Tag Archives: Cortona

Il Pozzo “Tabacchi” Cortona

29 Sep

When you spend time in Italy, you quickly learn the value of a Tabacchi. It is a place to buy bus and train tickets, stamps, postcards, gum, candy, lozenges, etc.

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You can recharge a phone card, buy a lottery ticket, often send a fax, and at most tabacchis, sort through various dollar store types of souvenirs. And yes, the word Tabacchi means tobacco, so, that too.

But when is a tabacchi much more than a tabacchi? When you find this large  “T” sign and awning on Via Nazionale in Cortona. Then it’s a destination.

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No matter how often I visit, there is always something new and creative to see. And the best news? Most items are actually Made in Italy, many from local and nearby artisans. Here are some examples.

These purses, ornaments and wallets are made from old sheet music, newsprint and/or comic pages, formed into shapes, laminated, and then woven together.

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There are numerous prints of familiar Tuscan scenes, towns, buildings and monuments, available in many shapes and sizes, 

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as well as whimsical pieces of art.

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As for me, I can never have enough kitchen towels, especially when they depict places I’ve visited or recipes I want to remember.

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Planning to attend Carnevale in Venice or a Mardi Gras party? They’ve got you covered.

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There is beautiful pastel stationery, as well as bound journals, all hand-made with 100% cotton paper, and each journal is individually embossed.

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Traditional Florentine notecards and ornamental angels come in a rainbow of colors.

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Need a birthday or anniversary card? There’s an abundance to choose from.

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Italians love beautifully fragranced soaps, especially Campostrini soaps that have been produced  in Firenze since 1894.

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Like so many businesses in Cortona, Il Pozzo Artisan’s Gallery and Tabacchi is family owned and operated, and generally open daily. If you’ve been to Cortona, you probably recognize these faces. 

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Ivan speaks English well and is an incredible resource for most questions, whether about an artist, a painting, the Etruscans, or local antiquities. It’s no wonder many of us consider him Cortona’s ambassador. 

If you are heading to Cortona, be sure to add this wonderful place to your list. You’ll be so happy you did!

And one last note: At the back of the tabacchi, take the winding staircase down one flight to visit the beautiful Il Pozzo Galleria. In addition to seeing many more interesting and beautiful works of art, you will also see an ancient well, or pozzo, hence the name Il Pozzo. Ivan actually uncovered the well during excavation, but I’ll leave that story to him.

For more info and photos on Il Pozzo Galleria, please click below:

https://blogginginitaly.com/2013/09/14/il-pozzo/

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

A Beautiful Italian Birthday!

23 May

44 years ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday at Gino’s restaurant in Rome with a wonderful group of friends/fellow students. Shortly after, I would return to the US with my badge of honor – a driver’s license showing I was 21.

Yesterday,  I celebrated my birthday, (you can do the math!), with a wonderful group of friends at Tuscher Cafe in Cortona. Soon, I will return to the US with another badge of honor – a red, white and blue Medicare card!

Yesterday was the kind of day one would order – sunny, warm, and filled with blue skies and wonderful greetings from family and friends, near and far, including this:

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Len decided we should start the day at Tuscher with brunch and a prosecco toast – sounded good to me.

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Afterward, we went for a long walk and enjoyed vistas that never get old.

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Time for lunch – back to Tuscher for Edoardo’s new fish sandwich with fries… we split one, and enjoyed people watching as we sipped some vino.

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Feeling the need for another walk, the antique fair in town was the perfect venue. Finally, we headed home for a rest before dinner.

At 8pm, we arrived at Tuscher, (yes, it was definitely a Tuscher kind of day!) to a beautiful table and waited for our guests to arrive.

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Massimo and Niccolo took care of us as Dani and Edo worked their magic in the kitchen.

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Although the invitation said no gifts please, our guests claimed to not understand English!

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Len had already given me a relaxing day at the local spa, and Benita surprised me with family tickets to see James Taylor at Wrigley Field this summer.

Dinner began with Champaign and appertivo.

