Cibo e Arte…Italian Staples

During yesterday’s roam, Avery and I roughly zeroed in to the meeting point of today’s cooking class.  We were to meet our instructor in front of Teatro el Sale at 9:00 am.  We left the appartamento a little after 8:00 in order to give us a bit of time to grab a bite and a caffé.

Walking through the heart of the historic area at this time of morning was far less crowded and far less hot.  When we arrived outside the teatro, we noticed a couple about my age milling about as well.  Avery assumed correctly they were part of our group.

Our instructor arrived right on time, she is a Florentine food and wine journalist and shares her knowledge with others in the humble cucina of her casa.  Joining in this culinary adventure are Kerstin and Mikael from Sweden.  After very brief introductions, we begin our walk to Sant’ Ambrogio Market.  On the way to the market, basically the same speech about the authenticity of Sant’ Ambrogio I gave you in a previous post, is shared with us.  It is our instructor’s opinion that San Lorenzo Market is now overrun with tourism and so much is for show and of lesser quality.  During our walk and talk, one can gather that Kerstin and Mikael and myself know a bit about Italian ingredients as well as our way around a cucina.

When we arrive at the market, Avery is waning a bit (we did not deviate from our course to the teatro to get a bite to eat…as we all know at this point…I have issues of wanting to get to a place before a designated time and then get…let’s see, what can I use instead of “nervous”…I am then reluctant to leave), so I quickly return to my little pane guy who I bought those beautiful small “figlio” schiacciata from the other day, grabbing Avery a couple while she snags a peach or two.

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We then gather around, discussing what our menu might be for the day.  Mikael throws in that he would like to explore making a stuffed pasta.  Ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta makes the list.  I mention squash blossoms are in season and making fiori fritti would be great.  Mikael and Kerstin are all over that.  I also mention Salvia fritti and sage leaves are added to the mental list. We then decide we are more interested in exploring pasta than a traditional meat dish, especially in this heat, so it is decided we will make due pastas adding Tagliatelle with pomodori freschi e basillico to the menu.  When dessert is brought up, choosing fresh fruit and cutting it up seems to be a seasonal solution.  I hesitate for a second and then say I can cut up fresh fruit at home. In fact, with Elisa’s mom Mara, we made this light dessert in 2015.  I seem to remember a couple tablespoons of a liqueur of some sort being drizzled over the top.  For this class I would like to explore something needing a bit more techniques.  A traditional Crostata con la Marmellata is agreed upon.  Our instructor says she has homemade cherry jam perfect for this at her home.  I am excited to create this dessert I’ve seen in the window after window of the pasticcerias we pass.  This homemade tart was served when I cooked with Costanza and her family in 2015, but they had made it ahead of time.

The stroll through the outside market begins.  It is pointed out that 2/3 of the vendors buy their produce and are simply reselling.  I mention I  had noticed condensation on some of the vegetables which to me indicated they were not farm fresh.  (Mikael is impressed with my discerning eye.)  So we head over to the smaller section of farmer’s stalls.

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In this photo, the farmer is sharing the virtues of his melanzana…I can’t believe we left the market without one, but as I am assuming true Italian cooks do, we stay focused to our list.

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It was fun watching (and listening to) our needs being discussed with the local farmers.  This guy was my favorite.  It was obvious he was very proud of his produce.

Can’t you hear his, “eh, eh, eh…..” promoting his pomodoro?

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How could you have told that face “no”?  But we did.  We left without his pomodori or melanzana.

We went inside the market for our ricotta, uova, parmigiana and then wove our way to our instructor’s casa.

Walking through the streets look who I found…the Female version of the Male painting I loved yesterday.  If I ever had a Men’s and a Women’s restroom…I would use these photos as the signage.  Still haven’t found anything about the artist and never saw more than the two.

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These are the doorknobs of the building we enter.  Like most “houses” in Florence, the entire building once belonged to a noble family.  Now they are segmented off into purchased “homes”.

