Florence: Day 36

Unfortunately it was a very rainy day, but we didn’t let that stop us from sharing some of our favorite food experiences with Kyle and Lindsay. We started the day with espresso and strawberry crostada from one of our favorite cafes.


We then headed to the Central Market of San Lorenzo. We shopped outside the market for souvenirs and explored all of the food artisans inside the market. We were able to sample some truffles, balsamic vinegars, honey and limoncello. Once we worked up an appetite, we went to the seafood section of the market and enjoyed a couple plates of fried calamari and cod (we didn’t bother with the french fries this time) and some white wine. It was just as enjoyable as the first time we tried it and Kyle said it was one of the most delicious things he has had on their trip yet!



Kyle and Lindsay very nicely offered to babysit Emily so that Joe and I could actually head out into Florence on our own during the evening like normal adults. It was such a fun night! We noted how relaxing it was to walk around and just take everything in while not worrying about pushing a stroller, keeping snacks at the ready, timing diaper changes, etc. Not to say we haven’t enjoyed having Emily here – we wouldn’t have it any other way! But it sure was nice to have a night by ourselves.

We wandered around the city stopping into an occasional pub or cafe for a drink. We then went out to dinner at 9:00pm which seemed to be the busy time for dinner when restaurants were spilling over with people. We chose a restaurant in our neighborhood called Osteria del Cingiale Bianco, or Osteria of the white wild boar.

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We ordered a half bottle of a Brunello di Montalcino and started with the accuighe in salsa verde (anchovies in a green sauce). This was our experimental dish of the dinner where we weren’t sure if we’d like it, but while in Italy, we want to try what the locals eat. The anchovies were good, but extremely salty. The salsa verde was like a pesto and helped tame the saltiness of the anchovies a little bit. But we couldn’t quite finish the entire plate. We just got too overwhelmed by the saltiness. But I don’t regret trying them!

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For our primi piatti, we ordered the risotto con porri e salsiccia (risotto with leeks and sausage). The rice was pretty al dente and the sauce was rather thin. It’s fun to experience the different consistencies of risotto to figure out which I like the best. I’m also used to having primarily vegetables in risotto, but the sausage in this risotto was delicious! It was a great course.

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For our secondi piatti, we ordered the petti di pollo con pecorino e tartufo (chicken breast with pecorino cheese and truffle). The cheese turned out to be a cheese sauce that drenched the chicken and they did not skimp on the truffles! It was so rich and delicious. There was no way that chicken would be dry underneath all of that creaminess. What an indulgence.

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For dessert, we ordered the grappa della casa and a panna cotta con frutti di bosco (panna cotta with soft fruits). It was a nice light dessert after a couple of heavy courses. The best part of the meal was being out when everyone else was for dinner and being able to take our time enjoying each course. It was a fantastic date night!

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Florence: Day 35

We had such a great experience hiking up to the Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte the other day, that we wanted to share the same experience with Kyle & Lindsay. We explored the church and the cemetery, enjoyed the amazing views of Florence from the church and the Piazzale Michelangelo and trekked through the rose garden on our way back down the hill.

We ended the experience with a late lunch at the same restaurant Joe and I had discovered, Fuori Porta.


We all started the meal sharing insalata di baccelli con pecorino marzolino which was a fava bean salad with the version of fresh pecorino called marzolino. Lindsday wanted to try fava beans while here and I was excited to compare the flavors to when Joe and I enjoyed marzolino and fava beans at home (see Florence: day 6). It was a delicious spring appetizer, and great start to the meal!


For our mains, we had salumi toscani della macelleria Tozzetti di Mercatale (Tuscan cold meats from the butcher Tozzetti Mercatale),


ravioli di pecorino e pere con fonduta di parmigiano e nocciole (ravioli stuffed with cheese and pears with melted parmesan cheese and hazelnuts),


insalata di polpo con patate (octopus and potato salad),


and pici con ragu’ bianco di faraona (pasta with guinea fowl ragu).


We were given Tuscan bread and extra virgin olive oil with our food, so those accompaniments with the Tuscan meats were delicious! The pear ravioli were really rich and slightly sweet. The octopus and potato salad was fresh and light. And the guinea fowl ragu was super comforting. The entire meal from this restaurant was fabulous again!

