How to Bake Panettone & Serve it Italian Style

Make Panettone the highlight of your festive entertaining

Panettone is the ultimate Italian Christmas cake, instantly recognizable for its domed shape and its sweet, buttery dough studded with candied fruits and raisins.

Baking a panettone at home is a labor of love, but if you are up for the challenge, you can find a recipe at the end of this post. If you do not feel confident enough to make it yourself, don’t worry!

Most Italians purchase it from their favorite pasticceria, and you can probably find a quality Panettone at your local specialty store. 

The Panettone recipe: are you up to the challenge?

The recipe is for a Panettone weighing approximately 1 kg.


  • Aromatic Mix
    • 30 g acacia honey
    • 1 vanilla bean
    • 1 untreated lemon
    • 1 untreated orange
  • Dough – part 1
    • 100 g sugar
    • 80 g egg yolks
    • 90 g butter
    • 1 g salt
  • Biga
    • 375 g strong Manitoba flour
    • 185 g water
    • 5 g fresh yeast (or 1.5 g dry yeast)
  • Dough – part 2
    • 30 g strong Manitoba flour
    • 1 g fresh yeast /0.3 g dry yeast
    • 2 g salt
    • 10 g water
    • 20 g eggs
    • 40 g sugar
    • 40 g butter
    • 140 g candied orange and citron
    • 150 g sultana raisins
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The Italian Espresso Culture

For us Italians, espresso is more than a drink; it’s a moment of pure pleasure. You’ll often see us savoring our daily shot with closed eyes, relishing in the moment.

The Raffaellesco espresso cup and saucer sits on a tray with a fresh croissant, sticks of cinnamon and coffee beans

There is no simple answer to the question of how Italians prefer their espresso. If you were to watch four Italians ordering their daily espresso at a bar, you would notice that each of them requests a different type of coffee. They may ask for differences in temperature, quantity, brewing process, or ingredients.

To help you understand the basics of Italian espresso culture, here is a brief menu, which you can use to try different varieties and find your favorite espresso. It might even inspire you to plan your next trip to Italy to test your knowledge!

An Arabesco espresso cup and saucer sits on book beside a pastry,  sticks of cinnamon and coffee beans

The Italian Espresso Menu

Caffè ristretto – A more concentrated espresso made with the same quantity of coffee grounds and half the water. It results in a stronger drink with an intense flavor and syrupy mouthfeel.
Caffè lungo – A type of espresso that uses more water and has a longer extraction time than regular espresso. The resulting beverage has a softer taste but contains more caffeine.
Caffè macchiato – An espresso with a small amount of milk. Ask the barista for a macchiato caldo for foamed milk or macchiato freddo for cold milk. Adding an additional ingredient multiplies the options: macchiato lungo, macchiato ristretto, with hot or cold milk. If you ask hot or cold milk “on the side,” the barista will serve it in a jug, allowing you to add as much as you like.
Caffè corretto – An espresso with a small amount of grappa, sambuca, or any desired liquor that adds an extra kick to the caffeine.
Caffè con panna – An espresso with a large blob of whipped cream on top. This gourmet coffee is sometimes served with whipped cream on the side, so you can add more once the first dollop is gone.
Caffè mocaccino – It’s a layered drink that originated in Turin, Piedmont, where it is known as Bicerin. The bottom layer is hot chocolate, then milk froth, and finally, a shot of espresso. It can also be sprinkled with cocoa powder.
Caffè marocchino – A drink from Alessandria, also in Piedmont. It is prepared by dusting the cup with unsweetened cocoa powder, then adding an espresso and finally a topping of milk froth.

The Espresso Cups

The small ceramic espresso cups are as much part of the experience as the coffee itself. What makes them special?

  • They are small, thick and ideally made of ceramic to keep the espresso hot and preserve its taste and aroma for longer.
  • They are rounded inside, allowing the coffee to swirl around nicely and the espresso cream to float on top, golden against the white background.

Explore our selection of espresso cups or contact us to get an espresso cup in any of our dinnerware collections.

A Quick Guide to Handmade Italian Dinnerware

The artistry of handmade Italian dinnerware explained

Selecting the perfect dinnerware set requires careful consideration. With so many options in terms of brands, designs, and materials, and considering the cost involved, the task can be daunting.
If one of the options you are considering is purchasing hand-painted Italian dinner plates, I can definitely give you the lowdown.

A table set with the Raffaellesco Blu dinnerware by L'Antica Deruta. Handmade in Deruta, Italy

The craftsmanship unveiled: how is Italian dinnerware made

Italian dinnerware sets are usually crafted from ceramic, a word that comes from the Greek term “keramos,” which means “clay.” Ceramic covers a range of materials, including porcelain and pottery. Most Italian dinnerware is made from earthenware fired at temperatures around 1800°F to 2100°F. This tradition goes way back – there’s evidence of earthenware pieces dating back to 1400-1200 BC.

