La Befana

The relics of San Nicola (aka Jolly Ole Saint Nick) are kept in a basilica in Bari, Puglia. Although the modern, red-suited image of Babbo Natale [Santa Claus] is familiar to Italians, he’s not the only magical character Italian children hope to get presents from during the holiday season. Deciding which kids have been cattivi [naughty], which have been buoni [nice], and rewarding them all in … Continue reading La Befana

The institution of l’acqua minerale

L’acqua minerale [mineral water] is usually bottled, but to most Italians it means a little more than just bottled water. Italy has the highest per-capita rate of consuming bottled water in Europe (about 185 liters per person per year), and the 300+ brands of l’acqua minerale in the Italian market bring in sales of 2.25 billion a year. Whether frizzante / gassata [both adjectives mean fizzy] or liscia / naturale [both words … Continue reading The institution of l’acqua minerale

Municipal vinegarworks

City governments normally look after water services, sanitation, public lighting, road issues…but vinegar services? Sure, if you’re in Modena and environs, an area where several cities maintain their own “acetaia comunale“, a vinegar production plant run by the municipal government. Founded in 2003, the acetaia [vinegarworks] of the city of Modena is located on the top floor of a municipal building. Three series of barrels, with 5 – 9 barrels in each series, are carefully … Continue reading Municipal vinegarworks

Wednesday Word: il cacio

Pronounced CAH-cheeoh, cacio is a synonym for il formaggio: both words mean cheese in Italian, both cacio and formaggio are masculine singular nouns, and both can be used as uncountable or countable nouns. The plural of il cacio is i caci, which corresponds to cheeses. In terms of the type of cheese the words refer to, there’s no difference between cacio and formaggio. Cacio does, however, have a different root than formaggio. Il cacio comes … Continue reading Wednesday Word: il cacio

Noodle trivia

Here are a few interesting facts on noodles you may not have known: – 3.2 million tons of pasta are produced every year in Italy. Pasta consumption varies considerably by region: for example, Sicilians consume 40 kg of pasta per capita per year, while residents of Trentino Alto Adige only consume 20 kg of pasta per capita per year. – The first World Pasta Day [Giornata Mondiale della … Continue reading Noodle trivia

Intriguing etymology: la salsiccia

La salsiccia is pronounced sahl – SEECH – cheeah. It is a general term for any kind of sausage. La salsiccia is a feminine countable noun and its plural is le salsicce. According to this online etymological dictionary, the word salsiccia is built from two Latin roots: sals-, from salsus, which means salty; and insicia, chopped up meat. Figuratively speaking, you might here an Italian say … Continue reading Intriguing etymology: la salsiccia

La pastiera: mermaid origins

If you’ve spent time in Italy around the Easter holiday, you’ve probably come across, if not devoured, la pastiera. With a loose lattice top and golden color, la pastiera could be described as a hybrid cheesecake-pie. The filling is a sweetened mixture of ricotta, eggs, wheat berries, candied fruit, and orange flower water, all wrapped up in a sweetened pasta frolla [shortcrust pastry] crust. The origins … Continue reading La pastiera: mermaid origins