I know I’m supposed to be catching up on our spring break trip to Croatia, but so much is happening so fast here in Italy now that we are back. I thought I’d just put in a quick post about the food tour we took on Friday. One of the activities on the cultural program put together by AIFS was a food tour. We had a guide take us around to different shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes and point out the authentic and varied food delights of Florence.
I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take loads of pictures and take copious notes, but here are the highlights. We had the most amazing, fresh ricotta cheese I’ve ever tasted. It is cheap and right down the street from me (and I didn’t know it was there!) Why don’t they do this tour at the very beginning of the semester? We sampled four different kinds of cheese, had the Florentine dessert called the “torta della nonna” (grandma’s cake), found out where to buy wine, beans, and rice in bulk, and had the best wood-fired-oven pizza I’ve yet encountered in Florence. We also visited the central market where we had cappucino and learned about a coffee drink called marrochino (little Morrocan) which is chocolate in the bottom of a coffee cup, covered with a shot of espresso, then cream, then topped with powdered cocoa. We tasted different grades of balsamic vinegar, smelled different kinds of salt (I bought some smoked, spiced salt) and watched ravioli being made. One of the students in the group is a chef, and he walked me through a couple recipes for truffle pasta and truffle risotto while we relaxed with a slice of pizza and a glass of chianti. We learned where to buy our pasta and pesto. We topped it all off with generous scoops of gelato. Our guide showed us the symbol displayed on shop windows that indicates a long-time, historical Florentine shop and urged us to support these artisans to help them survive the influx of foreign and fast food competition. She also urged us to explore our own neighborhoods, get to know the locals, and share our culinary finds with each other.
We walked, talked, sampled, compared notes, laughed, ate and drank for over 3 hours until we were happy and tired. It was one of my favorite cultural activities of the semester. I plan to retrace my steps many, many times (and take better notes for future reference.) Tomorrow I plan to buy more fresh ricotta, get my empty wine bottles filled at the wine shop and enjoy a gelato in the Italian sunshine.
For those of you planning a trip to Florence soon, ask me where my favorites are!