These Cookies cast away the Winter blues!

Posted Posted in Insider Food, Lucchesi, Recipes
The very best cookies from Lucca!

Overwhelmed by work & cloudiness?  Here’s a quick & wholesome fix

Whether you go with la Befana’s best Befanini or any other of these delicious cookie recipes, all  are sure to make you feel yummy again — without going to a lot of trouble.

Nonno’s Biscotti

These cookies are delicious dunked in a morning cappuccino or in red wine…


300 grams/2 cups Flour

100 grams/1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Sugar

A generous pinch of salt

20 gr/1 teaspoon Baking powder

30 gr/3 Tablespoons Anise seeds


2.46 mL/½ teaspoon Anise flavoring

5 mL/1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract

113.4 gr/1 stick of softened Butter

3 large Eggs

Optional, quantities to taste:



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Combine the flour, sugar and anise.

Cut in the butter using the Mixmaster or pulsing on a Cuisinart until the butter is the size of peas.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, anise flavoring, and vanilla extract until combined.

Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture in the Mixmaster with a pastry hook.

Or, if you’re using the Cuisinart, pulse it in thru the feeder tube.

Taste the dough to see if it needs more anise and/or vanilla, and add these as needed.

If you want to include raisins or nuts work them in with the Mixmaster or by hand at this time. Don’t use the Cuisinart to mix in these ingredients because it will pulverize them 🙁

When the dough is combined, put it onto a floured surface and shape it into cylinders that are about 2 inches in diameter and about two inches shorter than your cookie sheet. Add a little flour if the dough is too sticky — it should be easy to work with and not fall apart.

Space the cylinders of cookie dough about two inches apart because the dough will spread.

Bake until the dough is set and slightly golden, but not brown.

Remove the loaves from the oven but do not remove them from the cookie sheet.

While the loaves are still very warm, make cuts in each at a 45 degree angle, a little more than ½ an inch apart. If the dough crumbles, make the cuts further apart so that the cookie holds together.

After the cookies are cut, flip them over on their sides on the cookie sheet, not allowing any overlapping. Turn off the oven and return the cookies on the cookie sheet to the oven.

The biscotti (the name means twice-cooked) are ready when they are crisp throughout–probably in the amount of time it takes the oven to cool down.

Biscotti can keep for a very, very long time if you store them in an airtight container so they stay crisp and dry.

If you’re craving the cookies la Befana brings, here is her own recipe:

I Befanini

Says la Befana…

“Good Evening kind folk

I’ve brought you little Befana cookies

Just the recipe to keep in mind

For those wonderful little kids.


In a well of eight cups (one kilo) of flour

One and ½ cups each of butter and sugar are needed

Then two eggs

And one orange, juiced, won’t hurt either.


A little grated lemon rind

Will give the cookies great aroma and a lot of flavor

Then add a ½ teaspoon baking soda and a ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

And your dough is ready.


With cookie cutters and a rolling pin

You give life to the little Befana cookies

And just to make everything more beautiful,

Don’t forget the sprinkles.


It’s a very old recipe

From Lucchesia

That shouldn’t wear you out

If you make them with joy.”

— From “La Befana Raccontata” by Lucia Pardini



Buttery, fragile and delicious creations in virtually any shape you’d like…

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix together thoroughly:

1 cup soft Butter

⅔ cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon almond extract



Work in slowly:

2 ½ cups sifted flour

Force the dough through a cooky press onto an ungreased baking sheet in rosettes, or other desired shapes.  

Consider decorating with blanched almonds, sprinkles, or candied fruit.

Bake 7-10 minutes until set but not brown.



Buona Befana! Happy New Year to all!!!

Posted Posted in Lucchesi

Lucca came alive for an ancient tradition today:

La Befana, the Italian original substitute for Santa Claus, visited via Fillungo to deliver treats to children in an atmosphere of traditional songs and love for all the young.  This legendary, poor old woman delivers gifts to children on Epiphany, the day that the Three Kings delivered their gifts to the Christ child — January 6th.

