It has rained for 3 weeks, 5 days and 8 hours - almost non-stop and almost biblical - and the sound of ‘rain on roof’ is becoming strangely hypnotic. However, despite flood warnings from our Italian neighbours and the sight of the eco warriors on the hill building what looks like an ark, we decide to pop into Arezzo to look at the Christmas lights and do a spot of shopping. We put a bucket under the drip that’s coming in from the bedroom ceiling and head off.
It’s late afternoon and Arezzo is ablaze with festive cheer and, despite the rain, a good old-fashioned Christmas passeggiata is in full swing. White lights are strung across the narrow streets leading up to the main Piazza Grande and, while the lower town is buzzing with activity, Vasari’s loggia and the beautiful square up in the old town are strangely deserted. The flagstones gleam wetly in the lamplight and footsteps echo in the chilly dusk.
Traders, who have spent the day setting up for the weekend’s antique fair, have bundled up their treasures under drab tarpaulin wraps and gone to ground. The last, and most conscientious, check the ties and straps for security before heading silently to the bar.
That this vast array of antiquities is left untended overnight is amazing, but there is something quite forlorn about it too, with the empty darkening square and the unattended tables waiting, solemn and sodden, in the rain.
Back on Corso Italia, gifts are carefully chosen and lavishly wrapped. Little hands clutch warm paper cones of roasted chestnuts and, although the rain comes and goes in fierce gusts, all seems well with the world. Unless the bedroom ceiling’s fallen in, that is.
Best thing I ate:
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
I have to say that there is something wonderfully ‘winter wonderland’ about buying roast chestnuts from a street vendor’s blazing brazier, although the ones we bought were mighty expensive. Far cheaper and much more fun is to invest in a traditional chestnut roasting pan (a frying pan with holes in the bottom) and then, providing you have an open fire or wood burning stove, you can while away the cosy winter evenings roasting your own.
Cut a little slash in the skins of your chestnuts, fill the pan with a single layer and roast them amongst the glowing embers. They will take approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat of your fire. Remember to give the pan a good shake every now and then to avoid too much charring. They make a fantastically seasonal fireside snack or a fine dessert, paired with a slab of Gorgonzola and a glass of luscious Vin Santo which seems to intensify the sweet, smoky flavour.
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…