Posts Tagged ‘Christmas markets’

Welcome and Benvenuti to all my Lovely Followers around the World,

Here in our little bit of Tuscany on the edge of Chianti it is 10 degrees centigrade, sunny but with a cold wind. However, we are expecting colder weather to reach us shortly, thus my man is currently putting covers on the vulnerable plants and has brought the lemon tree inside.

Meanwhile, we have turned our thoughts to nice hot winter foods and at the top of my list is Judy Witts Francini’s Tuscan recipe for Red Onion soup using local Certaldo red onions. Judy has posted a great article about the history of Onion soup and her website has the full Tuscan recipe for you to try. Judy, a celebrity cook, is a friend and neighbour as many of you already know and if you are not already signed up for her newsletters, you are missing out on some wonderful Tuscan recipes! http://www.divinacucina.com

Now, my man has a favourite Panettone, which is the traditional festive cake at this time of year. Here in Tuscany they come in many different flavours and his choice is walnut, ordered from the bakers in Via Giugno in Certaldo. In Italy, historical accounts of panettone invariably state that it originated in Milan. The word panettone derives from panetto, a small loaf cake. … The beginnings of this cake appear to date from the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened cake with honey. However, I like the following version better. One of the legends of its conception says that the person who invented panettone was the Milanese nobleman Ughetto degli Atellani who lived in the 1400s. He fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni! But, whatever the originality, it’s hugely popular at Christmas time!

So yes, I seem to have got the Christmas bug already. Seasonal markets are popping up everywhere and there is nothing like going to Florence, even on a cold wet day. This one is in Piazza Santa Croce. Anyway, if really wet, one can always dive into a lovely welcoming coffee bar or restaurant, two more good reasons for going! Foto Corriere Fiorentino.

Now, I’m going to fast forward you to June 2022 and to be precise Friday 17th. Stefano and I have just agreed to do a Rock Chick Band Concert here in Tuscany on this date, so you must put this in your diary. If you are not already on my invitation list, send me your email and I will include you when the invites go out next year. I can’t wait, it is so exciting!

OK, Enough for now. Do drop me a line, I love to hear from my readers! Also, time to order your books in time for Christmas! http://www.junefinnigan.website

Have a great week,

Salute June x


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Benvenuti and Welcome to all my Lovely Followers around the World,

2017-12-02 09.57.26The Italians, being Italian, just adore the Festive Period.  If you want to be anywhere in the world this time of year, you will love it here in Tuscany.  All the main towns and cities are now up and running with Mercate di Natale, that’s Christmas Markets to you and me. These lovely ladies were in the nearby town of Empoli on 1st December, making sure that everyone knew what time of year it was!  As if we could forget….. Foto La Nazione.

2017-11-29 08.49.56As I write this blog, I realise that I also need to get out there and start buying up all the goodies, after all, it’s only three weeks to go!  Now, in case my family are reading this, handbags, scarves and books are at the top of my list….  Whilst even I read books on my Kindle, I still like to own real things.  Foto La Repubblica.

2017-12-01 09.36.43Now, if you are likely to indulge in a little more Prossecco than normal, you should be aware that here in Italy, one may not be able to outrun the latest Polizia car, which is in fact a Ferrari!  Yes, that’s what I said, a Ferrari.  The drivers of the local less impressive Polizia vehicles are fast enough, and that’s both male and female; but put them in a Ferrari and god only knows what will happen on our narrow windy roads!  foto La Repubblica

2017-12-02 09.52.46But enough of that, lets look at what is happening in the world of Music.  Well, if you fancy a little romantic singing by a handsome, if getting on a bit, Italian crooner then you could book yourself a couple of tickets for Claudio Baglioni’s 2018 tour.  Claudio has performed with many famous people, including Pavarotti, in recent years.  He’s also a very good pianist.  Go to Hear Claudio sing now!  Foto La Nazione

