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LIVING IN ITALY

How to create an authentic Thanksgiving in Italy

For many Americans, the fourth Thursday in November – aka Thanksgiving – is the most important holiday in their cultural calendar.

A traditional roast turkey
Will you be celebrating Thanksgiving with an Italian twist this year? Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

And while Americans living in Italy may be far from home, that won’t stop them celebrating – even if they don’t get a public holiday like they do back home and have to miss out on watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and American football on TV.

Each year, Americans in Italy gather to devour the traditional turkey with cranberry sauce and take advantage of their adopted home by sinking a few glasses of Italian wine.

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

And as the first Thanksgiving in two years without any international travel restrictions, for many this year’s celebration will be an especially jubilant one.

Here’s our guide to how you can celebrate an authentic Thanksgiving in Italy.

Photo Element5 Digital/Unsplash

Those who live in small towns and villages will likely have trouble securing niche items like Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and Stouffer’s Stuffing, and you may have to settle for a large chicken over a turkey.

But the good news is that it isn’t hard in Italy to source the ingredients you’ll need to make homemade traditional stuffing (which mainly consists of bread, onions, celery, and various herbs) and cranberry sauce from scratch.

Cranberries, or mirtilli rossi, don’t grow in Italy, but some shops sell them dried, and there are plenty of recipes online that explain how to make a sauce by rehydrating dried cranberries.

Otherwise, cranberry sauce can be found at some major chain supermarkets in Italy like Esselunga. If you prefer to start with fresh ingredients, red currents, or ribes, are a good approximation, and can be found in a number of food stores across the country.

Life in Italy: ‘How our shopping habits have changed since we moved from the US’

It’s also possible to locate pumpkins and sweet potatoes in some markets and grocery stores across Italy, if you’re up to the challenge of making a pie from scratch.

In that case, Milan-based blog Doing Italy recommends the ‘La delica mantovana’ pumpkin variety for making pie: “a ‘short’ pumpkin with a deep green crust (sometimes with a few white stripes) and bright orange pulp. If not, butternut squash will do, and that’s getting easier to find at organic supermarkets and things of that nature.”

Buying a turkey requires a bit of research. You’ll need to start by finding a butcher that specialises in poultry, either by hunting online or by word of mouth, and get your order in early to make sure they have time to source your turkey.

READ ALSO: 15 things you’ll probably never get used to about living in Italy

Those who live in a big Italian city are likely to have greater luck than countryside-dwellers when it comes to sourcing imported ingredients.

In Rome, the small delicatessen chain Castroni stocks most items you might want to accompany an American Thanksgiving, including stuffing mix, pumpkin puree, and pecans. They have several stores across the city, including in Prati, Trastevere, and off Via del Corso in the city centre.

Drogheria Innocenzi in Trastevere is also recommended as a destination for those looking for imported American Thanksgiving ingredients.

And small but mighty, the tiny Emporio delle Spezie or Spice Emporium in Testaccio stocks pecans year-round, as well as almost any spice you can think of and some other imported food products.

Photo: Keighla Exum/Unsplash

In central Milan, the specialist store American Crunch is recommended by Doing Italy, which writes that it sells “all that ‘traditonal’ American stuff to make your homesick self cry with joy. You’ll find Crisco and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and even marshmallows.” It also accepts orders online and can deliver to any part of the country.

Milan residents also recommend Mercato Comunale Wagner for Thanksgiving and Christmas treats, and you can even source a turkey here (though you will need to order in advance).

READ ALSO: Where can you celebrate Thanksgiving in Italy this year?

And let’s not forget about the decorations. 

Getting hold of those may be even more difficult than sourcing some of the more traditional foodstuffs but there are lots of websites with ideas for how to make them at home – and if you have kids, no doubt they’d love to get involved in this side of the preparations. 

If after reading this, you think going the whole hog and creating a traditional Thanksgiving in Italy is just too much effort, you could always keep the most important elements – gathering loved ones together for food and drink – and ditch the turkey.

Another option could be to book a table at a restaurant with a Thanksgiving menu – these are rare in Italy and limited to bigger cities, but examples of spots with special offerings include Ristorante Accademia in Florence, and the Hard Rock Cafe in cities across the country including Rome, Venice or Florence.

However you plan to celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving from The Local.

Do you have any recommendations for sourcing ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner in Italy? Please leave a comment below to share them with other readers.

Member comments

  1. I have ordered a turkey through a friend who has a frozen fish store. I found “American patate dolce” at an Emisfero which were white inside. Mashed tastes like roast chestnuts. Today I got real sweet potatoes at a Lidl. I brought my pie materials from the US. I’m refining my pastry now using lard – Strutto. The pastry is excellent. My heart health??
    Big squash at vegetable market sold split into quarters.
    No cranberries yet.
    I bought all the glassware I need for 18 people at a Mercatino d’ Usato.
    I made my own hot plate with sterno burners and fireplace racks.
    Almost ready to eat.
    Just need to cook the 15 kg turkey!

