Christmas in Siena

A number of years ago we spent Christmas holiday in Florence, Italy.  On Christmas Eve, we took 30 minutes drive to Siena.  Although every Italian city and village has a city plaza, or piazza, Siena’s is different, it is fan shaped, and slopes downward to the base of the fan where a beautiful Catholic church sits. There are no cars allowed in the piazza.

There were very few people that night in what is usually a very crowded piazza, only the four in our group, and a few lonely looking Japanese tourists were present.  At the base of the fan-shaped piazza, people were drifting into the church, but the usual crowds in the piazza were most likely home with their families.  What to us was captivating about Christmas Eve there was the total calm and peacefulness of the scene, as though a prelude to the birth of Jesus that we have read about so many times.  There as beautiful, no, it was heavenly, choral music-appropriate of the time and setting–coming from the church loudspeakers that transformed all four of us from a mood of curiosity to one of solitary meditation.  I looked over to my husband who was wiping tears for his eyes.  He walked away few steps to be by himself, and I noted, so did the other couple who was with us.  I did the same, of course.  There seemed to nothing else that we could do, except to reflect on the meaning of the moment.  It was something that, none of us have ever forgotten ever since, especially at Christmas time.

Poached Pears

serves 8

4      Bosc pears, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

3      cups dry red wine

1      cup sugar

1      cup cranberry juice

1/2  cup dried cranberries

zest of one lemon

-In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all the ingredients, except the pears. Bring to a boil.

-Reduce the heat.  Place teh pears cut side down in the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

-Gently remove the pears and continue to simmer the wine sauce until it reduces to half its volume.

-Place the pears cut side down on a white serving platter.  Pour the wine sauce over and around the pears.  Chill for a couple of hours before serving.

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