"When life gives you lemons...
Soak the zest of 5 organic lemons in 2 cups whole grain alcohol for 3 days. (If you can't find the alcohol, use 100 Proof vodka and reduce the water to 1 cup.) Make a simple syrup by heating 2 cups of water and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Mix together and strain out the lemon peels. Keep in the freezer. Enjoy!
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June's heat turns the hills golden and the red poppies in the wheat fields are home to the fireflies!
Raised in California, I'd never seen fireflies until moving here. I'll never forget the first night I saw them. What a miracle! I passed the Ferragamo villa while driving into Florence from Fiesole. It looked like they had decorated their fields with Christmas lights. I thought I was dreaming!
Recently, my husband Andrea called me out to see my fireflies in our garden. It's heaven right here on earth!
June means several things here in Florence. Fabulous fireworks on June 24th to celebrate St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, and the final playoff of the annual Renaissance soccer game played by teams representing four neighborhoods : Santa Croce, Santa Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, and San Giovanni. The game is a combination of soccer, rugby, and big time wrestling.
Each game begins with a colorful parade of over 400 people in costume. They look like they stepped out of a Renaissance painting! The faces haven't changed in centuries! For more on the event, read my friend's illustrated article.
On the morning of June 24, I'll be out gathering unripe green walnuts to make Nocino (recipe below), Florence's after dinner drink. Tradition dictates that the walnuts should be gathered when the morning dew is still on them.
Summer also means that outdoor cafes, walk-in movie theaters, and concerts are opening for the season. One of my favorites is located just below Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a great place to stop for a drink, a snack, or dinner and listen to live music. Rime Rampanti is located just above the Arno river (Rampa di San Niccolò, Piazza Poggi). Another great place to stay cool (and be cool!) is Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. They have live jazz music every night!
Also, keep your eyes open for festivals throughout Florence. There is a special knife and cutlery show in Scarperia, a village just north of Florence. I buy my knives from the famous Berti family.
Montelupo Fiorentina is having their popular ceramics festival. The Medici's had their ceramics made here! It's worth the trip.
Keep your eyes open for the word SAGRA; it means food festival. Almost every weekend there will be a food festival somewhere. They tend to be in the evening, so plan on having dinner. The hot summer days with occasional storms have already brought in the first porcini, so watch for porcini sagre. If you can't be here, use my recipes and make your own sagra!
Recently, I was lucky enough to visit Cinque Terre and Liguria. I brought back a recipe from Osteria Luchin in one of my favorite towns on the coast, Chiaveri.
Italian Walnut Liqueur
30 walnuts, green & unripe
1 liter of 100 Proof vodka
1 large strip lemon zest
(about a quarter of a lemon)
2 cinnamon sticks
2-1/2 cups sugar
Clean the walnuts with a damp towel and cut in quarters. (Be careful; they will stain your hands!) Place in a large jar, add the rest of the ingredients, and cover with a lid. Shake the jar once a day for a month. Filter and save the liqueur. Serve in tiny glasses at the end of a meal.
I love to drizzle the liqueur over vanilla ice cream. Some people save the walnut pieces, cover them with sherry, and serve them chopped as dessert.
For those who don't like walnuts, see the sidebar above for another favorite Italian after dinner drink...Limoncello.
Walnuts are traditionally picked in the morning on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist (Natività s. Giovanni Battista).
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Life's Too Short
Tuscan Chocolate Valley
I Scream, U Scream, We All Scream for...Gelato!
Slow Food, Slow Travel
Sagre, Sagre, Sagre!
La Notte di San Lorenzo
Fireflies & Fireworks
I Love EWE!
Andrea's Christmas Dinner
Addio Bistecca alla Fiorentina!
Guelfa e Ghibellini
[late summer 2001]
Tartufi, Feste & Sagre
Piatti del Buon Ricordo