2017-12-03 12.55.19Meanwhile, my man and I decided to revisit Osteria La Gramola in Tavernelle, which we have not been to for over two years.  It’s funny how one can forget how good a place is, and we were reminded by being served up a delicious bowl of pumpkin soup with gluten-free bread for me and stuffed vegetables with potatoes.  My man had a mix of crostini with various veggie toppings, followed by spaghetti tossed in pepper and pecorino cheese.  All absolutely yummy.  I bought home a piece of their traditional Siena Cake, which has all the flavours of the traditional English Christmas cake, but is actually made of crushed figs, fruits and nuts. I can’t wait to eat it!  Go to Osteria La Gramola  They also do very popular cooking courses!  Foto J Finnigan

2017-12-01 09.34.232017-11-29 08.46.57Now I cannot go without sharing some of the gorgeous winter woollies and handbags currently available in Florence, my favourite shopping place.  These can also be bought on-line, so don’t worry if you can’t get here this year.  Snuggly Cashmere and woolly wrap around coats with matching bags, beautiful! Fotos La Reppublica.

Oh, very important, don’t forget to ensure that your name is in my man’s Father Christmas hat, to stand a chance of winning my Book Trilogy, The Continuing Adventures of Joanna Wilde.  Only three days to go!  Visit the Events page on my website at My Author Site

OK, enough for now, but do drop me a line, I love to hear from you and see you next week.

Salute June x




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Benvenuti and Welcome to all my Lovely Loyal and New Followers

So much to tell you and so little time, but here goes!

Our littel tree nestling between bookshelves in our big kitchen!

Our little tree nestling between bookshelves in our big kitchen!  Foto J Finnigan

Gosh, it’s been a hectic few weeks; I’ve been to England twice to sort out a family bereavement and thank you for your best wishes.  All is fine now.  Being away makes me realise just how much I love my home in our little bit of Chianti; the countryside, the people and the lifestyle in general.  What with all the build up to Christmas, it’s great to be decorating the tree, planning our days, just like we always have.  We celebrate exactly the same way here as we did in England all those years ago.  How about you?

Parade of Reindeer in Wells Somerset England. Foto J Finnigan

Parade of Reindeer in Wells Somerset England.
Foto J Finnigan

Whilst I was in England, I did manage to see the parade of Reindeer, which happens every year in Wells, Somerset.  Then I joined some lovely friends for lunch.  So I did have some nice moments.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen reindeer in Tuscany.

Here in this part of Chianti, the traditional tree is very popular as is Father Christmas, Babbo Natale.  Signore Rotund, himself the perfect size for the role, collared me this morning for two boxes of chocolates in aid of the local Hospital Transport Service; I’m happy to contribute as always.  Of course, the Italians have a natural flair for festas and there are loads of parties, concerts and theatre going on.  New years Eve will be celebrated in our local village Fiano with a big feast in the former cinema, everyone who is anyone will be there.

The Tree of Names outside La Dispensa in Fiano. Foto J Finnigan

The Tree of Names outside La Dispensa in Fiano. Foto J Finnigan

La Dispensa, our busy coffee bar/ alimentare is looking very festive and we customers have been asked to hang little personal greetings on the big tree branch outside the door.  It is now looking very colourful with all the labels sporting people’s names and their messages.

My perfect Christmas wish list! La Repubblica magazine.

My perfect Christmas wish list! La Repubblica magazine.

Of course, a lot else has happened during my absence, which I have not been able to tell you about.  The Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigning for one, after the NO vote, but you will have seen that in the news I guess.  Local gossip says that the former Mayor of Florence was pretty fed up with the political arena and is looking forward to a Buona Festa with his family.  I wonder if we’ll see the resurgence of our eighty-year-old former PM, Silvio Berlusconi in the New Year?  Watch this space.

Christmas hunk of the month and girlie. La Repubblica.

Christmas hunk of the month and girlie. La Repubblica.

