There was a pop-up market in the Piazza today as I went to go pick up Giulio. Not paying attention to the Florence holidays now that I’m mostly out of the center meant this was a pleasant surprise. The food trucks opened up into the piazza around the statue of another Medici some selling meats and cheeses, others selling candied fruit and nuts. There were booths full of jewelry and a porchetta sandwich truck (of course). The most popular theme was the Brigidini – a type of Florentine “cookie” wafer that is made of flour, sugar, and anise. Apparently, they were invented by mistake when trying to make the Body of Christ – just a fun fact I didn’t fact check that well.
The little machines that make the cookies were on full-steam in front of multiple stands, their vendors offering tastes of their fresh wafers. These are some of Rami’s favorites. I circled the piazza a few times, eyeing the different vendors. The woman that sold me had a chocolate version to go along with the anise. I grabbed a bag for three euro and heard drums.
The processions are my favorite – no matter what the occasion. Today, they appeared from among the tents, then sounded the horns and the drums, and the march toward the Duomo began with the small group, dressed in the colorful historic costumes of centuries of Fiorentini, and I stood there even before the crowd had gathered and snapped a quick video to post on Instagram, thinking to look up why they were processing toward the Duomo.
Later, a friend from here told me it’s Florence’s New Year. Why? Simply, when the Pope changed the calendar to the Gregorian one we use today that has January 1st as the start of the new year, Florentines said “nah” and kept doing their own thing. Today is the new year because it is the day of the Annunciation – which explains why they were in Piazza Annunziata – being nine months away from Jesus’s birthday (makes sense).
After chatting about the perks of March New Year (free entry into the Boboli gardens) she commented on my video of Panzano in Chianti from the weekend, saying she had just watched the Chef’s Table episode on Netflix. I had skimmed by it the other day and meant to watch it, and now I just finished and if you want to know where I was this past weekend and the man that I see every time I’m in there, you have to watch it for yourself.
As I’ve mentioned, Rami introduced me to the little town in Chianti years ago, and to the restaurant owned by the famous butcher, Dario Cecchini. I can’t count how many times we’ve been since, and it was the same just the other day, and as we left we stocked up on products to take home: a type of pepper jelly, the lard, a spiced salt that makes everything it touches taste like gold. Our rations were running low.
Dario was behind the counter, wrapping up orders and stopping to take pictures with people asking from outside the crowded doorframe. We grabbed two more mini glasses of the free house wine and toasted to another day in Chianti as we stood in front of the walk-in meat freezer. It’s a place so Tuscan, so heartfelt, so passionate, and they want to spread it as far and as wide as possible. When you find one of those types of people around here, you feel it.
Chef’s Table did an amazing job. I have even more respect for this man now – knowing even more how much he cares about the animals he owns. I know that may sound ridiculous when talking about a butcher, but watch the video – or better, visit him in Panzano, and you’ll see.
The men and women that get dressed in elaborate costume on a Monday afternoon to celebrate a holiday of their ancestors is a true spirit. They drum through the streets as loud as Cecchini sings over his customers in the butcher shop and as joyful as the woman that proudly wrapped her just-made wafer cookies for me as we stood in the center of the traditional chaos of a Florence afternoon.