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Rent, Sell and Manage Properties in Florence and Tuscany

   May – If April showers really do bring May flowers... then watch out Tuscany, there should be an EXPLOSION this year! In fact, the May calendar is filled with flowery fairs, garden visits and springtime events.

In this issue: a cooking school/caterer, the fabulous Mille Miglie vintage car rally. The only important holiday this month falls on the first, Labour Day. Most businesses (and Florentine museums) will be closed. Send to newsletter@pitcherflaccomio.com.

From the office SUZANNE, CORSO, SANDRA, LORI, ERNESTINA and KIMBERLY wish you the best springtime ever.


  Okay, the dollar is in the toilet. But in an effort to keep Americans coming to the area, a promotional campaign sponsored by the Province of Florence and the Florence Tourist Board “The Fiorino Effect”, provides American tourists visiting from May 15 to December 31 with 10% discounts at participating hotels and restaurants, plus other special rates at theatres, museums and exhibitions. The promotion obviously aims at softening the impact that the current dollar-euro exchange rate has on American purchase power when visiting Italy and Florence.

For over two centuries the most used coin in Europe was the Florentine “fiorino”. The campaign is calling the effort, “a new and fun way to remember that Florence was the capital of the world, not just in art and culture, but also in economy and finance.”

How does the initiative work? The participating hotels and restaurants apply a 10% discount on the entire cost of your stay in the hotel and on your meals. When you reserve your hotel room/s, do not forget to communicate to the hotel staff that you are American and that you wish to use the promotion The Fiorino Effect. Download the voucher (www.firenzeturismo.it), with the image of the Florin on it, and bring it with you during your stay in Florence. The hotel will validate the voucher enabling you to access to a 10% discount on the cost of your meal in restaurants.

...That's not all... by presenting the Fiorino Effect voucher validated by the hotel at the ticket office of Palazzo Strozzi, you will be entitled to a 20% discount on the exhibits scheduled for the 2008 season in the Palazzo Strozzi: until June 8 you can visit the exhibition “China - At the court of the emperors” with over 200 masterpieces of the imperial courts from the Han era (23-220) to the Tang Empire (618-907), the Chinese Golden Age. You will have free entrance to the Palazzo Medici, the first Renaissance building to be erected in Florence. The most important section of the palace is still the small Chapel frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli with the Adoration of the Magi. You will also be entitled to a 15% discount on the performances held in the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and for lyric performances scheduled for October 2008.

MILLE MIGLIA: VINTAGE CAR RALLY. Sat. 17. Pienza, Montalcino, Castellina, Panzano, Greve, Impruneta, Florence, Vaglia, Barberino.
  Eighty years after its inception, the Mille Miglia is today a world-renowned event, epitomising the passion people hold for cars in the pursuit of adventure, excitement and discovery. It is also the easiest and most fun vintage car show ever attended. You can just sit in one spot and enjoy the noisy, colourful show going by. This year more than 350 automobiles are registered including a 1928 ALFA ROMEO 6C 1500 Super Sport, a 1938 BMW 328, a 1933 ASTON MARTIN Le Mans, a 1948 MASERATI A6GCS and more (Jaguars, Ferraris, Lancias, etc.).

On Saturday, watch for the classic Freccia Rossa sign (a red arrow with 1000 Miglia written on it) marking the route, and get a good observation spot. The rally should hit Pienza at 10:30, Montalcino at 11:00, the first cars are expected in Piazza del Duomo of Siena at 11:20, 12:00 in Castellina-in-Chianti, Greve 12:20, and 1:00 in Firenze, with the principle checkpoint found in Piazzale Galileo, then on to Vaglia at 1:30 and Barberino di Mugello at 2:00.

The first cars are expected to be entering Florence will travel along Via San Felice a Ema, Viale del Poggio Imperiale, Viale Torricelli, Piazzale Galileo, Viale Macchiavelli, Piazza della Calza, Via Romana, Piazza San Felice, Via Maggio, Piazza Frescobaldi, Ponte a Santa Trinità, Lungarno degli Acciaioli, Via Por Santa Maria, Via Vacchereccia, Piazza della Signoria, Via dei Calzaioli, Piazza San Giovanni, Via de’ Martelli, Via Cavour, Piazza San Marco, Via La Pira, Via Giacomo Matteotti, Piazza Libertà, Via Don Minzoni, Via G. Pascoli, Largo Zoli, Via Mafalda di Savoia, Ponte Rosso, and out along the SS 65 Via Bolognese.

