Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013 -- Lentil Soup

In assenza di un vero Italiano in casa, sto facendo le lenticchie!  In the absence of a  real Italian in the house, I'm making lentils (for a traditional New Year's Eve dinner).

I bought these lentils at IperCoop in Cremona in November. Since I'm home two hours early today, I'm ready to make Le Lenticchie

I don't have the traditional cotechino, which is a big pork sausage that is simmered over low heat for about four hours. The cotechino from Modena is an IGP (legally-protected) product. 
Cotechino is also traditional to the regions of Lombardy, Molise, Trentino and Veneto. Its production dates back to 1511, when a way to preserve less favorable and tender parts of the pig was developed during a siege. 

So, I've searched and searched my collection of cookbooks, which I've bought in Italy, to make something yummy and authentic. 

I've chosen Pasta e lenticche (Pasta and Lentil Soup) from La Cucina del Bel Paese, published by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (2009, Rizzoli Publications).

A note states this recipe is from Puglia (typical of Foggia). I've made half a recipe. 

Having just eaten this soup, I can now say it is fantastic!! I've served it with a piece of focaccia I made over the weekend. I hope it brings me good luck in 2014! 

Pasta and Lentil Soup

Serves 3

3/4 c dried lentils
3 c water 
1 celery stock
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
3 T Olive oil (EVO)
3 plum tomatoes or 10 cherry tomatoes
a handful of broken pasta

Clean and rinse the lentils and place in medium saucepan. Add 3 cups water. Add one crushed clove garlic.

Chop celery and onion. Add to lentil mixture. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature, cover with lid and simmer for twenty minutes. 

In another pan, combine olive oil, quartered tomatoes and a crushed clove of garlic. Simmer until reduced. 

Combine lentils and tomatoes mixtures, discarding garlic cloves. Add crushed pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked. Add more water if needed. 

Serve soup with freshed ground black pepper. I added no salt. 


CHEF'S TIPS from AcademiaBarilla.com

When you cook lentils, remember to salt them at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.

I've researched some Italian New Year's Eve traditions. Traditions vary from region to region. 

Lentils symbolize wealth and abundance. 

Raisins for good luck.

Red Underwear to bring good fortune in matters of love.

Fireworks and noise to scare away bad spirits. 

Gifting of dates and figs in honey, along with a bay branch for good fortune. (Ancient Rome)

The exchange of figs wrapped in laurel leaves to insure a sweet year, filled with good fortune. (Naples)

Toss things from windows to let go of  past unhappiness.  (Naples) 

From the late Kyle Phillips:

'In addition to playing an important role in soups and other first course dishes, lentils are a traditional accompaniment for zampone, cotechino, and other pork sausages, and are also a required item on the New Year's Eve (or Day) menu; their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won't want for cash during the rest of the year.'

More from Kyle Phillips on how Italians use lentils:  http://italianfood.about.com/od/aboutingredients/a/aa012200.htm

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Garbanzo Bean Soup with Greens

Today, I had half of bunch of fresh escarole, not used when I made ravioli. This morning I decided to use the recipe for Minestra di Ceci Elisa taught me last month in Firenze and add those escarole greens. 

Garbanzo Bean Soup

1 can organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, left whole
1/4 cup white or red wine
1 T olive oil
1 T tomato concentrate
2 cups water
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1 cup chopped steamed greens (optimal)

Sauté beans, garlic and rosemary in olive oil for 10 minutes. Add wine and simmer 5 minutes. Remove garlic and rosemary and discard. 

Add tomato concentrate, mixed into 2 cups water. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. 

Using a Braun food whip or similar instrument, lightly pulverize soup to desired consistency.

Add chopped greens. Serve hot, topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. 

Serves 4 as an apperitivo. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas ravioli

My cousin loves my handmade veal ravioli. She is now seriously ill and on a restricted diet:  no salt or dairy products. I wanted to surprise her with a gift of fresh ravioli. 

