Travel, Art, Food & Italian Inspiration
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Portichetto Blu: Design Inspiration from Architectural Continuity
The artisans of Modigliani have repeatedly been inspired by the tremendous architecture of Italy which has translated into the ceramic dinnerware and accessories they create. We are thrilled with their latest inspiration taken directly from the portichetto of Italy in their newest collection, Portichetto Blu.
In Italy, a portichetto is a long open yet covered walkway that connects to a building—where one side is attached to the building exterior itself, and the other side faces the open air revealing the view. In English, we refer to this architectural element as cloisters or arcades.
Besides being a respite from disagreeable weather, portichetto are typically designed with repeating arches and columns, often integrating ornate patterns and embellishments that bring symmetry to the flow and frame the vista with artistic composition. The intention is to welcome you in, keep you close, and engage you with community.
Across Italy, you typically see these cloisters attached to churches, monasteries, museums, and as part of other public structures or venues.
Some famous and recognizable examples include the very large Piazza San Marco in Venice. This mecca of tourism is surrounded by long stretches of portichetto providing protection to the thousands of shoppers and diners that walk its halls daily. The perfectly lined archways on the adjacent Doge Palace point skyward to a second story of walkways, making it a stunning example of how practicality and innovative design marry into enduring architectural form. The gentle patterns and scallops in our Portichetto Blu Oval Platter brilliantly mirror the harmony of the ceilings and flooring of the Doge portichetto, with repetitive soft arches and spiraled curvature.
The repetition in the narrow cutouts and pattern of the Portichetto Blu Round Serving Bowl, Oval Bowl, Dinner Plate, and Mug offer a sharp parallelism to the progression and pointed arches of the Cathedral Monreale overlooking Palermo, Sicily. The clean lines pair magically with the subtle curves, just as our newest collection has achieved.
In Florence there are massive portichetto surrounding the long narrow courtyard which connects the two wings of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most visited galleries in the world. Visitors line the walkways for a chance to walk the venues largest collection of Renaissance art and to stand where it has been said that the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo once gathered for recreation, conversation, and for work.
We love this idea that these stunning structures were then, and still are, the center for coming together in community, collaboration, and discussion. And that’s exactly how we see our new collection. We hope that the inspiration of the many portichetto all across Italy elicits the same spirit of connection, conversation, community, and the sharing of new ideas and great food.
We’d love to hear what you think about our latest addition to the Modigliani family. Can you picture your table filled with these distinct pieces—vessels for your famous antipasti platter or a mound of cacio e pepe pasta and a hunk of warm and crusty bread?
Check out the full collection here and get your family and friends to the table for some memorable connection time.
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- the zest and juice from 1 lemon
- the zest and juice from 1 orange
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
The Camogli Fish Festival: Fish, Frying Pans, and Fireworks!
One fish, two fish, red fish, fried fish. Well, if you’re in Camogli, it’s fried fish. And lots of it.
Camogli is a stunning seaside village in the Liguria region of Italy. The Camogli Fish Festival, or La Sagra del Pesce in Camogli, began during World War II as a dedication to St. Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen. Each year on the second Sunday in May, in the Piazza Colombo near the marina, tourists and town folk alike flood the plaza for some of the tastiest fried fish delectables…and they’re free!
Besides the draw of free food, you won’t want to miss the center of attention – a giant frying pan that weighs 28 tons, is just over 13 feet in diameter, and has a handle, get this, of almost 20 feet long!
For the better part of the day, locals fry up over 30,000 dishes, which includes about 3 tons of fresh fish and about 800 gallons of oil. I wonder how they clean the pan once their done?
A few days before the giant fish free-for-all, visitors gather to enjoy live music to ease into the weekend festivities. The next day, their marina is host to fresh markets and food stalls where visitors can sample all the fresh local produce and cuisine. Later in the evening you can play witness to a traditional religious procession followed by some spectacular fireworks displayed over the waterfront.
After all the sparks and flash are over, locals partake in another interesting tradition. Residents from two of the Camogli districts, Porto and Pinetto, engage in a bit of a competition. Large bonfires are ignited by a firewire that descends from a nearby church steeple, onto the beach where wooden and paper sculptures await, each year with a different theme. The day before, local residents fill these massive structures with items they want to get rid of, like old furniture, wood remnants, or anything else that will safely burn bright. No worries, the fire brigade is close at hand managing and maintaining with a regular dousing from a firehose.
The next day, Sunday, May 13th this year, the fish festival officially kicks off with a blessing of the giant pan, and by noon the frying frenzy begins!
All of this fishy fabulousness has us thinking about summer getaways and beachside picnics.
As we finally get ready to shed the last of the cooler temperatures, we relish starting to plan the first big outdoor spread with family and friends. Putting some of our finest summer ceramic dinnerware at the center of our seaside table décor, we mix it up with items from our Mediterraneo, Panarea, and Porto Venere collections. Just because we’re dining al fresco is no reason not to make the event a special experience. Forgo the paper plates and plastic forks and incorporate a bit of beauty that ensures your guests feel as special as the moment.
