Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lucca's Garden Show

the annual greening of the city of Lucca
camelias sitting on grass; a simple but effective display
Lucca is a city famed for its magnificent walls. At the end of March each year these walls become the venue for a delightful gardening and outdoor living market and display called Verdemura, Green Walls.
For the first time visitor to Lucca it is the venue which is most stunning. Lucca's walls were built from 1504 to 1648 and were never used as military fortifications although they were considered a deterrent to the ambitions of Florence and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. They stretch over 4 kilometres to enclose the entire historic centre. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

a Small Spring Miracle

Le Ripe is lucky to be set in the middle of 30 hectares (74 acres) of land, mostly comprised of woods. However at the bottom of our hill, along the Pesa river, are two large meadows, separated by a small rise.
the campo di sotto, or bottom meadow, one of two near the river
We don't often go down there but we do keep the fields clear of brambles and other invasive plants. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The sweet side of Siena: ricciarelli

Almond Complex

pretty well the archetypical ricciarello

A good ricciarello (richyarello) is thickly dusted with icing sugar which is cracked on the surface; it is  lightly crunchy on the outside but soft and melting on the inside. It should have a definite marzipan (or bitter almond) taste and be quite sweet. It traditionally appears at Christmas to be consumed with vin santo or other sweet wines but nowadays we can indulge anytime of year.

these ricciarelli look perfect; they also look homemade as they do not have quite the 'boat' shape of the commercial ones
The ricciarello would appear to go back a long way, to the time of the Crusades, or so the Sienese would have it. A returned crusader called Ricciardetto della Gherardesca (a mouthful in himself), legend says, had tried these tasty Middle-Eastern morsels in the Holy Land and introduced the recipe to his hometown.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Cradle of Genius

Leonardo da Vinci's childhood homes:
Anchiano and Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci bequeathed us two anecdotes concerning his childhood: ostensibly memories, it has been argued that they might be parables or accounts of dreams.
The first involves a bird. Flight always fascinated Leonardo da Vinci: many pages in his notes and 500 sketches are dedicated to the study of birds' wings, including experiments real and hypothetical with potential flying machines, (the ornithopter being the most spectacular), parachutes, ascending devices and keen observations on the gliding flight of birds.

Bird-winged apparatus with partly rigid wings, 1488-90, pen and ink. Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France