Spumante or Frizzante: Italian Bubblies for the Holidays!

by Admin 13-Nov 2012



Nothing says “Celebrate!” like bubbles. And that includes the new wave of Italian sparklers enjoyed prolifically throughout the country ... definitely not your papa’s Asti Spumante!

Like quality olive oil and artisanal cheeses, Americans have discovered the good stuff when it comes to sparkling vintages. In addition to the already popular Prosecco, there’s the wonderful world of Lambrusco, Franciacorta, Moscato, and the “new” Asti—all of which are produced in the north (Piedmont, Veneto, Lombardy), and can be enjoyed at a fraction of the cost of many champagnes.

VINO 101
Spumante means Sparkling
Frizzante means Fizzy

Spumante, like so many food and beverage “discoveries,” was a happy accident, Man has known for millennia that when you make wine it requires storage in a consistently cool dark place to ferment (i.e. those convenient wine caves). BUT, if you forget to put your barrels of autumnal grape juice into that cool place and leave them exposed to the whims of the seasons, when the temperature rises in spring, fermentation starts up again and you get ... bubbles! This is how champagne gets started, of course, except that it’s the individual bottles that go through a secondary fermentation where the quality can be controlled. With Spumante, the wine is left in barrels for its second round (called the charmat method), so it’s less refined. But given that this novelty “wine” was served to the likes of Antony and Cleopatra during a first century banquet (as documented by poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, who was quite enchanted with the bullulae, or “bubbles”), who are we to turn our noses away from the tingle? 

So what’s the difference between Spumante and Frizzante? The amount of bubbles! In contrast to Spumante, Frizzante undergoes its second fermentation for only half the time, therefore taking in only half the amount of carbon dioxide. Which is why it’s a “softer” bubbly and Spumante a more prickly one.

Following are a few distinguishing features of the favored Italian sparklers:

PROSECCO – Spumante, Veneto & Friuli (11-12% alcohol)
Characteristics: Light, crisp, dry to slightly sweet
Pairs with: Cheese, almost any appetizer, and risotto, especially made with shrimp
Of interest: At Harry’s Bar in Venice, Prosecco was turned into the Bellini with a splash of peach juice.

FRANCIACORTA – Spumante, Lombardy (11-13% alcohol)
teristics: Ranges from demi-sec to brut; crisp, almondy
Pairs with: Fish and seafood dishes, including risottos and spaghetti with shellfish
Of interest: This is Italy’s most popular sparkling vintage, and considered one of the finest sparkling wines in the world; by law it must be aged for a minimum of 18 months.

LAMBRUSCO – Spumante, Emilia Romana and Lombardy (10.5-12% alcohol)Characteristics: Red, dry (secco) or slightly sweet (amabile), refreshingly light, fruity
Pairs with: Salumi appetizers or sandwiches, grilled meats, hearty pasta sauces
Of interest: Toda
y’s Lambrusco is not the “cheap” sweet wine popular in the 1970s. Its pedigree reaches back to Roman times; Italy is currently lobbying to be the only country permitted to label its noble vintage “Lambrusco."

ASTI – Spumante (DOCG), Piedmont (7-9.5% alcohol)
Characteristics: Soft, fewer bubbles, slightly sweet, honey and citrus blend

Pairs with
: Desserts with creams, fruit pastries, strawberries, light cheeses
Of interest: Asti can claim to be the world’s first sweet sparkling wine.

MOSCATO (Moscato d’Asti) – Frizzante, Piedmont (5-6% alcohol)
: Delicately fizzy, sweet, fruity and floral blend, aromatic
Pairs with: Desserts (anything with apples), and aged cheeses such as Gorgonzola.
Of interest: The Moscato is famous for its heady, multi-layered fragrance; be sure to put your nose in first for that delicious whiff!



Saint Galgano and the Sword in the Stone

by Admin 06-Nov 2012

Who knew? The “original” Sword in the Stone just may be firmly stuck in bedrock near the ruins of a Cistercian abbey, about 20 miles from Siena.