Anyway, just to make you girlies smile, I spotted this Dolce Gabbana advert (below) with your Christmas Hunk already partly unwrapped.  There’s a girlie for you guys in the picture too, I try not to be biased!  I wouldn’t mind a bottle of that lovely perfume too!  My own personal Christmas hunk is back from his final business trip of the year, so I must get some mistletoe in the morning!

Finally, thank you to all those who downloaded ‘My Father, The Assassin’ during the freebie five-day period, I hope you enjoy the read over the festive period.  The third book in the trilogy, ‘The Italian Connection’ will be published early in 2017, I’ll let you know as soon as it goes live!

Ok, need to start wrapping presents and get them under the tree.  But might have a glass of vino first…..

So, may I wish you all a fantastic Christmas and lots of love and kisses under the mistletoe.  I’ll be back in the New Year.

Buona Festa June x

Visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

My current Books. Foto J Finnigan

My current Books.
Foto J Finnigan



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Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

Father XmasWell, it’s that time of year when people start to do and say funny things like, after Christmas I’m going on a diet or I’m not going to shave until after the holiday.  Now my man comes into the latter catagory, which means that kisses under the mistletoe get a bit scratchy.  I know that lots of girlies like their men to have a bit of stubble, it’s considered matcho, but I’m afraid I find the whole sensation of being kissed by a prickly chin rather off-putting, not to say dangerous.  But hey, I’d rather be kissed by my man than not, so I will persevere, despite the beard!

Christmas Man with beard. La Nazione

Christmas Man with beard.
La Nazione

On the subject of men, my man and I enjoyed coffee twice this morning.  Firstly at the Jam Cafe, because we could not park in our usual place due to a huge market in Certaldo and secondly at Il Solferino after having trecked through all the market stalls along Via Giugno.  We settled in to read the papers and there for you girlies to drool over, I found Christmas man.  Yes, another watch advert, but it’s the guy wearing it that matters, don’t you think?  My man grinned over the top of his newspaper and said; “Now here’s an interesting snippet.  Research has now proved that Hitler only had one ball!  But we military men already knew that and we had a song we used to sing about it, yes a rude one….”  He turned and shared the joke with the man behind him on the next table.  So you had one Brit and one Italian laughing their heads off about a German and a missing ball!

Now, I am trying to get my head around Christmas.  I’ve got all the presents and most of the food, but we have failed to get a real Christmas Tree as we left it too late.  Yesterday morning we did a huge circle from Certaldo to Poggibonsi, up to San Casciano and back again, but they were all gone.  So, unless we hit lucky, I will have to do some sort of festive table arrangement and put the presents around it.  The grandkids will not be impressed though. On the journey my man and I  had both felt  bit jaded and thought we were getting the dreaded Christmas virus.  “My face feels strange.”  He said, rubbing his chin.  “What, sort of tingly?”  I asked.  “No hairy.”  He grinned.

December view from here. Photo J Finnigan

December view from here.
Photo J Finnigan

December sunset. Photo J Finnigan

December sunset.
Photo J Finnigan

Earlier in the week, I had been getting a little fed up with the cloudy, foggy weather.  The temperature here in Tuscany was lower than London, where my man was putting in his last few days at the grind stone before the Festive break.  Then come Thursday the sun came out and bathed everything in gold and the sunset that evening gave me a huge lift, so I took a couple of photos for you.

Things are pretty hectic here now in the run up to the big day and needless to say, something has to give.  So please forgive me if I take a couple of weeks off from writing to you.  The good news is I will have lots to tell you about the festivities here in Tuscany in the New year.  In the meantime, I want to say a big thank you to all my readers for buying my books throughout 2015.  It has been a record year for sales and your support is so very much appreciated.  Don’t forget there is still time to download your Christmas reading, if you have not already done so.  Visit my author site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

Have a wonderful Christmas and Buon Natale

Salute June x

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

The idol Silvio (Jesu) Berlusconi Photo sdpf

Silvio (Jesu) Berlusconi
Photo sdpf

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Benvenuti to all my lovely Loyal and New Followers

