Last week, our son, Lucas had friends coming over and he was thinking creatively about a special snack... no more pretzels and juice boxes for this teen. His Family Consumer Sciences class at the end of the school year made Monkey Bread, but he wanted to make it even better at home by modifying my basic pizza dough recipe into a sweet bread dough. Good idea. He went to work.
I helped him modify my Basic Thin Crust Pizza Dough with the following changes:
Warm water was increased to 1 - 1/2 cups.
We added 1/2 cup of whole milk.
Instead of the honey, we added 1 tablespoon sugar to the yeast when proofing, and an additional 3 tablespoons sugar to the flour in the mixing bowl.
For flour, we used only bread flour--about 3 - 3-1/2 cups until you get a rather sticky dough.
When mixing the yeast and flour in the bowl, we added 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted. Melt the other 1/2 stick of butter and set aside for the cinnamon coating.
Other than that, make the dough as you would in my Basic Pizza Dough recipe. After the dough rises, use olive oil to coat the insides of a non-stick cupcake or muffin pan.
In a medium sized bowl, mix the 1/2 stick of butter with a cinnamon-sugar mix... about 1 cup should do. If you don't have cinnamon-sugar, use 1/3 cup cinnamon and 2/3 cup sugar. If you like, you can add another spice... a touch of allspice, perhaps.
Turn out the dough onto a well floured work table, then cut 2" thick "ropes" and roll them thinner to about 3/4 - 1" thick. Cut them into 2-3 long pieces. Coat them with the cinnamon-sugar and butter and place them randomly in each compartment of your pan... pile them just over the top of the rim.
When done, you can either spray the top with a butter spray, or place a couple of small dabs of butter on top. When done, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 1 hour.
When doubled in size, bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 35 minutes or until nicely browned and when a cake tester comes out clean.
These are best when served warm. If making the day before, wrap in foil and re-heat in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes.
--Jerry and Lucas Finzi
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Copyright 2016 - Jerry Finzi - All Rights Reserved
When you hear the word Pecorino, if you're like most people, you think of cheese. And since pecora means sheep, the best Pecorino from Italy is always made from 100% sheep’s milk (sadly, poor American imitations are made from cow's milk.) We fell in love with Pecorino cheese when visiting Pienza in Tuscany. Pecorino is king there. It's taste is nutty, sweet and creamy on the tongue, even if well aged. Pecorino dates back several thousand years, when people first started making cheese from sheep's milk.
But there is another kind of Pecorino--a variety of grape and wine. Pecorino is a light-skinned grape used in Italy's Marche and Abruzzo, along the east coastline. The classic Pecorino is dry, a bit floral and straw colored, often with a bit of anise flavor.
Even thought it has been cultivated for hundreds of years, the typical low yields caused it to be mostly replaced by other more productive varieties. Many thought the Pecorino grape had fell into obscurity or possible extinction.
But in the 1980s, a Marche producer discovered some forgotten vines in an overgrown vineyard. Cuttings were taken, propagated, and wine was again produced in the early 1990s. Since then, the variety has grown and gotten a strong following. Pecorino is now grown in Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany.
The Pecorino grape grows best in higher altitudes and has a high acidity along with a high sugar content. The sugar helps create a high level of alcohol, with the acidity balancing it all out.
In the end, Pecorino still means both--wine and cheese--so you can have a double dose. Both go very well together, proven by the fact that historically, the Pecorino grape was also allowed to grow wild in the hills so sheep could enjoy the fruit as snacks...
The story goes that coffee was discovered by some unknown goat herder who noticed that his goats were more jumpy than normal after eating some seeds from a bush. This supposedly happened in Ethiopia, but it was in Yemen on the Arabian peninsula that coffee was first grown as a crop.
Muslims drank it instead of wine for a "high". Many boasted its medicinal properties for all sorts of stomach ailments. In the middle ages it was it was introduced to Italy through the trade port of Venice. At first, people wanted this Muslim drink banned, but in 1600 it was given a Papal seal of approval. In England Tea is Queen, but in Italy coffee is King.
