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IMPORTANT INFORMATION » Our Monthly Newsletter ITA -

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Rent, Sell and Manage Properties in Florence and Tuscany

March – With Easter coming early this year (March 23), the pre-Easter fun is already up and running. Cafe and shop windows are filling with brightly wrapped, chocolate Easter eggs of all sizes, each containing a trinket gift for loved ones. Watch out for other holidays like Pasquetta (Easter Monday) when shops are closed and enjoy your Marzo Pazzo or Crazy March, with its delightfully unpredictable weather.
In this issue our friend Joe Fernandez talks about a new restaurant discovery, plus an easy-peasy dessert recipe to celebrate the bounty of an upcoming Spring.
From the office SUZANNE, CORSO, SANDRA, LORI, ERNESTINA and KIMBERLY say thank you for following us into another year of Tuscan fun.


LA GENTILEZZA, by Elaine Fellows
Although Italy was politically united in 1861, the regional differences are still striking. But from Sicily to Milan everyone is caring of, and kind to, old ladies, and so in this series of short bits, I will recall some endearing examples of Italian gentilezza encountered by me during the happy years I spent in Italy from 1982 to 2002. In my first Italian visit I was sixty and didn’t carry a cane, but long before my twentieth winter my “bastone” was a constant companion. Perhaps my cane contributed somewhat to identifying me as a kindness candidate, but from my first visit my grey hair had seemed sufficient ; I was doubtless somebody’s mother, and as such deserving. Italian mothers usually sacrifice greatly for their children, work selflessly for them, and in their old age they are rewarded!
Snow in Rome and Sun in Sicily
In January, 1985 as I arrived at Fiumicino airport from London where I’d spent two months, it was snowing heavily. The snow would continue - so rare an occurrence in Rome that for years the stalls sold post cards showing the city covered in snow. My plane was late and I feared I’d miss my connection to Palermo. We had disembarked in the airport’s centre -far from the gates- the snow swirled around us as our baggage was unloaded onto a truck. I was told my plane was already out on the tarmac on the other side of the airport. I expressed my concern to two gentlemen, airport employees. After conferring, they asked me to identify my bag then gallantly conducted me over to a waiting ambulance, loaded my bag and me aboard. One of them accompanied me as we raced across Fiumicino. I couldn’t remember the word for siren and laughingly asked why we weren’t ringing our “ bell”. My attendant and the ambulance driver seemed to find my question charming! Thus we were in a convivial mood when we arrived at the little plane for Sicily. They were just taking away the stairs, but this operation was soon halted, and the little old lady was welcomed aboard the last plane to leave Rome for three days.

Studio June Bellamy was originally created as an Oriental School of Cooking for Italians, introducing basic methods, spices and the cuisine of different oriental countries. Today the same method is applied for English speaking students who are interested in the art of the Italian cuisine, by learning to cook the most basic and simple recipes or venturing into regional master pieces.
At the Studio in Florence (www.studiojunebellamy.it), our courses or single lessons are built around individual or group requirements and are given both in Italian and English. Every lesson is accompanied by annotations on the cultural or historical context of the dishes prepared during this hands-on experience. Regarding our Spring schedule, there are no set courses in English, however we are open for bookings for individual lessons which can be Half day Sessions (morning or afternoon 10 am and 4.30 pm) or All-Day Sessions (10 am - lunch, a break then 5 pm till dinner) that could include food-shopping, if desired.
At Sovicille Siena (www.borgopersonatina.com), in collaboration with Orsa Pellion di Persano at Borgo Personatina, where accommodation is also available, we have created a really lovely summer program including seven days of cooking. Studio June Bellamy, Associazione Culturale per l'Arte e la Gastronomia. Via di Camaldoli 12 r - 50124 Firenze. Tel/fax 055.224130. email: junebellamy@gmail.com
We invite your comments for our “Readers Review Restaurants” section. Use this forum to spread the word about restaurants that merit recognition for their great food and good service. The contents will reflect our readers points of view, (though we reserve the right to agree or disagree). Send your input to rentals@pitcherflaccomio.com.