December colours below our villa. Photo P Finnigan

December colours along our track.
Photo P Finnigan

The December valley below us. Photo P Finnigan

The December valley below us.
Photo P Finnigan

If you have not visited Tuscany in the winter you will have missed out on the fabulous Autumn colours that continue through to March.  We have thousands of small-leaved Oak Trees in this area and right now they are glowing a luminous copper in the sunshine.  It is seriously breathtaking and whilst it is difficult to capture the true colour and magic, I have enclosed a couple of photos for you to enjoy.  Of course we are very lucky to have several evergreens of varying colours including the silver grey-green of the Olive Tree, so the countryside never looks bleak.  The Italians celebrate the festive season much the same as northern Europeans and the Christmas Tree is very popular.  Sadley, Certaldo has failed again with their big tree in the main piazza; it always looks half-dead the moment it arrives!  But hey ho, this does not quell the festive spirit in the town.

Big cheeses or strange fruit? Photo J Finnigan

Big cheeses or strange fruit?
Photo J Finnigan

Yesterday, Saturday, we arrived in Certaldo for morning coffee and I was delighted to see the Christmas Market being set up.  Sadley, at half past eight, we were a little early to see it fully ready, however, I did spot a handbag stand and one selling these amazing big cheeses.  Now I asked what they were called and then clean forgot when I got home, so perhaps one of you very knowledgable foodies out there can remind me!  More importantly, I bought a lovely handmade rustic owl, which will be part of my Christmas display back at the villa.  There are Christmas markets going on all over Tuscany now and the most popular are in Siena and Florence.  Every year there is a German market in the centre of Florence and it is reckoned to be the best in Europe!

December Man Il Nazione

December Man
Il Nazione

Meanwhile, back at Bar Solferino, we settle in to enjoy our coffee and read the papers.  I turn to page three and I find the perfect Italian male, who we shall call December Man.  Now, I know you girlies out there think that all Italian Men are stylish and sexy.  I am afraid I must disappoint you.  Only occasionally do we spot one of these rare breeds and that is why, when I see one in the newspaper or magazine, I share the picture with you.  Most Italian women seem to like their men with scratchy unshaven faces and dark brooding eyes that say ‘feed me, wash my clothes, iron my clothes, have my children….’  Not all, I hasten to add!

My man starts his pre-Christmas diet. Photo J Finnigan

My man starts his pre-Christmas diet.
Photo J Finnigan

Now on the subject of men, my own man wants to lose some weight before Christmas so he can stuff himself silly and drink lots of wine over the festive period.  “Look at this,” he said this morning at Laura’s Bar in Fiano, “I’m going to eat smaller pastries for breakfast!”  “Bravo” I say, as I watch him slowly eat his small chocolaty cream filled pastry.  No, don’t laugh, he is making an effort!  You should see the size of the pastries he normally eats….

Oh, one last thing.  My man has just reminded me that Silvio Berlusconi has been to a hospital in Rome to have his battery changed!  Well, who’d have thought it, I could have sworn he was flesh and blood, but you never can tell these days.  Robots everywhere!

Well, enough of that.  Things to do, places to go and people to see.

Have a really great week and do drop me a line.

Salute June x

PS Visit my book site at http://www.amazon.com/author/junefinnigan

'My Father, The Assassin'. Book one in the series.

‘My Father, The Assassin’. Book one in the series.

'The Bolivian Connection' Book two in the series.

‘The Bolivian Connection’ Book two in the series.

