April 1 - A Day for Gardening and a Dinner Time Surprise

Before going any further, I should apologize to my friends back home who were hit with an April Fool's Day snowstorm. Mi dispiace (I'm sorry)!  Here in Lucca, April 1 was a clear, warm, sunny day.  No scherzo (joke). It is a day for spring gardening to begin in earnest, starting with the Verdemura garden show.


This annual event takes place along the northern section of the wall surrounding Lucca. Strolling through the many booths and exhibits it is possible to see a huge variety of colorful plants, and also to look out on views both inside the wall and out toward the hills surrounding Lucca. In other words, there is beauty in every direction as far as the eye can see. 


The Lucchese bring wagon-like carts to Verdemura and use them to carry home larger bushes, vines, or trees. Wisteria (glicine in Italian), viburnum, hydrangea, lemon and orange trees, lavender, and grape vines were in abundance.


Eye-catching flowers - orchids, peonies, camellias, pink dianthus, alstroemerias, and even an exotic Mano di Buddha (Hand of Buddha) with its striking yellow fruit were on display, along with a variety of bulbs and sedums. There were booths with herbs and others with garden vegetables, including a remarkable assortment of tomato plants. Oh to have a kitchen garden here!


There was truly something for everyone at Verdemura, young and old, green thumb or not. Children were entertained by the whimsical garden art, the oversize tic tac toe and domino games, and the seemingly magic balancing toys.


Serious gardeners found tools and even small tractors alongside the plants. I was entertained by the basket weavers, the maker of the painted wooden birdhouses, the cheese and wine vendors, the produce markets, and the many booths selling delicate scarves, ceramic dishes, essential oils, spices, and teas.


After spending the morning at Verdemura I had already proclaimed this a perfect day. And then - an April 1st treat - the dinner time reappearance of risotto alla faraona on the menu at Gigi Trattoria. Delicately seasoned with thyme and just a hint of rosemary, studded with tender pieces of Guinea fowl (faraona), steaming hot and oh so very delicious. If you've followed my risotto saga you know that I've spent a year longing for this dish. I have to say it was worth the wait!