Joe Fernandez sends us:
A gem has been discovered in Florence for those who are partial to the trend in many cities toward small plate meals. La Cantina was founded by a master of the nuances of flavors and how best to match them to achieve the epitome of their delicacy, but first a brief history: Alberto and Margherita, his wife, opened the small but well-known Oleum Olivae, the Olive Oil Shop, a few doors away at 22/R, with a select inventory of superior oils that were embellished by Alberto’s vast knowledge of all of the essentials of olive oil and balsamic cultivation and production. As a Chemist and Teacher by profession, Alberto has a keener sense of the intricacies that distinguish olive oils and vinegars. It was a perfect marriage of these talents.
In response to requests, the Oleum Olivae began to serve occasional sandwiches on the side. It was a riveting sight to watch Alberto create a masterpiece before your very eyes with a rapturous description of what he was concocting. From this small start, the Olive Oil Shop was overwhelmed with requests for sandwiches to the point that lengthy lines formed on the street to sample his creations. They are not to be missed.
Finally, the Olive Oil Shop was converted to a Delicatessen, featuring his creations. Alberto was then inspired to take his intense interest in food and in heightening their flavors to La Cantina, where one can expect a delectable selection of small plates from the Tasting Menu… Menu Degustazione (usually two)…, that include 4 or 5 small plates of basically traditional dishes with special, personal touches to enhance their flavor. Starting with only the freshest, finest quality ingredients provides each dish with a gustatory advantage. Apart from the Tasting Menus, there is a wide assortment of a la carte small plates from which to select. The limits of space prohibit reciting the extensive list of choices and the combinations offered but a sample will have to suffice: crostini, antipasto, carpaccio, Tagliere Toscana, ribollita, zuppa, crespella in addition to a variety of salads and scrumptious desserts that are sinfully delicious. But don’t be fooled, none of these dishes resemble plates with similar names in Florence…they lack the gifted Alberto touch that separates his renditions from others. He is usually present at La Cantina to walk you through your meal and describe with passion what you are about to devour.
Not to overlook his devotion to superior olive oils, there are 50 top olive oils from which to select, 20 balsamic vinegars along with a choice selection of some 150 wines. Both the Delicatessen and La Cantina merit a visit. La Cantina dell’Oil Shoppe, Via S. Egidio 10. Firenze tel. 055 2001092 info@oilshoppe.com, www.oilshoppe.com

THUMBS UP – THUMBS DOWN “Our Readers Right”
Our “Thumbs up, Thumbs down” column is your chance to write us and share your own ideas and information, or to toot the horn of businesses, events and those Florentine situations that strike you as either wonderful or terrible. Please note: all opinions are strictly those of our readers. Lend us your thoughts!
Thumbs up for one of the best Chinese restaurants in town. Corso and Bei (who ought to know) chose Il Mandarino in Via Condotta for entertaining wedding party guests recently. Bei stands by the authenticity and quality of the roast chicken, the won ton soup and the fish with ginger. IL MANDARINO, 17/R Via Condotta. Tel: 055 2396130.

Watch for the first fresh berries of Spring,and go wild!! I try to keep pasta frolla (sweet tart pastry) on hand for last minute desserts. This easy-to-work-with dough is ideal for beginning cooks. Try the same recipe with other fruits such as blackberries, raspberries, etc., using the corresponding jam. The possibilities are just about endless.
½ recipe pasta frolla (see below) or use store-bought pastry dough/pie crust for one pie
½ pound (250 grams) mascarpone
fresh strawberries, washed, dried and cut into halves
½-3/4 cup strawberry jam (or even better, substitute a generous handful of your fresh berries mashed with 3 tablespoons sugar)
powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Roll-out pasta frolla and place in a buttered and floured 10-inch tart pan. A pan with removable sides works best but isn’t necessary. Make a pretty border by pinching the edges as for a pie crust. Using a fork, prick the entire crust so steam can escape while baking. Bake crust 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. If the crust gets a steam bubble while baking, pop it with a knife. Set crust aside to cool, then transfer to a flat serving platter.
Blend mascarpone and jam. Spread mascarpone and jam mixture on cooled crust. Place the strawberry halves in concentric circles, slightlyoverlapping to completely cover the tart. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and garnish with a sprig of mint or edible flowers such as pansies or violets.

Pasta Frolla: this recipe makes enough for two 10-inch tarts. If you want to make just one tart, wrap half of the dough, patted into a saucer-sized disk, in plastic wrap and store in freezer for up to 2 months.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into thin slices
¼ t. salt
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
On a smooth surface, combine flour, sugar, butter and salt. Crumble with fingers until the butter is worked into the flour and mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the centre, like a low volcano, and add eggs and extra yolk, blending until mixture comes together. Divide dough in half and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes.

All our best,

The Staff of Pitcher and Flaccomio

Newsletter compiled by Kim Wicks

Pitcher & Flaccomio Newsletter Copyright 2008

Direttore responsabile Mario Spezi -  Pubblicazione con iscrizione n. 5697 del 23\01\09 presso il Tribunale di Firenze