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June 2018

What’s the Fashion Capital of Italy?

By |2018-06-03T11:50:40+00:00June 3rd, 2018|General, hidden gems, Italy Shopping|

Italy Fashion-Milano-600
Italy Fashion D&G Firenze
Italy Fashion Armani Milano

What’s the Fashion Capital of Italy?

Prada, Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana–when you think of the high-end fashion industry, it’s likely many of those famous Italian brands immediately come to mind. It’s no secret that Italy is a powerhouse within the world of fashion, but how did this come to be? What does fashion really mean to Italians? For starters, Italians are known for their attention to dressing well–they adhere to the term “la bella figura,” which translates to “the beautiful figure.” The story goes back to the 11th century and the Renaissance period, when Italy was considered the leading trendsetter of fashion in Europe. This designation was lost throughout the 17th to 20th centuries.

Following WWII, however, Italian fashion experienced a resurgence and is now considered one of the most influential fashion centers in the world. There are a number of reasons for this. On a technical level, there’s the Italian way of craftsmanship and attention to detail, as well as an emphasis on high-quality textiles. So while the clothes themselves have plenty to do with it, there’s some interesting historical context to consider as well. The Marshall Plan, a post-WWII U.S. program designed to aid the economies of war-torn European countries, helped to boost the Italian textile industry. Then, in 1951, Italian businessman Giovanni Battista Giorgini held a fashion show in Florence with the goal of elevating Italy to its original standing in the fashion world, and it worked. By the 1960s, a variety of American celebrities and public figures, inlcuding First Lady Jackie Onassis Kennedy, could be seen sporting the latest Italian designs. Italian fashion had become synonymous with Hollywood Chic.

Florence remained the fashion capital of Italy throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but by the 1970s, this distinction began to sway toward Milan and Rome. The 1970s also marked a turning point for Italian fashion, with clothing and accessories becoming less geared towards only the rich and famous. An emphasis on ready-to-wear clothing was made as well, with a focus on jeans and miniskirts, for example. Today, Italy remains at the top, and the industry remains centered on Rome and Milan.

Despite having lost its distinction as the fashion hotspot of Italy, Florence still remains a relevant outpost for Italian fashion, and nothing can take away the fact that Florence spurred the resurgence of Italian fashion in the 20th century. If you were to visit Florence today, you would find a number of high-end boutiques and shopping districts. Florence’s main shopping street, called Via de’ Tornabuoni, is known for its array of luxury fashion boutiques. Some of these include Gucci (whose headquarters are located in Florence), Armani, Enrico Coveri, Roberto Cavalli, and Emilio Pucci. In addition to the high-end, world-class fashion outlets, major fashion labels such as Prada and Chanel maintain large offices within Florence. The pervasiveness of the fashion industry within Florence speaks to the importance of fashion to Italians!

If you find yourself curious in the world of fashion, or you happen to be a huge fan of it, you’ll be happy to know that an all-inclusive tour of Italy on our Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience will take you right through the heart of it all in Florence! Part of living like a local is experiencing every cultural beacon that makes a place unique—in the case of Florence, fashion is a part of this. Fashion, food, art, and architecture are all integral to experiencing Italy, and we stand behind this at A Toast to Travel!

June 2017

Visiting an Italian Food Market

By |2017-06-22T12:01:47+00:00June 21st, 2017|Feature, food, General, hidden gems, Italy Shopping|

Italian Market
Italian food market

Visiting an Italian Food Market

To really live like a local, you need to shop like a local.  Generally, Italians do not stockpile.  They are generally not visiting a Costco and buying large quantities of food in bulk to store for lengthy periods of time.  Fresh is the name of the game and there’s no better place to find fresh food than at a local Italian food market or “mercato.”

The markets are full of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, cheeses, salumi, bread and more!  It’s an embarrassment of riches and a way of life at the same time.  The prices are reasonable, goods are seasonal and it’s the perfect time and place to sample the local cuisine.  As you walk through the beautiful market and take in all the scents, sights and people, notice how relaxing the experience can be.  It’s what living like a local is all about.  For an authentic Tuscan experience, visiting a local market is essential.  You can soak up the culture and rub shoulders with the locals.  Watch the many different colorful personalities selling their goods—the local farmers, cheese-makers and artisans come to sell their goods every day.  While at the local market, you usually can enjoy other culinary delights like fresh pasta, desserts and even, sample some wine .

I personally use the farmers market not only to buy fresh produce and cheeses but also to socialize with friends and acquaintances.  It can be an adventure, a time for socializing and practicing or keeping up your Italian language skills.  You can also get the latest on all your questions from the locals—ranging from recipes and the best produce to buy right now to politics and elections around Italy and more. Everyone has an opinion!  Italian food markets are weekly, bi-weekly or even daily.  It depends on where you are located.  Most Italians frequent the food markets regularly as a means of buying their fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, breads and even desserts.  Much of the shopping is done before lunch so that the food purchased at the market can be incorporated into the lunch menu and is supremely fresh.

For me, visiting a local Italian food market is much more than just buying fresh tomatoes, burrata and basil even though I usually make a caprese salad right after my visit!  It’s an essential part of Italian life, shopping with the locals, seeing old friends and making new ones, maybe stopping for a coffee after and generally catching up on life.  It’s a feeling of connectedness that is hard to find in a US grocery store with lists in our hands and little time for enjoying the moment.  I always leave the market with a fresh perspective and a smile on my face.  I look forward to experiencing a local food market each time I am in Italy.  It reminds me of what’s important in life.

We invite you to join us on our Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun Experience so you can experience Italian food markets, an essential part of local life!

January 2017