Two Birthdays in One Day

Sometimes in Italy, the European heart-land of the small shop and business owner, the shop you expected to be open is closed. This may be because of a national holiday or patron saint’s day (which varies from locality to locality). Sometimes it might be because of ‘ferie’ i.e. the shop is taking a holiday either private or public. Because of the substantial number of public holidays this can happen quite frequently.

More sad are those black-bordered signs on closed shop doors with ‘chiuso per lutto’ (closed for mourning) written on them. We’ve had a few too many of them in and around Bagni di Lucca in the last couple of years. My blog readers will know which shop-owners they refer to.

It was, therefore, with genuine happiness that I saw a different reason for a shop to be closed when it should have been open, This is the new flower shop at Piazza Ponte d’Oro Piazza of the Golden Bridge) at Chifenti: ’Chiuso per maternità’ (no translation needed – and no prizes for guessing whether it was a boy or a girl!) ‘Complimenti’ to the delightful girl who runs the shop with such charm.

As my highly agreeable lunch companions commented ‘you can more or less narrate shopkeeper family history by the signs on their shop fronts’.

Incidentally, when we had lunch at the ‘Circolo dei forestieri’ we were presented with a little plate of very wonderful sweets and a glass of prosecco. ‘It’s our birthday’ said the pleasant girl who’s a partner in the wonderful reawakening of Bagni di Lucca’s legendary restaurant. ‘It’s one year today since the circolo has opened,’ she added.

The lunch, as usual, was top-class (two courses plus wine, water, bread (delicious, 3 varieties) and coffee, all for euros 11.

I’ll leave you to guess at some of the dishes we savoured (the finocchio alla grattinata was particularly scrumptious – fennel cooked with besciamella sauce –  and the penne with cream were heavenly), and what we couldn’t finish off we could take away in a doggy-bag (or ‘scatola di famiglia’), something which all eating places must now provide by Italian law.

(Spot the colours of the Italian national Flag – ‘il Tricolore’)

It’s these small but O so endearing touches that melt one’s heart in Italy – quite apart from the people, the food, the wine and the beauty of this magical country’s scenery and artistic heritage.

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