Tag Archives: Italy

Tuscany. The home of red wine, olive oil…and craft beer

Craft beer in the UK is well and truly mainstream and here to stay. You just have to visit any bar or supermarket aisle and you can’t escape it. 200 new breweries open every year. Brewdog, the leader of the Revolution, is going from strength to strength.

Italy on the other hand is not a beer drinking nation, but one of the biggest revelations of my most recent holiday to Tuscany was the prevalence of craft beer. As a regular visitor, I’d seen one or two obscure examples but this time it was present in all the bars and cafes I visited. Here’s a couple of the examples I came across.

La Luppolaia

This is a small brewery based in a small village called Caprese Michaelangelo. I know very little about it apart from the fact they make lovely beer. I particularly liked this example which was made with chestnut honey – a local speciality


26 Nero

Based just outside Siena, this is another craft brewery producing interesting nicely packaged, artisanal beer. I tried their white beer which was delicious.


No doubt there are many more craft beers popping up in all corners of this wonderful region using local ingredients to create unique tastes and flavours. I’m quite interested in trying out this one – Bastarda Rossa – which is made using chestnuts. It has obviously been inspired by Brewdog’s naming protocol!.

Bastarda 75cl_MECH

As can be seen from this directory of Tuscan microbreweries, many have started up over the past few years, so no doubt local beers will become more and more available. In a region with such firmly entrenched wine traditions this is truly remarkable.

So on your next visit to Italy I would suggest you give the Moretti a miss and look for something more interesting instead.


10 Brands That Capture the Spirit of Italy

I’ve been working in Italy all this week, so thought I’d reflect on the brands that I think truly capture the spirit of Italy. This is very much an outsider point of view. I’m sure indigenous Italians would have a different perspective. Here goes, in no particular order

1. Armani


There are so many Italian fashion brands to choose from, but in the end it had to be Armani. When you fly to Milan – often in fog – there’s an aircraft hanger near the runway with a huge ‘Emporio Armani’ sign on it. I see it and think ‘Hurrah I’m in Italy’

2 Illy Cafe


Italy gave the world the language of coffee, and the two key brands are illy and Lavazza. Perfect for your Moka coffee maker. In the end, I think iIly is more ubiquitous, particularly in bars. Plus I like the metal tin.

3. Barilla


There are hundreds of pasta brands in italy, but the biggest by far is Barilla, with its distinctive blue box. Although da Cecco is often regarded as the most premium pasta brand, if ever you go to an itallian deli in the UK, you’ll always find Barilla. I feel a bit guilty about not going for Buitoni – the brand I used to work on – but my head ruled my heart

4. Nutella


The smell and taste of this hazelnut chocolate spread is uniquely Italian. There’s nothing quite like it. Although can you find it everywhere nowadays, there was a time when you only ever get in Italy. When I went on holiday to Italy as a kid, it was the first thing I looked for

5. Campari


I never think about drinking Campari and Soda in the UK, but when it’s time for an aperitivo in Italy, I’ve just got to have one. It’s not exactly the trendiest drink – everyone orders Aperol Spritz nowadays –  but for me it’s the still best way to kick off the evening.

6 Birra Moretti


On the subject of alcohol, there are only 2 well known beer brands in Italy- Peroni and Moretti. I like them both, but in the end I’ve gone for Moretti, because it’s much less available outside of Italy than Peroni, which is now more of an international brand. Plus Moretti’s from Udine, which is where I am at the moment. I’ve got one in front of me right now

7 Fiat 500


Choosing a car brand was tough because there are so many great Italian car brands  – Ferrari, Alfa, Maserati, etc – but I’ve chosen the Fiat 500. A truly icon brand, which – like the Mini – has been re-invented for today’s generation

8 Vespa


There was only scooter brand I could choose – Vespa (wasp in Italian). The scooter that looks a bit like a small van is called Ape (bee in Italian). The Vespa was Immortalised in the film ‘Roman Holiday’ and I can’t imagine Italy without them. I was shocked to learn recently that in Italy you can start riding them from as young as 14 years of age.

9 San Pellegrino


I can’t think of another brand of Italian sparkling water  – can you? it’s served everywhere. Much better than any of the French mineral water brands.

10. Carpigiani


Strange choice I know, but Carpigiani is the brand of ice cream machines that you find in all ice cream vans. My family made ice cream for a living so I spent my youth cleaning them or serving ice cream from them. Have a look next time you buy a 99.

So, here’s my top 10. All fabulous brands that help bring to life this wonderful country.