Coffee is part of a personal style statement for Italians. How much sugar you take, how much milk or even if you drink it amara (black), it's part of one's personal statement about their personality. If you don't drink coffee, especially after dinner, you'll be shunned as being pazzo or being under a curse. In Italy you don't just meet someone for a drink--you meet for coffee. It sharpens the senses for discussing business, politics or love. And if you ask someone to meet for coffee, offer to pay, even if you have to argue about it. Arguments are part of the dance--part of a day's rituals. And remember, the last thing an Italian wants to drink is a fancy, caramel flavored latte. They want--and need--coffee and only coffee. In fact, try and order a latte and you'll be given a glass of milk.
How to Order
When ordering coffee at a bar, you're expected to pay first, get a receipt, then hand the receipt to the barista making the coffee. Baristi are well thought of in Italy. It's a job that commands respect and honor. Before they fill your order, they'll put a little tear in the receipt so you can't use it again. For an American, it seems odd to have to tell someone everything you want first, pay, and then go and pick everything up. They even do this in airport and train station snack shops.
If you want espresso, don't ask for espresso. Ask for "una caffe, per favore". You'll get a small cup of espresso. When standing at a bar, drink your coffee fast (even if it's hotter than hell). Italians never sip. Sure, you can sit at a table like a tourist, but you'll be charged an extra couple of Euro for a cover. Italians are furbo (crafty), so they keep the two Euro in their pocket and stand to drink. By the way, you might get a small glass of water with your coffee, or you'll see glasses and a pitcher of water on the counter. If you do, it's not typically used for cooling or watering down your espresso. It's for cleansing your palette. In any event, do not try and sit for hours to drink coffee. Drink it fast or you'll be scorned as the Ugly American Tourista. And if you want to add a sugar free sweetener, don't ask for Sweet n Low, ask for Dietor, an Italian brand name.
Try to remember... never, never call a cornetto a "croissant"! Croissants are French and fairly soft (they're made with lots of butter), while a cornetto is very Italian and has a crunch (made with lard or olive oil)-- perfect for dunking. In Italy, a typical breakfast is a caffè and a cornetto or other pastry. That's it. No one eats a big breakfast. They save up their appetites for large meals during extended lunchtime (2-3 hours long). Coffee is a big part of the morning ritual.
Different Ways to Order Coffee
Caffè: espresso, always a small cup, many Italians add a sweetener.
Caffè Americano: watered down espresso, but still stronger than American coffee.
Caffè Doppio: Double espresso
Macchiato: a small cup of espresso with a splash of milk
Marocchino: small cup of espresso with some cocoa powder and dash of milk
Ristretto: a strong shot of espresso made with the normal amount of coffee but half the amount of water.
Caffè corto: short espresso
Caffè lungo: long espresso
Cappuccino: espresso with steamed milk on top (with breakfast)
NEVER after 11am, and NEVER after dinner
Caffè Lungo: Literally, long coffee. This is a large cup of watered down espresso.
Caffè Corretto: Not for breakfast, this is an espresso laced with a shot of liquor, like Grappa.
Caffè Freddo: Chilled and shaken with ice, served in summer.
Granita di Caffè: in summer--a coffee slushy.
Caffè Latte: Milk flavored with coffee, served in a glass.
Caffè Deca: Decaff coffee. "Deca" can be used with to order other decaffeinated coffee types, for example, "Cappuccino Deca".
Now, if you really want to spend big money, you can get one of those dedicated (and huge) cappuccino machines. But you don't really need this just to make steamed milk for your cappuccino or macchiato. All you need is a small container to shake bubbles into your milk. Then you would heat up the milk in a microwave and spoon it on top of or into your coffee. If you use a coffee press to make your brew, there is a similar device to make bubbles in milk.
Making coffee Italian style is a fairly straightforward thing, once you understand the nuances, that is. Get yourself a Moka pot, look for a blend that suits you and start brewing.