I consulted with Marina, in Cremona. Could I make her veal ravioli without the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese? She said yes. The cheese could be added at the table by those who desired it. 

I lost my confidence in ravioli making several years ago. No matter which flour I used or what technique I tried, they just did not taste good and they fell apart during boiling. 

My November class with Elisa in Firenze rejuvenated my love for preparing ravioli. She showed me where I had gone astray from Marina's ravioli lessons, 10 years ago. 

The day before Christmas, on my new cotton tablecloth, a gift from Marta in Cremona, I set out all the tools and ingredients I needed to prepare ravioli. Both the tablecloth and organization had been stressed by Elisa. 

Fresh egg pasta

300 g flour
3 large eggs

Sift the measured flour into a bowl.
Form a hole in the center of the flour. 
Break eggs into the indentation. Beat the eggs with a fork. 
With fingers, work the eggs into the dough for 10 full minutes. 
(Add a tablespoon of water if a nice dough ball us not formed.)

Move the dough to a lightly floured wooden board. Knead an additional 10 minutes. 

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap. Let dough rest one hour on the table. 

I began to make a modified veal filling:

200 g veal scallopini 
70 g escarole 
1 large shallot, finely minced

(1/3 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano)

I had frozen the veal the day before. I broke up the frozen meat and ground it in my mini Cuisinart. (I wanted to be 100% sure there were no additives in the found meat.)

Wash the escarole, then steam until tender. Dice into small pieces. 

Sauté shallot in good olive oil. Add veal and stir until cooked. Place mixture into a bowl and blend in chopped escarole. 

Refrigerate until the ravioli are ready for filling. 

Roll dough once with 4, then 5 and lastly 6 settings. Do not overfill each ravioli. This first tray, I set aside for myself. I had used too much filling. 

Trimmings, I wrapped in plastic and cut into tagliatelle, after all ravioli were finished. Place finished ravioli onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Place tray in freezer overnight. The next morning, break ravioli into I individual pieces. Store in freezer until ready to eat. 

Drop into a generous pan with boiling (salted) water. When ravioli float to top, cook an additional two minutes. Test for doneness. Can serve in hot broth, with marinara sauce, butter and sauté fresh sage or a simple drizzle of good olive oil. 

I love Cuneesi al rhum

I bought only one package of these during my November trip to Italy. They are scrumptiously good.  I shared these individually wrapped candies in various Christmas stockings.  Next time I need to buy the original brand from the Sperlari candy shop in Cremona. 

Curious about the history of this candy, I've found these sites on the internet. 


Giuanin Roà (Giuanin)

Cuneesi al Rhum are the traditional chocolates of Cuneo Province in Piedmont, Italy. Cuneesi(pronounced coon-AY-zee) are small meringues that have a rich, dark chocolate coating and a rum-flavored creme filling. For many years the delicacy could be found only in Cuneo Province but thanks to Ernest Hemingway, the addictive chocolates are now available around the world.

The story goes that in 1954 Ernest Hemingway was in Milan visiting his friend and publishing magnate, Arnoldo Mondadori, to discuss his book Across the River and into the Trees. It was nearly four years since the book had been published worldwide but Hemingway still wanted to postpone the story's release in Italy. The reason behind the delay was Hemingway's concern for the reputation of the young Italian woman upon whom he based the book's protagonist, Renata.

In the novel, young Renata finds herself involved in a May-December romance which was based upon Hemingway's real life relationship with Adriana Ivancich, a young Venetian contessa whom the author met in 1948 during a trip to Italy with his wife, Mary. In 1950 the writer invited Ivancich and her mother to visit him at his home in Cuba. During that visit Adriana inspired the author to finish two works in progress and begin a new novel, The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. 

Hemingway had grown very protective of Ivancich and wanted to postpone the publication of Across the River and into the Trees in Italy in order to spare her family from scandal.