After resting in the afternoon and then heading back out to explore more of the city, we decided to be adventurous and try a local street food staple, Lampredotto. This is a sandwich made of boiled cow’s stomach served with some spicy seasoning or sauce and a salsa verde, a sauce made of extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. We bought one sandwich for the four of us to split, knowing that we might not enjoy it. The first bite was pretty good, but I had to really distract myself from thinking about what I was actually eating. The second bite was further into the sandwich and I got a lot more lampredotto and less bread than the first bite, and at that point I didn’t enjoy it. We all took 2-3 bites, but couldn’t finish the sandwich. I can see that if you grew up eating these, they would be extremely hearty and comforting, but not being used to eating something like this, we all had a textural and mental issue eating the cow’s stomach. I’m proud of us for trying!



After all we had eaten, we decided just to spend the evening on the patio again munching and drinking wine. In addition to the usual meats, cheeses and olives, we decided to make crostini. Earlier in the afternoon we brought Kyle and Lindsay to Eataly so they could compare the store with the one in Chicago. We found a small jar of salsa tartufata (a black truffle relish) for only a few euro, so we bought that and some rustic bread for a fun treat for the night. We sliced the bread, topped it with a mild fresh pecorino and some salami and then some of the salsa tartufata. We toasted them in the oven and experimented with putting the truffles on before or after the roasting (we decided a little of each was best). The crostini were extremely enjoyable!


Florence: Day 34

Our first visitors arrived today! My brother Kyle and his fiance Lindsay have been traveling through Europe for the last week and will be staying with us in Florence for the next four nights. Consequently, I don’t have a lot to report today. I spent much of the day cleaning, doing laundry, and shopping to have plenty of food and wine on hand for our guests. They arrived around 7:00pm after a long day in and drive from Venice, so I had an antipasto platter for us all to graze on, and then I made another batch of tomato and bread soup for dinner.  I tried to get a good sample of meats and cheeses for the platter: tallegio (my favorite), an aged pecorino and some smoked mozzarella for the cheeses and bresaola (cured beef), prosciutto di parma and salame toscana for the meats.  We enjoyed the food with some wine and limoncello out on our patio.  It was fun to catch up on each other’s experiences thus far and I am sure we will have lots of fabulous food experiences over the next three days!


Florence: Day 33

Today we decided to learn a little more about Italian wine. We went to a local wine shop and did a tasting of four different types of Tuscan reds. We had a Chianti Classico which was very dry with a short finish and was our least favorite of the four we tried. We also had a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano which was earthy, but smooth with a very long finish. This was our favorite of the four. There was also a Rosso di Montalcino which had a brighter mineral flavor, and a Brunello which had a very vegetal/tobacco flavor. After the tasting, we discovered the price per bottle was relatively high in this shop, so we didn’t buy anything. It was fun to taste four different reds in a row, but the shop didn’t teach us anything about the wines.  And I imagine we might have enjoyed some of the wines more if they were paired with some food.


After some shopping this afternoon, we stopped by another small wine bar down the street from our place (Le Volpi e L’Uva) and ordered two glasses of wine and crostini di salsiccia e tartufo. This was crostini with asiago cheese, sausage with truffle pieces ground into the meat. They heated the crostini in a small toaster oven and it was incredible! And unlike the wine shop we were in earlier in the day whose bottles were very expensive, all of the wine in this shop was quite affordable. We will return soon I’m sure!



After all of the wine tasting today, I decided we should have a good pasta dinner. I had received the below recipe from a Food & Wine email I am subscribed to and thought it sounded delicious and seasonal (Creamy One-Pot Spaghetti with Leeks). I made two small variations: I used chopped capers instead of anchovies because I had the capers and didn’t want to buy anchovies for one fillet, and I used Bucatini pasta which is a thick spaghetti-like noodle with a hole running down the middle. Bucatini is one of my favorite types of pasta. It can be a little hard to find in the States, but it’s everywhere here, so I couldn’t resist. The dish turned out wonderfully and was so easy to make! Molto bene!



Florence: Day 32

I was again sent home with a ton of leftovers from my cooking class at Marcella’s, so that was most of what we ate today. Just before noon I ventured out with Emily while Joe went for a run. I had a craving for a salad. I felt like the fresh greens would balance the pasta and meat leftovers. I stopped into a cute place called La Prosciutteria which we had discovered on the street with the heavy pizza a few days earlier.


