Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Italia: Day 5 - Brains, Booze, & More Brains

After expanding our palettes in Chianti, it was time to expand our minds back in Florence.  We scarfed down our grapefruit juice, lemon bread, and scrambled eggs and headed on over to the Accademia to see the Main Man Himself, the David.  As every travel resource will tell you, book your tickets in advance and skip out on all the lines... it's definitely worth the extra reservation fee!  We used for no significant reason and had no troubles. 

I was a good little tourist and did not attempt any covert photographs of Michaelangelo's masterpiece, but David pretty much looked like David.  Big hands, nice bum.  You know.  I looked like this most of the day:

Big hands, nice roots.

After an hour or so of pretending to be sufficiently interested in the rest of the statues that keep Dave company, we hit the streets again to explore the market around San Lorenzo {lots of crap, but I can't resist the siren song of the Nigerian pashmina vendor} and the surrounding alleyways.  


I was like a kid in a... well, a  candy store in front of those confectionier shops with their windows finely dressed for Easter... magical!  


After a bit of retail therapy, we visited the Capella Medici... another "no photos please" site with lots of marble and old stuff and rich dead peeps in the fancy planter looking things.  {I really am an Art Appreciator... but I figure y'all don't come here for the afternoon session of Italian Masters 101... a good thing, as I'm woefully unqualified to teach that class. I might have better luck with Poorly Lit Food Photography: A Seminar, but mostly I just sit in the back of the lecture hall, trying to goad my neighbor into a rousing game of Penis.} 

What the hell was I talking about, again?


With Uffizi tickets at 12:30, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat from a takeaway counter and enjoy our lunch in the shadow of the Duomo...

Margherita Flatbread 
best seats in the house

And just to prove we did actually travel together to Italy...


After our little urban picnic, it was time to hit the Uffizi.  This was way more my speed... Evs likes sculpture, while my bullshitting skills are more attuned when it comes to paintings.


We indulged in lots of self-important murmuring and "ahhh the allegory" and "look at those brushstrokes."  We wrinkled our foreheads and pondered the great works of all four of the Ninja Turtles, plus Titian, Botticelli, Durer, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt. We also enjoyed magnificent views of the Ponte Vecchio, the top of the Duomo, and the Palazzo Vecchio. 


After culturing our minds for the third time in one day, we decided to seek out an internet cafe.  Why are there so few of those suckers in Italy?  In Spain, you can't swing a hock of jamon Iberica without hitting one.  Anyhoo, we found one near Santa Croche and plugged back into the grid for 30 minutes or so, making our second round of reservations at Ora d' Aria {noting the new address this time}.  Having skipped out on our standard 1/2 litre of vino with lunch, we settled onto a little patio in front of the gorgeous church for a little imbibing, while we planned our next move.    


The wine was lovely, but the sun was hot and there was 'nary an umbrella or other shading device in sight.  Perhaps we should head back to Piazza della Signoria, we thought, and continue our early Happy Hour there!  After all, if that self-righteous whiner Elizabeth Gilbert can practice l'arte di non fare niente - the sweetness of doing nothing - for 3 freakin' months, surely we can take a break from the action for part of an afternoon! 

And so we sat, me with my prosecco, Evs with his Chianti, and we chatted and we eavesdropped on the German cougar and her Winklevoss twin lookalike seated next to us and we shared a small plate of cannellini beans because we're weird like that and we just were. And it was just lovely.  So much so that we decided to take our piazza-crawl to one more locale... Piazza della Repubblica.   There were small children on the carousel and a street performer singing Italian pop songs that had school girls whooping with glee and a delightful complimentary snack mix at our chosen cafe.  And more prosecco / Chianti, obviamente. 


By the time dinner rolled around, we were quite tipsy.  {In hindsight, this was a brilliant way to go because Evs did not balk when handed a priz fixe menu riddled with items he wouldn't otherwise willingly eat. Score one for the boozehounds!} But we pulled ourselves together and managed to act like responsible adults {I think}.  Ora d'Aria is a modern stunner of a restaurant... very clean, very white, no frills.  A reservation will hopefully land you a spot in view of the kitchen {completely enclosed in glass on the top level}so you can watch Marco Stabile and his team bustle about.  I do admit I now have a mega crush on Chef Stabile. Bravo needs to hop on that so I can have some more of him in my life.  Top Chef: Italian Masters, perhaps?  Fabio could help host?  Anyone?  

Back to the FOOD...  Here's the skinny on what we ate:

Amuse-Bouche: Potato & Tripe Soup.  Oh yes.  We ate tripe. It was actually delicious but that's probably because it just tasted like the potato.  

