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  • Writer's pictureTracy Bottiglieri

Happy Holiday Season Part 3

Wish you could travel this holiday season, but know it is in everyone's best interest if you stay home?! I have a way for us to "get around" the COVID lockdown and make this holiday season a little more special. Let's go on a Virtual Vacation!

Okay. I need you to promise to do a few things to make this as real of a trip as is possible:

Select a set amount of time for your "trip."

  • Are you doing a 24-hour Whirlwind Tour?

  • Or can you commit to an entire weekend adventure?

Commit to the idea that you have simply twitched your nose a la Bewitched and have been instantly transported to your destination.

  • Do not think "I'm just in my house pretending to be somewhere else"

  • Do think "I am in [your destination]". As Bill Murray/Carl Spackler said, "Be the ball!" It will be so much more fun if you are FULLY IMMERSED in this virtual experience.

Step away from your digital least during meals.


All ready?

Time To Go!


Take A Cooking Class

Set out an antipasti platter to enjoy while cooking! Add provolone and mozzarella cheeses, olives, roasted peppers, vegetables (some pickled vegetables, if you like), and a range of different meats, including salami, sausage, and prosciutto; make sure to include some Italian bread with olive oil on the side to dip or use to carry the meat and cheese to your mouth. 😉 . Mangia! Mangia!

Learn to make a new traditional Italian meal!

One of my favorite Italian-American chefs is Lidia Bastianich.

Below are a few ideas on what to cook in your Italian Cooking Class.

Pappardelle is a long, wide, flat pasta that is common in meals of the Tuscan Region of Italy. The pasta shape is designed to hold the Tuscan's hearty, meaty sauces. I just learned that the name "pappardelle" comes from the Italian verb "pappare," which means to gobble up. Make sense after you've tried this recipe!

While there are a few theories on the

origin of carbonara, the one most widely held is that a chef in Bologna was tasked with serving English and American servicemen at the end of WWII. Due to the food rations in Italy, the chef used the ingredients more readily available: eggs, bacon and pasta. While it is very basic ingredients, it is actually challenging to create the perfect Spaghetti Carbonara! Buona Fortuna!

A classic Italian dish, especially in Naples and Rome. Usually made with small clams, although many American restaurants will serve it with chopped clams. Buon Appetito!

If you would like to explore more Italian cooking after you return from your “vacation” to Italy, consider signing up to take a MasterClass led by Massimo Bottura

Please note: while there is a membership fee for Master Class, he is simply the best!


Learn A Little Italian: One of the Beautiful Romance Languages

To be "fully immersed" in your virtual vacation, you are going to want to speak at least some of the language! Cast this video on the closest Smart TV and see who can develop the best Italian accent in 30 minutes!


Or should I say: pronti, partenza, via!


Another cultural area for which Italy is known is, of course, ART!

The next stop on your Italian Vacation is to see and then create some Italian-inspired art: a mosaic in the Italian style.

For your Virtual Tour portion, you will visit Italian cities known for their extensive and beautiful mosaics:

Now you will actually create some art on your own. There are two options, one U.S. shop and one Italian shop.

1. Simply click on the image below to be taken to MozeMosaics of Ridgewood, New York, where you can purchase a mosaic kit:

2. The image below offers a link to the EBmosaico Shop in Padua, Italy, where you can buy a tile kit to make during your Virtual Italian vacation! (Do you remember Padua from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew?)


If cooking or learning a language or creating a piece of art

isn't your idea of a VACATION, virtual or otherwise,

then I bet you will like my next suggestions:

. 🍨 . 🥇🥈🥉 🏎 . 🃏♠️♣️♥️♦️ . 🍿.


🍨 Gelato Tasting

Gelato is basically the Italian counterpart to ice cream. It's a frozen dairy dessert made from a base of milk, cream, and sugar that has been enjoyed in Italy since the Renaissance, according to Italy Magazine.

How is gelato different from ice cream?

It's the proportions of ingredients that make gelato different from ice cream. Basically, gelato had a bit more milk than cream, often found in ice cream. Therefore, ice cream is usually has a higher fat content than gelato. Also ice cream often uses egg yolks, adding even more to the higher fat content. Finally, gelato is usually denser but creamier than ice cream, mainly due to the fact it is churned at a slower rate than ice cream, which makes the ice cream have more air and feel "fluffier and softer".

How To Hold A Gelato Taste Test:

  1. Buy several flavors and brands of gelato. Talenti is a common grocery store brand.

  2. Place in bowls for your taste testers.

  3. Do not label or tell the tester the flavor or brand they are trying.

  4. Give each taste tester a Gelato Taste Test Form (printable pdf link from image below).

  5. Have fun tasting and judging the gelato!

Thank you to La Macelleria Gelato of Bologna, Italy, the Italian capital of Gelato, for their guide to how best to judge gelato. For more on gelato, please go to


The names FERRARI, BUGATTI, MASERATI, LAMBORGHINI, PAGANI, ALFA ROMEO, and the like will definitely conjure up certain terms in your mind: sexy, Italian, fast, sleek, racing, expensive, and possibly extravagant but worth it. Since I do not have an Italian race car to lend out to each of you, I suggest you create your own Formula 1 race using...MarioKart!

🥇🥈🥉🏎 Host a Mario Cart Tournament - or other online racing game to represent Italy’s Formula 1 performance and race car culture

Images above are linked to printable pdf versions of both tournament brackets

To watch an actual Formula 1 race, check ESPN or ESPN2.


Italian families play a lot of the same games you might play in your homes. But there is at least one traditional card game that I am betting you do not know about. It is called Briscola.

🃏♠️♣️♥️♦️ Play an Italian Card Game: Briscola

Players 2-5

Aim To win the most points, either individually or in alliance with your partner

Difficulty 3/5

Thank you to The Guardian article and gameplay rules on Briscola:


🍿 A Virtual Vacation would not be complete without the ultimate in virtual transportation to another time and place: Movie Night!

Here are some Italian-themed and Italian-based movies for your consideration:

Note: each movie title is linked to its corresponding movie trailer


Other Virtual Ideas: more movie suggestions, TV series, music, books and more to consider while exploring Italy from Home can be found:


While I am not Italian by birth, I have been welcomed into my husband's Italian-American family from the time we first met when I was 22 years old. I love the culture of Italy, the food, the history, the art, and more. I have been fortunate to travel to Italy on multiple occasions, but there are a few things I have included in this blog post that I never did while I was in Italy. So I will be traveling again to Italy this holiday season, however this time I will "take off to Italy" from the comfort of my own home...unlike this adorable Chinese-Australian travel blogger, Sam Chui:

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1 Comment

Karen Goldberg Matzkin
Karen Goldberg Matzkin
Dec 06, 2020

This is such a great idea! You put so much thought into it! Very creative,!


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