

15) Taormina, Sicily. Like the region of Campania (see #4), much of Sicily lives in the shadow (or under the legend) of a volcano: Mt. Etna. Taormina, with its Greco-Roman theater, bougainvillea draped hillsides, medieval town, and views of Etna, epitomizes the beauty, history, and geology of Sicily. We’re also fond of Taormina’s cultural attractions, including Taormina Arte and Taormina Filmfest.

16) Ötzi the Iceman, Trentino Alto Adige. Europe’s oldest mummy was found in 1991 in the ice-packed mountains above Trentino Alto Adige, the alpine region that borders Austria’s Südtirol. After years of research, the 5,000-year-old Ötzi was placed on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano in 1998. Also on exhibit are the Iceman’s tools and clothing, and information about the preservation measures being taken to keep Ötzi in peak condition for many millennia to come.

17) Botticelli Gallery, Galleria degli Uffizi, Tuscany. It’s too hard to single out just one thing in Tuscany, of course. But the Botticielli Gallery at the Uffizi has to be one of the most special rooms in Florence. Upon seeing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera in the flesh, we are transfixed, barely even noticing the dozens of other museum-goers trying to elbow us out of the way. For more information about the Uffizi, including how to get tickets, visit the museum’s official website. We also like this unofficial site that provides a virtual tour of the Botticelli Gallery and others.

18) Orvieto, Umbria. One of our favorite day trips from Rome has to be to the town of Orvieto. Situated atop a huge mountain of tufa, Orvieto shines because of its gorgeous, Gothic Duomo, its ancient Etuscan caves and wells, and the superb Orvieto Classico white wine. Actually…forget the day trip. Why not stay overnight?

19) Fiera Sant’Orso, Valle d’Aosta. How can you not appreciate the Fiera Sant’Orso, Aosta’s traditional craft fair which has been going strong for more than 1,000 years?! The fair usually takes place at the end of January – so you just missed this year’s edition – and it is known for its wooden handicrafts, artisanal metalworks, ceramics, and sculptures. No doubt, there aren’t many events that can boast a 1,000 year history – not even in Italy.

20) St. Mark’s Lion, Venice, Veneto. Leave it to us astrological Leos to love the symbol of the city of Venice: the lion of St. Mark. From atop a column in St. Mark’s Square to Madonna’s Like a Virgin video, the lion has been an effective marketing tool for Venice for hundreds of years. You can learn more about the symbol and the city in Garry Wills’ excellent Venice: Lion City, one of the most gratifying biographies about a city that you will ever read.

Photos © Comune di Torino, Joe Routon