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Often interrupted for photos and toasts…

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I brought hand-made honey candles for each guest and created a bit of a game around their choice.

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First course –  spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil…delicious!

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Second course – beef filet cooked to order, roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed artichokes. Perfect!

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Sometime after dinner and singing and stories, and feeling we couldn’t eat another thing, the lights went out…

And Dani and Massimo entered with this incredible wine cake with whipped cream and strawberries. Wow!

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After all other customer were gone, Dani, Massimo, Niccolo and Edo were finally able to close the doors and join us. Applause! Applause!

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Many thanks to all, either with me or in my heart, who made my day so special, and a very, very  special thanks to Len. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Molte grazie a tutti, sia con me o nel mio cuore, che ha reso il mio giorno così speciale, e un grazie molto, molto speciale a Len. Una conclusione perfetta di una giornata perfetta!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Tuscher Caffé

26 Sep

On our last day in Cortona this summer, a group of ladies stopped me and asked where they might enjoy a great breakfast. “Follow me,” I said, then walked them to our favorite eating destination in all of Cortona – Tuscher Caffé.

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As I’ve written many times, one of the things we enjoy most about Cortona is its Italian authenticity. Most of the restaurants, shops, and stores are owned and operated by local Italians, and these places are where we prefer to spend our time.

This two-story Caffé opened in 2003 in the beautiful Palazzo Ferretti on Via Nazionale. Massimo and Daniela, the owners and operators of the caffé, named it after the building’s architect, Carl Marcus Tuscher, who worked in Italy from 1728-41.

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They, along with their sons Niccolo and Edoardo, tend to every detail, and it clearly shows.

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Looking for breakfast? Whether a simple coffee and pastry, or an omelet, look no further.

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Thinking about lunch? Your biggest decision is not whether to sit inside or out, rather, how to choose which delicious dish to order. Always the freshest ingredients coupled with creativity, and always made to order…

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And let’s not forget about dessert:

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In Italy, people often gather in the evening for appertivo. This wonderful tradition consists of meeting friends or family members for a pre-dinner drink such as prosecco or vermouth. Historically, these drinks were accompanied by nuts and olives so as not to ruin an appetite, and instead, open up the stomach for the meal to come.

Today, appertivo has taken on a different meaning where along with a wide variety of specialty cocktails, delicious and creative appetizers are served – all free of charge.

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Winter or summer, appertivo is an evening ritual in Cortona.

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Unless it is Monday, and Tuscher is closed, hardly a day passes that we don’t enjoy one or more meals here. After our several mile hike each morning, Len always declares, “It’s time for a proper lunch,” and for us, that’s typically a Tuscher lunch. We love the food and the atmosphere, and most of all, we love the friends and friendships we have made here.

As for those lovely ladies I introduced to Tuscher in the morning…well, they obviously liked the recommendation as they were back having lunch when we arrived to do the same.

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To Dani, Massimo, Niccolo and Edoardo, thanks for all of your hard work and dedication and for making Tuscher Caffé such a special part of our Cortona life. And to my dear friend, Dani, Buon Compleanno!

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You truly are a sweetie pie!

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If you are a regular, see you there. If you’ve never been, try it. You’ll thank me later!

Ciao,

Judy

www.caffetuschercortona.com

Arrivederci Cortona – 2014

30 Jul

Some wonderful sights, sounds, smells, settings, 
and most of all,  salutes and smiles (and a bit of splash!)
that we will take home, in photos and in our hearts…

Sights:

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Pietrabbondante ©Blogginginitaly.com

Bagnoli dei Trigno - blogginginitaly.com

Bagnoli dei Trigno – blogginginitaly.com

Gubbio - blogginginitaly.com

Gubbio – blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lago Trasimeno – ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Cortona – ©Blogginginitaly.com

Sounds:

Quercinella - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Terrenean Sea, Quercinella – ©Blogginginitaly.com

Marinelli Bell Foundry Agnone ©Blogginginitaly.com

Marinelli Bell Foundry, Agnone ©Blogginginitaly.com

Carmen in Cortona ©Blogginginitaly.com

Carmen, Cortona Teatro ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Smells:

