Our family just returned from a wonderful ski trip to Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Italian Alps, here are my 10 favorite and some funny moments:
#10 Italians Doing the Evening Stroll -- Best people watching around. Go to any village in Italy and enjoy watching the Italians walk the main streets or around the centro displaying their finery and socializing.
#9 Italians Do Cocktail Hour Better Than Anyone Else -- The cocktail hour (s) is from 5 to 7 p.m. and the ritual is alive and well in Italia with formal waiters, a bowl of crisps and more lively conversation than you know what to do with. Americans should drink less and cocktail more.
#8 Smoking is Down but Not Out in Italy -- It may be finally out of restaurants (thank goodness) but it is amazing to see how many people still smoke in Italy. Makes you realize just how out of favor it is now in the U.S. but my kids especially kept commenting about how many people smoke. I thought I had seen it all when I saw a man skiing down the slopes, cigarette in mouth.
#7 Cutting in Line is Almost an Olympic Sport -- Without hesitation they will push you aside to get to the front of the line. Small child vs. old man? Bring it and some sharp elbows. You're gonna need it.
#6 Best Hot Chocolate on the Earth -- Cioccolata Calda, bravissima !! Man, our watered down version of hot chocolate is nothing compared to the pudding thick version the Italians have been hiding from us.
#5 Three Courses of Food, Still Beautiful -- how can people have so many courses for dinner and still look so good? Healthy, farm to table food, that's how. From gelati to pasta, you always feel it is fresh, fresh, fresh.
Beautifully set tables for New Year's Eve Celebration
#4 Five Star Food on the Side of a Mountain -- Forget the cold pizza and overcooked chili of American ski resorts, in Cortina there are privately owned restaurants dotted around the mountain that serve the most incredible food with a nod to their Austrian neighbors including sausages, goulash and the best polenta on earth.
#3 If You Don't Ask the Right Question, You Won't Get the Right Answer -- In Italy, no one is going to give you any information unless you are very specific. Typical exchange with our hotel -- 'do you know when the skating is open at the rink?' 'No, you would have to call them.' "Could you call them, I don't speak Italian.' 'Yes, of course.' Made us laugh out loud, this goes on and on.
#2 Every Order of Wine is for a Bottle -- no matter how many times we tried to ask for a glass of vino, we got a bottle. One time we insisted we only needed a glass. The response, 'As you wish Madame." No senora for me, err Madame, translation because what kind of crazy person doesn't drink a whole bottle of wine at dinner?
#1 Some Things Never Change -- I first visited Italy 25 years ago and I have been there many times in between, but it remains much the same and this is what I love the most. Most shops still close from 1 to 4 p.m so people can go home to eat. Most people in the small villages have had family there for centuries, and many people still follow their ancestors into the family business whether it is fashion, food, wine or craftsman. It is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful culture. Sure technology etc.. has arrived but the essence of Italy remains the same and as an Italian American I am happy to share it with my children. There are so few chain restaurants or shops in Italy you begin to think they don't really exist. With so many people wanting to know where their food comes from, I'm sure the Italians are wondering what all the fuss is about, they have been eating the same way for years and years.
One Last Thought - WIFI? Yeah, not gonna work 90% of the time, incredible that getting on the internet in 2014 is still so difficult but when you complain, yeah they don't care about that either, and then magically, after a few times you stop caring too. So order a bottle of wine, a primi piatti and a secondi piatti, skip the smoking, take a stroll with your family and enjoy.
This Fiat commercial is genius and sums it up nicely.
La Dolce Vita #wheninroma