Saturday, June 16, 2007

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.


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Blogger Italian Wine Guy® said...

So, what about the jeans?

4:17 AM

Blogger RennyBA said...

This was a very interesting and formative post David. You know I have been both in Rome and Milan, and felt it was kind of different, but never know the history and why.

Btw: For once I have a food and vine post from Oslo. You know I love yours and now you are invited to sit in with me for a change :-)

1:11 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

IWG Exactly, gentlemen do not wear jeans (according to 70% of Italians).

Renny loved the slow food post!

7:47 AM

Blogger Italian Wine Guy® said...

odd that, whenever i turn around in Italy i see all m anner of men wearing jeans. I stopped taking jeans to Italy.

70%...i dont think so

nice post- grotz

8:30 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

IWG I guess the people you see do not consider themselves gentlemen (signori).

Since I do not do opinion poles and this one happens to be from ansa I think it is probably pretty close to accurate. I do understand that our personal experience skews our perception and perception is reality...

8:48 AM

Blogger Italian Wine Guy® said...

just ask Alice

3:39 PM

Blogger Corby Di Praglia said...

Considering the fact that Emanuele Filiberto Di Savoi publicly wears jeans, I hardly think the "gentleman" comment applies.
However, that said, I would say that One rarely sees men over the age of 40 in jeans. The chino pant (especially those of Massimo Dutti)is the casual pant of choice.

7:22 AM


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