Spring Blooms in Tuscany

Friday, April 18th, 2014
La rosa (rose)

La rosa (rose) climbs a wall on the Montestigliano estate near Siena.

Time stops when you’re in Tuscany. I  have proof.

Three weeks ago, Walter and I left Pennsylvania  to host our tour program at Villa Pipistrelli on the Montestigliano estate. The temperature was chilly. Not a bud or bloom were to be seen.

I returned yesterday to an unchanged landscape.

Time does stop when you’re in Tuscany!

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. I do see a few brave daffodils and maple buds shivering outside my window.

But for Eastertide, I prefer to pretend I’m still in Tuscany among all the lovely spring blooms.

A Vintage Tour of Italy

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
photograph courtesy of the Italian Government Tourist Board

photograph courtesy of the Italian Government Tourist Board

By Tess Sanders

Walking through the ever-bustling Manhattan Eataly it would be easy to miss the latest additions to the 58,000-square-foot Flat Iron-district emporium.

They’re dangling from the ceiling as you stroll past the Lavazza cafe, the house-made gelato, and the sweets: remastered Italian travel images. Some of these lush posters date back to 1920. The Italian Government Tourist Board hosted a reception to welcome the exhibit “A Vintage Tour of Italy.” Tourist board director Eugenio Magnani introduced the Italian consul general Natalia Quintavalle who cut the ribbon.

Thirty digitally revitalized posters of the original art works are in the show.

Italia PosterXThe stylistic representations mark nearly a century of travel art, from the hyper realistic rendering to bolder expressionism. One stunning poster is done in that modern style: I. Gnagnatti’s Italia from 1963. It is the eye-arresting image of a woman’s back with the word Italia scrolling across her red shawl. With little more than a block of incandescent coral, Gnagnatti captures the allure of the Italian woman.

In a time predating television these images were among the first to capture the sparkle of the now-beloved Italy as a destination. Today the proliferation of blogs like this one is the norm when it comes to Italy worship, but in the 1930s these images were all that foreign, prospective tourists saw of the country.

When she's not contributing to SimpleItaly, Tess Sanders works for Macmillan Higher Education. Her office is serendipitously located across from Eataly.

When she’s not contributing to SimpleItaly, Tess Sanders works for Macmillan Higher Education. Her office is serendipitously located across from Eataly.

When I inquire as to how long these iconic images will be showing at Eataly, I am told “at least through the new year.” After that, these vibrant posters will grace venues in Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami, and L.A.

Catch them at Eataly NYC while you can!



On the Truffle Trail in Le Marche

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

This article first appeared in the November 2011 issue
 of the award-winning subscription travel newsletter Dream of Italy

By Sharon Sanders

Acqualagna truffle hunter Giorgio Remedia assesses his treasure.

Acqualagna truffle hunter Giorgio Remedia assesses his treasure.

Acqualagna, Italy–Two dozen miles southwest of the Adriatic coastal city of Pesaro, the placid plain morphs into picturesque hills near Acqualagna with 5,000-foot-high Monte Nerone and other peaks in the distance. The terrain gets rugged quickly.

Our bus struggled up a winding dirt road to deliver us to truffle hunter Giorgio Remedia’s azienda. Although we’d been advised to have proper footware, the sight of Remedia’s knee-high rubber waders gave some of us pause. He had a no-nonsense demeanor that could perhaps be attributed to his other job as chief-of-police in Acqualagna.

Remedia explained that this area is rich in truffles. He said that they’re a symbiotic fungus that grow on the roots of oak and poplar trees. The Acqualagna area yields different varieties of tartufo bianco (white truffle) and tartufo nero (black truffle) almost year round.

This community is seriously all about truffles. It’s said that one-fourth of the residents are qualified truffle hunters and 70 percent of Italy’s truffle dogs are trained here. The white truffle is celebrated each autumn with the Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco. This year’s event begins at the end of October.

more on the truffle trail

Il Postino

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
The late Massimo Troisi with Il Postino co-star Maria Grazia Cucinotta who plays Beatrice.