At least that’s what some clergy, and a few medieval scholars, have believed for centuries. There’s not much to prove it except that the simple iron sword has been dated to those typically in use in the 12th century, and that it bears a very close resemblance to one found in England from 1173. Which seems to be enough fodder to argue that the King Arthur legend may have its roots deep in the Tuscan countryside...

The backstory here tells of a young noble knight, one Galgano Guidotti, who, like most of his adolescent peers lived life in pursuit of worldly pleasures. One day, out of the proverbial blue, the Archangel Michael appeared and demanded that Galgano renounce his creature comforts and accept salvation. On the way to tell his fiancée that he would be leaving their town of Chiusdano, Galgano’s horse reared and threw him to the ground. A spirit voice took it from there, lifting him up and guiding him to nearby Montesiepi where a vision of Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles beckoned him to the top of the hill. There, the voice appealed to the young lad to cease his wanton ways for good. Galgano replied that that would be about as easy as “splitting a rock with a sword.” He then pulled his sword and plunged it into the ground, where, to his astonishment, it slid into sheer bedrock and wouldn’t budge. Galgano too stayed put in the forests of Montesiepi, living out the rest of his life as a poor humble hermit until he died at age 33, in 1181.

The much-celebrated Galgano was canonized the following year and Cistercian monks constructed a chapel on the site of his hut near the top of Montesiepi. The round capella, built in concentric  “stripes” of Sienese brick and stone, was dedicated to the saint in 1183 ... San Galgano’s “Sword in the Stone” rests eternally inside, as the centerpiece. As to whether the original lies buried in the waters of Arthurian England, or was planted on this remote Tuscan hillside by a young knight, we’ll likely never know for sure. But there’s little doubt that it, and its young heroic owners, are the stuff legends are born of.

If you go:
Location: Between the towns of Chiusdino and Monticiano, 20 miles southwest of Siena, and about 40 miles north of Florence.
Hours (always subject to change): 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.; and 4:00 p.m. until 6-7 p.m.
Of note: Attached to the original Capella is a second chapel, added in 1340. Its walls are covered with paintings
(beautifully restored) by Lorenzetti, which depict the life and times of the young Galgano. The Herbalist shop here offers homemade jams, tonics, and medicinal botanicals. In addition, be sure to wander among the spectacular Gothic ruins of the Abbey, built in the 13th century just below the chapel.

Parker Villa’s "Cottage La Vita" – Create your own legend!

Enjoy the life enchanted at Parker’s charming  “Cottage La Vita” (sleeps 4), which includes a private pool and gardens that overlook the rolling Sienese hills. Head out of town and you’re surrounded by the lovely Chianti countryside. The San Galgano Abbey is a half-hour away and Florence is a just a 40-minute drive.

Positively Medieval: San Gimignano’s Museum of Torture

by Admin 31-Oct 2012

Enough with the enlightened art of the Renaissance already—at least for now! Kids want the dark and creepy world of medieval horrors. What better place to indulge them than at the Torture Museum, suitably situated in the dungeon of Devil’s Tower—one of the perfectly preserved 13th-century torri, (towers) of San Gimignano. Here a ghoulish (and highly imaginative) collection of more than 100 pain-inflicting instruments is certain to elicit more than one bravely whispered “that’s so cool!”

The well-executed (ahem) displays include the usual suspects: guillotine, thumbscrews, iron chastity belts... But the real wow factors come when you get to the – drumroll please – Maiden of Nurenburg. We’re talking ultimate nasty: a sarcophagus with 1,000 inwardly pointing spikes. But wait, there’s more! Your ticket also includes the Museum of the Death Penalty, located virtually next door. If your horror appetite hasn’t already been sated, you can witness a collection of instruments used for those “final touches” when the death sentence was handed down.

