Aperitivo Tour? Si Grazie!

You know I do my share of roaming and research, but after several days of going solo, I was up for some guidance and expertise. 

Previously when I checked with Coral Sisk of Curious Appetite about booking her Aperitivo Tour, she said this week was the only week it was not offered. She prefaced this sad news with “Super Bummer”.  Then, outta the blue she contacted me and said it had opened up and was I still interested?  Si Grazie!!

We were to meet 18:30 in front of Procacci on via Tornabuoni. Several mornings I have woken up saying, “Today, I visit Procacci”, but I’ve yet to. So, this is perfetto. 

Shortly after I arrive (yes, just a tad early), three girls about Avery’s age walk up verifying with their phone map that they have arrived at the correct spot.  I walk over, introduce myself telling them I am sure we are in for a treat. This will be my 3rd (a 4th scheduled for when Avery arrives) event with Curious Appeite and I have had great experiences. 

Within moments Coral arrives,  Let the tour begin. 

Procacci is our first stop. 

“This delicatessen was founded by Leopoldo Procacci in 1885 and, due to its historical, artistic and artisan heritage, it quickly gained an excellent reputation with the Florentine population for its gastronomic delicacies made with truffles (King Vittorio Emanuele II even made the shop an official supplier to the royal family, granting its founder, Leopoldo Procacci, the right to include the royal coat of arms on his signage). Savoring these specialties continues to be a popular ritual both with Florentines and visitors.”

We sample the Antinori family Prosecco,

paired perfectly with the dainty truffle sandwich they are know for.  

Coral educates us on the difference between champagne and prosecco. We learn prosecco is meant to be enjoyed young.  I look forward to finding (and pricing) this crisp, clean prosecco at home. 

Walking to our 2nd destination, Coral shares some history of Piazza Repubblica. 

The Column of Abundance is a 1956 replica.  The original was erected in 1431 at a crossing of the ancient Roman city. 

A little food, a little drink, a little art, a little history, a little more food and drink…my kind of tour. 

Next stop,

Osteria Nuvoli. As I prepare to take an exterior shot, one of the purveyors teases me saying I can take the photo, but because he is famous, I cannot sell it…deal. 

Coral is excited to bring us here. She said usually the groups are too large to visit this establishment. Curious Appetite caps their tours at 6 people, that should give you an idea how small this place is. 

Before heading down to the cellar, I notice these strips of paper blowing in the breeze. I ask, “Que significa?” The guy waiting on us proceeds to tell Coral that these are Treasure Hunts of sorts. He then goes outside and pulls one from its hiding spot and explains further. 

He says people hunt them, find them, then sign them. I say, “Like geocaching?” He lights up and says, “Si! Geocaching!” He then rolls the treasure back up and retucks it away. 

The girls and Coral can’t believe I’ve noticed something so seemingly insignificant. I tell them when you travel alone, you notice a lot…and you learn to ask questions. 

Now for the real treasure. 

In the cellar we are treated to an abundance of local carni e formaggi as well as both un vino bianco e rosso. All molto buono. 

With the wine, food and fun conversation, I think we could have stayed here all night but Coral tells us we have one more stop to make. 

We go from local rustic to local swank. This place and the cocktails prepared for us left me speechless. 

Before we begin, Coral gives us a couple of folklore tales about the Negroni. 

Here’s a bit of background from Food & Wine-

“1919, The Beginning: The story of the Negroni begins at the Caffè Casoni in Florence. There’s no documented historical account, but it is believed by cocktailians that Count Camillo Negroni invented the drink when he ordered an Americano made with gin in place of the usual soda water. It was a success and not long after, the Negroni family founded the Negroni distillery, which produced a ready-to-drink version of the cocktail that they called Antico Negroni 1919.

1947, Word Spreads: Orson Welles made one of the first documented remarks about the cocktail. He tried one while on location in Rome and commented to the Coshocton Tribune, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” ”

This was my first and I am sure it will never be topped. 

Our cocktails were brought to us in a clear box filled with smoke. When Roberto opened the box I wasn’t sure if I was at Mass or a cocktail bar. The scent that escaped was fuised with herbs and spices. 

For four Southern gals (the girls I’m with are from Georgia) this was a cocktail on a whole new level. 

The accompanying “snacks” dazzled as well. 

Coral advises us to drink up, as we’ve got one more Negroni to go. 

