• Dawn Cumming

This past week has been a whirlwind which found me signing and writing dedications in pre-order copies of my book: In Search of Annalena a Life of Tragedy and Triumph in Renaissance Florence. I’ve hand-delivered copies to friends and acquaintances close-by and I’ve written copious emails to those who have expressed an interest in purchasing my book. Within three days of receiving it from the printers, a few copies were already embellishing a shelf in my local bookshop. I watched on with pride as the manageress of the shop carefully placed ‘Local author’ and ‘Signed copy’ stickers on their pristine front covers. I have lived in Thame for over thirty years and I could never have imagined that one day I would be an author and have a book for sale there.

My achievement has also been swept up by local on-line news sites that featured articles about me. I’m thrilled to say that news about my book had even spread further afield and I’ve become a regular customer at our local post office where I have waited patiently in socially-distanced queues to send copies off to places both near and far. Additionally, in a very short space of time I’ve had to become accustomed to using the many channels of social media the likes of which I barely knew existed before. It really has been amazing and so rewarding to read the multitude of good wishes expressed by people from all over. I am also extremely grateful to those who have taken the time to share news about my book. I’m delighted to say that I have also received good response from individuals and establishments in Florence who have invited me to hold book presentations there next year all being well with the current pandemic situation.

The ‘pièce de résistance’ was being able to celebrate with my family (albeit virtually!). The balloons and banners were in place, champagne was popped and we enjoyed a special ‘Annalena dinner’.

Tomorrow marks the official launch date for my book and uniquely on this occasion I hope that this whirlwind will never end!

  • Dawn Cumming

I am so excited as I‘ve just received delivery of my new non-fiction book: In Search of Annalena. A Life of Tragedy and Triumph in Renaissance Florence. I am surrounded by cardboard boxes ‘chock-full’ of pristine copies ‘hot off the press’ from Troubador publishing; it is just like Christmas come early!

It’s been many years in the making and I have to pinch myself to make sure that it is all true. I have to admit that it is both strange and exhilarating to see my name emblazoned across the book covers.

As the title suggests the book is about my own personal journey to discover more about the life of the Italian Renaissance noblewoman Annalena Malatesta and her enduring legacy in the city of Florence. For so long, the actual process of writing about her life had been very much an individual experience for me and although separated by centuries, Annalena Malatesta and myself had become as one. It is therefore somewhat peculiar but immensely gratifying that I should now be sharing her story with others.

Over the next few days I will be busy ‘pen at the ready’ signing pre-orders and I thank everyone who has already shown interest in buying a copy of my book.

The days, weeks and months ahead will be yet one further journey for me as I endeavour to spread the story of Annalena and to reach out to everyone who may have a love of Florence, its history and /or Italian Renaissance art.

  • Dawn Cumming

I have just spent the past two hours or so making marmalade, but not just any old marmalade. I had discovered a recipe for Aperol Spritz Marmalade in a magazine which sounded so good I just had to give it a try. I had never made marmalade before and to be honest I’m not a huge fan of it but it was that special ingredient of Aperol that did it for me. The illustration in the magazine showed jars of the finished product all tied up with candy-cane coloured twine with the suggestion that it would make an ideal Christmas gift for the ‘foodie’ in your life.

Aperol is generally enjoyed in Italy as Aperol Spritz an aperitif drink made with Aperol, prosecco and soda water. Aperol is a classic Italian bitter with a vibrant orange colour due to ‘a perfect infusion of bitter and sweet oranges’. Like many Italian liqueurs and bitters the taste is one that people from the UK may take a little time to appreciate. Personally I love such tastes. Having said all of this, in recent years Aperol Spritz has become quite trendy in the UK and in 2020 it apparently ranked number 5 in the list of the nation’s favourite cocktails.

Back to marmalade making; I prepared the red grapefruit and oranges as instructed and put them into a large pan, splashed in some Aperol with what seemed like a mountain of sugar together with some water. Soon a fresh citrusy aroma pervaded my kitchen. There is nothing like the scent of citrus to brighten up your day. In my mind I was instantly transported to Tuscany and I thought of the great masterpiece La Primavera by the Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. now in the Uffizi, Florence. The Primavera (or Allegory of Spring) was originally painted for Lorenzo Pierfrancesco de’Medici a cousin of Lorenzo the magnificent and placed in the Villa di Castello near Florence. This large mythological painting depicts a group of figures set in an orange grove. Oranges were a symbol of the Medici family of Florence. Indeed, the Medici family were crazy about citrus fruit. Anyone interested in gardening and/or the history of citrus plants will be more than rewarded when they visit the villas owned by this family. I have really fond memories of visiting the Villa Medici at Fiesole and can still remember the scent of citrus blossom that filled the air.

Returning to my marmalade, after blitzing the cooled mixture with a hand blender and spooning it into jars. I stood back and admired my handiwork. I was pleased with my little jars of Tuscan sunshine. I just needed to sample the final product. Actually it tasted pretty good, ok perhaps I was only able to detect just a little bit of the Aperol taste but my Aperol Spritz marmalade had taken me on a journey to Tuscany albeit in my mind and in my senses.