After you emerge into daylight, taking in that deep "I'm alive" breath of fresh air, we highly recommend a calming triple gelato in the nearby Piazza della Cisterna. Everyone’s happy, and you might even find there’s no resistance when you cannily suggest a visit to San Marco in Florence later in the week to view the blissful Fra Angelicos...


Location: The Torture Museum and Museum of the Death Penalty are located in San Gimignano’s historic center, on Via del Castello.
Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Fees: Adults, 12€; Children and Students (to age 25 with ID), 7€. (Admission valid for both museums)
Forgive us for torturing you further, but click here for the (Italian-only) website.

Planning a Tuscany vacation? Parker Villas properties offer a great base for exploring San Gimignano and the surrounding Tuscan countryside:

• Our 9-bedroom Villa Salvucci is perfect for an all-ages family or friends reunion. Both comfortable and elegant, our guests always enjoy the hunting estate ambiance and the culinary delights of the surrounding community.

• Located adjacent to Villa Salvucci, the newly appointed Villa Santa Fina offers five bedrooms, private pool, and portico patio. Some of San Gimignano’s legendary signature wines have been produced locally since the 13th century.

• Imagine waking up in a medieval tower and looking out over San Gimignano’s sun-splashed Piazza della Cisterna below. Our 3-bedroom Villa Zafferano is perfect for a small group of friends (no children under 12, please) who love the lively, in-town experience.

Monte Oliveto Maggiore: 700 Years of Abbey Life

by Admin 24-Oct 2012

Perched on a cliff surrounded by thick woodlands, and overlooking the starkly beautiful landscapes of le Crete Senesi, the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore is one of southern Tuscany’s architectural jewels. Wander the breathtaking cloisters, and pause in the serenity of a Mass sung in sublime Gregorian chant.

A bit of history
The Olivetan Order traces its beginnings to 1313 and a blind philosophy professor from Siena, Giovanni Tolomei. After years of fervent prayer to the Virgin Mary, his eyesight was miraculously restored. Tolomei left his home and worldly possessions and, accompanied by two Sienese senator friends, traveled into the wilderness to live off land owned by Tolomei himself.  The three hermits devoted themselves to Mary, vowing to live a life of austerity and following the strict Rule of Saint Benedict. Giovanni changed his name to Bernardo, after the Benedictine Saint, and established the Olivetan Order of Benedictine Monks. Today, members of that Order—the Benedictine Monks of Saint Mary of Mount Oliveto—still live and work at the Abbey, their white robes a symbol of devotion to the Holy Mother.

A short distance from Asciano and a 20-mile drive from Siena will bring you to this ancient, tranquil beauty spot. An avenue of venerable cypress trees leads to the Abbey courtyard. When you enter the gate, be sure to look up—there’s a Mother and Child ceramic by Della Robbia at the top.

Three graceful cloisters surround flowers and medicinal botanicals used by the monks. Especially spectacular is the double-tiered 15th century Chiostro Grande; the portico is covered in 35 huge frescoes by Sodoma, completed in 1508. The Pharmacy, active until the 1860s, showcases a magnificent collection of ceramic pharmaceutical jars made from the pale clay of the Senesi region and fired in the famous furnaces of nearby San Quirico d’Orcia.

The Abbey Shop

Be sure to stop in at this veritable treasure chest. In addition to books, religious objects, and beautiful art prints, you can purchase lotions, potions, tinctures, and locally made liqueurs, infused with special, restorative herbs. While it could be coincidence that the local residents live longer than most of us, the Abbey and its immediate surroundings do sit on one of the earth’s ley lines, a positive energy vortex. Perhaps those ancient secret liqueur recipes really are palliatives—at the very least they make great gifts. Read more about this curious phenomenon.

Gregorian Chants

Dating back to the 6th century, this melodic journey into the mystery and magic of the liturgy is part of the conventional daily Mass at many Benedictine monasteries. If you can, plan your visit to Monte Oliveto during a Mass when the monks sing—it’s an unforgettable experience.