Antipasti / Primi
- Evs: Broad Bean Soup with Roasted Squid & Savoy Cabbage
- Kate: The Egg, the Hen, & the Rituals of Grand Mother Tuscany. How freakin' sexy does that sound? It was a quail egg, pheasant liver, a small bit of roe, and a warm broth poured on top. SO YUM. 

- Evs: Pappardelle with Guinea Fowl and Crunchy Courgettes Sauce with Aged Parmesan. 
- Kate: Pigeon Three Ways, with a Foie Gras Sauce. 

I will pause here and say that I point-blank asked our server to bring me the most fabulous dish on the menu.  It was between the pigeon and the baby piglet, but the way that man was making eyes at the pigeon, I figured I'd better go with Rats-with-Wings: Three Ways.  After my delicious Orgy of Grand Mother Tuscany Antipasti, I was all psyched up for fried pigeon, sauteed pigeon, and whatever-else-you-do-with pigeon.  


(1) Pigeon Breast Lightly Fried. 

(2) Pigeon Liver. 

(3) Pigeon BRAIN. 

Oh my.  Was not expecting that.  This dish begged the question:  WWHLD?  {What Would Hannibal Lector Do?}  Answer: Dr. Lector would love that shit.  And so did I.  Moral of the Story: Everything tastes good when it's slathered in foie gras.  

Dessert: Tiramisu Espresso.  Divine.  Even Evs loved this. 

It might go without saying but Ora d'Aria ranks high in my Top 8... It was Evs' least favorite meal overall.  Probably including the airplane food.  So, adventurous eaters, REJOICE... timid tummies, beware. I did not take photographs of our food because, contrary to popular belief, there are limits to how far I will go being THAT GIRL.  Now I'm kinda regretting having a little bit of shame, but at least Marco didn't look up from dressing his pork cheeks and wonder "what the hell is that crazy American girl doing photographing my food?"  Oh well.

With bellies full of brains, we bid another goodnight to Firenze... as I swore to Evs I would only make reservations at places with ragu on the menu from here on out.  I didn't mind... the man earned his ragu!  

Next up... my very favorite {and our last} day in Florence!  

A couple more answers... The white and blue striped dress and orange scarf from yesterday's post are (1) Lands End Canvas and (2) a bridesmaid's gift the bride purchased on a trip to India, respectively! 


  1. Haha, I'm hoping you meant pheasant liver and not peasant liver? If not, this surely would be Hannibal Lectors very favorite restaurant indeed!

  2. Yep, I do enjoy Peasant Liver. The kidneys of indentured servants are nice too.


    TYPO: CORRECTED! Thanks!

  3. Tra la la, reading your Italy posts has become such a wonderful part of my day that now I save it for when I feel like I really need it!

    Relevant but random: have you seen The Rape of Europa? It's a documentary about art theft and recovery during WWII. That sounds kind of whomp-whomp but it is seriously SO INTERESTING and some of the the coolest shit goes down in Florence so I bet it would be cool to know that the sculptures you saw there were once STOLEN BY HITLER or HIDDEN UNDERGROUND IN THE COUNTRYSIDE SO AS TO PREVENT HITLER FROM STEALING IT or RECOVERED BY A COMPANY IN THE U.S. ARMY COMPRISED OF NON-ARMY ART GEEKS WHOSE SOLE PURPOSE WAS TO UN-RAPE EUROPA!

    It's available streaming on Netflix. Plug over.



  4. LOVING the recaps. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  5. My husband is a chef so we are both adventurous eaters. Your meals sound amazing! You're selling me more and more on the fact that we HAVE to go to Italy (as if I needed convincing).

  6. Aw my old town firenze :) love it!

  7. Brava! Killer post Kate. So much fun. Thank you. And I know I sound like a slavishly unoriginal fangirl, but I love your writing and I appreciate your humor enormously.

  8. Ah, these posts are making me want to go back to Italy soooo bad! I love your pics of the Ponte Vecchio with sunlight on the water and the hills in the distance. I can just feel the beautiful Italian spring day. And I consider myself a very adventurous eater... but props on that pigeon! I'm not sure if I would have been so bold.

  9. You certainly have an adventuresome palate! There is no way I would ever touch brains or liver. Ragu on a daily basis sounds mighty fine to me! Keep up the recaps- they are so much fun to read. :)

  10. I'm waiting with baited breath to see if your last day in Florence included the Boboli Gardens! Granted, I've only visited Florence in early May and mid June, so I don't know if they'd be very pretty this early in the season, but the Boboli are actually my very favorite part of Florence! So pretty.

  11. wow! i can't wait to go there one day!

    Love your blog, following you now :)


happy little comments!