Monday, November 23, 2009

Concerto in Memoria di Fausta Cianti

When I found my new life in Florence a year ago, fate and fortune collided at the very same time. I found the perfect apartment in the perfect neighborhood with the perfect landlord. My landlord Nicola, his wife Nicoletta and children Costanza and Cosimo have become good friends who watch over me like family. Sometimes I go to their house in San Casciano to linger, eat, nap and "fare una passeggiata" (take a stroll) on a quiet Sunday afternoon. This was such a day.

San Casciano stands out like a crown among the Tuscan hills. This is where Machiavelli wrote The Prince during his exile in 1513. Some of its walls are still standing. It is situated just outside of Florence at the top of a tranquil, winding 4 mile climb surrounded by the vineyards and rolling hills of the Antinori estate, dotted with castles and churches. The road to San Casciano is part of a standard course favored by cyclists. So, usually I pass right by Nicola's house on my bike with a group, without stopping. Today I took the bus, to spend the day with his family and to attend a concert with them in the evening.

Recently a very dear friend of Nicola's family, Fausta Cianti, a famous Florentine musician and pianist, lost a long battle against cancer. I had heard so much about her vivacious personality and her entertaining flair. She had a commanding presence and was always at the ceter of attention. When she sat down at the piano, she would mesmerize the audience. Her husband, Cesare Orselli is a famous opera critic, author, music and linguistics professor. Nicola has been wanting me to meet Fausta and Cesare for a long time, but Fausta had been suffering from cancer, and the time to meet her never materialized. She died two weeks ago.

I was really honored to spend this important day with Nicola's family and the now widowed Cesare, who is brilliant, fascinating. I could listen to him talk about opera for hours on end. I was stunned to browse through some of the books that he wrote, which are in Nicola's library. Nicoletta prepared a "simple" meal starting with the lightest, most delicate "white" lasagne that I've ever had, followed by "Peposo", a typical Tuscan dish of peppered beef that is simmered for hours in Chianti and herbs, accompanied by peppers and zucchini. It must have taken a whole day of cooking, but Nicoletta cooks like this everyday!

After a long lunch, I played with the children for a while, and then Nicola summoned everyone to take their naps! I napped in Costanza's bed and she napped with her brother. After our naps, we headed back to the table for desert, coffee and Vin Santo. We then headed outside for a Sunday stroll. The whole town was doing the same thing.

Then we headed for Florence to the Conservatorio di Musica Luigi Cherubini, where we attended the memorial concert, a splendid performance of Mozart's Requium, in honor of Fausta Cianti, Cesare's wife. Two hundred people attended this very impressive event and I was honored to be there, and to meet so many fascinating musicians who have been a part of Cesare and Fausta's life.