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Pasta with Melon and Ham, Tuscher Cafe – blogginginitaly.com

Pasta Napoletana, AD, ©Blogginginitaly.com

Pasta Neapolitana, AD Ristorante, ©Blogginginitaly.com

Pasta with Mozarella, rocket and Tomatoes, Domus Hotel, blogginginitaly.com

Pasta with Mozzarella, Greens and Tomatoes, Domus Hotel, blogginginitaly.com

Eggplant a la Giovanna©Blogginginitaly.com

Eggplant a la Giovanna©Blogginginitaly.com

Fernanda's Green Peppercorn Filet - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Fernanda’s Green Peppercorn Filet and Garden Vegetables – ©Blogginginitaly.com

Settings (come rain or shine):

Ivan, Lori & Tomas ©Blogginginitaly.com

Ivan, Lori & Tomas
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Lapo & Paola - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Lapo & Paola – ©Blogginginitaly.com

Giovanna & Franco - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Giovanna & Franco – ©Blogginginitaly.com

Massimo & Daniela  - ©Blogginginitaly.com

Massimo & Daniela – ©Blogginginitaly.com

And most of all – Salutes:

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Smiles:

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And a bit of Splash!

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Grazie a tutti! 

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A prossimo!!! 

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Tanti Abbracci!

Giuditta e Leonardo

 

Cortona in Winter

12 Feb

I always wondered what Cortona would be like in winter, and now I know. The same wonderful people, the same beautiful town, albeit a little quieter, and the same feeling like I’m home…ok, also colder and sometimes rainy, but certainly warm compared to Chicago.

Benita and I took the train from Roma last Saturday and spent two wonderful days and nights in Cortona. It’s an incredible feeling to walk through the market or down a street and recognize so many faces. We shopped, walked, ate, drank, talked and laughed with our wonderful Cortonese friends.

I think the pictures and smiles tell the story!

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Grazie ai nostri amici per un tempo meraviglioso!

And Len, this one is for you…un baccino from Daniela!

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Can’t wait to return this summer!

Ciao,

Judy

Happy New Year – Buon Anno!

31 Dec

A warm thank you to all who have found and followed Blogginginitaly.com, which had over 10,000 views from 83 countries in 2013. When I began writing in 2011, little did I realize the joy this blog would bring me. It is such fun for me to share my thoughts and experiences and know others enjoy reading about them as well.

A few things in store for Blogginginitaly 2014…

A winter visit to Rome… (haven’t done that since I was a student!)

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as well as Cortona, which I’ve never been to in winter!

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Much more about Alex and his travels to Italy

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and a summer journey for Len and me to Alex’s birthplace, Pietrabbondante.

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Pietrabbondante (Photo credit: diffendale)

As we anticipate our summer return to Cortona, we know it will be filled with wonderful new and familiar experiences, great food and wine, the tranquillity of piazza life, and so many roads less travelled to discover and share with you. But best of all, we know we will be spending time with dear friends we have made through our travels.

May your new year be filled with health and time spent with loved ones, and may you find  time to enjoy a sunset, wherever your roads lead you.

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Happy New Year and Buon Anno 2014!

Ciao,

Judy

Preludio

14 Nov

Sometimes, we walk by a place, take note, and know we need to return. That was the case for us with Preludio, an elegant restaurant in Cortona. Unfortunately it took us three summers to eat there, but now it’s on our annual To-Do list.

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From the outside looking in, it seems as though this is a restaurant for celebrating an occasion – a birthday, an anniversary, etc.  Draped linens adorn the tables which are set with long stem wine glass and glowing candles.

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Local friends Luca and Simone first introduced us to the restaurant and assured us that wanting great food is occasion enough.  Fortunately for us, they did all the ordering, but I must admit, we dined as if we were celebrating a big occasion. First things first, some incredible wine from the Bolgheri region of Italy.