At this point you must be wondering what any of this has to do with Cuneo's chocolates. Patience, please. Back at Arnoldo Mondador's home in Milan, Hemingway was getting ready for a road trip to Nice where he hoped to get some overdue rest and relaxation with his close friend and biographer, A. E. Hotchner. 

Upon learning that Ernest was driving to France, Mondadori suggested that he stop along the way in Cuneo and buy some of the scrumptious local chocolates.

So, on May 8, 1954, Ernest Hemingway walked into Bar Arione in the center of Cuneo and purchased some Cuneesi al Rhum. The celebrated author signed autographs, posed for photographs and then carried his chocolates to the car and got back on the road to Nice. The next day, in a letter to Ivancich that was published years later, the author wrote, "Yesterday was a very beautiful trip from Torino down to Cuneo with the lovely green of the valley and the snow mountains not too close and not too far away."

The origin of the celebrated chocolates is still debated. Pasticceria Arione owns the rights to use the name Cuneesi al Rhum and they claim that their version of the sweet, created in 1923 by Andrea and Rosa Arione, is the original. Another convincing story comes from a small town west of Cuneo called Dronero. In the year 1900 a pastry chef named Pietro Galletti accidentally invented Cuneesi when he botched a batch of meringues. In a desperate attempt to salvage something, he tried soaking them in rum and then coating them with chocolate. But written accounts from across the Alps confirm that this type of chocolate candy has been around since the 17th century. Documents from the royal court report that Louis XIV of France had a fondness for le bonbon, the chocolate predecessor of the Cuneese.

The right to use the name Cuneesi al Rhum is owned by Arione so other confectioners often market their chocolates under the generic name Cuneesi, which in Italian simply describes "something from Cuneo." Today Cuneesi are produced throughout the province and the name usually changes with each place. For example, if produced in Dronero, the name would be Droneresi, when made in San Michele they become Sanmichelesi, and so on. But regardless of their origin or name, Cuneesi are certainly one of Italy's finest chocolate treats.  



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Le Lasagne

It's a work night, but I decided to make lasagna to cover lunch for the rest of the week. Except for a little Parmigiano Reggiano grated on top, it contains no cheese.  It's made with besciamella and sugo alla boglonese. The secret is to follow the recipe for the besciamella, which should be thin and lightly seasoned with ground nutmeg. This is not an American style white sauce. 

My lasagne is not as good as what Marina in Cremona makes. Her lasagne pasta is delicate and freshly made, from scratch. 

But I'm happy to have this Barilla dry pasta to make it quickly here. 

From the late Kyle Phillips, information about Lasagna:

The best-known of these dishes is of course lasagna, which also serves to show how much baked pasta varies from region to region: Tuscans and Emilia-Romagnans make it with béchamel saucesugo alla bolognese, and grated Parmigiano; Ligurians make it with pesto sauce and serve up as a refreshing summer dish; Calabrians (among others) use ricotta salata -- salted ricotta -- and Neapolitans make an extraordinarily sumptuous Carnival lasagna with ricotta and a variety of other ingredients.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Italian Recipe -- Sformato di carciofi (Artichoke Timbale)

Tonight I made a half recipe of this yummy dish, using artichokes, as they are used in Italy.

Artichokes are so tasty when prepared this way. The three steps for cutting out the heart can be seen here. Have nearby, a bowl of water, with a sliced lemon tossed in. As the artichoke heart is freed and sliced thinly, place those slices into the lemony water. This slows down oxidation. 

When prep work is complete, drain and rinse, then simmer the sliced hearts in a small saucepan of water until they are tender. For other pasta recipes, they can instead be sauté in olive oil. 

