Christmas in Italy

December 23, 2011

Christmas at Castello Dal Pozzo

Christmas season in Italy is traditionally celebrated December 24-January 6, or Christmas Eve through Epiphany. This follows the pagan season of celebrations that started with Saturnalia, a winter solstice festival, and ended with the Roman New Year, the Calends. However there are lots of Christmas things to see during December prior to Christmas, many starting on December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.

Italian Christmas Traditions

Although Babbo Natale(Father Christmas) and giving presents on Christmas are becoming more common, the main day for gift giving is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus their gifts. In Italy, presents are brought by La Befana, who arrives in the night to fill children’s stockings. More about Epiphany and La Befana

Christmas decorations and trees are becoming more popular in Italy. Lights and decorations are often seen starting around December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, or even the end of November. The main focus of decorations continues to be the presepe, Nativity scene or creche. Almost every church has a presepe and they are often found outdoors in a piazza or public area, too.

Traditionally, a meatless dinner is eaten on Christmas eve with the family, followed by a living nativity scene and midnight mass. In parts of southern Italy a seven fishes dinner is traditionally served on Christmas Eve. Traditional bonfires are often held on Christmas Eve in the main square of town, especially in mountain areas. Dinner on Christmas day is usually meat based.

Christmas trees, lights, Nativity Cribs, and Christmas celebrations in Italy:

Although you’ll find Christmas celebrations all over Italy, these are some of the most unusual or most popular Christmas celebrations, events, and decorations.

Naples is one of the best cities to visit for Nativity cribs. Naples and southern Italy have other Christmas traditions, including the Christmas Eve dinner of the seven fish dishes, although it doesn’t really have to be seven fishes and not everyone serves it. Naples Nativity Pictures

Bagpipe and flute players, zampognari and pifferai, are a part of Christmas celebrations in Rome, Naples, and southern Italy. They often wear traditional colorful costumes with sheepskin vests, long white stockings, and dark cloaks. Many of them travel from the mountains of the Abruzzo region to play outside churches and in popular city squares.

Rome is another top city to visit during the Christmas season. There’s a large Christmas market, nativity displays, and several huge Christmas trees.

Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City hosts the popular midnight mass given by the Pope inside Saint Peter’s Basilica. Those in the square see it on big screen TV. At noon on Christmas day the Pope gives his Christmas message from the window of his apartment overlooking the square. A large tree and nativity scene are erected in the square before Christmas.

Torino is one of the best places for lights. Over 20 kilometers of streets and squares are illuminated by some of the best illumination artists in Europe from late November through early January.

Near the top of Monte Ingino, above Gubbio in central Italy’s Umbria region, shines a huge Christmas tree, 650 meters tall and made up of more than 700 lights. In 1991 the Guinness Book of Records named it “The World’s Tallest Christmas Tree.” The tree is topped by a star that can be seen for nearly 50 kilometers. Tree lights are turned on every year on 7 December, the evening before the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Città di Castello, in Umbria, celebrates Christmas Eve in on the Tiber River. Towards evening, a group of canoeists, each dressed as Father Christmas, with their canoes illuminated by lights, make their way along the river to the bridge at Porta San Florido where a crib is suspended over the water. When they get out of their canoes, they give small presents to the children gathered there.

Lago Trasimeno, also in Umbria, celebrates with Soul Christmas, Umbria Gospel Festival, December 8 – January 6.
Manarola in Cinque Terre has a unique ecological nativity powered by solar energy. In Abbadia di San Salvatore, near Montalcino, the Fiaccole di Natale or Festival of Christmas Torches (Christmas Eve) is celebrated. Carols and torchlight processions in memory of the shepherds from the first Christmas Eve. Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Alps celebrates with a skiers torchlight parade – At midnight on Christmas Eve hundreds of people ski down an Alpine peak carrying torches.

Castello and Arona at Christmas under the snow

Italian Lakes
The Lakes in the north of Italy, Maggiore, Como and Orta, have begun to follow the traditions of their more northern neighbours in the Veneto and Sud Tyrol and have inaugurated a busy calendar of Christmas markets, choirs singing Christmas songs, spectacular exhibitions of nativity scenes, illuminations in all the towns and villages, from the most simple to the more elaborate. The entire area also has late night shopping, Sunday openings almost everywhere and excellent shopping throughout all the outlets for that really fabulous Christmas gift. So why not come and join us for that special Christmas, free from stress and hassle. The food may be different, turkey may be replaced by goose and Christmas pudding by Panettone, but the atmosphere at the Castello Dal Pozzo will certainly be friendly and full of Christmas cheer.

Castello Dal Pozzo
Via Visconti
Oleggio Castello
Lake Maggiore, Northern Italy



Cheeses from Piemont

December 19, 2011



The Lake Maggiore area and the valleys in its hinterland are renowned in Italy and abroad for the  cheese produced from animals grazing on mountain pastures, which is a feature of the local culinary culture.
The ample lush pastures of the valleys have given the area a long tradition of high quality cheese production.

