An Interview with Eric Millman and Federico Poggiali of Perdigiornale

When something fresh pops up on the creative radar in Florence, we take note, especially when that something is as unpredictable as the newly launched Perdigiornale, an online magazine featuring opinion pieces, reflections on food and film, travel (mis)adventures and well, pretty much anything else. After sinking into a selection of pieces that touched on the moldy contents of a mid-pandemic fridge, musings on how not to write a travel essay, and several surprisingly engaging analyses of films we’re quite sure most of us have never seen let alone even heard of, we knew we had to get behind the scenes to find out more.

From the term perdigiorno, which founders Eric Millman and Federico Poggiali explain is “literally a loser of days…an enlightened hobo”, the title Perdigiornale captures the spirit of “amaro and anarchism” that courses through each piece.

We got in touch with Eric and Federico to learn more. Read on for a refreshingly unfiltered look at their thoughts on Florence, collaborating during the pandemic, and the Instagram-washing of Italy. Buckle up, it’s a fun ride!

In a few words, please introduce yourselves.

Fede Poggiali: In very few words, I am a Florentine born with an uncommon addictive personality that luckily orbits around dark, bitter espresso. Between one espresso and another I am trying to complete a PhD in Archaeology, work in the Hemp business in Berlin, and am experimenting with Amari, schnapps, and any liquor I find. Ah, and of course, building the dream/nightmare that is Perdigiornale.


Eric Millman: I’m originally from California, specifically the infamous Los Angeles suburban schmuckpot known as The Valley. I’ve spent many years studying both film and writing and doing things related to each, but my true professional zenith came as a temp in the construction industry. After years living in San Francisco and New Orleans, playing baseball, living in a school bus, and/or working a bunch of odd jobs, I was lucky enough to receive a fellowship with Middlebury College, which brought me back here, where I partake in most of the same vices as Fede, though I can’t quite stomach as much as he can, as I have a more sensitive constitution (and by that, I mean I’m Jewish).

How would you describe your respective relationships to Florence? Love/hate? Endless love? Just friends? Sworn enemies?
FP: As someone who was born and raised in Florence, I have a very biased POV. Of course, I love Florence. It is the place where I grew up and where my family and oldest friends live. At the same time, I have been travelling for my studies a lot since my 20s, at first within Italy and lately in the rest of Europe/the world. Since my experiences in other parts of the world, I have started to see Florence for the small, snobby town that it is. I really love the city’s arts, architecture, and surroundings, but I find a lot of the Florentines to be very annoying and provincial.


EM: My relationship with the city is weird, and probably the inverse of Fede’s. I first studied abroad here many, many years ago and it was a dream which has haunted me ever since. I’d always hoped to live in Italy again, but literally anywhere else, not only to avoid competing with my memories but because I love the grittier side of cities like Genova, Bologna, or even Rome; it’s taken me a while to realize it, but I agree with Fede that it does feel snobby, and I’ve always felt inferior here. With the lockdown, though, I have found myself seeing the city in a new light, and the two times I’ve been allowed to leave the house over the last year have either left me angrily murmuring to myself, or awestruck and grateful. I’m almost numb to the beautiful stuff now, but man, eating a good lampredotto or gelato (or both) in the sun on the Arno is kind of worth ten lifetimes.

What is perdigiornale?

I don’t know, A mistake?

What is Perdigiornale?
EM: I don’t know. A mistake? There are so many happy people putting out beautiful snapshots of life in Florence, life in Italy, life in general, and I think we are both just cynical enough to want to run counter to that and to as many things as possible. I never felt like a proper writer of prose, or as an academic, or as a journalist; I have only ever felt comfortable on a baseball field, but unfortunately I’m not good at baseball. What was the question? I think as two over-educated, embittered products of the bourgeoisie we wanted to write about politics in an apolitical way, through the lens of the things we value, like good, but modest food, inspired but lowbrow art, and diarrhea.

FP: Perdigiornale is the personification of the negative energy that fuels two sick minds, mine and Eric’s. We both found ourselves tired of the classic travel blog that always tries to find beauty and positivity (even in the sick, syphilitic, pigeons of Venice) and “Instagram-washed” Italy and other travel destinations. We decided to reply with the ‘negative’ of the classic travel blog/post.

How did Perdigiornale come to be? Is this a pandemic project, or has it been in the works for a while?
FP: I did not know Eric before the pandemic, and part of me still thinks that the blond Californian dude known as Eric is just a product of the mental stress brought about by the lockdown. Whatever his mysterious origins may be, the project was conceived by Eric and I during the fall of 2020. We have many other projects that are currently on hold, but Perdigiornale “è un bambino vero.”

EM: That’s true: Fede and I really haven’t known each other for very long (explaining why he doesn’t know that I’ve always been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, even before COVID). That said, it’s been a quick and easy friendship, and we were always cooking up crazy ideas during the lockdown. Actually, when the pandemic was easing up and travel restrictions were lifted, we packed Fede’s car full of drugs and drove down to Irpinia for Vinicio Capossela’s Sponz Fest, though we never made it to a single event. Instead, we hiked down into this valley, the most remote place I’ve ever been, and just sat in the mud all day, staring at the pond scum, surrounded by a million frogs. Or, to answer your question: yes, pandemic project.