Recipe copied from Letizia Mattiacci


  • 8 artichokes
  • 6 eggs
  • 100 gr (3 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 gr (7 ounces) mozzarella or cow’s milk or caciotta thinly sliced
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 lemon

Put a large pan of water on the fire, squeeze the juice of the lemon in the water and add the squeezed lemon to it. This prevents the artichokes turning a scary turquoise color while cooking. Rinse artichokes and drop in the boiling water. Cook for 20 min or until one of the central leaves come away with a little give. Drain and cool. Pull away the outer tough leaves, peel and trim stems, and cut away the choke if there is any. Quarter artichokes and then cut quarters in half again.

Beat the eggs with the Parmesan and season. Butter a bundt-pan generously, then dust with the bread crumbs, knocking out the excess. Now build up the timbale in the pan by layering artichokes and cheese  ending with artichokes. Pour the egg and cheese mixture, sprinkle with an extra tablespoon or two of Parmesan and bake at 200 °C (390 °F) until set and golden.

Serves 8 as an appetizer, 6 as a vegetarian main. Serve at room temperature.

An Italian Recipe -- Focaccia

During Elisa's cooking class in Firenze, she told me Schiacciata and Focaccia are the same bread. While in Cremona, Rosa told me, pizza without cheese is not called piazza bianca but focaccia, even if it has the round shape of pizza. 

Yesterday I made Elisa's recipe for Focaccia, using American flour.  The results were similar, but different. I needed to add lots more water to her recipe. 

Today I made a grilled prosciutto and fresh mozzerella panino and it was delicious. This week I will make focaccia again, using my recipe, which calls for more water. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

An Italian Recipe -- Risotto

Using rice with truffles I bought at the festival in San Miniato two weeks ago, tonight I made delicious risotto. I added seafood at the end.

Italian arborio rice can also be purchased at Trader Joe's. I store my rice in a sealed glass jar in the fridge.

Normally, I make risotto, using eye measurements only. Keep the water simmering and add a ladleful to the cooking rice mixture every 5 minutes.   Depending on the amount of rice you have used and the weather, water amounts will vary. 

Serve in a pasta dish, as a course by itself.

Basic risotto

Serves 2



  1. Cook and stir the diced onion in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Add rice and sauté 2 minutes, stirring. Add white wine and stir 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring to a boil in a saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to low to keep hot.
  3. Reduce heat for rice to medium; stir in one-third of the hot water and continue stirring with a wooden spoon, until the rice has absorbed the liquid and turned creamy. 
  4. Repeat this process twice more, stirring constantly. Stirring in the water should take 15 to 20 minutes in all. When finished, the rice should be tender, yet slightly firm.
  5. Remove the risotto from heat and stir in butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Let risotto rest, covered for 5 minutes. 
  6. May add vegetables or seafood during step 4. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thursday, Dec 5 departure

I was exhausted last night and since I had already packed, I was able to sleep from 9-4 this morning. 

At 4.55 Assumi and Alessio were waiting for me by the door and carried down both bags, each which weighed in at exactly 23 k. The travel scale I carry really reduces last minute stress. 

Taxi fare was 28€. They used to charge extra for each bag they need to load but this morning I saw 5€ surcharge. I believe it's 23€ normally. 

Checkin at the new airport was a breeze. Boarding passes print at the automated terminals and one can now pay with credit card for an extra bag, at the baggage check.  In the previous terminal, I had to check-in, leave the line with both bags, stand in line at the cashier, and then cut to the front of the first line to leave the bags. 

Today,  just to be sure,  I weighed the bags at an empty check station. I always want to avoid a public unpacking while in line. 

The flight left on-time at 7.15

Today was the earliest transfer I've ever experienced at CDG. The tram from CityJet, an Irish run airlines, dropped us outside terminal 2G about 9.35. 

We went through French passport control.  I followed the signs to E2 Terminal. It was a short walk, and there, three attendants held signs for various Terminals. Checking the board I saw  the flight for Air France, departing on time from M28. 

