Letter From Florence: Finding Solace in Food and Podcasting

Editor’s Note: My friend Toni, an Italian-American expat who lives in Florence, started one of the original food tour companies in Italy with Taste Florence Food Tours. She has used the time at home to find solace in food and to launch the pop-up Corona Podcast. Here is how she sees things these days. — Kathy McCabe

As I sit on my terrace and gaze at the Florence skyline, I write a letter not only from Florence, but a letter to Florence.

I have been at home since March 8th , a few days before Italy declared we all must stay home to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Virus.

The first few days were difficult; realizing we were no longer free to move around, and accepting the fact that work was coming to a screeching halt, when normally the tour season kicks off in March.

I started a podcast on March 10th hoping to convince friends and family in America to stay home, that the virus was soon arriving and believing I could help to prepare them better than we had been prepared here in Italy. It apparently did convince some people to be more careful and to stay home and social distanceto my reliefam lucky to say that all my close friends and relatives seem to be making wise choices and staying healthy.

Now, as the virus is no longer an Italian crisis, but a global issue, I have shifted my thoughts to where I am and where I will be in the future.

Even though I’m here in Florence, I’m not connected to the town center, where I normally go to work and socialize. I’m confined to a tiny corner of the city, right outside of town, and I haven’t seen the city center for almost two months.

Florence, I will never take you for granted again. Not even your wobbly stones, your crowded piazze, your unrelenting summer heat.

Being confined to my home, I realize it isn’t just this city I love, but the people I work with. The other members of Taste Florence, the bakers, the Norcini and butchers, the ragazzi at the pasta shop, the wine shops and their regulars, who often fill your glass and invite you to sit with them. I miss the sarcastic sense of humor I’ve grown to embrace from Florentines.

So, I, like many of us, am grieving. I’m missing people and places and tiny moments that made our normal, pre- Covid lives what they were.

Evenings are filled with video chats to parents, friends, and a myriad of seminars and how-to classes I’ve signed up for to fill my days.

I miss my family and hometown in the United States where I grew up. Not knowing when I will get to see them again brings a wave of grief I’ve never experienced.

But who of us has known this type of grief before? Best case scenario, we are grieving what and who we might lose- our jobs, our loved ones, travel, and so many things we normally hold dear yet tend to take for granted.

So, I find solace in food and find myself making old family recipes to keep me connected to the States, and local recipes to feel like I’m dining in one of my favorite eateries here in Italy. I even try to recreate some of the things I serve on my food tours, like schiacciata with sausage and stracchino cheese. Food, though best when shared with others, is still a great connector. It brings us back to moments and places. Though I’ve always thought this, I’ve never appreciated it as much as I do now.

I’m still publishing podcast episodes, now with a focus on how to fill our time effectively, and how to prepare emotionally and logistically for the coming months.

I look forward to welcoming you all back to Florence some day, when we can travel and things get back to normal. I will walk with you through the streets of Florence, past the churches and the piazze, which we will each love and appreciate more than ever.

Missing all of you and can’t wait to see you again when we get to the other side of this. — Toni Mazzaglia

Read more Letters from Italy