Saturday: Firenze, Food, Wine and Friends

We were up early last Saturday morning to catch the 7:10 a.m. train from Bologna to Firenze. Fifty minutes later on the high speed train we arrived in Firenze. Our trip to this fantastic city was to meet up with Nancy B. and daughter Kendall and spend the day. This was the 3rd time in Firenze this trip for Sue and the first time this trip for Eric.

Nancy and Kendall arrived in Firenze on Thursday afternoon. Kendall would head home on Sunday while Nancy would stay and take a Sunday train from Firenze to Bologna to stay with us for 3 nights.

We headed from the Santa Maria Novella train station to Nancy’s hotel which was just around the corner from the duomo. We had reservations for a food tour and we were all excited! We met up with the tour guide and the other single participant, who was a chiropractor from Ireland. He was a fun tour companion; as he was traveling with all vegans he was truly enjoying the meats on our food tour.

Our food tour group dressed for the cool weather

We went to 8 different locations on the food tour with our guide Filomena from Secret Food Tours. To start we had an Italian breakfast of mini croissants and macchiatone coffee. Click on the link below for a picture of macchiatone coffee.

Off we went to a small olive oil store, Italian Loves, for a tasting of extra-virgin olive oils. I think every food tour I have taken in Tuscany includes olive oils.

Good stuff!

Next stop…Forno dei Ciompi for “schiacciata”. Schiacciata is a form of “crushed” bread or focaccia, baked in the oven and seasoned with olive oil and salt. Before putting it in the oven, the dough is compressed with the fingers so that holes are formed after cooking. Another variation includes salami or cheese. Click on the link below for a photo of schiacciata.

When Dee and I were in Firenze earlier in the fall we took a food trip as well. We went with a different company and it was quite a good tour as well. During that tour one of the stops was at a “lampredotto” stand. Lampredotto is a typical Florentine dish, made from the abomasum, the fourth and final stomach of a cow. The term lampredotto is derived from the Italian word for lamprey eels, lampreda, as the tripe resembles a lamprey in shape and color. Both Dee and I tried it at the same time, on the count of 3…then after a few quick chews we both simultaneously spat it out! I think even if I hadn’t known what it was I would not have liked it because the texture was too strange for me. The flavor wasn’t bad but the texture was…well…stomachy!!!

So, here we are in Firenze at a lampredotto stand and the guide is really encouraging everyone to give it a try. I said I would take a pass as I had done my duty already but I would really support everyone trying it because I had tried it.

Serving up the goods.  Note that his apron says “Tripperia”.

So, they (meaning everyone but me) gave it a shot. The guys liked it and ate it all up. Not so much Kendall and Nancy.

The two brave souls giving the lamprodetto a try.

I think you can image what happened next….

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”

Off we went to the Sant’Ambrogio Market. Shelley and I had been here earlier in the fall. The market is located a 10 minute walk from the apartment where Shelley and I stayed. At the market we enjoyed a serving of fresh fruits including grapes, oranges and persimmon. We also enjoyed the beauty of the market itself.

It is mushroom season.

One of the interesting things to see at the market were carvings made out of large squash.

This man is an artist.

Those of you who know me well know that I love, love, love pork in just about any culinary form. One of my favorites here in Italy is porchetta. It is a savory, fatty and moist boneless pork roast. The carcass is deboned and arranged and carefully stuffed with wild fennel, garlic, rosemary and other herbs. I wanted to wrap this baby up and take it back to Bologna with us!  Okay, maybe not the head but the rest of it might fit in my suitcase if I leave a few things behind.

All I want for Christmas is…..

On the other side of the market we had a meat and cheese tray of tuscan prosciutto and pecorino cheese. Along with some tasty toppings. The toppings were so good we bought one of each to take back to Bologna. Oh yes, this was our second serving of wine for the day.  Pecorino cheese is one of my all time favorite cheeses.  It goes especially well with pears and a 15 year old balsamic vinegar drizzle!

The hot pepper sauce was excellent!

Next stop was a restaurant where we sampled the traditional bread and tomato soup and well as peposo. Peposo is a stew with lots of pepper, a little tomato and red wine. It is cooked in the oven for hours. We had very small tasting servings but who could be hungry by this time? Final stop was, of course, gelato.

While we were at the restaurant stop the four of us decided to take a wine tour later in the day. “Perche’ no?” we all said! Nancy and Kendall went back to their hotel to rest up a bit while Eric and I went off to the Medici Museum. The museum was interesting but there are many museums in Firenze that are better. Since we had a bit more free time and I needed coffee, I decided to show Eric a unique view of the duomo that I had discovered on an earlier tour.

We walked past the duomo
We marveled at the number of tourists here in early November in the cool… okay cold… weather.

There is a large public library just down the street from the duomo piazza. If you can find your way up to the top floor you will find an area that is quite popular with students, study groups, meeting groups, etc. There is a coffee bar, a very large covered open area with tables and chairs and two indoor heated areas. All have free wifi. Below is the view for those who are meeting and studying in this wonderful area of the public library.

View from the top of the library

We met up for the wine tour in front of the Basillica di Santa Maria Novella. Along with the four of us were a young couple from London. They were quite fun to tour with as well.

Our tour guide is between Kendall and myself with the your London couple on the end. We are all bundled up for the cold evening. The wine did help keep us warm though.

The wine tour was great and included 2 whites, 6 reds and to end the night, grappa. We had appetizers with each wine as a pairing to demonstrate how the taste of the wine differed when paired with food. About half of the locations were on the duomo side of the river and half on the Santo Spirito side.

They are starting to decorate for the holidays in Firenze. Heading to the Arno to go to Piazza Santo Spirito.

We had vermentino from Bolgheri, vernaccia di San Gimignano, prosecco, Chiati Classico 2013, merlot, and a Tuscan red Morellino di Scansano. All great.

It was now just after 8 p.m. and Eric and I needed to catch the 9:15 train to Bologna. Off we went back across the river, parted ways with the group with Kendall and Nancy headed back to their hotel. Eric and I made the train with time to spare, back in Bologna by 10 p.m., take the bus to the street behind the apartment and snug in bed by 11:15 p.m. Up the next day to meet Nancy at the train station in the early afternoon. Quite a trip.