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Egg shell Tree Decoration

Egg shell Tree Decoration
Photo J Finnigan

It’s so exciting, I feel like a little girl again, our Christmas tree is twinkling with lights and all the presents are wrapped.  I have brought the lovely old-fashioned tree decorations out of storage, made many years ago from eggshells, by an elderly lady in Somerset.  Unfortunately I’m the only one in the family who likes them.   My man is trying not to mumble humbug, however, the carol service I want to go to tomorrow evening is not on his wish list.  Of course, this is the time of year when we want our loved ones to be happy, so there has to be many compromises!  My mother is just short of ninety now and does not understand on-line banking so, despite the difficulty involved in depositing it, I wouldn’t dream of asking her not to send me a cheque.  When we were little kids at Christmas time, sixpence (2.5p sterling) would buy a pretty brooch in Woolworth for my mother, a big bag of fig biscuits, a bag of broken chocolate pieces, balloons,  rolls of coloured crepe paper for making decorations and still leave some change.  My mother still thinks that ten pounds is a lot of money!  My grandfather, bless him, always managed to turn up with a tree and we could guarantee to find a tangerine orange, an apple and nuts in the bottom of our Christmas stockings.

Alessandro enjoying Laura's shoulder massage. Photo J Finnigan

Alessandro enjoying Laura’s shoulder massage.
Photo J Finnigan

Back at Laura’s Alimentari/bar in Fiano, everyone is talking about Natale (Christmas) and it is traditional for Italian family members to return home from all corners of the globe for Mama’s Festive lunch and dinner.  Signore Rotund (Alessandro) used to dress up as Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), but apparently not this year.  Best not to question why, however, he is struggling with a bad knee at present.  This morning he was getting a shoulder massage from Laura whilst reading his sporting pages and he agreed to my taking a picture!  Tomorrow we will be at the Christmas market in Montespertoli with our beautiful daughter and two grandchildren.  There is nothing like a small town Italian piazza  for enjoying a market and, preferably with an aperitivo in hand, watching the bustling world go by .

Today, Saturday, we begin our formal festive holiday; the offices are closed until January 6th.  I bought a box full of DVD’s from Amazon, so we are well and truly set up with good films to see us through to the New Year.  We have also dusted off the board games ready for the grandchildrens’ invasion.

We have just had a visit from our English friend and neighbour Terry, who came with an invite to a New Years Eve Festa in Fiano, where at midnight he will set light to a huge ceramic statue hidden inside a wooden kiln. (He is a very talented potter http://www.terrydavies.it) The sun was warm enough to enjoy a couple of vinos on the terrace, where he updated us on the local scuttlebutt.  Apparently our old house across the valley has just been sold to Australians, so the area is becoming even more cosmopolitan!

Farty Barty's silhouette under the orange tree cover. Photo P Finnigan

Farty Barty’s silhouette under the orange tree cover.
Photo P Finnigan

Farty Barty the cat, is ignoring all the festivity and has been hiding under the cover over the orange trees.  We discovered his hiding place when suddenly a moving lump appeared in the white cover and with the sun shining through it, there was his silhouette.  I may have mentioned that he is currently frightened of a large black tom cat, which is trying to invade his territory.  Subsequently, he has been staying in at night and only venturing out when we are in close proximity!

Meanwhile, here is the latest from the media on the gorgeous Silvio Berlusconi.  Unfortunately, he has just been denied a passport after a legal bid to reclaim it, so is probably feeling a bit down in the dumps.  Now, the Telegraph tells us that his lawyers have dismissed claims that he was filmed having sex with prostitutes in Panama in 2010.  O dio, once tarnished the same brush keeps coming back like a slap in the face.  And to cap it all, poor SB is said to be planning an ‘Austerity Christmas’, forgoing lavish dinners and expensive gifts.  Instead the struggling billionaire will be giving a modest buffet lunch and spending a quiet Christmas with his girlie Francesca and her beloved toy poodle, Dudu.  Ah bless.  Funny though, I thought dudu was a baby’s word for poo!

Well enough of that, its time for lunch, but indoors today, because the sun has moved round and the temperature has dropped.  Then its time to challenge the man to another game of ‘Sorry’.  He’s currently in the lead and we can’t have that now can we?

Have a fabulous Christmas.

Salute and Cin Cin June x

PS don’t forget to visit http://www.firstchapters.net were you can download ‘My Father, The Assassin’ by J W Finnigan at a huge discount!  Auguri.

