Please note: I can’t post pictures on these foreign computers so the photos will have to wait. And I must say I have taken fewer photos this time than ever before. More watching, less documenting, I guess. The other women will make sure I have plenty of their photo CDs to add to my trip files.
Okay, now where was I . . . ? Oh, yes . . . food, Wednesday night, Il Latine. How could I forget?
When I told Franco (manager at Il Porcospino) that we were going to Il Latine for dinner, he said, “Molto turistico . . . nothing special.” But then our language teacher, Leonardo, said, “Well, it is touristy (remember, he doesn’t talk with us in ANY English, but still, I could understand him . . . ) but it is an adventure, an experience, something special all on its own.”
And it is . . . they now take reservations, but even at that, people line up in the little picturesque alleyway for an hour before the restaurant opens, trying to make sure there is room for them to come in for the 7:30 seating for dinner. We had our reservations for 10, and the manager led us up to one of the many rooms here and there, to a table for ten. I asked if we could please have dinner for SIX, not ten, because in the past, there is SO much food left over, the price per person is getting higher, the dollar sinking in value, and I thought I’d try it this way. To my happy surprise, they agreed to bring out food for six. So . . . first the antipasti . . . prosciuto, cheese, breads, bruschetta, then the soups, then the pastas, four different kinds, then huge plates of meat . . . chicken, pork, rabbit, lamb, beef in two types of cuts . . . and then the spinach and salad and potatoes, asparagus. And at the end, cantucci con vin santo (basically biscotti dipped in a sweet “holy wine”) and two platters of mixed desserts.
This is not to mention the liquids. Prosecco to begin with (sort of an Italian champagne), then all the wine we wanted from their house jugs, lots of water (still and sparkling), and moscato at the end, a sweeter dessert wine. The amount of food for six people was PLENTY for ten of us, except for adding two extra orders of spinach for those of us who love it.
After dinner some of the women went back to the hotel, but I love to walk near the Arno River after dark. Several of the group joined me, and we crossed the Trinita bridge over to the Oltrarno district, walked up Via San Jacopo to point out to Donna the little yarn store I love, Beatrice Galli. A stop for bottled water and a bathroom, crossing the Ponte Vecchio lined on both sides with beautiful jewelry stores during the day, closed up at night, and back to the Piazza della Repubblica, where we almost went into our hotel, but were tempted by the music at a nearby restaurant with a large outdoor seating area.
There was a piano bar with a singer, and enough room to dance. We watched two or three older gentlemen do their steps with several younger women seated around the area, and we talked until after 1:00 a.m.!
THAT was the rest of Wednesday!
Thursday, May 8 – We began after breakfast by walking to the Uffizi Galleria, where we had reservations at 9:45 a.m. This is an enormous art gallery with old old masters’ works in it, and it makes my eyes glaze over, but it is a must for any group trip. After I got everyone in and lugged my tired butt up the two LONG sets of stairs to the “first floor”, I walked around for 10 minutes and decided my time needed to be alone and wandering. So I claimed my small backpack from the security area and exited.
So . . . first across the Arno to the yarn store, where I bought just a very few balls of yarn, enough to make a scarf while I am here. She had no circular needles and directed me to a shop I was going to visit anyway . . . Samba Mercale, a fabulous button and trim shop. An hour later, with my circular knitting needles and 80 Euro worth of wonderful buttons, I wandered to a Palazzo recommended by our language teacher, realized as I went through it that I had seen it before, and made my way slowly to an internet cafe on the way to Santa Croce. Checked my e-mail, posted the first entry on this blog-trip, and tried to find a favorite little alimentari (sort of a wonderful little Italian deli market) near the Piazza Santa Croce, where I’ve been before.
After several turns into tiny streets that were NOT the right ones, I did discover a sign that said “Via Torta”. That sounded familiar and I took a chance. There were the places I was looking for, as well as a street market with wonderful cherries and cherry tomatoes. I added several items to my picnic bag . . . cheese, bread, salami, a half bottle of wine with paper cup, several tiny cookies, and a sumptuous slice of vegetable quiche (frittata, here) and headed for the Piazza.
There in the bright sun in front of a magnificent church, I sat on a stone bench, opened my picnic, and watched the people while I ate my little meal. THIS is what I love in Florence! When I was finished watching and eating and sitting, perhaps two hours after I arrived, I again wandered the streets until I found a restaurant I had passed two nights before. Trattoria Alfredo, which I had remembered from 9 years ago when Neil and I were here because Ashley went to school in Florence that year. We had eaten in this restaurant and it was here I had tasted my first risotto con funghi porchini. I asked the waiter for a card, he did the typical flirtation, handed me a card and said, “For you, madame, no reservation is necessary . . . “.
Ah, the charm of the Italian cities and towns! Later I returned to the hotel, met up with a few of the women, and we decided when to have our dinner . . . see, food food food, walking walking walking, food food wine wine food.
So we headed out for our dinner, walked again past the button shop so Donna would know where it was. They were closed, with their rolled down metal curtain almost to the street level, and we peered in. They recognized me, saw me with six other women, and were smart enough to invite us all in to look and shop. I was afraid I’d be tempted to repeat my performance, and with the metal barricade nearly down, it was hot in the shop so I ducked out and walked around the tiny piazza down the street until the rest of the women returned to me, Donna with HER 100 Euro purchase in hand. See . . . smart shop owners!
So dinner at 7:45 with seven of us at Trattoria Alfredo. LOTS of food, too much, actually, but it was delicious. Risotto funghi porcini, of course, risotto gorgonzola, ravioli gorgonzola, some fish, appetizers, green salads, and dolce, a mixed plate of desserts. Wine, water and conversation . . . again. Back to the hotel and to my room, facing the Piazza. Because my 4th floor windows were open, I soon heard someone down on the square calling my name. Looking down, I saw four of my group beckoning me to return with them to the restaurant with the music and dancing.
No way tonight, I thought. I’m EXHAUSTED! They were there until midnight, while I tried to organize all my maps, directions, etc. for tomorrow’s journey to Siena.
Bed later than I had hoped, past midnight, and the sense that all was ready for the morning. Tomorrow, off to Siena for an afternoon walking tour, another delicious meal at the Antiche Osteria da Divo, a night in beautiful Palazzo di Valli, and Saturday back in the old Centro of Siena until time to head out for our villa in the Tuscan countryside.