  2. I sourced the Turkey from Sant Ambrogio market here in Florence and asked for it to be spatchcocked. For cranberry sauce, I found dried cranberries and cranberry jelly at Natursi which I then combined this with ribes, port (to macerate the dried cranberries), orange juice and maple syrup. It tastes great. For the pumpkin pie, I’ve steamed, puréed and strained the pumpkin to get the flavor concentrated. I found Yams at the Asian market. Everything else, I make it by hand so it was easy to find the same fresh ingredients here in Florence. I also noticed after I made the cranberry sauce, there was cranberry jam at the Christmas Market in piazza Santa Croce and Enoteca Alessi had premade oceanspray sauce.

  3. It is easy to make a great cranberry sauce by boiling 150 g dried cranberries (mirtili rossi) in about 150 ml water with some cut up orange peel and a stick of cinnamon. Boil for a few minutes then ,macerate with a mixer. Mirtili rossi available on Amazon.it or at Naturasi or sometimes at CONAD.

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LIVING IN ITALY

Rome and Milan rated two of the world’s ‘worst’ cities to live in for foreigners

Italy’s two biggest cities once again get poor marks this year from international residents for career prospects, job security and bureacracy.

Rome and Milan rated two of the world’s 'worst' cities to live in for foreigners

With its stunning landscapes, good weather and culinary delights, Italy is often seen as a place where life is generally easy and relaxed.

But according to the latest study from InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas, life in some parts of the country is much less sweet than some people may think.

The 2022 Expat City Ranking has this year once again rated the Italian cities of Rome and Milan among the ten worst to live in worldwide for foreign nationals.

The ranking, based on a survey of nearly 12,000 international residents, placed Rome and Milan 41st and 44th out of 50 respectively this year, after publishing similarly dismal findings in previous years.

Both cities were again ranked very poorly in the Working Abroad index (which looks at career prospects, job security, work-life balance and work satisfaction) and in the Admin Topics category (mostly related to the overall performance of local administration offices).

READ ALSO: Rome vs Milan: Which is the best Italian city for students?

Milan's Duomo cathedral

Milan ranked 44th overall in the 2022 Expat City Ranking, six places removed from Johannesburg, which came last. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Rome and Milan shared the bottom of the table with Frankfurt, Paris, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Hamburg, Vancouver, Tokyo, and Johannesburg, which ranked last, earning the unenviable title of ‘worst city to live in 2022’.

At the other end of the scale, Valencia (1st), Dubai, Mexico City, Lisbon and Madrid were named the five best cities to move to.

Here’s a more in-depth insight into how Rome and Milan each fared in the ranking. 

Rome

Rome (41st overall), performed poorly in the Career Prospects and Job Security categories, where it ranked 46th and 45th respectively. 

According to the survey, 38 percent of expats living in Rome were unhappy with the local job market, whereas 24 percent stated that moving to Italy’s capital had not improved their careers.

Things were even worse in the Admin category, where Rome came last worldwide.

Here, respondents reported significant difficulties in trying to get a visa, opening a bank account or dealing with local bureaucracy, with many lamenting the lack of online government services and information.

READ ALSO:

Finally, Rome ranked 41st for quality of life, with over one in three respondents reporting being dissatisfied with local transport services and 28 percent reporting issues with trying to access healthcare services.

On a more positive note – perhaps, the only one – Rome did well in the Ease of Settling In index as three in four expats said that they felt at home in the city and had managed to make new friends.

Milan

Like Rome, Milan (44th overall) fared poorly in the Working Abroad index. In particular, the northern city ranked in the bottom five for both work-life balance (46th) and working hours (48th). 

On top of that, over one in four respondents didn’t feel that they were being paid fairly for their work, which contributed to the city ranking 46th in the Salary category.

Milan's Vittorio Emanuele II gallery

Over half of expats living in Milan were unhappy with air quality in the city. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 Milan performed better than Rome when it came to perceived quality of life, ranking 33rd overall.

That said, it still registered a number of lows. Notably, the city came 40th in the Environment and Climate category, with over half of respondents (54 percent) reportedly unhappy with air quality – the global dissatisfaction rate stands at 19 percent.

About one in three were also unhappy with their personal financial situation and felt that their income wasn’t enough to lead a comfortable life.

Local administration was almost as big a problem in Milan as it was in Rome as the northern city came 48th in that category. 

READ ALSO: The best (and worst) places to live in Italy in 2022

As many as 66 percent of respondents said they found it hard to deal with Milan’s bureaucracy, compared to 39 percent globally.

While Italy’s biggest cities, especially the capital, often come out poorly in quality of life indexes, smaller towns and cities generally score much better.

The northern cities of Bolzano and Trento are regularly named by Italian rankings as the best places to live in Italy, with Florence and Bologna usually featuring near the top too.

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