What I saw on a Sunday walk in the hills outside of Florence

Last Sunday was beautiful; it was sunny, not too hot, and I found myself deep within the hills outside of Fiesole.  I love these random wanderings and the things I see.

It’s hunting season now and wild boar is a usual casualty.  Florentines love dining on these cinghiale, and I saw this advertisement in an osteria making good use of the hunt.



The colors of fall on the trees are just beginning to reveal themselves in these lovely hills,  but pyracantha is almost shining, it is so bright. Very pretty!



Edible crops are alive and well in the hills near Fiesole, and I never, ever tire of seeing pomegranate trees bearing fruit.



The olive harvest this year looks to be very good and I encountered many trees heavily laden with these green fruit.




There are olive orchards all through these hills, but there are also fig trees, plum trees and, as below, plenty of apple trees.



I loved looking at this particular apple tree and I will admit that I was sorely tempted to climb the ladder that was already in place to access the apples high up.  I contained myself and didn’t do it!



The views and vistas on all sides of me were attractive and beckoning.  Another day I’ll climb other of these hills.


In the village of Fiesole itself I smiled when I saw this sign.  “Whoever takes a dog on a walk is responsible for the dog’s comportment.”  Hear hear!


La vendemmia: the grape harvest

It’s that time again!  Grape harvest all over the vineyards in Italia!

(And the news is excellent coming from France too:) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-champagne-makers-record-harvest-quality-grapes-vintage-wine-a8507911.html


The word “vendemmia” comes from the Latin words “vinum” (wine) and “demere” (take away).
In the past, grapes were picked either directly by hand or with the help of small knifes or scissors. The grapes were put in baskets, made of wicker or wood, and later they were moved into larger wood containers “tini” or vats, which were used for the crushing.
As most Americans will remember, Lucille Ball excelled at stomping grapes when she visited Italy on I Love Lucy.
Indeed, the crushing was done using the feet of the workers or with some special wooden sticks called “ammostatori,”  shaped like baseball bats.
The ammostatori were often used in small containers, while for larger and taller vats, ladders were used by workers, descending from the top.

In the common imagination the idea of feet crushing is well rooted, a ritual still done by some wine estate just because it keeps a sort of ancient fascination.



(Foto proveniente dall’archivio privato della famiglia Colombini. -1945, Neutro Martini, guardiacaccia della Fattoria dei Barbi, con un bigonzo di uva in spalla durante la vendemmia nella vigna dei podernovi.)

— at Museo Della Comunità Di Montalcino E Del Brunello.

Personally, I’ve spent some time recently in the rows of grape vines heavy with pendant grapes. What a treat to be in Chianti at the time of la vendemmia!

The Italian invention of ice cream and sorbets


“Waters, Cordials, Sorbets, and Ice Creams”

Italians were the undisputed masters in developing methods of chilling and freezing drinks. “The real way to make all kinds of waters and cordials in the Italian style” was disclosed to the French in 1692 in a chapter in Audiger’s La maison reglée. Thirty years earlier, the same Audiger tried to obtain from the French king the exclusive right to “manufacture and sell all types of cordials in the Italian style.”

This indicates the acknowledgment of a truly Italian invention that was already at least a hundred years old. The custom of chilling drinks—by mixing snow or ice with water, wine, or any other drink—had spread throughout Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century, though against the advice of many doctors. In larger cities this custom spread among the masses, if we are to believe a comment made by a Roman physician in 1603.

The creation of sorbet resulted from experiments in chilling drinks, and it too became a matter of myth. Supposedly, sorbet was also brought to France by Catherine de’ Medici (and who could doubt it?). There is no documentary evidence to support this hypothesis, however, and we cannot prove that the art of sorbet making was already practiced in Italy in the middle of the sixteenth century.