To my left appears Roberto again, this time with Negroni Chianti for all.  Lovely cut glass with hand chiseled ice cube and a spiced version of a classic Negroni. 

Oh and of course this cocktail came with its own sidekick. 

What an evening! Coral does an amazing tour and she is so generous with her time and talents. We definitely went over the 2.5 hours advertised. 

When it was time to say our goodbyes, Coral asked the girls what their plans were for the evening. They said they had none. So, you know me…I asked them if they had been Oltrarno.  No? Andiamo!

I took them on a quick spin to some of my favorite spots near my appartamento.  They commented that maybe being a tour guide is in my future…I said I had no desire to be part is someone’s hopes and dreams…too much pressure. 

Buona notte nuovi amici. Buona notte di Firenze. Buona notte luna. 

Tuscan Dinner Crawl

Do you ever find that some days truly do not begin until the evening?  I am finding that to be more and more of my groove here in Florence.

I knew today’s highlight was going to be the Tuscan Dinner Crawl I had scheduled with Curious Appetite, so the earlier part of the day was the “same ‘ol same ‘ol”…roaming streets, popping into chiesas, observing people (I promise I am saying “same ‘ol” wink a gleam in my eye)  and then it was back to the appartamento to freshen up for the evening.

Our meeting point was just across the river, so although I did not have to be two hours early…I of course was…but I planned it this way.  We were to meet at Piazza Santa Trinita which is just around the corner from my 2015 appartamento, right off Via Tournabuoni.  There are two little trattorias I had wanted to try a Spritz at (research), so one of these was on the agenda.

The first I tried, “Solo Spritz?” “No signora.”   Off to the next.

“Solo Spritz?”…”Certo, prego!”   Perfetto.

Luckily I padded my timetable because it took quite a while for my Spritz to arrive.  I busied myself drawing their oh so cool logo and listening to Italian conversations at  the tables around me.  Speaking of Italian conversations…I am pretty secure in my prediction that I will never be able to “converse”.  As I have mentioned before…there is SO much more than knowing (clearing throat here) the “correct” word of an object.  Per esempio- Remember the first night I arrived and I was at il Santini having a glass of wine?  Well when Filippo called me on the phone, I answered it “Pronto”…and I swear I said it with authority and I even found a bit of roll in my “r”.  Filippo’s response?  “Wwwhhhattt?” Oh gee!  Then when I followed with “hhheeelllooo?”  I sounded equally confused.

Bottom line, I will continue to learn, continue to try, but saying “Schiacciata” when ordering my favorite bread will always, always throw me.

OK (which is Italian too…I got this one), il mio spritz e arrivato, and it is perfection.


The Spritz was presented with this perfetto little pizza.  I am definitely going to try these when I return.  It tasted like a small version of what my Mamma makes.

When the Spritz and the bite were gone, the drawing was complete, I was ready to meet my dinner companions.

With yesterday’s group, fresh in my mind, I was a bit apprehensive.  However, during the Chianti tour I kept telling myself, with 2 times the money and WAY less people, the crawl experience was going to be bene.

Approaching Santa Trinita, I began my assessment.


I stood around for a bit, then approached the girl in the burgundy dress.  Yes, this was Bianca, our guide.  We had an opportunity to chat a little before the other four (yep, solo quattro) arrived.  Bianca has been working for Coral (Curious Appetite) for about a year and a half.  Bianca is from Australia and studied Textile Design in college.  Bianca likes being able to dress “practically in a ball gown” to come to work each day.  Picture a young Liza Minnelli…lashes and all.

The other four arrive, brief introductions are made and we are off.  First stop, Aperitivo…due.

Il Borro Tuscan Bistro-


Wow! (I think that is Italian as well)  What a lovely way to begin the evening.  Il Borro is right off the Arno- Arno, via, Il Borro, and it is owned by the Ferragamo family…enough said.

As explained on their menu, “We do not offer simple dishes but emotions, believing that every moment deserves special feelings, that any moment could become experiences that involves our senses…”  For more reading pleasure, check out their website.

They do not offer suggestions but “proposals”.  Bianca’s proposals for aperitivo are; Spritz, white wine, Negroni…each of these will “open our palate enabling us to enjoy the evening and eat more”.