The late Massimo Troisi with Il Postino co-star Maria Grazia Cucinotta who plays Beatrice.

Have you ever been convinced that you’ve seen a movie only to find out that you hadn’t?

That happened to me with the Academy Award-winning Il Postino. Recently watching the DVD from Netflix, I realized to my chagrin that I had probably seen the trailer but not the entire film. For years, I’ve catalogued it in my mind as a standard Italian sex romp (doubtless because of the voluptuous actress on the poster) but that’s not what it is.

The film was made in 1994 and released in the U.S. the following year. Directed by Brit Michael Radford, it is the story of Mario Ruoppolo, the postman who delivers letters to Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who is exiled on an Aeolian island. The sweet story portrays poetry blossoming inside the soul of the simple postman. With Neruda’s inspiration, he wins his Beatrice.

Reading reviews and features about the film, I learned that Massimo Troisi, the Neapolitan comic actor and director who played the postman died only 12 hours after filming was completed.

Troisi was plagued by heart problems since childhood and doctors warned him when filming began that he needed a heart transplant. He chose to go ahead with the work. He had become captivated with the novel Burning Patience by Antonio Skarmeta on which the screenplay is based.

Maria Laurino reported in The New York Times, “Il Postino was the 12th film for Troisi, who also directed five of the movies he starred in, and his death shook Italy. His devoted public, who had no idea that he was seriously ill, showed up by the thousands at his funeral in San Giorgio a Cremano, the small town outside Naples where he was born.

Troisi had this ability to express the theatrical form of living that Neapolitans have in general and then translate it to the theater,” said Giuliana Bruno, a professor at Harvard University and author of Street Walking on a Ruined Map, a study of Neapolitan film. “It’s not just acting out language, but using facial expressions and body language. The soul of the people comes out in his work.”


Semifreddo for Summer

Saturday, July 27th, 2013
Lush lemon semifreddo is the next best thing to being in Amalfi.

Lush lemon semifreddo is the next best thing to being in Amalfi.


Semifreddo translates as “half frozen.”

But its literal moniker underplays the lush nature of this Italian spoon dessert.

I’d rather call it Fresco Com’una Nuvola–“Cool as a Cloud.”

Sort of a cross between a frozen soufflé and gelato, a semifreddo delivers the plush mouthfeel of frozen meringue with the luxurious richness of cream.

Why is semifreddo so dreamy? Because air is whipped into the egg whites and the cream prior to freezing. Gelato, on the other hand, is denser because air is whipped into the gelato base as it freezes. So, semifreddo results in a softer, more sensual sweet.

Semifreddo is so right for summer. It can be prepared hours or days in advance. Berries and peaches are its seasonal friends.

Italians like to play around with textural contrasts and frequently add layers of crumbled crisp cookies or chopped nuts between layers of semifreddo. Sauces are also a fun option. Caramel sauce with lemon or coffee. Chocolate  sauce with raspberry or strawberry. You get the idea.

Make a semifreddo soon and you’ll be on nuvola numero nove.

Click here for information about egg cooking safety.

Lemon Semifreddo

Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
The USDA recommends that, due to possible danger from Salmonella contamination, pasteurized in-shell eggs should be used for any recipe calling for uncooked or undercooked eggs.
  • ½ tablespoon butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar plus sugar for coating the dish
  • 1½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 egg, beaten (see note above)
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 pint raspberries
  1. Coat the inside of a 6-cup soufflé dish or other casserole with butter. Coat with granulated sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk ½ cup granulated sugar with cornstarch until blended. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg. Whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk briskly. Set aside to cool, whisking occasionally.
  3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Whip until peaks hold their shape. Fold one-third of the cream into the lemon mixture. Fold the lemon mixture into the remaining cream. Spoon into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place in the freezer for 12 hours or up to 3 days.
  4. To serve, remove the semifreddo from the freezer and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Scoop onto dessert dishes. Serve with the raspberries.

Next time: Coffee Semifreddo