BEST EXTRAVAGANZA FOR DECEMBER –AILO Holiday Bazaar
On December 8th each year the American International League of Florence Onlus (AILO), founded in 1975, organizes a Christmas Bazaar, which is held at the Scuderie Reali (Le Pagliere) near Porta Romana. There will be all types of clothing – evening gowns, cocktail dresses, casual attire, coats, kid’s togs – plus purses, gloves, scarves, jewelry (diamonds, or not) and hats. The book table is a special treat with books for both youngsters and oldsters. Also, toys for children can fill those holiday wishes on your shopping list.
Once again there is a lottery full of wonderful prizes with tickets already flying out the door, so call any member of the AILO or phone Pitcher & Flaccomio at 0552343354 for tickets or purchase them at the door. The lottery prizes will include jewelry, clothing, dinners at fine restaurants, wine, gift cards, handbags, furniture, spa treatments, cooking classes, and so much more. This year there will also be a fabulous Silent Auction, so bid early and often.
There will, of course, also be food and drink galore! Bring the kids, too; there will be games and activities. Everyone at P&F is looking forward to seeing you on Saturday, December 8. We’ll be there early (10am) for the best selection. The fun will end all too soon at 5pm.
The Christmas Bazaar is actually a yearlong project for league members, with lots of organization behind it! Members propose charities and their needs, which are then voted on in a certain order. There is no question that decisions in 2015 were difficult, as there is more need than ever.
Over the years, AILO has raised over €1,000,000 for Florentine charities.
Please do your best to help them reach their goals.
Open: 10:00am to 5:00pm.
P&F PICK APARTMENT RENTAL FOR DECEMBER – Secret Garden
To step into this three-bedroom Oltrarno apartment is like entering a magical space that leads to a secret garden. In the middle of frantic Florence this will be your quiet oasis. After touring through the gray-stone streets of the city, you will relax in a private world of green.
The living room and sitting room of this ground floor apartment have access to a large tree-filled private garden. Both the master bedroom and the kitchen have windows overlooking an inner courtyard. The large garden windows face south, making the apartment light and sunny. There are terra cotta floors, arched doorways and windows, and traditional wood-beam ceilings.
For more information click this link.
BEST CHRISTMAS EVENT IN CHIANTI FOR DECEMBER – Music at the Monastery
The Carmelite order at the Monastery Santa Maria del Carmine al Morrocco invite you to enjoy Christmas music and tea at their church in Loc. Morrocco near Tavarnelle just outside of Florence. On Sunday, December 13, at 4pm this annual event at the 15th century church is one of the most popular ways to start your celebration of the holiday season.
HIGH TEA FOR DECEMBER – Holiday Tea at the St. Regis Hotel
Every afternoon from December 11 through Epiphany, enjoy a holiday high tea in the luxurious courtyard of the St. Regis Hotel. A wide choice of refined Damman Freres Teas are selected by the Tea Sommelier, macarons, sandwiches and scones are served for those who appreciate the finest things in life and know that a slow afternoon during the hectic holidays is good for the mind and soul.
Euro 16 per person.
BEST MARKETS FOR DECEMBER
Hot mulled wine, great beer and a salty, smoky wurstel – all can be found right now in Piazza Santa Croce. The Mercato Tedesco di Natale (German Christmas Market) that started in late November and runs until December 20. Traditional German food and craft products fill the square, there are also seventeen other countries represented in fifty stands. Don’t forget to try the apple strudel and the hot mulled wine!
Fierucolina Dell'Immacolata on December 8, from 9 am - 8 pm, Piazza SS Annunziata will be alive with a can't-miss crafts and organic food countryside Christmas fair. You will find hand-woven dresses and ponchos, Christmas wreaths, beeswax candles, naturally scented soaps and oils, home-baked bread and cakes, ceramics, wine, olive oil, olive wood salad bowls and more. Head on over after shopping at the AILO Holiday Bazaar for a bit of gift buying with a Tuscan flair.