It was Enzo Ferrari who defined it "the world's greatest road race". From the starting line in Brescia, to the much-awaited appointment with Rome, and finishing with arrival back in Brescia, the Mille Miglia rally meets the enthusiasm of the cities it passes through and the fervour of the crowds lining the streets.

The origins of the Mille Miglia race are closely linked to those of the Brescia Automobile Club. In 1927, with influential political connections and the considerable financial backing of its motor sport enthusiasts, the Club put together a long distance race for production cars that would differ from the French Bol d'or [dating from 1922], the 'Coupe Rudge Whitworth' [later known as the Le Mans 24 Hours] and other similar events. The race would cover a large part of Italy, virtually taking the cars to the front doors of potential buyers. This was the equivalent of an advertising brainwave, and attracted strong interest from the car manufacturers, who were struggling to sell their products at the time. It gave them an ideal opportunity to overcome the poor reputation their products had for reliability. It was also popular with the Government. It would present the modern face of Italy to the world as well as stimulating the popularity of motor vehicle use and thereby growing the industry, providing jobs and increasing revenue from taxes. The Italian people would also derive a marginal benefit from improvements to the roads used in the race. They soon put together the details of the Mille Miglia Cup race. It would be run from Brescia to Rome [to flatter the Fascist regime] and back to Brescia, a distance of around 1600Km.

To complete the organising team, later known as the 'Musketeers', they needed a top-class journalist. As the story goes, they turned to Giovanni Canestrini of the influential 'Gazzetta della Sport', a pioneering sports newspaper backed by motor industry leaders Giovanni Agnelli and Edoardo Bianchi. It was at this time that the legend surrounding the origin of the name Mille Miglia was born.

Canestrini reported: “I was not expecting visitors on that Christmas Eve in 1926; I was daydreaming, slumped in an armchair, when I heard someone calling me from the courtyard. It was Aymo Maggi with Franco Mazzotti, Renzo Castagneto and Baron Monti. “What do they want”, I thought, “on Christmas Eve?” My study was invaded by my friends and Maggi, their spokesman, explained the reasons for this unexpected visit. "Our factories don’t race any more”, he said. “There are no racing cars and if we want to do some racing, all we can do now is purchase foreign cars, or Bugattis, which is virtually the only one being manufactured and sold to customers. If we don’t do something new, we feel that nobody will be interested in motor racing any more and our whole tradition will be forgotten. We have to do something”, he repeated. The idea of organising a Brescia-Rome race was mooted. It was fashionable to have everything end up in the capital (then as now); but this idea was not well received since, in the end, the benefit to Brescia would be relatively small. “Why don’t we have a Brescia-Rome-Brescia race?” […] “And what shall we call it?” “Brescia-Rome-Brescia” was too long and reminded one of a train timetable, rather than a car race. At a certain point Mazzotti asked me and Castagneto, as we were calculating the distances on the map: “How long is it?” “Over a thousand kilometres - around 1,600 kilometres.” “Or a thousand miles”, remarked Mazzotti, who had just returned from a trip to America and had become accustomed to thinking of distances and averages in miles rather than in kilometres. Then, acting on an inspiration, he added: “Why don’t we call it the Mille Miglia Cup?” “Don’t you think the name seems too American?” someone objected. “Not at all!” he replied, “after all, the Romans measured their distances in miles, and we’re following Roman tradition”. In those times, this meant something.” Thanks to the Mille Miglia official website for much of the above info.

