On June 24, San Giovanni, their patron Saint, Florentines pick walnuts to make into the delicious digestivo Nocino, a walnut liquor. The green hulls of walnuts are infused in alcohol for two months and then some spices are added to the mix. I have never had one in the United States but two brands seem to be prevalent, Russo and Agazzoti. A Nocino also comes out of California. I have only ever had homemade nocino made by Silvia Di Sandro, a cook who could put any famous chef to shame and by a colleague Marcello who made it as well.
San Giovanni is a very festive holiday and is “molto sentita.” A distant second to the Florentine soccer team, La Fiorentina o La Viola, Calcio Storico and San Giovanni are a very big deal in Florentine life. I was very saddened to hear about the passing of the young captain of La Fiorentina this week, Davide Astori.
While Florence can be extremely touristy, hot and commercial, it holds a very special place in my life and in my heart. Whenever I go back there and hear “O Susannah dov’e sei stata tutto questo tempo?…(where have you been all this time?) said with a thick Florentine accent by one of the people who run the cafes, restaurants or stores on my old street, I smile and feel like I am always at home. I actually think the air is slower and heavier in Florence but that’s another story. If you ever get the chance to go on San Giovanni, I don’t think you will be disappointed.