23rd December 2007
The car is filled with the resinous smell of Christmas as the girls squash into either side of the still-netted and prickly tree. It is the end of the last school day before the long-awaited holidays and they are fizzing with excitement.
They bubble over with a jumble of chatter; bursts of song from their school Christmas Shows, jokes and gossip. They talk about the new boy, the naughty boy, the tall girl, the new friend, the favourite teacher, the homework, the party and the plans for the holidays.
Conversations with no beginnings and no ends, alive, fluid and full of laughter.
Marito and I fall silent, listening and smiling.
We are almost home when something strikes me, they are talking to each other in Italian.
The best thing I ate today;
Italy has gone Panettone crazy. These gaudily wrapped cakes are everywhere, and so appealing. There is something so splendid about the packaging that draws you in. Even if you’re not addicted to the rich, yeasty sweet bread, fragrant with vanilla and studded with sultanas and citrus peel, the festive allure of the box will surely get you every time.
As you might have guessed, I love a bit of panettone (and, by now, have probably eaten one too many). My favourites are the traditional fruited ones, although you can find the dome-shaped loaves, stuffed with all kinds of things; chocolate-chip, praline, tiramisu and even limoncello.
The prices vary enormously too, as much as €56.00 for a Father Christmas shape which, if you ask me, is a bit steep for what is, basically, an overblown currant bun. However, I did quite fancy the ‘Tachino d’Oro’, a large golden panettone, shaped like a turkey and stuffed up its rear end with custard. Now that would make a change for Christmas dinner.
Where to get them;
You can’t walk into a Supermarket in Italy without tripping over piles and piles of them.
There are many stories about how this dolce originated. My favourite, by far, is that many centuries ago this ‘pane’ (bread) was invented by a baker called ... wait for it ... Toni.