We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Countdown to Christmas - Italian style! December 6

photo courtesy www.remodelaholic.com

Hope you are excited for Day 6 (sei) of Karen's Countdown to Christmas!

Today's goodie is Cioccolata calda con panna- Hot Chocolate with whipped cream.


December is the perfect time to endulge yourself in a cioccolata calda, with or without the panna (whipped cream).  Many caffès and bars around Venice serve this decadent treat. I have my favorites, of course, a few of which I will happily share with you here.

The photo above is at Nico's on the Zattere. Well known for gelato, ice cream and their signature take-away gianduiotto, it's the local's go-to spot for delicious thick, dark, rich hot chocolate.

Another of my personal favorite spots for cioccolata is Immagina Caffè, in Dorsoduro on Rio Terra Canal. Delicious served with a huge mound of fresh whipped cream, this one is hard to beat.

Caffè Florian, in St. Mark's Square, is world famous for being the first caffè to serve coffee in Europe since it opened in 1720.  Cioccolata calda here at Florians is an event, up there with having high tea at a swanky tea room in London. Florians has taken hot chocolate to another level with their unique drink named after none other than the legendary Giacomo Cassanova, made of hot chocolate, mint cream and chocolate shavings. Yes, this is almost indecent. But sometimes necessary.

                                                                       photo courtesy Caffè Florian, Venice

I have a difficult time deciding which between two St. Mark's caffès, Florian or Quadri, has the richer cup of hot chocolate. Both serve a pitcher of hot water on the side to help dilute the thick, almost pudding consistency of their delicacies. I think I won't choose at all, I'll just recommend them both, and let you make up your minds. Both are worthy of a stop next time you are in Venice. So do try them, and let me know which is YOUR favorite.

My most recent cioccolata calda con panna was Friday late afternoon, at Nico's. That's when I took the photo above.   I'd been thinking about hot chocolate for a few days, ever since I heard that the week before a few of my fellow Pink Lionesses stopped in at Nico's when rowing was cancelled that day. I'd been under the weather with a bit of a cold, so I was not planning to row on such a cold wet day, but was sorely disappointed I'd missed out on the chocolate.  This past Friday, our normal rowing day, was also cancelled early in the day because our helmsman was not available in the afternoon. Knowing that we would not be gatheing at the boat house that afternoon,  I sent a message to several of the Lionesses suggesting that we meet up for cioccolata instead.

The Lioneesses got right on it, sending messages and making phone calls to the rest of the group, and before you know it, the whole thing was organized. It was gloomy all day on Friday, with rain on and off. It's been raining for days and days here, I was happy for an excuse to get out of the house. Seven of us spent a hilarious two hours drinking cioccolata calda - and spritzes!

If you have read my blog, you know the Pink Lionesses "adopted" me in the beginning of springtime. None of these women speak any English, in fact, they speak only Venetian dialect when they are together. I am studying Italian, have been for several years. I understand very well, but don't speak fluently yet. But I don't understand a lick of Venetian. When we are together, I work really hard at trying to figure out what they heck they are talking about.

My ability to speak Italian has improved over the last 5-6 months so much so that I can manage to hold my own in a conversation now. On Friday at Nico's, as usual, the conversation was flying fast and furious around the tables, mostly in Venetian, of course. At one point, one of them asked me if my name, Karen, is a short cut for some other name in America, like maybe Kathryn. They reminded me that Karen just doesn't exist in Italian. Yes, oh yes, by now I am very well aware of that. They wanted to know why my Italian mother wouldn't have named me something Italian. From that point they veered off to naming some names they knew in Italian that were similar to American names, laughing over the Italian Mai col, which is like Michael. And then, the Lioness sitting next to me says, "I like that name Mav-e-rick-a. You know that one? " Yes, I do know that one.  She asks around the table, no one else knows it, so she tries to describe to them where she knows the name from. It's from a movie, with a famous actor, the one who has great hair, she tells them. She remembers the actor's name after a second or two- it's Tom-a Cruise-a!   I couldn't help myself, I had to explain that Maverick from the movie Top Gun isn't the real name of a person, it's a nickname. She thought it was his actual first name.  No, not a first name.  She asks, not a cognome (last name) either?  No, it's a nickname. Oh, sottonome!