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Then on to the primi. The attention to detail at Preludio is as incredible as the food, and the presentation of each dish is truly a work of art. I especially loved how our friends chose their favorite local and regional dishes to share with us. While I can’t remember the names of many of the dishes,  I do remember the taste.

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Escalope of foie gras sauce, lettuce, grapefruit and potatoes pumpkin

Not being such a foie gras aficionado, I was very content sitting next to this incredible fondue!

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For the secondo, we were treated to a Tuscan trio – two pastas with meat and one saffron porcini risotto with black truffle. I headed right for the risotto!

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Although two-thirds of my plate was still covered, our friends wanted us to share a Florentine steak. With no more room for dinner, we finally agreed on dessert which they insisted was mandatory. Well, feast your eyes!

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According to their website:

Preludio is always looking for new challenges posed by the evolution of taste, frequently revisited by combining creativity and continuity and adapting it to the current seasons. 

Do not ask us what is our main dish, because our ambition is to ensure that every dish that leaves our kitchen is new and unique…

Sometimes a night doesn’t need a special occasion to celebrate as the night itself becomes the occasion.  Our dinner at Preludio with our local friends was one of those nights. Grazie for a special night we will long remember.

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Just like in English, the name Preludio (prelude) means the beginning or an introduction. I’m so glad we’ve been introduced!

Ciao,

Judy

Postscript:

Len and I enjoyed the restaurant so much, we returned another evening for a “simpler” dinner of risotto, salmon, artichokes and potatoes. We’ll be back for more. 

Ristorante IL CACCIATORE, Cortona

20 Sep

Since it’s Friday, I was thinking about where I’d like to have dinner tonight. A simple choice would be Ristorante IL CACCIATORE, except for the fact that it is in Cortona and we are in Chicago. Oh, well, I can still think about what we might order after receiving a warm welcome from Alessandro, owner and always visible greeter.

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The entrance to the two-story restaurant is on Via Roma, and you can choose indoor or limited outdoor seating. According to its website, “It was the first restaurant opened in the medieval town of Cortona, around 1904.” The word cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian, and the restaurant serves typical Tuscan dishes and “specialities including grilled meat chianina, ribollita and pici with meat sauce,” a local pasta favorite.

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There’s an ample selection of wines to choose from, and the house wine is fine as well.

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The food is very good, and the atmosphere and staff are always warm and inviting.

Whether we stop in for pizza and a tomato salad

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Tonight, perhaps we’d start with an antipasto of cheeses and freshly sliced meats…

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IMG_0002some hot off-the-grill veggies

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And to top off a most satisfying dinner, why not a little tiramisu? (It’s so much better in Italy!)

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All in a night’s work, but then someone gets to do it. Just wish it could be us tonight!

Whether it’s just the two of us, or we are part of a large group, Ristorante IL CACCIATORE is one of our favorite go-to restaurants in Cortona.

Ciao,

Judy

Il Pozzo

14 Sep

One of the things that makes Cortona unusual is the amount of art one can see in this lovely town. Two incredible museums, as well as many churches, are home to magnificent art and/or artifacts. Surely these are not to be missed.

But once you fall in love with the town, how can you take a piece of it home? That’s easy. Visit Il Pozzo.

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Il Pozzo, meaning the well, is located just off the busy Via Nazionale. It doesn’t take long to get caught up in the music and art that fill the senses before even entering the gallery.

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And while wonderful art treasures await, so does an unexpected architectural journey.

Meet Ivan, proprietor with his wife Loriana. Ivan is as happy to show you around the building and share its history as he is finding the right treasure for you to take home. He also speaks English quite well!

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Paraphrasing and borrowing from their website description,

The voices of the busy Via Nazionale seem centuries of history away…

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Visitors can contemplate the medieval ambiance uncovered two levels below the modern-day street, tastefully returned to the light with its ancient aspect and functionality.

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One should not miss the unique well “ad ampolla” from which the Gallery “Il Pozzo” takes its name and in which there are traces of the ancient knowledge and architectural skill of the Etruscans ancestors’ civilization.

