Select Italy Newsletter: Cappuccino

The Women of Tuscan Winemaking


Donatella is as colorful as her clothes

Don't tell Donatella Cinelli Colombini that women are the "weaker sex"! As vice-president of the prestigious Consorzio del Brunello and winner of the 2003 Oscar for the Best Italian Wine Producer, she knows a little something about making wine. Not to mention that she owns a wine estate that’s been around since 1592, the year her ancestors built the Fattoria del Colle at Trequanda in the Chianti region.

This decisive Tuscan entrepreneur is a refreshing combination of old and new: new because at her Casato Prime Donne estate in Montalcino, the winemakers are all women, a revolutionary work situation for Italy where traditional male/female roles are the norm (the vineyard's name translates as "House of First Women"). Also new is the Tinaia del Vento fermentation area that was inaugurated with the 2009 harvest. Set in the middle of the vineyards, it is open on all four sides so the grape must is naturally oxygenated during fermentation.

Wine Cellar

Wine cellar at Casato delle Prime Donne

High tech scanners, stainless steel vats, automated plungers and sorting belts ensure that the wine can be made right out in the fields, immersed in the gorgeous Val d'Orcia landscape that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the exceptional and unique beauty of the crete senesi. But these modern tools are at the service of a process that is many centuries old – this mechanized system was specifically designed to carry out the work once performed by medieval monks hidden away in convent cellars. Even the natural yeasts used in the vinification process are native strains indigenous to Montalcino.

Casato Prime Donne produces award-winning Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines that you can sample in our brand-new Montalcino Tour & Taste, Women in a Man's World: Tuscan Wine Tasting. Not only will you get a guided tour of the vineyards and the production process described above, but you’ll enjoy a delicious light lunch of traditional Tuscan salumi, bruschetta and cheeses, along with three red wines (one of them a prized Brunello) and three different types of of extra-virgin olive oil produced on the Fattoria del Colle estate in Chianti.

Select Italy

This woman-empowering experience is a great way to see Tuscany at its most scenic, as well as learn about wine making directly from the producers. Call us today at 1-800-877-1755 or visit our website to book a guided wine tasting.

Top of the Tower: The Torre San Niccolo'

Torre San Niccolo'

The Torre provides a distant view of the Duomo

One of Florence's most majestic but lesser-known monuments is the Porta San Niccolo, the medieval gate of St. Nicholas also referred to as the Torre San Niccolo'. Rising 115 feet tall, it is the only city gate to retain its original height and form. Even though its great wooden doors are no longer in place, this massive gate still stands sentinel on the south bank of the Arno River as a testament to the strength and power of the Florentine Republic in the Middle Ages.

Constructed in 1324, the gate's original purpose was to control access in and out of Florence but since the five-mile circuit of city walls of which it was an integral part were mostly demolished in the second half of the 19th century, it stands today in splendid isolation as a freestanding tower built from the hard, brown, local sandstone known as pietra dura. And if stones could talk, the Torre San Niccolo' would have quite a tale to tell – over 500 years of history comprising sieges and trade, soldiers and artisans, Florentine merchants and weary travelers who passed through this portal on a daily basis.

Swan Lake

Florence is at your feet from Torre San Niccolo'

To give voice to these "ghosts of the past," the Museo dei Ragazzi has organized an interactive guided tour to the top of the tower, made safe for visitors by a 300,000 euro restoration that added iron balustrades, handrails and pigeon-proofing to the structure. A staircase of 161 steps leads to the top where a spectacular, 360 degree view of Florence delights participants on this intriguing, 30-minute tour given in both Italian and English. As listeners hear vivid stories from the city's glorious past, they can admire the graceful curve of Brunelleschi's famous dome on the far side of the river or the unusual, angled view from below of Piazzale Michelangelo and the glittering mosaics on the façade of San Miniato al Monte.

The restored tower was inaugurated on June 24th, a beloved Florentine holiday in honor of the city’s patron saint, St. John the Baptist, whose protective image is frescoed on the inside face of the gate, alongside painted images of St. Nicholas and the Madonna and Child. Guided tours take place afternoons through October 1st and can be booked on the Select Italy website or by calling us at 1-800-877-1755.

whaiwhai Sets Its Sights On…New York City!

