I was so excited about taking the Monday Market Tour with Judy Witts Francini aka The Divina Cucina, that it took a little of the sting out of saying goodbye to Marco and Giovanna. They drove us to the train station in the morning so we could stash our luggage before the tour. It was easy to do and we were on our way. We were very early so we did what we love to do—walked around. At a respectably early hour, we walked to the front of the Hotel Baglioni and there was Judy. I was glad to be the first ones there so I could hang and talk to Judy a little while. The other four people arrived for the tour and we began walking together. Judy pointed out some interesting things on the streets, like the della Robbia Madonna and child shrines on the walls. We stopped into a small Norceria (pork products store). I wish we could take some home. We passed through the leather guys and scarf sellers with Judy pointing out her favorites who would give a discount to her clients. We stopped at a small wine bar/store and here the real fun began. Most of us had a glass of prosecco (yes at 11:30 in the morning!) and a tasting of wonderful little treats including a mini, to-die-for truffle sandwich and a fabulous chicken live crostini. Luckily it was there I remembered I wanted to buy one of Judy’s cookbooks because he had them for sale for 20 euros. From there we entered the Mercato Centrale. You could smell roasting meats as we walked in. We tasted bunches of things—sun-dried cherry tomatoes from Sicily and dried fruit. The official tasting was of three kinds of balsamic and two of olive oil, cheese with truffle honey, biscotti and more. I bought a few things there including a small bottle of vin santo for Ken for father’s day. We moved on to the meats and veggies. I learned a lot about the various tomatoes and how the season was reflected in the availability in the market. We ended at the “cheese guy” tasting parmigiano reggiano and pecorino. I bought both, vacuum packed to take home. Here’s Judy opening the door to the cheese vendor’s stash:
From there we headed for lunch in a small trattoria called Pepo. I ordered pork filet with balsamic glaze and they accidentally made it with truffle sauce—Oh dear! I had to eat more truffles! Ken had a dish of pappardelle with wild boar sauce that was rich with juniper berries. My favorite dish at the table was the ravioli—I’m just a sucker for good stuffed pasta. We drank a very smooth Poliziano, Nobile di Montepulciano. Desserts were also fabulous. The crème brulee was a bright orange from the eggs—so pretty. I had panna cotta with berry sauce which was just perfect.
Inside Pepo—just classic:
After lunch Judy showed us a couple of shops—her personal favorites. What a fabulous job she does! She was really able to make everyone comfortable and happy. Besides the fun and meeting Judy, I learned a lot, too.
I want to officially thank Judy for donating the Monday Market Tour for two to the Menu for Hope fundraiser. And I am so happy I won!
We took the train back—sleepily reading, I am amazed that we had been gone for 5 days. Homecoming to Venice—about the best feeling in the world. The air was clear and bright over the water, riding the vaporetto to our stop. We got in and rested, did laundry but there was really nothing to eat here. So, we went out to the chicchetti bar near here—Mondo del Vino. We each had a glass of red and some rice balls and a few other little things and walked to the Ca d’oro gelato shop. We got home just in time to watch the first Italy soccer match in this World Cup. There are lots of Italian flags hanging on the streets and many places closed early. I went to sleep right after the game—a disappointing 1-1 tie.