8 of us waited in the M line for just over 5 minutes. A short ride and we were dropped at another entrance. Through the glass partition of the corridor I could see we were parallel to the security checkpoint. Avoiding a second security check saved a good 20 minutes of transfer time. The old circuitous route made us go from the tarmac, into the general airport, back through security and onto the boarding gate. This new airport configuration is really time saving for all passengers. 

After a quick left turn, we were inside of a big bright glass enclosed shopping mall. The shops gave an illusion of being wall-less. There were a generous number of comfortable padded chairs dispersed throughout. This new terminal is similar to the one Rome. 

With a quick stop at a dispenser I bought  a desperately needed large sized Evian. Cost 2.5€. I always make sure I gave plenty of loose change for use in CDG. I'm sorry I had no time to more look around more closely. The board was blinking 'embarquement'. It was 10.00. 

I love Air France. The economy section has generous leg room and the attendants are thoughtful. However, with the sagging economy, I earn only a percentage of frequent flyer miles, rather than full miles, when purchasing an economy ticket. It's impossible to reach Silver level now. 15 trips in one year! Who could survive the jetlag? 

In past years, I enjoyed early boarding privileges, with Silver level. But with Ivory level, it's not so bad. Air France has adopted a Southwest Airlines approach to boarding in LAX. In Paris, with so many passengers transferring, most of us arrive racing from other terminals or gates and are just grateful to be standing in any boarding line. 

The flight looked almost empty in the back section today. Mid-flight, I saw at least 10 people sleeping across three seats. 

Air France always has an interesting collection of foreign films, with English  subtitles. In the return flight, I watched these, with Haagen Dazs ice cream! The flight attendant brought them through the cabin, twice.  

It always feels strange. I left Firenze on Thursday morning at 7am and I have arrived in Los Angeles at 2 pm, on Thursday. The hours of travel have been reduced to just 6 hours. 

Tom Bradley Terminal is undergoing a major renovation. Passport control is twice the size it used to be. It doesn't appear they have twice the number of agents yet. 

I'm always asked if I've been visiting family! I know if I answer yes, that will send me through the comprehensive agriculture control line. I respond that have been to language school, which is also true. 


I brought back enough books and audio books to keep me occupied for a few months. 

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday, Dec 4 last cooking lesson

I did not sleep well last night.  As usual, the stress of having to leave had me tossing and turning all night. I packed the extra bag I bought. It weighs 49 pounds.  Mostly books.  Now I know I didn't drink enough water on Tuesday. I had a busy day and let myself get dehydrated.

This morning at 9 Elisa and I drove to her house in the Tuscan hills. The dogs greeted me as a friend. Her wolf wanted to jump up and give me a kiss.  Her jump was not aggressive at all, but a very light tap. 

Elisa talked talked talked to me during the 30 minute drive. The immersion was fantastic. 

She told me about her new work adventure. On Jan 3 she is opening her own tiny shop near the train station. I believe it will be close to the bus terminal where those big blue busses leave for local trips. A great location to be near the tourists and she will be her own boss. 

We talked about her background. Apologies to you Elisa, if my facts are not totally accurate. When she was enrolled in liceo (upper school), she began taking trips with school programs. She realized that traveling opens the mind. Her mother, like mine, has always been a little in awe of Elisa's traveling adventures and her thirst for learning about other cultures. 

Have I mentioned we were only speaking in Italian? It's been an incredible experience, which became even more amazing today!

I agreed with her about the idea that travel enriches us and makes us better people. As Alessandro told me, many older Italians have not and do not have an interest in traveling. They also tend to have rather closed minds and live in a small vacuum. 

Elisa spent time in Africa, where she learned another language. She returned home realizing that people living in both Italy and Europe have so much to be grateful for. In Africa, it's a struggle to just survive. 

She traveled a lot for ten years, learning languages as she went. We have both used our travel adventures to be more than just tourists. Yes, the famous sights are wonderful, but paired with historical context and cultural awareness, it's an on-going education. 

She studied at the University level. Having a degree is not a guarantee for finding work. She worked in restaurants during her college years. 

