Friday, December 30, 2022

A Farewell to 2022 in Florence & Tuscany, Part II

Well, 2022 was also the year that saw the return of the Antiques Biennale to Palazzo Corsini after a
 three-year hiatus.  There, I unexpectedly came face to face with an original Andy Warhol silkscreen of Queen Elizabeth II.  When did he create this? Obviously when she was young-ish.
The great lady herself passed on September 8 -- which in Italy is celebrated as the birthday of the 
Virgin Mary.  I attended part of the Queen's commemoration at 
the British Institute of Florence.

                               Much of 2022 seemed like an endless summer, so much so that after Vista magazine came out, appearing like the Antiques Biennale, as after a pause due to Covid -- I was was able to go to the beach several times for R&R.

Here I am in mid October (!) at Castiglioncello,  I was given a heroine's welcome at a seaside restaurant, La Lucciola, since they hadn't seen me all year, was given the best table, then took a swim and lay down to sun at the water's edge.  It was so gorgeous that I thought when I closed my eyes I would soar up into the endless blue sky.  Well, I didn't, but this is what I saw when I opened my eyes.

November brought the White Truffle Festival in San Minato near Pisa, to which I returned after
10 years, having visited with Rita Kungel, photographer Carly and Gabrielle Taylor.  The warm scent of truffle permeated all through the streets of San Miniato, which is one of only two areas in Tuscany where the culinary delicacy is unearthed in the fall.   Local restaurants offer a variety of dishes kept simple in order to highlight the delicious taste of white truffle shavings such as pasta, eggs, carpaccio (thinly sliced raw beef), and polenta. 

 I hadn't been back to San Minato since 2011, and I called the osteria we had dined at then, L'Upupu.  Roberto, the owner, remembered me but couldn't assure me of a reservation.  This year, when Helen, video maker Isabella and myself arrived, we stopped it across from a butcher shop which was serving meals on a counter in the front room adjacent to their meat display cases.  Helen had reserved there but when I saw the stools at the counter facing a stone wall, I popped my head into Roberto's tiny's establishment (which seats 20) and miracolo! - - there had been a last minute cancellation. We were invited in, given a table and greeted warmly by the owner and his son Ludovico, who spend most of their time in the kitchen.

The service is impeccable also given that Roberto, a Florentine, is also a devoted foodie who had worked at Gilli's in piazza Repubblica.

We ordered the classic tagliatelline al burro e tartufo bianco (thin egg noodles sauced with hot, melted butter and white truffle shavings).  I remembered the dish cost €25 in 2011, but it was €40 now, inflation coupled with a scarcity of truffles given the 2022's high temperatures and severe drought in Tuscany. 

Scrumptious was the word. Roberto also threw in a bottle of house wine, a deletable white at only €15 and a complimentary plate of polenta in cheese sauce once again topped by shavings of local white truffle, all served by his wife.

The Italy we knew and loved still exists.

When I walked into the British Institute before Christmas, I noticed this Christmas tree in a niche given even more depth by a scallop shell inset at the top.  This is really ancient, I thought, and I was right.  The decoration is characteristic of the High Renaissance of the late 1400s and early 1500s, a period for which Florence is renowned.  The motif can been seen in this Renaissance painting attributed to Renaissance master Filippo Lippi, in a private collection and for sale at the Antiques Biennale (!) along with 
Andy Warhol's Pop Art.

Looking back at Part 1 of my end-of-the-year blog, the memories are more dark while Part II comes out of the shadows into the light.  Isn't that life?  Back to the Renaissance, it was also a artistic technique, chiaroscuro, the play of light and shadow.

You can also see that my interests include art, nature, food and history. Italy is the perfect place for me.

I would like to end my 2022 reminisces by picturing my 90+-year-old neighbor Marisa in the years after World War II and share her words of wisdom.

Marisa lives on the ground floor where I have my home, and, due to her age, is there only three days a week especially to tend her garden, until daughter Paola comes to pick her up and take her away.  

Her roots here are strong. Besides gardening, she is a seamstress.  Sewing and gardening were respectively the livelihood and hobby of my father, an Italian tailor at West Point, who could also always be found 
in his vegetable patch after work.  He must have intuitively felt this since, at the end of his one visit to Florence, he said to her, a complete stranger to him on her knees on the ground, 
"you are a mother -- look after my daughter!"  
She always has.  Now I keep an eye on her, which Paola appreciates.

Marisa grew up in the Tuscan hills near Londa (Rufina).  Her father was a woodcutter.  There was no heat, electricity or running water in her childhood home.  Her uncle was killed by a German mine in 1944.

Yet, when I wished her Buon Anno as she was leaving again with Paola, she said simply:
"Health is what's important -- the rest come in small steps."
La salute è tutto - il resto a piccoli passi.

I will try to remember that in 2023.

Happy New Year!

                                                    reporting live from Beautiful Florence

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the beautiful picture and the kind words about my mother :)