I ordered the insalate Giulia which was lettuce with crispy pancetta, tomatoes and sesame seeds dressed with truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. There were a ton of tomatoes in the salad and they were so flavorful! It came with a huge side of bread (as most things do here in Italy) and I also ordered a glass of Chianti. One thing we have learned is that a glass of wine rarely costs much more than a diet coke when eating out (often even less), so why not opt for the wine!


I had also gone for a run in the morning, so Joe and I decided we definitely earned gelato today. It approached nearly 80 degrees in the afternoon, so the weather was perfect for it! We went to our favorite gelato shop (Gelateria della Passera) in our favorite little square. I had chocolate and strawberry (simple, but combining the two tasted like a chocolate covered strawberry!) and Joe had pink grapefruit and a mixed berry flavor with elderflower. Mine was sweet and indulgent, Joe’s was very refreshing. It was the perfect afternoon treat.



Florence: Day 31

Today was an incredible food day! I have included a lot more pictures than normal because I just couldn’t decide which ones to leave out.

It was another gorgeous day that we spent walking around the city. For lunch we decided to finally try a sandwich stand that Joe has had his eye on since we first got here. We got the Bollito which is boiled beef. It had a salsa verde on it that tasted of fresh herbs. This must be the sandwich that the Italian beef sandwiches in the states are derived from. The bread was so soft and the meat was so juicy. It was delicious and a bargain at only €4.50!



Tonight I had my fourth cooking class. This time I returned to the Giglio cooking school with Marcella. Her classes are definitely my favorite so far! The entire evening is such a fun experience. Whereas the last class was a technical class focused on making gnocchi, this class was focused on the seasonality of ingredients. We prepared and shared a wonderful four course meal.

When I showed up to her place, there were so many beautiful fresh fruits and veggies out, I couldn’t help but get excited.


We prepared as much as we could to the point of plating each course, including:
Making the pasta sauce


Baking the crostada


And braising the veal


The colors of this meal were just incredible and Marcella always sets a lovely table.


To start, we enjoyed a lettuce, zucchini and almond salad that was simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We used a vegetable peeler to make thin strips of zucchini and soaked them in ice water before draining them and adding them to the salad. This made the zucchini wonderfully crispy and refreshing.


The second course was penne pasta with a sauce made of roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, capers and olives. Simply the juice from the ingredients plus some extra virgin olive oil created a silky sauce that coated the pasta beautifully!


Our third course was veal which we pounded thin and rolled around a combination of taleggio and smoked mozzarella cheese, and steamed asparagus. Once wrapped, we dusted them lightly with flour and then browned them in extra virgin olive oil. Once browned, we added white wine to the pan and let them simmer until cooked through. Some of the cheese melted into the oil and wine while cooking and made the sauce extra rich and delicious!


For dessert we enjoyed two types of crostata – strawberry and quince. Marcella had made the quince jam ahead of time, but we made the strawberry jam and made the crostada crusts by hand. It was surprisingly easy to do (I always get intimidated by baking), so I definitely plan to make crostada again!


As with the gnocchi class, the dinner at the end was such an incredible experience. I love that Marcella stresses the importance of enjoying and celebrating the food once we are done. That’s the entire point of cooking! I will be taking another class with her in two weeks and I can’t wait.

Florence: Day 30

Today we explored the area around the Piazzale Michelangelo including the Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte (a gorgeous cathedral with amazing views of the city), the Cimitero Delle Porte Sante (an expansive graveyard with very ornamental tombs and mausoleums) and the Giardino delle Rose (rose garden). This might be my favorite area of the city. It’s a lot of work getting there as it’s up a very large hill, but everywhere you turn there’s a new amazing vista of Florence and the Tuscan hills.

On our way down, we stopped at a restaurant called Fuori Porta for lunch. We ordered a quarter liter of a white wine and a quarter liter of prosecco. The meal that followed was fabulous! It definitely ranked up there as one of the best we have had while in Italy.


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We ordered polpette di baccala, which were salt cod meatballs served on a chickpea puree that had a mild curry flavor. We also ordered the burrata (a fresh mozzarella ball with a creamy center) and vegetable flan. The vegetable flan was almost like a spinach and ricotta gnudi, but in the form of flan instead of a dumpling. Both entrees came with a side of fresh greens which I believe were watercress. Not knowing each entree came with a pile of greens, we also ordered an insalata verde (green salad). All of the greens were so fresh and crisp. They came to the table dry, but they brought a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. A drizzle of the oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper was all they needed! Everything from this meal was so fresh and delicious, we plan to go back.