Whaiwhai NYC

whaiwhai "The Pegleg"

Big news for the unconventional traveler! The pluri-awarded whaiwhai game tour book is now available for New York City. Italy dubbed whaiwhai one of the most innovative travel ideas of 2009 and the New York Times called it "a high-tech Italian touring game that is part 'Amazing Race' and part treasure hunt, with a bit of DaVinci Code-style storytelling mixed in." The game (whaiwhai means "to search for" in Maori) offers an exciting, full-immersion touring experience unlike any other, allowing players to discover the most hidden corners of a city, as well as those "hidden in plain sight."

Both visitors and residents will benefit by playing: the city's secrets await discovery along, or far away from, the usual touristic routes as the Big Apple unveils its most authentic and secret spirit at every turn of the game. After the charming alleyways, romantic squares and historic palazzi of the Italian cities, whaiwhai comes to the lofty skyscrapers, leafy parks and wide avenues of New York City. This edition, called "The Pegleg," is another extraordinary treasure hunt where challenges and clues make the city a mysterious and exciting playground for all. Manhattan's anecdotes, legends and untold stories become your guide in a captivating and intriguing way!

For those of you who are new to the whaiwhai concept, here is a short recap:

  • How can I play? All you need is the whaiwhai "The Pegleg" book featuring 40 site-related stories and a cell phone to send/receive text messages with the central server. We recommend a city map to facilitate the hunt.
  • Where can I play? whaiwhai "The Pegleg" takes place in Manhattan.
  • When can I play? You can start the touring experience at any time. You can play by yourself, in groups or in teams challenging each other. Once the game is activated (via your cell phone and the special code in each book), you can play at your own speed for up to nine hours in a row.
  • How much does it cost? whaiwhai "The Pegleg" is priced at $21.95 per book and is now available exclusively in Select Italy's online store, before the official launch in September!
  • For which cities is whaiwhai available? In addition to the new New York City edition, whaiwhai is also available for five major Italian cities: Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Verona. For more information and to order your whaiwhai tour book online, visit the Select Italy website.

What are you waiting for? Get your whaiwhai and be one of the first to play the whaiwhai NYC! And stay tuned for upcoming whaiwhai events in the Big Apple!

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How to Tips v. 3

Download Vol. 3 of Our Popular "HOW TO…" Series of Tips

This issue covers dates, the metric system, ordering at different establishments, restaurant checks, and dining and shopping 411.

food section

La Birreria @ Eataly: A Brew with a View
by Andrea Guglielmino

La Birreria

La Birreria @ Eataly on a (rare) slow night

With a never-ending rich (and often expensive) selection of authentic Italian spots, New York is constantly celebrating the "Made In Italy" concept. It’s no surprise to me, then, that the talk of the town this summer is the newly-opened La Birreria @ Eataly – a brewpub on the rooftop of the massive, one-year old Italian supermarket owned by a partnership that includes such food celebrities as Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich.

And how could I have resisted going to see if all the hype is justified? So excited and full of patriotism, my girlfriend and I decided to visit the "Italian mangia Mecca" that is Eataly. Soon enough, we realized our promised land has a way of getting on your nerves. A failed first attempt on a Thursday night (the line for the elevator to the roof was insanely long) caused us to decide to come back on a Monday. While still very busy (hey, this is one of NYC's "hot spots"), we decided to put our name down and gulp the thirty to forty-five minute wait. The good thing, though, is that if you’re a foodie, waiting at Eataly is a breeze.

The bottom line is that you are in the temple of Italian food – a veritable "Circus Maximus" whose 50,000 square feet of space is packed with every Italian food and wine product under the sun. We worked up an appetite strolling the aisles of Tuscan pecorino, Sicilian chocolate and prosciutto di San Daniele. Not to mention the handmade pastas (who knew that the artisanal procedure of extruding paste through bronze - not plastic - dies could generate so many different varieties?), organic rice (Italy has one of the most specialized and sophisticated rice growing techniques in the world) and cheeses in endless forms, shapes and tastes… If it wasn't for my girlfriend who kept on checking with the hostess, I would have probably missed the call to our table! And, thus, before we knew it, it was time to take the elevator to the rooftop beer garden where, after another short stop at the bar to sip our first brew, we made it to our table.