  Apparently, over the past year author Salman Rushdie made a series of secret visits to Florence while preparing his latest novel set in the time of the Medici court. The Enchantress of Florence, which hit shelves in England and the US on April 3, has received mixed reviews, to say the least. About the book, S. Clarke states “Renaissance Florence and Mogul India are brought noisily, nastily and splendidly back to life. Rushdie has irreverent fun with figures such as Botticelli, his muse for the Primavera, and Machiavelli, who feature in the back story. The two cultures create an opportunity for multiple switches of perspective. Overexcited, perhaps, by the Kama Sutra, which he cites as a source, Rushdie goes to town with scenes of harem life and brothels. This novel is as much a celebration of sex, of every kind and degree of expertise, as it is of the potency of tale-telling."

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 (usually) strictly those of our readers. Lend us your thoughts!

Ciao Kim,
  Yesterday I went to Panzano to buy some meat for a party I'm having on the 25th and left my regards for you with Dario. I really enjoyed my little jaunt to Panzano and gorged myself on the tit bits he was offering with an excellent glass of wine.
I'm sending you a short review on a restaurant I went to last night which, to my opinion, deserves to be on your newsletter for May. The atmosphere is absolutely divine and the view you have of the river, breathtaking. Of course, the food is 1st class; TARGA Bistrot Fiorentino on Lungarno Colombo.
   Gabriele Tarchiani, Patron of Restaurant Targa Bistrot, two years ago has made the choice to terminate a 15 years period of Caffé Concerto and start a new adventure of Targa Bistrot in the same premises. Very few variations in the cuisine and, maybe, a more dynamic service. The ambience has not changed: great atmosphera, elegant and intimate, with prestigious wooden tables, a little brighter than before, due to the spectacular light given by the sun reflecting on the Arno. Actually you have the feeling of being on a barge anchored on the river.
  The menu with 5 to 6 choices per course, presents some of the dishes which made the history of this restaurant, such as tartara and baccala are still on the list. Some other meat or fish dishes are cooked in a very creative way, never banal. As an appetiser you are served with a schiacciata (flat loaf) with red radicchio which allows you to sample the excellent Cabernet Istrice of Elena Walch. Famous is the Riso rosso with Broccoletti e Gamberi and the Tartare di Chianina con Battuta di Carciofi. Or Dadolata di Manzo con Carciofi very tasty and genuine. In the menu you also find a wide choice of Italian and French cheeses plus the Stilton offered in several different seasonings. The wine list is ample and refined. You finish with their hot chocolate soufflé which has always been the piece de resistance amongst the house desserts. TARGA Bistrot Fiorentino. Lungarno Colombo, 7 – Firenze. Tel: 055.677377. Closed: Sunday.

We at Pitcher & Flaccomio are giving our own heartfelt “Thumbs Up” to two special people this month, one is the very friendly Marco Vignoli of I Bike Italy, and the other is Sahna Wicks (also know as Kim’s sister), who for many years, has offered various ways to access Tuscan food. As one of her most frequent clients, Suzanne recommended it was high time we mention Sahna’s work in our newsletter.

I BIKE TUSCANY is a Florence-based company specialising in 1-day private bike rides and longer bike tours for small groups (singles, families, friends from 1 to 6 people) around Florence, Siena and Chianti. The service is different, very special, flexible and personalised. Their tours are all private, with pick up/drop off at hotels, railway stations and airports provided. Wine tastings and winery tours, and local events play a special part in their schedules. Marco provides the opportunity to experience some really different and off-the-beaten track itineraries that only a local knows, cycling at your own pace on quiet country roads, past vineyards, olive groves and through quaint villages. Yes there are hills (this is Tuscany after all) but rest stops are frequent and you'll have all the time in the world to enjoy the view from a hilltop and take pictures. If you visit Florence and you want to get away from the traffic, the crowds and the routine of the museums for just one day, or if you prefer to experience the adventure of a 6-day active vacation… get in touch with Marco. New tours to the Cinque Terre, Lago Maggiore, Monte Rosa, Sicily and Dolomites have recently been added. Contact Information: I Bike Tuscany. Marco Vignoli. Phone: +39 335 8120769. www.ibiketuscany.com