She spoke about how she decided to use her interests along with her education to work in the tourism industry. It's not an easy market. She has friends who don't see the opportunities she imagines and then finds. 

She began talking about the University again. One of her professors suggested she use the internet to her advantage. At that time, the internet was just coming into use in Italy. It was an idea ahead if its time, to use the Internet as a marketing tool for tourism. 

This was about eight years ago. She was talking and suddenly I lost the thread of the conversation. Was it possible??

I refocused, but now I had to interrupt her. Your professor? You went to University here in Firenze. Oh yes. So, I asked did you know Professor Alessandro Trojani? Oh yes. 

I told her, her Professor Trojani was my Alessandro. She said, I wondered about that, but you never said his last name.   

And the man who talked about the internet, was him? No, another man. 'A bearded professor?' I asked. Yes. 

Ahh, Alessandro's trusted colleague. They shared an office and computer equipment. They both taught  Computer Science. The same man who wept at Alessandro's memorial two years ago at the University. 

It's a small world, we agreed. But even stranger, everyone I know in Firenze had some connection to my loving Alessandro. And now, a new friend. Alessandro always urged me to believe in an eternal love, which never ends.  Even during his last phone call, 4 days before he passed, he told me not to worry, that he would always be with me. True love never ends. We still have a connection. He continues to send me affectionate signs of love. 

So today, I cooked with Elisa, my tireless began to disappear as I drank lots of water. I refilled my bottle with her kitchen tap water.  There is nothing better than fresh water in Firenze. 

Today we made three delicious things:  minestra di ceci (garbanzo bean soup) la trippa and focaccia to eat with both. 

The soup was quick and easy to make. Since we used canned beans, the soup was ready in 30 minutes. I can use this recipe as a quick after work dinner. 

We also made another batch of focaccia, topping it with her father's new seasonal olive oil and freshly cut rosemary from her garden. Wash the rosemary gently to avoid losing its delicate oils. Dry by gently patting in a folded paper towel.  

She poured olive oil from a larger industrial sized tin into an more practical older straw encased wine bottle. 

She offered me a piece of castagnaccio, an interesting dense cake made of chestnut flour, olive oil, rosemary and pine nuts. No sugar or honey! I've had this before, but hers was much better.  I'll have to reconsider making this again. She told me it's only made in the fall, with fresh chestnut flour.  

Most of these tasty recipes evolved from peasant cooking or cucina povera.

In past days, people knew to use ingredients in season. Elisa said salt is not usually added to soups because if the vegetables are fresh, the taste comes from their healthful heartiness and therefore salt is not needed. We took the soup off the fire and blended it. We taste tested it. No salt was needed. The soup is done for now. Later we will add egg pasta.  Our focaccia dough is rising in the closed cool oven, with its light on.

We then started the trippa. Like many recipes, it starts with odori, equal parts of carrots, parsley and onion, sauté in olive oil. Trippa calls for garlic  and rosemary. Cut garlic clove in half and crush and remove the green sprout in its center. It's not agreeable with the stomach. Using the palm of your hand, crush the garlic. Crushing with a knife breaks its fibers. 

Use a generous tablespoon of tinned tomato concentrate or half a can of crushed tomatoes. Yes, the concentrate is good in the fridge until the printed discard date. I always wondered if that paste would be safe to eat. 

After the sauce simmered a few minutes, Elisa removed and discarded both the still stemmed rosemary and the garlic. We punched down the focaccia dough and returned it to the cool oven. 

She washed the trippa thoroughly, mentioning it was important to buy it from a reputable macellaio. Because of its strong odor, she simmered it in water with added red wine. This removes some of the strong taste.

After draining the trippa, she added it to the sauce and let it simmer while we completed fixing the focaccia. 

I noticed a bag of black Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) on her counter. Mentally, I remind myself, cavallo means horse and cavolo is cabbage. Those two words are not filed correctly in my brain!

