As high schools across the US begin party planning for the Prom, are some of you wondering whether students in Italy celebrate the end of their high school careers with the major social event of the school year? Are $800.00 dresses and oversized limos part of the experience or are Fiat 500’s and Italian sprezzatura more likely to be part of the big night.
Yes and No. In the Italian tradition, graduating students attend a dinner with their class, called the Cena Dei Cento Giorni (Hundred Days Dinner), 100 days before the final exams. Sometimes the dinner is held at a restaurant ending the evening at the local disco or a day trip with fellow classmates is planned.
Nothing as formal, organized, Zac Efron inspired or as Disney-teen as what we do in America. But recently a group of students in the Italian city of Urbino in the rolling hills of the Marche decided to plan an Italian version of an American Prom and the results were typically Italian and their comments about this coming of age American institution interesting.
See an Italian high school student and Prom Committee Member talk about his first Italian Prom.
Scientists have found that sparkling wine (i.e French champagne , Spanish Cava and Prosecco from Italy’s Veneto) are packed with polyphenols, plant chemicals (commonly found in heart-healthy reds) that helps to widen blood vessels, easing the strain on the heart and brain. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition mentions the particular benefits of polyphenol antioxidants, which are believed to slow down the removal of nitric oxide from the blood, lowering blood pressure and therefore reducing the risk of heart problems and strokes and the effects of cell-damaging free radicals in the body.
Italians are so much more sophisticated about what they drink. They are intelligent drinkers, preferring lightly alcoholic drinks and always pairing the drink to the food so that one compliments the other. There is reason why the food of Tuscany goes well with a Chianti or a Brunello and a reason one never drinks a cappuccino after 12 o’clock noon. There are sequences of activities in the diurnal rhythms of the Italian day. Rituals where form follows function and function creates a sense of well-being that all other cultures aspire to.
The ritual of the Italian aperitivo, the pre-dinner drink, that “opens your stomach” and gets your digestive juices flowing is designed so you can fully enjoy your upcoming meal. The habit of taking an aperitivo in the evening before a meal is enormously popular in Italy. The low alcohol content and dry or even bitter rather than sweet flavor of Italian aperitivi are perfect accompaniments to an Italian amuse bouche. Drinks like prosecco, Aperol, vermouth, a Venetian spritz or the bitter-sweet, red herbal Campari are part of the typical Italian aperitivo hour, an after work ritual that offers a moment of relaxation at the end of a day where you go for a pre-dinner drink to nibble and nip and socialize with your friends.
And as the evening draws to a close and you’ve had a meal once served to popes and princes, your after dinner espresso is followed by a drink known as a digestivo ( sometimes referred to as an amazzacaffe – “coffee killer” for the fact that you take it after you’ve had your after dinner espresso). Digestivi are after dinner drinks to help you digest your meal. Drinks like Averna, Strega, Limoncello and Grappa are much-appreciated by Italians for their digestive properties. Mixtures of herbs, roots, barks, flowers and spices, Italian digestivi are traditionally known for their restorative properties. There are over 300 different kinds of after dinner digestive drinks Italians have concocted over the centuries. Today’s medical mixologists are using their flavors and digestive properties to create modern elixirs with a renewed popularity. So much so that many are now standard drinks at most international bars and restaurants.
“At times, it really does seem like Italy has more grape varieties than it knows what to do with”. . . Ian D’Agata
Yes Italy is blessed with more than 500 different indigenous grape varieties and one found my name. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Our family name (Marasco) is derived from the Marasca cherry, a type of Morello cherry cultivated in northern Italy near the border of Croatia and in Dalmatia. A favored fruit in Italy (Maraschino liquor is made from Marasca cherries), the rich, tart berry flavor has been preserved in jellies and jams and are nothing like the bright cherry bombs you find in bar cocktails.
Although the variety is native to central Asia, the cherries have a long historical association with Italy;Dalmatia at times being an Italian territory and having numbers of Italian inhabitants.
Several Barolo DOCG wines from Piemonte have benefited from the fruity aroma of the marasca cherry including our namesake – the Franco Martinetti Marasco Barolo.
Described as “intense; barely revealing promising fragrances yet to unravel” its vinography reads like a 30 Shades sequel – “this wine is as warm as a women who has just made love; opulent and sensual”, better as time goes by with a “long and bewitching finish”. I’m thinking I may have found my wine muse.