Friday, June 14, 2013

Italiano Classico.

[Posted 2013-06-19, backdated 2013-06-14. There's one more entry that will be posted about Rome from before I left to Florence, so this is now coming out of order...]

I had an unexpected visitor join me for adventures in Florence. Unexpected in the sense that plans were made to meet only 24 hours beforehand. Such are the joys of travel: you can never know what comes around the bend. It precipitated from the best of intentions: a desire for adventure and opportunity to connect with another human being, to learn and to share, to break the rules and be spontaneous, to live in the moment.

No sense in trying to read a map; let life take you where it will.
Much of the day was spent wandering the city of Florence. This has become my modus operandi. It feels good on the body, you see many different aspects of a town, and you are always pleasantly surprised with every new turn in the road. The key is to only have a general sense of your location. If necessary you can return to a major landmark (e.g. the river) to get your bearings. Carry a map, have a general sense of where green spaces (parks) are located, and just start walking. I think I consulted the map only when it was time to actually return home at 11pm. Otherwise you go with the gut. 

Our first stop was the park area to the west, near the Ippodrome. Sitting, talking, observing the habits of insects exploring the woodland floor. Nothing spectacular, but definitely fun.

We eventually crossed the river and began to ascent a long, winding hill via a narrow street.

The main reason was to get away from the car and scooter-choked streets of the city. I seriously believe that driving around is a national Italian pastime. It's the only way to explain the absurd number of vehicles constantly occupying the road, spewing fumes and making a tremendous racket.

As with most spontaneous decisions of this trip, this one turned out quite nicely. For a long while we ascended, passing beautiful and large Tuscan homes. Many harbored orchards within the confines of tall concrete walls. I was seriously tempted to jump one and hang out beneath the boughs of an olive tree.

Eventually we came upon a cute little park with an impressive view of the city below.

We chatted more, ate a lunch of various fruits, and lounged about. The air was warm with a soft breeze, absolutely perfect in the shade of trees. Wrapped in a blanket of the perfect temperature, naps were inevitable. Such a leisurely way to spend the height of the day.

Eventually the ever-continuing road called to us. More houses of classic Italian appearance and expansive views of the city. 

Without intending to do so, we found ourselves at the foot of the statue of David. (As it turns out, the one outside is a replica, but it's still quite stirring.)

We attempted to go to Zeb, a restaurant recommended by my fried Kayce, but they were booked until 9:30pm. Presently famished from many hours of walking, we sought sustenance elsewhere. 

As with most treasures, this one presented itself to us. We walked up a small road, one that did not look promising, and found La Beppa Fioriana. Outdoor seating surrounded by windflowers, mood lights, and a castle turret at the top of a hill. Delicious Italian food that had me wiggling with delight.

First: fried dumplings with the most succulent prosciutto I've ever had, plus stacchino cheese. Mind-blowing chianti Classico that would go for twice the listed price in the US.

Second: homemade gnocchi with pumpkin seeds, pesto, almonds, and ricotta cheese. Also, risotto with creme drizzled with herbs and strawberry and mint sauce.

As the evening wore into night, we were surrounded by conversations in multiple languages. A huge family gathering was taking place in a private room. They laughed and cheered and sang songs. The children (probably 20 of them) ran about and played outside, obviously unable to tolerate the slow pace of these meals. It was so beautiful, so classically Italian. I was grateful for this experience which was so obviously a gift from the universe, and for the company to share it with. A perfect conclusion to a day in Firenze; not necessary to make it a good day, but it finished it off quite nicely. Or, as they say, it was "the dot on the i."

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