All posts filed under: Italy

An Umbrian Adventure

8 October 2021 – 23 October 2021 Be Prepared I’ve known I’ve wanted to travel since I was very young. On Sunday mornings I would creep to the front door, open it stealthily, purloin the Sunday paper (yes, I’m dating myself) and after reading the funnies I’d open the travel section. My father always wanted to be the first to handle the paper and I would carefully return the sections to their original positions and place the paper between the screen and front doors for him to find later. My best friend Kathie and I planned trips to dude ranches in Arizona and explorations to Spain. Visiting New Zealand was a goal that developed in the 70’s when I read that it was like the US in the 50s. One of my favorite books was a world atlas and I’d love reading about different countries as I read letter by letter through the World Book Encyclopedia. It could very well be said, that I created my global business as a means to travel the world …

Executive Profile: Orietta Varnelli, COO Distilleria Varnelli S.p.A.

Since 1988, Orietta Varnelli has been one of the owner operators of Distilleria Varnelli S.p.A.. In 2011, she became the president of ActionAid Italia. In 2015 she was named one of 3 women among the 13 senior directors of the Banca d’Italia. Today, she is my companion for lunch. I’m wondering what lessons women in public companies can learn from women executives in family owned businesses. Family Owned Business Family run businesses are Italy’s economic engine. As in the US, about 85% of all companies in Italy are family-0wned. Unlike the US where family-owned business contribute 64% to GDP, in Italy they contribute 94% of GDP. Varnelli has been family-owned and operated since its founding in 1868. Which led me to wonder, is executive leadership different in family-owned businesses? Over Our 5 Hour Lunch! Much of  lunch was spent discussing the anise culture, but sandwiched (pun intended) between the cocktails & aperitivi, multiple courses & bottles of wine, we did discuss leadership and women in leadership. Grounded in Values Once an aspiring architect, Orietta’s life …

Varnelli and Cocktail Culture

So, the proper way to enjoy Varnelli is after the meal (LINK ), what about as an aperitif? For this I have the pleasure of experiencing an aperitif tasting conducted by Anna Tosoni, owner of Gossip Wine & Drink in Civitanova Marche and a director of Italy’s bartenders association. Serving as Treasurer, she is the first woman director in its 70 year history. Today she is displaying her talents as she prepares cocktails featuring Varnelli’s Amaro Sibilli and Anice Secco. One of the reasons Varnelli Amaro Sibilla is  popular in mixology culture is that mixologists like to have control over the flavor of their drinks and it is easier to adjust the sweetness in a cocktail that uses this somewhat bitter liquor. Anise isn’t central to Amaro Sibilla, so I won’t write much about it, but I do notice that it has tremendous “legs’ and clings to the side of the bottle after being poured. I am also surprised that gentian flowers and bark are part of the decoction. Orietta tells me that gentian has …

A Meal to End All Meals! Part One

Back in the day, the 3 martini lunch used to be a thing. Beneficiaries enjoyed long, leisurely “working” lunches…well let me tell you about the 2 bottle lunch. In last night’s blog, I marveled that the people around me were eating 3 and 4 courses. Today I learn how. The star of this 2 bottle meal is Rosaria Morganti, chef, owner of Ristorante Due Cigni and master sommelier. She proudly shows me the napkins that are hand woven by her nearly 90 year old mother – who still works in the restaurant! Strong women abound during this meal. Due Cigne offers a farm-&-fish to table experience that is both traditional and contemporary. The decor is refined and minimalist – it occurs to me that there is nothing to compete with the experience of the food. The only thing that isn’t minimalist is its award winning wine cellar! I arrive to meet and interview Orietta Varnelli at noon and walk into an empty restaurant. Well, I think, maybe they open at 12:30. Anna Tesoni is there …

Beyond Aperitivi

My mouth is watering as I plan foods to eat after my anisette and aperitivi. Wild fennel – the taste of anise served up by silken green fronds and starbursts of sunbeam yellow. The flavor is central to one of the best dishes served in Marche – porchetta suckling pig stuffed with herbs. I find another dish of the region that features anise. Coniglio in Porchetta (literally “rabbit cooked like suckling pig”) which is stuffed with fennel. The idea of rabbit conjures 3 stories. First, of my Uncle Angelo who had rabbit hutches behind his house in Wellesley, MA. I thought it was so cool that he had “pet bunnies.” Little did I know that they were to be eaten. Years later, my son Justin and I who had binge watched A Year in Provence ate rabbit in mustard sauce at a Seine-side restaurant in Paris. And later, on the drive in Languedoc to visit our friends a rabbit bounded across the road. It was HUGE. Justin’s comment, “Now I see why they eat them.” …

Anice at Renzetti

Before my visit to the Varnelli distillery, I venture into Civitanova Porto (the part of town near its Adriatic port) to taste Varnelli’s Anice Secco at Renzetti Aperitivo&Bar. It is a bit hard to find – only a small sign high on a wall – but I know I am in the right place when I see the napkins! I find a seat on the breezy and shady side of the corner establishment and explain that I am here to taste Anice Secco. I learn that anice (anise in Italian) is pronounced ah’nichay. No wonder no one has understood when I’ve said I was here to learn about liquors made of ah-knee’-say. When ordering my Varnelli Anice Secco, I am asked if I want aperitivi. “Of course!,” I try to say in Italian. That’s what the experience is in its essence – friends and family at ouzeries with meze in Greece or raki table with mezzes in Turkey. I’m missing only friends and family. Aperitivi and Anice First, I am served an abundance of aperitivi …

Anisette, Salatini and Aperitivi

When I first read about ouzeries I was gobsmacked. In Greece ouzeries are small eateries that specialize in mezes (appetizers) meant to accompany ouzo. Are there, I wonder, similar establishments in France, Italy, Spain and beyond? In Italy, the answer is something of a yes. Aperitifs  (aperitivi in Italian) are drinks  – often with alcohol content – that are meant to get the digestive juices flowing – to, literally, open the appetite. Anisette is such an aperitivo that is often served with salatini – the small nibbles that can include potato chips (what??!), nuts, olives and such. Many establishments will serve salatini with your anisette. Happily, in some places there are actual establishments that are more like ouzeries. One such, on my list of places to visit, is Renzetti Aperitivo&Bar in Civitanova Marche where I’m staying at the lovely B&B Casa tra gli Ulivi  (in an olive grove). I found it through Booking.com (which has a woman CEO, Gillian Tans!) where you’ll find me sipping and savoring along the Adriatic.

Anise and the Adriatic

I don’t drink. Now, that’s a strange statement to launch a blog about sipping anise-flavored liquors around the Mediterranean, but it’s true. Except for one raucous evening in the south of Spain when I was 19, I’ve mostly consumed one glass of wine with dinner a couple of times a week. So why am I on a quest to sip sip anise-flavored liquors around the Mediterranean? I grew up a 3rd generation Italian-American in the mid-50s in a rural town of 6,000 (where Mr. Ferguson plowed our driveway with a horse drawn plow!). Differences of national origin weren’t highlighted in ways that I noticed. I did have hints of my family’s uniqueness though – Donna’s family didn’t have lasagna at Christmas. Marilyn’s family didn’t have ravioli with their Thanksgiving turkey. And no one had a Nana who fried squid. Squid! Now, it’s all the rage. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the flavor of Easter was anise. Easter – a holiday marked by many courses beginning with a breakfast of the anise flavored …