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Franky in New York

The Beautiful Life

Welcome back to a new chapter of The Beautiful Life! This month we'll focus on a typical Italian tradition for this part of the year, the Carnevale. Italian Carnevale is long and insane, mainly because it comes right before Lent and its restrictions. Of course today no one fasts anymore - at least not that strictly. Yet, Carnevale has maintained its odd charm, especially in magical locations such as Venice.
We are right on time: tomorrow, February 24, is Fat Thursday, followed by Fat Friday and Fat Saturday. Until the Grand Finale on March 1st, this year's Fat Tuesday. Let's dive into the Carnevale spirit then, and don't forget to wear a costume!
Grab the joy of life while it lasts. Carnevale has a name that's also a warning. Carnevale (cah-rnae-vàh-lae) comes from the Latin expression "Carnem levàre," meaning "giving up meat," as the last day of Carnevale is Fat Tuesday, on the eve of Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, Lent imposes fasting and repenting, a long month of staying away from any kind of indulgence. Carnevale also has a figurative meaning of unregulated - if not inappropriate - outbursts of happiness. To say that a situation has gone way too wild, Italians call it "un Carnevale." An expression that particularly fits when it comes to dressing codes. When in Italy, be aware of what you wear if you don't want your beloved attire to be confused with a costume of Carnevale.

An Italian Feast

Even though the climax of Carnevale is the countdown to Fat Tuesday, starting from the Thursday before, celebrations begin soon after the Epiphany - and in some traditions last until the first Sunday of the Lent, the so-called Pentolaccia (a sort of piñata day). Carnevale is an ancient festivity, celebrated in Italy as a popular expression of the Christian culture. Typically, in this period Italy is peacefully invaded by dozens of parades, public gatherings, live music and street food events. And while many celebrate in the streets, others gather in private parties. There's just one mandatory rule: everybody must wear a costume. Here are some of the most famous traditions.
Venezia: the lagoon city is even more magical during this time of the year. A simple stroll, from Piazza San Marco to the tiny calli (the narrow streets along the channels), it's like a dive into the past. Venetian Carnevale dates back to the 1300s, and it's no doubt the most charming and sophisticated. And no worry if you are not invited to one of the many parties taking place in hotels and private houses: just a walk through the city is worth the visit.
Viareggio: the Tuscan little town along the sea is home to traditional celebrations whose core is a series of parades. Giant, allegorical paper-maiché floats take the Corso, aka the main street, surrounded by people in costumes. Floats are traditionally satirical and reflect current events and politics.
Ivrea: this local Carnevale, in the north of Piedmont, is truly one-of-a-kind. Much more than the parade of historical costumes, the clou here is a gigantic orange-throwing battle. Dating back to the Middle Age, the origin is said to be the story of a young peasant girl named Violetta who rebuffed the advances of a ruling tyrant. When she decapitated him, chaos ensued: the orange battle evokes it any given year. 
Barbagia: in this inner region of Sardinia, Carnevale is probably the most ancient ever. Here it is rare to see people in costumes, as the main two characters are the Issohadores and the Mamuthones. Both male figures, they respectively represent horse riders in ghostly masks and the oxen men. Their parades attract locals and tourists in droves.
Acireale: this tiny town at the foot of Mount Etna holds the most beautiful Carnevale in Sicily since 1600, with
 flower and paper-maiché allegorical floats that are still very similar to the originals. Each year, on Fat Tuesday night, fireworks end the parades.

Meanwhile, in the US...
Maybe it's the massive Italian presence on the West Coast, anyway San Francisco hosts one of the most vibrant Carnivals taking place in the States. Besides the Grand Carnival Parade, which is highly influenced by Latin vibes, an authentic corner of Italy can be found at the Museo Italo Americano that this Saturday, February 26 at 6 pm, hosts its Festa di Carnevale, for the occasion merging with the famed Battle of the Grapes, now at the third edition. Echoing the Venetian atmospheres, attendees will immerse in the Laguna spirit, sporting Venetian traditional costumes, and tasting wine, spuntino and dolci. For details, information, and to book a reservations go to
Now doubt New Orleans Carnival is one of the most famed in the United States, if not in the world. And also no doubt the Creole component is dominant. Still, as Italians are steady dwellers of New Orleans, Italian traditions, especially when it comes to food, are easy to spot around town. If you want to taste authentic Italian Carnival treats, step off the parades and head to Piazza d'Italia and its nearby, behind the American Italian Cultural Center at Lafayette and Commerce Streets in downtown New Orleans. Here, at the heart of the Italian neighborhood, just follow the smells coming from restaurants and food carts if you want to live an unforgettable experience. Otherwise, you can always tour the American Italian Museum ( and find out all you need to know about Italians in Louisiana.
Treat Yourself, Have a Sweet Carnevale
Chiacchiere, bugie, crostoli, cenci, frappe, even meraviglie. The Carnevale Italian typical treat has many names, but it always tastes the same: delicious. Do you want to savor this sweet and fried delicacy? Try the maybe it's not that quick a recipe, but we promise you won't be disappointed.


