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Report 679: A Student in Florence

By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004

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Page 4 of 16: Food Glorious Food and a Diva Too!

photo by Colleen K

Boboli Gardens

Thursday, April 29, 2004

My days are so full that I feel that they are really flying by. Could I really be here a week already tomorrow? As I write this with my window open tonight I can hear melodious voices singing in some location nearby. Only in Florence! It is true that 4 hours of class takes up a lot of my day. And I would be less than honest if I wrote that Iím not mentally exhausted at the end of my class trying to wrap my head around comprehending and speaking Italian. But then thereís the reward of magnificent Italian food!

Tuesday, I had the privilege of meeting Judy Witts (aka Diva) of cooking class in Florence and Slow Travel fame, who generously invited me to her apartment to sample the desert of the day which was a delicious panna cotta with fresh fruit sprinkled with aged balsamic vinegar. What a treat! After cocktails and lively conversation, she guided me around the market stalls and shops where I was introduced to vendors of all sorts of Florentine goodies. Cards collected for ceramics, scarves, leather, wine and stationery to explore in more detail and a few purchases made. A truly generous and more fun person to spend a few hours with than Diva I canít imagine. And of course her restaurant recommendations from her website have been my bible.

After a long but exhilarating day of class, window shopping, meeting Maureenís (from Boston and Slow Travel moderator) lovely sister Erin and going to her friend Luciaís shop in the San Frediano district (Via Pisana 146R where I bought a lovely gold bracelet), it was a miracle I could keep my eyes open for a terrific, cheap meal at Zio Gigi, filled with locals around the corner from my B&B. Pasta, salad and a 1/4 liter of house wine for 10E.

Wednesday was sunny and lovely, a perfect day for the Boboli Gardens with a friend from school and more window-shopping around the Pitti Palace and Ponte Vecchio. Bought a beautiful watercolor of Florence from a street artist in front of the Pitti Palace. Then it was off to meet my cousins' daughters in Piazza della Signoria and off to Vivoli's for some delicious gelato. I canít believe I have been here almost a week and only have had gelato twice. What is wrong with me?

But the food highlight of the day was having pranzo at Trattorria Cibero which to date has been the ultimate meal here. Oh my God!! A trio from school went and tasted each otherís selections. Minestrone, pepper soup, risotto, cod, veal, and squid. A truly elegant, delicious and excellently priced meal for the extraordinary quality of the food. We went a around 1:15pm and were surprised to walk right in!

One of my second cousins, who temporarily lives in Sevilla, was visiting her cousin (currently at a semester abroad here) with her adorable Spanish boyfriend. How serendipitous for me that I was here when they were all here and got to visit with them. A family reunion in Florence - who could have imagined? We went to dinner at I Torre di Panne on Via Guelfa, a simple but good trattoria recommended on Divaís site which was a lot of fun. How proud I am to be related to these very nice and bright young people!

After class today, a small contingent from school went to the Central Market, ate a boiled beef sandwich at Da Nerbone, which was great fun; cheap and good! Shopped the stalls a bit, went back to stores Diva had pointed out and had a grand time buying scarves and pashminas.

The highlight of the day however was a school excursion to San Miniato with the most glorious view of Florence and one of the most special churches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Granted the tour was in Italian that further exhausted my aging brain but it was a truly glorious experience. And that we got to hear the monks chanting was the icing on the cake! Our tour guide and my wonderful teacher from school, Marco, made me feel so much better today when he told me that even though my language class was classified as a beginnerís class, that the group was very advanced and moving much faster than the norm. All I can say is - Thank God! Now I donít feel so bad that I do not comprehend everything.

After that rather full and exhausting day, all my friend and I could manage for dinner was to go to the very close by Le Mossacce which I had already been to but liked very much and had their famous bistecca Fiorentina that with some house wine was a perfect way to end a busy day.

Tomorrow is supposed to bring rain so museums and churches must be in store!

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