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When we enter, and first stop is down to the basement to grab a jar of the marmellata di ciliegie.

We then climb a couple sets of stairs and enter our instructor’s casa.  No time for tours, we wash our hands, grab a glass of water to keep near us and get started.

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The windows you see there over look the street the Accademia Gallery is on.  So we are currently neighbors with The David….not too shabby!

Because the sun blasted through those windows…they were not open, but just parted a bit, allowing a little air to move through the cucina.

I mentioned earlier that in looking for a cooking class, I was wanting a hands on one.  Although our instructor did much of the work,  she would ask during a task, “Does anyone want to try?”  Of course we all did.  It was agreed that no matter how many times you have done a task, you can always learn something new from someone new. Interesting discussions were sparked by one of us sharing a different method we had previously explored.

The sequence of the menu’s preparation was this-

Because the market did not have spinach, chard was chosen.  Our instructor even shared she has made this recipe before with dandelion greens.  The green was cleaned, taken off the stem, then blanched.

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Next the crostata was made.

 

And popped into the oven to bake as we work.

Time to make the pasta.  We start with the tagliatelle.

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One egg for every 100 grams of flour.  360 grams of flour was OO and 40 grams was “hard” or “strong” flour.  The metric measuring always throws me off a bit, but i just listen and follow along as best I can knowing I can convert later.

The eggs were mixed with the flour, then we all helped kneading it until smooth and elastic.

Next came the pasta machine.  Mikael, Kerstin and I have all used one before but this was Avery’s first experience…a pasta machine is now on her “want” list.

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Once we had individual pieces the thickness desired, we cranked it through the tagliatelle teeth.

 

 

While the tagliatelle is drying, we cut the small, cherry tomatoes in half as the garlic and a bit of dried pepper simmers in the olive oil.  We are informed that in an Italian cucina, the garlic is never pressed.

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Once the garlic has cooked a bit, it is announced, “What the aglio has to give-a…eeettta has-a given in this moment.”

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In go the pomodori e basilico, simmering as we work.

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The chard has cooled and Mikael has squeezed all of the water out.  “At this moment” (that term is used a lot as well as “listen” when our instructor is about to answer a question we have.  At first Avery wondered if she were being reprimanded, but it is just a segue word much like “allora”.  Taking a cooking class, any class, in a different country is more about culture than simply about the food preparation.)  Anyway, “At this moment” we add a bit of the chard to the pasta dough set aside for the ravioli and add ricotta to the squeezed out chard.  It is explained that this step is a very personal one.  She likes more spinach (or in our case chard) than ricotta, so she mixes the ricotta in slowly until she gets the color she is looking for.  Later, Avery and I discuss we would like more ricotta than chard…so as said, it’s personal.  IMG_1303The Parmigiano Reggiano is added before any salt, tasting as you go.  Too much parmigiano can over power the mixture.  Nutmeg and salt are added to taste.

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When it is time to prepare the pasta, we roll it out the same way we began the tagliatelle. At this moment, Patrizia gets out a pasta cutter…which proves useless, so we go old school with a knife.

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We begin adding filling and then the instruction on how to fold is given.

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The fold looks easy enough, but there’s a twist and a bit of finesse needed.

Avery is the first to master…Brava!

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Before we move to the blossoms, another gizmo is pulled out, attempting to pit the olives purchased.  Again…useless…back to a knife… as I’ve always been told and agree with… a cook’s hands and a good knife are the necessities.

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Olives and brined (rinsed) capers are added to our pomodori sauce.  I have never added olives to a sauce, but will in the future.  They add a nice depth of flavor as well as color.

Time for the blossoms.  The batter is mixed just like Anna and Mara did when we were at Castagneto Carducci in 2015…flour, water, a bit of salt and you want a thick cream consistency.

We prepare the blossoms, twisting off the end of the stem and removing the stamen.  I may have already mentioned that these blossoms are the male, non fruit bearing blossoms.  We are told the female is not used and that the flavor is not the same.  I think they are not used because they produce the fruit and if it is all you can get your hands on, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

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Peanut oil is recommended for the frying.

