Arte, Cibo e Vino

My plan for today was to not have much of a plan.  I knew I needed/wanted to get caught up with writing you.  That and the Uffizi were at the top of my short list…Oh and yes, I was to meet Costanza, one of Elisa’s friends today at 5:30.  So as you can see, even when I have  nothing to do…there is ALWAYS something to do in Firenze.

Today, number one on the plan, writing you, was like every other day trying to write you…non cosi buono.  I tried writing in my appartamento, couldn’t get much to “stick”.  Although I do have wifi, I think it is solo un po.  For example I can write using the application “what’s ap”, but I cannot get email or for that matter, send email.   So I decided instead of throwing the ipad out the finestra, I would put it in my backpack, head to the Uffizi, then after that go to lunch at Mercato Centrale where they have wifi.

I made my moka (that is what the little “machines” are called that each appartamento and home has several sizes of) drank the entire amount and hit the streets.imageI am still loving Blub and on the look out for him everywhere.  Most works I recognize the art or artist.  Some…not so much.  For example, I have no idea who the hooded couple is, and I think that is Rock Hudson on the left.  But of course on the right is a Magritte mash up.

I have a few notes of places to eat that are a “must”.  I have gathered this short list from other blogs, the food channel and friends.  This morning I am on the look out for “Cucciolo”.  At this pasticceria you are suppose to find the best bomboloni around.  I think I should give it a try but feel sure it cannot surpass one I stumbled upon on my last visit.  And as I approach, I smile.  This is the exact place I stumbled upon.  I remember coming in need of a place to sit, cool off and have a snack  and being so taken by my sweet, crunchy find.imageI find this a testament to a serendipitous adventure…  You end up where you are supposed to end up.imageI think after I successfully (cross your fingers…I am once again losing photos AND the keyboard/ipad relationship is choosing to give me double letters when I type) post this latest entry, I will head back over.

On a caffeine and sugar high, I head to the Uffizi.  I find one door with a line and one door without a line….I do not have a ticket yet, so I decide to try the one without the line..  To my surprise I go right in, buy my ticket, think they are going to direct me to the line, ma no…in I go.imageI like going to museums alone.  I find it very difficult to adapt to someone else’s rhythm or expect them to adapt to mine.  I purchase the audio guide  and begin my walk.  This is my third visit to the Uffizi, but each time  (as with any museum) I walk into a gallery or room and my breath catches with the realization that I am standing in front of such work.  This is NOT a slide I am showing during a Monday Art History lesson, this IS THE Birth of Venus.  This IS THE Doni Tondo.  I know the Uffizi receives millions of visitors each year, but it still feels special to be in such company.image

As I look closely at Parmigianino’s  Madonna with the Long Neck (1534), I see the small man to her left.  Students often point this out and want to discuss. This time, I notice something more.  Number one, the transparency of the man-  how you can see the background through him, but also the lone foot next to him.  Observing a painting is unfinished lends an added mystery to it.imageNear several works of art, I notice these smaller, dimensional white pieces.  These are to allow the vision impaired to experience the masterpiece as well….very cool..imageOne of the last galleries I enter contains the work of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520).  As I am admiring, I am also getting a bit tired and a bit hungry.  I take a step back and lean, ever so lightly, on a small metal bar.  With my peripheral vision, I notice part of a frame.   I think, “Yipes Paige…Don’t knock over a sign or something.”   When I turn to look, Raphael is giving me this look.  imageNope, not a Uffizi sign directing us to the uscita/exit….Raphael himself. Scusami Raphael!

Before I make a headline, I uscita the Uffizi and head to Mercato Centrale. Of  course I did not want to just take their wifi for free…that would be rude…so I ordered Burrata Bruschetta and un bicchiere di vino bianco…just to be polite.image

Another long, blogging issue short (because I know any complaints I have will be met with molto poco di pieta) working at the Mercato did not go as planned either. So, I decided to head back to my appartamento, ditch  technology, switch to a smaller borsa and head out to meet Costanza.

A little background first.  You now know Elisa and how I stumbled upon her.   We emailed back and forth and skyped once. We had plans for the two of us to meet several times during the first part of my stay and simply walk the streets of Firenze, she educating me on the city and the language.  Well, before my arrival, Elisa found out she needed to take an exam during my stay  and to do well on that exam, would need extra time to study  (Elisa is studying to be an Accountant).  Because Elisa is so very kind and organized, she did not cancel our plans, instead she contacted her friends to see if anyone would be interested in stepping in and spending some time with me.  Before I left Texas, Elisa had emailed me a “proposal or program”.  I was to look over the options and choose the ones I would like to participate in.  She in turn would have those friends contact me.  You have already met Paola.  She and I are to spend some time later in the week.  Costanza is another friend of Elisa’s.  She has proposed that I take the train to Pontassieve on Saturday to spend the day cooking at her country home with her, her mother and her aunt.  We thought it would be best to meet face to face first.  We are to meet in front of the duomo and then walk to a spot she likes to grab a cafe and chat.