Yet we certainly know that sorbets—already developed to a degree of remarkable sophistication—were sold in special shops a century later, most notably in Venice and Naples. When Antonio Latini, a native of the Marches, took up service at the court of Naples in 1659, he had the impression “that everyone [in the city] was born with a special skill and instinct for making sorbets.” This pursuit was not limited to experts, however, but was also practiced by “persons of little learning,” as Latini informs us in his brief “Treatise on Various Kinds of Sorbets, or Water Ices.”

His short essay, included in the book on stewardship and cooking that he composed at the end of his career, between 1692 and 1694, contains the first written recipes on how to mix sugar, salt, snow, and lemon juice, strawberries, sour cherries, and other fruit, as well as chocolate, cinnamon water, and different flavorings. There is also a description of a “milk sorbet that is first cooked,” which we could regard as the birth certificate of ice cream.


De’ sorbetti, the first book entirely dedicated to the art of making frozen confections, was published in Naples in 1775. Its author, Filippo Baldini, discusses different types of sorbets, some made with “subacidic” fruits, such as lemon, orange, and strawberry, and others made with “aromatic” ingredients, such as chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, pistachio, and pine nuts. A separate chapter deals with “milky sorbets,” meaning ice creams, whose medical properties are vigorously proclaimed. Literary works echo this trend. The “sorbettiera” (sorbet maker) is celebrated in a canzonetta written by Lorenzo Magalotti,147 and Parini’s young protagonist (il giovin Signore) concludes each day with the sweet, cool taste of a chocolate or coffee sorbet.148 Sorbets were produced side by side with the “flavored waters” that captivated Audiger. During his visit to Italy he wrote:

I made a vigorous effort to neglect nothing connected to confectionery and cordials and to perfect the art of making all kinds of waters, with flowers or fruits, chilled or not, sorbets, custards, barley waters, pistachio waters, and others made with pine nuts, coriander, aniseed, fennel, and every type of grain, and to give them a good flavor by emphasizing their own best qualities. I also learned how to distill all kinds of flowers, fruits, cereals, and other substances, distilling them in both cold and warm conditions, and to prepare chocolate, tea, and coffee.

Capatti, Alberto. Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) (p. 111). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.




Badiani Gelateria, Firenze & the invention of my favorite flavor: Buontalenti

Is it a surprise to you that Italians invented ice cream? Not me!


Made only of: Cream Milk Sugar Eggs

At the end of the 1960s, a contest was announced to commemorate the Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti, who is known to have invented the ice cream known as “gelato.”
Gelateria Badiani won a prize with a simple yet unique flavor, indeed called Buontalenti. Since then, this special cream based flavor has conquered the palate of Florentines and all good gelato lovers.
Despite many imitation attempts, Badiani’s gelateria is the only home of the real Buontalenti. And, it is still the most sought after flavor.



History of gelato and Buontalenti

It’s been said that the first to make true gelato, creamy and frozen as we know it today were the Florentines in 15th century.
It allegedly happened like this: during the mid 1500s, Cosimo I de’ Medici, elegant Lord of Tuscany, designated Bernardo Buontalenti to organize special festivities. The Lord intended to astonish a delegation of the King of Spain for political reasons, to support of Cosimo’s intention to incorporate Siena in the dukedom.
Bernardo Buontalenti, architect and creative figure, directed shows and fireworks and set up a program of festivities like no one ever before. He arranged sumptuous banquets, at the end of which he served a frozen cream to which he had added a very precious spice that was coming from the newly discovered Americas: sugar.

The Spanish delegation was enthusiastic with great satisfaction of the Grand Duke, who had to hire a number of cooks who could continuously prepare gelato.
However, it was thanks to Caterina de’ Medici, then Queen of France, that gelato spread across Europe beginning during the second half of the century. Since then the Queen summoned Florentine pastry chefs who had learned that art and she always served gelato to her guests, kings and diplomats, who then returned to their homelands with the recipe.



And, just for fun, here’s a vintage photo showing the ever popular combination of children and gelato, especially in Florence!