Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Truly Tuscan Easter

My Easter saga began with a futile search for white eggs that we would color for the children's surprise egg hunt that I was organizing for Easter Sunday with the Lombardis, my adopted Italian family. But white eggs do not exist in Tuscany. So, my nephews and I went to work coloring the brown eggs, not knowing what result to expect, but to our delightful surprise, the colors developed into a rainbow of rich earthy colors that screamed Tuscany. It was a success.

This was to be my first Easter spent here in Florence, and it was well worth the wait. In a country so steeped in Catholicism, Easter is a big deal in Italy. In fact, it is such a big deal here, that Easter takes up not just one day, but two to celebrate, and the next day which is called "Pasquetta" or Little Easter, to recover from the previous day and to eat the leftovers. Yes, the whole country takes a day off to recouperate from Easter, nap, have a picnic and digest.

After the eggs were colored, we bought a traditional "Colomba Pasquale" (a dove-shaped cakebread made with almonds, sugar and eggs) to bring for desert, and for the children we bought the traditional "Uova di Pasqua" (large chocolate eggs painstakenly decorated and filled with surprise gifts inside). There are no Easter bunnies here, no pastel colored eggs. I knew that Nicola had already been spending several days at his Siena villa preparing for the big Easter food fest celebration and getting the 100 year old outdoor wood-burning oven ready for roasting an array of meats, from lamb and sausage to pancetta and rosticianna.

On Sunday morning we left Florence in time to the see the oxen and cart that would be marched through Florence to the Duomo, a 600 year old tradition, where it would explode into an epic pyrotechnics show of fireworks symbolizing a good harvest. But we did not attend the ritual and parade, as we were headed to Siena to celebrate Easter at the Lombardi's summer villa, deep in the hills of beautiful Tuscany.

The day was perfect, and the beautiful weather permitted us to eat outside, overlooking the flora and fauna of the Tuscan countryside, accompanied by chirping birds and cool breezes. The setting was everything I always imagined a Tuscan Easter to be. Our celebration started with Katie and Mark hiding the Easter eggs for the kids, after which the kids excitedly searched down the eggs and collected them in their baskets. (see great video of the hunt below!) We then sat at the table for 6 hours, eating, eating, eating everything from Pugliese pasta to 6 kinds of roasted meats ranging from baby lamb ribs with pistacchio, a roasted lamb, a rosticianna, pancetta and sausages, not to mention all the veggies, and alas....Tiramisu. A very typical Tuscan Easter menu. The only thing that was missing from the desert table was a big blue bottle of Brioschi.

Our day ended in the music room, with Mark giving us a piano performance. We then took a drive to Siena and a walk through Piazza del Campo before taking the train back to Florence. A whole new Easter tradition that I will anticipate for many years to come.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mark and Katie in Florence

Some photos taken the last couple of days with my nephew Mark and Katie who are visiting me this week in Florence. The first 3 days we did the city, today we cycled in the countryside and colored Easter eggs for tomorrow, which we are spending with my Italian family at their villa in the the Tuscan countryside of Siena.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring on the Road

Some of the places, faces and memories from this week on the road, discovering spectacular spring in Tuscany!

Wish I could take photos of the smells of lilac and olive wood, the fluttering of butterflies, the sounds of birds tweeting, the buzz of bees buzzing.....intoxicating Tuscany!