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Italy staycation

Bring a healthy appetite for gelato, pasta-making classes and hot Italian men.

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Made in Italy NYC

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Grom

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Il Cantuccio

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I Trulli

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I Trulli

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Rustico Cooking

Live the Italian dolce vita

Milan is the fashion epicenter of Italy, from Armani to Zegna. But no design house embodies edgy Milanese street style quite like Costume National (160 Mercer St between W Houston and Prince Sts; 212-431-1530, costumenational.com), whose leather pants and close-cut silhouettes scream: “I’m a badass who rides my Vespa in six-inch heels!” Such items are investment pieces, to be sure (tops start at $297 and dresses begin at $413), but unlike stores in Italy, the label’s first stateside boutique hosts occasional sales. For Italian fashion on the cheap, there’s always jeans brands Miss Sixty and Diesel.

RECOMMENDED: Our most recent Staycation Guide

Continue your transformation into a bella donna with a visit to famed Naples-bred hairstylist Oscar Blandi (545 Madison Ave between 54th and 55th Sts, second floor; 212-421-9800, oscarblandi.com), who has styled the tresses of actress Monica Bellucci. Even if you can’t afford a cut with the maestro ($600) or his brother Luca ($175), you can still pick up Pronto dry shampoo ($21) or the smoothing hair treatment Trattamento di Jasmine ($24) from the salon to give your locks a lift.

Get a whiff of Old European charm the moment you step through the ornate iron doors of Santa Maria Novella (285 Lafayette St between E Houston and Prince Sts; 212-925-0001, lafcony.com). The centuries-old beauty company was founded in Florence by Dominican friars and continues to sell its time-tested line of perfumes, candles and shampoos. Pick up a bar of olive oil soap ($22) or skin-toning orange blossom water ($28), made with blooms picked from Sicilian orchards.

Once you’ve nabbed Italian style, show off your Sophia Loren--worthy look and hobnob with expats at one of the free monthly parties thrown by Made in Italy NYC (madeinitalynyc.com; sign up online). The group’s events are sponsored by brands like Peroni, Sambuca and Aperol, and often feature Italian DJs. “We’re bringing a new vision of Italy to New York,” says cofounder and Rome native Francesco Mo. “Not the Mulberry Street Italy, but a modern one, with its style and technology. It’s not spaghetti and meatballs—it’s a lot more than that.”

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In September, Italian architecture, design and art center Triennale di Milano New York (40 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; triennale.it/newyork) will open with an exhibit dedicated to Milanese architect Gio Ponti.

Eat like an Italian

As delicious as American ice cream is, you’ll think you’ve been eating perforated cardboard after you get a lick of true Italian gelato. Though poorly executed imitations abound, the most authentic scoops we’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic come from Grom (233 Bleecker St at Carmine St; 212-206-1738, grom.it * 2165 Broadway at 76th St, 212-362-1837), a gelateria chain based in Turin. Order a cone of nutty nocciola ($5.25), made with tonda gentile hazelnuts from Piedmont, then fare una passeggiata (take a stroll) as you devour your rich, creamy treat.

When Italian bakers Simone Bertini, Camilla Battri and Lorenzo Palombo opened Il Cantuccio (91 Christopher St at Bleecker St; 212-647-8787, ilcantuccionyc.com) in April, they introduced New Yorkers to cantucci, the soft, anise-flavored biscotti typical to their native city of Prato, just outside Florence. The biscuits are traditionally served with a glass of vin santo for dipping, but until the caf gets its liquor license, you’ll have to dunk the chocolate-, apricot- and prune-filled pastries ($29.90/lb) in a caffe latte ($3). Alternatively, nibble brutti ma buoni almond cookies ($29.90/lb) in the back garden under the Tuscan sun—hey, we all share the same sky, right?

New York certainly has no shortage of red-sauce joints, but for superior Puglian cuisine, I Trulli (122 E 27th St between Park and Lexington Aves; 212-481-7372, itrulli.com) is pretty much the only game in town. You won’t want to miss any of the pastas handmade daily by mama Dora Marzovilla (we drool for the orrecchiette in rabbit rag, $24), nor the 450-strong all-Italian wine list. If you love what you’re sipping at dinner, chances are you can buy a bottle to take home at Vino Wine & Spirits, the restaurant’s wineshop across the street.

“The most authentic area that still retains its Italian identity is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx,” says Louis Calvelli, executive director of Casa Belvedere (casa-belvedere.org), an Italian cultural foundation housed in a Staten Island mansion that’s slated to open in September 2011. “You go from one specialty shop to the other, whether it’s Casa Della Mozzarella for cheese, Borgatti’s for pasta—everybody has their little traditions.” Among Calvelli’s rituals: hitting family-run Madonia Brothers Bakery (2348 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St, 718-295-5573) for “things that are no good for me,” like a loaf of olive-studded bread ($5). He also picks up the occasional rabbit or baby lamb from Vincent’s Meat Market (2374 Arthur Ave between 186th and 187th Sts, 718-295-9048), the same butcher that his grandfather once frequented.

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Mi scappa la pip literally translates to “my pee is escaping me” and is a phrase that bambini utter when they have to go to the bathroom.

Be cultured like an Italian

For those who don’t have a nonna to teach them how to roll homemade gnocchi, there are the pasta workshops at Rustico Cooking(40 W 39th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, third floor; 917-602-1519,rusticocooking.com). The next class takes place June 26 (noon; $95), but making cavatelli and pansotti from scratch isn’t the school’s only focus. “We try to offer a broad view of Italian regional cooking, from areas people are familiar with to less well-known ones, like Val d’Aosta,” explains Milan-born owner Micol Negrin. She says her “Ten Best Pasta Sauces” crash course (June 11 at 6pm; $110) is the quickest to sell out. “The low-carb fad is definitely over!” she says. “People love pasta.”

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Next time you want to tell someone off without cursing, exclaimm “Va fa un brodo!” It means “Go make a soup,” but serves as a fine substitute for “Eff off.”

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