Mardi Gras or Carnevale as they call it in Italy always reminds me of how and when I really fell in love with the country. I went to Florence on the last day of Carnevale, Fat Tuesday, over 25 years ago and fell madly in love with the country. I was studying French in Dijon, a sober but beautiful city in North Eastern France. My father pretended to be a travel agent and somehow was able to get my Mother and I two weeks at the Excelsior hotels, one in Florence and one in Rome. The hotel is still going strong and was the lap of luxury to me at 20. I was doing a semester abroad in and living literally in a garret apartment above my host family’s apartment. The bathroom was down the hall and freezing. I loved living in France and I loved the family but it was grey and colorless at the time of our trip in February that year. My Mother, a sculptor and art historian, and I took the train for our vacation. That was it. Between waking up in the middle of the night to see the Borromean Islands rising out of Lago Maggiore in the early morning hours to seeing children dressed in bright costumes throwing confetti and the stripped Romanesque churches of Florence, I was totally stregata (bewitched). It’s been a long love affair ever since and one that I suspect will never lose its luster. Each year on Carnevale, I think of that day and smile at how strange life is and how much I would love to eat a piece of Schiacciata alla Fiorentina in Florence and drink a glass of Vin Santo. Vin Santo is made from dried grapes, which are aged in Caratelli – small barrels and are aged in a Vinsantaia, generally made with Trebbiano and Malvasia.
Over the course of the last three years, I have been invited to a week long celebration of Tuscan wines called the Anteprime Toscane. They always take place at this time. I took this photo two or three years ago. How I would love to be there now although I know that they are also struggling mightily. I hope some little kids there got to celebrate and have fun. So many memories all around.