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Report 454: Florence On My Own: Three Weeks of Studying Italian and Very Slow Travel

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2004

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Page 19 of 21: Olive oil, balsamico, honey --- and lunch with the SlowTrav crowd

photo by Marian

I spend the morning organizing myself and then walk over to the Medici Chapel, where those of us going on the tour of the Central Market with Diva are meeting. I see someone who must be Robert Rainey, and it is in fact he, our intrepid Passatore participant. Diva comes, then Judie from Wisconsin and her friend. But before we hit the food market, Robert wants to see some ceramics shops, so we stop at several. I am almost tempted, and collect a card or two.

Then paradise, the Market. I’ve been here before, most recently last year, but looked without buying. Now the time and place are right, as I am leaving tomorrow and have an expert with me. We stop at the Conti stand and taste their olive oil, balsamico, honey with truffles. Wow! I mention these because they are what I bought: Two bottles of olive oil (one of their production), some 20-year old balsamico (liquid gold) and some incredible miele truffato. I can just barely carry all this comfortably.

We return to the Medici Chapel, where we pick up Suzy Kane and head for Trattoria Mario right nearby. Suzy has left her language class early, and Joe has not; he is planning to meet us later during lunch. Anne (Tuscan Traveler) meets us at Mario’s. We are taken down to the wine cellar, kindly arranged by Diva (have I mentioned how fantastic she is?) so that we are not rushed.

Mario’s wine cellar is quite a place, with (of course) cases of wine all over and drying meats hanging. We talk about food, and Diva keeps our wine expert under control. We order two bottles: a Barolo and another, lesser, red. Bill Sutherland (of Tuscan Women Cook) also joins us; his wife Patti has left for the US to welcome a new grandchild.

The lunch is wonderful. I do not participate in the meat eating, but everyone says all the varieties are very good. I have wonderful vegetables, salad, fried potatoes, pasta, tuna and fava beans, strawberries, biscotti ... you get the idea. And of course the wine. We tell many stories (Bill “shares his experiences” about buying property in Tuscany), take photographs and finally part to go each our own way. And I head back with my lovely purchases.

But before relaxing totally, I walk over to G. Verde, the hardware store, and buy some bubble wrap to pack my wine. Getting all this into my suitcase is beginning to worry me.

That evening, I decide I will take the Kanes up on their invitation to see their apartment. I call and, after a light supper, walk over there. I approach the Costa San Giorgio by going past the Piazza De Rossi, where “Le Volpi e l’uva” is. Then head up hill.

Their apartment is lovely, with a view from their terrace across the Arno to centro città. It turns out that Joe had never made it to the luncheon because he did not realize that we were all downstairs — understandable as there really is no downstairs dining room except for special friends and their friends!

As I am a bit nervous about walking downhill alone in the dark (and ending up sprawled under a Vespa) Suzy walks down the hill with me. When I reach home, I decide I must pack up the wine I have bought And so I carefully wrap each of my six bottles in bubble wrap. Will they remain intact during the flight home? And so to bed.

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