Chef Alajmo

A mug of beer hits the spot on a hot summer night

The Birreria's minimal decor is composed primarily of casks of beer, red chairs and wooden tables while the menu, stamped on sheets of heavy brown paper, focuses its selection on beer-forward food inspired by rustic Northern Italian tradition, accompanied by an acceptable range of house made and noteworthy beers. My Eataly Thyme Pale Ale was good and structured, and it helped me to relax and settle into the atmosphere.

After all that window-shopping for food, we were ready to order! We went straight for the excellent selection of Italian cheeses and cold cuts, followed by a coriander-spiked probusto sausage (so savory and juicy; as good as nonna makes!) with a side of delicious sauerkraut. The other entree, whole roasted Maitake mushrooms on a bed of Pecorino Sardo and asparagus, was good although I wouldn't have minded if the chef had pumped up the size a bit more (next time, I'll order 2 of them!).

As a first visit, it was nice to get the lowdown on this new NYC "hot spot." I may let the buzz cool down before my next visit, but at least when I get the urge to sip a good Italian brew, I know just where to go.

Select Italy

There's no wait at all if you reserve one of our great beer tastings at Florence's one and only artisanal microbrewery in the characteristic Oltrarno quarter. Tour the facility to learn about the brewing process and then sample three of their all-natural, unpasteurized beers with a platter of various cheeses, sliced meats and Italian bruschette. Buon appetito!

Food Store Offer of the Month

Sant'Eustachio Coffee

A typical Sant'Eustachio Coffee display

"July's Tasty Bundle!"

•   FREE 1 can of Sant'Eustachio Ground Coffee – a $14.99 value!

•   FREE shipping

These 2 gifts applicable on all orders of $80.00 or more

Sant'Eustachio Ground Coffee

Made from 100% Arabica beans, this premium ground coffee is the very same blend sold in the historic Sant'Eustachio Il Caffe' behind the Pantheon in Rome. Low in acidity and caffeine content, the natural wood burning fire over which the beans are slowly roasted gives Sant'Eustachio coffee its distinctive, subtle, earthy flavor. It is ideal for drip coffee or cappuccino, and will bring an authentic taste of Rome into your home.

Select Italy's online food store represents a proud partnership with Di Palo’s Fine Foods. At, online shoppers will find a carefully curated range of specialty items imported directly from Italy. The Select Italy Food Store makes it a breeze to bring the best of Italy right to your door.

Zucchini Blossoms & Scamorza Cheese
(fiori di zucca alla scamorza)

fiori di zucca alla scamorza

Fiori di zucca alla scamorza

Ingredients (serves 6 as an appetizer)

  • 1 large egg, separated
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 30 large zucchini blossoms, stems and pistils removed
  • 2 ounces scamorza cheese, cut into 60 (¼ -inch) cubes
  • 6 flat anchovy fillets, cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • Olive oil for frying

Special equipment: a deep-fry thermometer


In a large bowl, stir together egg yolk, flour and generous pinch salt. Add wine by the ¼ cupful, stirring between additions to fully incorporate.

In a dry, clean bowl, whisk egg white to soft peaks then gently but thoroughly fold into flour mixture. Let batter rest for 20 minutes.

Fill each blossom with 2 cubes of cheese and 1 or 2 pieces of anchovy, gently pressing petals to enclose filling.

In a deep skillet, heat 1 inch oil to 360°. Holding petals closed and working quickly in batches of four, dip the blossoms, one at a time, in batter, coating blossoms completely and letting excess batter drip off. Fry coated blossoms in the oil, turning with a slotted spoon, until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes (adjust heat as necessary to keep oil around 360°).

Using slotted spoon, transfer fried blossoms to paper towels to drain; sprinkle with salt. Let cool slightly before serving. Serve warm.

la cucina

Recipe courtesy of La Cucina Italiana - since 1929 Italy's premier food and cooking magazine.

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Toll-free: 800-877-1755, Phone: 312-664-4200, Fax: 312-664-4201
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