The Trentino Alto-Adige (South Tirol) crowns northern Italy, right beneath Austria and a mere yodel away from Switzerland. A mixture of Italian flair and captivating Alpine beauty the region is defined by the tectonic Dolomites and scenic valley views that are breath taking. The beauty of Winter in Italy’s Sudtirol inspires me to take time to appreciate the season which despite the cold and severe weather can offer some once a year pleasures to savor. Here are 5 Italian inspired ways to celebrate the season.
A recipe from the Italian Alps that has its origins in the traditional Swiss fondue, but it differs in the presence of egg yolks, instead of wine or liquor. A typical winter dish it is served with cubes of bread, assorted salami, fried polenta or potatoes, and/or crudités like carrots, celery or radishes. Enjoy with a glass of Italian Sauvignon Blanc.
1 lb of Fontina cheese, cubed
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 beaten egg yolks
Combine the cheese and milk in a medium size saucepan and allow to sit off the heat for 2 hours. Add the butter to the milk and cheese mixture. Melt the cheese mixture in double boiler (not allowing the water to boil) with the beaten egg yolks. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until you have obtained a thick cream and the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
At this point, taste to season add some freshly ground white pepper and sea salt if neede.
Pour the fonduta out into a fondue pot or individual dishes. Keep warm and serve as above.
Italians take time to cultivate a sense of benessere (well-being) no matter what the season. Wellness in the Sudtirol takes its inspiration from nature and the majestic beauty of the Dolomites. Self-care treatments involving water combined with mountain herbs and Alpine flowers are very popular. You can create an herbal steam bath by adding rosemary, lemon balm, juniper, Italian Stone Pine, or artemisia to a sachet attached to your shower head. A popular treatment follows the holistic health principles of Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest who believed that “prevention is better than cure”. It uses water to firm and refresh the face in a practice known as facial affusion. You can use your hand held shower, bathtub faucet hose or your hands to direct the water in your bathroom sink.
Choose a pleasant, gentle flow of water. Do not turn the water all the way on.
First aim the cool stream of water at your right temple. Then guide the hose over your forehead to the left temple and then back to the right half of the face.
Run water vertically up and down over the right half of your face three times. Then treat the left half of your face in the same way.
End the application with three circular motions over the entire face.
Do not dry off your face. Instead, gently wipe the water away using your hand.
Seasonal eating in the Sudtirol involves comforting foods that best support your health and well-being during the cold months of winter. Meals focus on incorporating plant-based foods that are simple and natural. Foods that supply the body with lots of valuable vitamins, trace elements and minerals. Typical foods include
muesli for breakfast,
legumes and grains with steamed vegetables, fresh olive oil and herbs for lunch
vegetable soups and dumplings for dinner
Like all of Italy, authentic and traditional tastes are highly valued because they bring comfort and a connection to the heritage of the region. The same dishes prepared by their grandmothers are cooked and enjoyed as simple pleasures to savor today. Like this dumpling; locally called canederli.
½ pound of rustic, 2-3 day old bread cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 ½ cup milk (enough to soak the bread)
½ pound speck (or smoked prosciutto), diced
1 tbsp. butter (to sauté onions)
2 tbsp. chopped onions
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp. bread crumbs
½ tsp. nutmeg
5 tbsp. flour
Salt and pepper
5 cups chicken stock or water
½ cup butter (to dress canederli)
Place bread in a bowl, cover with milk, stir and let sit 2 hours
Stir occasionally to make sure all bread is absorbing milk
Sauté onions in butter until soft and golden in color, set aside
Sauté speck, set aside
Drain bread in a fine colander
With a spoon gently press the bread against the colander to eliminate excess milk
Transfer bread in a bowl, add salt, pepper, onion, speck, nutmeg, beaten eggs, parsley, bread crumbs, flour and mix all together
If batter is too soft, add more bread crumbs
With wet hands, scoop out enough batter to form an oval shape about the size of a golf ball
Roll each ball in flour
Melt butter and sage in a saucepan for one minute
Bring stock or water to boil
Carefully immerse canederli into boiling broth/water and cook for about 13-15 minutes. (When they float, they are ready)
Drain and dress with sage and butter or serve in chicken broth
An Outdoor State of Mind
The Sudtirolese embrace the winter months. Living in the heart of nature no matter what time of the year. They have a culture built around nature so every season has its own type of enjoyment and the winter is no different. People there see the winter as a special time of year full of opportunities for enjoyment and fulfillment, rather than a limiting time of year to dread. They like to live in the open air and prioritize time spent outside every day. When outside in the winter, with good clothing (which they have,) depending on their age, they engage in activities that make them feel refreshed, more robust and vital improving their mood and mental and physical health.
Blankets and Throws/ Slippers and Socks
The fashion and furnishings of the Sudtirol make me want to extend winter for a few more months. Cozy blankets and throws, slippers and socks are just the beginning. Mediterranean images mingle with traditional Tyrolean atmosphere. Palms and cypresses grow between grape vines and apple trees, with castles, lakes, meadows and alpine valleys framed by sheer walls of rock. More than enough inspiration to create some unique designs. In winter let them give you a new perspective on the season.