According to scientists at Leicester University, people stay healthier for longer, in Italy, compared with those in other European countries. And the differences in the Euro health league tables are really quite striking with Italy appearing first for good health. But why is this? Why do Italians live longer? And why do they also seem to be happier? There is a lot in the media about loneliness, mindfulness and stress but this seems to be something that Italians have been aware of for centuries. Social interactions are deeply ingrained into the Italians lives and they negotiate these issues with ease, and perhaps without even being fully aware that they are addressing them at all on a daily basis. Social relationships both quantity and quality have been proven to affect mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and mortality risk. But is this secret to a longer life? We believe it is a very important factor and it is for a combination of reasons that the Italians are living “La Dolce Vita."
1. Family values
Family is the most important thing to Italians. They are proud of their relations and family get togethers are a treasured event. Relatives welcome each other with open arms, kisses and an enthusiasm which never falters. Any occasion is an opportunity to get together and eat together. Disagreements are had of course, sometimes even often but they are aired (loudly) and openly and resolved usually just as quickly. There is no such thing as biting your tongue and bottling it up. Italians get things out there preventing built up bad feelings and let’s face it they are family after all so that is just fine.
2. If you’re going to love someone, Love Them Passionately
When an Italian falls in love they want the world to know! Every other word they speak becomes “amore!” They embrace each other often and with passion. Public signs of affection are met with smiles by onlookers. People are happy for them. The relationships are usually long but when marriage finally arrives so does a very large wedding! With all members of the family being invited from far and wide the love is celebrated in true Italian style with a feast fit for a king and music and dancing.
3. Show your emotions
Italian men do not shy away from their emotions. Neither are emotions seen in any way to compromise their masculinity. Emotions are there to be shared and if an Italian man or woman wants to cry then they will. Crying, shouting and laughing are all parts of natural expression. And why would you try to supress that right?!
4. Take a walk
Taking a “Passeggiata” is still the most popular past time of the Italian people. For the young and old it’s not just taking a walk, it’s more of a wander. A wander around the town to admire the architecture and to say hello to passing friends. A great form of exercise it can be done before dinner to build up an appetite or after dinner to digest and maybe get a “gelato” along the way. The “Passegiata” is done only for pleasure like most things in Italy but it has many health benefits from improving circulation to relaxation and reducing stress.
If somebody looks good Italians will tell them. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t really know the person. If the compliment is thought, it is said. Compliments flow all day for various reasons with “bello” and “bravo” being heard all over town. Compliments are really great for self-esteem and for feeling good about yourself too.
There seems to be endless health warnings about coffee but there is no prising Italians away from their coffee. Millions of Italians rely on a morning espresso to get started so perhaps it is something to do with the way it’s being drank? More recently coffee has been claimed to prevent depression. Because of the way it is made and its concentration, an espresso is thought to contain two to three times the number of healthy antioxidants of coffee made by other brewing methods. Outside of Italy we are pretty keen on coffee too, but 85% of the stuff we drink is instant, which is not only, arguably, disgusting, but contains few of the alleged health benefits associated with an Italian espresso. So there it is, Espresso is the answer!
7. Eat well
It will come as no surprise that eating is taken very seriously in Italy. It is at the very centre of Italian life. But what may not be so obvious is the importance of good quality food. Good food in the sense of healthy and wholesome food. Food in Italy is very closely monitored by the government and the people alike. Expectations for food to be good quality and free from nasty additives and preservatives are high. Italians eat food for pleasure but they also understand nutrition. They are meticulous about food combinations and eating balanced meals. Meals are served in a series of smaller dishes with long waits in between courses. This prevents people getting overly full and helps to aid digestion. Fruit and vegetables are eaten when they are at their best and in season. And this way they are also at their most delicious.
8. Respect your health
Italians are known for being hypochondriacs. But what is more important than our health? They treat their bodies carefully and if they fall ill a good recovery is of upmost importance. You would never catch an Italian with a cold “Soldiering on”. They will be tucked up a home recovering with mamma’s homemade broth.
9. Get out of the house
Italians love their homes but they don’t spend much time in them. Traditionally Italian homes do not have sofas but large dining room tables instead. The evening is spent around the dinner table eating, chatting and being with your family. Then after dinner they go to bed or they go for a walk. There is no culture for sitting in front of the television.
10. Take it slow
Italians take the word “slow” to a whole new meaning but they don’t see it as slow. It’s more of a take it easy. They walk slowly taking in their surroundings wandering with no particular place to go and they started the Slow Food Movement. It can be difficult for people outside of Southern Europe to adapt to this new way of life but eventually you realize just how relaxing and carefree life is if you just slow down. The days are longer as they start earlier and finish later with a good “siesta” in the afternoon to recharge the batteries after a long lunch. Lunch can last for hours and this is a great way to de-stress and reconnect with your friends and family. The food is wholesome and a pleasure to eat, you know while you are eating that it is nourishing you. Not like grabbing a sandwich on the go! Life is so much better if you aren’t flying through it and you take the time to really breathe it in and enjoy it.
The Food and wines of the Treviso region are rustic and traditional. It is a land of loved oils, meat with a particular alluring flavour, fragrant garlic salami and a local variety of large salami called “sopresse” which is served, warmed and sprayed with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Many of the traditional foods are accompanied perfectly with slices of grilled polenta or fresh bread. Something that all of the products share in common are the family run findings at which they are produced to the highest quality following generations of expertise.
