Golden Focaccia Genovese

When travelling to Liguria, in addition to the beautiful sea and warm sunshine, visitors will surely take notice of a ubiquitous treat enjoyed by locals as breakfast, an appetizer, or a snack throughout the day: focaccia. Though many varieties exist in Italy, the most traditional and delicious iteration of focaccia has its home in Liguria. Focaccia genovese, a golden flatbread with a fluffy center and a crisp crust, is considered to be the simplest variety of focaccia, but also the richest. Authentic focaccia genovese is one to two centimeters thick, is only seasoned with coarse salt and a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and is covered with characteristic holes that serve as pockets to trap the delicious oil.

The historical origins of focaccia are quite ancient. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all used barley, rye, or millet flour to bake flatbreads over flames similar to the modern process of baking focaccia. The word focaccia itself derives from the Latin word focus, which means “hearth” and “fireplace”. In ancient Rome, focaccia was considered to be such a rich delicacy that is was often offered as a gift to the gods. During the Renaissance, focaccia was enjoyed with wine and other treats as part of wedding celebrations. Legend has it that since these celebrations occurred in church, focaccia eventually became a popular treat during funerals too. This tradition was quickly put to an end by a local bishop as it was deemed too joyous for such somber occasions. In addition, the portable, delicious flatbread was typically considered the food of travelers and fishermen up until modern times.

Though several regions in Italy produce their own variations of focaccia, the Liguria region is considered to be the traditional home of this tasty bread. Here, focaccia is accompanied by coffee for a typical Genoese breakfast or by a small glass of wine for a midmorning snack. In addition to the focaccia from Genoa, the cheese-filled focaccia di Recco is quite popular as well. This simple focaccia composed of very thin unleavened crust filled with fresh stracchino cheese that melts as the focaccia bakes in a wood oven. This type of focaccia is such a local delicacy that it was granted IGP status by the European Union, meaning that authentic focaccia di Recco can only be made in the town of Recco.
Traditionally, focaccia made in northern Italy was usually brushed with lard or butter during the baking process, while focaccia made in Liguria and in southern Italy was, and continues to be, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil. The exact date of the origin of focaccia genovese is not known, but the oldest historical document that mentions this delicious Ligurian flatbread dates back to the year 1229. Focaccia di Recco, on the other hand, dates back to the 12th century and it is believed that its origin coincided with the Crusades.

Two additional varieties of focaccia are also quite popular in other parts of Italy. The first originates from the province of Bari and can be enjoyed throughout the Puglia region. This variety, focaccia barese, is quite unique for two reasons: boiled potatoes are added to the dough to make the focaccia even softer and it is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes. The second type is found in the province of Messina on the island of Sicily. Known as focaccia messinese, this variety has a thick, soft base that is topped with endive, diced tomatoes, anchovies, and cheese (usually tuma, though mozzarella can also be used). Other types of focaccia found in Italy are topped with a variety of other ingredients including rosemary, sage, onions, olives, salumi, cheeses, and other herbs and vegetables.

Though focaccia genovese may be considered simple compared the other varieties listed above, it is the high-quality ingredients and expert preparation that render focaccia genovese so incomparably delicious. Authentic focaccia genovese can only be made with finely ground type 00 flour, extra-virgin olive oil, and coarse salt. The key to focaccia’s unique taste rests in the baking process, which occurs in a wood-oven and brings all of the exquisite ingredients together. Truly, the best slice of focaccia is the one that has just been pulled out of the oven—nothing quite compares.

So the next time you find yourself in Liguria, be sure to enjoy some authentic focaccia genovese made with extra-virgin olive oil. We hope your slice is fresh out of the oven and perfectly golden!

A High-rise Forest in the Center of Milan

Busy cities are often referred to as “urban jungles”, but one of Milan’s modern high-rises gives a whole new meaning to this popular idiom thanks to some uncommon landscaping. In 2014, Italian architect Stefano Boeri unveiled his latest design in Milan’s rising Porta Nuova district; a skyscraper called Bosco Verticale. In English, Bosco Verticale means Vertical Forest, which is an appropriate name considering the construction is composed of two towers that between them incorporate more than 1,000 varieties of plants, shrubs, and trees. The buildings were born out of an ambitious and environmentally noble idea: creating sustainable living spaces that not only foster the natural environment of the city, but regenerate it.

Bosco Verticale’s two towers are of differing heights with the tallest measuring 360 feet and the shortest measuring 260 feet. Staggered balconies extend from every side of the towers to suspend 780 trees and 14,000 plants over the city. Each of the 113 living spaces in the complex includes a private garden with vegetation that not only serves to absorb carbon dioxide, but also to protect the space from dust particles, direct sunlight, harsh winds, and acoustic pollution. In addition, the views from the apartments are spectacular, providing panoramas of Milan, the outskirts of the city, and even the momentous Alps in the distance.

The location of the towers in the Porta Nuova district, near the center of Milan, is not a coincidence. The project aims not only to regenerate the Porta Nuova district, but to shift the planning of Milan’s city center towards a greener future. To aid in this vision, the parking areas for Bosco Verticale have been constructed underground in favor of a pedestrian and cycling area above them that spans 40 acres and features additional vegetation and public spaces. The location of the towers near normal skyscrapers also helps to aesthetically revolutionize the city’s skyline. Not only do the trees and plants of Bosco Verticale stand out amongst the city’s sea of grey, but their visual impact is dynamic; as the seasons change, so too will the buildings since the vegetation will adopt the distinct colors of each season.

