My social circles have shrunk noticeably in the last 9 months. I no longer host dinner parties for 20, or 10 or really anyone anymore. Rarely do I meet friends for dinner or cocktails (maybe 6 times since March) and now with the new restrictions even those options are off the table.
Socializing has become a remote or virtual experience. But I have neighbors in my building, who have been even more vigilant than me, with whom I still feel comfortable getting together.
They are an older couple, he describes himself, as a “vecchietto punk” (a geriatric punk) and his wife as his “partner in crime”.
Often we get together for afternoon coffee and talk about politics, the pandemic, and we have a shared love for TV and Film, so we are constantly updating each other about series we’re watching, films we’ve like or hated or new streaming services we’re trying out. In fact, they are known in town as the couple who hosted “film all’aperto” (outdoor film screenings) in the garden of the apartment building where they used to live.
Like me before Covid, their house was always full of guests. Although childless themselves, they always had a houseful of teens, young adults (children of friends) who would come and hang out with them. Their house is full of art made by him and a 25 foot long bookcase, running the expanse of their main hallway, containing everything from childrens’ pop-up books, philosophy books, spy novels to the classics. An entire wall of their apartment is made up of windows overlooking the gulf of Trieste, giving them an endless display of port traffic, cruise ships (amazingly they still arrive here), trails of small boats piloted by children learning to sail and, every once in a while, spectacular private yachts anchoring offshore.
Because of Covid, they now mostly stay in and groceries are delivered. One of their main suppliers are owners of a farm in Istria on the border with Slovenia and Croatia, called “Roberta, Verdure Istriane”. My friend tells me “two big beefy beautiful girls make the deliveries, and they are the embodiment of healthy outdoor living”.
Everything is all natural, seasonal and homemade. All business is conducted via weekly WhatsApp messages to their customers providing them an up-to-date list of available produce, freshly foraged mushrooms, wild herbs and aromatics, homemade jams, canned fruits and veggies, honey, baked goods, cheeses and other dairy products and specialty items like whitefish spread, marinated anchovies, vinegars, juices and sauces. Among these specialty items are also homemade liqueurs, grappas and wine.
One afternoon, having just received a 2 box delivery, my friends decided to introduce me to a grappa of “erba luigia”. It in fact tastes nothing like grappa, instead it is delighfully smooth and slightly sweet, but not cloyingly sweet like many liqueurs often are.
This is my new favorite digestif. It has a lemony-muscat grape flavor and a little kick. But what is erba luigia? So, it turns out we are talking about lemon verbena. Its flavor closely resembles lemon zest but with a stronger aroma. The leaves and edible flowers are often used in syrups, sun teas, pesto and salad dressings. The leaves can also be steeped, ground or infused in oils, vinegars and brines.
It is believed to offer homeopathic benefits to combat many ailments including; indigestion, gas, colic, diarrhea, and constipation. It is also used for agitation, joint pain, trouble sleeping (insomnia), asthma, colds, fever, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, skin conditions, and chills. (As with anything always consult a medical professional before using.)
In this freaking weird time through which we are living, it is remarkable to me that I’m still be making little discoveries and erba luigia is one of them. Maybe its healing properties might help take a little of the edge off of the effects of pandemic living (taken in moderation, of course). So here’s to seeing where the next 6 months take us…Cheers!
Roberta Verdure Istriane +385-91 882 1711
Love you Fiori! Great article as always! Miss you xxxx
Even from afar (Los Angeles) and in the middle of a pandemic, I always enjoy your posts. Trieste feels so magical to me through your eyes. Your discoveries, interesting reporting, recipes and amazing writing makes your part of the world come to life. I love your take on all things! Thank you for this little bit of joy in these scary times! xxx