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Report 679: A Student in Florence

By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004

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Page 5 of 16: Two Fabulous Meals in One Day or Are My Pants Getting Tight Yet?

photo by Colleen K.

Florence Duomo up close

Friday, April 30, 2004

Today was the end of my first week of classes and a much-anticipated lunch with some of my classmates at Trattoria Mario, Via Rosina 2r, near the Central Market. One of my classmates had been there the week before and upon learning it was her birthday, the chef cooked her some squid by special request. Since he usually only serves fish on Friday, this really was a treat. Because we were going on fish day, we were delighted to sample a mixed grill of fish that was wonderful in both its simplicity and flavor. Add a little spinach and garlic, some vino della casa and pane and you have a happy group celebrating the start of a weekend! On this trip to Florence Marioís is in a dead heat with Trattoria Cibreo, Via de Macci, 122r for best pranzo (lunch) experience. One was simple and cheap, the other elegant and a bit more expensive but both extraordinary.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I once again scoped out the stalls, looking over the inventory of pocketbooks, scarves, stationery, and pashminas. Before Judy (aka Diva) took me shopping earlier in the week, I had thought that the quality of the goods offered by the stalls was inferior to shops and I was a bit hesitant to hand over my Euros. But she pointed out that really, they just had lower overhead than the shops and that bargains and quality are readily found there. I found this to be especially true of the stationery where beautiful items very similar to what was offered at such stores as Il Papiro could be had for half the cost! Also may of the stalls were outlets for shops nearby, so if they didnít have a color or style you liked, for example, they would go to the shop to bring out alternatives. This was also true for scarves, pashminas and pocketbooks. I did not find the quality of ceramics, leather bound books or gloves to be as high as I found in specialty stores. I bought several scarves and pashminas at BIVA s.a.s., Via dellí Ariento 8/10R, a store recommended by Diva. The saleswomen were particularly helpful in explaining the differences in quality in the various fabrics. They also sell their items in a nearby stall.

Home for a well deserved rest before one of my few dinners alone at Cantinetta Antinori, Palazzo Antinori, Piazza Antinori 3, 055-292-234. One of the things that I was apprehensive about before I arrived was eating dinner by myself. It turned out that not only did it occur very infrequently (having made fast friends at school to dine with) but that it was an unnecessary fear. When I did dine alone it was an almost joyful experience in that it pushed me to be more social with fellow diners. Not only did I meet interesting people but I was also forced to speak more Italian. When I dined with my classmates, more often than not they did the ordering, as they were more advanced Italian speakers than me.

I entered the elegant wine bar/restaurant and the host was not sure he could seat a single person. When I told him I was happy to eat at the bar and in fact preferred it, he was more than happy to accommodate me. This dinner was the best I had this trip. I had artichokes and porcini mushrooms in olive oil and basil to start with a glass of Antinoriís Chianti Classico Riserva. Perfetto! Followed by a bowl of pappardelle fresche al ragu Toscana with a glass of Brunello di Montalcino (my first of the trip). Fantastico!! Didnít I want a lovely traditional custard torta with pine nuts and a glass of vin santo on the house? OK, twist my arm. It was a heavenly meal and eating at the bar was fun and less expensive than at a table. Highly recommended. But don't buy their wine there, they charge restaurant prices for a fancy box/wrapping. You can do much better at a wine or grocery store.

Oh yeah, with all this fabulous food - lots of pasta (which I try to avoid at home), wine with lunch (which I never indulge in at home), are my pants feeling tight yet? Amazingly enough they are not because of the miles I walk every day, roaming the city to unearth itís delights to be found in its glorious art, colorful buildings and piazzas, bridges, majestic viewpoints, gelato, awesome craftsmanship and stylish window displays. Beats spinning any day!

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