Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Italia: Day 6 - Italian Stair-Climbers & Food Porn

Okay, I know I've been losing major steam on these Italy posts, but I'm going to try and plow on through them this week...

I'd have to say our fourth and last day in Florence was my favorite - it was the perfect cocktail of history, local leisure, and food.  And stairs.  And more stairs.  And walking.  AND THEN MORE FOOD TO EVEN OUT THE STAIRS AND EXERCISE.


We were busy bees.

First up...  The Duomo.


The Duomo is oh-so-pretty.  Lots of frescoes, surprise, surprise!  And lots of steps.  Lots and lots of steps. 


Who actually climbs this thing in the summer?  You people are off your rockers! My American ass was sweating in my Euro scarf and it was only 60 degrees outside! 


But, the view at the top was worth every single one of those 464 steps...


While enjoying the panorama vistas, we spied our our next target:

Baptistery Clocktower

Most sane people would pick one or the other, but Evs is like a Jack Russell - you gotta let the man stretch his legs or he'll go all crazy-like and pee on your ballet flats.  Or something. 

Baptistery Doors

Having dutifully fulfilled the roles of Active Tourist Couple {878 stairs and counting}, we decided to meander on over to San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale. 

Market, Firenze: Peppers

Oh sweet baby Jesus. 


Stall upon stall... one food orgasm after another. 


I was like a kid in a candy store... except this candy store had squid and truffles galore and mussels and artichokes as big as my head and vats of olive oil... 

San Lorenzo Market: Tomatoes

...and a thousand different types of cheese and cured meat to feed an entire village of insatiable competition eaters and tripe and tongue and liver...


...and pasta in every color and shape under the sun and ranunculus so perfect it'd make you cry and stinky fish heads and whole pheasants and bins upon bins of risotto and dates and figs.


And candy. 

It was utterly sublime.  All I could think was "I hope Evs' firm has an office in Florence, because otherwise he's going to be pretty lonely back in Dallas after I move here for the sole purpose of shopping at this market every single day for the rest of my life." 

I have about 42 more photos of the whole shebang {along with a video of me dancing a quiet jig in a cheese stall}, but they are on Evs' camera and I've yet to tackle that editing project. 

Don't fret. 

Some day, when you least expect it, I'll force you to look at a triperia from 14 different angles. 

There's something to look forward to, yes?

Anyhoo, if it wasn't clear, I highly recommend a visit to the Mercato Centrale if you're traveling to Firenze.  Even if you don't spontaneously combust at the sight of adorable petite Italian grandpas gleefully hacking up fresh halibut, it's a fabulous place to find gifts and pantry souvenirs {you better believe I carted home a buttload of truffles, olive oil, sundried tomatoes, risotto, etc!}.   

Now officially famished, we headed to I' Cche' c'e' c'e' {recommended by Rick Steves}... which I still have no clue how to pronounce and/or translate.  This little trattoria was such a gem... small dining room, unpretentious, 1 waitress and 1 cook - 100% Mom & Pop, for lack of a better descriptive.  This was definitely a Top 8 Meal!  {I should note that Day 6 was our overall All-Star Eating Day -- everything we tasted was delicious!} 

I failed to photograph our food {I'm pretty sure we'd gone back to the hotel at this point to put my camera in the charger and make a costume change, because... well, I had a lot of tunics that needed to be worn, okay?} during this meal, which is a bummer, as it marked the starting point of my 72 Hour Truffle Splurge.  After splitting a caprese salad, Evs went with the ragu {duh} and I rolled with freshly made pasta in a white truffle sauce with truffle shavings.

And by "I rolled with" I mean "if I could have rolled around in child's wading pool full of this stuff, I would have." 

I'm salivating as I type.

{because of the food... despite the mental image of me in a wading pool of truffle cream sauce}

After lunch, we hit up the Boboli Gardens -- quite lovely! 


There are more stairs at the Boboli Gardens.  I mean, why wouldn't there be?  I'm shocked there wasn't a fresco or five. 


We found ourselves a perch and enjoyed perhaps the best view of the day... a little less birds-eye, but a lot more Under the Tuscan Sun. 


After a good long stroll through the gardens, we decided to hit up Piazzale Michelangelo, as our guidebook promised more stunning views of the city, plus top-notch gelato.  What more could a gal ask for? wine

A visit to Piazzale Michelangelo requires a bus ride.  So we found a bus stop along the Arno.  Where we waited for 15 minutes before reading the sign in plain English right in front of our faces that said the correct bus wasn't running at that particular stop at that particular time.  So we walked 2 more miles down the Arno to another stop.  Where we waited 20 minutes before reading in our guidebook that you can't just hop on a bus and pay - you have to already have a pre-purchased ticket in your hot little hand.  Seeing no tabacchis in the vicinity, we pretty much gave up on our little Piazzale Michalangelo misadventure, opting instead for a long walk back to the city center for some gelato at the much touted Il Gelato Vivoli.  


