This festive season finds me basking in the warmth of my family in Tampa, Florida, a heartfelt reunion after four long years. Meanwhile, Giovanni, originally from the spirited city of Napoli, stays back in our current home of Lucca, Italy. While I'm surrounded by the familiar laughter and Cuban delicacies of my heritage, Giovanni is in Lucca. He is surrounded by his large, lively family, whose laughter and chatter are as hearty as their Neapolitan feasts.
While I delve into the rich, savory flavors of Cuban cuisine with roasted pig, black beans and rice, yucca, platanos, and tamales, Giovanni is immersed in an exquisite spread of traditional Neapolitan dishes. His family, known for their culinary expertise, prepares an array of seafood for the Feast of the Seven Fishes that make me long for a taste of Italy. The thought of their amazing Neapolitan cooking, a blend of love and tradition, leaves me a little envious.
Our home in Lucca, with its serene daily walks around the ancient city walls, feels distant yet deeply ingrained in my heart. The contrast between Lucca's historical beauty and Tampa's festive vibrancy strikes a chord in my soul. And though I'm surrounded by the tropical allure of palm trees, my spirit wanders back to the cozy streets of Lucca and the bustling warmth of my Neapolitan family.
This year, I traded the crisp cold air and familiar pasta for the balmy breeze and a taste of my Cuban roots. Giovanni, nestled in the heart of his family's home on the hills of Lucca (San Colombano), shares the joyous chaos and incredible feasts that define an Italian Christmas. Our worlds are different in so many ways, yet beautifully connected by our shared experiences and the love we hold for each place and its people.
As I navigate this poignant season of joy and longing, I'm reminded of the power of family, the beauty of cultural heritage, and the sweet nostalgia that comes with each cherished tradition. From Tampa to Lucca, we're united by the spirit of the holidays, embracing the unique ways we celebrate and the memories we create.
Here's to a Christmas filled with love, laughter, and the delightful fusion of flavors and cultures. May the new year bring us back together, walking hand in hand around the walls of Lucca and sharing stories under the Tuscan sky.
To everyone Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad and Feliz Nochebuena