Friday, October 21, 2011

Florence Food...

I lost weight in Italy while eating like this. There was a lot of walking.

Gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.

The menu called this ravioli, and other restaurants called this shape tagliatelle (which seems to be flat like linguine if you look it up). This was "ravioli with butter and sage".

Pizza with zucchini flowers.

Gelato, the mass market kind. I didn't eat this, I ate the small batch "artignale" style. La-te-dah!

Grilled swordfish and veggies.

Pasta. There was lots of pasta, perfectly al dente every time.

Ooooh. My favorite. Vin santo and cantucci (biscotti). Vin santo is a delicious dessert wine that tastes a lot like brandy.

Mitch's truffle risotto...

Mushroom pasta.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Florence, Everyone is in the Street

In Florence, the streets are so narrow, you have no choice but to walk in the street. EVERYONE is in the street. The sidewalks are very uneven, only one person wide, and the buildings often have stone adornments sticking out at head level waiting to give you a good whack.

You walk in the street. With cars, buses, Vespas and cyclists. You take your life in your hands and pray. More incentive to be Catholic! And the bicyclists go in ANY direction, so you can get creamed on a one way street by a cyclist going the other direction.

A lot of the cyclists have bells on their bikes and are ringing them constantly. I'm surprised they have not invented one that rings by itself, powered by the pedaling.

These photos are rather tame. I couldn't get any in the exciting traffic, I was too busy saving my own life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Favorite Museum: The Bargello

My favorite museum in Florence is the Bargello (the jail). The building used to be a jail, and they would paint the portraits of the inmates on the outside wall. Rivals of the Medici were hung to death out the windows. Pretty gruesome.

But today, it is an amazing sculpture museum and sculpture is my absolute favorite. I don't have many photos of it, because photography is not allowed inside.

This is the courtyard. The terracotta plaques are the crests of judicial bigwigs and other important people.

I was impressed by this giant metalwork oil lamp on the wall. Can you imagine that lit in medieval times, in the darkness?

Mitch is standing next to a fountain piece. At some point in time (I knew but now can't remember) the statues in this piece were separated and went in different directions. I'm betting during WWII. Now they have been reunited.


Snuck this photo. Supposedly it's Jesus giving a blessing.

One of the windows in the Bargello, looking out onto the street. Most of the museums there are not really climate controlled. While we were there, it was very hot. And the museum workers would be in there in full suits with scarves around their necks, in the heat! Looking chilled. Meanwhile the rest of us were sweating like dogs. When I saw this open window, I stood in front of it for a long time enjoying a breeze. Down below was a long, long line of Vespas in the street.

I envied an art class I saw (this is another snuck pic). This appeared to be the teacher. The students were spread out in the room, drawing statues with charcoal sticks. Some used real bird feathers to smudge their marks. I sat and watched them for awhile. I envied them because they got to sit there with the sculpture for long periods of time and that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to just sit there and absorb it all. There wasn't enough time! There is so much art in Florence...I could have just sat in this one room all day long.

Here I am with "Il Pescatore" by Vincenzo Gemito, 1877. Looking good before I got sick later in the trip!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beer Outside the Walls

One night we walked outside the San Frediano Gate and the remnant of the medieval city walls, to Florence's sole microbrewery. The gate was built between 1332 and 1334 and led to Pisa. The gate used to be higher, but was later cropped in order to make it less vulnerable to artillery attacks. You can see big metal rings along it, which were for tethering horses.

We sat outside the cafe', right at the gate, and sampled the beer. Later in our trip we told a local about it, who pretty rightly said that the beer there "tastes like piss".

Pretty much all the beer in Italy tastes like that. Stick to the wine.

But the walk in the dark along medieval streets and the river was fantastic.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sidewalk Art

Near the Mercato Nuovo in Florence, chalk artists reproduce masterpieces. Each night, the street cleaning trucks erase them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't Offend Your Sommelier!

On our second day, we went to a wine tasting on this street in front of the Pitti Palace, at Gola Pitti e Cantina.

Our sommelier, and one of the enoteca owners, was Zeno. He is passionate about wine! I had read online a complaint about this place...some Americans had gone in there and only wanted food, no wine. Said they don't drink wine. They got kicked out and told not to go to a wine bar if they don't like wine! Zeno said he's the one who kicked them out.

Luckily, we do like wine. And Zeno knows his stuff. The shop carries only Tuscan wines, and only ones the owners drink themselves. I think our wine tasting was $30USD each, and it lasted 4.5 hrs and included 12 wines and cheese. We had a great time. Zeno showed us on a map where the wines came from, and showed a slide show of the vintners.

Our tasting was down in one of the cellars and a nice couple from San Diego was there too. We met a LOT of Californians in Florence.

We went back another day just to have a glass of wine. On that day, a couple came in and wanted wine in plastic glasses to drink in the square across the street. One of the other owners just looked at them dead-pan and said, "We don't serve wine over there." After they left, Zeno told us that wine in a plastic glass is a big offense.

So just don't do it! And NEVER mention box wine! I shudder. One of the wines we tried was hand numbered by the vintner. We had a great time at the wine tasting. All the wines were delicious and Zeno was informative and friendly. I would recommend it to anyone. But...respect the wine! Or else. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Some of It Feels Like a Dream

At night the streets took on an eerie, dream-like quality. The streets are so narrow and dimly lit, the buildings towering with no space between. The crowds thin. Scowling statues look down on you from above with disapproval. You can really get a feel for the medieval quality of the city.

One of the traditions in Florence is to go to the Mercato Nuovo and rub the nose of this brass pig...either for luck, or to ensure a return trip to Florence. That's what we did one night...

While we were there we were accosted by a man...Mitch's Spanish is good enough that he was able to decipher that the fellow wanted to debate the existence of God in Italian.

The Mercato Nuovo looked and felt a lot different in the bright light of day the following morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stupid Americans!

Our first full day in Florence, we went to a locals' restaurant across the river in the locals' neighborhood, called the Oltrarno. We were the only non-Italians in the place. Right away, Mitch spilled water in a big flood all over our table and the floor, and then I went into the bathroom and set off a restaurant-wide emergency alarm that sounds like a fire alarm while trying to figure out how to flush the toilet. Toilet flushing in other countries is not as easy as you might think it is. They were all really gracious about it though. And nice.

Here we are eating fried zucchini flowers after "The Incident". Because you might as well laugh about it and carry on.

We even went back a second day. This time we stuck with wine and everything went smoothly.

More fried zucchini flowers...those things are GOOD!

Their pappa alla pomodoro was sooo good. The waiter shared the recipe with me, including their "secret". I tried this dish at two other restaurants and it was not nearly as good. It's got to be I'Brindellone's secret ingredient that makes the difference, and I know what it is! Uhhh...I ate it all. Sorry.

Here are the Italian workers at lunch who got blasted by the emergency alarm.

Mitch outside the restaurant.