The accolades are much deserved! 

After a rest and some vino in the comfort of our room, we trotted along to our last supper in Firenze at La Giostra


I'm going to kill the Top 8 Suspense here and proclaim that this was, hands down, our very favorite meal of the entire trip.  Everything was fantastic - the food, the atmosphere, the service... seriously, every last detail!  The trattoria is split into two dining rooms - both cozy and twinkling with funky light strings and crammed with old books, photographs, and knicky-knackys. 


We were greeted with overflowing glasses of prosecco, followed by a complimentary platter of antipasti... melon with prosciutto, soppressata, olives, picked peppers, liver pate, and some sort of celery root covered in mayonnaise {the very last bit being the only treat I did not dig}.  We also ordered salad with blood oranges and pecorino {which has since inspired one of my own culinary endeavors} and another plate of proscuitto, because, obviously, one can never have too many pieces of cured meat. 

Then came the wine service... Wowee, it was an ordeal.  Like a choreographed dance... I wanted to ask our waitress if I could videotape her, but that seemed... Uncouth?  Pedestrian?  Wacky?  Pick a synonym.  Any synonym.  


The main event featured MORE RAGU and MORE TRUFFLE CREAM SAUCE.  Tiramisu for dessert.

Apologies for the gastric repeats.  But sometimes you just can't improve upon perfection.  

{And more apologies for the lack of food photography.  For the life of me, I could not take a decent photograph in that lighting.}

For super-serious, please get thee to La Giostra on your next jaunt to Florence.  It was the perfect "exclamation point" for the end of our time in Firenze! 


Stuffed to the gills, we meandered back to Piazza della Signora along the cobblestones and took one last whirl  around the square, snapping a couple late night statue photos before tucking in for the night... 

... with visions of Roman pizza dancing in our heads!  

Next up... Roma! 


  1. Those are the most gorgeous ranunculas I have ever seen!

  2. I could cry those pictures from the market are so beautiful. I'd be just as happy with an arrangement of those gorgeous tomatoes and artichokes as I would the beautiful ranunculas. I can see why you contemplated staying for good!

  3. Oh my gosh I studied abroad in Florence -- thanks for the fun reminiscing! Glad you guys had a good trip, Florence is so amazing.

  4. i am loving your vacation recap posts! Helps me remember our Italian honeymoon two summers ago (we did so many similar things)

    Loved mercato centrale...when we went we bought fresh veggies, cheese and cured meats as well as wine there, then took it up to watch the sunset from piazzale michelangelo overlooking the Arno River. Breathtaking!

  5. I planted ranunculas last weekend - I'm hoping they look HALF has lovely as the ones from this post do!

  6. The markets in Europe are so much more divine than the ones here in the U.S., aren't they? My mouth is seriously watering.

  7. OMG this is the Italy blog post I have been waiting for! The market alone had me swooning but the truffled cream pasta sent me over the edge. Hello orgasm in my mouth! We are headed to Italy in 48 hours with our first stop being in Rome, so hopefully you will post about Roma before we leave. We won't be in Florence until this time next week, but I am so ready for it!

  8. Ahhh, I want to be there right now! Tiny medieval terrifying stairs of the Duomo and all!

  9. Yeahhh, we're gonna need to see you dancing the cheese jig. Just saying.

    Also, in that pic of you and Evs at the top of the clock tower, it totally looks like he's trying to cop a feel. Ha!

    Lovely photos--love the one of you sitting under the Tuscan sun.

    Also? I'm now hungry.

  10. This post reminds me of our trip to Florence last year -- we hiked all those stairs in the Duomo too. So beautiful! And I went ape in the market -- so much amazing foodstuffs! I wish I could there every day too.

  11. oh man. R and I climbed to the top of the Duomo in July and I swear I was literally soaked through completely by the top. Worth it, though! Piazzale Michaelangelo was heavenly. I loved everything about Florence.

  12. Kate, I love your Italy recaps...I'm in the midst of law school finals, and your blog is the one bright spot amidst all the...crap (for lack of a better word). Keep it up!

  13. holy moly those artichokes look AMAZING. fun fact: when i was about 5 and the doc asked me at my yearly checkup what my favorite veggie was. answer: artichokes. destined to be a foodie right?


happy little comments!