To Hear the Gregorian chants:
Weekdays: 7:00 a.m. (Lauds with Gregorian chant)
 Sundays: 11:00 a.m. (conventional Mass with Gregorian chant)

Click to visit the Abbey Website

Planning to explore beautiful southern Tuscany?
Parker Villas’ property, "l’Affresco," offers 6 apartments (each sleeps 4 guests) in a restored—and restorative!—olive oil estate surrounded by 300 stunning acres. Since it's just 10 minutes from the town of Asciano, 20 minutes from the Abbey, and an easy drive to Siena, Pienza, Arezzo, Montepulciano and Montalcino, all of central Italy awaits your discovery.

Asciano & Le Crete: Southern Tuscany Discovered

by Admin 22-Oct 2012

Ancient and otherworldly, central Italy’s Le Crete Senesi is among the country's most magical landscapes. Its name derives from the Siena clay, which hallmarks the rolling hillsides with a pale grey hue—echoes from a sea that covered the southern part of Tuscany some three million years ago. The area’s human history dates back, and probably beyond, the Etruscans in the 5th century B.C.; in medieval times its two principal cities, Siena and Florence, waged constant battles to win control of the villages and towns that thrived here.

Among them was Asciano, ultimately won by Siena. A jewel in the hills, the town and surrounding 14th century walls still stand in wonderful condition. For a description of its setting and cultural highlights, please read our earlier blog: The Other Tuscany, Part 2 – Asciano.

For visitors to le Crete, the rewards are multiple. This is where you’ll find the “classic” Tuscany ... the cluster of cypress trees rising from an otherwise stark hillside ... the silvery green of olives groves, producing some of Italy’s finest oils ... open roads that wind past tiny stone villages and lone farmhouses. It’s a magical, shape-shifting landscape in any season, at every time of day.

If you’re based in Asciano, your choice of day trips is almost inexhaustible. In addition to Siena, just 20 minutes away, don’t miss Buonconvento with its impressive Sacred Art Museum; San Quirico d’Orcia, renowned for its Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the Horti Leoni, the Italianate gardens. And then there’s Pienza, founded by Pope Pius II and today a splendid UNESCO World Heritage Site.

And lest we seem too lofty in our reasons to stay in the area, let’s get down to the simple basics: the food here is worth the trip alone. Time-honored culinary traditions showcase the unique bounty of the region—white truffles; impeccably cured meats (especially wild boar); and the unique wines, such as the distinctive dessert vintage, vinsanto.

No one will argue that Italy is a wonderland of memorable destinations... But we dare you to spend time in le Crete and deny that there is some serious magic going on here, and that you haven’t been utterly bewitched.

Planning to vacation in beautiful southern Tuscany?
Parker Villas property, "l'Affresco," offers 6 apartments (each sleeps 4) in a restored olive oil estate surrounded by 300 stunning acres of le Crete. Just 10 minutes from the town of Asciano, and an easy drive to Siena and Pienza, all of central Italy awaits your discovery.

Eurochocolate 2012: Perugia’s Confectionary Celebration

by Admin 18-Oct 2012

Nine delicious days of everything chocolate—October 19-28—draw chocolate lovers from all over the world to lovely Perugia, an Umbrian hill town whose history dates back to the Etruscans. It’s also the birthplace of Italy’s famed Baci, the chocolate kisses made by Perugina Chocolates.

For the past 19 years, the town has welcomed professional chocolatiers, bakers, and artisans who, in turn, create a confectionary wonderland for all ages. Vendor tents line the streets and lace together the piazzas in Perugia’s historic center. Chocolate-making demonstrations, tastings, art, and non-stop live music are all part of the experience. More than a half million visitors joined in the tasty fun last year. If you’re lucky to be anywhere in the region, don’t miss the chance to attend this deliciously unique Italian, festival. Here are some of the anticipated highlights:

Chocolate sculptures
Sunday, October 21 - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Imagine what Michelangelo would have done with 11 tons and 141 square feet of Perugina Nero chocolate! For one amazing day, Central Perugia’s Corso Vannucci turns into a veritable sculpture gallery, revealing fantastic creations by teams of Italians sculptors. This year’s theme is: 100 Years of Baci Perugina.