I choose what Bianca calls “double bubble”, the Spritz.  I am tempted to try my second Negroni ever, but stick with what I know I like…and can handle.  This spritz is a bit sweeter than my previous one at Da Florence.  Bianca tells me that depends on the Prosecco used.

I also had an “Ah-Ha” moment when it comes to Goat Cheese.  I did not know that goats only produce milk after having their young…not all year round like cows.  So, late spring, early summer is the time for “fresh” goat cheese.  Viceregal e Imparare.


“Crawling” with us this evening are, Rob and Robin, newlyweds from Ottawa, Canada.  Robin works for the government…yes she’s met Justin Trudeau and Rob is an accountant.  I believe he used to be a tax accountant and now works for a non-profit.  And Odelia (Odee) and Andre from New York, via San Francisco and the mid-west I think.  Odee has been in the Fashion Industry but returning to school to get a Business degree (see kids…we give good advice) and Andre is in Advertising.  Samsung is his current client.

Early on, during introductions, I mention my blog and Odee says excitedly (by the way, Odee says EVERYTHING with an innocent excitement), “OOOhhhhh, YOU’RE Girl in Roam?”  I definitely need to practice my response to this.  Although it has only happened twice, I know I respond with this “no, it couldn’t be my blog you read” confused look on my face.

Throughout the evening, the conversation is friendly, light and I believe genuine.  Topics range from Art to Human Connections to Food (certo).  When politics are mentioned…it is like someone sticking the tip of their toe in a tub of undetermined liquid.  Rob reminded us not to discuss Politics or Religion.  But it is kinda fun to watch the eyes dart from side to side.

From Il Borro, we walk Oltrarno to Tamero Pasta Bar.


In 2015 I enjoyed a Spritz and Panzanella salad here.  I am affirmed to learn this is where people in the know go.  I asked Bianca how they choose which spots to bring clients to.  She turns to me blankly and says, “We taste.”

And taste we do.  Curious Appetite has Tamero bring us a plate of their best pastas.  Each one delicate and perfetto.  I think I will be returning for the pici cacio e pepe.  Molto Buono.

As at Il Borro, Bianca lets us choose the wine we would like with dinner.  I choose a nice, crisp Vermentino with her guidance of course.


Throughout the evening, I am educated on the late 20’s to early 30’s life.  For example, Rob and Robin met “Speed Dating”.  They enlighten me that Speed Dating is so much better than meeting on-line.  And what they say seems true.  One can sit, face to face for five minutes and pretty much decide if there is any connection.  Rob says you can talk for months on-line and then meet a person and the realities hit hard.  I ask Rob and Robin what they talked about for their first five minutes…”Trashy Reality TV” replies Robin, “The Bachelor”.  (Shout Out to Avery!)

On the flip side, I often show my age…for example, writing in my little book as we go.  At one point Andrea says, “I wanna read that book you’re writing.”  I told them Bianca looks like Liza Minelli…blank stares.  Andrea made me really laugh at one point connecting me with his mother and grandmother.  “Thanks Andrea…” I say laughing as I grab my pencil, pretending to jot this nugget down.  I tell him there is no shame in being 55.  He tells me I’m “owning it”.  Do I have a choice?

Next stop Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo Ristorantino.


For Bistecca alla Fiorentina, we traverse back across the Arno to the Santa Croce area.  We are greeted at the door and shown to our own room.  Here, Bianca orders for us and the vino is Chianti…certo. (No Rooster though.)


With our Bistecca, we have spinaci e fagioli bianchi.

During dinner we discuss how art was the first form of Social Media and I throw around a bit of my Medici “knowledge”.

At the end of dinner Bianca asks if we want gelato from a nearby spot or do we want to wander a bit.  “Wander”, we all say.

We end up at Il Procopio.  You can tell this is a local spot.  Families take up the plastic chairs along the sidewalk.  One little girl, takes her chair and places it smack dab in the middle of the via to enjoy her sweet treat.


Andrea and Odee are pleased with their choices, and the evening as a whole I think.


I choose una piccolo coppa of pistachio e panna cotta.  This is the creamiest gelato I have ever had.  The pistachio had a little saltiness to it, which is right up my alley.


After dolce, we begin to stroll back towards Pizza Republica, dropping Rob and Robin off near the Bargello.  Bianca mentions how wonderful it is when groups can connect and enjoy each other’s company.  I agree with her that those moments of sharing and connection are heightened with Buon Cibo!

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.