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insights on art, culture, lifestyle, spirituality, travel, music, society and much much more from a jet-setter currently on "furlough"…

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Roma Termini Christmas Tree

Passing through the Roma Termini Train Station during the Christmas season? One cannot simply walk through the station without noticing the huge, 7 meter tall Christmas tree. This Christmas tree stands in the center of the entrance hall and towers over the hustle and bustle of travelers running to catch trains, buses and the metro. Strings of colorful lights and ornaments dawn this tall, pyramid shaped tree and since 2005, have held the secrets, wishes, prayers and desires of many people.

Locals and tourists alike fill the bottom of this tree using scraps of paper, the back of train ticket stubs and other random surfaces. Messages range from letters to Babbo Natale, the Italian version of Santa Claus to proclamations of the real meaning of Christmas and prayers to bring loved ones home for the holidays. Instead of Roma Termini simply a transit site, this tree has become a unique haven for passengers to share. Perhaps PostSecret needs to make another book with notes from this infamous tree?

Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle

Here are the lyrics of one of the most popular Italian Christmas carols, Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle, sung all over Italy during this festive time of year. The lyrics and music (especially when sung by children and Andrea Bocelli alike) have the ability to melt my heart. It may be a spiritual tune, but it definitely helps us remember the mystery of all things sacred. Enjoy this beautiful piece of art…

Tu scendi dalle stelle
(Italiano)

Tu scendi dalle stelle
O Re del Cielo
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo.
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo.

O Bambino mio Divino
Io ti vedo qui a tremar,
O Dio Beato
Ah, quanto ti costò
L’avermi amato.
Ah, quanto ti costò
L’avermi amato.

A te che sei del mondo,
Il creatore
Mancano panni e fuoco,
O mio Signore.
Mancano panni e fuoco,
O mio Signore.

Caro eletto, Pargoletto,
Quanto questa povertà,
Piu m’innamora
Giacche ti fece amor
Povero ancora.
Giacche ti fece amor
Povero ancora.

Panettone: a MUST-HAVE

It would not be Christmas in Italy (or Christmas at all, in my opinion!) without including panettone, the official Italian Christmas cake consisting of a yeasted brioche bread, raisins and candied fruit. This special cake, eaten during the season of Advent, originated from Milan in the north of Italy. These days, if you live in a major metropolis outside of Italy with a large Italian population, it is easy to get panettone at your local Italian grocery store, gourmet food store or bakery. Many American supermarkets, such as Trader Joe’s (aka. Trader Giotto’s) and Whole Foods, also carry their own version of panettone, usually made following an “authentic Italian recipe”. In Italy, it is common to bring panettone to various holiday celebrations to be eaten as a dessert, or given to a friend/loved one as a gift.

These days, one can purchase panettone in many different flavors and varieties. Some of my favorite brands of panettone include Bauli, Albertengo, Loison and Perugina. If the traditional raisin meets candied fruit variety of panettone doesn’t strike your fancy, feel free to indulge on other flavors, such as chocolate chips, chocolate hazelnut, limoncello creme, pistachio creme… even moscato and prosecco! Eat it for breakfast, as a snack or for dessert… it is delightful with tea, coffee or vino!

One year, my friend from Milan sent me a homemade panettone for Christmas, made by the company Loison. We ate that with mascarpone and really, it was the taste of heaven. See how beautiful it is, all wrapped up? It’s the best Christmas gift ever.

Simply put, unlike the North American fruitcake (hard to eat and often re-gifted), panettone is a delicious Italian dessert that you’d want to eat over and over again! Buon Appetito e Buon Natale!

Natale con i tuoi…

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The Italians have a famous saying: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi…” (Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want) This was a phrase I heard countless number of times during my Christmas vacation to Italy last year.

What do you think about this phrase? I hope to get responses from native Italians, Italo-philes and non-Italians as well. Do you agree or disagree, and why? I will reveal my thoughts in a later post…

Umbria Jazz & More Sparkly Lights in Orvieto

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If you are in the charming, medieval city of Orvieto, Italy for the holidays, be sure to check out the annual Umbria Jazz Winter festival. The dates of the 2011 festival run from 28 December 2011 to New Years’ Day 1 January 2012. This festival features the best in Italian and international jazz, from a variety of genres/musical traditions. It is a great way to take in a concert inside Orvieto’s spectacular Gothic-Romanesque duomo (cathedral) and spend the last few days of each year in the the green heart of Italy: the region of Umbria. Many of the concerts are free and worth listening to. For those who want to enjoy the town’s vibrant social life and mouth-watering cuisine, feel free to indulge in the many Umbria Jazz sponsored events, such as Jazz lunch and dinner specials in many of the local trattorias, happy hours and the famous Umbria Jazz wine and gourmet sessions.

While you are at it, don’t forget to take some time just to walk around the city and take in the dazzling Christmas lights and many nativity scenes (presepe) that randomly pop up around town during this joyous time of year. Orvieto is certainly the place to be for a more rustic and peaceful Italian holiday celebration.

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