Located right on the border with Slovenia, Trieste, in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, has all the characteristics of a frontier town. The city has always been at the centre of an historical crossroads with the Venetians, Slavs, Austrians, and Italians all laying claim to it during its two-thousand-year history. Unsurprisingly all of these people have left their mark on the city, its culture, and of course, its food.
Last week I was invited by Eating Italy Food Tours to take part in their new guided tour, The Other Side of Florence. The tour covers two quarters of the Oltrarno area, San Frediano and Santo Spirito on the southern side of the river, and area not usually visited by tourists despite their proximity to the city centre. Most people cross the river only to visit the Pitti Palace, or Brancacci Chapel before returning to the bright lights of the northern side of the river. But in the Oltrarno area you find the real Florence: an area which has surprisingly managed to avoid gentrification to retain its character.
I think it was Woody Allen in his film Midnight in Paris who said that Paris was the only city in the world more beautiful in the rain. Well, unfortunately I wasn’t in Paris last weekend but in Padua and there was a lot of rain. Padua (or Padova as it’s called in Italian) is undoubtedly a beautiful city but when it’s raining you tend to stay under the porticos to keep dry, patiently waiting for the sun to come out so you can see the buildings. I did a lot of patiently waiting over the weekend.
Well, it’s almost Easter and time to break free of the restrictions of Lent and celebrate with all the wonderful Easter food we’ve been dreaming of. Here in the Tuscan Valtiberina, Easter is of particular importance, especially in the town of Sansepolcro, whose name means Holy Sepulchre, referring to the tomb of Christ. In fact there are two important cultural items in the town connecting it with Easter. The first is 16th century model of the tomb of Christ in the Oratorio della Compagnia del Crocifisso. The second, and better known, is the painting of the Resurrection by Piero della Francesca which is housed in the Museo Civico.
This recipe is from Veneto.
As promised in the last post, here is a recipe for azime dolci, the Venetian jewish cookies I tried in the ghetto at the weekend. Pane azzimo, is the Italian for unleavened bread and these are called azime because they too are unleavened. And like pane azzimo, they are traditionally eaten at passover time when it’s forbidden to eat yeast.
The 15th and 16th centuries saw a shameful period of what would now be called ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Europe. In 1492, all jews were expelled from Spain and soon other southern European states followed suit. Similar expulsions from England and France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had concentrated Europe’s jewish communities in Spain, Portugal, the German states and the Italian peninsula and now this new wave of expulsions threatened to eradicate them from western Europe, pushing them instead to northern Africa and the near East.