#culture

Italian Culture Guide: TV, Movies, Books, Food, Music, & More

When you can't go to Italy, bring Italy to you.

With rich history, art, and architecture, along with sublime gastronomy and an enticingly slow pace of life, Italian culture has continually dazzled the world. In fact, to date, the country sits at number five on the list of the world's most popular tourist destinations (and third in Europe).

As you count down the days until you can take a dip in the crisp Alpine waters of Lake Como, sip wine in Tuscany, go island hopping on the Amalfi coast, and shop in Rome, turn to this guide to bring a taste of la dolce vita home.

TV Shows

My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend is based off a four-part novel series by Elena Ferrante. Directed by Saverio Costanzo, it tells the story of Elena and Lila's enduring friendship, which begins in 1950s Naples and spans a lifetime.

To date, there are two seasons—the first is based off My Brilliant Friend (the eponymous first novel in the series) and the second is based off The Story Of A New Name. More information on the books below.

How to watch: HBO

Chef's Table (Season 1, Episode 1 on Massimo Bottura)

In the first episode of Netflix's Emmy-nominated documentary series, we get to know Massimo Bottura, the acclaimed, boundary-pushing chef behind the three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena Italy.

How to watch: Netflix

READ MORE: Chef Massimo Bottura On Self-Doubt, Breaking Rules and Keeping The Door Open For The Unexpected

Movies / Documentaries

Call Me By Your Name

Set in the sun-drenched Italian Lombardy region in the summer of 1983, Call Me By Your Name tells the story of 17-year-old Elio Perlman's coming-of-age relationship with Oliver, a handsome doctoral student who's spending the summer as an intern for Elio's father. The drama is rendered all the more romantic under the backdrop of Italy's postcard-perfect lakes region.

How to watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube

READ MORE: 7 Lakes To Swoon Over In The Italian Lakes District

Franca: Chaos & Creation

In this documentary, we get a rare, inside look into the personal and professional life of Franca Sozzani, the provocative editor of Italian Vogue from 1988 until her death in 2016.

Sozzani is remembered for pushing the boundaries of fashion into the realm of domestic violence, drug abuse, and recovery. She was also the first to publish "The Black Issue" exclusively featuring models of color.

How to watch: Netflix

Under The Tuscan Sun

When Frances Mayes (played by Diane Lane) gets a divorce, her friends attempt to cheer her up by encouraging her to take a trip to Italy. What they didn't realize was that, along the way, she'd impulsively decide to purchase a villa in rural Tuscany. What follows is an engaging, romantic tale of a woman starting her life anew and maybe, just maybe, opening her heart to love again.

How to watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube

Numero Zero: The Roots of Italian Rap

In the 90s, Italy experienced what many consider a "Golden Age" of hip hop. This documentary tells the story of the individuals who pioneered Italian rap against a great deal of cultural backlash.

How to watch: Netflix

Eat Pray Love

When the newly divorced Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) decides she needs a change in her life, she decides to embark on a year-long adventure of self-discovery and healing: three months in Italy, three months in India, and three months in Bali. Along the way, this biographical romantic drama follow's Gilbert's quest for nourishment, prayer, and inner peace as she grapples to find meaning at this crossroads of her life.

How to watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube

Books / Cookbooks

Four Seasons In Rome
By Anthony Doerr

While Doerr is perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, All The Light We Cannot See, he also penned a stunning memoir about his experience on a year-long writing grant in Rome—a grant he was accepted into the very day he returned home from the hospital with his wife and newborn twins. During his time in one of the world's most enchanting cities, he visited the same piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns as Pliny, Dante, Keats, and other storied writers who came before him. He visited the Pantheon with his twins on a cold December day in anticipation of snow falling through the oculus, and he experienced the warm hospitality (and parenting advice!) of countless bakers, butchers, and neighbors who made Rome feel like home.

Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child)
By Elena Ferrante

This four-part series, which was translated into English by Ann Goldstein, is a captivating coming-of-age tale that has sold over 10 million copies across 40 countries. It recounts the friendship of two girls: Elena (Lenù) Greco and Raffaella (Lila) Cerullo from childhood in 1950s Naples through old age as they struggle to create meaningful lives for themselves.

A Farewell to Arms
By Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms recounts the incredible story of Lieutenant Henry, an American ambulance driver on the Italian front, who falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley. The story is told under the backdrop of World War I and the German attack on Caporetto, and transports readers from Trentino to South Tyrol, Milan to Lake Maggiore.

