Ciao from Cortina: Holidays in Italy

Sophie Dingle/For the Steamboat Today

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is ahead of us, we officially have entered the holiday season.

Personally, this is my favorite time of year. But it wasn’t always that way.

Four years ago, it was a little bit hard to get used to not having Thanksgiving at home and not being with my family on Christmas.

With modern conveniences like the Internet and direct flights, Italy doesn’t feel that far away — except during the holidays and especially on the one holiday that Italians, who are happy to celebrate every single saint, do not celebrate.

People at home always ask us, “Do they celebrate Thanksgiving in Italy?”

No, because remember that Thanksgiving originally was a party with the pilgrims and the Native Americans in 1621 when the Italians were busy worrying about the Treaty of Milan and the plague.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate it. Sometimes, in order to make Italy feel like home, you have to bring traditions from your other home with you. So we celebrate in the biggest way possible: with a 40-pound turkey. The first year we were here, there was a slight mix up regarding kilograms versus pounds. We ordered a 20-pound turkey that turned into a 20-kilo turkey, which actually is a 40-pound turkey.

And yet, despite being very conscious of this mistake for the next two years, for some reason, the turkey that is delivered to our door in the days before our Thanksgiving is consistently 30-plus pounds.

In America, we like things large: big houses, supersized McDonald’s meals, venti coffees. In Italy, they like things tiny, and that doesn’t just pertain to the espresso cups. A 30-pound turkey never would fit into an Italian oven. It always requires a last-minute trip to the butcher to get a few limbs sawed off before we cook it, sans legs and wings, which are cooked in another oven across town.

But there always are hiccups on Thanksgiving, no matter where you are.

In America, families get in heated political debates, the dog licks the pumpkin pie and the turkey takes six hours to cook instead of three.

In Italy, these hiccups are just a little different. Since all of us North Americans here are thousands of miles away from our families, there is no one to fight with. None of us have dogs, so the pies are always safe. And when you have a 30-pound turkey, you are very aware that it’s not going to cook in three hours.

Instead, you have to worry about things like temperature conversions, where you’re going to find cranberries to make cranberry sauce and if you have enough wine for 10 hockey players.

This year, I mixed up Celsius and Fahrenheit and cooked the pumpkin cheesecake at a ridiculously high temperature. We had to drive to another country to find cranberries. We had to cut 20 shallots by hand into tiny slivers to be fried for the top of the green bean casserole.

But there was enough wine, which is one of the perks of having Thanksgiving in Italy.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at

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