Watch la Befana here in action as the chorus of la Befana a Lucca Dentro sings in her honor, thanks to our correspondent Giulia Lippi:


Posted Posted in Art Shows, Day Trips, Insider Food, Insider Sights, Lucchesi, Restaurants

In italiano a:

ON VIEW NOW: A Rare Luminous Glimpse into Nomellini’s Evolution

Thru November 5, 2017

Palazzo Mediceo – Seravezza (LU)

Seravezza, the site of the Nomellini exhibit, is an easy and lovely escape from the city into the mountains — just 30 minutes away on A11.  We highly recommend that  you combine this great cultural experience with a gastronomic one as well.   Check the exhibit hours before you go so that you can see the show after 5 pm and follow it with an exceptional dinner at the Communist Club in Solaio — officially, the Circolo ARCI.  Yes, we said it was Communist, but it is now socialist in name alone, and reservations are a definite must on weekends.  It’s the perfect place to hang with your friends and family because they handle crowds like pros. You will be amused by the Che Guevara fresco that greets you at the front door, but you will be astounded by the home-made tordelli con sugo (Lucchese meat-filled ravioli with meat sauce) that are probably the best that this author has ever tasted — except for my Nonna’s!

The experiences of war and dictatorship have plunged many an artist into exhortative depictions of horror and despair.  Yet others, like Plinio Nomellini, the subject of a stunning retrospective at the Medici Foundation in Seravezza (LU), Italy, found the inspiration to celebrate the beauty of life’s everyday moments despite political events.

With her show Plinio Nomellini – From Divisionism to Symbolism toward the freedom of color, Curator Nadia Marchione gives light to rarely seen pieces from private collections, as well as the Archivio Nomellini in Florence, and the Uffizi.  While the painter was widely respected in Italy throughout his career as he is today, Nomellini, like the Macchiaioli who mentored him, is hardly known outside of Italy.  This beautiful collection offers an extraordinary chance to learn about his evolution as a painter.

Over the course of his long life (1866-1943) Nomellini synthesized a Romantic sensibility with Pointillism strokes, and Expressionist intensity, to celebrate family and friends captured in bucolic settings, even as Italy rode the emotional and economic rollercoaster of its Unification, World War, Depression and Fascist euphoria thru the early 20th century.

The Romantic poet Giovanni Pascoli, the Decadent writer and political activist Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giacomo Puccini, Futurist Lorenzo Viani, Nobel prize winning author Grazia Deledda, and Macchiaiolo Giovanni Fattori were only a few of the friends with wildly divergent views who frequented Nomellini’s salons and who influenced him.

A frequent exhibitor at the Venice Biennale, “Nomellini was the artist who most courageously introduced the study of the divided brushstroke to Italy, borrowing the French pointillist theory on juxtaposing pure colors on a canvas, and translating it into an absolutely personal language,” says Ms. Marchioni.

Nomellini’s canvases are luminous, and often huge, capable of immersing the viewer in a joyous, quasi-mythic world.  As the Carlo Sisi, of the Fondazione Medicea says, the chronological progression of the exhibit permits viewers to see and learn from the evolution of a master’s vision as he seeks to express the “profound, impassioned, and mysterious” nature of the human spirit.

ABOVE:  “Kisses of the Sun” or “Baci di sole, 1908,” one of the featured paintings by Italian impressionist Plinio Nomellini, exhibited at the Palazzo Mediceo in Seravezza thru November 3rd.

ABOVE:  The exhibit is housed in a 15th century Medici palace which straddles the valley in Seravezza.

AN INSIDER LOOK: Where to Stay & Where to Eat Made Easy

Posted Posted in Insider Food, Lucchesi, Restaurants, Where to Stay

Lucca is a great place in and of itself.  In fact, it shouldn’t be treated like a quick stopover, but rather as a place from which to savor the best of Tuscany.  This means not rushing in and out on a bus or even by train — though transportation on either is extremely convenient.  Enjoying the best of Lucca and Tuscany means staying in a hotel or apartment with the amenities you deserve on your grand tour, or just for Santa Croce… 

We want you to enjoy your vacation and not need another to recover from it!

Step 1:  

Book a stay at the city’s best hotel: the Hotel Ilaria.