The Chocolate Show
Daily 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. (until 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday)
This grand chocolate emporium is choc-full of artisans, purveyors, and boutiques that elevate the dark and the light sides of the mighty cocoa bean into blissful confections and concoctions that are among the tastiest—and most beautiful—in the world.

Chocolate Tastings – Omaggi
Daily at 4 p.m.
Every afternoon visitors have the chance to sample nibble-size goodies—omaggi— offered by the prominent participating chocolatiers. Cioccolati d’Italia, voted the best “Made in Italy” chocolate, is this year’s special guest.

For Kids
Numerous events dedicated to children take place throughout the festival. An annual favorite is ABC Chocolate, where kids can create little chocolate masterpieces in special molds—cioccorelli—and take them home. In the I Pasticcione test kitchen, supervised by chefs, children make little cookies dipped in chocolate.

Chocogadget Gift Shop
Open daily - 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. (until 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday)
Taking “gift shop” to a whole new flavor! This year’s design highlights include: Choco lamps, iChoc smartphone and tablet cases and covers; Choco Heart USBs; Chocoumbrellas (no, they won’t melt in the rain); Choco Pill Boxes and so much more!!

WEBSITE: Eurochocolate (in Italian) 

Planning to attend the next Eurochocolate?
Parker Villas’ large “Passo d’Elefante” (8 bedrooms/9 bathrooms) is a bon bon of a villa, designed for indoor and outdoor fun. With a sunny swimming pool and games room, it’s perfect for a few families who’d like to share a vacation home. Beautiful Perugia, chocolate and all, is just 20 minutes away by car.

Museo Ferragamo—Famous Footwear, Italian-Style

by Admin 17-Oct 2012

There is no limit to beauty, no saturation point in design, no end to the material.
                                                                       Salvatore Ferragamo

Shoes = Scarpe; footwear in general = calzature

Second only to the Catholic Church and probably tied with la mamma and spaghetti in national importance, shoes are to Italian cultural identity what designer jeans are to the Americans.

It’s not just the fashion statement a shoe makes, however ... it’s how the shoe fits that makes Italian shoes the gold standard in footwear. We have no doubt Cinderella’s glass slipper was “Made in Italy.”

After Rome’s sandal manufacturing business—for gladiators, senators, et al—tapered off, Florence rose to power as the shoe design capital of Europe. Generations of fine shoemakers have kept the fashion renaissance current and the styles in demand around the world. If one name stands out in recent history, it has to be Salvatore Ferragamo, creator of the cork wedge and purveyor of gorgeous footwear to Hollywood’s leading ladies of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn , and Marilyn Monroe among them.

Salvatore’s interest in ladies shoes started as a young lad in Naples, where he apprenticed to a shoemaker at the age of 11. Two years later he had his own shop in nearby Bonito, and at 14 he set sail for America, joining his brother at a footwear company in Boston. Right away he saw that the modern, mass-producing machinery had its limitations and he moved to Santa Barbara, California to join another brother. With the rise of Hollywood and cinema, Salvatore began to design shoes for the industry while attending the university in Los Angeles and studying human anatomy and mathematics. His goal was to design a “shoe which fits perfectly.” In 1923 he opened the Hollywood Boot Shop and began “building” his made-to-measure shoes for individual movie stars. It launched him as an unparalleled designer. When the demand was so high that he couldn’t keep up, he returned to Italy, to Florence, where making shoes by hand was the tradition. From here, he exported his shoes to the U.S., personally supervising the handiwork of his skilled employees. The rest, of course, follows the heels of history, and even now, more than 50 years after his death, the Ferragamo shoe is legend.

