Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Firenze: Just like home…

“If I had known it would be like this,” says my Omnivore for the fifth time, “I would have brought my wool coat.”

We’re from the Bay Area, so it’s not like we don’t get “cold, wet and windy.” But prior to packing, everyone’s refrain was, “Italy? In October? Oh, you’ll love it—it’ll be so warm. It’ll be perfect.”

Sure. So that’s why all of our good stuff is at home. Not here. On me.

Of course, we took along a couple of sweaters each, and scarves, just in case. Of course we know well how to layer clothes against the damp of SF. But it’s Day Five of our trip now and I’ve worn the same pants with the same three sweaters for four out of the five. I’m kinda wanting to delve into some new options here. Plus—call me soft—but I miss our heated mattress pad.

“It’s exactly like being home,” says Omnivore, as we stand in front of the bronze Baptistry doors (we have a copy on the front of Grace Cathedral—not us personally mind you, San Francisco does…)

What we don’t have is the incredible pink and green and white marble marvel that’s across the street. Now fully cleaned, the façade is an incredible riot of colors. I’ve never seen it look this beautiful before. On every other trip I’ve taken here, the exterior of Santa Maria del Fiore has looked rather like they never got the black nafta oil off the front of it after the 1967 floods. But suddenly, it takes absolutely no imagination to see where the distinctive Florentine colors of paintings of a Paolo Veneziano or Fra Angelico come from. They were probably standing right in the same spot where we are.

The cleaners are working their way around the back, so you can see the difference in colors. We pass a lone guy standing on the Duomo windowsill and we wonder for a moment how the heck they’re managing all of this? Is it just him with a toothbrush, out there every day?

Anyway, we have a lot of ground to cover today, and in the afternoon we’re scheduled to brave the Accademia (Uffizi tomorrow – never, ever, ever do both on the same day.) Our intrepid host, Fabrizio, has gotten us our reservations, so we’ll pass the line up and go in—we hope, rapidly—at one pm. But before that, we’ve got all morning.

We wander into the fantastical Cappella Medici over at San Lorenzo, where my Omnivore comments that it looks like Florence had to conquer all of its rivals, simply to keep themselves supplied in marble.

We stroll for the fifth time already in 1.5 days through the leather market. Just getting ideas…

But if we’re to do the Accademia two-step, we’ll need some fuel. We head to one of my favorite places, the Mercato Centrale.

We avoid the Special K. And after last night’s travails, we’re staying away from the steaks as well. Oy.

But a little bit of prosciutto…? It’s wafer-thin…

In the back of the market is Perini’s stand, which I’ve read about. We approach the counter and the guy waves us over and thrusts a folded slice of prosciutto at us.

Seriously? I look behind us. For us? Oh yeah! He’s quite fond of passing out samples, and I can see why. They’re the best possible calling card you can imagine—we take one bite, and are completely ready to buy.

Prosciutto di cinghiale? Wild boar prosciutto. Yeah. Yeah, I’ll take some of that. Boar salami? Uh, sure. Yeah. We’ll have some of that too. He asks us how much. We say four slices and he gives us, like, eight.

“Okay,” my Omnivore says briskly. “That’s lunch.”

We purchase some olive oil, a couple of focaccia like rounds of bread called schiacciatine, a handful of Sicilian pistachios and according to my stomach’s grumbling is to be believed, it looks like we’ve overcome the bistecca and are ready for new challenges.

For lunch we sit on the steps under the loggia in piazza SS. Annunziata and watch the world go by. The sun has come out by now, and I strip off one, then two, then three layers. I’m almost dressed normally now.

We are, post-Accademia, however, feeling still a bit peckish.

“I believe it’s time for gelato,” announces my Omnivore.

“No problem,” I reply. I have a list of gelato places a page long, and cold weather, or no I’m going to try them.

We walk back behind the Duomo and hit up Grom, Via delle'Oche 24a, a Sicilian style gelato that’s big on slow food. You won’t get anything but seasonal flavors here, and in fact, a tourist walks in seeking strawberry gelato (perhaps thinking that she saw some great-looking neon pink stuff on via Calzaiuolo just like it) and is informed that “it is not the season for strawberries.”

Pf-fft. You have a lot of other choices, honey.

I get a piccola coppetta of pistachio and a nocciola with cioccolata (the scooper throws in an extra dollop of plain nocciola just for fun), and my Omnivore picks out the plain nocciola and a cream with Ecuadorian cocoa beans.

“Really good,” I say.

“But not quite Amorino-good,” my Omnivore counters. Well, now we’re just getting picky. Guess the hunt is on.
We stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, window-shopping and watching rowers down the Arno. We’re still a little worn out from the Accademia experience, and so we settle in for a glass of wine at Le Volpi e l’Uva (Piazza de Rossi 1)– the Fox and the Grapes—for a glass of wine and a blessed sit down. The air is still chilly, but it doesn’t make the city seem any less appealing. Another sip of Vernaccia for me and a sigh.

As our friend Jimo is fond of saying, life is beautiful.

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