Tuscany and its Christmas dinner traditions

Straight from the best Tuscan cuisine traditions to the table. What’s in store for Tuscany at the Christmas dinner table? Well there’s certainly going to be a mouth-watering display of antipasti Toscani: the traditional mixed cold cuts, Pecorino cheese and my personal all-time favourite the crostini bread with chick liver pâté.

Pasta cannot be missing from the Christmas table so there will be ravioli. Depending on which region of Tuscany you’re staying in, the ravioli stuffing varies from ricotta cheese and spinach to meat or fish. Likewise the sauce accompanying it will conform from the classical meat sauce to a simple melted butter with sage leaves. The more rural areas will also be dressing their pasta up with wild boar or hare sauce.

Hence the main course, shouldn’t it yet have been enough. A delicious roasted Florentine-style pork sirloin, arista, with aromatic fennel and apples will be a big favourite, while in the Casentino region it will be the stuffed neck of a chicken, previously used for the Eve’s broth. Probably down on the coast around Livorno they will prepare a tasty cacciucco, fish stew, but in other areas it will mainly be a roast chicken, guinea-fowl, pigeons or even thrush. Vegetables in these occasions are more an optional.

The choice of wine is almost embarrassing with all the excellent wines Tuscany has to offer. Of the over 70 DOCG wines in Italy, 11 are produced in Tuscany: Super Tuscans, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Rosso della Val di Cornia, Morellino di Scansano, Montecucco, Chianti Classico, Chianti, Elba Aleatico passito, Carmignano and Suvereto.

To conclude, the dessert. The meal ends with the traditional Sienese panforte or panpepato, a selection of traditional Christmas biscuits, like the rhomboidal ricciarelli and the cavallucci, plates full of sticky nougat and bowls overflowing with dried fruit, nuts of all shapes and forms and dates. Before ending with your classical caffè espresso, you just have to have some cantuccini biscuits dipped into a glass of home-made vinsanto.

No one keeps up age-old traditions, especially food ones, like the Italians.

Pubblicato in Italian food and wine, Tuscan food and wine, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , | Lascia un commento

On display in Arezzo two exhibitions: Aligi Sassu and Pino Deodato

Arezzo will be hosting from December 22 two exhibitions. First of all to be inaugurated that day, at 5 pm, is “ALIGI SASSU Epopea del Vero”. On display at the Palazzo della Provincia until January 27, 2019, Aligi Sassu is renowned as being the most precocious talent of the 20th century, having been invited, when 16 years old, to participate in the Venice Biennale by Marinetti himself. Sassu’s paintings and sculptures respect the dignity of truth but continuously challenge it, apparently going beyond the limit, yet remaining consistent with the reality of existence. His works suggest lyricism, like in a dream or a memory, magnifying emotions and feelings and compromising mimesis. Open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 1 pm and from 4 to 7 pm, free entrance.

The second exhibition will be inaugurated at 6.30 pm, at the church of the Saints Lorentino and Pergentino, and is “PINO DEODATO sPARTITI Quelli che Vanno. Quelli che vengono e a volte si fermano”.  Contemporary artist Pino Deodato from Milan is a slipware artist and his artwork is disseminated throughout the church representing fragments of thoughts, opinions, dreams with his minute, yet determined, characters, in a very elementary way. On until February 3, 2019, open on Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 7 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 1 pm and from 4 to 7 pm, free entrance.

Pubblicato in Arezzo, Art exhibitions, Art exhibitions in Tuscany, Art in Arezzo, Exhibitions in Arezzo, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , , , | Lascia un commento

Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester returns to Florence

As an absolute preview of the celebrations that will take place around the world next year, 2019, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence has  organized an exhibition with one of the polymath’s most renowned manuscripts.

The Codex Leicester is a collection of scientific writings and drawings on the properties of water, rocks, fossils, astronomy and celestial light. Apparently Leonardo worked on them , while in Florence, between 1504 and 1508, a period of intense artistic and scientific activity for him.

