Today is Ferragosto in Italy. It is a holiday which commemorates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary for those who believe and for others it simply signifies the middle of August, a day when everything is closed and everyone is on vacation. Reading Mondosapore this morning reminded me of those days in Italy when you really must just relax and assume nothing will get done. I miss that in New York, albeit at times, the entire month of August was depressing for those left in the city. True Milanesi love August in the City, when they can drive their scooters around without having to stop for any red lights, not wait in line at the Post office and go to the market without being pushed by short older women with big carts.

My first summer living in Milan, the entire city was shut down for August but I worked at a financial newswire which never closed its doors. Those were the days when Italy’s Central Bank still mattered and as always, most financial crises began in August. At times, being in the office was almost a relief from the hot, empty streets of the city. When I did have to venture out, I looked forward to the one light on the street, a bar called Le Trottoir. I lived in the Corso Garibaldi area and Le Trottoir was the only game in town. It has since changed its location and style but at the time, it was the closest thing to a hippy bar that I could find in my chic Milan neighborhood and it was refreshing. They served popcorn, bad wine and had loud music every night until dawn. When everyone’s tapparelle or sun blinds were down, it was a pleasure to slip into that bar and order whatever they had on the menu, generally a bland Barbera/Croatina from the Oltrepo’ Pavese, an area near the city of Pavia. These wines used to be on every Milanese restaurant and trattoria menu. They were not particularly refined wines but went well with some of the local fare. WInes from the Oltrepo’ aren’t that popular in the US but they do make some good Pinot Nero. Oltrepo’ Pavese Spumante Metodo Classico was awarded the coveted DOCG (denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita) last year. This sparkling wine can be made with a majority of Pinot Nero grapes together with smaller percentages of Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay.

For wines from the Oltrepo’, check out the Consortium Website for Vini d’Oltrepo.

International Wine Merchants of America imports some wines from the Oltrepo’ into the United States.

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