12 Things I Love About Living In Italy and Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread
I received a lot of different responses to my “12 Things I’ve Learned About Living In Italy” post– and by a lot I mean more than the average 1-2 comments I typically receive. Either you found my observations amusing or you thought I was being overly critical about a culture other than my own. I am always happy to hear from you, albeit negative, but I did want to clarify a few things just because I get anxiety when I am misinterpreted.
I love living in Italy, but I thought a list of personal/silly observations on the differences of living in Italy would be a bit more comical and relatable than a list of how “totally awesome” it is to live abroad. Sometimes I try to be funny and it comes across as mean… It’s a common occurrence when you’re just not funny.
Anyway, since it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I decided to share a simple and festive recipe and a list of things I LOVE about living in Italy… from the perspective of a 25-year-old girl who has never travelled outside of the United States until three years ago…
12 Things I Love About Living In Italy
- I absolutely love the food in Italy. Yes, I love going out to lunch or dinner in Italy on occasion, but I am talking about the fresh produce, meat, and poultry you get in the market and grocery stores. I’ve always had a passion for baking, but it wasn’t until moving to Italy that I discovered my love for cooking. Like Julia Child said, “until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything.”
- I love the long-drawn out meals. Okay, I said I loved cooking with Italy’s fresh ingredients, but an elaborate lunch in Chianti or 3-hour dinner with friends is also up there on things I love. I can eat A LOT so a slower paced meal is kind of ideal for someone who wants to eat EVERYTHING— and I do, because everything is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever eaten. I also love walking home from dinner in Italy, the night is alive and it’s a great way to digest and end the night!
- I love learning a new language. So maybe I still refuse to speak in Italian to my friends after a year, but I love that I can eavesdrop and pick up on another language… Slowly but surely I’ll master it!
- I love the beauty and history you stumble across at every corner. For instance, the corner of our apartment building marks the spot where the Arno reached in 1966 in one of the most devastating floods since 1557. Granted this is a more recent piece of history, it reached TWENTY-TWO FEET and it is a solid mile away from the river today. It’s pretty incredible.
- I love the pride Italians take in their appearance, presentation, and behavior. Bella figura. I played a sport at Northwestern so it was a frequent occurrence for me to show up to class, un-showered and dressed in grey sweats from head to toe, and that was completely acceptable. Well, maybe not completely acceptable, but I did it anyway. So maybe it was a slight adjustment to actually get ready on a daily basis and take pride in myself when I moved to Italy, but am I better off for it? Absolutely!
- I love that a lot of things are not filtered/censored (i.e., TV, radio, manikins, alcohol, people’s opinions…) You see nudity on TV, you hear the cuss words in rap music, there are nipples on the manikins, parents introduce their young children to alcohol in moderation, and people will give it to you straight. It’s refreshing.
- I love the ease of traveling to other European countries and exploring new cities within Italy. Florence has the best of everything; we can drive to the hillside in thirty minutes, drive to the beach in less than an hour, and drive to the mountains in three hours. Flights to different European countries are always manageable and relatively short. But I personally love traveling via train or car because we can take Louie along with us, he even has a super cool Pet Passport.
- I love Prosecco… Yes, the wine here is excellent, but I will never pass up a glass of Prosecco. It is the sweet nectar of the gods. Plus, you can buy the cheapest bottle for €4 and it is still amazing!
- I love that I can walk everywhere. After living in a suburb of Chicago where I literally had to drive everywhere to get anywhere, living in Florence’s city center where I can walk across town in less than 30 minutes is a dream come true. I’m not ashamed to admit I invested in a bright pink trolley so I can trek all over town with my groceries and Louie.
- I love how kind and warm Italians are. Everywhere you go, it’s “Ciao Bella/o!” and it makes me feel special… even if they say it to everyone. I think it helps to have Louie and to always at least attempt to speak Italian, but nonetheless. Since the first day Tony and I moved here, our friends from CrossFit have been nothing but warm, welcoming, and helpful and I don’t say it enough, but the butchers at the Mercato make my day, every day.
- I love the magical “Golden Hour” in Florence. Every day the sun shines on the city of Florence in the most glorious way and every day’s Golden Hour is different from the last. No amount of Instagram photos can do it justice.
- I love having the opportunity to live and experience Italy firsthand!
Okay, so now that I’ve discussed a few reasons why I love Italy, I want to talk about why I LOVE these Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread cookies for Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year. They are simple, quick, and delicious. Since butter is kind of the most important thing about these cookies, this is the time you should splurge on your expensive European butter. Also, a lot of the reviews on Food Network mentioned skipping the refrigeration step, but I chose to follow the directions and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes and I had zero issues with the dough being too crumbly or anything. If you happen to have crumbly dough, just let it sit at room temperature for a bit before you roll it out. You can obviously use any sort of cookie-cutter, but for the sake of Valentine’s Day and all things cute, my recipe calls for heart-shaped cookie cutters. Love is in the air.
Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread from Ina Garten:
¾ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- To make the cookies, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough ½-inch thick and cut with a small (~3”) heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- To make the chocolate glaze, place 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it’s completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
- Drizzle each cookie with desired amount of chocolate and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.