We dream of heading to Italy: city or island, cypress or almond, cappuccino or spirtz, we do not want to choose, we take it all! Italia, amore mio…
What hasn’t already been written, painted, photographed, tasted or visited about Italy? Probably nothing! And yet, when we go back, isn’t it always like the first time? It charms us, it moves us, it makes us laugh, it makes us sing, an incredible country with infinite variations, from north to south and east to west. It’s so rich in landscapes, experiences, sublime cities and unforgettable gastronomy that it almost makes your head spin!
During the month of June, we’ve been writing about Italy, the things we love and the places that inspire us, to share with you this dolce vita, which isn’t just a slogan from a tourist office, but a way of living the world with panache. Full articles can be found in the Journal section of our website, and in this one, a few charming postcards that remind us of Italy.
ON THE ISLAND OF PONZA
It’s a confetti in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast halfway between Rome and Naples, the largest of the islands in the Pontine archipelago. It’s reached by local trains with irregular timetables, then a fast boat that drops you off in its lovely 1/2-circle harbour, which welcomes returning fishermen early in the morning and the passeggiata of Italian families in the evening. It’s not the best-known of the Italian islands, far from it, and in fact you don’t really come across any tourists here, but you will meet Romans trying to escape the heat of the city.
In summer, there’s a relaxed nonchalance, a mix of habits, rituals, coves to swim in and rocks to lay your towel on, small boat trips, slow coastal cruising, dropping anchor somewhere and taking a dip.
The hours tick by differently, with nothing to do, just soak up the sun, the salt that sticks to your skin and the laughter of the children. In the afternoon, things calm down and the regulars take a siesta in the beautiful houses above the harbour, with their cinematic views. When evening arrives, people stroll in clusters, all dressed up, towards the end of the harbour, and its terraces where they can re-invent the world. A vibrant, cross-generational, Italian-style summer life.
Knowing how to get off the beaten track is the real reward of a trip, to immerse yourself in these slices of life, even if you’re not from here. On the island of Ponza, you can experience the charm of Italy at its most all-encompassing and intoxicatingly beautiful (just look at the wild and forbidding Chiaia di Luna to understand). Of course, you’ll dream of staying in one of the Fendi sisters’ wonderfully elegant houses, but failing that, a little ‘pensione’ high up in the maze of narrow streets will do just fine.
CAFFÈ E CORNETTO
One of the timeless pleasures of Italy is “colazione al bar”, the coffee you have outside your home in the morning. And like all serious traditions, there are a number of codes that tell you which tribe you belong to: the average tourist or those in the know, and being Italian has nothing to do with it! The first trip to the bar (because we’re talking about bars here, not cafés) on your nearby street corner, whether you’re in the middle of the city or in a small country village, and the whole emotion of Italy comes rushing in.
There are the local bars, family businesses that are often handed down from generation to generation, and the historic cafés that can be found in all the big cities, monuments to a culture of beauty and good food. And always in that slightly old-fashioned style that we love.
So choose a bar, go there early in the morning, stand “al banco”, i.e. at the counter, greet the barista, place your order (perhaps by going through the till first), which is unchanging from one day to the next. With a bit of luck, if you come to the same bar every morning, within a few days you’ll be recognised and won’t even need to specify your order. Choosing your coffee – it’s a tough choice (and above all, no cappuccino after 11am, supreme sacrilege!). Listen to the sound of the percolator as the steam escapes, let yourself be carried away by the fervour of the discussions, get involved in one of them if you feel like it, let yourself be tempted by a croissant, which will be called something different depending on the region: “cornetto” if you’re in Rome, “brioche” if you’re in Milan (be careful to pronounce it correctly, there’s a catch! “brio-ké”!), “vuoto” (empty) or filled with cream, honey or jam. Don’t linger, just swallow your coffee and cornetto quickly – you’ll be back several times during the day anyway. Grazie mille! And now you’re Italian 🇮🇹
NIGHT TRAIN TO ITALY
When everything’s going too fast, when we’re missing a few laughs in our daily lives, there’s always Italy. On a whim and in no time at all, you can find yourself on the other side of the Alps to experience la dolce vita. But this speed of execution lacks a little panache, and we dream of arriving by train in the early hours of the morning, still drowsy, when behind the fog at Santa Lucia the whole of Venice suddenly appears, or Milan, or Rome, or Florence, or Naples.
Getting to grips with distances and the slower passage of time, getting closer to our goal in small steps, seeing the landscape change, crossing towns and raising the train blinds at night to read the names on the signs, making sure we get the right connections, and finally arriving at our destination. Italy slowly creeps up on us, distilling its own music.
And imagine experiencing the most legendary of all trains, the Venice-Simplon Orient-Express, dreamt up by a rather whimsical constructor who took advantage of the opening of the tunnels between Italy and France, the Simplon in particular, to bring the great cities of Europe closer together in style. With evening dress compulsory and a glass of champagne in hand, it’s hard to imagine a more glamorous and timeless way to arrive in Venice, Rome or Florence in style!
And even if it’s not on the Venice-Simplon Orient-Express, any train, night or otherwise, heading for Italy will be enough to make you happy.
LATTE DI MANDORLA FROM SICILY.
In spring, the Sicilian landscape is covered with fields of small, light, pink flowers. They can easily be mistaken for cherry blossoms, whose delicate, fragile pallor they have, blowing away in a breath of air. They are almond blossoms, which produce almonds, which are used to make sugared almonds, the most famous of which is avola.
But what we particularly love in Sicily is drinking a latte di mandorla, an almond milk, made fresh. It’s creamy, sweet, indulgent and incredibly rich, with that inimitable almond flavour. And the good news is that it’s not complicated to make!
The recipe for 1 litre of Latte di Mandorla:
200g good quality blanched almonds + 1 litre water + 50g sugar or honey
The day before, soak the almonds in a container of water.
Rinse the almonds, then put them in a blender with the sugar or honey and start to grind them, gradually adding 1 litre of fresh water.
Mix the mixture well, then strain it through a suitable cloth, pressing hard to recover as much milk as possible. The almond paste remaining in the cloth can be used for another recipe. The milk can be kept for 4 days in the fridge.