Monday, August 27, 2012

Stressed Out? The Italians Have a Word for It!

Since a lot of us are heading back to work, or back to school these days, I've decided to repost an entry that describes the actual word in Italian that sums up post vacation stress due to returning to the real world: the rientro!

I would like to share it, since it gives great insight on Italian life, and how (in my opinion) Italians have it all figured out (except plumbing, air conditioning, heating and taxes!).

By Toni Mazzaglia from Florence, on September 21st, 2007

Most of Europe goes on vacation in August. Italy is no exception. Since they all go away at the same time and return at the same time, the entire country suffers together around the beginning of September.
 Italians actually have a word for the awful experience of returning to work after a long vacation or holiday: IL RIENTRO.
 It’s a good thing they have a word for this problem, because I am suffering big-time from a rough rientro.
 After a five week stay in efficient, customer service driven America, I returned to Florence.
 Upon arrival, my phone had been cut off (and so too, my internet), my car was no longer running, and my credit card had been blocked by my bank, once again, because I made a purchase the morning I arrived in Italy.
 How does one get anything done without phone or internet? How do they get to work without a car? How do they call and get their credit card unblocked, making the necessary intercontinental call to their bank to let them know, as in many calls before, that THEY PRACTICALLY LIVE IN ITALY, so please turn the card back on or they can’t pay for their phone bill, fix their car, etc.?
 Vicious cycle. 
On the bright side, on the day of my arrival, I went to pick up my comforter from the cleaner. Fortunately, I had already paid for it before my departure five weeks earlier. While waiting in line (actually, in Italy one generally waits in clusters and hopes no one goes before their turn) I struck up a conversation with another woman. One thing led to another and I mentioned my awful rientro symptoms: frustration, depression, confusion, loss of verbal skills- coupled with their causes: lack of money, failure to telecommunicate. 

 On the bright side, I did mention, I was back to the land of good food, wine and coffee. So, as usual, the topic turned to food. I always talk about food. Italians always talk about food.
 Within seconds, everyone, including the owners, was talking about food and their favorite recipes and what they had eaten for lunch… And a lovely woman with red hair mentioned she had made too much apricot marmalade, so much she didn’t know where to put it all.

When I heard the word apricot, my rientro concerns doubled. Not only had I come back to an entire mess, I had missed all the good stuff the summer brings. Peaches and apricots and many, many sagras.
 As I sighed, the woman read my mind and offered me some of her apricot marmalade. “Come back tomorrow and you’ll find a jar here waiting.”
 The next day I returned to the cleaner and their it was, an enormous jar of homemade apricot marmalade, sitting next to the cash register.
I love this country.
 (end of Geobeats blog entry from 2007)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Celebrating Food Tuscan Style

Every year, from March till November, you'll find food festivals, called sagra (sagre plural) around Italy. Most of these festivals celebrate traditional, local ingredients. You'll find the Sagra del Tartufo (truffle), the Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar), the Sagra della Lepre, (wild hare) and many other specialties celebrated by way of Sagre.

Emanuele brings you to some Sagre in this quick video!

I shot this video a few years ago that gives an idea of the atmosphere at most sagre. The tables and lighting are usually super casual. Here Emanuele, the host and my friend, is at the Sagra delle Pappardelle sul Lepre (wide egg pasta served with wild hare). Other images show the Sagra del Crostino (the crostino sagra), and were shot on the day my friend Manuela (see the smiling girl who makes a toast to the camera) told all her friends she was expecting her first child.

Sagre are a great way to celebrate food and special occasions, or to just have a relatively cheap but authentic meal with friends or family.

They usually take place on weekends, in small towns scattered throughout Italy. They unfold during warmer months in general, following the hunting and harvesting seasons, but the occasional sagra can be enjoyed even in cold weather.

Some of my favorites in Tuscany:

La Sagra delle Ciliege (The Cherry Sagra!) 
 You'll need a car to get to this one! I go every year- and get in line for the frittelle alle ciliege (cherry fritters). Get there early- I've almost gotten into fist fights over these when the line gets too long!

One of my personal favorites! 
The organizers send me a reminder email every year!

This one can be reached by way of the 14 bus, going in direction "Girone". Reservations are recommended! This is the best-organized sagra I've encountered!

This is just a tiny example of how many sagre are out there. Do a quick google search while you're in town and you'll find plenty of Sagre to try. There are even sagra search engines!
Here's a good one to use no matter where you are in Italy:

An important note: in the past ten years or so, many sagre have been popping up "like funghi" (like mushrooms). Since these festivals are a quick way to make money for clubs and groups who host them, and require less strict licenses than a permanent restaurant might, tons of non-traditional sagre are being hosted. Both authorities and hosts of the more traditional sagre are starting to take note, and many say that there will be parameters set for hosting sagre to keep the traditional ones from being overshadowed by the new ones. A great example of a sagra that has NOTHING to do with traditional Tuscan fare: La Sagra della Paella!