  • 3 cups (14 oz) flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oz butter softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder 
  • 2-3 tbsp rum brandy or other strong liquor
  • 1 lemon zest only
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting
  • 1-2 tbsp warm water or milk if needed


  • In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder. Add sugar and softened or melted butter
  • Give it a quick stir. Add lightly beaten eggs and lemon zest finely grated 
  • Mix everything with a fork. Lastly, add a few tablespoons of rum or other high proof liquor: it makes the fritters more crispy
  • Knead the dough with your hands until smooth but still pretty firm. Add a tablespoon of water or warm milk if the dough feels too firm and crumbly
  • Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes
  • You can let it rest overnight in the fridge, just make sure to remove it from the fridge an hours before starting working with the dough
  • Once the dough is “rested”, cut off a piece circa ½ inch wide and sprinkle it with flour
  • If using pasta machine, set the roller setting on 0 and pass the dough through. Fold it in half, and pass again on the next setting
  • If using a hand roller, roll the dough light, fold in half and roll again a little bit thinner
  • Repeat the folding process preferable twice on each setting. This helps created an amazing “airy” and bubbly texture of the dough when it’s deep fried
  • The best thickness setting on pasta machine for ready to cut chiacchiere is on 5-6 
  • Using a pastry crimper wheel cut the dough into 1x4 inch strips strips or 2x4 strip scored in the center
  • In a deep pan or fryer preheat vegetable oil suitable for frying. The best temperature to start frying the dough is about 350F. You can measure it with a kitchen thermometer
  • But if you don’t have one try frying a small piece of the dough, if it comes up floating and bubbly in less than 3 seconds the oil is ready
  • Once oil is heated turn the temperature on medium low to prevent oil from overheating.
  • Fry for a few minutes on each side and once the fritters are lightly brown, discard on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  • Place the fritters on a serving plate and generously dust with confectioners sugar
The Maestro Comes to NYC 
No doubt music ranks at the top among the gifts Italy has presented to the world. What bell does Vivaldi ring for you? Discover how the Maestro still has his say and delivers the message even to the youngest generation.
The Little Orchestra Society, the New York musical institution that has provided innovative high-quality concerts for children and grown-ups for 75 years, is ready for their onstage comeback with Vivaldi's Virtuosas!. As per L.O.S. tradition, the show is more than just music: it's inspired storytelling that mixes entertainment, theater, video, and dancing. The curtain will rise as Maestro Vivaldi and his protégé are desperately seeking the world's best soloist.Their auditions will soon turn into a one-of-a-kind concert featuring a parade of fascinating, accomplished young women performers from the Juilliard School. What better way for L.O.S to celebrate Women's History Month and their 75th anniversary, all dedicated to the legacy of their late Executive Director Joanne Bernstein-Cohen, who passed away last summer. Tickets available for purchase at

Vivaldi's Virtuosas! will be performed on March 5-6 (11:30 am and 1 pm) at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York City. L.O.S. has scheduled two other programs: Treblemaker: The Opera! (April 2-3) and Ellington & Gerswhin: Rhapsodies in Jazz! (May 14-15). Details at

Ilene and Gary Modica are the founders of Our Italian Journey (, the awarded travel blog and book about Italy. After touring "the Belpaese" for a whole year in 2019, they have settled in Lucca and are currently experiencing everyday Italian life. Hearing from someone else is always enriching and inspiring: let's peek into Ilene's journal and find out what the Italian period means to her and Gary from a personal point of view. For sure they have made a lot of new friends!

The Finer Things in Life are Free

Since starting our blog back in 2016, we have interacted and enjoyed helping people with information about Italy. Comments on posts indicate we open doors and ease the uncertainty of the unknown. For example, using trains in Italy seems to be a problematic issue for travelers. We try to provide photos, videos, and information to assist with getting over this particular fear.

Publishing our book, Our Italian Journey, has also brought us friendships we could never have imagined. Visitors to Italy, especially Tuscany, want to come to Lucca to meet us. Us? We still can't get used to this concept. But what is wonderful and free? The amazing people we have met and established friendships with even after they have long left Lucca, we continue to FaceTime, Zoom, and email.

Lucca became our home last year, and our passion must show in our blog posts and social media. We enjoy showing visitors our home town and all that Lucca offers. Don't be afraid to open yourself to others. Some fantastic friendships have started because of a simple email or comment.

Share your passion. Your spirit will grow too.

Each Story Needs to Be Told

Your story needs to be told, and so does your loved ones’. Now you have the opportunity of making it count. Be part of our new project, the Italian American Who’s Who: the first collection ever of all the Italian American stories. A massive loving tribute to the community and a way to preserve your family’s memory for future generations. This is the first comprehensive recognition to a community that has left such an undeniable mark in this country, no matter the original background. And it’s not just about legacy: Who’s Who will also help in reconnecting family members and friends who have lost touch over the years and in expanding one’s own network.

One last smile

before you go...

"We Italians do not produce coffee. Still, Italian coffee is a world star." Mauro Agnoletti is an associate professor at the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry Systems of the University of Florence and proposed to insert Italian espresso in the UNESCO World's Heritage list. "Coffee in Italy is much more than a beverage. It's a common ritual and part of a cultural heritage that belongs to any of us." Two cities are involved in the process: Trieste, where the first loads of coffee were shipped from Vienna in the late 1600s, and Naples, due to its undisputed tradition: the not-to-be-missed tazzulell' 'e caffè.

(thanks to for this tip)

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