It is pouring rain as I walk from my appartamento to the duomo.  The foreign vendors flood the streets with ponchos and umbrellas.  A few meters from a vendor, you find a piece of an umbrella handle…a discarded, upturned purchase. Aahhh street quality!

Luckily I have my italian phone and can touch base with Costanza to make sure the meeting is still on.  She apologizes for the weather (which is fun to me) and says yes, she will be arriving wearing a black dress and carrying a gray umbrella.

We meet, kiss/kiss and talk as we walk through the rain that is now slacking. We go to a cafe located in a building housing a library and a student center.  There are many young people studying, drinking cafe and socializing in the halls and corridors.imageHere we talk briefly, introducing ourselves and defining our plan for Saturday.  Costanza is 26 and completing her masters in Hydro Engineering. Her parents are both Architects so she feels we will have a common area of interest although their english is limited.  I find myself leaning in trying to capture all I can from her while she sits back obviously comfortable in her element.  She orders an espresso and talks of her love and perhaps addiction to italian coffee.  She has traveled Europe and has found no equal.  I drink a bottle of water.  I am learning how late I can enjoy an espresso without staying awake all night… I am past that time now.  I get her to write the name of the station/village I will be meeting her on Saturday and we say ciao until then.

I linger a bit at the building we are in and then begin to wind my way to Trattoria Katti.  This was a favorite spot of mine located on the street where my room was 2 years ago.  I have plans to attend a “Vertical Wine Tasting” at 9:30 but am not sure if any food will be offered.  As it is only about 6:30, I enjoy a bicchiere di vino rosso, order a bowl of pappa al pomodoro and watch the people go by.imageBefore I ordered the zuppa, I asked the waitress if this is under the same ownership as it was 2 years ago.  She said yes they have had this trattoria for 4 years now.  I wondered because 2 years ago, each time I ate here or passed by, Katti, the beautiful, young italian who owned the restaurant was working or her mother would be out serving or cleaning and would always say “Ciao Signora” to me.  This was the first, and best place I had pappa al pomodoro and I did not want to be disappointed.  I was not!  Hot and rich.  Salty and Oily.  Molto Buono!image

Before I left, Katti did ride up on her bicicletta, looking more glamorous than ever and her mother emerged from their apartment next door.  All is right in Firenze!

I had signed up for the Vertical Wine Tasting with a girl who writes a blog called “The Curious Appetite”.  I received an email from her earlier saying the event was sure to be crowded and we might want to arrive an hour or so early in order to secure a tavolo.  Since I had nothing else to do, I went back to my appartamento, switched borsas (the bigger now), looked up the directions and headed across Ponte Vecchio.  The enoteca con degustazione is tucked away but very easy to find from my place.  Over the ponte, through a piccolo piazza, sinistra and then there you are.

Shortly after my arrival, Coral (the coordinator) arrived as well.  Coral is about 26 or so, from Seattle but has been living in Firenze for 3 years now.  She is of Italian heritage and speaks Italian (a study in college) very well.  She is personal friends with the owners of Le Volpi e l’Uva (The Fox and the Grapes) and it was her idea to invite expats and savvy tourist to an event usually enjoyed by locals.  Brava Coral!

imageIt was a good thing we snagged a table early because the place overflowed capacity early.  To accommodate more, they moved the 5 of us further in and added chairs in the street. Siamo stati fortunati in effetti!

Our tavolo was shared by a woman about my age, currently living in Alabama but here as a “resident artist” and teacher and a young couple living in Firenze for the past year.  Adrian is a statistician originally from France and his wife (i think) Emma, is from Dublin which is where they met. They have an internet company that can be run from anywhere and they said, “Perche non Firenze?”


The owner (far right) greets us and gives a bit of background about the winemaker (far left).

imageBefore each vintage, the winemaker would tell us (Coral leaning over to translate a bit) the particulars about this year’s product along with his approach… clearly living and loving what he does.imageWith each glass, a new cheese or crostini would appear on our small table.  We would adjust everything else in order to accomodate!imageThis unique experience cost a mere 25 euro.  The food, the wine, the conversation, the night…priceless.imageimage

As a special treat, at the end, the winemaker surprised his guests with a taste of his “vera passione”…bubbly red.image

A toast to the wine and its maker! Salute!image

A toast to a wonderful evening meeting and eating.  Cin Cin!image

At 0:30 it was time to once again cross Ponte Vecchio, still crowded with lovers, musicians and friends and turn in for the night.


1 thought on “Arte, Cibo e Vino

  1. Again, another wonderful post, making me just like I roaming streets with you!! I love the Uffzi!!

    Love you, Virginia

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