Non capisco! Il mio italiano è molto male!
The day after Cinque Terre, Leslie and I drove to Florence (Firenze) which was only an hour and an half away. We walked around for a bit. Florence has a very flat skyline. The back streets essentially all look the same. I later came to appreciate this because it allows the spectacular Florence Cathedral to really pop out. Florence is pretty small. You can walk anywhere important in all of 15-20 minutes. It’s also very touristy but not bothersome to be in. There are tons of statues, including the authentic statue of David. Even on random back streets there will be a corner of a building with a statue inside a housing with incredibly detailed design. A few of the iconic buildings have green and red polychrome marble that brightly contrasts with the white to give a very unique and memorable look.
So Leslie and I were walking down a street. I was carrying all of my things so the quickdraws and helmet were hanging off of my bag. A young man from inside a sandwich shop pointed and goes “Hey!” while clawing his hands up and down, i.e. “climbing!”. We ended up chatting with him for a bit. He was very entertaining and friendly, and he convinced us to sit down for a sandwich. Now we get to the good part. The food. Holy shit. I knew Italy had good food, and I had already been in the country a total of two weeks, but Florence has redefined that concept for me. It’s almost damaging, because I’m sitting in the airport now and I question if I’ll ever enjoy anything in life as much as eating in Florence. I can already see how quickly I get lost in this. Anyway…yeah. We got the recommended sandwich, Schiacciate (flat bread) with Sbriciolona and stracchino cheese. Sbriciolona (spree-chee-<pause>-lona), at least this one, is a sort of italian salami that feels like a cross between the best salami you’ve ever had and raw sausage. It was so fatty, so soft, and so delicious. The sandwich was just bread, cheese and meat. This was definitely an example of how the most delicious food on this trip has often been very simple. The deli, Vinarno, just opened a few weeks ago. If by chance you make it to Florence, go have a visit!
After our incredible sandwich, we met up with Meaghan, a good friend from college who I hadn’t seen in about four years, and who was by chance traveling to Florence the same days that we were. This was her second time in Florence, because she had loved it so much the first time. We walked around town for a bit, and then split off for a bit. Meaghan and her friends checked out the graves of Da vinci and Galileo and Leslie and I did the important stuff: food and vino. See? I’m back to it. We got a mini sandwich with coppa and fig, awesome. We got mini canolis, amazing. We got a slice of pizza, great. We got wine, meh. That being said, it was the only mediocre wine in Florence. Meaghan had bought a red at the supermarket that was great and we continued to get wine throughout that and the following days, which was all amazing. Quick tip: apparently red wine is the thing to get in Florence, not white. Reconvened with Meaghan and friends. Another sandwich and more wine, delicious. I’m not even sure what we did between that and dinner. I think it was just non-stop eating from the second I got to Florence. Oh! I remember, we got tiramisu. 2€ and out of this world. What is with this place. Dinner was a classic italian restaurant where we got bruschetta, ravioli with cream meat sauce, carbonara, ravioli with butter and sage…I forget the others but I can assure you my fork was in every dish. The concept of not-sharing was out the window. Everyone wanted to try everything. The bruschetta is stacked high with the freshest tomatoes. The pastas all surprisingly don’t have too much tomato in the sauce. Even the lasagna is more meaty and cheesy with the tomato more of a mild presence.
After gelato, Leslie departed to meet up with her wedding crew, and we hit the hay. It was so great meeting you and climbing and stuffing my face with you Leslie! Thanks for the company and for the catches!
The next day we went on a vespa tour of Tuscany…well, after getting a delicious pastry and espresso. Obvi. Vespas is definitely above my typical budget, but still seemed like a pretty good deal at 125€ with an included lunch. We got to do a wine and olive oil tasting in a 1000 year old castle to start. The castle used to be a defensive position with its fortification and vantage point, but they decided to stop fighting and instead make wine and olive oil. I think I found the solution to world peace. Scooting around was a bunch of fun, especially in such a spectacular location, rolling hills, endless fields of grapes. And then we stopped for, yes I’m back to it, food: more amazing bruschetta with similarly fresh tomatoes, caprese, wine out of a jug straight up GoT style, prosciutto, parmesan cucumber, roast beef and sage potatoes, and the last thing I expected but a pleasant surprise in probably the juiciest sweetest cantaloupe I’ve ever had.
Our tour guides were a couple italians and a british guy that had moved to Florence eight years ago. He had moved primarily due to the high cost of living in London that he described as forcing one to overwork a high-paying job. Sounds similar to some cities that I know…I almost feel as if these countries said, “you can be the world power. We’re going to spend our time enjoying life and…(at least for Italy) enjoying good food.” The cost of living for a modest lifestyle is far more affordable here and there is a general culture that values time off. I think this can only be reinforced by the contrast that I am living right now myself. Sandia is a company that, by American standards, really values work-life balance and allows for flexible management of work hours and vacation. Still I was put into a position where I had too much money and too little time and ultimately made the decision to leave in order to essentially just take a long vacation. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the job, get paid less, and get a more substantial amount of time off? Meaghan (a nurse in NY state) was here on vacation and she had to rush from place to place just to see three cities, much of that time unfortunately moving between locations, not appreciating the area. Meanwhile, while sitting at the laundromat I was speaking with a dutch woman who was traveling in vacation in Italy. I asked her how long she had been and was going to travel. She explained that she was halfway into her two week trip to Italy. Oh, and then she was going to head home and spend a week relaxing there before getting back to work. It’s typical to take three weeks off during the summer for many europeans.
Okay, back to food. We went to a restaurant called Trattoria ZàZà for dinner that night. Along side the standard menu of incredible sounding dishes, there was an entire page of truffle specials. Olive oil and bread, a bottle of vino, pecorino with nectarine jam, calzone topped with the freshest basil, truffle fries, truffle cream sauce ravioli, truffle carbonara, truffle cream tortellini with ham and a lasagna in the center of the table to share. My mind exploded. I’m dead. Done. I need nothing more in life. Thank you. Grazie. Check please. Belisimo. The check came out to 92€ for everything, split between four people. The truffle entrees are around 10€ each. What a way to end a trip themed entirely on food. P.s. supposedly florentine steak is a thing they are known for. We decided to pass due to the 45€ price tag, however we saw someone at the table next to us order it. It was half a cow at least. It looked incredible. If only I could have snuck a bite…
It was painful to leave, probably due to bloating, but first, a farewell pastry at the huge food markey, Mercato di San Lorenzo!