For Moka pots: Do NOT tamp your grounds. This is a technique used on high pressure pro machines... the Moka is a low pressure device. Just fill your Moka chamber to the top with loose grounds and screw it shut.
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Copyright 2016 - Jerry Finzi - All Rights Reserved
Saverio Finzi. That's was--and still is--my Dad. He was called Sal by most, Sally Boy by his buddies growing up, mistakenly called Xavier on his immigration papers, Daddy by my 3 sisters, but I just called him Dad. As he got older, once in a while I'd call him Pop, but he said he didn't like it. It made him sound too much like an old man (he was in his eighties at the time). I always thought it was cute the way he referred to other people his age as "those old people".
He was always a man of the "dirt" as he called garden soil. He taught me how to love and appreciate Home Grown Tomatoes. I still grow Heirloom tomato varieties every year and my son Lucas already knows how to start seeds in the cellar in February, how to plant the young plants deeply for strong roots, and how to prune side shoots off the plants for bigger fruit. Dad taught me a lot about gardening. Some day I plan to have a grape arbor like he had in our little city back yard growing up.
He loved nature too. As he got older he loved to sit on his patio and just "watch the boidies" (as he called them) at his bird feeder. He was the one who started bringing home box turtles from "The Lake" when we were kids. At one time we had 15 or them in our little back yard. He loved dogs and cats and rabbits, too. He had a rabbit hutch that he kept his pet rabbits in... one was a huge lop-earred bunny with a powerful kick. And Lord, did he love the trees and the flowers. He once said to me "I love plants, I love trees, I love the sky, I love the birds... but I hate people". He wasn't a man who ever hated anyone, but I knew exactly what he meant. Nature was pure and simple. People can be overly complicated.
He loved to fish and go crabbing. We used to break through the fences and trespass onto the old piers on the Hudson River where I grew up. He'd catch a bucketful of "Jersey Blue" crabs, as he called them, those colorful treasures the East Coast is famous for. He fished with a pole, surely, but he also used a simple string drop line, with a little screw-springy-bell gizmo that he'd screw into the wood at the edge of the pier. When an eel was "on" the line, the jingle bell would ring and he'd pull up the string line by hand. He prepared the eel Pugliese style... fried in olive oil and served in cut up little chunks with lots of lemon, like little oily fishy sausages. One day he caught a huge crab on the drop line and a big "Mama eel" (as he called the huge ones) in the crab net. I'll never forget that. He also caught the biggest catfish I've ever seen come out of Oak Ridge Lake, where we used to go when I was young.
Dad was more Italian in his ways than I realized when I was young. He knew how to speak the Southern dialect of Molfetta in Puglia, but never spoke it at home. But one time he ran into a "girl" that he grew up with in Hoboken, New Jersey--hadn't seen her in 50 years. It's amazing that they recognized each other in an instant. The Molfettese dialect flowed like thick honey from his mouth as they spoke.
He also had a habit of eating only de-constructed sandwiches--that is, he preferred to tear pieces of bread and eat the cold cuts, cheese and tomatoes laid out on a plate--and this was a deli man who made great sandwiches at work. He loved glasses of cheap or home made wine--often drank with ice cubes or even with some 7-Up added to mimic Prosecco. He told stories of his own father making wine and keeping the large damigiana (a "demijohn" is a very large teardrop shaped bottle) in the cellar while it fermented and aged.
He is the one who taught me how to make polpette (meatballs) bigger than my fist, and baked Virginia ham at Christmas and how to make roast turkey and roast beef. He always loved a "nice piece of meat", as Italians do, all on its own on a plate. He loved his ice cream and would eat out of the box--as I still do.
He was a simple man with simple pleasures. He love saving little sayings and poems out of books and newspapers... I found a bunch of his clippings in his wallet after he passed away. As he got older, I'd go over and spend Saturday afternoons with him--Mom and Dad and I would sit at his picnic table a peruse books or magazines on gardening, cooking, old National Graphic magazines about volcanoes or exotic far off places... we'd look at the pictures, talk, have a soda and a peach for a snack and dream of going to Italy someday together.