It is declared that the blossoms are ready when they resist to the touch.

We enjoyed the blossoms and the salvia right out of the pan not waiting for them to accompany the main meal.  Just like at home, those who hang in the cucina, reap the benefits.  Sprinkled with a little more sale, the blossoms were amazing.  These moved up Avery’s list of favorite bites real quick.  The salvia was a bit bitter.  This was attributed to it being picked at the end of the season.

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Time to boil the water.  Once the pastas were done, we gathered around the table, joined by our instructor’s daughter, to share our meal.

Everything was wonderful and enjoyed by all.  Our favorites…fiori fritti, tagliatelle and the crostata…molto buono!

During our time with Kerstin and Mikael, I mentioned the cucina store Bartolini.  Our instructor underscored this was a shop anyone who enjoys time in the cucina should visit.  So upon our exit, the four of us made our way over.

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On my last visit to Bartolini, I purchased my cuccchiaio lungo after seeing one in action at Le Menagere.  This visit, I purchased a mezzaluna I had eyed.  The handles are a beautiful olive wood and the blades engraved with “bartolini“.  We said our arrivedercis to Kerstin and Mikael here as they continued to peruse the shop.

Being SO close to the Accademia, I suggest to my worn out little chef  we check out the line.  I tell Avery I will be happy to purchase the more expensive ticket for her to skip the line to go visit David, but when we get there, the “company” Danita and I bought from say there are none of those special tickets available.  So, we buy a couple bottles of water and get in the not too longish line waiting as I try to keep Avery distracted.  Being on our feet in a very hot kitchen, making small talk and staying engaged did take its toll on us.

For a brief time in line, I watch this artist at work.  It is so difficult not to buy a piece from everyone you see.

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And then it is time for Avery to enter.  I tell her I will be sitting right here on the curb whenever she comes out.

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As I wait, I am happy she is spending a bit of time inside.   For anyone I have ever spoken to, seeing Michelangelo’s David proves to be more moving than they expect. A while later, when Avery emerges, the look on her face and the spring in her step tells me the same was true for her.

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I love I have been able to share another “first” with my figlia.  Whether “Art” is your thing or not, as I tell my students, these experiences make you a more well-rounded person and a wonderful table companion.

How do you reward your child for having a great day?

Gelato, certo!

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. 

All Roads Lead to Florence

Travel Day! Time to head back to Firenze. 


Always good to say an extra prayer or two before you embark on any journey.   I am waiting for my car, I look over my shoulder and there is a niche…perfetto. The car is 15 or so minutes late, but other than that…wait, he did abrubtly swerve into one of the SOS inlets to get a drink of water, which confused us all..and when we attempted to pull back out on the A1, there were more swerves, honks and words, my eyes were closed and I was once again in prayer…but other than that, all went well and we arrived Napoli Stazione. 

I shared the ride with a retired couple from Brisbane. They were both teachers and now spend their time traveling. They gave me a few tips on venturing further south. We shared emails and I look forward to gleaning a bit from their adventures. 


I remember being at the Napoli station with Mom and the kids. We had read enough about Napoli to be frightened. We moved around the stazione like a tight flock of penguins sheltering each other from the cold. 

I had not previously purchased our train tickets from here to Roma…stroke of luck. So when I arrived, I checked out my options and chose italo treno. THIS is the way to travel by train.

We all have assigned seats, no one is living in the luggage compartment. Although I was a bit hesitant (synonym for nervous…see Danita, I’m trying) to leave my bag so far away from me. 

The journey was to take 3 hours, stopping in Roma first. 

Arriving in Firenze, I walked to my new place. This one I had also not secured earlier, but looking at the map when I did, I was pretty sure I knew right where it was. 


Via Parione…right off  Via Tornabuoni and doors down from da Florence where I previously enjoyed aperitivo. Small, but a perfetto location until my 1st appartamento is reserved again. I rested here a bit doing some preliminary planning for when Avery arrives…I cannot wait!!