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sahna Wicks has been a resident in Tuscany for over 20 years. She’s a cook, caterer and cooking teacher with years of experience working side-by-side with Florentine food experts in various settings. She decided to concentrate on sharing Tuscany’s no-nonsense cooking and baking techniques through meals and classes designed for hands-on participation. “The pivotal factor about what makes for great Tuscan food is the simple preparation of quality ingredients,” says Sahna.
Sahna offers Welcome Meals and pre-arrival grocery shopping for those who like an easy landing to their vacation residence. Or join Sahna for private hands-on cooking lessons held in your home or hers, just beyond Fiesole. And (much to Suzanne’s pleasure) Sahna caters small and medium-size events to both Florentine and International clients.
Sahna’s private cooking classes can accommodate one or more people. They may be held at her home in the country 20 minutes north of Florence, or in your apartment or villa. Originally from California and having grown up with a French-cooking teaching mother, Sahna has an easy knack for taking the mystery out of food preparation. Both traditional and innovative recipes are offered to give students a general understanding for Tuscan cuisine but also offering a modern twist for those who like to play in the kitchen. Sahna enjoys teaching people of all ages and with any level of cooking ability. Having two boys of her own, Sahna knows how much fun kids have cooking, and encourages family classes where kids learn safe knife and stove skills and to clean-up as they create! Lessons are custom-designed. Sahna says “We will make what best works for you and your family. If there are dietary restrictions, just let me know, and I’ll work with your needs.” Take home a book of Sahna’s recipes after your day of cooking.

PERSONAL CHEF / MEAL DELIVERY - Aside from preparing and stocking a vacation rental home with a Welcome Meal on arrival, Sahna also offers on-going, in-home cook services with menus to accommodate anyone’s needs, managing all the shopping, preparation and clean-up, and leaving you time to enjoy your Florentine stay. If you prefer, Sahna will cook one or more meals in her home and make a quick delivery at a time convenient to you.

CATERING – Sahna’s expertise is in creating menus for small to medium-sized events. Simple buffet-style or multi-course meals are available, to cater to the personalised atmosphere you desire. Italian meals usually consist of an antipasto, a “primo” course of soup, risotto or pasta, followed by the main course with a couple of vegetable dishes. Dessert is optional (though why opt out?).

Sahna’s repertoire features appetisers like Crostini di Fegatini or the deceptively simple Pecorino con Miele e Timo, primi include traditional favorites Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan bread stew with basil, garlic and tomatoes) and Ribollita (Tuscan vegetable and bread stew). She makes a great Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, and Etruscan-style Rabbit or Chicken, stewed with olives and red wine which can be served with sides of sauteed Spinach or other seasonal greens or Piselli alla Fiorentina (peas with garlic, parsley, and pancetta). Finish off with Panna Cotta served with fresh Berries or Chocolate Sauce, Classic Tiramisu or Sahna’s unusual Seasonal Fruit Tiramisù with fresh strawberries, nectarines or blueberries. Sahna has given us another of her recipes this month, one of our very favorites: Naked Ravioli (Gnudi)

SAHNA WICKS’ A Tuscan Welcome, Via Mulinaccio 5, 50030 Polcanto (Firenze). Tel. 055 840 9751. wicks@katamail.com

Not that Fabio Picchi needs any further publicity, but credit must be given where due and so a big “Thumbs Up” to Fabio, as he was exceptionally nice in welcoming Jeffrey Tate to his theatre recently, really putting himself out in an extra special way.

500g cooked well-squeezed spinach, finely chopped.
500g fresh ricotta made from sheep’s milk if possible
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmigiano
Freshly grated nutmeg or lemon zest
Mix together all ingredients except the flour. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a gentle boil. Make small walnut-sized balls of the spinach/ricotta mixture and roll them in flour on a baking sheet or parchment to coat. Do a test cook of one or two gnudi to see if the mixture is working before you make more than a couple balls. Drop the test gnudi into the simmering water and wait until they rise to the surface at which point let them simmer 30 seconds to a minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon or sieve. If they fall apart in the cooking the spinach and ricotta were too wet, so you’ll need to add some flour to the mixture. Try a few tablespoons. Re-test. Cook the gnudi 8-10 at a time until all the mixture is cooked. Serve with butter and sage sauce (melt a few generous pats of butter in a pan, add 4 or 5 fresh sage leaves and fry gently until the leaves are crisp) or a fresh tomato sauce. Serve with grated parmigiano. Enjoy!

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