Get Out of Town

:-D Happy Ferragosto! :-D

Non-Italian blog-reader: “The hell is Ferragosto ‘sposed to mean?”

Me: “Whoa, calm down! No need to take a surely tone with me! What are you stressed-out today? You need a vacation or something? Well, lucky for you, it’s Ferragosto!”

Non-Italian blog reader: “But I still have no Idea what the fu…”

Me: “Auu! I’m getting to that! Geesh!”

Ferragosto means summer vacation time in Italy! It’s a holiday that takes place on August 15th – smack dab in the middle of the month. It’s kind of a weird holiday because there are no special cakes, no special songs, no special gifts, no special anything. It’s just sort of a national “let’s close up shop and head to the beach” day. The only real way that you’d ever know it was Ferragosto would be if you tried to go to the local pharmacy, bar, post office, or shoe store. Everything, everything, is closed! You find empty stores, empty piazzas, and empty streets and not only on the actual day of Ferragosto. Places close for the weeks before and after the holiday as well! The only thing you’ll see are lots of these “closed for vacation” signs.

If you didn’t speak Italian and didn’t know that “chiuso per ferie” means “closed for vacation”, you might erroneously believe that all of Italy has caught the plague and that the Italians have decided to announce this woeful fate by means of hanging up whimsical, neon-colored signs everywhere! You’d think to yourself “Oh, those colorful Italians”, as you began to apprehensively second-guess your stuffed up nose.

Now, please don’t freak out if you’ve planned your summer vacation to Italy during the month of August. More touristy places and the shops in the city centers are often at least partially open. And the beaches are most definitely booming! Let’s just say it’s not the best time to visit Italy. Also, because it’s hot as balls!

As a matter of fact I’m not even in Italy right now! I wrote this blog post ahead of time and pre-programmed it to publish today. I’ve been on the beach in Croatia for a week already, soaking up the sun. Now I’m in Amsterdam, and then I’m heading back to Italy with some good friends from the USA. Even though we get back to Italy after Ferragosto, we’re still on the tail end of the summer vacation period. My only problem is going to be trying to find a restaurant to bring my visiting friends to that will actually be open!

What are you guys getting up to this summer? Leave me a comment!

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Italy is Closed Due to Inclement Weather

When American people think of Italy, the kinds of things that tend to pop into mind are images of people tanning on sun-kissed beaches, historic monuments illuminated by the warm sun, and Sophia Loren riding around on the back of a Vespa in a short skirt with stylish sunglasses on to keep the bright sun out of her eyes. Our image of the bella vita is generally lots and lots of sun and warm weather.

I hate to be the one to shatter anyone’s image of Italy, but we do have winter here and it does get cold.

Me all wintered up with a nice pea coat from my parents, a soft scarf from my boyfriend, and cute mittens from my brother. Lucky me! (The scally cap I bought for myself from H&M)

My family and friends back in the USA were surprised when I would call from Italy in December or January and talk about how cold it was or explain that we got a light dusting of snow. The fact that I needed a jacket, hat, scarf, and gloves to go out was something that really bowled them over and, I think, ruined their sun-filled ideas of Italy.

Italy does have pretty good weather most of the time, but we definitely do have 4 seasons. Winters in Italy are less harsh and shorter than in many other parts of the world, but it does get cold here, particularly in the central and northern parts of the country. Coming from Boston, I can tell you that winters in Italy are nothing at all like winters in the north-east part of the USA. I mean, it snowed on Halloween in Boston this year. Just imagine all those poor little boys and girls dressed up as Spider-Man or Cinderella who had to don winter coats over their costumes to go out trick-or-treating. However, Italy still feels the chill of old man winter.

This winter, in particular, has been quite cold recently and has seen lots of snow hit the country. Well, “lots” for Italian standards. Here in Milan we had a good few days of snow and places like Bologna and Rome really got pummeled by powder!

The funny thing is, since winters here are not normally that bad, when it does snow a lot  Italians always seem to be caught off guard and unprepared. The Italian news reports on the storm referring to it as a “Snow Tragedy: schools and roads closed – thousands stranded in their homes” when it Boston it would just be called “We Got Some Snow – scrape off your car and get your butt to work“.

My parents now live in San Diego, and it’s the same sort of thing that happens there when it drizzles. People in southern California just aren’t used to rain (lucky them) so when it does rain a little bit, people go crazy and freak out – boarded up in their homes and driving haphazardly off the road. My Boston-born parents can’t help but snicker at this. They survived years and years or “nor’easters” and certainly aren’t going to let a little rain slow them down!

Here to prove my point, and convince the more hardened of you “Italy is always sunny and warm” believers, are some pictures of the recent snowstorm that buried Rome.

The chocolate weather forecast calls for … a heatwave!

Italy gets boiling hot in the summer. I’m talking that sort of hot where I literally bring a change of shirt to work because by the time I get to the office, it looks like somebody dumped a bucket of water over my head. I’m talking that kind of hot that when you wake up in the morning (if you were even able to sleep at all with the heat), you leave a “sweat angel” imprint of your body on the sheets.

There is one sure way to know that summer is coming and that the scorching sun is on its way to bake the hell out of this boot-shaped country: chocolate!

Now, as I’ve said before in a previous blog post, Italians have a fear of colpo d’aria and therefore are not really into air conditioning (much to my sweaty dismay). This trepidation about cold air means that stores and homes are a heck of a lot hotter than they would ever be in the good ol’ air conditioned USA. This spells melty bad news for chocolate candy bars all over Italy.

The indoor temperature in Italy climbs so high in the summertime that chocolate literally just melts on the shelves of stores and in the cupboards of people’s houses. Some chocolate brands, not wanting to see their sales come to a complete halt during the months of June, July, and August, have cleverly come out with “summer versions” of their chocolate candy.

Since I am such a dedicated blogger, I have decided to make the great sacrifice of buying (and then eating) these delicious summer sweets so that I can give you the scoop on these seasonal Italian chocolates.

The chocolates I’m talking about are Kinder Sorpresa, Kinder Cereali, and Pocket Coffee. Here they are in their standard “non-summer” versions:

Kinder Sorpresa (the fun one): this hollow milk chocolate egg has a milk-flavored inner lining and comes with a cool toy surprise (hence the name – sorpresa means “surprise” in Italian)

Kinder Cereali (the healthy one): This bar also features milk chocolate with a milk-flavored center, only this time the toy surprise has been replaced with crunchy puffed wheat and rice (hence the name – cereali means “grains” in Italian)

Pocket Coffee (the energizing one): This one has a dark chocolate shell filled with sweet (overly, in my opinion) liquid espresso coffee (hence the name – coffee doesn’t mean anything in Italian … but means “coffee” in English)

 All three of these examples have found innovative ways to replace or alter the form of the chocolate and then re-market the product with new packaging for the summer season.

Here is me with the summer versions of the Italian chocolates mentioned above.

Nothin’ like some nice Italian chocolate when its roasting hot outside!

 The “warm weather” chocolates even have summer-fun names: Kinder Merendero, Kinder Cereali Summer, and Pocket Espresso To Go.

Summer Italian Chocolate

The two summery  Kinder chocolate brands offer a chocolate cream with crunchy bits – basically it’s like already pre-melted chocolate – while the Pocket Coffee summer version is like a mini caffeine-enriched juice box with it’s own little straw.

While I applaud the innovation, I still find chocolate to be a strange food to eat when it’s hot outside. I prefer something like a cherry popsicle or cold cucumber salad.

What about you guys? Leave a comment telling me what summer foods help you to beat the heat!