Italy

April 13, 2017

Easter Traditions Around the World

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead. The origins of the word “Easter” are largely unknown but there are several common theories. Some claim that “Easter” comes from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring and fertility. Others account the origins to hebdomada alba, white week, in Latin, for people who wore white when they were baptized. Easter is an entire season of celebration and observance, from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Monday. Easter is celebrated all around the world and you can take a family vacation in one of these countries to take in the traditions!

Italy: Pasqua

There aren’t set traditions in Italy. It’s more about where in Italy you are that sets the stage for the traditions and celebration you will encounter. The Vatican is a mecca for Catholics and all pilgrims who wish to attend the Pope’s mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday. After the evening’s mass, the Pope goes on a candlelit procession at Palatine Hill stopping fourteen times along the way to remember the walk of Christ and pray, ending at the Colosseum. Mass is held every day from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Another tradition in Rome is the food that is traditionally served: pizza sbattula (sponge cake), hard boiled eggs, ham and salami, and colomba (dove-shaped cake).

Peru: La Semana Santa (Holy Week)

One of the most well-known Easter celebrations takes place in Cuzco. The city’s celebration circles around Señor de los Temblores, Lord of the Earthquakes. The King of Spain had sent a statue of Christ to Cuzco to convert the locals. The statue was placed inside the church in Cuzco but during a major earthquake in 1650, the locals removed the statue from the church and the earthquake stopped. Since then, the statue has remained in the Plaza de Armas as a symbol of their Savior. One of the celebrations falls on Holy Monday when there is a six-hour procession around the plaza. There is mass during the rest of Holy Week. Another Easter tradition involves food as it represents a time of rejoicing and gratitude after an extended period of fasting. On Good Friday, is it common to eat twelve main dishes like soup, fish, potatoes, and dessert like mazamorra.

Canada: Easter

Easter in Canada is much like that in the United States. The celebration of Easter is preceded by Lent, during which Christians practice penance that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. In French Canadian communities, Lent is interrupted by Mid-Lent. This is mostly celebrated in Quebec and Acadia. Otherwise, Easter is celebrated in the same manner as other Western countries.

Canadians mark the holiday with family gatherings and food. Lamb is a common dish, as well as ham and hot cross buns. Consumption of the buns dates to the British tradition of making the cross buns incised with a cross as a symbol of Christ. In modern times, icing is used to mark the cross on top of the buns. There are many symbols of modern Easter that have more to do with the beginning of Spring than with the religious holiday itself such as egg hunts, the Easter Bunny, chocolate, and more.

The messages of rejoice and gratitude are the same while celebrations in these countries can be different. This is a time of the year to celebrate new life and a fresh beginning of the season. You can travel to any one of these places and see these celebrations and traditions up close and personal. Seeing traditions play-out in a different culture is one of the best parts about travel!



February 2, 2017

Sicilian Blood Orange and Shrimp Risotto Recipe

One of the best parts about taking a family vacation to Italy is the food, although there are many things to love about Italy. One place that is especially great is Sicily. Sicily is famous for its citrus orchards and their fruit is frequently used in Sicilian cooking.  One fruit that deserves special mention is the Arancia Rossa di Sicilia or blood orange.  With its rich orange flavor and delicate raspberry notes, it is a delight to cook with and wonderful to match with seafood.  Here is one of my favorite recipes for one of the dishes that my family loved on our last vacation to Italy.

(If you can’t get blood oranges, the dish is very good with regular oranges.)

Risotto:Sicilian Blood Orange and Shrimp Risotto Recipe

  • 6 cups Shrimp Stock
  • 1 ½ cups Risotto
  • 2 Shallots, chopped
  • 3 T Olive oil
  • Zest of one blood orange
  • ½ cup Heavy Cream (optional)
  • 3 T Butter
  • Salt & Pepper

 

Shrimp:

  • 1 T Olive oil
  • 1 lb. Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • ½ cup Grand Marnier
  • Juice of one blood orange

 

Risotto Recipe:

In a large sauté pan with olive oil, soften shallots over med-low heat.  You should avoid getting any color on the shallots, you just want them to go clear.

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, bring shrimp stock to a simmer.

