Take inspiration from the Italian philosophy towards life and living when it comes to making the most of the winter months.
As the cold weather starts to nip at our noses, we start to think differently about what to wear, what to eat and how to spend our time. Some of us are tempted to go into hibernation mode until springtime, but just because the dark evenings are starting to draw in, that doesn’t mean that our moods have to darken too.
Don’t think of winter as a horrible period that we have to struggle though, think of it instead as a great opportunity to nurture ourselves, nourish our souls and seek comfort in everyday pleasures.
That’s why looking to Italy and the Italian way of life can help us. Italians approach autumn and winter differently, embracing the colder months with enthusiasm and celebrating the best that the seasons have to offer.
Start with food. Italian food is delicious all year round, of course, but in winter we look forward to more hearty and warming dishes – pastas, soups and meat dishes with rich sauces making the most of seasonal ingredients such as truffles and mushrooms. It’s also a good time to switch that final espresso of the day for a cup of hot chocolate and, if it’s during the Christmas holidays, a slice of Panettone.
We like to banish the winter blues with the comforting local dish, Tagliolini al San Daniele. Ask anyone in San Daniele and they’ll tell you that it’s important to use tagliolini pasta though, because it leaves the main focus of this tasty dish on the prosciutto.
It’s so easy to make too, simply boil tagliolini pasta in a large pot and cut Prosciutto di San Daniele into strips, then sauté these strips in a pan, add a splash of brandy and cook in its own fat until crispy. Add some single cream and a touch of the boiling pasta water to the pan. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce, then add poppy seeds. Pour the pasta and sauce onto a warm plate and place an extra slice of prosciutto on the top, right at the very end.
It may be tempting, and natural, to lament the shorter days of winter, but we Italians also see these months as opportunities to celebrate the longer nights. With Christmas and New Year’s Eve just around the corner, this is party season, with numerous opportunities to socialise and enjoy the company of friends and family.
Socialising can also be done during the day and early evenings, at the beautiful Christmas markets, Mercatino di Natale, that can be found across Italy, in towns, villages and bigger cities. On 8 December, we Italians mark the official start of the Christmas season, on the Day of the Immaculate Conception. We’ll put up our decorations and visit the local festive market.
As well as the best-known markets, such as the Oh bej Oh bej traditional Christmas fair in Milan and the stalls in Rome’s famous Piazza Navona square, there are smaller towns across the country hosting parades and markets throughout the Christmas season. You’ll probably see the town’s nativity scene at the market, made by local craftsmen, along with stalls offering seasonal food and drink, plus hand-made gifts and trinkets – a great opportunity to stock up on gifts.
Winter is a great time for shoppers as the sales usually begin after Christmas and can last for as long as the entire month of January. It’s a good opportunity to stock up on bargains without the crowds you usually find in shops during the summer.
The week between Christmas Day and Epiphany, on 6 January, is when many families enjoy their annual winter holiday, especially in the numerous ski resorts across the country, where the atmosphere is still very festive.
But don’t worry if you’re not feeling very sociable some days, we also enjoy the pleasure of sometimes sitting at home and putting your feet up and staying cosy indoors. In fact, we even have a word for it – pantofolaio. It means someone who stays at home and wears slippers, in other words a ‘couch potato’.