Author: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine

Arlene Ridolfi Valentine is a freelance writer who has lived in Florence for the past three years. She is the director of Casa Valentine, a villa rental business (, and is currently working on a book about Italian culture and food.
April 30, 2008

Spearheading sping!

Few things evoke the advent of spring as clearly as bunches of fresh asparagus standing in formation in greengrocer's stalls, their brilliant green just the antidote for winter-weary cooks looking for fresh inspiration. Asparagus is a vegetable with a long history: the ancient cookbook by Apicius, which dates
January 10, 2008

Nonnas medicine cabinet

Here comes the rainy, cold, damp weather that clings to Florence for most of the winter.  And with it comes the ever-present threat of colds and sore throats. There are many things you can do to ward off a cold or minimize the effects of one you already
November 15, 2007

Over the river and through the woods

Few things are as uniquely American as the feast of Thanksgiving. Regardless of where Americans are that day, most cannot help but remember past meals. With memories comes the attempt to try and recreate Thanksgiving, despite the difficulty of finding the distinctive ingredients. Creating a Thanksgiving celebration in Florence requires
September 6, 2007

Exacting the eggplant

Even though the lazy beach days of August are now behind us, there’s still a bit of summer left on our Tuscan tables. The last of the eggplant bounty will linger into September and it’s a wonderful way to gently bridge the gap between the lightness
June 28, 2007

Please pass the flowers!

Summer is around the corner, and we can all feel it. Flowers are everywhere at this time of year, and I’m not speaking only of gardens or window boxes. In Italy, they grace tables as well.  At a recent dinner, after admiring the stunning roses, wisteria and
May 17, 2007

The art of aperitivo

The season that graces Florence with wisteria, iris and roses has finally arrived. It’s spring! Every café, restaurant and bar is throwing open its doors and moving chairs and tables outside to fill each square inch of available space. Why?  Because it’s time to
April 19, 2007

Artichoke chat

My first memory of eating an artichoke is an image of my mother showingme how to bite down on the leaf and pull it through my front teeth.  I must have been very young, because myteeth marks were tiny compared to the others in that great heap of discardedleaves
February 22, 2007

Homage to humble winter vegetables

For cooks, one of the true pleasures of life in Italy is the bounty of beautiful fruits and vegetables that are so readily available throughout the year. I am always fascinated by the artfully arranged displays set up by vendors, particularly those on street corners. My local ambulante di frutta
November 30, 2006

Guess what’s coming to dinner

Blustery winter Sundays are the perfect occasion for long and leisurely family dinners. Gabriele Vaccaro, who spends his days keep-ing things running smoothly at a local hotel, relishes his weekends when he indulges in his passion for cooking. When Gabriele is in the kitchen, his wife, three children, parents,
November 2, 2006

Guess what’s coming to dinner

When November approaches, umbrellas crop up all over Florence.  I asked Elena Galluzzi, a busy Florentine who runs a family hotel here, what she likes to cook this time of the year.  Her answer?  ‘Hearty bean soups and stews,’ she said, ‘a truly traditional