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Italian Ceramics and Lemons: a Timeless Love Story

Lemons have been decorating Italian pottery for centuries, especially in the Southern regions of our beautiful country. Whether sculpted, molded or painted, lemons are a favorite subject for Sicilian heads, dinnerware, tiles, backsplash panels and a vast array of home décor accessories.

Why are lemon-themed ceramics so popular?

Since antiquity, lemon trees have been considered a valuable luxury and a symbol of prosperity. Their fruit is a symbol of the Mediterranean lifestyle, sunny outdoors, blue skies and leafy greens. Lemons’ sunny yellow evokes energy, light, warmth. No wonder lemons have been inspiring generations of Italian artists and artisans!

Lemons and interior design

Lemon-themed ceramics are the perfect accents for Mediterranean decor style. A geographical variation of the much broader coastal decor trend, it focuses on light and warm color schemes, and extensive use of natural materials such as ceramics, wood, and wrought iron. Statement pieces, such as bold ceramic Sicilian heads, large planters, rich textiles and tilework, are often used to amp up the space’s color.

The true nature of lemons

The proverbial phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” has somehow given lemons a bad rap. It implies lemons are sour or difficult, when they are quite the contrary. Perhaps the person who coined that phrase just never visited Italy in late spring, when luscious lemons are at the peak of their harvest. Picking a large, untreated lemon directly from a tree overlooking the Mediterranean Sea releases a rush of sweet, citrusy aromas that intoxicate the brain. Left to ripen on the tree, the lemon actually becomes sweeter, so much so that some Italians love to eat them plain with just a pinch of salt.

Although originally from Asia, the lemon tree has been cultivated in Italy since as early as Ancient Roman times. They were grown along the coastline as a prime crop, thanks to their high levels of vitamin C which were important in preventing scurvy among sailors. Today lemons are as “Italian” as olives, espresso, and handmade ceramics. The mild, sunny Mediterranean weather – especially in Sicily and along the Amalfi Coast – is the ideal climate for the tree.

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Trinacria, The Three-Legged Symbol of Sicily

A handmade Sicilian wall plate featuring a Trinacria, the three-legged symbol of Sicily. Handmade in Caltagirone, Italy

The Trinacria, also known as Triskelion, is the familiar three-legged symbol of Sicily.

Everywhere you go in Sicily, you will see a Trinacria, the symbol of our beautiful island. And if you are tempted to bring one home, you’ll have plenty of choices, from sophisticated ceramic Trinacria wall plates from Caltagirone to inexpensive fridge magnets. Of course, we do hope that you’ll go for one of the stunning Sicilian pottery pieces handmade by local artists and artisans, such as Ghenos or Sofia.

Regardless of your choice, you may want to learn about the origin of the Trinacria and impress your fellow travelers with some captivating anecdotes about the origins of Sicily and its three-legged symbol.

Let’s explore the island’s myths and legends, one by one.

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The Difference among Pottery, Ceramics and Majolica, with Special Regard to Italian Ceramics

Italian ceramics, or Italian pottery, have been in my life for quite a long time: I collect them, I read about them, I sell them.Sicilian Head Planter Vase by Ceramiche Sofia, a most skilled pottery maker from Caltagirone

In Italian, when I say ceramica, everybody understands what I mean. On the contrary, when I talk with one of my American friends, I’m always uncertain: should I say Italian pottery, Italian ceramics or Italian majolica?

In order to do away with any doubt, I did some research. I did learn quite a lot on the subject, and I would love to share my findings with you.

Let’s start with technicalities.

Here is a short review of the definition of the words Ceramics, Pottery and Majolica.

Once we know exactly what we are talking about, we will define what they really mean to people.

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April Fool’s … or Fish?

The arrival of spring welcomes in colorful flowers, warmer weather, longer days, and an overall sense of life and joy. Hearing birds chirping and children playing outside erases the solemnity of winter and ushers in a cheerful, playful mood. So it’s not surprising that the first of April, better known as April Fool’s Day, is traditionally a light-hearted day full of practical jokes and pranks. And while it is known by a different name in Italy, Italians also love celebrating with a bit of innocent mischief – all in the name of good fun. We at thatsArte love any excuse for celebration and joy, so without giving away too many details, let’s just say that we always have a little something up our sleeve every year on April 1st. (Sign up for our newsletter to be in on the surprise!)

Sicilian hand-painted bowl with fish by Ceramiche Sofia, Caltagirone

The day of the fool

Just like many modern holidays, the precise origins of April Fool’s Day are unknown. The name itself, at least in English-speaking countries, is pretty self-explanatory as to the day’s objective: play tricks and jokes on a gullible person, or “fool.” It can be as innocent as telling a friend that their shoelace is untied, or much more elaborate, like when the media get involved and tell false stories, for example in 2004 when TG2 in Italy announced the discovery of petroleum on Mars.

