April 5, 2019

Wine depicted in ‘Last Supper’ paintings

There is a very Florentine phenomenon of Last Supper paintings in the refectories of convents and monasteries; these images functioned to remind religious diners of the sacrament of the Eucharist, when Christ declares that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. What wine was served at that table and was it any good?


last supper

Before modern water treatment was introduced, wine was a necessary beverage; people added wine to water to make it potable and water made vinegary wine taste a little better. In Roman and Etruscan times, herbs and spices were added: Pliny the Elder indicates that his first-century contemporaries were fond of adding myrrh, cedar and frankincense to wine. Dr. Patrick McGovern, an expert on ancient wines, cites pepper, wormwood, capers and saffron: “The idea was not just to cover up the signs of a deteriorating wine but to keep the wines for a longer time and produce new, exciting tastes for jaded palates,” McGovern told wine magazine Decanter.

What wine was Jesus drinking? That ancient Passover Seder of eggs, bitter herbs and roast meat was probably paired with a red. Should you wish to emulate it, the closest modern wine would be Amarone, but for a really authentic experience, make mulled wine with the afore-mentioned ingredients.

The food and wine depicted in Florentine convent art does not represent ancient menus but rather contemporary fifteenth- and sixteenth-century dining, so we should turn to this period to discover what was served at these painted meals, and why.

At wine tasting events in modern Italy, you’ll see people sniffing, swirling and swishing, considering scents and flavours, and rating aspects like balance and complexity. Dr. Allen Grieco, a food historian, explains to The Florentine that pre-modern wine tasting was based on very different factors.


“Taste, color and provenance were relevant, but most of all, taste was an indicator of humoural composition; the four qualities—hot, cold, dry and wet—constituted the backbone of scientific thought. Ideally, one sought a balance of humours. Food and wine helped create that, taking also into consideration the four elements, seasons, times of the day and the ages of life.”


This theory dictated an almost medical prescription of appropriate wines; the “pre-modern sommelier” was most often a doctor whose vinous arsenal could stave off plague, ease the chills of old age or calm lust in the young.


Grieco uses medieval and Renaissance medical treatises in his forthcoming book Food, Social Politics and the Order of Nature in Renaissance Italy (Villa I Tatti, Summer 2019) to provide examples of the suitability of wines for specific people. We learn that sweet and powerful wines like Malvasia should be consumed in very small quantities or on special occasions like weddings: too much would cause dangerous overheating of the body and lead to physical and moral consequences. Thus, you would not serve it to categories of people who were “hot,” like lusty young men, but an acidic or weak white wine could temper such problems.


Dietary prescriptions balanced food and drink, so the pairing of salad with red wine—unthinkable today—served to compensate for the coldness of lettuce. This perseveres in the Italian habit of eating peaches in red wine, recorded in the proverb “Pesche, peri e pomi vogliono vini buoni.”                  SALUTI !

March 8, 2019

Festa della Donna ~ International Women’s Day ~ March 8th

Journeys Viaggio

Today is International Women’s Day…a Global Day to celebrate all female achievements–past, present, and future.
Courageous women began it in the early 1900s, holding demonstrations for the right to vote and for equal pay and working conditions.

International Women’s Day, originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights. The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women for bread and peace began…the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The Union of Italian Women officially declared March 8 Women’s Day in 1945. The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8…

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December 28, 2018

New Year’s Eve in Venice or Rome

venice-newyearseve VENICE –  A coveted destination for New Year’s Eve, and there is much to do, starting the evening at the typical bacari, small taverns that offer plates of snacks and wine to serve as appetizer. Unless you’ve managed to get an invite for a party in one of Venice’s sumptuous palaces, you could opt for dinner on a boat, while navigating the lagoon until you reach the vicinity of Piazza San Marco, where you can enjoy the classic midnight fireworks display that is one of the highlights of the evening, when people gather for the ‘Bacio di Mezzanotte’, a collective kiss in the most romantic city in the world, a tradition that started 10 years ago.


ROME – The Eternal City celebrates the arrival of the new year for 24 hours, from 9 pm on the 31st to 9 pm on the 1st. It’s called ‘La Festa di Roma’ and involves the following areas: Piazza dell’Emporio, Giardino degli Aranci, Circo Massimo, Via Petroselli, Lungotevere Aventino, Lungotevere dei Pierleoni and Isola Tiberina. At Circo Massimo, there will be several music performances beginning at 9 pm; at midnight there will be a fireworks display, followed by more music, until 3 am. At 7 am on the 1st, Giardino degli Aranci will host a guitar performance by orchestra 100 Chitarre. At 2 pm, there will be a major street party in the area between Piazza dell’Emporio, Giardino degli Aranci, Circo Massimo Lungotevere Aventino, Lungotevere dei Pierleoni e Isola Tiberina, headlined by Rome Parade, which will see 450 U.S. artists, including marching bands, jazz bands, choirs, dancers and cheerleaders, perform along the streets.


October 25, 2018

12 Ways to order Coffee in an Italian Cafe

March 28, 2018

Buona Pasqua

January 8, 2018

Weekend in Milan

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