How do you like to adorn your seaside table setting? Is it blankets and baskets or popup tables and a beautiful table setting? Is fried fish on the menu or do you have other traditions that conjure up ocean views and summer fun?
No matter how you spend your summer moments, we hope they are filled with the special people in your lives and, of course, good food and wine, and maybe a bit of Italian travel.
Camogil Image Credit: nevio doz
Peach Croissant Pudding with Maple Sauce
This is a delightful treat! The fluffy interiors and buttery layers of croissants add rich flavor and light texture to bread pudding.
- butter for baking dish
- 6 large eggs
- 4 c. half-and-half
- 1 c. granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 8 large bakery croissants
- 1 can peaches
- 3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
- 1 c. pepitas
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1 c. whipping cream
- 1/2 c. maple syrup
- powdered sugar for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 3-quart baking dish; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, granulated sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
3.Tear croissants apart into bite-size pieces; place pieces in prepared baking dish. Add peaches; toss to mix. Pour egg mixture evenly over the top. Let soak for 8 to 10 minutes, pushing croissant pieces down into liquid so each piece is soaked.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and pepitas. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of croissant mixture.
5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. If desired, sift with powdered sugar just before serving.
6. For maple sauce, in a small saucepan combine whipping cream, 1/4 cup brown sugar and maple syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Remove from heat. Serve over warm bread pudding.
Italian Christmas Markets Create the Magic of the Season
When most of us think about the Christmas markets, we tend to conjure images of the German influenced Christkindlmarkets. You can find one of these during the holiday season in most major U.S. cities as well as across Europe. However, Italy also has it’s own magical markets known as Mercatino di Natale.
The markets of Italy are also grounded in German and Austrian roots, but Italians have adopted this tradition and made it their own.
Typically much smaller, and by default, more intimate than their German counterparts, Italian Christmas markets are quintessentially community events. These street markets are commonly open for business as the Advent is ushered in, and close out in line with the Epiphany in early January. They are a festive and fun way to introduce yourself to an area, while sampling the local delicacies, and supporting resident artists and artisans.
Christmas markets are structured much the same, but creative twists on decoration, lighting, themes, foods, and even activities can make certain markets more popular. Generally you’ll find the holiday market in a central location within a town or city. Officials will reserve locations such as large piazzas where locals and tourists alike come to socialize and open space is at a plenty. Streets are lined with small wooden huts or tents where various merchants bring their best representation of local goods and fare.
Market organizers will play to the senses with spectacular light shows, festive Christmas music, and the aroma of food and drink wafting through the air. If you’re lucky, there’s a merchant with a full cart of freshly roasted chestnuts and another with a hot cup of vin brulé, or mulled wine. Incorporating grand carousels and towering Christmas trees in the center of it all, organizing workshops and family games, all aimed at enhancing the social experience for every visitor.
Whether you’re looking for the best in shopping, or a food lovers paradise, or simply a fantastic evening for the entire family to enjoy, one of the many Christmas markets of Italy has what you need.
If it’s the food that’s driving your interest, the Bolzano market in South Tyrol is a good start. It’s one of the largest markets in Italy and mirrors the German markets with foods like apple strudel and hot biscuits. The medieval setting makes it truly a unique experience. In Florence, they too host a German influenced market filled with bratwurst and more, but also incorporate the Italian market for a cultural balance.
When you need to get the Christmas shopping done and are looking for something unique, markets like the Marché Vert Noël in Aosta fit the bill. One of the most popular markets in Northern Italy, this small town converts into an Alpine village and hosts more than 40 chalets filled with handmade gifts, food, wine, and more.
Venice also has a quaint market with the perfect opportunity to purchase hand-blown glass and lace from the nearby Murano and Burano Islands. Or you can score a few of the beautiful carnival masks for a truly unique gift.
Other popular markets are in Trento with more than 70 traditional huts selling merchandise, and in Turin where crafts and gourmet products are presented from 14 Italian regions and 8 foreign countries. Genoa hosts more than 100 artisans from all over Italy, and Naples is famous for their handcrafted precepi, or nativity scenes.
If you’re looking for a memorable family experience, numerous Christmas markets attract visitors far and wide because of their unique decorations and family activities.
In Le Marché, they are known as the medieval candle market. They periodically shut off all of their lamps all over town and then ignite only candles instead, a bewitching and captivating sight.
The Mountain Christmas in idyllic Selva in Val Gardena installs an old fashioned cable car of miniature wooden cabins that can be found hanging high above their magical Christmas village each year. Grab a cup of mulled wine and enjoy the direct connection to the legendary ski tour Sellaronda, with its 500 kilometers of perfectly prepared slopes.
Places like Rome host several markets, but the most famous in the Piazza Navona takes on a different theme for their market each year. You’ll see spectacular lights, enjoy live music, and marvel at the street performers and acrobats. The entire market bustles with tourists, vendor stalls, a carousel, and festive balloons.
Merano’s market goes all out. The kids will never get bored with activities like pony rides, parades, ice skating, and carriage rides. And in Pisa, their market is solely designed for the kids in mind with the Father Christmas Factory, or Fabbrica di Babbo Natale.