Dad never made that trip with me... No. He was with me, and Lucas and Lisa. He was the reason we went on our Grand Voyage. Lucas and I blessed ourselves in his honor in the waters in his home town of Molfetta. I remember saying "Dad, we made it." I felt him right there next to us...
Thank you for being my Dad, Sally Boy. And on this Father's Day while I look at my beautiful son, Lucas, I know that I wouldn't have learned how to become --as Lucas calls me--"The Best Dad ever", if you didn't hold the same title before me. He was more than my father. He was my best friend.
We miss you, but you are with us in everything we do in life.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.
Lady Bug Caprese Salad.
cherry tomatoes, black olives, basil leaves, and mozzarella
And the dots.... drum roll.... (go to the bottom for the surprise. but see if you can guess first)....
The dots are spots of thick balsamic vinegar!
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In 1894, Coca Cola opened it's very first bottling plant. The first Cokes were sold to the public in 1886 at the soda fountain of Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.
In Italy, in 1927, Romana Acque Gassose opened the first Coca-Cola manufacturing and bottling plant in Italy. This was followed in the 1930s by the bottling companies SRIBEG in Genoa and STIB in Leghorn, and by FAMIB in Milan, which manufactured and marketed soft drinks under The Coca-Cola Company trademark. The independent bottling companies subsequently multiplied to the point where they were in a position to distribute Coca- Cola products all over Italy.
In 1995, The Coca-Cola Company, global leader in soft drinks boasting 4 of the world’s 5 biggest brands (Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola light, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite), decided to handle its Italian operations directly and accordingly bought the 11 bottling companies located in the north and center of the country... by 1998 there were 16 such plants.
When we visited Italy, Coke was everywhere. For me, I drank Fanta Aranciata... in Italy, a totally different drink than Fanta here in the States. In the U.S. it's a bright, artificial orange color with an overly sweet, chemical taste. In Italy, it's actually made with orange juice. It's fresher and more natural tasting--imagine orange juice and seltzer. I loved it.
But for my boy, Lucas and wife, Lisa, once in a while they needed a Coke fix. Lucas loved Coke Zero... he said it tasted the same as here, but Lisa said it was less sweet. In general, sodas in Italy are very different... and they usually are less sweet. Italians like more fruity, sour flavors--bitter too. But make no mistake about it... you'll find Cokes everywhere in Italy.
Here's a photo of our pizza last night: A large wheat pan pizza with mozzarella, sharp provolone, prosciutto and dollops of pesto here and there.
Use my Basic Thin Crust Recipe, but replace 1 cup of the bread flour with 1 cup of White Whole Wheat flour. You can use any pizza sauce of you liking, but if you would like to make your own from scratch, try my Pizza Sauce Recipe.
We've made fresh pasta before. My son, Lucas and I are usually the pasta-making team. We've made it totally by hand with the flour-well method and rolling pin and we also make it with out pasta roller attachment for our KitchenAid stand mixer. For lucas and I, it's a bonding experience... we make it together and get great satisfaction knowing that WE did it, ourselves. There's nothing like eating tender, fresh pasta that you've just made.
When it came time to decide on my wife, Lisa's birthday present this spring, we thought we'd get her into the fresh pasta-making action, too. The KitchenAid Pasta Extruder attachment was a natural for our kitchen and for creating a new Extruded Pasta Team--Lucas and Lisa.
Like all KitchenAid products, this unit seems like it's built by NASA engineers. I'm always pleasantly surprised at the engineering that goes into their equipment. No cheap plastic parts here... this thing will last for decades. And even though the die shape inserts themselves (surrounded my metal plates) are made of a plastic, they seem to be made of an industrial strength nylon. For $134, I wouldn't expect commercial grade bronze dies, anyway. The thing that really impressed me was the pressure that this thing has to endure when extrusion is actually happening...