I cleaned up for dinner and read about a trattoria near me on yelp.   Since I had turned my phone on for traveling, I called to make a reservation. The gentleman on the line told me it was too difficult now to make a reservation as they were very busy. He advised I come over and wait. So I headed out. When I walked in and said, “Tavalo per una per favore”, he said pointing with a big smile, “Oh…eeetttaaaa eeesssa you!”  A table was ready right away. 


After dinner, I just roamed. The breeze was nice and coolish, la Luna was rising…

I had thought it was going to be difficult leaving the sea for the city, but after a perfetto passeggiata in Firenze…


I realize differently. 

By the way…Fall is all about fur according to Prada…

Walking by Palazzo Vecchio familiar music filled the air. ​

​I remember hearing this same guitarist playing this same song on a previous visit. Still just as pretty.  

Each night in luglio there is an outdoor movie in the corridor of the Uffizi.  Although I don’t stay for the entire movie, I am enamoured.  And yes…that is la Luna overhead. Bella, no?I make my way back home calling it a night well before most. 

Il Morso del Brunch

OK… I know this is out of order, because by the blog we are about to arrive in Positano, but in real time…I’m back at ditta Artigianale in Firenze.
And because today is a holiday, and I know you have time to make yourself a nice breakfast…here’s what I want you to do.

* Slice two thick pieces of a good Tuscan pane you have. Lightly toast, drizzle with a bit of your best Extra Virgin Tuscan Olive Oil.
* Grab some ripe, cherry tomatoes, cut in half, crush and smear across your toast.
* Out of the fridge, grab that yummy, creamy pesto you made the other day, the fresh burrata and the arugula. Oh wait…also 2 or 3 slices of prosciutto crudo.
* Add a little arugula on the toast for color and crunch.
* Place the prosciutto lovingly atop.
* Now give yourself a generous portion of the pesto and burrata, you’ll want enough to savor some with each bite.

Buon Appetito!

Croutons con pomodoro struts into, prosciutto crudo, burratina e pesto.

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Last Day in Firenze (for now)

Some of you have communicated with me that you get concerned or disappointed when there is not a post to greet you each morning. I appreciate the (positive) feedback very much. I do want to share with you a few of the struggles I go through…daily with this darn thing.
Let’s take this morning for example….

Danita, like I did myself, pushed through Day 1, not resting until the Italian day was over, trying to adjust her body to our new life. So, at our “Buona Notte” last night, it was decided that she would sleep until she woke up and then we would connect. This would give me time to write a a bit.

What is the saying?…Best Laid Plans?…

I got my photos to transfer over, having edited earlier…began to write, and got about tre parole in and the cursor would stall. I would be typing away, deep in dialogue with myself…thoughts from my head to the keypad, look up and the cursor would be blinking away. Then the screen would go blank with a “friendly reminder” saying there was an ERROR and work had not been saved. I sat…I’ll use the word “patiently” here…for about tre rounds of this, then I told myself if it happened ancora…I would walk away. After at least sei volte di piu, contemplating throwing this thing out the finestra each time, I walked away.

I returned to ditta Artigianale for some caffe.

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While I enjoy this place, I look at my list I previously made, checking off what we had accomplished giorno uno.

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I notice this establishment offers free wifi and connect completing the Palazzo Life post using solo mio thumbs.
With food and drink at my finger tips, this could become my nuovo ufficio.

A couple sitting next to me in a little side lounge area was enjoying a refreshing looking lemony beverage. I leaned over to inquire if they spoke English…they did.

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(CinCin Cierra!)

The couple was from Sweden. They come to Firenze twice a year. They used to fly, now they drive. Driving enables them to bring more wine home. Certo. While I was engaged with them, Danita texted, “I just woke up”…”Going to get dressed. Need coffee.” I asked her if her place was still serving. “No it’s noon”. So she came to me.

