New Year’s resolutions
The streets of Florence are not safe on New Year’s Eve. Gangs of youths run amok, tossing firecrackers indiscriminately into crowds. Residents throw empty bottles from their windows. Rome, they say, is even worse. No matter, we usually spend New Year’s Eve at home, anyway.
When we lived in Florence we enjoyably spent the last day of the calendar year foraging in our favorite haunts. Cheeses, nuts, olives and a salmon spread from the Central Market, bread and rolls from Verrazzanno on Via dei Tavolini, a small pork roast from Sandro Polleria on Via dei Cerchi, rosemary, carrots, zucchini and Sicilian cherry tomatoes from the nearby fruit and vegetable vendor, a live lobster from Pescheria Alfredo on Borgo degli Albizi, and for dessert, fedora from Pasticceria Nencioni on Via Pietrapiana.
French pastries are generally better than Italian, but fedora is the best dessert I’ve ever tasted, a combination of rum-soaked cake and whipped cream, all encased in dark chocolate curls. To drink there was a hearty Chianti Classico from Villa S. Andrea, where we visited in November, and Lis Neris, a smooth pinot grigio from Friuli in the north where the best Italian whites are produced. As a digestif, Limoncello from Sorrento.
We invited Erminia Luschi, a newfound friend. Born in Salzburg, Erminia moved to Florence in 1958 at eighteen. Erminia illustrated children’s books, using pen and ink in powerful drawings, some of which were two-page spreads. She also did props and costumes for local theatre and worked as a designer for Salvatore Ferragamo.
After dinner, we decided to inaugurate the dishwasher. We’d all had a tad too much to drink. After a period of silence while reading the instructions, Erminia announced, “Start is an important button.” We added soap, pushed some buttons, and amazingly, it worked. There was a sudden panic when Erminia couldn’t find her reading glasses and worried they mistakenly went in with the dishes. While I tried to figure out how to shut off the contraption, she found them. “Too much Limoncello,” she laughingly concluded.
If I have one wish for 2008, it is to be more like the Italians and those who dwell there. As Canadians we are too reserved, our shoulders hunched to the ears and chins tucked into the chest as if trying to fend off winter’s cold even during the summer. People are affected by their weather, so Italy is a freer place because there is less huddling. But beyond such external forces, Italians know who they are, revel in their talents, enjoy the beauty in which they live, and respect the roles of others.