Being the first time out, Lisa set out to use the "Basic Egg Noodle Pasta" recipe in the KitchenAid manual:
4 large eggs
3-1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
Ok... here's my own observations on this whole process;
I stepped back and let this be a Lucas and Mom project, but then Lisa called me in when she noticed the dough was very tough and nearly impossible to knead into a "smooth, pliable" dough ball. Now as I said, Lucas and I have made fresh pasta before... but extruding is a bit different. In general, the dough has to be a stiffer mix to hold up to extrusion. If it's too soft it will make a sticky mess when put through the extruder.
My first reaction to the dough when I saw it was to toss it and start from scratch with a new recipe. It was really tough. I rolled it up in plastic wrap and put it aside and went online to find a typical recipe for extruding pasta.
By the time I came back, Lisa said she took another look and her dough was a bit softer. In fact, it had relaxed a bit, so I kneaded it a bit--a real muscle job--and Lisa started to cut the walnut sized balls.
Putting the shape disk on was easy. The machine fired up and Lisa dropped a a bunch of balls into the hopper to top it off. Slowly, pasta began to extrude... very slowly at first. Our mixer didn't bog down, even with the heavy dough. Then it stopped.
Apparently, you need to feed one or two balls of dough at a time and the auger at the bottom of the extruder presses the dough against the shape disc. Lisa put too much into the auger and there was a gap. We pulled out the dough, then started adding balls no more than two at a time. Past was being made... a pretty acceptable rigatoni shape!
Then Lucas took over the cutting... waiting until the rigatoni was about 1-1/2" long, then slicing them off quickly with the piano wire guillotine underneath the disc. He then laid them out to dry on a clean, cotton kitchen towel. They dried for about 2 hours before cooking, draining and saucing. Lucas loved his job and made over a pound of rigatoni for that night's dinner. Great job, Little Chef! (His nickname in the kitchen ever since we fell in love with the film, Ratatouille.
The next time we use the extruder, we'll adjust the recipe. The dough can't be as supple as when making fresh pasta with a pasta roller attachment, but it can be less dense than what we made with the KitchenAid recipe. I told Lisa that she should also use semolina pasta flour instead of all-purpose. I think this was part of the problem. Even a mix of all-purpose and semolina would work better. And my tip to Lisa was this: Don't rely on a written recipe alone when judging any dough. You have to use your eyes and feel the dough as it's being made. Whether the humidity is high or not giverns whether to hold back liquids or add more. I would make this dough with less eggs too. Many recipes for extruded pasta that is going to be dried do not contain any eggs at all (danger of contamination)--just water.
As for the pasta they made, we all agreed it was a bit bland and a tad... well, doughy. As I'd expect from all-purpose flour. Perhaps it could have used more salt in the dough. The semolina would make it taste a bit more nutty, too.
So, we'll report the next time Lucas and Lisa make extruded pasta and let you know how it went.
Ciao and buon appetito!
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Copyright 2016 - Jerry Finzi - All Rights Reserved
This is a photo of the Hoboken, New Jersey harbor... "the docks"... in 1910. One of the busiest of its piers was where the Holland-American Line berthed its ships, bringing immigrants from Europe. At the time, Hoboken, was one of the busiest ports for immigrants entering the U.S., and Ellis Island was a short ferry trip downstream, with Manhattan seen on the other side of the Hudson River. Before reaching these docks, immigrants would pass Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty held her welcoming torch...
My father, Saverio Finzi, emigrated to the U.S. in 1917 when he was just 4 years old, with his father, Sergio, mother Caterina (Deceglie), sister Antonia and brother Anselmo. On the same ships manifest are listed many others from my father's hometown of Molfetta in Puglia. On the ships manifest for Sergio's final trip with his family, there were no fewer than 13 passengers listed from his hometown of Molfetta.
Sergio, also had two previous voyages to American--in 1907 and 1909--and between these two other passages were listed another 20 passengers from Molfetta. Large numbers of Molfetese settled in Hoboken, making it--even to this day--the sister city of Molfetta. Both towns even celebrate matching festivals each year to honor the Madonna dei Martiri (Madonna of the Martyrs).