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Crumbling Cliffs left and our villa top right. Photo P Finnigan

Crumbling Cliffs left and our villa almost hidden in the trees, second from right.
Photo P Finnigan

Driving along the strada bianca this morning, the sun was a russet gold and the light fantastic.  So much so, that my man stopped the car and took some lovely photos of the of the foggy valley and inland cliffs below our villa.  I have mentioned before that we live in an area which is constantly on the move and the crumbling cliffs provide a reminder that within staggering beauty is a landslip always waiting to happen.  The cliffs are full of fossils and ancient seashells, reminding us that these Dolce Colline (sweet hills) were under water during the ice-age.   The steepest parts are largely covered in mixed woodland, so the area is teaming with wildlife.  A young roe deer crossed the track this morning at some considerable speed, so we braked and as anticipated a second one was not far behind.

The much hunted and beautiful Cinghale.

A Tuscan Cinghiale.

A couple of weeks ago our daughter was driving across country and a big old male cinghiale (wild boar) broke cover and dashed across the road.  She expected several more to follow or perhaps hunters’ dogs, but no, the frightened animal was being chased by a cock pheasant!  Don’t you just wish you had a camera at a time like this?

Back in Laura’s bar/alimentari in Fiano,  the ever popular Sig Rotund enjoys a shoulder and neck massage provided by a number of passing local ladies, whilst reading his paper.    My man has recently been acting very stiff shouldered to see if he can get the same attention, but no luck so far!  Sig Rotund has provided the Christmas Raffle this year which, unfortunately,  consists of some rather gaudy silver plate things.  The thing is, do we buy a ticket and ask to have the prize put back if we win, not buy a ticket or buy a ticket and try to lose the prize somewhere?  What do you think?  Oh, dio….  Here in Tuscany the festive season is taken very seriously and Christmas Markets are everywhere.  Germany is said to have the best European Christmas Markets and, would you believe it,  Florence is actually hosting a ‘German’ Christmas Market right now!

And now something completely different.  If you live in Italy, well certainly in Tuscany, finding an idraulica (plumber) who a) actually arrives, b) can do any plumbing job and is not restricted to one specialist area, and c) does not take all day to do a few little jobs, is almost impossible.  Well, we popped into Bar Italia in Certaldo the other day and discovered that Fabiola, who works behind the bar, is married to just the man we have been searching for!  The amazing Salvatore arrived the next day and did everything in less than three hours, then rushed off and said he would leave his bill in the bar at sometime in the future!  We now have flushing loos and taps that no longer drip, so we are all ready for the festive visitors!

OLive trees overlooking thefog filled valleys. Photo P Finnigan

Olive trees overlooking the fog filled valleys.
Photo P Finnigan

Back at the villa, despite the freezing air temperature, we have been able to sit outside in hot sunshine at around 1pm on most days this last week.  The magic thing about southern Europe is the fact that the sun, when it comes out, is still hot in winter.  So if you take your folding chair, even on a frosty day, get out of the wind and have direct sunlight on your face, you can soak up that much-needed vitamin D and enjoy a pre-lunch aperitivo at the same time!

And so to the Peter Pan of politics.  How is the gorgeous Silvio Berlusconi doing?  The New York Times provided a very amusing article last week.  Quote, “SB cares about his friends as long as they do what he says.  He talks fondly about his late Mama and adores his kids, in fact he loves family so much, he has had three already!  Hang in there SB, the girlies still love you!

Well, as it’s a lovely sunny day, we are off to Montespertoli for an aperitivo in the main piazza, then a bit of lunch.

Have a great week and don’t forget to check out ‘My Father, The Assassin’ by J W Finnigan on http://www.Amazon.co.uk (.com or .eu) or http://www.firstchapters.net for your Christmas reading and/or presents.  If you would like my autograph, I can send you a very nice sticky label to go in your book.  Email June.finnigan@virgin.net with your details.

Amore June xx

PS We have just bought a nice bunch of mistletoe, so may be a little preoccupied for a while….

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