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Hi there! And welcome to "The Italian Sofa" - the free monthly newsletter from Cath (that's me, on the left) at Explore Italian Culture.

Why 'The Italian Sofa'?"

Well, the sofa plays a big part in Italian life. It's the place where points of view are discussed, recipes are swopped, pictures shared, love expressed, friendships cemented, arguments had - in fact, it's where all the shades of life and death are played out.

And so it is here.

So come on in, pour yourself a cappuccino - or a nice glass of Italian wine if it's that time of day - sit down, have a good read, and please, feel free to join in. An Italian conversation is nothing with many, many voices!

It's going to be great to get to know you!

This month :

What's new?
The latest from our website. This month - free 'Mega e-book'!

Only in Italy! :
Stories of life and laughter in our small Italian community.

From Graziella's kitchen :
The recipe of the month from our lovely Italian friend.

Ciao, bella! :
Some Italian phrases you can't do without. This month : hotels.

Pic of the month :
Our favourite pics from around Italy which say something about life there.

Have your say :
How to make your contribution to this e-zine.

What's new?

If you haven't seen it yet, we have just released what we're calling a free "Mega e-book". It really has to be seen to be believed!

Some of the people I have met while designing my website have got together and produced what we think is an amazing product - and it's totally, completely free!.

There are 21 free books inside, on a whole variety of subjects from parenting to planning holidays, from bike riding to being happy, from parties to penpals, from choosing a dog to choosing a vacation. Just decide which you want and follow the easy links to download.

No catch, no money - just our collective gift to you.


Only in Italy!

Every tiny village in Italy has an immense pride in its people and their achievements. Italians celebrate their neighbours' skills with great gusto - one of the things we most love about living here.

Alessandro Mari saxophonist
Sr. Alessandro Mari - Saxophonist extraordinaire.
So we shouldn't have been surprised when, walking our dogs late the other night, we heard music coming from the local sports hall and, on further investigation, discovered the village band giving a concert to which more or less the whole village turned up.

The band - inevitably mostly brass - includes all ages, from our friend Claudio's dad (who is 83) to the young ones just starting out. They played everything from opera to modern rock (Cath specially loved the 'Mamma Mia' section!) and two local people with the most amazing voices sang opera arias, both individually and as a duet.

Why did they do it? Just because they could. Because they have such a pride in their village band. Because they celebrate each others' talents. Because they believe in socialising as a community rather than sitting in front of the TV every night.

It was a warm evening. The great hall's doors were open, kids were enjoying it as much as their parents, and the stars shone on our short walk home.

And the best part?

They played the Italian National Anthem at the end and Cath knew all the words - including the all-important timing of the very last "Si"!

PS - If you want to learn the the words to the Italian National Anthem you'll find them at this link.

From Graziella's kitchen.

Spaghetti with courgettes (zucchini) and ricotta cheese.

Spaghetti with courgettes recipe
Courgettes in Italy are very plentiful at the moment, and consequently a very good price (ours are a little late as we planted them a few weeks behind time).

This recipe, like all Italian recipes, makes the most of food that is in season and inexpensive.

Spaghetti is readily available in supermarkets everywhere, but nothing tastes better than the home-made pasta - and it's so easy.

If you want to make your own, have a look at this link which gives a quick and easy guide to how to make pasta - you'll be glad you did!

Ingredients - enough for 4 people as a main course :

400 grammes (14 oz)spaghetti
600 grammes (20 oz) Courgettes (Zucchini)
200 grammes (7 oz) ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic (optional)
Basil to decorate
Salt and pepper to taste.

Method :

* Wash the courgettes (zucchini), trim both ends and slice finely lengthwise (you can do it in rounds but lengths look better, somehow!).

* Peel the garlic cloves and chop finely.

* Heat the oil in a frying pan which will be big enough to hold the spaghetti later.

* Add the garlic and fry until it changes colour, then remove from pan.

* Add the courgettes (zucchini) to the oil; coat with the oil and stir continuously until they become a light golden brown.

* Take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool a little.

* Put the ricotta into a dish and, using a fork, mix it until it turns creamy.

* Cook the spaghetti until it is 'al dente'. With fresh spaghetti this will only take a couple of minutes - don't overcook!

* Drain the spaghetti and place into the pan with the courgettes. Add back the garlic if liked. Heat well for about a minute.

* Now take off the heat and add the ricotta, making sure the pasta is well coated.

* Place on your serving dish, add a generous sprinkling of pepper and chopped (or ripped) basil leaves and serve.

Ciao, bella!

Hooray! - it's the start of the holiday (vacation) season for many people. So this month we've got some basic phrases for you if you're lucky enough to be travelling to Italy and need to book into a hotel.

And incidentally, if you want to get some more practice in speaking Italian, have a look at our website page about a great resource to learn the Italian language for free - it's one of the best online language resources we know.

At the hotel.

Hello! :
Buongiorno! (bwonjyorno).

I have a room booked / made a reservation :
Ho una prenotazione. (hoe oona pray-no-tat-syonay).

My name is ... :
Mi chiamo ... (mee key-amo).

Is there a single / double room?
Che una camera singola / matrimoniale? (Chay oona camayra seengola / matree-mow-nyalay?).

For tonight :
Per stassera (pair sta-say-ra).

For three nights :
Per tre notte (pair tray not-ay).

With a shower :
Con una doccia (con oona dot-sheea).

With a bath :
Con un bagno (con oon ban-yoh).

How much is it?
Quanto costa? (kwan-toe costa?).

Is breakfast included?
Colazione inclusa? (co-lat-sion-ay een-cloo-sa?).

Can I pay with a credit card?
Posso pagare con carta di credito? (posso pag-ah-ray con car-ta dee credit-oh?).

Pic of the month.

Gorgeous, isn't he?

This was one of two beautiful oxen used to pull a cart during a recent 'festa' in our local town of San Ginesio. No self-respecting Italian town, or even the tiniest villager, has less than two 'festas' a year.

This one told the story of the taking back of the town's beloved crucifix, stolen by bandits from Siena hundreds of years ago.

The two towns are now the best of friends and the Mayors of both join in the celebrations with equal gusto - and many long speeches!

Clicking on the picture will take you to our Italian home's Facebook page, where you'll find some more pics of this lively and beautifully evocative local feast.

Please note - this picture was taken by Cath and is subject to copyright. Using it without our permission is theft and will be treated as such.

If you would like to use it all you have to do is contact us, explain how and where, and we will get back to you within two working days at most with our thoughts.

Would you like to have your say?

We'd love to hear from you! Send us your stories, memories or pics relating to Italy and we will publish them either in our next issue, or on our website.


Simple - just hit the 'reply' button and start typing!

If you want to follow the daily life and times of our home in Italy, you can join us on Facebook at
Casa Benessere - and please remember to 'like' our page there by clicking on the little button at the top of the page - it lets us know you've visited!

Till next time -


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