While living in Albania, Husband and I were fortunate enough to visit Italy twice! We went to Rome and Venice twice; and Florence, Pompeii, and Naples once. I LOVE so many things about Italian culture: the language, the food, the espresso, the style, the history, the architecture, the young guys in tight pants and leather jackets, and the pretty girls in stilettos and designer duds. I could do without the high prices and the excessive smoking, but every destination has its shortcomings.
One of our most favorite restaurants in the whole entire world is a tiny teahouse hidden on a little side street in the middle of the waterways of Venice. An adorable sweet elderly couple runs the place and serves fresh homemade dishes all day with a wide assortment of teas. They have their regular customers that occupy 4 out of the 5 tables, and have managed to make the most cozy and loving environment.
One of my favorite locations out of all our traveling is the Spanish Steps. I had gelato when I first visited the Spanish Steps because I wanted to sit on the steps, eat gelato, and people watch just like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. The steps are so beautiful and always full of Italians and tourists. I had such a good time that I even bought one of the touristy watercolor paintings from a artist at the top of the steps to commemorate the memory.
One of our most favorite experiences on a vacation is taking cooking classes with Chef Fabio. Fabio took us all through the Jewish Ghetto of Rome at the crack of dawn to purchase fresh ingredients. Then, he took us to his gorgeous home to learn how to make homemade pasta and ravioli in his actual kitchen! His wife wasn’t home so he told us to make ourselves comfortable and check out every room of the house, even his bedroom, which had a beautiful view of the Spanish Steps!
Now, you have to know that after having all of these great memories, plus many more, that I often miss living so close to Italy. So, when I learned that Little Italy, right here in Manhattan, was having their annual Feast of San Gennaro (New York’s oldest and biggest religious street festival) I made immediate plans to check it out.
Little Italy is like a tiny sample bite of Italian culture. There are tiny crowded streets with authentic Italian food, old men drinking espresso and smoking, and lots of restaurant owners standing outside their doors beckoning every pedestrian to take a seat and try their fresh pasta. That’s about as deep as the culture goes.
The Feast of San Gennaro lined every inch of every street in Little Italy. Some of the booths had fresh brick-oven pizza, Italian wines, gelato, or even fresh pasta. These booths were fun (and delicious), but half of the them had tacky carnival games, cheap souvenirs, and lots and lots of fried everything (also delicious).
Getting bits and pieces of numerous cultures and traditions is another reason why I love living in the city! Is anyone else attending a cultural festival soon? I know my hometown is celebrating their annual Pecan Festival! I would love to fly home for some greasy food and fresh lemonade…not sure I can find boudain balls or pecan pies at any street fairs in NYC! There’s always next year…
Cheers and Cin Cin!