May 17, 2012
Our very own Erica Berman has just landed in Genoa for her yearly stint in Liguria, her favorite region of Italy. This still relatively untouched corner of Italy is one of our favorite spots for experiencing authentic Italian living in a gorgeous, seaside setting. Until the rest of us are able to make it there ourselves, we can live vicariously through Marisa’s gorgeous photography… -Geneviève
I’ll just put it right out there: I love Liguria, and centrally situated Genoa is the perfect home base from which to delve into and savor Liguria’s many enchanting qualities and seaside cities. A maritime marvel, La Superba (the proud or the haughty, as it was once known) rivaled Venice as a powerful city-state for over 500 years. And while the splendor of its storied past as a seafaring legend is evident in the magnificent UNESCO-protected Strade Nuove and Palazzi dei Rolli, Genoa’s real charm is its present-day incarnation as a working port city.
This is a city that doesn’t bend over backwards to market itself to tourists. The result is an authentic Italian metropolis, more accustomed to the visiting Milanese than Manhattanite. As a traveler who thrives on finding and experiencing those places that aren’t (yet) teeming with fellow Americans, Genoa is a joy for me. Plus, I’m a sucker for labyrinthine medieval lanes, which Genoa has in spades.
October 24, 2011
Erica Berman was lucky enough to spend a couple months in gorgeous Genoa, Italy, this summer. She met up with HiP Paris friend and contributor Steve Brenner for a leisurely lunch in the historic town of Montepulciano before touring some villas in Tuscany. After reading his mouth-watering account of their meal, we couldn’t keep ourselves from sharing it with you here! -Geneviève
A square in Montepulciano (Stefano Piemonte)
Yesterday I drove up to Montepulciano to meet (in person) Erica Berman of Haven in Paris and her friend Mattia after literally years of email and skype exchanges. I’ve guest blogged on her popular HIP Paris blog, and we list a few of her flats on Cross-Pollinate, but we’d never actually met in person.
Bagno Vignoni near Montepulciano where Erica was staying for a night (Elena Vataga)
She was coming from Genova to Bagno Vignoni (above) to see some flats in Tuscany for her site, so we decided to meet nearby. I checked my trusted Osterie d’Italia published by Slow Food Italia, which has NEVER let me down, and we placed our bet on Acquacheta in Montepulciano.
Giulio Ciolfi, owner of Osteria Acquacheta
They were very insistent on us being there at 12:30 sharp. They will only accept reservations at 12:30 or 2pm, and they were passionate about giving us only one glass per person for both wine and water (per tradizione, apparently). The food was good – started with some amazing pecorino cheeses, one aged in walnut leaves, one with black truffles. Without a doubt, the closer you get to Pienza, in Tuscany, the better the pecorino.
September 13, 2011
Paris might be our one true love, but there is always room for summer flings. As the season of summer getaways winds down and our very own Erica Berman soaks up the pasta and capuccino in Genoa, Bryan Pirolli tells us about his (short-lived) love affair with another irresistible Italian city: Napoli. – Geneviève
I did a very bad thing. I left Paris to spend some time in Naples. There are some jealousy issues there.
Since I moved to Paris, I have never spent as much time in another European city as I have in this Italian port town. After just a week of feeling and acting like a local, I knew I was in love with Neapolitan culture. People actually stop you in the street to help you, to recommend which souvenirs to buy, or which beach to visit. Literally, pull up a chair and join the street sitters – it is Mediterranean culture at its best.
On my last day, I feared returning home to my first love. The piazzas, the sun that turns your skin a leisurely brown, the gesticulating yet welcoming Italians – how could I leave this? Paris all of a sudden seemed lacking in so many Italian essentials – and not just the perfectly ricotta-filled cannoli. What’s worse, I knew Paris would be able to smell my new Italian love affair all over my clothes.
Thankfully, as I started walking through the City of Lights again after my week of Italian bliss, the familiarity of it all made me feel at home. All of the things I usually take for granted stood out a little more –the things that, as a visitor, I didn’t have with my Italian fling.
September 9, 2011
In Italy, coffee is delicious, quick, and to the point.
You arrive, you order, you drink, you go. Now, your day can start or your afternoon can continue.
Your barrista probably knows your name, the name of first born child, where you live and, most importantly, what kind of coffee you want and how you want it.
June 2, 2011
Steve Brenner and his wife Linda Martinez moved to Rome with the dream of opening an eco-friendly hotel and indulging in delicious Italian food. Here, Steve shares his tips for getting our attempts at Italian cuisine to taste a little more like what comes out of an Italian mamma’s kitchen…-Geneviève
Pasta Carbonara (no cream!) and garlic: two Italian staples (Ghirson; Sivandsivand)
Everyone agrees – Italian food tastes better in Italy. Part of this is due to the superiority of the ingredients when bought locally. When you buy mozzarella in Naples or Gaeta olives in Gaeta or pecorino in Pienza, you are partaking in an experience that will not be the same even just an hour or two away. In Australia or the US, or any other really big country where things are produced to last long distribution distances, even people who live near the source are eating something made to withstand days of transport. A tomato in California or an orange in Florida tastes the same as they would in Montana.
Yet there’s another reason Italian food tastes better in Italy – it’s the cooking techniques that are not easy to adopt elsewhere. It’s not about precision and elaboration. Instead, it’s about knowing what to leave out and how to combine a few simple, but seriously tasty, things for maximum flavor.
If you read non-Italian language cookbooks in an attempt to find these secrets, look out – you are being deceived. Perhaps it’s a conspiracy by Italian grandmothers to keep the uniqueness of the Italian kitchen from being too accurately reproduced outside the boot, but the truth is (and I may be at risk with the food police for spilling this information) Italian recipes are not reproduced faithfully by English speaking writers. Italians would almost never use 1 whole onion in a pasta sauce (and Italian onions are about 1/4 the size of an American one). Two tablespoons of oil? Ha! I guffaw when I see a recipe that asks for 2 tablespoons of oil. I go through about a liter of oil a week.
