Historical Italian Stories

First Story

What does a 14th century Italian Literature  Masterpiece  have to do with a famous recipe? “Carabaccio”

The Decameron and The Savoury Tuscan onion soup

The Decameron was written by Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian writer who lived from 1313-1375. It is the story of seven young women and three men who flee the city to go to the countryside to escape the  effects of the Black Plague.

While in the country, the ten people decide to tell stories to distract themselveves, each person tells ten stories, which equals 100 stories and is how the book came to be called the Decameron (deca meaning 10).

The stories range from the funny to the raunchy to the ridiculous.

The purpose was to entertain the ten young people while they were there, but they also gave insight to what it as like to live during that time and what people found to be humorous.

Author John William Waterhouse 1916: A Tale from the Decameron|Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool,


Giovanni Boccaccio


Author Andrea del Castagno, 1450 :  Giovanni Boccaccio detail  series of Illustrious People fresco , now at  Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze


This is the beginning  of the tenth tale on th 6th day and it is set in Certaldo a beautiful walled town in Tuscany between Florence and Siena



…..“Certaldo, as you may have heard, is a castle of Val d’ Elsa situated in our county, which, however small it may be, was once inhabited by noblemen and men of substance; and thither, for that he found good pasture there, one of the friars of the order of St. Anthony was long used to resort once a year, to get in the alms bestowed by simpletons upon him and his brethren. His name was Fra Cipolla (Friar Onion) and he was gladly seen there, doubtless due as much to his name, as to other reasons, for thus it was known that the soil of those fields produces onions, that are famous throughout all Tuscany.”……This Friar Cipolla was a little, red-haired, merry-faced fellow, and the biggest rogue in the world….

Indeed  he was trying to line the public pockets  claiming  to have a feather  of the wing from the angel Gabriel 


For the the Decameron tales

( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summary_of_Decameron_tales )



The carabaccio  (traditional onion soup)





4 pounds red onions

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 leaves sage
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 5 cups beef broth, or more as needed
  • For the Toast: 3 thick slices Italian bread, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or to taste,
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste, divided


  1. Trim ends off onions; halve and peel. Cut onions into thin slices lengthwise along the grain. 2. Heat olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and kosher salt. Cook and stir until starting to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and sweet, about 1 hour. 3. Add sage leaves, pepper, cinnamon, and almonds to the onions. Cook and stir until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a soup pot. Pour in red wine vinegar and broth. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend, about 30 minutes. 4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil. 5. Place Italian bread on the baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over the bread; sprinkle sliced sage and some Parmesan cheese on top. 6. Toast in the preheated oven until browned, about 15 minutes. 7. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top each with a piece of toast. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the toast and sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top. Dunk toast into the soup and let soak for a few minutes before serving.


Certaldo, a medieval hill top town between Florence and Siena – Tuscany

If you are travelling in Tuscany, make sure you pay a visit to Certaldo, a fascinating medieval hamlet in the heart of the Val d’Elsa. Certaldo is one of the most charming towns in Tuscany, situated approximately 35 kilometres southwest of Florence and 45 kilometres from Siena. We can divide Certaldo into “Certaldo Bassa” and “Certaldo Alta”. The first part is the newest area of the town, located in the lower zone, while the latter is the old part where the Castle is located inside the medioeval walls .To reach the town centre you can either walk or take the funicular railway. The funicular railway leaves from Piazza Boccaccio.

Certaldo Alto is  a perfectly preserved Medieval walled town. It’s a quaint and charming.

It  boasts spectacular views from the top of the Casa Boccaccio tower.

The town  developed around the main street, the charming Via Boccaccio, which still today is the heart of the community and the perfect place for lunch with a view. At one end stands the stunning Priori Palace that dominates the town with its fabulous facade.

Map of Certaldo


See our Tuscan collection close to Certaldo here

Tuscany Collection


For more information see


Giovanni Boccaccio https://www.britannica.com/biography/Giovanni-Boccaccio

The Decameron 6th day 10th novel https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Decameron/sixth-day-tenth-story-summary/

the Uffizi Gallery official site