Every once in a while – and always when I’m embarking on a New Year – I feel the urge to gorge myself on a delicious cecina, a chickpea flatbread which is the typical street food of Liguria and Northern Tuscany.
I really love giving books as Christmas presents, especially books about Italian art, handicrafts, touring, food and wine. And there won’t be any exception to the rule this year, since I’ll be offering to three of my friends the beautiful “Woodworking : Traditional Craft for Modern Living”.
The authors of this book, Andrea Brugi and Samina Langholz, an Italo-Danish husband-and-wife duo, very nicely show how anyone, without the tools or expertise of an artisan, and by blending Tuscan elegance with the sleek lines of Scandinavian design, can turn bits of reclaimed wood into stools, egg cups, clothes racks, and what have you.
I have always loved wandering in the aisles of markets, covered or open-air ones.
So when I found out, in Giulia Scarpaleggia’s excellent cookbook, From the Markets of Tuscany, that Livorno’s market is probably the liveliest and most impressive in the whole of Italy, I decided it was high time for a visit.
When actor Colin Firth, an Academy Award winner, and Eco Age founder Livia Firth decide to actively foster a little-known refugee project in Southern Tuscany, you can reasonably surmise that they are on to something. Last December, the famous couple visited Crune Lab – a hub which operates as a meeting place, support network and sewing workshop for migrants and refugees – and returned home with bagfuls of handmade textile creations!
My love for the bel paese has always been closely related to my passion for fine leather bags. And when I say “fine leather bags”, I don’t necessarily mean Gucci or Prada – even though I would not turn the precious item down if you offered me one. Since I first set foot in Italy, I have always revelled in discovering and supporting lesser-known artisan leather brands.
I had been to Venice a hundred times before, at least, and never, ever had I witnessed the phenomenon which I had been reading and hearing about for more than twenty years. And then it happened, at long last, on the 5th of November 2017. I was there and I saw it: Venice’s spectacular acqua alta. Its high water.
I think I have already told you this once, perhaps even twice: I have been in love with linen and fabrics for a very long time, especially Italian ones.
Lying just a leisurely ten minutes’ walk from our Palazzo Ca’nova, one of my favourite shops in Venice happens to be successfully run by a highly talented fabric designer: Chiarastella Cattana.
Good news: all roads lead to Rome and, in some cases, will take you back to your starting point before the end of the day!
I experienced this two or three times last summer. After an early morning swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea, I hopped on a train, spent the day in Rome – combining business with pleasure, – and returned to my Mediterranean seaside just in time for the sunset extravaganza.
A few weeks ago, under clear blue skies, I was on my way from Montalcino to Perugia when the fancy of a good Italian coffee insidiously took me. I decided to make a stop in Montisi, a lovely village which I hadn’t visited in ages.
I was strolling down Montisi’s main street, heading towards the bar I had made out from a distance, when I got sidetracked by a little shop on my right. Atop the entrance I could read the words Macelleria Casini – “macelleria” being the Italian word for “butcher’s shop”. Not a single chunk of fresh meat was displayed in the window, though; just a colourful kaleidoscope of printed textiles.
By now, dear followers, you are as convinced as I am that Italy is a dreamland, aren’t you? And I think I told you once that the bel paese is the country which boasts the highest number of World Heritage sites on the planet. But did you know that Dante’s homeland has also overtaken Greece as the principal port of entry of migrants trying to reach Europe?