Add rice to sauté pan and cook lightly for 2 minutes.  Add one cup of shrimp stock to rice, raise temperature to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon until most of the water is absorbed.  Continue adding one cup of stock at a time until all stock is absorbed and rice is tender.  Taste for salt.  Depending on your stock you may need to add a significant amount of salt to make the rice flavorful.

Reduce sauté pan to low heat.  Add heavy cream, zest, and butter. Stir until thoroughly incorporated.   Add fresh ground pepper to taste.  Cover and leave on very low heat to keep warm.

Shrimp Recipe:

CAUTION: you are about to add alcohol to a hot pan, please be careful! 

We are going to flambé the shrimp.  To do this you need to be prepared.  You will need a lid which fits your skillet (in case of emergency use the lid to extinguish flame).  And you will need a long match.

Add oil to pan and heat until shimmering.  Add shrimp.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes.

Move the pan safely away from the cook top.  Add Grand Marnier, and orange juice to the pan.

Return pan to heat.  When the liquid begins to simmer, use a long match to light alcohol.  Shake pan gently while alcohol burns off.  When flames go out the shrimp should be fully cooked and ready to serve (about 2 more minutes).

Serve shrimp and a spoonful of the juices over the risotto, garnish with a slice of orange.

You can make this at home, or, the other option is to plan your next family vacation to Italy and try the dish right from the source!

 



October 20, 2015

Top 4 Islands in Italy for a Family Vacation

Italy is a top destination in the world for people to travel to when going on a family vacation. For centuries Italy has played a major role in shaping the world from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. With this history, many people dream of visiting famous Italian cities like Rome and Florence. Although beautiful, there is much more to Italy than the mainland. Italy has incredibly gorgeous islands just off of its shores and they make for great stops on a family vacation.

Capri

capri family vacation

One of the most picturesque islands in the region, glamorous Capri is a great place to visit. Not only will your camera get a full workload, but your family will also see some pretty amazing sites. On a walking tour you can visit old ruins, beautiful villas, and famous sites like the Natural Arch. Walk down to secluded beach caves and find a magical grotto. You can even take the opportunity to see the Blue Grotto!

Sicily

The largest of all the Italian Islands is Sicily. Sicily has its own distinct and proud culture from mainland Italy and it’s just as charming and wonderful! There are plenty of towns dotted around the coast to visit to make for a memorable trip. Catania is a quaint little town that visitors routinely fall in love with. The tallest active volcano in Italy (and all of Europe), Mount Etna, sits just on the border of Catania and more active families will love hiking up to the top!

Lipari

There is a set of islands off of Italy’s Western coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Of those, Lipari is the largest. Although it is the largest, the population of the island is just about 11,000 people. There are ruins across the island from the different periods of history when ownership of the island traded hands. This is a great island to relax on and visit the Archaeological Museum to learn about maritime history and volcanology, among other things.

Stromboli

stromboli (Ph. M. Tomasello2)

Not to be confused with the cylindrical pastry filled with cheeses, Italian meats, and vegetables, the Island Stromboli is filled with fun activities and adventure. The most exciting feature of Stromboli is the main volcano on the island, Mount Stromboli. The volcano has been in continuous eruption for 2,000 years which means your family will have a good chance to see a splash of lava spurt out of the top. Another exciting feature of the volcano is to hike out to Sciara del Fuoco to see two active streams of lava flows.

There isn’t a bad trip to be had when taking a family vacation in Italy, but you can make it a great one by getting out to these islands!



July 14, 2015

Explore Italy’s Volcanoes

When you think of Italy what comes to mind? Is it pasta, wine, Shakespeare, the Vatican, pizza, gelato? While these do all shout Italy— you may not think to say volcanoes. Interestingly enough, you should! Southern Italy and especially the islands are a hot bed (no pun intended) for volcanic activity. Italy is home to over a dozen volcanoes, most of which are dormant. Currently there are three active volcanoes in Italy: Mount Etna, Stromboli, and Mount Vesuvius. Since they are the only active volcanoes in the country they are by far the most interesting! These volcanoes are fun, filled with activities, and offer unique education experiences making them great places to visit on a family vacation!