Fierucolina Di Natale on Sun. 20 between 9am - 7pm take yourself down to Piazza Santo Spirito and find what Santa (or his faithful helpers) has been handcrafting for very good children. You can find all kind of stands offering foods, ceramics, hand-knit sweaters, carved wooden toys, and unique gifts, especially if you are shopping for kids.
Mercatino in a Palazzo: Gourmet products and gift ideas, with proceeds going toward the non-profit organization FILE's palliative care support. December 18 to 20, 10am-7pm, Palazzo Corsini, Lungarno Corsini 8. See www.leniterapia.it for information.
For high quality artisanal crafts to make a special holiday gift, go to the market at the Old Conventino at Via Giano della Bella 20/1, 200 meters from Piazza Tasso. Open Sunday, December 6 from 10am to 7pm.
If you want to get out of town for a day, go to Siena. On December 5 and 6, the program "Natale Mercato del Campo" will officially be launched. Famed as Il Mercato nel Campo, it comunal piazza will be full and festive with its special bowl design and the historic pageantry adding to this special market experience. There is also the opening of the lights and the ice rink and the Christmas village in the gardens of "La Lizza" in Piazza Gramsci, running until January 2, 2016.
BEST BOOKS FOR DECEMBER – Italian Food Rules and Italian Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Our own newsletter author has written the perfect stocking-stuffer book for anyone who plans to spend the New Year’s Eve or any part of 2016 in Italy. P&F has shared many of the Italian Food & Life Rules in the newsletter over the past couple of years and these little books are the perfect place to find them all together.
Italian Food Rules can help you and those you love in the following situations:
Did the waiter in Rome sneer when you asked for butter for the bread or for a cappuccino after dinner?
Did your Venetian grandmother slap your hand when you reached for the Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on her spaghetti alle vongole?
Did the Florentine guest in your home turn pale when offered leftover pizza for breakfast?
Did the fruit and vegetable vendor at the Mercato Centrale yell at you when you checked out the ripeness of his peaches or scooped up a handful of cherries?
In Italy, they love making rules, although they seem to obey very few. When it comes to the national cuisine, however, the Italian Food Rules may as well be carved in marble. They will not change and are strictly followed. Visitors to Italy violate them at their peril.
When in Italy, enjoy being Italian for a few days, weeks or months, by learning the Italian Food Rules, taking them to heart, and obeying each and every one of them.
Italians have spent a thousand years perfecting a certain way of living. In a country with a reputation of not obeying rules, there are some hard and fast Italian Life Rules, which are known and followed. Italian Life Rules can help you spot the habits and traditions that will make you Italian for a bit. Here are some highlights:
You should never greet some people in Italy with a cheery “Ciao!” Why?
Italian women can stride across cobblestones wearing stilettos with five-inch heels. How?
Studies show that Italians tip less than other Europeans. Why?
Tourists can’t go to just any Italian beach and spread a picnic lunch out on the sand during some months. When?
It seems like every shopkeeper in Italy demands exact change. Why?
Before traveling to Italy, read about the Italian Life Rules to heighten your anticipation of Italian life and to prepare you for the inevitable joys and pitfalls of your visit. When in Italy, enjoy being Italian for a few days, weeks or months, by learning first-hand the Italian Life Rules for a greater appreciation of what it means to be Italian.
You can buy the Ann’s books at the Paperback Exchange in Florence and on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.it.
BEST BOOK FOR KIDS FOR DECEMBER – Adriano, il Cane di Pompei - Hadrian, the Dog of Pompeii by Matthew Frederick
A delightful story of a special dog and the magical place he calls home. Follow Hadrian the Dog of Pompeii amid famous ruins and friendly tourists, and experience the adventure that changed his life. Discover more about Pompeii in the historical sections of the book and the location map. Suitable for all children with a love of animals, and for parents and educators seeking an entertaining way to introduce the subjects of travel, history, archeology, and geography. The Italian text followed by the English translation on every page make the book a fun tool for language students and teachers as well.