Who would be your dream contributor for Perdigiornale, contemporary or historical?
EM: I wouldn’t want an author, necessarily, but people who have lived crazy lives, like if we could get Bruno S., the busker who acted in two of Herzog’s best films, to tell a story about his life sleeping in cars in postwar Berlin. He seemed like he was an alien born two-hundred years out of time and was just such a slobbering ball of emotion when he’d tell his stories, a total inspiration.

FP: For me, the ideal historical ideal candidate is definitively Cecco Angiolieri. For those not well-versed in XIII century vulgar poetry, Cecco Angiolieri was a Tuscan poet and a contemporary of Dante, who, instead of writing about redemption trips in hell and heaven, was more occupied paving his personal way to hell. He spent most of his family fortune in osterie and gambling. Among contemporary authors, I would love a review by Slavoj Ziziek of a Panino al Lampredotto.

Tell us a bit about your working relationship on this project. Do you share all aspects of the work, or do you each have specific roles? We are always curious to hear about the challenges, surprises and solutions that emerge with collaborative projects.
FP: I actually feel a strong sense of guilt —
EM: Good.
FP: — since Eric has done and continues to do most of the heavy-lifting for the project. He dedicated a lot of time and effort in constructing the website, and he is the brilliant mind behind the aesthetic of Perdigiornale. My contribution has mostly been helping Eric to keep a positive attitude and to help him in fighting his inner demons (or maybe I feed these demons). I also help to review, select, and edit the contributions to Perdigiornale, while looking for new contributors among my friends scattered around the world.
EM: My main goal for all of this was to make Fede feel bad, so his response pleases me to no end. But no, given my background in writing and the fact that we’ve decided to publish only in English, I tend to wade into the dirty end of copyediting a bit more. Fede is the smart one, and the cultural authority, so he handles the broader thematic direction of the project, while, like he said, he helps wrangle international collaborators. As far as challenges, I’m like this flippant visionary with a huge case of imposter syndrome, so a lot of the time our working relationship is
me constantly pitching him bad, scatological ideas or wanting to shut the whole website down, and yeah, Fede gets stuck talking me down from the ledge. Oh, and we’d be total asses if we didn’t mention that our friend Mary Gray has taken on this role as well, being a really helpful sounding board while also doing outreach and promotion.

Are you accepting submissions? What genres of work are you looking for?
EM: Oh, most definitely, and we would love to work with all sorts, not necessarily expats in Florence, or even “proper” writers, but folks with a sense of humor and an interesting perspective. We’re looking for shorter, experiential non-fiction pieces that embrace the unglamorous, whether through food and booze, art, or some personal connection to a place. We also have a “Fritto Misto” section that we reserve for really bizarre crap that doesn’t fit in anywhere else, and just want people to feel free to go crazy, to tap into their most repulsive selves.

FP: We are always open to new submissions about nightmarish travel experiences, unappetizing food reviews, niche z-movies reviews, alcohol-fueled political rants and comparisons between the economic crisis in Italy and the size of plates at aperitivi.

Anything else we should know about you or Perdigiornale?
FP: Perdigiornale is a newborn planet, still forming around a molten core, and is mostly a mass of gasses and evanescent particles. No one knows the orbit yet, but one thing is sure, it is here to stay and the weird and disturbing life forms found upon it will continue to multiply.
EM: To help ensure such sustainability, I think maybe we’ll dress Fede up like a Medici and print him on bumper stickers with cheeky Italian catchphrases, and just sell those through the website. Sure-fire cash cow!

Looking for a little more? Enjoy these excerpts from Perdigiornale.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not I’ve stepped foot in Caffe’ Giacosa. I am Florentine, so I know the taste of a true Negroni better than anyone else. It is carved in my essence and runs into my blood.

But then something happens: as soon as the bitter taste of Campari mixed with the herbal-sweet vermouth, both given an extra kick by the gin, hits my fake snob palate,  my carefully-built system of beliefs collapses. I have to confess to myself that this accidental Berlin bar has done a better Negroni than the hundreds of five euro pseudo-Negronis which I’ve sipped and the ten I’ve regurgitated in the puzzle of squares and streets that is Florence.” -From Ich Bin Ein Negroni by Fede Grino

**************

“I pop into Viveri, a spot at the mouth of the road just slender enough for one person to pass.  The bartender, severe in his pomade and his camicia nera, has a quick wit to him, all business, the type who spins the glass in his hand as he waits for your order, who never smiles and would call you “boss” were the restaurant in the United States.  His colleague has her hair bleached powder-white, her ironic smile masked in fluorescent lipstick. The menu is but a wall with three types of polpette scrawled in chalk.  I’m in the dinner capital of the earth and I’ve chosen a wine-and-meatball house.

If there was ever someone who can’t abort a half-plan it’s me, having already ordered a fat cannonau, and I deign to treat this aperitivo as dinner.  By now the hollow of my stomach is pumping the booze directly to my brain, and I force myself to focus on my original task.  I pump the neon bartendress for clues, name-dropping some real Insider® Italian band names.  “The real stuff, you know?” – From Pigneto, L’Acquedotto Felice by Eric Millman

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