Mount Etna

After a hike on Mount Etna! Photo: M. Tomasello

After a hike on Mount Etna!                Photo: M. Tomasello

On the Eastern Coast of Sicily, between the cities of Catania and Messina, sits Mount Etna. At just under 11,000 feet tall, this is not only the tallest active volcano in Italy but on the entire European continent. To add to Etna’s ambiance, it is also the one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Staying in Catania and hiking the slopes of Mount Etna is a great way to learn how volcanoes play an integral role in their environments. The volcanic ash from Etna has made the soil incredibly fertile, boosting the agricultural output of the area, specifically, enhancing the production of vineyards and orchards. With all of its recent activity and because of the nearby population, Mount Etna has been named one of 16 Decade Volcanoes by the United Nations and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.

Mount Stromboli

A Stromboli Eruption Photo: C. Migeon

A Stromboli Eruption Photo: C. Migeon

For the last 2,000 years, Stromboli, one of the eight Aeolian Islands, has been in a continuous eruption. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. Stromboli regularly erupts in intervals that can last as long as minutes or hours. These are small bursts of lava fragments, ash, and stone blocks that spray a few hundred meters into the air. These eruptions are almost always explosive but there are times when a lava flow occurs. You can hike on Stromboli to see the “Stairway of Fire,” the path that lava takes to the sea, an incredible opportunity that no one should miss. Another great feature of Stromboli is its picturesque coves that are perfect to go swimming in!

Mount Vesuvius

Vesuvius from the coast Photo: E. Cali

Vesuvius from the coast  Photo: E. Cali

 

Probably the most famous of Italy’s volcanoes is Mount Vesuvius. Vesuvius reached international and everlasting fame after its eruption in 79 AD that buried and destroyed several Italian cities, including Pompeii. The eruption in 79 AD spewed molten rock and lava upwards of 20 miles into the air which caused much of the destruction. The ruins of Pompeii are well preserved and a popular destination for travelers to mainland Italy. The last major eruption of Vesuvius was in 1944, making it the only volcano in mainland Europe to have erupted in the last 100 years. Vesuvius is to be respected and admired. There are great trails on its slopes and it’s a great fixture to have in the backdrop of a picture!

Italy’s volcanoes are only part of the country’s beauty and personality. Taking a vacation to the islands and volcanoes of Italy is educational, fun, and exciting. Take a look at our Italy family vacation itinerary or give us a call today to plan the next amazing vacation that your family will have!



April 24, 2015

Why You Should Travel to Italy

 

 

A picturesque scene from an Italy family vacation
If you haven’t decided where to go on your next family vacation, we can help with that. There are many reasons why you should travel to Italy. There’s a history lesson at every turn, offering new ways to explore centuries-old Etruscan villages; Roman ruins; medieval walled towns; and Renaissance cities that boast some of the world’s most revered artistic treasures. Italy also boasts an astonishing 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites — 46 cultural and four natural.
Italy has no shortage of breathtaking natural landscapes, either. Its Mediterranean coastline stretches for miles, showcasing rugged cliffs, hidden coves, jutting fjords and harbor towns. From the Italian Alps and lakes region in the north to the verdant vineyards and olive groves in the central region to the volcanoes of the south, it is incredibly beautiful.
Another reason why you should travel to Italy is one that you’re probably already familiar with: the food! Pasta, pizza, fresh seafood, rich pastries, refreshing gelato and so much more have helped to make Italian cuisine a favorite for families everywhere.
We love Italy and know what a great destination it is for families. That’s why we’ve put together our Southern Italy: Volcanoes and Islands program that we’re débuting in 2016. The area from Naples south along the Amalfi Coast to Sicily is full of sights that are perfect for families to explore. The scenic coastal region is known for dramatic cliffs and medieval villages. There’s also ancient Pompeii, the Roman city that was buried under the ashes after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Your kids will love hiking to the top of the now-dormant crater and wandering through the wonderfully preserved ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 Family hiking on an Italy family vacationSpeaking of UNESCO sites and volcanoes, our Southern Italy family vacation boasts two of the country’s four natural UNESCO sites — the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago north of Sicily, and Mount Etna, the country’s largest volcano. Both destinations are included on our trip, and your family can discover them in a variety of fun ways: from a kayak, on foot and from a boat. You can also swim and explore the islands’ sea caves. We’ve also factored in some free time for you to pursue your own interests in this amazing area.

Our General Manager, Jim Kackley, explains — in a nutshell — why you should travel to Italy. “Italy is such a wonderful destination filled with warm people, great food and incredible history. Many of us have been there without our kids, and now it is time to take them to see some of this wonder.”