The Palazzo Spini Feroni, which faces the Arno River on Via Tornabuoni, was built in 1289 by Geri Spini, a merchant and banker to Pope Boniface VIII. Ferragamo purchased the building in 1938, establishing company headquarters and his workshop here. The Italian flagship store, for both footwear and fashion, is also located in the palazzo. In 1995 the Ferragamo family opened the Museo Ferragamo, located on the basement level, to the public. The collection on display encompasses Salvatore’s designs from 1927, when he returned to Italy, until his death in 1960. Lovers of footwear and fashion in general—in fact, even all-occasion, no-nonsense athletic shoe wearers— are in for a real treat.

Salvatore’s technical achievements in the business and his dedication to fitting the foot properly are exemplary, not to mention the attention to fabrics and materials chosen for the aesthetic component: silver, gold, and bejeweled leather straps; brilliantly colored, embroidered silks; studded heels; and the famous cork wedge, which made yet another return to international foot fashion just this past year. There are the practical styles, or, in the case of Salvatore, the stylishly practical ... the flamboyant, which seem more appropriate to characters from far-eastern folktales ... and there are even shoes made from candy wrapper paper during material shortages during World War II. The exhibits rotate and draw from the 10,000-plus models housed in the archives.

There is almost always something special going on at Museo Ferragamo, too. Now through January 28, 2013, a major exhibition titled simply, “Marilyn,” pays tribute to the diva 50 years after her death. A series of iconic portraits, taken by numerous famous photographers, are juxtaposed to famous works of art—where Marilyn's poses and expressions reflect those such as Botticelli’s Venus, for example.

Museo Ferragamo
Palazzo Spini Feroni, Florence
(Entrance at 5 Piazza Santa Trinita)

Hours: Wednesday through Mondays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays and December 25, January 1, May 1, and August 15.

5 €. All Museum admission proceeds are donated annually to finance scholarships for young footwear designers.

Planning a vacation in Florence?
Parker Villas' "Casa della Santa" apartment, located in the historic heart of Florence, is perfect for one couple, and comfortably cozy for two. Save on your stay by sharing and treat yourself to some fabulous shopping (located right around the corner)!


The Art of Tipping: When, How, and How Much

by Admin 11-Oct 2012

Tipping is the exception and not the rule in Italy. The Italians who perform a service, whether it’s waiting tables, driving a taxi, or being a porter take pride in their chosen profession. Unlike in the U.S., they are paid a respectable wage, earn full benefits and enjoy an average of six to eight weeks paid vacation a year. A small token of appreciation and sincere grazie for a job well done is really all that is required. If you look around you’ll notice that’s exactly the cultural behavior of the Italians; it’s an acknowledgment, an extra little thank you, but never an obligation. 

So what should you do in a restaurant?

You’ll notice your bill will say either il coperto or servizio incluso (and often both). Il coperto is a cover charge for bread and a glass of water. Servizio incluso indicates that service—in the form of a “tip”—has been included. That amount is generally about 15 percent of the total bill. If you’ve enjoyed good service, leaving an additional 10 percent is the norm. When paying with a credit card, don’t leave a tip on the card, leave it in cash, on the table, discreetly under a dish or glass. Look around the restaurant; you’ll see that’s what the Italian clientele is doing. “When in Rome” ... right?

Here’s a short list of When and How Much to tip:

• In a caffè, a coin (5 to 15 Euro cents) on the counter is customary.
• For hotel maids, a Euro per night is appropriate. Porters are generally tipped one Euro per bag. Room Service: 2 Euros.
• For taxi drivers, a tip is not common. If you received help with luggage or a friendly narration en route to your destination, you can round up with a friendly “keep the change”– tenga il resto
• Men seldom tip in barbershops; women usually give a small tip of one or two Euros to the person who washed her hair.
• In public restrooms (WC) where a fee is not published, you may see a lady collecting coins; leaving 10-20 Euro cents in the coin dish is appreciated.