Classic local cheeses are the Ossolano d’Alpe, a cow’s milk cheese with a tasty yet mild flavour, the celebrated Bettelmatt, with a restricted production in only 7 alps in the Antigorio and Formazza valleys, and Mottarone, with its characteristic straw-yellow colour and many others such as goat’s milk cheese and ricotta. These cheeses are made on the high mountain pastures or in the dairies lower down in the valleys: for example, the Cooperative Dairy of the Antigorio Valley in Crodo.

Cheese is also made on the shores of the lake; an example is the Formagella of Luino, a medium-firm cheese made with whole raw goat’s milk.

And on the subject of superior regional products – don’t forget one of the best:Gorgonzola, which is made in the Varese and Novara areas and in the surrounding hills.



Of all the Alpine cheeses of the Ossola Valleys, pride of place must go to Bettelmatt, a cheese made on the high pastures of the Antigorio and Formazza Valleys from the whole raw milk of cows of the Bruna Alpina breed.

Dense yet soft, golden yellow or straw-coloured, Bettelmatt cheese has a mild, delicate flavour, redolent of the Alpine flowers the cows graze on in the early summer, in particular the erba mottolina or Alpine lovage. The variety of these flowers and herbs, which grow only on high mountain pastures, gives the cheese its unique flavour.

Originally the name “Bettelmatt” could be given only to cheese made on the Bettlematt alp, just below the Gries Pass at an altitude of 2,100 metres. Now the name is also used for cheese made at the pastures of Toggia, Kastel, Poiala, Vannino, San Giatto and Forno.

Each cheese is stamped with the name of the alp where it is produced, as well as the trademark certifying its exclusive production area.

via Bettelmatt.


Toma of Mottarone

The cheese produced in the Mottarone area and ripened in alpine farms high on the slopes of this mountain, overlooking Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta.

The hill massif is not known simply for its splendid views, but also for its cheeses. The milk produced at Mottarone is rich in vitamin A and produces a cheese known as “toma”, straw-yellow in colour and sold at various stages of ripening.


 Goat’s cheese

Throughout the Ossola Valleys and in Val Stronayou can still come across artisan cheese producers who make goat’s cheese from the milk of their own animals in the traditional way.

The cheese is made mainly from spring to autumn, after which the first snow falls prompt the return of the goats from the high summer pastures to their winter quarters in the valley. Goat’s cheese, called “furmagit da cavra” in the local dialect, is often used in local cooking, and can be eaten fresh or mature.

Fresh goat’s cheese comes in soft, white rounds called tomini, weighing from half a kilo to a kilo and a half. They can be matured for three months or so, which gives the cheese a distinct, slightly sharp flavour.


Ricotta and Mascarpa

Ricotta is a fresh whey cheese with an aroma and a taste that differs according to the type of production and the place it is made. The different types of preparation result in different cheeses, which can be freshmaturebakedsmokedsaltedmildor sharp. Ricotta is made from June to September on the lower mountain pastures, and from July to the end of August on the high pastures. Throughout the year the local ricotta production is guaranteed by the dairies in the valleys, creameries, turnarie dairies (cooperative dairies where cheese is made by the members who “take turns”), and private producers.

Some kinds of ricotta are ricotta grassa or rich ricotta, made from cow’s milk with the addition of cream, eaten fresh or with sugar; ricotta magra or low-fat ricotta, traditionally used in cooking, and ricotta stagionata or mature ricotta, which has a sharper taste.

Mascarpa is made by heating the whey of cow’s or goat’s milk. On the alp the cheeses are usually hung up to drain in special cloth bags. Mascarpa should preferably be eaten fresh, but is sometimes smoked.


Gorgonzola Dop

Gorgonzola is a cheese made from cow’s milk. There are two kinds, mild and sharp. Sharp Gorgonzola has more pronounced blue veining, is denser, and has a stronger taste than the mild version.

Between the third and fourth week of the aging process, the cheese is pierced with metal rods, which allows air to enter and facilitates the germination of the mould spores.

The sharp kind goes well with hearty red wines likeGhemme DocgFara or Boca, the milder version with white wines or lighter reds. Gorgonzola is excellent as the basis for creamy sauces made with butter or cream.

According to legend, Gorgonzola was “discovered” by a careless cheese-maker who, distracted from his work by amorous preoccupations,  put off his day’s work until the next day, when he mixed the previous evening’s curds with those of the morning, thereby obtaining a wholly new kind of cheese.

Log Fires and Mulled Wine

November 1, 2011

Chase away winter blues and enjoy a warming drink in front of a log fire.

mulled wine!