BEST RESTAURANT FOR DECEMBER – Primo Piano Revisited
In 2014 an innovative project was hatched to boost the vitality of the Mercato Centrale. Umberto Montano renovated the first floor of the complex and created a gastronomic center where customers can shop for high-quality ingredients, but also stop and enjoy a delicious meal. 12 shops, 500 seats, 3,000 square meters of space for foodies and lovers of Italian cuisine to enjoy at the new ‘primo piano’ (first floor) above Florence’s central market in the San Lorenzo area.
Designed by Archea Associati, the 19th century space has been refurbished and modernized employing simple materials such as cast iron, rope and wood to enhance the space. The food on offer is very varied, and the many different stands offer all kinds of food, from pasta and pizza, to fish or meat, freshly made mozzarella, typical Tuscan lampredotto (of the tripe family), and even ice cream. Everything is made out of ingredients found in the Mercato itself, ensuring freshness and authenticity in a fabulous setting where everyone can gather around a single table and enjoy a meal of choice in the purest Italian tradition.
If you’ve never visited or haven’t been back since 2014, it’s time to return because everything is changing and being improved. The newest addition is La Friggitoria, the creation of Pasquale Torrente and his son Gaetano (famed from their work with Eataly). The menu is extremely ranges from the meatballs (some made with lampredotto) to fried vegetarian rice balls; calzone stuffed with tripe; a sandwich stuffed with fried meatballs; and more (with the promise of seasonal changes several times during the year).
Take a virtual tour through Primo Piano:
Historical Note: The Mercato Centrale was built in the 1870s to house the city’s most important market after the Old Market in what is now Piazza della Repubblica was demolished. It was designed by famous architect Giuseppe Mengoni, who also built the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Mengoni took his inspiration from Les Halles in Paris, and following the industrial trend of the time, used iron and glass as his main materials.
BEST HOT CHOCOLATE FOR DECEMBER
Regular readers will know that the staff of the P&F Newsletter has a serious gelato addiction. But now that the weather is turning colder (or might turn colder) we have the perfect excuse to indulge in another favorite Italian treat – hot chocolate, known as cioccolata calda. For those of you who think of a powdered and microwaveable mix when you hear the words “hot chocolate,” forget it! True Italian hot chocolate is closer to the pudding end of the spectrum, some of it being so thick so as to maintain a lightweight spoon in an upright position. This stuff is almost as much a meal, as it is a beverage.
The most famous place to drink cioccolata calda is at Rivoire in Piazza Signoria. Don’t sit down because you will have to take out a mortgage to pay the bill. Have your incredibly rich hot chocolate standing at the bar and take a while to sip it from a spoon because the clientele are people-watching-worthy. Feeling like an extra treat? Have cioccolata caldacon panna – the barely sweet whipped cream is a good counterpoint to the intense chocolate.
The best place for cioccolata calda is Vestri, the Italian chocolate shop at 11 Borgo degli Albizi. Here, for a reasonable price, you can get hot chocolate made by the chocolate-maker, himself. There are two types of chocolate to choose from and you can get very creative with cinnamon or hot chili pepper powder. But when the gelato and hot chocolate craving hit at the same time, the Affogato is the way to go. First Leonardo pours in the hot chocolate (at your desired strength) and then scoops in the gelato of your choice. The most decadent choice must be 75% Venezuela Cru with Stracciatella (chocolate chip) gelato – first there is the hot chocolate hit followed by a spoon of creamy vanilla with chocolate bits. And at the end the gelato is gone, but there is a spoon or two of dark liquid hot chocolate with a couple of Vestri’s artisanal dark chocolate chips that makes you love that the season’s change.
Another Tuscan chocolate-maker, Catinari in Via Sant’ Elisabetta offering two styles of creamy hot chocolate, and finish out your tasting at the new place, Venchi (from Torino), across from the loggia with La Fontana del Porcellino, the wild boar statue.