Here in northern Italy, rice is king. Rice has been cultivated in the Po Valley since the Middle Ages. So it is no surprise that risotto is a staple dish in these parts. I have loved risotto for years and even before moving to Italy, risotto was a regular staple at our family dinners. Risotto is usually served as a “Primo” (first course) dish which is followed by a meat or poultry second course but it can also be served as a main dish. Since moving here, I have seen and tasted a myriad of risotto dishes, everything from lobster to blueberry risottos. The flavors and combination of ingredients seem endless.
Back in January I visited one of my favorite churches in Milan, Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (Basilica of Saint Ambrose). I love exploring churches in Milan. Everyone knows that Milan’s iconic church is the Duomo, but few realize there are so many historic, beautiful churches in the city. As a Protestant, I especially like learning about early church history and there is lots to learn here. Milan’s history is long and rich and its Christian roots are some of the oldest in the world. Saint Ambrose, who was the bishop of Milan in the fourth century, built the church on the site of what was believed to be the graves of martyrs.
UPDATE: On Saturday, May 16th the Italian government announced that travel restrictions will be lifted on June 3. This announcement came as a surprise to many, including me, who expected tourism to be pushed out into late summer (see original post below). In an effort to save the tourist season, the government will allow tourists to enter the country without having to observe a 14 day quarantine. Good news, right? It is, indeed but there’s a catch. The lifting of travel restrictions only applies to those visiting from the European Union, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino. As for when tourists from other countries can visit without the mandatory 14 day quarantine, it’s a bit unclear. The European Union has a ban on foreign tourism until June 15. If that ban is lifted and not extended then Non-European tourists will, most likely, be allowed to visit.
One thing I’ve learned about Italians is that they love tuna. In Italy tuna is used in countless ways – in pasta, pizza, piadini, panini and much more. I still haven’t warmed up to the idea of tuna on pizza. I haven’t tried it so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
After nearly 10 weeks of lockdown, we are nearly at the end of Phase 1. Tomorrow Phase 2 begins here in Italy. The entire country is ready to have a little more freedom, putting the worst behind us and moving forward. You can read about what Phase 2 will look like in my previous post. As we enter into the new phase, here’s what I’ll remember:
I love shrimp but I have yet to embrace the Italian way of eating shrimp. Most of the time, here in Italy, shrimp is served intact. I’ve watched with deep admiration as Italians artfully dismember the little creatures as they eat them. I really have tried to learn this skill but, sadly, I end up embarrassing myself and making a mess. Not artful at all. I suppose I need more practice.
Last night, Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, explained to all of Italy what life will look like as we enter into Phase 2 of containment measures. Phase 1 of the lockdown ends next week on May 4 and for several weeks now, many have been asking and wondering when the details of Phase 2 would be revealed. Although the new measures are a bit vague on some details, one thing is very sure and that is the continued enforcement of social distancing in every area of public life. The new phase is laid out in a 70 page document released last night. Here are the highlights:
Like so many others, during quarantine, I’ve made an effort to create a rhythm to daily life for my family. I try to find ways to enjoy simple pleasures. One of the ways I’ve sought to do that is making our meals special. Whether it’s trying new recipes, perfecting favorite dishes, or having fun with the table setting, making mealtimes an event helps us to look forward to something pleasurable, something that brings us comfort. There’s a reassuring comfort in a favorite dish and excitement in trying something new. I love that around 2 p.m. every afternoon my youngest son asks the same question, “What’s for dinner?” It makes me giggle because it’s evident he’s anticipating and thinking of what’s to come.