Life in Hoboken, although much better than life during the hard times in Southern Italy at the time, were still difficult. My father tells of walking the railroad tracks picking up pieces of coal that had fallen from the steam locomotives, and then taking them home to his mother to burn as both a source of heat and cooking in their cast iron stove. Saverio had to leave elementary school early--by the 5th grade--just so he could help support their growing family (Sergio and Caterina eventually had six children).
Later on, when he was a teenager, he and his brother bought what Dad always called his "three legged horse" (lame in one leg) and a cart so they could sell fruit to the passengers and seamen down at the harbor. He amassed a large collection of coins from perhaps a dozen or more countries from all around the world during this period. All from customers that bought fruit from him... I still have the coins today and often get them out to show my son, Lucas, from time to time.
Dad loved selling fruit and vegetables--and meeting people. Everyone loved him. He also made the most beautifully hand-written signs for the store window. He might have been a sign painter in another life. But meeting and chatting with his customers was his best attribute. Perhaps this is why he always was a fruit and vegetable man his whole life, and later on gained more skills to also become a beloved "deli-man". Some of his customers lovingly dubbed him, "My Baloney Man".
He not only knew how to pick the best produce (and taught me to smell, rather than squeeze), but he could also make fantastic baked ham, fist-sized polpette (meatballs), and the most amazing roast turkey and baked lasagna. He taught me how to cook about as good as he did. I even have a deli meat slicer in my kitchen, in honor of My Baloney Man.
Hoboken must have been a wonderful place to grow up for him (my family moved out of Hoboken when I was 18 months old). He swam in the Hudson by jumping off the piers. He told me that one very cold winter, he and his pals walked all the way across the frozen Hudson River to Manhattan, spent the afternoon, and then walked back across the ice. Dad told me that he used to find "quicksilver" (the liquid metal, mercury) pouring out of cracks in the cliffs overhanging the town. And further on, the same steep cliff had an amazing inclined plane, locals called "the Wagon Lift", which my father told me used to lift horse and wagons up the cliff from Hoboken into Jersey City.
He fished for eels and caught crab from the river--and later taught me how. He loved the smell of the river, which I am certain reminded him of the hometown he described so well to me... "Molfetta was filled with white houses all around the harbor. There were always sail boats bobbing up and down and the smell of fish..."
Eventually, Lisa, Lucas and I would pay homage to Saverio by visiting Molfetta. It was just as he described it.
I wish he could have come with us... oh, that's right.
When we first went to the Amalfi Coast, we drove over the mountains from the Naples side of the Amalfi peninsula. We drove through curvy switchbacks and through work-a-day villages straight through to our apartment rental--a cliff hanging villa in Conca dei Marini with views of the sea and the Furore bridge far below us. Il Conca is not really a village... it's more of a location. But two notches in the cliffs over to the west was sprawling, work-a-day community of Praiano.
I say "sprawling", because the houses are not tucked into one notch in the seaside cliffs as Amalfi town or Positano are. There really isn't a central piazza, as other towns have. There are parallel streets clinging to the broadside of the mountain, connected by hairpin turns going up, up, up the cliff side. This is what real Amalfi living is like. The local taxi is a golf cart. You need a very small car to navigate the streets here. Hold your breath if a bus tries to pass. There is a surprise at every turn... an alimentari (grocery) here, a bar-tabacchi there, then suddenly a duomo... with dramatic views of the sea from everywhere.
And then there's the beach far below, tucked into a natural notch of the mountain as it meets the Tyrrhenian Sea. It's one of the rarities on the Amalfi Coast--an actual, sandy beach. Not big, but amazingly picturesque with it's bobbing blue boats the hugging precipices on either side of the small harbor.
Another unique thing to look for in Praiano is the art. It is literally everywhere. Painted walls, tile murals, ceramic sculptures... they are all over the town in unexpected places. Praiano has a reputation for being very artistic and a bit eccentric. Enjoy their passion.
