Winter Perfume

January 23, 2008 / Local Interest

Winter in Italy means the perfume of wood burning, sausages sizzling on the spit and quiet evenings gathered around the fireplace . . . both a pleasure and a necessity in the older homes that don’t have central heating. “Spendi in lana cio’ che non spendi in legna,” goes the old Roman adage. (You spend in wool what you don’t spend in wood.)

Even newly built homes will have a fireplace or two, but there are chores involved before you can enjoy the perfume of burning wood and the warm, smoky comfort of a crackling fire. Wood needs to be bought, cut, stacked and dried for several months before use and even homes without gardens and woodsheds are set up for wood storage beneath the stairs.

Preparing and setting the fire may seem a simple task, but for city dwellers it can be a nightmare, or a science to be learned from those with years of expertise (crumpled paper below, small pieces, large pieces on top). An extra bonus : as the ashes and cinders are scooped up and the fireplace swept clean each day, one intimately understands the childhood story of Cinderella.

Monumental fireplace in Vetralla – 1st photo, courtesy of John Ferro Sims

Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

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