Articles by: G. M.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    What a Story! The Italian Way to Say ‘I LOVE You’

    In Italy, the indisputable star of Valentine’s Day is the Baci (or “kisses” in Italian) by Perugina, the leading confectionary manufacturer based in San Sisto, Umbria. This famous hazelnut and chocolate praline made history by becoming the symbol of every love story all around the world. And when “love is in the air,” Baci is right there, ready to make your romantic moments unforgettable. But few people know that behind this small piece of chocolate there is a great woman who, incidentally, was also a renowned stylist: Luisa Spagnoli. This is her story. 

    In 1922, Luisa Spagnoli, the wife of Perugina co-founder Annibale Spagnoli and a committed

    advocate for environmental protection, came up with the brilliant idea of using the company’s leftover chopped hazelnuts to create a new recipe. She kneaded the granola, covered it in chocolate, and placed inside it the one ingredient that makes Baci so unique—one whole hazelnut.  

    The praline was initially dubbed “cazzotto” (punch) for its shape, which resembles a clenched fist. But, as Perugina’s other co-founder Giovanni Buitoni once said, who would ever enter a store and ask for a “punch”? So the name was changed and Baci was born. Another fundamental contribution to the success of Baci by Perugina came from the company’s art director, Federico Seneca, who created the packaging: a silver wrapper with blue stars and letters, and a box picturing a kissing couple inspired by Francesco Hayez’s famous painting The Kiss.  

    From then on, Baci became the sweetest and most popular symbol of romantic love, not only for its unique taste but also thanks to a shrewd marketing strategy. Ads played a large part in Perugina’s success. In the ‘50s the slogan was “Wherever there is love, there is Baci.” In the 2000s, it became “Say it with a Bacio.” In the U.S., where the first Perugina store opened in 1939 on 5th Avenue in New York City, the slogan was “Say ‘I Love You’ The Italian Way.”

    But the stroke of marketing genius that makes Baci truly unique is the love note that accompanies every one of these delicious chocolates, famous quotations taken from books, poems, or songs all dealing with love and kisses. It’s become a ritual to read the message you find inside before savoring the chocolate.   

    And I bet you didn’t know another interesting thing about these love notes. Federico Seneca was inspired by a real love story; rumor has it that Luisa Spagnoli and Giovanni Buitoni were lovers, and the two used to send each other secret notes wrapped around the chocolates!

    Today, Baci are among the best-known chocolates in the world. You can find them everywhere. As the commercial says, it’s the Italian way to say “I love you”— on Valentine’s Day and every day!

  • Life & People

    Eat, Make Jokes and Dress Up...It's Carnival!


    Carnival is usually celebrated in countries of catholic tradition during the period right before Lent.

    Its etymology comes probably from the latin “carnem levare,” which means “removing the meat,” indicating the observance of the catholic rule of abstaining oneself from eating meat during the 6 weeks before Easter. Traditionally, over 40 consecutive days, people were not allowed to consume rich foods – meat, dairy or sweets- nor alcoholic beverages.

    Their consumption before Lent became over the years an annual celebration know, indeed, as the Carnival feast, in which every sort of queerness is permitted like, for instance, wear eccentric costumes, make funny jokes, eat, drink and just have a good time

    In Italy we have always had a huge carnival tradition. We might not have the razzle-dazzle of Rio De Janeiro but trust me, we are as good as Brazilians when it comes to celebrate this festivity.

    Every region of the Peninsula has its own way to celebrate this event and its own typical foods that go with the cheerful and happy spirit of such feast.

    However, when you talk about Carnival in Italy,you immediately think about the Venice Carnival, in the Veneto region, whose origins go back a little after the year 1000 a.C.

    Known for being one of the most antiques in the world, the Carnival of Venice goes down in history for its amazing masks and costumes, used traditionally by the nobility of the “Serenissima (as it was called the Republic of Venice)” who wanted to offer to the Venetians moments of entertainment and excessive party leveling off, through elegant masks, any kind of class inequality.

    Original Venetian masks are made by hand by artisans whose techniques were transmitted from generation to generation and they are made using refined materials such as leather, porcelain and blown glass (a typical technique of this city.)

    During a period of 10 days, through the “calli” of this beautiful city, you are continuously projected into a sort of theatrical representation of happiness and playfulness. Everyone is dressed up to celebrate the charm of a world made of balls, jokes of every kind, romantic and mysterious encounters and exclusive parties. Very typical of the Venetian Carnival is the “flight of the angel” in the famous San Marco Square, an event that every year attracts thousands of people from all over the globe.

    Another Carnival feast is worth mentioning is the Viareggio Carnival, in Tuscany, one of the most appreciated Italian celebrations and more than 100 years old. This feast is renowned all over the world for its spectacular float parades, handmade by local artisans who dedicate months and months trying to build the most extraordinary one among the many colored and extravagant floats you can see “marching” in the streets during this period.

    A historical turning point for the Carnival of Viareggio occurred in 1921 with the introduction of papier-mache which, much lighter and cheaper, replaced other heavy materials in the construction of the floats. This innovative material has permitted the building of colossal structures, with more daring designs and movements.

    Besides the carnival traditions we can find traveling through the Peninsula (and that would need a much longer article if I had to mention them all) there is more genuine, popular and childish to celebrate Carnival.