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Here, nothing is left to happenstance and every wall, every nook and every shelf becomes a frame for an interesting detail, underlining the value of the artistic and artisan objects displayed.

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The attention and interest of the visitor is fed with the variety of the paintings, photographs, prints, books, engravings, ceramics,

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and artisan crafts such as leather-covered books, hand crafted papers, jewels and objects in glass

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IMG_0056which are an integral part of the history and customs of Tuscany.

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The Gallery “Il Pozzo” can be summed up as an encounter between Cortona and the visitor.

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That said, it seems to correspond to the high level of historic and artistic tradition of the homeland of Signorelli, of Pietro Berrettini and of Gino Severini.

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Everything here seems to court the taste and artistic sensibilities of the refined tourist of the new century.

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This past summer, we found an original watercolor that seemed to have our name on it. Wonderful art has that quality – it somehow speaks to its eventual owner.  Lucky for us, we brought some of ancient Cortona back to our home through this beautiful work by Allesandro Bulli.  Not a day goes by that we don’t enjoy looking at it and reliving a story.

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For us, this vividly captures many of our daily stops: morning cappuccino at a cafe, a local enoteca, the grocery store, a bit of the two main piazzas, a restaurant overlooking the historic center, etc.

Whether you are just browsing or looking for something special to purchase, there is never any pressure at Il Pozzo. If you do find something for yourself or for a gift, Ivan will carefully and beautifully prepare it for its journey home.

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And, of course, prepare you an espresso while you wait!

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So be sure to put Il Pozzo on your list of places to visit in Cortona, and tell Ivan and Loriana that Judy sent you. Your visit will be fun and fabulous, and give you the opportunity to take a little piece of Cortona home with you too. We’re so happy we did!

Ciao,

Judy

Gelato

26 Aug

Whether you’ve been to Italy many times, or hope to visit someday, eating gelato is no doubt on your list. As the summer heat intensifies, what better way to cool your palate and bring a smile to your face than with some delicious gelato.

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Gelato is Italy’s version of ice cream, yet tastes much better. Why? I wondered, and did a little research. Although I am much better at enjoying gelato than making it, here are three major differences I discovered:

  1. Gelato generally has less than 10% butterfat, compared to ice cream’s typical 18-25+ range. The lower butterfat causes the gelato to melt in your mouth faster and provides an immediate blast of flavor.
  2. Air is not added to gelato, giving gelato a higher density than most ice cream. This density results in gelato’s rich taste and very creamy texture.
  3. Although gelato is a frozen dessert, it can be served at a temperature 10°+ warmer than ice cream, adding to its creamier consistency.It's the picture of Italian ice-cream in a sho...

It seems as though you can find a gelateria, or ice cream store, in just about every town in Italy. Some have several, and the larger cities seem to have one on every corner. Cortona has several.

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Although gelato is almost always good, the taste and quality can vary. I tend to shy away from outdoor ones in direct sunlight. You can just tell.

Gelato is typically presented in stainless tubs in large cooled glass displays.

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Some newly designed modern displays are even becoming popular.

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Cup or cone? Large or mini? Whatever you prefer.

Gelato Cones (Florence)

Need free samples to decide? Assolutamente!

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As for flavors, think of the rainbow, or better yet, a large box of new crayons. Pink and yellow are not just added colors.

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You can often expect actual pieces of fruit in the frutta gelato such as peach, pineapple, mango, banana or apricot. Creme are the creamy gelatos such as chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, caffé, and pistachio.

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What’s the most popular? Seems to be chocolate, although it comes in many varieties such as dark, extra dark, fudge, milk, etc. And the names seem to be as creative as the flavors. Learning them is like Intro to Italian I.

Gelato 2

Gelato 2 (Photo credit: minonda)

So, whatever your palate, there is always one flavor to please…in fact, probably several.  Thanks, Grandpa!

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And of course, don’t worry if it starts to drip a bit. Besides tasting great, gelato is always finger licking good!

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Gelato anyone?

Ciao,

Judy

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