All in all, if you're going to stay on the Amalfi Coast for more than just a few days, staying in Praiano would be a great way to really experience the Amalfi lifestyle, without having to put up with the huge tourist crowds in the more popular towns like Positano, Amalfi or Maiori. It's also central enough to be a hub for exploring the Coast Road, Naples, Vesuvius and Pompeii.
Next, we have Atrani... a bit further east on the Amalfi Coast road, and the lost twin of Amalfi-town. They were once joined but an earthquake and tsunami in 1348 washed the lower part of Atrani into the sea. Today, it's one of the more relaxed villages on the Amalfi Coast, but with everything a Voyager could want: great shopping (especially the food shops), picturesque architecture, a sandy beach, fantastic restaurants and decent parking (either in their public parking, or in the parking garage built into the cliff between the two towns).
I love the way the Coast Road goes over an arched bridge past the town, with the village tucked in just under it. It's a walking town... and you can even walk the old donkey paths to visit Amalfi. It takes about 20 minutes to walk between the two, and if you'd like, you can explore the paths further up the mountain where you'll come across amazing gardens and views. You might even run into a worker with his donkey carrying a load of bricks to a cliff side villa. These paths are still used to bring materials up to peoples' homes--how else would they get stuff up there?
So, if you want to buy some colorful ceramica, bottles of limoncello or just soak in the sun while staring at a sea view from your balcony, try either town... they are both worth the trip. The Amalfi Coast is one of the most amazing places I've been... ever.
Talking on the phone in any foreign country can be intimidating, especially if you're not all that fluent with the language. But there are other considerations besides the language itself. There's the manner in which you use the phone. In Italy, there are particular ways to say things along with a whole set of proper phone etiquette.
First of all, when you pick up a phone and answer it, you use a word that lets the person on the other end know that you are ready to talk. That word is "Pronto" (literally, "ready"). There is good reason for using this particular word in Italy. You would never use "ciao" simply because it would be vague in this situation. "Ciao" can mean both "hello" and a very casual, "bye-bye". So, instead, Italians let you know they are ready to speak or listen. When answering the phone, say "pronto".
It is also possible when calling someone who is younger with a more casual attitude toward etiquette, or perhaps a local auto repair shop answering the phone in a hurry, you might hear someone say "Dimmi!" when answering their phone. This literally means "Tell me!" If you hear this, don't be put off by it... it's just a more casual, modern style of answering the phone.
When you have initiated the phone call, after hearing the other party say "pronto", you may then use "ciao" (hello), "salve" (a more casual "hello"), "buongiorno" (good day/good morning), "buon pomeriggio" (good afternoon) or "Buonasera" (good evening) before introducing yourself. Italians are formal with strangers, so don't pass this step by.
The next step is introducing yourself. Say either "mio nome è (your name)" or "mi chiamo (your name)". The first has some liaison that merges the "nome" with the "è"... since they both make the same "ay" sound (NOM-ay and ay), so I would pronounce it as "ME-o NOM-ay Jerry Finzi". And remember that the "ch" has a "K" sound, so "mi chiamo" would be "ME kee-AMmo.... ".
Another way to introduce yourself would be to simply say, "Ciao, sono Jerry Finzi" (Hello, I am Jerry Finzi".)
When you pronounce your own name, learn to say it the way an Italian would. I need to roll the "rr" in "Jerry" and pronounce the "z" almost like a "T" sound, the way Italians do. A great tool is Google Translate where you can enter your own name and then, by pressing the speaker button, hear it pronounced in Italian. If you don't try to pronounce your name like an Italian, they may not be able to easily spell it when writing it down. Oh yes... and learn how to pronounce the Italian alphabet. The letters are the same, but you pronounce them very differently when you spell out a word. Here's a video to help you learn how to say the alphabet in Italian:
Ok, so they know who you are, but how do you ask to speak to the person you need? Say "Posso parlare con Jerry Finzi?" (May I speak with Jerry Finzi?) or "Potrei parlare con Jerry Finzi?" (May I talk to Jerry Finzi?)