Arguably one of the funniest hoaxes in media history had to do with an Italian staple: spaghetti. In 1957 the BBC presented a 3-minute broadcast of a family harvesting the popular pasta from their spaghetti tree in the Italian canton of Switzerland, and scores of viewers fell hook, line, and sinker, calling the station for advice on how to grow their very own spaghetti tree.

April … fish?

Then where exactly do fish come into the picture?
Italians also play pranks on the first of April, but the day doesn’t belong to fools. Rather, it is referred to as pesce d’aprile (literally meaning the fish of April). It might have something to do with the origins of the day, but this “April fish” is mainly seen in the most harmless, yet entertaining prank of all, adored by Italian children and adults alike.

A simple paper fish is lightly taped to the back of an unsuspecting victim, much like the infamous “kick me” sign on George McFly in Back to the Future but undoubtedly more innocuous. That person walks around, gathering giggles unless someone takes pity and asks:
L’hai visto?” (Have you seen him?)
Chi?” (Who?) replies the victim.
Il pesce d’aprile!” (The April Fish!)
At this point, the target of the prank realizes what’s happened and starts wiggling around trying to get the fish from his back. It’s all quite harmless and in good fun.

Cat Fish Moon, a ceramic work of art by Riccardo Biavati - La Bottega delle Stelle, Italy

A good laugh

More than anything, it is a pretty valid example of the light-hearted nature of Italians in general. Letting the obvious stereotypes come into play, Italians typically enjoy a good laugh, ranging from a simple barzelletta to a Checco Zalone parody or a more sophisticated comedy with Roberto Benigni.

Why not take a cue from the Italians and play the perfect trick this year with your own paper fish and a bit of tape? Spread some smiles and cheer…after all, laughter is the best medicine. And in the hopes of not sounding too cliché, surprise is the spice of life. At least, we think so! If you want to be in on the fun for April 1st, make sure to sign-up for our newsletter. We have a special surprise in store for subscribers.

Give Mimosa on Women’s Day

As a business that was founded by two women and is managed by women, thatsArte looks forward to celebrating International Women’s Day, a day to honor, support, and celebrate women the world over.  

Blue Sicilian Moorish head with a crown featuring a female character. The vessel contains a bunch of yellow mimosas.

We enjoy taking a moment to reflect and share stories with you about different aspects of this holiday, especially those pertaining to us and our corner of the world at thatsArte. This includes the talented female ceramic artists we feature, the world of Italian ceramics and sometimes even special traditions that are a part of Italian life.

The main symbol of Women’s Day in Italy

In Italy, la Festa della Donna is best symbolized by yellow mimosa (aka acacia). The mimosa flower is like a burst of sunshine in the midst of winter, with bright, cheery yellow buds. And on March 8 in particular, yellow bouquets appear everywhere throughout Italy.

Sicilian Moorish head with lemons. It features a female character decorated in rich shades of green and orange. It is handcrafted in Caltagirone, Italy. Large

Bunches of mimosa flowers are gifted to women of all ages from all walks of life.
This tradition dates back to 1946, when political activist Teresa Mattei and women’s rights campaigner Rita Montagnana started giving out mimosa as an act of solidarity to celebrate IWD. They chose the mimosa as opposed to other flowers because it is humble and inexpensive, common throughout the Italian countryside, and consistently blooms in late February-early March (just in time for IWD). In the post-war country, it was therefore a practical choice for women from all socio-economic backgrounds.

A resilient, multitasking flower, just like women

Symbolically, the mimosa is the perfect choice to represent women on this special day. It may look fragile, but the mimosa is actually very resilient and can survive in difficult conditions – just like women. The roots, bark, and flower have been proven to have numerous pharmacological benefits for everything from treating snake bites to depression. What’s more, the wood makes into gorgeous furniture and the sap can be used for glue. All in all, the mimosa can certainly be called the ultimate multi-tasker!

Sicilian Moorish head with a crown featuring a female character decorated in shades of antique ivory. It is handcrafted in Caltagirone, Italy.

Sicilian lady head vases & mimosa: a perfect match

So this IWD, as we gift a bouquet of mimosa to the women in our lives, we praise their special qualities: delicate yet tenacious, versatile and well-rounded, just like the Sicilian woman immortalized in our stunning handmade head planters. Each is as unique as the women they honor – be it traditional or modern, courageous or shy, bold or refined. We are all united in the beauty and joy of being…women.

Handcrafted Sicilian Moorish heads by Ceramiche Sofia with female subjects.