Enjoy yourselves in Italy, and enjoy the good services provided by the Italians. Avoid over-tipping, which can be seen as disparaging and snobby. Your modest tokens of appreciation — especially your smile and "tante grazie!"— are what will ultimately make for a bella figura: the socially important act of looking good that all Italians strive for!


Where to Espresso Yourself in Rome

by Admin 08-Oct 2012

You’re not in Seattle anymore, Dorothy. Italians take their caffè seriously. Seriously strong. Seriously frothy. Seriously sweet. And really seriously: if you want to appear as if you know what you’re doing in a caffè, only order a cappuccino for breakfast (never after 10 a.m.) and an espresso after a meal or as quick afternoon pick-me-up. Oh, and one more thing... don’t order a latte unless you want a glass of milk. Seriously.

While everyone in Italy has their favorite local caffè-bar, the small, venerable establishment of Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, around the corner from the Pantheon in Rome, is considered to have the best coffee in the city, and some claim in the country. Which is saying a lot, given that there are probably two caffès to every shoe store on every block. And which, therefore, makes it worthy of pilgrimage.

Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè is famous for its artisanal, wood-roasted Arabica beans and beloved for its crema, the ethereal top layer of an espresso. And the foam—spuma—that caps the cappuccinos here is almost like meringue; experts have determined that when you add a teaspoon of sugar to it, it should take precisely three seconds for the sugar to disappear beneath the foam. You might be too busy licking the spoon to time it. If you’re there in the summer, order a shakerato... a creamy, icy concoction that’s absolutely worth the time it takes to make it.

A meeting place of Rome’s celebrities and elite since the caffè opened in 1938, Sant’Eustachio also happens to sit smugly across from the palazzo of the Senate of the Republic and snugly between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The place is well seasoned, old Roma at its finest; the mosaic tile floor is respectably worn, the stainless steel bar pock-marked from decades of cups hastily set down by customers headed into their busy day. It smells good in here, rich and sophisticated, and there is always a contingent of dapper professionals among the tourists. There isn’t much of a counter culture as in most other caffès... you order, drink quickly, or take it outside to one of the tables facing the lovely little piazza.

Benevolently looking down at the surrounding street scene is a large marble stag’s head from atop the thousand-year-old Basilica di Sant’Eustachio—a symbol of the conversion of the pagan Roman soldier, Eustachio, who was visited by a stag in the forest, the crucified Christ illuminated between its antlers. The caffè also chose the stag as its emblem and it decorates the mustard-yellow tins that house the shiny espresso beans (along with chocolate-covered ones and coffee-infused caramels) you’re sure to purchase following your own conversion to the delicious brew.

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who have “fear of espresso syndrome” ... we suggest you commit this mantra to memory: “The darker the bean the less caffeine.” Which means that those teeny little cups of espresso, made with dark, shiny roasted beans, will give you a friendly energy boost for the next hour or so, but won’t linger in your system and keep you awake half the night like our drip coffee will. Enjoy!

Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
Piazza Sant’Eustachio, Roma

HOURS: Sunday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m to 1 a.m.
Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.; Saturday, 8:30a.m.  to 2 a.m.
CLOSED: December 25 and August 15

Planning a vacation in Rome?
Parker Villas’ Roman Holiday apartment sleeps 4-5 guests and is located near beautiful Piazza Navona (and an easy walk to Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè!)

Aperto/Chiuso: Opening Hours in Italian Time

by Admin 04-Oct 2012

That 24/7 thing we’ve come to take for granted here in the U.S.? Not so much in Italy. La dolce vita wouldn’t be quite so sweet if that were the case. Especially when such a large part of its charm lies in the pleasures of savoring a long lunch with friends or colleagues... of tending to business after your morning cappuccino... of doing something else when you actually can’t go shopping. In Italy, this break time is called riposo, which is akin to a Spanish siesta, and absolutely vital to the (emotional) well being of the entire nation—and therefore yours.

