Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian
Filet of sole, clams, squid…nothing is missing on Licena’s refrigerated truck. Licena is the woman who brings ﬁsh to the piazzas of Chianti, in particular to San Casciano, Mercatale, and Cerbaia.
It is difﬁcult to interrupt her while she is working so we stand with clients and ask our questions in front of everybody.
“I have always done this work”, she tells us. “The ﬁrst time I came to sell ﬁsh with my father Angiolino, I was six years old. When my father passed away, I took over. I even got a driver’s license for the truck. I am still here after twenty years”.
Licena works by herself, she explains, because “my children work on their own in the same line of business. Is it hard work? Consider that I wake up at 4 AM, I go buy ﬁsh, I load it on the truck and then leave for the various piazzas. I don’t go home until 3 PM when I clean everything, straighten out the warehouse and start doing my chores”.
She explains that she buys her ﬁsh “where everybody else does, at the wholesalers, Marcignana in Fucecchio where ﬁsh from all over the world arrives. There you can choose by yourself. I base my acquisitions on the ﬁsh that my clientele can afford. If someone asks for oysters or lobster it isn’t a problem, But I normally sell a product that is for everybody”.
Many of her clients who are standing on line ask for “la rottamazione”: “It is a combination of various types of ﬁsh,” she smiles, “that I prepare according to the needs of my customers. It is a low-cost dish whose prices start at €5. There are no competitors because nobody prepare it like I do. Another dish that is very appreciated is ‘cacciucco’ which can be made even if you don’t know how to cook”.
Children are in Licena’s heart. You can see this by the designs attached to the truck.. “Children from nursery school give me the designs. Sometimes mine is the ﬁrst name they write, even though it is difﬁcult”.
Waiting in front of the stand is a lovely experience. Everyone knows this woman who is wrapped in sweaters to ward off the cold. She wears a plastic apron and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, while she prepares the ﬁsh by pulling it out of the ice. Here is another surprise. A car drives by and pulls out a tank which the driver hands to Licena.
“You see how much my clients like me? This man brought me hot water that I use to put my iced hands in every so often, relief for the hours spent here. But that isn’t all. Others bring the hot water as well during the morning. These are my customers!”.
Then there is the man who brings rosemary and sage, Someone brings eggs, another brings a sharpening stone for her knives, and another brings a ﬂoral arrangement. Another one comes to collect the ﬁsh refuse to use against the “olive oil” ﬂy. Another two people afﬁrm that they will experiment Licena’s recipe for cooking ﬁsh in the dishwasher.
One last question… Are there any famous people among her clientele? “The ﬁrst one to come to mind is Carla Fracci, Irene Grandi. When they come here and mix with my customers sometimes I don’t recognize them. For me all people are alike and I treat everyone in the same manner”.
The stand is almost empty. It is time to close the truck and leave. But Licena, ﬁnally in a moment of pause, confesses; “I am so attached to San Casciano that you know what I say? When I leave this world, I would like to come to rest up here, among my clients. Who knows how many conversations we can all have together”.
And we had proof, at her stand, there is another characteristic which is increasingly rare; a smile and sincere friendship.