The cioccolata calda at Nico's the other day will be one of my favorite stories, I'm sure. Before this year, I thought my life here in Italy was going pretty well. I'd tackled all the tough things, life was progressing nicely. But in Venice, unlike other parts of Italy, it isn't easy for a foreigner to make friends. Real friends. It works if you are here because you are married to an Italian. In that case, you are surrounded by family, and friends of the family. But if you don't have those connections, in Venice, it isn't easy to get beyond what I call the "imaginary line".  I'm over that line now, thanks to being a Pink Lioness. I'm having experiences beyond what I could have ever hoped for. Even having cioccolata calda with six Venetian friends on a wet, gloomy Friday afternoon.

And that's my cioccolata story for today.

                            Buon Natale! 


Anonymous said...

I hope you went home and told your Mai col all about this! Those Lionesses sound like such a great bunch of women!

karen said...

Yvonne - of course I did! That was just one little snipit of conversation, we were at Nicos for 2 hours! I'm still laughing about it!

Elizabeth said...

Love your advent calendars. The one I'm using this year is a paper replica of St. Marks and each door opened is an angel from classical art. The 24th is of course the nativity.

Kaye said...

I'm happy for you that you have made local friends, I know how tough that can be, having been an expat myself for many many years. I will definitely get in touch when I'm in Venice next summer :-)

Anonymous said...

When I passed by Imagina in November, it seemed to be closed down. Their website says it's shut for maintenance, but gives no indication when it will re-open.

Anonymous said...

When I passed by Imagina in November, it seemed to be closed down. Their website says it's shut for maintenance, but gives no indication when it will re-open.

Emma Leiper said...

I've been following your blog for some time and love it! I had to write in to this entry to say that the Maverick/Tom Cruise story made me laugh! I can see why they got confused!

Also, to say that I sympathise with the difficulties you're having with Italian. I've been studying Italian for 8 years and still feel like I'm getting nowhere!

karen said...

Elizabeth, thanks so much for your feedback. I am really really happy to hear you are enjoying the advent posts. Where did you find a St. Mark's advent calendar?? I WANT ONE, naturally!

karen said...

Ciao, Emma! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I am always grateful to hear from readers. Actually, I'm always shocked I have readers!

And- I'm happy to be in good company with the language struggles. I'm making some pretty good progress lately, I'm back taking lessons and am spending time every day working on it. The renewed committment is helping, but I'm no where near where I would have hoped to be at this point. I'll keep plugging at it though.

We can compare notes on what parts of the Italian language give us the most trouble. AT the moment, I'm still trying to get imperfect tense under my belt.

Buon natale!

Elizabeth said...

The St Mark's advent calendar says it was made by Kreuter Foto Kalender D-38108 Braunschweig.

Heaven only knows if that helps! How's your German? It measure 20" wide by 14" high. Don't remember where I got it.

karen said...

Simhedges- Yes, Imagina has been closed for about a month for major renovations. I heard they were supposed to be open by Dec 14. If I discover they've opened sooner, I'll let you know. This one of my favorite spots in Venice! You could not find nicer people than the bunch that work at Imagina.

Emma Leiper said...

It's usually the imperative tense that makes me want to cry! That, and pronouns :)

I made a New Year's resolution to study more but so far I've not been too good - must do better!

karen said...

Emma- for me it's l'imperfetto. There is nothing to compare it to in English, it just drives me wild. I'm studying more- take classes 3 times a week and doing just about everything else I can think of to speak, speak, speak.

Keep at it! We can do this :)

Erika Ferguson said...

Even more than the Advent calendars, I'm loving meeting the artisans of Venice. Along with my 91 year old Mum and my sister, we are returning in May for our 4th visit to Venice. We've done the dawn photographic tour with Mike (2nd visit), sipped and ate our way through the cicchetti tour (3rd visit) again with Mike (you had a bad knee Karen), so I'm filing these little snippets for our next trip. Libreria Acqua Alta is a must! Thanks so much Karen for sharing these unique and precious stories which never make the "things to do in Venice" list. You really make us feel as though we are actually in Venice! With very best wishes, Erika Ferguson in Perth, Australia.