A Room With A View
By E. M. Forster

A Room With A View, which takes place in both Italy and England, centers around the story of Lucy Honeychurch, an upper-middle-class young woman who eschews the strict social hierarchy, snobbery, and Victorian narrow-mindedness of her home town of Surrey in favor of a more liberating Italian lifestyle. Written in 1908, the novel paints a compelling portrait of turn-of-the-century Florence.

In 1985, it was adapted into a film (available on Amazon) starring Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith.

Food of the Italian South: Recipes for Classic, Disappearing, and Lost Dishes
By Katie Parla

In this cookbook, acclaimed author and food journalist Katie Parla takes home cooks on a tour through the regional sub-cuisines of the Italian south—from Campania to Giurgiulena, Calabria to Basilicata, Puglia to Molise. Alongside the recipes, she shares historical and cultural tidbits for additional context and depth into what makes the food of the Italian south so distinct.

Parla also hosts a podcast, Gola, with culinary historian Dr. Danielle Callegari about Italian food and how it connects to history, culture, and society.

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
By Marcella Hazan

Essential of Classic Italian Cooking is a single-volume compilation of two of Marcella Hazan's most popular cookbooks: The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking. With recipes for everything from polenta to risotto, braised squid to sautéed Swiss chard, it's designed for home cooks of all experience levels.

Food

Adopt an olive tree through Especially Puglia

Puglia, a region in the southern heel of Italy, is dotted with expansive olive groves churning out some of the world's finest extra virgin olive oil. Through Especially Puglia's "Adopt an Olive Tree" international CSA program, you can support the farmers and producers working to keep this tradition alive—while getting the chance to enjoy the fresh, single-harvest olive oil for yourself.

When you adopt an olive tree, you'll receive three liters of extra virgin olive oil from the grove you selected, along with a ceramic bottle to decant the oil, a hand-crafted wooden crate, and an adoption certificate specifying the number of your tree.

READ MORE: The Founder of Puglia’s Most Respected Cooking School Wants You To Stop Thinking Of All Italian Food As The Same

Virtual pasta-making class with with a Former Misi Chef
Offered through Journy Online

Join Meryl Feinstein, creator of the popular, in-person, Pasta Social Club event series for a private, virtual pasta-making class. Meryl brings her extensive experience from her time on the pasta production team of Misi in New York to help you master the art of making pasta at home.

She offers a number of class options that don't require a pasta machine, including:

Tuscan Pici Workshop: Learn to make this thick, hand-rolled spaghetti—the perfect beginner pasta.

Cavatelli Workshop: A southern Italian, hand-rolled pasta, with the option to make a spinach-based dough.  

EatTIAMO

Taste Of Tuscany Box | @eattiamo_italianfood

EatTIAMO is an Italian food subscription box and gift basket that comes with easy-to-follow recipes, so you can whip up traditional meals using authentic ingredients sourced from Italy. Boxes to choose from include:

  • Tajarin & Truffle Italian Food Basket
    Tajarin is the go-to pasta shape of Piedmont and usually served alongside truffles.
  • Pappardelle from Emilia Italian Food Basket
    Emilia-Romagna is the home of tagliatelle, bolognese sauce, and balsamic vinegar (and acclaimed chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana).
  • Cinque Terre Food Basket
    Featuring six authentic Ligurian products, so you can bring the spirit of Cinque Terre (colorful houses, sea breeze, olive orchards, and lemon groves included) home.

Music

Opera, which originated in Italy in the late 16th century, remains an indelible part of the country's culture today. Here are three standout artists to listen to.

Luciano Pavorotti

Luciano Pavorotti is one of the most celebrated tenors of the 20th century, having sold over 100 million records (with the first Three Tenors recording becoming the best-selling classic album of all time). Best known for his operas and arias, he also collaborated with iconic artists such as Bono, Elton John, and Sting.

Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli is an opera singer, songwriter and record producer. From his iconic duets with Celine Dion, to his best-selling holiday album, My Christmas, and, most recently, his performance live from the Duomo during COVID-19, Bocelli has become a household name around the world, captivating audiences with his robust, powerful voice.  

Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia Bartolli is a mezzo-soprano opera singer and recitalist celebrated for her interpretations of Bellini, Mozart, and Rossini, along with Baroque and early Classical-era composers such as Vivaldi, Haydn, and Gluck.


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