So, for travelers wondering how to be efficient in a country that isn’t always... Yes, you can plan your days to maximize your time so that you can both see what you came to see, but also experience the unexpected enchantments that Italy offers—and which we long for, long after we’ve returned to our very convenient lifestyle.

All of that said, we do agree that frustration and utter disbelief at the non-efficiency of our favorite country is also part of the journey, though a lesser part of the charm. To make it a bit easier to take, below are some practical guidelines. (We said “guidelines.” This is not Switzerland.) And for these purposes we’d like to replace “Have a nice day” with: “Stay flexible.” Which, ultimately, will help you have a nice day. Smile

Dizionario = Dictionary

Aperto = Open

Chiuso = Closed
Giorni feriali (or just feriali), means Monday through Friday
Giorni festivi (or just festivi) means Sundays and holidays
• First, Italy uses the 24-hour clock: 12:a.m. to 12:00 noon; 13:00 to 23:59 (1 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.)

• Second, There is no “daily” on the Italian timetable for stores, supermarkets, local bakeries, and clothing stores. Hours vary according to the day of the week. Look for the l'orario, which indicates and the aperto-chiuso hours.

• Most stores are open between 8:30/9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. when they close for riposo. Most stores reopen from 3:30/4 p.m. until 7:00/9:00 p.m.

• You know you've hit the jackpot when the sign reads: orario continuo—these establishments never close for lunch.
Clothing stores: Many clothing stores are closed on Monday “mornings” (until afternoon hours of 3:30/4 p.m. Some might be closed on Mondays altogether. Look for the orario.
Local grocery stores: Many are closed on Monday or Wednesday afternoons (in Rome, they close on Thursday afternoons).

Restaurants: Most will be closed on Sunday evenings, and either Monday or Tuesday. Italians like to have lunch around 1 p.m. The kitchen is usually open between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. The national dinnertime in Italy begins around 8. Restaurant kitchens are open from about 7 to 10:30 p.m.
Caffè Bar: These usually open at 5:30/6 a.m. Cafés and snack bars stay open all day until about 6 or 7 p.m. Bars (where you can get both un caffè, un aperitivo, and un digestivo) stay open throughout the evening, often until midnight or 1 a.m.. Bars that serve primarily alcoholic drinks and stay open late are strangely called American Bar.

Banks: Open 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and from 3 to 4 (sometimes 5) p.m. Some banks are open Saturday mornings from 9 to 1:30. Check the orario. ATMS, called Bancomats, are common and available 24 hours.

Museums: Major sights remain open all day from 8/9 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Minor ones often close around 3 p.m. Many are closed on Mondays.

Churches: Open 6:30/ 8 a.m. until 5/7 p.m. If you’re not going to mass on Sunday mornings, it’s not a good time for a visit to look at the artwork; you can go in after 1 p.m.
Mondays: Try to avoid having Monday be the only day of your trip where you can sightsee, especially in a major city or tourist area. Most museums and many restaurants are closed.
Travel Tip: Avoid some of the longer lines at star attractions by waiting until 1 p.m. when even the tourists go for lunch. You may not have the place to yourself, but you might be able to actually view the art. A good way to tell if you won’t have to wait long for entry at a famous monument or museum is to look for the tour buses... If they’re not there, you should be!

Two major exceptions to these tips are the mega supermarkets (ipermercati) that stay open continuously throughout the day, usually until 9 p.m. Some even have Sunday hours. As a last resort, you can always get a meal, a coffee, gas or some victuals any day from dawn to 11 p.m. at dozens of Autogrill found all along the Italian highway system, provided you are inclined to pay the toll to get on a major highway. See blog post Driving In Italy part 4 — Autostrade Rest Areas.

About this blog

Welcome to our Access Italy blog, a mosaic of eclectic, but practical, information; fascinating cultural insights; and unique commentary on a wonderful way of life only the Italians could have designed.  more....


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