Sauced’s Mulled Wine


For vanilla syrup (made the night before)

  • ¼ c. water
  • ¼ c. white sugar
  • 4 vanilla beans, cut lengthwise (if no beans are available, substitute 1 tbsp. real vanilla extract)

1. Boil water and sugar together with vanilla beans for 1 minute.
2. Cool and remove vanilla beans. Refrigerate.

For punch mix

  • 4 c. house red wine
  • 1 c. port wine
  • ½ c. brandy
  • 1 c. sparkling water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 navel orange or sweet apple, cut into slices
  • ½ c. vanilla syrup
  • 2 sticks fresh nutmeg

1. Mix together all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until almost boiling. (Hint: Be very careful not to boil — alcohol will cook down.)

2. Transfer to large thermos or carafe. When serving, grate fresh nutmeg over the top.

Sauced, 753 Edgewood Avenue, at Waddell Street (404-688-6554 or

via Sauced’s Mulled Wine Recipe – Cocktail Party Recipes | London – DailyCandy.


Hot wassail

hot wassail cocktail!


  • 3 apples (peeled, cored, sliced, and sprinkled with ½ c. brown sugar)
  • 1 qt. brown ale
  • 8 oz. dry sherry
  • Peel from ½ a lemon, finely grated
  • ½ tsp. each ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger

1. Drizzle apples (excluding a handful) with a little brown ale and bake at 350° for 45 minutes, until the apples are very tender.

2. Put in a food processor until smooth; then pour into a saucepan over medium-low heat.

3. Add remaining ale, sherry, lemon peel, and spices. Simmer gently and add remaining apple slices to the bowl.

4. Serve warm.

via Daily Candy

Rock and Rye Toddy

rock and rye toddy the whistler chicago!
Makes approximately fifteen servings


  • 1 horehound tea bag*
  • 25 oz. rye whiskey
  • ¼ oz. Angostura bitters
  • Peel of 1 orange
  • Peel of 1 lemon (plus extra for garnish)
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 oz. demerara syrup (1 part demerara sugar to water)
  • 2 oz. cherry syrup
  • Star anise pods

1. Steep tea bag in a jar with rye whiskey for 2 hours.

2. Remove tea bag. Place all other ingredients in the jar; let flavors marry for 3 days.

3. Strain all solids from the liquid.

4. Serve 2 oz. of mixture to 3 oz. of hot water. Gently stir and garnish with a lemon peel and a star anise pod.

*Horehound is an herb known for its natural cough-suppressant qualities.

The Whistler, 2421 North Milwaukee Avenue, at Fullerton Avenue (773-227-3530 or

Day of the Dead – Blood Orange Margarita Recipe

October 25, 2011

Try this for celebrating the Day of the Dead. Helps to create better Carved Pumpkins for decorating your table.

Blood Orange Margaritas

makes 8 strong drinks

  • 2 1/2 cups silver tequila
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 cup cointreau
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup

Stir all ingredients in a pitcher. Put out glasses, a bowl of ice and lime & blood orange wedges, for garnish. Let guests pour over ice and enjoy.

We like an especially tart margarita, if you like something sweeter, increase the amount of simple syrup, up to 3/4 of a cup.

Margaritas can be made the night before and refrigerated.

via Après Fête: Day of the Dead Blood Orange Margarita Recipe.

Things to Do – Stresa Golf Festival 29/9-2/10

September 27, 2011

Dal 29 settembre al 2 ottobre c’è il festival del golf, con 15 club, aree di pratica per i primi swing e green galleggiante.

Ore 14 di venerdì: il festival d’autunno 

Hole in One Competition

L’autunno sul lago regala languide emozioni, più intense con un evento che dal 29 settembre al 2 ottobre farà del Verbano la capitale italiana del green: il festival del Golf di Stresa&dei Laghi. Stresa si raggiunge in auto da Milano con 85 chilometri di autostrada oppure in meno di un’ora di treno con partenza dalla stazione Centrale.

L’offerta turistica è sterminata. Due indirizzi sicuri: il Regina Palace per chi ama il fascino fin de siècle (tel. 0323.936936) o l’Hotel Italie et Suisse (tel. 0323.30540) 3 stelle in posizione strategica.

E non dimenticate il nuovo gioiello sul Lago
IL CASTELLO DAL POZZO, sopra Arona con magnifiche viste ed ottima cucina. Read the rest of this entry »

LUXE City Guides for Families

September 26, 2011

How to go Glam with the Fam

This could be the perfect guide to how to survive a trip with all the family and really enjoy your “quality time” together. LUXE City Guides have launched a new idea, a guide book  for Families visiting international cities. The first iin the series is HONGKONG, with Singapore to follow soon. Lets hope we won’t have to wait long for European City Family Guides to appear. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Brunch Ideas

August 30, 2011

Sunday Brunch, that perfect combination of a late breakfast and a simple lunch, preferably on a sunbathed Terrace or else before a roaring fire, depending on the time of year. Staple ingredients are french toast, eggs benedictine, waffles, sausages, coffee or hot chocolate, a glass of champagne and fresh fruit. Below we have borrowed some suggestions from Daily Candy. Read the rest of this entry »