When In Cinque Terre -- Don’t Drink the Black Fanta

Monterosso stationWhile trekking with the whole family in the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast of Italy, we discovered a drink preferred by the locals, but decidedly not to my second son’s taste.

It was a very hot afternoon and we were waiting to get on train from Monterosso. I went into the station tabacchi to upgrade our phone card and Nate spied a case stocked with cold sodas, in particular, a bottle with the Fanta label. He grabbed a what he assumed was Fanta root beer or cola and we plunked down the Euros at the counter.

Stepping back into the hot sun, son number two opens the bottle chinottoand takes one sip which he immediately spits out. The assumption that it was root beer or cola was clearly wrong. Examining the bottle more closely, we see that the flavor is something called Chinotto (key-NAWT-toe). Later, we learned that chinotto is a small bitter citrus fruit that is Fanta chinotto bottlefound throughout Liguria, Tuscany, Sicily and Calabria. It is also the main flavoring for most Italian bitter digestifs, as well as the Campari liqueur. It’s thought that it gets its name from the fact that the plant originated in China.

Son numero due obviously did not think much of it at all, which prompted a brief lecture on my part about “when in Rome...” I pointed out that every culture has some flavors that are uniquely popular (can anyone explain the taste sensation of Fizzies?). To prove my point, I took a sip of the Fanta Chinotto, or Black Fanta as we were calling it by then. It tasted absolutely awful. Licorice flavor on one end of the spectrum and sickly sweet on the other end. It couldn’t be that bad, I thought. That’s why I took another swig of it. Yes, I decided, it could be that bad and worse.

The look that my children gave me when I dropped the unfinished drink in the trash can said it all. Despite a reputation for being able to eat pretty much anything and not withstanding the “when in Rome” concept, I was done with the Black Fanta. I had nothing else to prove by continuing to drink something, that to my palate anyway, was not in the least refreshing.

It may now be more correct to say when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Unless they’re drinking something that tastes horrible. And when in Cinque Terre, stay far away from the Black Fanta.

When Jim Fanzone went to Italy with the whole family, there was never a dull moment. Being art director for DesignConcept is much more tasty.

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