After a cappuccino grande, we headed back to Mercato Centrale. Most of the meat venders were closed or closing for the day, but Danita still got to see some of the glory.

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As we walked by one of the amazing vendors I had visited in 2015 gathering ingredients for our cooking class, he stuck out his hand with something he wanted us to try. To be polite…we did, walked a few steps away, then I promptly returned to buy some of that crunchy goodness under the salty goodness of the salami.

I ask him, “Come si chiama”, as I pointed at the crunchy goodness. His response as he handed me more…”ffffllllaaaaatttttt-a bbrreadddd-a”. Maybe this is where the term “Wise Guy” originates.

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From the Mercato, we roamed to Ospedale Degli Innocenti.

“No problem of the Renaissance era moves the heart more than the abandonment of newborn children. Innocent, helpless, forsaken, and most often female, left by the roadside, in a ditch, or on a doorstep, the prey of animals and I’ll-intentioned individuals eager to sell them to brothers, their plight inspired a desire to see these gettatelli (little throwaways) cared for properly. Although throughout the medieval centuries and on into the Renaissance, many European cities built multipurpose charitable institutions to care for the poor at all stages of their lives, Florence was the first to commission an institution exclusively for the care of orphaned and abandoned children.” – An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence by Judith Testa

As we approached, I was struck by the significance this beautiful place would have for Danita.

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The conception of the Ospedale Degli Innocenti was in 1410 and histories of Italian Renaissance architecture mention the facade of the Innocenti as the first important work of early Renaissance architecture. Architect Of the facade?…yep…Brunelleschi. And who funded much of the completion?…yep…the Medicis. Ya gotta love these guys! Palle!Palle!Palle!

The first foundling, a baby girl, was abandoned on February 5, 1445 in a ceramic basin/manger set between statues of Mary and Joseph, intended for that very purpose. This manger was later replaced by a wheel, half of which extended into the loggia. People leaving their babies could place them on the wheel, turning it into the Innocenti and their identity would not be known.

As we walk under the loggia of the Ospedale, we start up a conversation with a couple from Australia. I was telling Danita what I knew about the history, I paused for a moment and the gentleman said, “Go on…” Turns out he is from Italy but has lived in Australia for 53 years. He says, “Longer than you”, meaning my age. I reply, “solo da due anni”. He is thrilled to learn my attempts at his mother tongue. He asks where we are from and after hearing “Texas”, he lights up and says with gusto, “Ahhh…John Wayne…Bang-Bang”…yep….that’s us.

Next we make two returns…the first, to the shoe shop where Danita bought her scarpe yesterday. Turns out they are a bit big.
The next….

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After one bite, Danita says, “This could use just a bit of salt.”
Wait, wait…I bought this little tin in 2013 here in Firenze…Perfetto!

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Correction- tre restituisce…

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Back at La Menagere, we sit, relax and concentrate on cooling off. Cooling off in Italy in the summer takes concentration as there is no to little a/c in any establishments. So we decide to maximize our efforts with ancora Spritz and bicchiere di vino bianco. As I order the Spritz, “Espresso?”, ” No, SPRITZ”, “Ah, Spritz-a”, “Si!”, we brace ourselves for a lesser Spritz. We do not sit at the bar again, opting this time for low slung, soft chairs and a small table, so we feel sure I will get the Spritz in the bicchiere with no garnish. But we laugh when my fancy Spritz arrives.

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The waitress stoops down to tell me that next time, if I want Molto garnish and fruit, I can order the Spritz La Menagere for only 2 euro more.  Molto garnish than this…Grazie, sto bene.

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We roam our way back Oltrarno via Zarra, walking through Piazza Santa Spirito on the way home. Danita likes the vibe as much as I do. Although side note here…I had read, and was told by both Bianca and Elisa that Piazza Santa Spirito can be a little rough and gritty. Bianca just advised me not to make eye contact with anyone who might be dealing drugs…will do…great advice. Elisa said it had gotten better over the past few years, but when she was in school, she didn’t go there.

Anyway…daylight here now, so no worries.