Orecchiete con Broccoli and Parmiggiano (Sarah Maternini; Anne@74)
An example of this can be found in a quick search for the Pugliese dish – orecchiette with broccoli. A Google search of “orecchiette with broccoli recipe” in English and a search of “ricetta orecchiette con broccoli” in Italian turn up two very different recipes – the English one calls for 2 tablespoons of oil and 4 cloves of garlic, while the Italian recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of oil and one glove of garlic.
I learned to cook in my early 20′s because I was living in Italy with no money. If I wanted to eat cheaply, I was going to have to fend for myself. So I asked lots of questions and kept my eyes open and found that Italian cooks are very willing to share their “secrets”, because there aren’t many actual secrets. They make things the way they’ve always made them, true to tradition with subtle varieties based on location and availability. When Italians ask their Mamma, who learned to make orecchiette from her Mamma, how much garlic or oil needed to make the dish, she would say, “poco e tanto”. If I asked my mother, she’d email me the recipe.
August 31, 2010
In Part 1 of this series, Erica Berman shared her most telling anecdotes about the difference between life in France and life in Italy. While most of us can only envy the lifestyle that makes intimate knowledge of those details a part of daily life, Erica’s insight into the particularities of French and Italian culture helps us live the dream. In part two, she moves beyond general life to get to the juicy stuff : how the natives operate.
Photos Erica Berman – Seafood Pasta in Italy this summer
Differences between the French and the Italians…
- Nothing is a problem for the Italians…everything is a problem for the French. I think there are numerous posts to be written on this thought… a suivre!
- Italians miss pasta and coffee when away from their beloved Italy. The French are hands down pining for bread and cheese when far from home.
- The French do not ask personal questions. Italians ask many. The French find asking questions a sign of indiscretion, and they take the utmost pride in being discreet, sometimes to the point of ridiculous (when applying for a job they may not feel comfortable asking the salary).
- The Italians are curious and their inquiring minds want to know. In elevators in Italy I have had personal conversations on where I’m from and why I’m in Italy with people I have never seen before and will probably never see again. In France a bonsoir or bonjour is possibly all the chatting you will get after years of being neighbors.
- Italians remember you after seeing you once. The French might, of course, remember you, I am convinced they do, but will do their very best to pretend that they have never seen you before (my corner bakery in Montmartre is in the running for longest possible non recognition of a regular customer – almost 18 years. The bread is so amazing and their complete neutrality so fascinating, I keep on going).
August 23, 2010
I’m back in Paris after 2 months of learning Italian in Genoa, Italy. The cool Paris weather is a shock after the heat of Italy, but I’m excited to be home.
Naturally, I can’t help comparing the (Genovese) Italians to the (Parisian) French with whom I have cohabited for almost 18 years. Little differences and similarities between the daily life in both countries are entertaining, endearing and often surprising.
Things I have noticed: Life in Italy vs France
- You will be scoffed at in both countries for ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon. Mind you, I do it anyway. How gauche is that?
- Both Italians and French cut lines with zeal. Little old Italian ladies are surprisingly cunning. Be alert!
- Taxis in both cities can, and will, try to rip you, the foreigner, off even if you speak the language. Be aware.
- Both Italians and French love their doggies and bring them in trains, restaurants and just about everywhere they can physically go. In both countries you will see many a person out and about deep in conversation with Fido.
July 19, 2010
For some happy reason no one — except the Italians and a few others in the know — has heard of Liguria aside from well-known towns Portofino and Cinque Terre. It is for this exact reason that I have come to adore this small crescent-shaped region of Italy.
I love to be away from mass tourism and well-known places, and the ocean, hills, clement climate, amazing food and lovely people most certainly heighten the appeal of this wonderful area. For my week of vacation from studying Italian in Genoa (my favorite Italian city, also located in Liguria) I rooted up the perfect apartment in the medieval village of Colletta di CastelBianco.
Left to abandon for many years, an Italian developer picked up this empty, decaying hilltop spot and turned it into a sweet little village with 70 small apartments (about 25 of which are available for rent), a pool, a restaurant and lots of lovely outdoor space.
June 24, 2010
Life here in Italy comes with simple pleasures. Each morning I start my day with an eagerly awaited Cappuccino. I have found my favorite little hole-in-the-wall right around the corner from my apartment in the Castelletto neighborhood of Genoa. Here, I enjoy my morning ritual of cappuccino, a glass of water, the newspaper in Italian, and a chat with the barista. Simple, cheap (only 1€10 for this delicacy), and fulfilling! What is your morning bliss, and where do you go to find it?
You might also like:
- Erica’s musings on coffee in Italy with detailed coffee descriptions
- Focaccia and cappuccino in Genoa
- David Lebovitz on where to drink great coffee in Paris
- Tory writes on her favorite Paris coffee spot the Caféothèque
Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence or Tuscany? Check out our website: Haven in Paris
September 26, 2009
In the US, the vast majority of food & grocery shopping is done in supermarkets. We cook with canned beans or tomatoes, pre-butchered meats, and shrink-wrapped cold cuts – or consume industrially prepared foods – rarely stopping to consider where exactly these things come from. One item could be fresh from a nearby farm, another from halfway across the world. While many Americans are becoming increasingly aware of how and where their food is produced, there is still a sense of detachment between the food we eat and its origins. Recently, however, following an eye-opening Italian dining experience at La Petraia – in Tuscany’s Chianti region – I was inspired to rethink how I purchase, prepare, and consume food.