Across Italy, the Christmas markets host thousands and present a truly magical experience like no other. Enchanting small towns and bustling big cities alike, these special markets are an enriching way to experience the greatest Italy has to offer.
While we hope all of our followers will some day be able to experience a Christmas market in Italy for themselves, we also hope each of you will take advantage of the markets in your own local communities by attending one today. The fairytale settings will captivate and delight, awakening the Christmas spirit in us all – young and old.
Christmas in Italy: Creating joyful traditions with the kids in your life
It’s finally December and the spirit of the holiday season is getting in to full swing here in the U.S. For most of us, Thanksgiving officially kicks off the festivities, and for some, it even begins as early as Halloween. But no matter when your family traditionally welcomes the season, it’s a magical and wondrous time for the little ones in our lives.
Ask anyone you know and they’ll probably be able to spout out one tradition that their family has had or continues during the holiday season. While the origins of this special time are based on religious and spiritual beliefs, many traditions celebrated are born from families creating memories in their own way and then sustained for years to come. It’s something that brings us together in familiarity and comfort.
Italians also understand this and base many of their traditions on bringing family together and creating a meaningful experience their children will remember and share for the rest of their lives. They also celebrate within their own cultural timeline.
Italians may begin their winter holiday a little later than us, but they also extend the celebration well into January, creating massive excitement and extended anticipation for kids across the country.
The season typically begins on December 8 with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. This is a national holiday with significant importance to the Roman Catholic Church, and also the official day when most put up their holiday decorations and Christmas trees. It’s a spectacle to behold with sights, sounds, and smells to heighten the senses of holiday revelers young and old.
In the Novena, or eight days before Christmas, streets are filled with carolers singing traditional songs. In Rome and other locations, you will see the zampognari or bagpipe players who travel from the nearby Abruzzi Mountains to play throughout the streets for the local children. At the same time, piazzas across Italy are enveloped with beautiful lights and decorations, including artisanal handmade presepi, or nativity scenes. You’d be hard pressed not to find one in any city or town.
Other Italian traditions include skipping meat on Christmas Eve as a way to purify their bodies for Christmas Day, often replaced with grand feasts and multiple courses of beautiful seafood instead. While many end the day with Midnight Mass, there are also those brave ones who ski down the Dolomites at the strike of midnight carrying torches to welcome Christmas – an incredible sight to behold.
Christmas Day of course is filled with large meals, loads of family and friends, and glorious Italian foods, including the traditional dessert of panettone, a sweet bread loaf filled with candied fruit and raisins that children love.
The feasting and celebration continues into the New Year, but comes to a crescendo January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas and the Day of the Epiphany.
The night before, large meals are once again shared with family and friends to mark the end of the season, and La Befana, a witch who flies on her broom and brings good children treats and bad children coal, delivers her gifts and goodies.
We delight in and appreciate all of the holiday traditions of Italy and hope that all of our followers are able to continue their own family traditions, or start some new ones. Focusing ideas and activities around the children in our lives is a great place to start, and often means these traditions are carried forward for generations to come.
We’d like to help by offering tips and ideas for the table – more specifically, the children’s table.
Rather than setting up a small card table or relegating the little ones to a counter with stools, make their meal memorable by creating something colorful and unique to mark the occasion. Kids notice these things and love when they are singled out with something special just for them. And if you turn it into a tradition, they have something to look forward to each year.
Our children’s table shown here uses our bright and cheerful POP collection. Use these pieces as a backdrop for anything you’d want to add to make it even more festive for the kids. Involving them as much as possible in the party and the preparation makes it special for everyone!
Consider a few of these ideas to get your creativity flowing and to start some new family traditions.
- Let kids create an ornament or other fun craft to designate their spot at the table.
- Make a gingerbread house centerpiece and plan to decorate it together earlier in the day.
- Ask each child to bring a dozen of their favorite decorated Christmas cookies for the whole family to enjoy.
- Provide a special holiday dish just for them to have at their table. Maybe a frozen cranberry reindeer or Christmas tree crudité.
- Provide an age appropriate table game like holiday trivia questions with a prize for the most correct answers, Christmas bingo, I Spy, or place a number under a plate later to be drawn for a prize. You could even fill a large clear vessel with candy and each child guesses the amount inside. When the meal is over they can count the contents and closest to the number wins a prize.
- Lay out crayons or markers and a butcher paper tablecloth for creative drawings or thoughtful messages throughout the meal.
- Place several disposable or digital cameras at the table and let the kids get creative with special shots from their point of view. Share the images in the coming days so everyone has something to look forward to.
- Place pens and paper on the table and have each child write a few sentences that later get compiled into one story. Share the story with the family after dinner. Have them get creative and as silly as they like, these can be the best stories.
- Share with us your favorites. What does your family do for the holidays? Do they plan something special just for the kids? Let us know your favorite traditions.
No matter what you have planned this season, we hope you all are lucky enough to spend just a small bit of time seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child and creating new traditions and memories for years to come. The pure joy, laughter, and whimsy children evoke is the most simple yet poignant way we can think to embrace and celebrate the season.