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Danita and I are both drawn to imagining evenings shared around a table like this.

Day one, hour one, Danita said, “Now who would drag a table out to the street?”  I told her that after my 2015 visit, I vowed to do just that.  I wanted to have an aperitivo out/in Austin street, dragging a tavolo or due out and having friends bring chairs.  Sadly, it never happened.  Un giorno…

We make a quick spin around the piazza. I buy a piece of Arte  perfetta.

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We end this portion of our day back at my appartamento enjoying the last bit of vino from Filippe, a left over piece of Pugi and the remains of the…say it with me…ffflllaaaattt-a brrreeaddd-a from the Mercato.

Then taking a bit of a rest before….you guessed it….mangiare e bere nuovamente.

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On a street where we meet.

A late night, decidedly Italian meal at il Santo Bevitore, recommended by Filiippe.

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Cena con Gli Amici

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Tip of the Day-

When in Firenze…Never Cry Over Spilled Wine…there’s always more to be found.

I am sure you are familiar with Clet Abraham’s manipulation of street signs.  This was a new one to me.

Again..A slow start to the day after spending the morning documenting the previous day.  I am learning this rhythm is not so bad…I miss much of the morning heat, head out, and am ready for lunch…the meal of the day.

Again, today, no agenda.  I just enjoy roaming about.  It is fun (and more relaxing) to imagine I live here…let’s say I am a writer for a living…or better yet, am independently comfortable…and I just go where the Firenze breeze (thank goodness for it) blows me.

Today, I actually started out looking for a place I like that has this wonderful, sugar coated, donut of sorts…couldn’t find it (even though I passed it last night) and decided it was more like lunch time.

My usual “go-to” panino shop is just down the block a bit, but after hearing a few locals kinda dis it, saying they cannot keep up the quality with all they serve, I decide to go to La Prosciutteria.  Looking back at 2015 posts, we will see this is the first place I met Elisa and Paola.

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I choose schiacciata (and yes…I stumbled over saying it), prosciutto, crema di ricotta and pomodoro freschi.  The only reason the lettuce is on there is because I thought the girl was calling me “lady”…but she was really saying “lettuce?”…See, the language issue goes both ways.

It was buono, but…now don’t think I am all uppity here… the prosciutto was shaved a bit thick.  She adjusted the slicer right before me and I wondered about it…I have now tried La Proscuitteria for panino and will return…to judge…cuz’ it’s been due anni, All’Antico Vinaio.

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Roaming brought me in front of the Salvatore Ferragamo store.  Although I have never purchased anything there except for a few post cards and a mouse pad…I am a patron of his wonderfully curated Museo.  Each year I visit, it is a highlight.  This year’s exhibition marks the 90th anniversary of Salvatore’s return to Italy from America.  The entire Museo gives the feel of boarding a luxury liner as you sail with Salvatore.

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Around 18:00, I return to the appartamento to consider my plan for visiting Elisa and her famiglia.  Elisa was the girl I found through the Florentine in 2015.  I have many very special memories including her, her family and friends.  I know memories like that cannot be duplicated, but we’ve planned to see each other for an evening.

When I look at the address Elisa shared with me, at first I think, no problem.  Then, as the time draws nearer, I look closer and it is about 3 miles away.  I do not mind walking there, but returning late at night…makes me uncomfortable.  I share my concerns with Elisa and she shares the bus schedule with me.

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Seems easy enough, right?  I decide to give it a go, but of course, head out super early.  I am expected at the office of Elisa’s mother at 8:30 pm.  I head to the train/bus station at about 7:00.

Elisa instructions said Santa Maria Novella Station.  When I get there, I look at the bus schedules but do not see 1A.  The next bus that pulls up, I put one foot in and ask, “Dove bus uno – ah?”  Pointing is good and all when you’re talking feet…with no obstructions, but as I mentioned earlier, the stazione is under construction…so I head in the vancinity of the point.

