Italy is full of charming traditions. Many of them stem from a sense of community that feels a bit lost here in our big cities but is still very much alive in Italian homes. It feels almost like going back in time, back to good and simple days when life was not so rushed.
Growing up in the South, food was a big deal. Food, Coke-a-Cola, and sweet tea. A trip to Granny’s house always began with, “What can I get you to drink, sugar?” “Can I fix you a sandwich?” “How about some ice cream?” Whatever the answer, no one was getting out of that house without food, a cold drink, and sitting down to chat for a while!
How often in today’s society do we find that friends are too busy to have a real conversation? That we’re all too caught up in the rat race to have a good time? That we’ve grown so attached to our smartphones and social media that we forget how to actually be social? Hospitality is becoming harder and harder to find, and harder and harder to offer. How refreshing, when you do experience it!
It is this art of hospitality that Italians have mastered, maybe better than anywhere else in the world. Hospitality is still very much alive in Italy.
In Tuscany, it is customary to always have a bottle of delicious dessert wine called Vin Santo (Holy Wine) and biscotti ready to offer guests, announced or otherwise. The name is a bit mysterious, as are many in Italy, but one theory is that this wine was originally used in Mass and Holy celebrations. Another is that it was fermented around Holy Week.
Vin Santo is a bit complicated to produce, and it is often found in very small productions. Not meant to bring fame or fortune, its sole purpose is to be enjoyed, preferably with friends and family. Simply to enhance the experience of life.
The wine is quite sweet and pairs nicely with dry, crunchy biscotti. You can find them plain, with almonds, with chocolate, and the list goes on.
Biscotti’s dry texture is perfect for soaking up the flavors of the wine. It is perfect as dessert, of course, but I love this tradition of opening the door to guests and serving them a special treat.
Life in Tuscany is not about being rushed, it is about moments shared with family and friends, old and new. This tradition is so sweet to me because it shows that neighbors there still stop by for a chat, a little snack, a shared moment of wine and friendship.
Smiling at the thought of that? Why not embrace it in your own home? Why not be the home that welcomes friends to stop by and visit? It is quite easy, really.
Try a box of Mia Emilia’s Almond & Chocolate Chip Biscotti, made in Montemiletto, in the province of Avellino which is in the Campania region of southern Italy. It’s always nice to know where your food comes from! To compliment it, a bottle of Vin Santo slightly chilled (you can order some if you can’t find it at your local wine store, just be sure to do your research first on the producer).
Next time guests stop by your house, take a moment to truly be present with them. Put down the phone. Serve them a little treat and sit down to enjoy one yourself. Give their friendship the time it deserves.
It is no wonder that Italy is constantly topping lists of the happiest or healthiest countries in the world. Part of that is, of course, the quality of the foods they eat. Part of it is walking. Perhaps the biggest factor, however, is that they are never willing to rush time spent with loved ones.
Is there anything in the world that warms our hearts like the company of those we love gathered around a table?