A place of charms with its gentle rolling hills, fascinating vineyards and its rich fierce plain, The Prosecco Road has a character of its own. The piedmont woods offer a refuge for many species of animals and the fish-rich waters of its many rivers and streams offer an abundance of trout and even eels.
Ancient flavours can be found in the small farms, family run vineyards and traditional restaurants that are characteristic places with a welcoming style. The local fooderies are derived from old peasant dwellings and often keep their original style which dates back to the beginning of property. Amazing panoramic views of the Prosecco hills can be enjoyed whilst tasting delicious recipes made from the natural ingredients of the land and whilst drinking the award winning locally produced wines.
Pizza! One of the most loved foods in the world.
But do you know where to find the very best Pizza? The Pizzeria that makes the best Pizza in the world?
Well, let’s start at the beginning in 16th-century Naples, when a flatbread called a galette was originally referred to as a pizza. Known as the dish for poor people, it was sold in the street and was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time. Eventually Pizza was replaced by more expensive ingredients like oil, tomatoes and fish. Then on 11th June 1889, to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, a Neapolitan pizza maker called Raffaele Esposito decided to create a pizza in the queen’s honour. He called the pizza the "Pizza Margherita". Esposito garnished the Pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colours red, white and green of Italy’s flag. Since then the Margherita Pizza has been held in the hearts of Italians as the traditional, original Pizza of choice.
Fast forward to today and most people have an idea of where to find the best pizza in Italy but all agree that it comes from Naples. So where can you find the best pizza in Naples? Many say that it can be found at the famed Naples pizzeria “L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele”. Made globally famous as the star Pizzeria in the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love, when Julia Roberts eats pizza there. Hmmm, A Hollywood phenomenon I hear you say? Well, I decided to try it for myself. Surrounded by hungry Neapolitans I queued outside the busy Pizzeria for 2 hours. During the bustling two hours waiting for my number to be called I chatted with the locals who reassured me that this was the best pizza in Naples and it will be worth the wait. Despite my rumbling belly and the Pizzeria next door visibly having seats available I stood my ground. Once inside I enthusiastically took my seat, there are only two types of pizza on the menu, a regular Margherita and a Margherita with double mozzarella. I chose the same as Julia Roberts in the movie, a Margherita pizza with double mozzarella. And oh my goodness was it good. In the words of Julia Roberts in the film “I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair”. So there you have it, if there is a better pizza out there I just couldn’t imagine how it would taste! Try Pizzeria Da Michele for yourself! It can be found on Via Cesare Sersale 1, 80139, Naples, Italy, just a 15 minute walk from the Naples Train Station.
Italy's famous sparkling prosecco wine comes from vineyards that cover a picturesque valley, just north of Venice. While Champagne refers to a region, prosecco is the name of the grape that is grown on rolling hills that stretch from the town of Valdobbiadene past Treviso and Conegliano, as far as Vittorio Veneto. A couple of days driving along this "strada del vino" combines wine tastings in village cantinas, staying in charming B&Bs run by winemakers, and the chance to discover the local Veneto cuisine in rural osterie and trattorie.
Valdobbiadene is the capital of prosecco country, and the perfect place to start a trip through the vineyards is the historic Bar Alpino. It is difficult to believe that this osteria opened more than 80 years ago because the friendly young owner has recently renovated the place into a smart wine bar where over 50 different prossecos can be tasted by the glass. The clientele hasn't changed though – colourful winemakers stop off here at all times of the day. And the food is as traditional as ever, with delicious "polpettine" meatballs on sale all day, while locals crowd in around 6pm when the "porchetta" - roast suckling pig - is brought in from the baker's oven and sliced up at the counter.
Lecce the home of The Italian School is the Apulia region jewel, and one of the most fascinating southern Italian towns.
The capital of the Salento (the southernmost part of the Italian heel), Lecce is nicknamed “The Florence of the South” because of its awesome Baroque monuments. Wandering on a summer night in its century old, stone paved streets is simply magic. Discover with us its main square, piazza del Duomo, after the crowds are gone and the full moon lights up its golden limestone monuments.
But Lecce is not only art: Salento offers some of the best Mediterranean dishes you could find in Southern Italy, often inspired by traditional cooking, based on vegetables and fresh pasta. Lecce is buzzing with excellent places to taste it, some just a few steps away from Piazza del Duomo. One of my favourite dishes is Ciceri and Tria (fresh home made pasta with a cheakpeas) eaten with a great Primitivo di Manduria wine, in a vaulted ceiling century old dining room in this beautiful historical centre what could be better.
Most people have tried Mozzarella but have you ever tried Burrata? If you haven’t you are in for a huge treat! So what is the Difference between Mozzarella and Burrata? Fresh mozzarella cheese is a semi-soft Italian cheese made from cow or water buffalo milk. Burrata cheese however takes the mozzarella one step further — it's mozzarella that's formed into a pouch and then filled with soft, stringy curd and cream. As you cut into the ball of soft milky cheese it breaks open and reveals its stringy, creamy centre which swims out all over your plate. Possibly one of the most delicious Italian delights to be tasted and it would be rude not to use a piece of fresh Italian bread to mop up the milky remains.