Bosco Verticale won the International High-rise Award in 2014, an honor that recognizes the world’s most innovative and sustainable high-rises, which is granted every two years by the city of Frankfurt in conjunction with the German Architecture Museum. The Bosco Verticale design aims to be a new standard for sustainable buildings not only in Italy but throughout the world. Recently, Stefano Boeri announced that another tower in the style of Bosco Verticale, but with cedar trees, will be constructed in Lausanne, Switzerland. Currently, there are no plans to implement the design in other parts of Italy, but Parma, Siena, and Bolzano (considered to be three of Italy’s greenest cities) could be perfect candidates for the expansion of this architectural and environmental innovation.

When Are The Best Times To Travel To Italy?

The Best Times To Travel To Italy, Pisa, TuscanyThanks to the differing climate zones in various areas of the country, each month of the year provides an ideal Italian destination. Therefore, deciding when to travel to Italy depends almost exclusively upon one’s interests. Below are some tips regarding the best months to travel based on selected interests and regions. One thing to keep in mind is that the month of August is when much of the county experiences its hottest temperatures and most locals go on vacation, so expect many attractions and restaurants to be closed during this month. Continue reading "When Are The Best Times To Travel To Italy?"

About The St. Bernard Dog Breed & Their Life In The Mountains

Aosta_Valley_San_Bernardo_Mt_Cervino_blgMost of us love pets. They give us emotions, a lot of happiness throughout the day, and they make our return home sweeter every time. Dogs are considered dependable, and reliable. With a peaceful attitude and enormous proportions, the St. Bernard breed is the best example of these qualities. These dogs are known for helping people face difficult mountain paths and saving lives in the most extreme conditions. Continue reading "About The St. Bernard Dog Breed & Their Life In The Mountains"

Get Lost in the Mystery of Bomarzo Monster Park in Lazio

Bomarzo, Italy

The small town of Bomarzo, located in the province of Viterbo in the northern part of the Lazio region, hosts a unique site whose official names include “The Villa of Marvels” and “The Sacred Woods”, but it is more commonly referred to as “The Park of the Monsters”. This peculiar nickname stems from the large, unusual sculptures and statues made of peperino, local volcanic tuff, that can be found throughout the park. Continue reading "Get Lost in the Mystery of Bomarzo Monster Park in Lazio"

5 Things Tourists Should NOT Do in Venice while on Vacation

Venezia

Venice is a particular city with its own unwritten rules and local customs. Unfortunately most visitors are unaware of these practices, much to the annoyance of the Venetians. Therefore, keep these five tips in mind the next time you travel to Venice and not only will you feel more like a local, but the actual locals will thank you! Continue reading "5 Things Tourists Should NOT Do in Venice while on Vacation"

Italian Fun Facts: The Majestic Padovana Chicken

The Padovana chicken, also known as “Padovana dal gran ciuffo” (Padovana chicken with the great tuft), is an unusual breed of chicken found in the province of Padova in northern Italy. This chicken is known for its characteristic crest, with males having a long, curved crest and females having a shorter, more rounded crest. The origins of this particular chicken are disputed, but over time the breed has become emblematic of Padova and the surrounding area. Continue reading "Italian Fun Facts: The Majestic Padovana Chicken"

Consonno: an Abandoned City of Toys

ConsonnoFor most of its history, Consonno, located in the hills of Brianza, in the Lombardy region, was an agricultural town with a population that never surpassed 300 inhabitants. The town has its origins in the Middle Ages, but thanks to its remote location and only one road leading to the town’s entrance, Consonno never truly thrived. Despite this, an eccentric magnate named Count Mario Bagno saw a unique opportunity in this meek village.

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Gluten-Free food in Italy: a new path to Italian flavors

ItalyGluten-Free, a land whose cuisine is known world-wide thanks to gluten-rich staples such as pasta and pizza, is actually quite celiac disease friendly. Nearly one percent of Italians test positive for celiac disease, which is an intolerance for gluten, a protein found in wheat.  This percentage is on par with the global average, so the increase of gluten-free options is not driven by a higher affected population in the nation. Rather it is actually wheat’s pervasiveness in Italian cuisine that has increased public awareness of the disease and has spurred the growth of the gluten-free market in the southern European peninsula.  In fact, currently there are roughly 4,000 restaurants in Italy that offer senza glutine (gluten-free) options, and the number of cities throughout the country without a gluten-free restaurant is sharply decreasing.

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Ponte delle Torri – A bridge between two fortresses

Spoleto_Umbria_Rocca_castle_bridge_of_the_Towers_blgIn a large gorge south of Spoleto, an imposing limestone bridge arises from a sea of lush vegetation. The precise, man-made structure juxtaposes with the wild, organic flora that surrounds it to create a breathtaking panorama unforgettable to those who have the chance to admire it. Spoleto’s Ponte delle Torri (Bridge of Towers) is not only the most iconic symbol of the city, but for centuries it has been an inspiration to countless poets and artists (from famed German writer Johann Goethe to British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, and many more).

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