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© John Zillioux 2012 All Rights ReservedJust returned from a great trip to Florence.  I love Florence. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I’m always torn between declaring either Venice or Florence as my favorite. The photographer in me loves Venice – it’s so theatrical, has such great art, food and one can look anywhere and see beautiful images waiting to be taken (some of them can be seen here). It’s like a stage set, all velvet with gold leaf. But Florence is special. It’s masculine – marble, wood and leather.   I love the scale of the old city, the pace, the style, the sophistication …  the grace of the people.  I’ve been there many times and never tire of it.  Was married there. My daughter was just married there (here’s a link to a “Style Me Pretty” feature post of the wedding).

© John Zillioux 2012 All Rights Reserved© John Zillioux 2012 All Rights Reserved

I also love the Art: The Uffizi, Medicci Chapel, The Bargello, Bobili Gardens, Santa Croce, The Accademia, etc, etc, etc.  If that isn’t enough there’s the food – fried zucchini flowers, sage leaves with anchovies, Steak Florentine, Ribollita, the olives, Vino nobile di montepulciano, Brunello Di Montalcino … the flavors of Tuscany are spectacular. Florence was also were I first tasted Brodo di Giuggiole, an amazing digestivo made in Arquà Petrarca in the Padua region. This after dinner liqueur is made from the dried jujube fruit (the family Rhamnaceae), commonly known as the Chinese Date. A fruit tree which was originally imported from Syria 1000’s of years ago.  Most digestivos and Amari are some sort of bitter concoction made with multiple ingredients enjoyed at the end of a large meal in an effort to “settle the stomach”; a soothing period at the end of a culinary paragraph.  Brodo is similar,  but in contrast, it is sweet, very sweet.  Generally, I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, just doesn’t work for me. But there is something about Brodo di Giuggiole that is different.  I first tasted it at my wedding luncheon. A gastronomic celebration that lasted about 5 hours with an enormous multi-course meal at La Terrazza del Principe.

©John Zillioux All Rights Reserved

At the end, Nico brought out a stubby dark bottle and set it on the table. “No thanks”, I told him “I’ve had too much champagne, too much wine, too much great food – not to mention your mother’s Limoncello” He said “No, no, try it, this is different; and it will complete the meal”.  –  I gave in and 5 minutes after a few sips of the Brodo di Giuggiole, that overly full sensation had completely vanished. What a wonder drink!  Before we left Florence, I tried every spirit and wine store in search of a bottle to bring home, but failed miserably. Most had never even heard of the stuff. I also looked for it on our travels to northern Italy with similar results.  Finally, while wandering by an out-of-the-way spirits shop in Verona (that was being used as a movie set) I spotted a single bottle in a shop window, begged the shopkeeper to take my money.  After explaining my quest, he smiled, nodded and I brought it home. Success. Finally! “Andare in brodo di giuggiole!!” (This is an old Italian saying roughly translated to mean “to be in raptures”, “to swoon” or “be over the moon” with happiness or pleasure)

Fair warning  – you can’t get it in the States; jeez, you can’t get it in most of Italy. I tried to get a couple of Italian wine and spirit importers in New York City to get a case for me – without success. So on this trip to Florence I called Sabina, Nico’s wife and brought back four bottles very carefully packed in my checked luggage.  Perhaps it’s good that some things are only available where they are made, it makes them more precious when one experiences them … but, it certainly is nice to have a bottle or so in reserve. Ciao!