Understanding Italy – Nobility, wines, food and jeans
Italy has some basic rules. Just about everyone is of noble blood or knows someone of royalty. Some areas make fantastic, complex, refined wines while others, just a few miles away traditionally produce young simple table wines. Only in the last twenty years have some producers of heirloom wines, dating back to the Roman Empire, began creating some marvelous complex wines. Just when you think you know Italian cooking you take a ½ train ride and potatoes become rice and then rice becomes pasta. Local stores no longer carry twenty types of Taleggio instead they have twenty types of fresh fish. In the home of fashion, seventy percent of Italians say that a gentleman does not wear jeans.
Italy is complex. The Italy that you know is not the Italy I know. Our families may come from the same region. We may have lived just miles apart but your traditions will not be the same as mine. This is confusing for many foreigners. They think that the only difference between Milan and Rome is the architecture. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Italy is a rather recent invention. This is not to say that the Italians have not been around for a long time just that the current Italian state is just over 100 years old. Giuseppe Garibaldi and the thousand red shirts united Italy under the reign of the King of Sardinia. Strangely enough the kingdom is Sardinia included the Island of Sardinia but was based in Piedmont.
Looking back to the XII century we see the political structure of the Italian peninsula through the XIX century. These kingdoms were not friends. They were constantly at war with each other or allied with some other European royal family. This translates to foods, wines and fashion varying significantly from region to region. Piedmont cuisine and wines are very similar to French. Lombardia traditional recipes are rich in cheeses, rice and polenta. Southern Italians do marvelous things with fish and vegetables. Friuli food is has influences of German and Austrian nobility and Emilia Romagna does marvelous things with pasta.
So why is all this important for your vacation planning. Each region you visit is a different culture. It will be impossible to appreciate the area just passing through for a day or two. It is important to spend time, shop at the local markets, eat at the trattoria and drink some local wine. This will take some time but the experience is well worth the extra attention.
Tags: Italian Culture Italian Vacations Travel Italy