So now I am across the street from SMN stazione…bus pulls up, I put one foot in, “Dove bus uno–ah?”  Again, I follow the point around the corner on Via Nazionale.  Bus pulls up, this time I show him the address I am wanting.  God bless him…he give me sign language for “Una- Ah” (One finger, two fingers making a triangle) as he says, “U-N-A…A-aa-H-hhh.”  like I am…impaired…which I guess I am.

Next Una-Ahh (1A) bus that pulls up…I get in…only to be asked off.  “Nessus biglietto.”  Ok…”Dove biglietto?!”

Why oh Why do I make it so hard?

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With my 1.20 euro biglietto in hand…I wait with all the other bus riders, moving to dodge the fumo di sigaretta as much as I can without appearing rude.

Bus Una-Ah  arrives, I show the address I am wanting to go to on my phone to the driver as she exits the bus to…you guessed it, fumo.  I ask her, “Will I know Che si fermano?” She glares at me through the fumo and says, “Si.”

As I enter the bus, I jockey for a position that allows me quick contact with my driver amica, but also a clear view of what the stops are.

As we drive, I am ticking off the stops Elisa shared with me.  All seems to be going as planned…until it isn’t.

If you refer to your scheduled stops, you will notice that after Modanna Della Querce comes Caracciolo…but it didn’t.  The next stop was Maffei.  Let me tell you, I was not the only bus rider concerned.  The entire group started hurling…Italian words…at my amica the bus driver.  I turned around to look at the Filipino/Italian woman behind me, and she just rants and shakes her head…I nod like, “I know…I’m with you!” But infatti, I am confused as all getout and a bit concerned.  At the next unscheduled stop, Boccaccio, EVERYONE exits.  EVERYONE but me.  I just sit there, bus idling while I look around…unsure of how to proceed.

My bus driving amica exits the bus, lights up, picks some tabacco from her tongue and motions for me to see her.

She once again asks to see the address I am attempting to find.  She looks for a bit…looks around the area and then says through the Fumo, “theesa eeessa bus-a uno-b.”   I say, “No, no it isn’t…it’s bus una-ah”.  She doesn’t speak but points up to the digital readout above the bus window…sure enough…it says 1B.  A bit frantic now, I tell her, “But it said Una-Ah when I got on.”  She said with a straight face, “Eettta Changed-a”.

I am fortunate enough that she showed me the way to find the path I wanted…over a small bridge, through some trees…

At this point I know I do look disabled because I cannot quit audibly saying “Eetta Changed-a” as I laugh and walk away.

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Moral of THIS story…I’m paying for a taxi on the way home.

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Over the footbridge and through the trees, I do indeed find the via I am searching for.  I find Mara’a ufficio building, ring, and am let in.

Although this is where Mara works, it was originally the home she grew up in, hence the kitchen and all.

It was wonderful to see Mara.  She looks the same as she did two years ago.  Elisa has matured over the time and Angela is now pregnant.

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We enjoy a light meal all’aperto as we talk about what is going on in our lives.

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Simple meal, simple conversation, simply lovely evening.

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As darkness falls, I’ll admit, I get a bit nervous about my trek home.  I am being very clear that taking the bus home, which Elisa recommends, is not going to happen.  She tells me this is a very safe neighborhood.  I share that safe or not, I have no clue to where I am.  So Elisa calls a taxi for me.  We say our arrivederci’s and share well wishes and in no time, my cab is here.

I am not thrilled about spending how ever many euros this taxi is going to cost, but as we speed through neighborhood after neighborhood, I tell myself it is money well spent.  I had told the driver my destination was Piazza Santa Trinita, this would allow me a short stroll over the Arno to my appartamento.  I began to recognize the area when the cab came to an abrupt stop and the driver fussed about a small crowd blocking the street.  I told him that this would be fine for my stop.  I paid my 17.5 euro (ouch!) and hopped out.

I was greeted with a serendipitous end to my evening.

Dolce musica, dolce sogni…

 

 

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.

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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.

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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-

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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

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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.

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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!