Does it have 16th century frescoes on the walls?  No, sorry.  Nor is it decorated for nouveaux cardinals or princes.   It’s rather plain on the outside, BUT the Ilaria has many more valuable aspects: an exquisite breakfast (+ coffees of all types! More about that later), a gorgeous location (imagine a balcony bordering on one of the city’s most beautiful gardens), and amazingly, in and out parking that’s painless to access.  The rest can be taken for granted since it is a 4-star hotel: there are clean, modern, functional rooms, with clean modern baths.  Perhaps less usual, the hotel has gracious and comfortable common areas, where coffee and aperitifs are offered gratis at all the appropriate hours.  The Ilaria also quickly feels like home thanks to its accommodating and personable staff, in particular its owner Franco Barbieri.  At breakfast, the freshness of the offerings from smoked salmon to budini di riso (pastries filled with rice pudding) put to shame all other attempts to provide all-inclusive breakfast fare.  The coffee machine alone, is heavenly, pumping out freshly ground coffee of all types, and even hot chocolate, in a marvel of high tech proficiency.  Wander outside and you can choose between a leisurely stroll through the garden of Villa Bottini and along the fossi, canals punctuated by flowers, or head straight into town on via Santa Croce by walking through the medieval towered walls visible from the hotel.  Want to explore on a bike?  The Ilaria has free ones for you you to use.  You can even stay at the annex of the Ilaria where your beautiful suite can occupy what was once a chapel.   There is not enough we can say to praise this location as a launching point for your stay.  If you don’t want to worry about anything except how many circuits of the walls you’ll need to do to work off breakfast, stay here.


Book an apartment for a week’s stay.

While airbnb is popular, it is not the best choice for Lucchesi nel Mondo and others looking for a worry-free experience.  Apartments are for those who know the city and are looking for quality accommodations, without the need to be fed or attended to daily.  Lucca Holiday Homes, directed by Debora del Sonno, has, for many years, offered reliable and beautiful alternatives to hotel living in apartments ranging from one room to three bedrooms.  Worry not if you are driving into Lucca either, for it is possible to easily find in/out affordable long term parking at Garage Pasquinelli, via Vittorio Emanuele 78, or at one of the city’s larger parking garages.

Once you are situated, you’ll want to eat something…

A refreshing combination of hibiscus flowers and citron complement freshly made fettuccine at La Buca di Sant’Antonio.

The best soul food:

Critics and celebrities agree with locals that La Buca di Sant’Antonio is Lucca’s best restaurant for the dishes which make Lucca’s cuisine so distinctive and delicious.  Locally sourced seasonal ingredients have determined its menus since long before these concepts became trendy.  La Buca is far from being the bettola that it was when it first opened in the 18th century.  Yet its elegance is never stuffy, and its chef-owner, Giuliano Pacini, frequents the dining room as if it were his home.  Don’t miss the tordelli, or the goat, or the piatto forte for dessert.  Hopefully, you’ll be dining with many friends there, so you’ll be able to sample many dishes.  You won’t be disappointed.

A veil of raspberry puree` crackles over a foamy pate` of chicken livers at La Buca di Sant’Antonio

The BEST fresh take on Italian cuisine:  Ristorante il Giglio

If you have never tried crostini con fegatini, you might want to start here with il Giglio’s incredibly light pate` topped with a crisp, microscopically thin sheet of raspberry, and served with melt-in-your mouth slices of pan brioche.  Yes, this dish is to die for and threatens to outshine everything else you might eat in Lucca — whether you ever thought you’d like chicken livers or not.  The restaurant’s atmosphere is again, elegant, but not stuffy.  There is 18th century wainscotting on the walls in the high ceilinged, air-conditioned dining area, but it is balanced by clean, heavy linens and photos of Summer Music Festival stars.   (Casually elegant places must be my favorite kind, because I sense these terms are a recurring motif to this website…)  The three young chefs at the helm keep the menu vibe fresh.  We loved the fettucine with citron and hibiscus flowers.  It wasn’t a fussy dish, just light and flavorful.

The BEST pizza:

When a light meal or snack are needed, MaraMeo serves pizza and cecina (a flat pie of chickpea flour) fresh from their wood-burning oven at all hours.  We especially like this Lucchese-owned place for their pizza Margherita con mozzarella di bufala.  If you’re in town for Santa Croce or during the winter, check out their torta di neccio too.