The History Lesson
This week back in 1497, The Bonfire of the Vanities took place. At the end of the 15th Century, Florence Italy wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. It’d been fun for a while. Back then, Florence was an independent city-state, run by wealthy arts patron Lorenzo de Medici. He opened his home to great painters, gave wads of cash to universities and wrote poetry about it.
But one guy kept spoiling the party. A Dominican Priest named Savonarola. In fiery sermons, he said Florence had become a den of corruption and sin, and predicted an Apocalypse that would scrub the city clean.
He was right. In 1492, de Medici died. Two years later, the French Army invaded Italy. And right about that time, Italians started getting a brand new disease called — syphilis. Savanarola became the new leader of Florence. And things got a lot less mellow.
Case in point? On February 7th, 1497, Savanarola had Florentines fork over what he called “vanities.” Frivolous objects like mirrors, makeup, masks, and some books and art. Then he had it all torched. Several paintings by Botticelli burned. Some say the artist himself threw them into the flames.
Savanarola’s reign didn’t last long. Especially when he started aiming his fire and brimstone at the Pope. Convicted of heresy, he was tortured, hung and burned. On the same spot — as his famous bonfire.
Anello De Fuoco
As created Scott Baird, partner at 15 Romolo in San Francisco’s molto bella North Beach neighborhood:
In a mixing glass, add:
- 1 dash Angostura orange bitters
- 3/4 oz. Vin Santo dessert wine (aka “Saint’s Wine”)
- 1 oz. Vergano Americano (or substitute 1 oz. Nonino Amarro)
- 1.5 oz. Cognac (doesn’t have to be the best, but avoid the worst)
Stir until diluted to taste. Strain into a chilled 4.5-to-6 oz. martini glass.