If you can't go to Italy, bring Italy to you
Just because you can’t go to Italy right now, doesn’t mean a little Italy can’t come to you.
With ever tightening travel restrictions being put in place, it’s making it all but impossible to visit some of our favourite destinations at the moment. Like gorgeous Italy, with its excellent cuisine, wine, music, art and style. But just because you can’t go to Italy right now, doesn’t mean a little Italy can’t come to you.
Here’re some Plum tips on how to kit your home out so you feel like you’re basking in a Tuscan villa.
Music sets the tone, and no one does music quite like the Italians do. Trouble is, there’s so much excellent Italian music it’s difficult to choose what to listen to. Do you go with classical, opera, folk or contemporary? Our default setting is to lean towards classical and opera, simply because they are so evocative of the passion and romance we’ve come to associate with this amazing country over the centuries.
Puccini’s Nessun Dorum is an obvious starting point, so very moving, as is Andrea Bocelli’s rousing Con Te Partiro. But perhaps in these troubled times we need something with a bit more light and shade. We’re all familiar with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but his La Stravaganza set, although still robustly Baroque, is a layered, exploratory and ultimately uplifting piece that you can really lose yourself in. And a little diversion from reality might not be such a bad thing at present.
Now that you’ve got the right soundtrack playing in the background, it’s time to kick-start your day with a good coffee. Fortunately, coffee is another thing in which Italians excel. You’re welcome to stick with a cappuccino or an espresso, if that does the job for you, but may we suggest a caffè corretto? Caffè corretto is a shot of espresso with a splash of alcohol in it. The kind of alcohol you use depends on which part of Italy you’re in (or imagining yourself to be in): In the north it could be grappa, brandy or aquavit. But in central and southern Italy it might be saffron-infused Strega or the highly aromatic Centerba. Both are known for their digestive properties, so you could also have your corretto after a meal. Yes, it is a bit cheeky to have a shot of spirits with your morning coffee, especially if you’re about to operate a power drill or a light aircraft, so perhaps save this for the weekend…
Who doesn’t love Italian food? The huge variety of delicious pastas, breads, risotto, cheeses and desserts means you can always find something to delight your taste buds, no matter what your dietary requirements may be. We feel a need for comfort food right now and that means a soothing, heart-warming bowl of pasta. Yes, Carbonara and Arrabbiata immediately spring to mind, but we’d like you to try another all-time classic: Bucatini all'Amatriciana. It’s incredibly easy to prepare, with very few (but very fresh) ingredients. The recipe does call for some pancetta, but you can obviously leave it out if you’d prefer.
- 100g of guanciale, or good quality pancetta, diced into 0.5cm cubes
- 400g of San Marzano tomatoes, (1 tin)
- 1/2 onion, diced (optional)
- 1/2 red chilli, diced (optional)
- 50ml of white wine
- olive oil
- 400g of bucatini pasta
- Pecorino Romano, to grate on top
- basil leaves, torn
1. To begin, slowly heat the diced guanciale with a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-low heat. If using onions and chilli, add them to the pan to soften in the rendered fat, cooking them until soft but without colour
2. Once the guanciale is lightly golden, add the white wine and reduce by three quarters
3. Add the tin of tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, roughly chop them first)
4. Cook down on a low heat for 10–15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste and add salt and a pinch of sugar if necessary
5. Cook the pasta in a pan of heavily salted boiling water for 8–10 minutes, or as per packet instructions
6. Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add it to the sauce, tossing to make sure the pasta is evenly coated
7. Serve straight away with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano and some torn basil leaves
While your pasta sauce simmers away, it’s time to get into the spirit of things by mixing a traditional Italian cocktail. Campari, invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, is the key ingredient in a Garibaldi cocktail, also known as a Campari Orange. Striking in colour and taste, this quintessential aperitif has a refreshing citrus and slightly bitter flavour, although you can sweeten it to your liking by adding in extra orange juice. With Campari coming from Milan, and oranges from Sicily, this is a cocktail that symbolises the unification of northern and southern Italy. We’ll say “cin cin” to that.
- 30ml Campari
- 90ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- Plenty of ice
- Half a slice of orange, for garnish
1. Fill a large tumbler with ice. Add the Campari and top it up with orange juice.
2. Give it a stir and garnish with half a slice of orange.
(If you’d prefer something non-alcoholic, try a Lemonade Spritz (pronounced ‘Spriss’). Spritz cocktails come from the north of Italy and have club soda in them. Super refreshing, with fresh lemon juice and mint, this Lemon Spritz is a great any-time-of-day cocktail that’s as invigorating as a Mediterranean sea breeze.)
- 8 fresh mint leaves
- 37.5ml fresh lemon juice
- 6ml Monin pure cane sugar syrup
- 105ml club soda
- Lots of ice
1. Mix well together in a tumbler
2. Garnish with a slice of lemon and enjoy. Simple.
📷 : @bigmammagroup
Think of Italian cinema and chances are you’ll think of something by Fellini. La Dolce Vita is a perennial classic and it’s well worth repeat viewings. Another classic is Cinema Paradiso. Although this deeply nostalgic movie, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, initially flopped in Italy on its release in 1988, it soon went on to clean up at Cannes and almost everywhere else in the world. And for good reason. It’s an absolute delight, and to watch it is to feel as if you have been transported right into the heart of Italy.
Dante’s The Divine Comedy may be one of the greatest works of literature in human history, but seeing as we’re currently going through our own version of hell with the coronavirus, we might give it a skip. Instead, dive into the extraordinary The Neopolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante. It consists of four novels (My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay; The Story of the Lost Child) and it follows the lives of two women in Naples, from childhood to adulthood to old age. It’s the perfect accompaniment for a period of sustained self-isolation.
📷 : @elifthereader
Learning some of the local lingo (from the Latin word lingua, meaning tongue) will help to fill your home with the effervescent energy of Italy. And when you do finally get to actually visit Italy again, you can put your new vocabulary to good use. Below are some words and phrases to practise while you sip your cocktail and pretend you’re staring into a Tuscan sunset.
Basic Italian Phrases:
Per favore. Please.
Grazie. Thank you.
Prego. You're welcome.
Mi scusi. Excuse me.
Mi dispiace. I am sorry.
Buon giorno. Good morning.
Buona sera. Good evening.
Buona notte. Good night.
Buona giornata! Have a nice day!
For now, however, it’s ciao! from us.
If you're thinking of changing your travel plans, find out about Plum Guide's cancellation policy.