    It consists in simpler games and jokes that people use to do outdoors like, for example, suds battles or throw confetti and streamers in the streets. All these are the perfect occasion for children and adults to have fun and enjoy the joyful atmosphere of this kind of popular tradition.

    But do not forget to eat since it’s the last chance, before Lent, to have every kind of delicacies: “frittelle,” “frappe” or “crostoli” or “chiacchere” and castagnole  (as they have different names depending on the region). And don’t worry if you are not able to start a diet after eating all these gluttonies, if you follow the tradition, you will have to, no matter what!

  • Facts & Stories

    AC Milan Meets Their NYC Fans

    The famous Italian soccer team AC Milan landed in New York City, ready to start the International Champions Cup Tour, playing across the US and Canada. While in the Big Apple, the Rossoneri also met their fans inside an exceptional location: the Adidas Store at 610 Broadway. This brief stop to present their new team jersey, made hundreds of their fans, who stood in line since early in the morning in front of the store, very happy.

    The hot summer temperatures didn’t stop anyone from being there to see the soccer team. Adults and kids wearing  Milan’s jerseys and holding cameras in anticipation to see their favorite players, get their autographs and why not, maybe also take a “selfie” to post immediately on Facebook and make their friends jealous.

    i-Italy, of course could not miss this event, especially since some of us are AC Milan fans! (Excluding our Editor in Chief, who supports the Roma team and she’ll be happy that I made that clear!)

    When coach Filippo Inzaghi and his team arrived at the Adidas Store on Broadway, the fans welcomed them with a lot of enthusiasm and affection. The second floor of the store had been set up for the autograph signing session and interviews by the international press, which also attended the event.

    i-Italy asked some of the AC Milan players how does it feel to be here in the US.

    “We are very excited to be here,” said Jérémy Ménez, forward and centerfield who will be starting his first season at AC Milan. “It’s gonna be a great tour throughout the two countries and it would be nice to win it!”

    “This tour in the US and Canada means a lot to the team because it will prepare us to face the next season, which we expect to be better than the last one” affirmed Mattia De Sciglio, defender of the team.

    We also wanted to know from the players what did they think about American soccer teams, whose level has really increased over the years and they demonstrated it during the World Cup in Brazil.

    “I am sure the level of American soccer teams will increase,” said Ménez. “Moreover, now they will have great players like Kaka and maybe Robinho, so we’ll see what will happen.”

    Among the fans who were at the Adidas Store to meet the AC Milan players, we were surprised to see that there were a lot of Americans. Soccer is not very popular in the US compared to basketball or football. However, especially after the World Cup in Brazil, Americans became more passionate about soccer.

    “I think American soccer is starting to improve, even though there is still a long way to go before it reaches the level of Italian, Spanish or German soccer” said one of the fans after having collected all the autographs of the AC Milan team.

    “More and more people are getting now into soccer here, it’s a good thing. It’s a world game,” said another one.

    At the end of the event, the team said goodbye to their fans and left the Adidas Store to go first for a brief training in Long Island and then off to JFK airport. Destination? Canada, where the AC Milan met its first rival of the International Champions Tour.

  • Art & Culture

    “Non-School” Program at La Scuola d’Italia

    Teatro delle Albe is one of the most important theater companies in Italy and abroad. Founded in 1983 in Ravenna by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari, it became a leading institution in its field, combining the principles of classical theater with innovative forms of artistic expression. During the months of January and February, the company will be performing its show Rumore di Acque (Noise in the Waters) in New York and elsewhere the US.

    Teatro delle Albe’s enormous success is due not only to its performances but also to its original “non-school” educational program, based on creative theater workshops

    for students of different educational backgrounds. “Non-School” means doing theater together, and comes from the idea that acting cannot be taught, but it is a game we all play together, actors and audience. While in New York, Teatro delle Albe is staging a series of events involving middle, high school and college students, with the special participation of students from La Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi of New York. Founded in 1977 by the Italian Ministry

    of Foreign Affairs, La Scuola d’Italia is a unique institution that provides a bilingual education rooted in both Italian and American curricula.

    Since its inception, the school has been committed to integrating its students in a multicultural environment fostering international education through an intense academic program including both classical and scientific studies. Besides its challenging curricular activities, La Scuola d’Italia also offers its students a wide range of extracurricular activities in collaboration with several cultural institutions all over the world. “Teatro delle Albe, and Marco Martinelli in particular, had the great idea to create a theater for children. Every year, students participate in these theater workshops with the so called non-school that have become very popular abroad,” explains Anna Fiore, Preside of La Scuola d’Italia. “I have been collaborating with Teatro delle Albe for more than 10 years. This year we wanted to be part of the project in occasion of the show that Teatro delle Albe is putting on at the La MaMa Experimental Theater of New York,” says Fiore.

    In fact, along with the performance of Rumore di Acque at the MaMa, the project has also planned theater workshops that involve the students of La Scuola d’Italia. Students will perform Mayakovsky’s Heresy of Happiness on February 11 at 6pm. “Grosups of students will perform the text in a very creative way,” says Ms. Fiore. “We will also include some literature about immigration and poems from Robert Viscusi’s Ellis Island in order to establish a connection between Rumore di Acque and the workshops for children and teenagers.”* Along with La Scuola D’Italia, students from the UNIS School, the Corpus Christi Catholic School, and Montclair State University will participate in the special event in collaboration with IACE.   

    * Our video reportage on this event is coming soon on i-ItalyTV. Stay tuned!