Get Out of Town

ūüėÄ Happy Ferragosto! ūüėÄ

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!


Collect ’em all!

I love Italian¬†edicole (newsstands). They’re colorful and cute and “so very European” in my opinion.

I’m not really a newspaper or magazine reader (though I love books), however, Italian edicole have much more than just reading material. They have stuff like collectible stickers, trading cards, small toys, key chains, and bracelets that turn me back into a little kid and make me feel like I’m at the Italian version of the Balich 5 & 10 store in my hometown where I used to get little surprises if my report card was good (which it often wasn’t).

These edicole even have stuff with characters like I Puffi¬†(The Smurfs), MadBalls (a throwback to the 80’s), and Barbapapa (a French cartoon that’s very popular in Italy too).

I love all these little gadgets and though I’m usually pretty good at contenting myself by only browsing, sometimes I do wind up buying something. My recent obsession is bracelets. The edicole have tons of fun bracelets, and my current favorites are¬†Shokky Bandz.¬†They have these cute embroidered¬†Makram√© ones that come in different shapes and colors ¬†and ¬†these¬†awesome¬†Skullini Mon Amour¬†ones which are little plastic skull charms. Anybody who knows me knows that these bracelets are right up my alley! Each bracelet comes in a different color or shape¬†which represent various things (bears for tenderness, hearts for love, green for energy balance, yellow for enlightenment). I mean, I’m all for tenderness, love, energy balance, and enlightenment, so¬†I gotta get ’em all, right? Right!??!

These bracelets are usually marketed as a summertime thing too, so now is the time to start decorating your wrists! In fact, there is a very common non-edicola¬†rainbow string bracelet that you can see all over Italy. There are guys selling them (read: pushing them on you) every day in Piazza Duomo in Milan, but they are mostly thought of as the bracelets bought from guys that walk up and down the many Italian beaches, selling to sunbathers. These things are literally everywhere in the summertime. I mean, you can even see them peeking out under the sleeves of “suit and tie” businessmen as they walk down the street with their briefcases. I think this in itself is very Italian – the combination of serious (and most likely expensive and tailor fitted) business attire paired with a ‚ā¨1 rainbow bracelet bought from a street vendor. Hey, as long as it’s fashionable, who cares!

You want a lucky bracelet? Only ‚ā¨1!

I have so many bracelets at this point that it would be impossible to wear them all at the same time without Stretch Armstrong limbs. I mean, even with the 5 or 6 that I tend to wear together my boyfriend says that I look “like a Christmas tree” :-D. Can you imagine what it’d be like if I wore ’em all at once?

Let’s close out today by taking a look at some of my fashionable and very VIP summer bracelet looks. Feel free to imitate me if you want to… I mean it’s the highest form of flattery, after all!

Look 1

Look 2

Look 3

Leave a comment letting me know which bracelet look you like the best (and don’t forget to do the poll below)!

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!