This heartwarming story was written by Julie Burt at Elizabeth Finn Care Homes in Halliwell, Tunbridge Wells. Julie beautifully documented a surprise dinner, organised for Florence, a 92 year old resident. Find out how the team has  transported Florence and her dinner guests from Tunbridge Wells to a little restaurant in Italy, and went to great lengths to recreate Florence's most memorable meal. 

 

Florence’s conversational French group met in the room adjoining the ‘Improvers’ Italian course. The students mingled over coffee mid evening and naturally friendships formed. When Florence heard that someone had dropped out of the planned weekend in Venice, she casually mentioned that she might be interested in joining them. Before her feet touched the ground, her case was packed and she was ready to go.

Sitting in a little trattoria tucked away beneath the Rialto Bridge, Florence studied the menu.  Feeling a little jaded from the journey she opted for what she thought would be a simple pasta dish.  The small group of four were nearly through their first bottle of Chianti when supper arrived. It looked absolutely delicious, a steaming hot dish of gleaming pasta.  Liberally sprinkling with parmesan and black pepper, she tucked in eagerly. It really was quite divine; the sort of taste sensation that made your eyes roll back in their sockets.  Florence completely sated, drifted off, lulled by the soft Venetian music.

What seemed like seconds later, she was roused by the sound of laughter.  She was sitting with a very elegant lady and two charming gentlemen with a peach Bellini in her hand.  Romantic mandolin music wafted through the air.  It took her a few moments to realise that she was with fellow Residents in a care home. The table was covered in a red check cloth, and in the candle light, she could just make out a freshly baked focaccia and several bottles of Italian wine.  Moments later everyone was tucking into steaming plates of Tagliatelli Carbonara.  Florence was immediately transported back to her evening at Trattoria alla Madonna and the plate of pasta in front of her was easily equal to the one she had relished 40 years earlier. It wasn’t long before the penny dropped and she realised why the home’s activities person had been so keen on chatting about her travels.  She even wanted to know what was the most delicious meal she had ever eaten.  She had no idea at all that they would go to so much trouble to recreate the experience for her. 

Conversation was flowing freely when the chef popped out from his kitchen to check that his labours were up to scratch.  He had spent all afternoon making strands of tagliatelli by hand, and being an Italian, he was determined that it was perfect.  Conversation flowed and her companions chatted amiably, reminiscing about their own travel experiences.

The individual organising this special evening, looked on with great satisfaction.  She had contacted the restaurant in Venice, who were only too happy to assist with the celebration of the life of a 92 year old lady. They arranged to send over crockery for the event together with copies of their menu which arrived by DHL from Venice together with 3 bottles of Chianti.  Florence had experienced one of the most memorable meals of her life in their restaurant, and her care home in Tunbridge Wells wanted to transport her back there, so she could re-live the moment.  With the help of their chef Antonio, all the food was home made and authentically Italian. 

As the evening drew to a close, Florence returned to her room smiling both inside and out. Her head hit the pillow and in no time at all, she drifted off into a sweet slumber.  Water lapped against the side of her gondola and she discovered her hand was being held firmly by a surprisingly handsome young man.  Boats of all types and sizes glided past all waving and cheering.  They were wearing masks and dressed for a ball.  People were gathering and dancing in San Marco Square celebrating the history and culture of Venice.  Florence was swathed in a carnival atmosphere with all the sounds and smells and celebration and laughter.  Everything was jewel like in the fading light and she felt so alive.  Florence gazed into the eyes of her companion and asked his name.  Giovanni Antonio Canal, he whispered, but you can call me Canaletto! Ahh, such sweet dreams. 

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