This evening, she will steam the cavolo just as we did on Tuesday, then layer it in a pan with bits of butter and parmigiano reggiano cheese and bake it. Other vegetables can also be prepared in this manner. Yumm. 

With the focaccia in the oven, Elisa lightly crushed two servings worth of egg based tagliatelle into our soup. We returned the soup to a low fire and cooked for a few more minutes. 

At 12.30, with everything cooked, we were seated at the table, enjoying our morning's kitchen work. 

She decided to cut a pomegranate (from her father's property) for the parrot for its noon snack. 

All morning her parrot had been squawking 'you hoo' and every once in a while I answered with the same. I didn't really pay attention that it had gone silent. We now had an emergency because the parrot had scratched itself and there was blood all over it's perch. The bird is very tame. Elisa interrupted her lunch with apologies and immediately took the parrot it into the bathroom to apply medicine to the wound. She told me parrots are extremely susceptible to infections which kill then pretty quickly. 

Again with apologies she returned to the table. I felt there was nothing I could have done, but show my appreciation for her cooking. I had continued to eat my lunch. 

With the parrot back in its cage, we had a discussion about parrots. I didn't realize how intelligent they are. They can distinguish colors and shapes and love to solve simple puzzles. Here in Toscana, some escaped domestic parrots live in flocks the wild, just as they do in Southern California. 

We cleared the table and as she washed out the glass jar which had contained garbanzo beans, she noted  the jar would be used to make fresh jam, using fruit from her father's land. 

I envy and admire the lifestyle in the Tuscan countryside. The distance into town is drivable but these curvy narrow roads are dangerous. She must always be alert to her surroundings and on-coming traffic. She told me of an accident her friend had on his moto.  He was able to save his own life by using his belt as a tourniquet around his damaged leg. He was taken by helicopter to the hospital where he lost part of his leg. He now wears a prosthetic leg. 

As Elisa drove me back to Firenze, we said our goodbyes. I really hope we keep in touch. 

I walked straight to the Vodafone store to see about my cellphone, which still gives me a SIM error message. I didn't have to wait for assistance. They looked and said it was still possible to save my number. They did some programming and told me to come back in a hour. 

Since another Feltrinelli bookstore was close-by, I browsed their books for a hour. 

At 4pm the Vodafone clerk told me the phone was fixed! I just needed to pay them 5€ to put some money on it. Later, in the USA, I can use the internet add money to to it to make sure it stays current. With two reboots, the phone was working. I called my family in Cremona to let then know. I was able to retain my original number, phone directory and all the text messages. 

I spent the evening waking and enjoying the moment.

I stopped at Venchi to buy a hot freshly made crepe. 

I passed a scarf cart and stopped to just look, really. The sweet girl was an excellent sales person. I bought a wool scarf. I have two at home, but not this color. I love the way they drape. 18€, 100% wool and made in Italy. How could I resist, when she offered it for 12€?

On to Ponte Vecchio and Conad grocery where I bought milk, last minute chocolate gifts and a chicken cotoletta alla Milanese for dinner. I placed everything in the paper book bag I was carrying. 

When I returned to my hotel room, I found two gifts on my bed:  a small panettone and a box of chocolate covered citron and a sweet note from Aessio and Assumi. This hotel has become like a home in Firenze. 

My paper bag was torn, and the nicely wrapped cotoletta was missing! I hoped  it had been found and enjoyed by someone.  I had milk for dinner. 

With only the night hotel key in hand, I was just in time to observe mass at the large church on Via Tornabouni. Eight well dressed older women were in attendance in the pews facing a small chapel. The rest of the church was dim and empty. I lite a candle and sat through the mass.  I left my old good wool coat on the pew, hoping someone else can use it. Afterwards, saying goodnight to Firenze, I tucked in to sleep. 

I am so fortunate to have found these loving friends and family. 

I always regret having to leave. 

Buona notte from Italy. 

Sent from my iPhone