Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Dinner with the Decameron in Salvo's Salumeria

Richard Wilcocks and Gigliola Sulis    Photo: TW
During last year's LitFest, Gigliola Sulis and Richard Wilcocks created an event involving classic Italian food and readings from classic Italian literature, held in that most Italian of venues, Salvo's Salumeria. Then, it was Dante Alighieri. This time, it was Giovanni Boccaccio.

Gigliola Sulis introduced the evening, tapping a wine glass just before the antipasto, stressing from the start that she didn't want to sound like she was giving a lecture (she is Director of Italian and Classics at the University of Leeds) and explaining briefly that Boccaccio is one of the three crowns of Italian literature, the others being Dante and Petrarch, and the principal scholar-writer responsible for the emergence of the standard form of the Italian language. While the main course  (venison, porcini... ) was being prepared, she said a few words about the first story, reading its opening paragraph in Italian. Richard Wilcocks then performed the whole of it in English.

It was the story of the Abbess (IX.2) who rushes out to catch one of her nuns who was reported to be in bed with her lover, but the Abbess herself was with a priest at the time and places his breeches on her head, thinking she is putting her veils there, with the result that when the accused nun sees them and points them out to the Abbess, she is acquitted and from then on is able to spend time with her lover at her leisure. There were belly laughs from those listening, as there must have from the audiences of seven centuries ago.

Statue outside Uffizi Gallery

A longer story followed (V.4), when bellies were full, one which is so well known in Italy that when it is described simply as 'the nightingale' (usignolo) everyone smiles in recognition. Young Ricciardo is passionately in love with the beautiful Caterina, the well-guarded daughter of Messer Lizio da Valbona, and she returns his love. Full of desire, she devises a cunning plan to get to sleep with him: she will complain about the heat in the house and ask her father for permission to spend the night on the balcony, in a curtained bed. Out there in the fresh air, she will be able to hear the nightingale sing. Her grumpy father finally agrees. The idea (you guessed) is that Ricciardo will climb up the outside of the house, using a ladder and some stones jutting out from the wall. The two lovers will be able to fall into each others' arms while the parents sleep. This is what they do, but then...  

At the end of the evening, several people asked which great Italian writer would be chosen for 2016. We don't know yet. Petrarch?

Audience comments:

I really enjoyed it, though I wish I'd known it was going to be more of a meal than a snack as I pre-ate and unfortunately couldn't finish the lovely food! Really liked how Richard brought the readings to life through lively storytelling.  (BJ)

Great food, lovely warm atmosphere and Italian literature. What's not to like? Really appreciate the LitFest putting something on like this that I just wouldn't hear elsewhere. Grazie mille. (RC)

A lovely event. Warm surroundings and interesting, engaging readings. Please repeat last year's event about Dante (or something new)! (PW)

A lovely idea and most successfully carried off. The intercourse tales gave piquant flavour to the delicious Florentine dishes and the speaker and the reader impressed with their fluency and wit. A delightful event and worth repeating.  (PB)

Another great evening. Nice format - meal, time to chat. Ample time on presentation of literature - would have liked more in Italian. English translation delightfully read. V. informative.  (HG)

Great fun. Interesting and evocative works, with which I wasn't previously familiar, very well read. Great food, excellent company. A marvellous way to spend Monday evening.  (PJ)

Molto soddisfatto nella cultura, e il modo in cui e stata impostata, pero una piccola dimostrazione di cucina italiana sarebbe stata molto gradita. (MDV)

Very entertaining - well read and chosen stories accompanied by extremely tasty food. (AL)

A very pleasant evening with interesting stories read from the Decameron. Very entertaining indeed. (DM)

A very pleasant evening: nice authentic Tuscan food and good table-wine. Excellent readings from Boccaccio.  (AEG)

Pleasant supper, well-served and good reading. (JG)

The evening was informative as well as educational, and inspired me to learn more about the work in question, and to read the Decameron/watch a film adaptation. (SG)

Enjoyable evening - nice intro to Decameron - in contrast to last year there was perhaps a little too much English over Italian? But very well read and entertaining. A really nice event with appropriate food.  (RH)

Enjoyable food. Interesting history regarding literature.  (S)

A very well-organised and enjoyable event. A very good idea to link it with a local restaurant.  (AT)

Tuscan themed supper and stories from a book I only know by reputation. Imaginative and tasty! A lovely evening.  (LT)

Combining food from Italy and its literature makes for a perfect evening. Came last year for the Dante evening and both were very enjoyable. Makes me want to read both writers. Thank you.  (CK)

Lovely food, relaxed atmosphere and very entertaining readings. Nice to get a sense of Italian literature without it being too challenging! Thanks very much!  (TK)

A thoroughly enjoyable evening. I learnt something new and the reading was interesting and entertaining. The food at Salvo's was a perfect accompaniment. Will definitely come next year.  (RS)

A brilliant evening - good food and great storytelling, especially the Italian introduction. Also an excellent story-teller. Need I say more?! We'll book next year a.s.a.p.  (TS)

A really enjoyable, intimate setting to hear the stories of The Decameron. The unique setting right here in Leeds helped to bring the stories to life (and the food was INCREDIBLE!)  (AT)

Great food with great poetry. Hearing the original Italian excerpts before the English translation was nice.  (DJ)

Great evening, fantastic partnership between LitFest and the wonderful Salvo's Salumeria. (PM)

A fantastic evening! A great tribute to Boccaccio! Thanks to Salvo's and the organisers of the LitFest. And well read, Richard Wilcocks!  (RWM)

Very well done! Loved the poems! Great food!  (YO)



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