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  • Writer's pictureFrancesco Ciotti


Updated: Jul 3, 2021

588 days had passed since we were on Italian soil. When we departed Venice at the end of October 2019, we would never have guessed it would be 588 days (1 year and 7 months) before we would be able to return to La Bella Italia. To see the world crippled by a virus, lives & livelihoods lost, the separation of loved ones - it was a painful 588 days.

Possibly the joy of being back, of reuniting with friends and family was more precious because of those 588 difficult days. Empowered by our vaccinations and motivated to reconnect, we had memorable visits with many dear friends and family.

One day was spent at the hillside home of Francesco’s Zia Pia (Aunt Pia). She has a beautiful home overlooking the rolling hills of Chianti. The beauty of the spot was a close second place to the joy of reuniting with family and the delicious meal they prepared with love!

Francesco and Zia Pia

A delightful evening took place at the Villa di Montereggi with our dear friends Carmela and Andrea. Francesco and Carmela were childhood friends. Serendipitously, when I was teaching English in Florence, Carmela was one of my students. We became friends and then realized the childhood connection to Francesco. Carmela’s family owns the winery that is located next to Francesco’s childhood home. It was a lovely evening recalling stories from the past and discussing what is next for the winery and entrepreneurial endeavors!

Andrea and Carmela - Hosts and Chefs Extraordinare!

Many laughs were enjoyed with Francesco’s high school friends, Gianni and Piero, at one of our favorite places: Pensione Bencistà. Bencistà is now offering apertifs (aperitivi) and light dinner (cena), called AperiCena. We took advantage of a beautiful evening to try the AperiCena.

Gianni, Francesco and Piero

Breakfast was celebrated with Francesco’s 94-year old nanny Lorena, Silvia (Lorena’s daughter) and Maria (Lorena’s niece). We shared stories of the many years and times spent together, shed tears remembering those no longer with us, and laughter about stories from the past.

A favorite cocktail, Aperol Spritz, was enjoyed along with the entertaining company of our dear family friend, considered an uncle, Mario - who was everyone’s right-hand man and go-to person at the family business, Estro di Firenze!

Any of you who take part in Francesco’s Italian lessons will recognize the name Tommaso, the author of some of the stories that Francesco uses in his Italian classes. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with Tommaso, his sister Isabella and brother Francesco.

Our Last Supper - al fresco, was hosted by Francesco’s sister, Fiamma and her husband Luca. The guest of honor, our nephew Cosimo!

It is thanks to everyone who has had their vaccine that these types of reunions can happen. And, so it is my plea to anyone who may not have had their vaccine yet: get vaccinated. Relationships matter, family matters, friends matter, togetherness matters. We can only have these things if we all get vaccinated and assist others to get vaccinated!

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