I first came across blood oranges on the island of Burano. It was 2011 and I was spending a few days in Venice.
The February day was grey and drizzly. Travelling solo I was free to do as I pleased, so I opted for a day trip to the islands in the Venetian lagoon finding myself on Burano in the early afternoon.
The colourful houses dotted around the canals lifted my mood. I walked around the island enjoying the silent streets, admiring the traditional lace in the shops and looking out to the lagoon covered in a light mist and trying to imagine what it would be like living on Burano.
Just as it was starting to get dark I found myself on the island’s main square where a fruit and veg shop had arranged its colourful wares in a tempting display. I bought six oranges from the cheerful couple running the shop and carried them on the packed vaporetto and all the way back to the hotel.
In the evening, I peeled an orange whilst absent-mindedly looking through my emails.
A little drop of orange juice slid down my hand. It was blood red.
There it was – my very first blood orange. It was juicy and sweet, bursting in my mouth into a melody of thousand sunny days, hitting all the right spots and satisfying both a hunger and a thirst I didn’t know I had.
Now that we live in Italy we have a local fruit and veg shop where we buy huge crates of fruit every week. They cost us six-seven euro per crate of close to ten kilos and most importantly are stuffed with fruit that has ripened naturally under the sun rather than in a huge refrigerating depot. So, we can’t get enough. Apples, pears, clementines – the crate is usually empty before the week runs off.
A few weeks back I was at the fruit and veg shop buying my usual crate of clementines. I was in a hurry and wasn’t paying much attention. I just got a crate with small orange fruits, had them decanted in bags, paid and off I went in a rush to get back home.
That same evening I noticed with some surprise that the small fruits were actually oranges and upon slicing one, my surprise turned into delight.
They were blood red!
Succulent and with a slightly tangy taste, they were perfect for juicing, producing a stream of thick, flavoursome juice each time the orange half was pressed against the squeezer.
Nothing better to enjoy on an early Spring day when the sun is blazing down on Vicenza and you just want to stretch out in its rays and laze around for a tiny little bit.
So, as I am sitting on the balcony, admiring our palm tree and slowly absorbing some vitamin D, I am raising a glass of freshly squeezed blood orange juice to spring and to living in Italy.