The “Water as Microscope of Nature. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester” exhibition will be on from October 30 to January 20 in Aula Magliabechiana. The Uffizi Gallery will have on display more than 80 original pages of this and other precious manuscripts by Leonardo. Likewise visitors will also have the opportunity to admire the Codex on the Flight of Birds, as well as four sheets from the Codex Atlanticus, illustrating Leonardo’s studies of a canal project from Florence to the Mediterranean sea, as well as of the moon and the invention of the crane.

Opening hours from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm. The exhibition is included in the admission ticket to the Uffizi Gallery.

Pubblicato in Exhibitions in Florence, Florence, Museums in Tuscany, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , , | Lascia un commento

Marina Abramović on at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is now hosting a major retrospective of Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović. From the 1970s to the 2000s, Marina Abramović has explored the relationship between performer and audience, probing the limits of the body and the possibilities of the mind.

The exhibition “Marina Abramović, The Cleaner” brings together more than a hundred works – videos, photographs, paintings, installations –  from over four decades of activity. There will also be live recreations of her most famous performances.

On until 20 January 2019, the show is open every day, including holidays, from 10 am to 8 pm, on Thursdays until 11 pm.

Pubblicato in Art exhibitions in Tuscany, Art in Florence, Events in Florence, Exhibitions in Florence, Florence, Museums in Tuscany, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Massagli, the bitter-sweet soul of Lucca

It has been since the times of Hippocrates of Kos that sumptuous dinners were digested thanks to the assistance of an elixir of health made of wine to which barley, honey and various herbs had been added. In medieval Europe the Benedictine monks took things in their hands and started brewing roots and plants in alcohol for medical reasons. In the last two centuries Italy has successfully taken up the tradition and produced an excellent herbal liqueur called amaro (Italian for ‘bitter’) to be consumed as an after-dinner digestif.

Amaro is typically produced by macerating herbs, roots, plants, bark and citrus peels in alcohol, spirit or wine, subsequently mixed with sugar syrup and then left to age in casks. Traditionally the most popular officinal plants generally used in making the amaro are Cinchona, known as China [Quina] in Italian, whose properties are antimalarial and highly analgesic, Gentiana, very helpful for digestive and skin disorders, and Angostura bark, considered efficient against tuberculosis.

Every region in Italy has its own particular amaro, generally bound to a typical local ingredient. Tuscany has various, one of which was created in an old chemist’s shop in the square of San Michele in Lucca. In 1855, this beautiful Art Nouveau pharmacy was the scene of Doctor Pasquale Massagli’s new concoction, a quina elixir named China Massagli. Only in 1901 did they start to sell the amaro also in other places. As in the past, today China Massagli is prepared with cinchona bark, which arrives directly from the Amazon rainforest. The bark is put to macerate in pure alcohol and decalcified water, together with aromatic herbs and officinal roots. After a long period, during which it is emulsified and filtered twice, the elixir is ready to be consumed, even in long drinks with ice, both as an aperitif and a digestif.

However, Lucca’s production of amari didn’t stop there. In the 1940s the company created a new concoction using one part of the China Massagli with the addition of spices and aromatic herbs. Thus the Biadina Massagli was created, an amaro with a light, sweet taste which is enhanced by the adding some pine-seeds to the glass. This dark amber-coloured liqueur takes its name from horse fodder, in Italian biada, because, tradition as it, that when the horse carriages had to wait in front of the Lucca’s local theatre and opera house, the horses were offered fodder, biada, and the coachmen were offered something strong to keep them warm, precisely  Biadina.

And since three is the perfect number, Massagli in the 1970s went on to produce the Amaro Massagli. Even in this case we have one part of China Massagli but with the addition of herbs and spices which make it more bitter, as well as less sugary and with a slightly higher alcohol content than its siblings (30° compared with the 25° of China and Biadina).

What makes these three liqueurs so special is that their personal and traditional peculiarities have been lovingly handed down without altering a single thing, especially the ingredients and procedure. So if you ever visit Lucca, make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to get a really good taste of town savouring some of its excellencies:  the Massagli Amari.

Pubblicato in Italian food and wine, Lucca, Tuscan food and wine, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan restaurants and wine shops, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , , , , | Lascia un commento