Fabio Picchi is a local legend in Florence, especially in the Sant’Ambrogio neighbourhood where he slowly but surely expanded his culinary businesses over the years. Picchi passed away in 2022, but his memory lives on. From June 15 to 18, SALE – Sant’Ambrogio in Festival will commemorate the food entrepreneur with four days of wholesome community-oriented events.
At a time when many lament overtourism in Florence, Fabio’s son, Giulio, and wife, Maria Cassi, are bucking the trend. By organizing the first edition of SALE – Sant’Ambrogio in Festival, their focus is on celebrating the identity of the neighbourhood and giving back to the local community. “We chose the name SALE as a condiment, the flavour of the place, the vibrancy of Sant’Ambrogio, which is still lived every day by Florentines,” comments Giulio Picchi.
Sant’Ambrogio has always put food at the centre of daily life, from fresh produce sold at the market to the many restaurants and eateries. It’s also a thriving indication of what every city’s social fabric should look like, given that Sant’Ambrogio is home to a Catholic church, the Synagogue and Mosque, whose recently announced move will see Muslims remaining for worship in the local area, going from piazza de’ Ciompi to via Martiri del Popolo. An interfaith dinner will mark the beginning of the festival on June 15 as cooks from the three religious communities come together at Teatro del Sale to break bread and share cultures, followed by roundtable discussions (10pm).
On June 16, the spotlight will shift onto local students (Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, Conservatorio Cherubini, Isia and Architecture Faculty of the University of Florence) and the arts as the winning flag designed for Sant’Ambrogio is revealed at 6pm. The big reveal will be followed by a musical parade led by street band Funk Off, which will begin and end at Teatro del Sale. At 8pm, food lovers can tuck into dinner at Teatro del Sale featuring Fabio Picchi’s classics before savouring Maria Cassi and Leonardo Brizzi’s new musical show E se domani.
Saturday’s events will include Tuscan vegan dishes at a Teatro del Sale dinner headed up by Indian holistic nutritionist Sridevi Jasti. The community ethos returns front and centre on the Sunday as 300 invited guests from Sant’Ambrogio’s charitable associations sit down together for a free lunch cooked by the area’s restaurants beneath the market’s loggia. The festival will draw to a close with Il Ballo del Sale, a dance floor in piazza Ghiberti. Swing dancers dance to tunes from The Tooscanians, Mauro Porro and Bob Jay, in addition to music from Florentine funk, rock and pop group Petz Are Cool.
Throughout the four days, Cibrèo eateries will serve one of Fabio Picchi’s favourite recipes as dish of the day as well as a six-course tasting menu available in a “travelling format” at each Cibrèo outpost. That’s not all: Tripperia Pollini is serving a panino in memory of Fabio Picchi; the Scuola del Cuoio will offer free guided tours daily at 11.30; the Santa Verdiana complex will provide a free guided tour at 5.30pm on June 16; cellist Naomi Berrill performs outside Caffè Cibrèo at 8.15pm on June 16; and the newspaper offices of La Nazione will open to the public for tours at 11.30am and 5pm on June 17. Local artists such as Jacqueline Harberink, Laura Biagini, Valentina Caprini and Veronica Balzini will be holding workshops (on payment).
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