I intended to cook dinner, but Emily took another long afternoon nap, so we wandered around in the early evening and found another aperitivo at Wine Bar Nabucco. This spread was the best we have found yet, so we ended up eating so much that we weren’t hungry for dinner. The great news is this particular aperitivo starts much earlier than the average aperitivo (4:30pm) and is really close to the next apartment we will be staying in. So I foresee us frequenting this spot!



Florence: Day 29

After a few rainy days, we were able to get back out and walk around and explore for most of the day. I sure do love having so much time to be outside and having such a fabulous city to explore! While walking around, we decided we wanted something quicker and lighter than a full sit-down lunch, so we found a small street that had several take away spots for paninis and pizzas that seemed to be extremely popular. We picked a bakery that served freshly made pizza and Emily and I hung out on the street while Joe braved the crowd inside. Once he had our pizza in hand, we walked to the Uffizi and sat on some benches near the exit of the museum where we enjoyed our lunch outside.


The pizza was amazingly delicious and super indulgent. We had a slice of tomato and mozzarella and a slice of sausage and mushroom. The irony is that this lunch ended up being far heavier than a sit-down lunch would have been. After the fact, I have mixed feelings about the pizza. It was so delicious while we ate it, but I felt so full and weighed down afterward which is a feeling I haven’t had much while in Italy. And that’s kind of the point of Italian cuisine – you should savor and enjoy everything you eat, but you shouldn’t feel weighed down afterward.


Emily ended up taking another long nap today which lead to a later bedtime. This meant we got to find another aperitivo spot. We found a bar outside the Medici Chapel that had a huge spread of crostini. We enjoyed another spritz and negroni and Emily loved the bruschetta. She has really gotten into tomatoes lately. It was a fun early-evening out before settling at home and putting Emily to bed.



Florence: Day 28

Happy Easter! Easter is the second biggest holiday in Italy behind Christmas, so it was really special to be here during this holiday. We started the day at the Duomo to witness the Scoppio del carro, or “explosion of the cart”. The square was packed, they were holding mass before the ceremony and then fireworks were lit off of a cart that has been in use over 500 years. The show was incredible (and very loud)! It was such a cool experience.


I had decided when we were at the Central Market two days earlier that I would like to cook an Easter dinner at home. The dinner turned into a mystery meat challenge! Lamb is the traditional meat to cook for Easter in Italy, but none of the lamb at the market looked good to me (I’m sure it was very picked over), so I bought a roast that I thought looked delicious. And to be honest, we were also drawn to it because it was called “brontosauro” and had a strawberry shortcake sticker on the label. We thought that was funny.


We returned to the apartment around 5:00pm so that I could begin cooking and we could wind Emily down for bedtime. The first thing I did was put together an antipasto platter. In addition to a variety of meats and cheeses, we also had olives, artichokes and plums that we had picked up from the various markets two days earlier. An antipasto platter and bottle of wine is the perfect way to start any holiday, in my opinion!


When it came time to cook the roast, I started by searing the meat on all sides. While doing so, Joe figured out how to work the oven (hooray!). Once the meat was seared, I added a little water to the pan to create some steam while it roasted, covered it, and put it in a 300 degree oven for an hour and a half (which is how long the butcher said it needed to cook). It turned out beautifully! Joe had requested bell peppers as the vegetable and since it’s a holiday and I figured we could bulk up the meal a little more, I made potatoes as well. I par-boiled the potatoes, drained them, and let them dry a bit. I then sauteed the peppers, potatoes and some garlic in a pan on the stove with some olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes and parsley. Lastly, I made a quick pan sauce with some of the drippings from the meat and some butter to pour over the meat and potatoes as desired.

When it came time to eat, we also had to determine what kind of meat we were eating. It was definitely not beef or lamb. It tasted mostly of pork, but a little gamey and slightly beefy as well. After some searching online, we concluded this was probably wild boar. Whether we are right or not, we know it was delicious!



For dessert, we had a chocolate Easter egg. All of the stores in Florence have been packed with these beautifully wrapped Easter eggs for the last couple of weeks. We researched the traditions of Easter in Florence and in addition to the Scoppio del carro and the dove bread I had tried the night of my gnocchi cooking class (see Florence: day 18), chocolate Easter eggs with toys inside was the prevalent search result. So we bought one that was geared towards a girl, let Emily open it and enjoy some of the chocolate and the toy, and then enjoyed the rest of the chocolate ourselves. It was a very special and memorable Easter!


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