Ok, so you can't speak much--or any--Italian, and want to speak to someone who speaks English. You can say, "Posso parlare con qualcuno che parli inglese, per favore?" (Can I speak with someone who speaks English, please?) or "C'è qualcuno che parla inglese?" (Is there someone who speaks English?")
Of course, use the word "grazie" (thanks) when appropriate to respond when people are helpful and responsive. Do not mispronounce it as "GRAT-zee" or "GRAT-zee-ah"("grazia" means "grace"). Instead, try to pronounce it properly as "GRAT-zee-ay". The "ay" is there, but soft at the end. If you listen carefully to locals, you'll notice the three syllables.
The end a conversation, say "ciao" (an informal "bye-bye") or "arrivederci" ("goodbye" - more formal or businesslike). To thank them for helping you, say "Grazie per l’aiuto". (Thank you for the help.)
You can also use "Buona giornata" meaning "have a good day" (not "buongiornata", which means "good morning" or "buongiorno" meaning "good day/morning"--more commonly used as greetings). Essentially, when you separate "buonA" in front of the time of day "pomeariggio" as example), you are saying "have a good ____".
Here is a bit tip for when you have to make a very important call and need to say very specific things--for business, medical emergencies, asking directions, etc.). Use Google Translate ahead of time to translate some phrases for you to use during your conversation, and then save them in Translate's phrasebook as a favorite by pressing the star button. You can then use the phrasebook like a script to keep you on track during the conversation.
If you need to leave a voice mail message, keep it short. Italians think it's rude to leave long, rambling messages.
"Jerry Finzi qui. Richiamerò più tardi. Non chiamarmi, ti chiamo."
(Jerry Finzi here. I'll call again later. Don't call me, I'll call you. )
It's difficult for an American to even consider having a king and living in a monarchy with a king or queen. (Hear that, Trump?) I mean, it was well over 2oo years ago when the Declaration of Independence was signed and we went to war with the British to get out from under the robes of royal rule. Being ruled under a monarchy has been forgotten from our collective memories.
But for Italians--even though it seems like their "country" has been there 2000 years before the united States, we must be reminded that their many independent city-states were only merged into one Italia by Garibaldi in the late 1800s.
Then, after WWII--when the Nazis and Mussolini and all traces of fascism were at last gone from la Bella Italia--there was another big decision for Italians to make: Did they want a monarchy or a republic? It's a little like the Romans trying to decide between their Republic and the Empire. (FYI, in time, the Roman Empire crumbled...)
So, Italians find themselves each June 2nd celebrating the Festa della Repubblica, the day commemorates the national referendum held in 1946, in which the Italian people went to the polls in record numbers to decide on the form of government they wanted. There were 12,717,923 votes cast for a republic against 10,719,284 for the monarchy.
You see, up until that point, Italy had been ruled by the House of Savoy, one of the oldest royal families in the world. Their royal family started way back in 1003 AD in the Savoy region of Italy, and reached a kingly level in 1713. A branch of the family, the House of Savoy from Carignano ruled from the Unification in 1861 until June 2nd, 1946 when Italians decided they wanted to have a say in their own future.
The Savoyard Kings of Italy were Victor Emmanuel II, Umberto I, Victor Emmanuel III, and Umberto II. The last monarch ruled only for a few weeks before being deposed following the Constitutional Referendum of 1946, after which the Italian Republic was proclaimed. After the election, all male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile.
Festa della Repubblica is celebrated on June 2nd each year with as much fanfare as Americans on Independence Day. A huge military parade is held in Rome with the Tricolori (tri-color) flag represented by colorful aerial displays over the Eternal City. Most Italian towns and villages also have festive celebrations on this day.
Many point out that Italy is not as cohesive a nation as they could be, with some regions getting more perks than others, and with more people speaking their regional dialect than any official "Italian" language. But consider that over 23 million Italians came out to vote for the Republic in 1946... they might not have known it then, but they were finally becoming una nazione unita...