St. Valentine’s Day: la Festa degli Innamorati

How many aspects of your daily life can be traced back to Italy? We all know the obvious ones, like pasta, pizza, espresso, and beautiful handmade ceramics. But many modern-day traditions and holidays also have Italian origins, just like upcoming St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine, an Italian saint

It is all thanks to a saint named Valentino (although there was likely more than just one) whose life contributed to this celebration of love in February.

Red Sicilian Moorish Heads by Ceramiche Sofia

Some accounts talk of a Roman priest and physician, or perhaps he was a bishop born in a place that today is Terni, Umbria. Valentino secretly protected couples and married them, in defiance against orders from Emperor Claudius the Cruel who had banned marriages in hopes of strengthening his army.

It didn’t end well for poor Valentino; he was jailed and then beheaded on February 14 around the year 270 CE. In 496 CE, Pope Gelasius declared that this date be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day.

How do I love thee

Nowadays, especially in America, St. Valentine’s Day has become a day to celebrate all the people in your life whom you love. Charming heart candies, cute stuffed animals, and sweet little cards are given to everyone from classmates to co-workers. But in Italy, this day is strictly reserved for innamorati – lovers.

Lovers - Italian ceramic wall hanging by Francesca Niccacci, Deruta

Perhaps this has to do with the meaning of the word love in English versus Italian? In English, love encapsulates the passion and affection you have for another person, whether it be a spouse, parent, child, friend, or even pet!

However, in Italian, there are two verbs that offer a distinction between different forms of love! Voler bene is used for those you care about, like friends and family, while amare is strictly used for romantic love. And the day of San Valentino in Italy is also called la festa degli innamorati – the holiday of lovers.

How Italians celebrate St. Valentine’s Day

Ars et Amor - Italian ceramic wall plate by Francesca Niccacci, Deruta

So then, how do Italians celebrate this romantic holiday? In the northern city of Verona, most well-known for its fateful lovers Romeo and Juliet, February 14 is a part of week-long events and decorations inviting couples to come take in the amorous atmosphere.

But most couples will settle for a romantic dinner in a local ristorante and also give their special someone a heartfelt gift that expresses their passion.

And for that, the best bet is to go with something that represents amore: a unique piece of quality Italian craftsmanship that will last the test of time.

St. Valentine’s Day Italian gifts

Head over to our special page of Italian Ceramics for Romantic Souls, with a wide assortment of beautiful gifts to choose from, where you are sure to find the perfect fit for your special someone no matter their style or taste. A stunning, handcrafted token of love from thatsArte – that’s Amore!

Plants & Planters – Bring Your Home Décor to Life

A new word is trending in interior design: biophilia

Mustard footed planter with blue drops. Handcrafted by ND Dolfi in Montelupo Fiorentino, Tuscany - Italy

Although the term was popularized in more recent times by German-born American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, the concept of biophilia has been around since Aristotle. 

The word originates from bio-, meaning life, and –philia, meaning the love of, and describes the rich pleasure that comes from being surrounded by nature.

Biophilic design recognizes the physiological benefits of incorporating plants into our homes, in addition to the psychological and visual advantages.

Why is plant therapy now officially a thing?

The key reason is that houseplants help create a clean and healthy environment by producing high levels of oxygen and purifying the air.

Italian ceramic planter handcrafted in Caltagirone, Sicily, by Ceramiche Sofia.

Many studies have now confirmed the multiple benefits of having indoor plants:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Increased productivity and creativity
  • Better sleep
  • Cleaner air and less harmful toxins indoors (a natural air filter!)
  • Increased humidity and less dust, thus helping fight against colds and allergies

And quite simply, houseplants and planters are also aesthetically pleasing.  They are a great way to add liveliness, personality, and texture to any room of the house, big or small.

Each type of plant adds a distinct personality to any room with its unique leaf shape, color, height, and volume.  Houseplants become invaluable decor pieces and give you endless possibilities to create interior spaces with special charm.

Here are a few interior design tricks to decorate with plants:

Assess your space to determine which plant type and size will work better in your interior based on the size of the room, amount of furniture, and direct light. Consider arranging your plants in clusters if you have a large space to decorate.

Sicilian ceramic planter with sunflowers and grapes, handmade and hand-painted by Ghenos in Messina - Italy.

The level of maintenance required by houseplants varies significantly. Determine how much time and attention you are prepared to devote to your plants!  Then you can find the right fit for your home and your lifestyle.

Make a list of the plants that match the above criteria before going to the garden center to choose your plants. You want your design to drive the choice, not the other way around.

Choose a pot or planter that goes with your design.  This will make all the difference when trying to create your dream look. 

You’ll be surprised at how these few simple additions can completely transform your living space. Now, take a deep breath and enjoy the benefits of nature indoors. 

A selection of six hand-painted Italian ceramic planters from collection.