Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shop till you drop or eat till you drop?

This is where folks come for clothing bargains
We celebrated our anniversary by taking look at the non-tourist side of Florence, then experiencing the culinary skill that tourists and natives alike cherish.

Advertise, advertise, advertise
Armed with our shopping bags and cameras, we jumped on a bus to Florence's central railway station, where we took the electric tram to Le Cascine park. Every Tuesday morning, the huge park becomes a huge market. This is not one of those cutesy souvenir emporiums, but the real market at which real Florentines shop. The normal fresh produce of a farmers market is there, but so is everything from hardware to pets to cheese to undies.  Clothing, in fact, dominates the market. Much of it is cheap every-day stuff, but here and there are racks that appeal to the fashion maven.

Checking the India (guinea) pigs
Cecile bought a very nice linen blouse and we got a "deal" on a big block of Sardinian sheep cheese and two equally big blocks of nut-filled nougat.  We really wanted just a thin slice of each, but language and appetite got in the way.

After we finished shopping, we realized that we could walk a short-cut along the river in the same time it would take us to hope the tram and bus. "Short-cut" in Florence is really an oxymoron. The distance between cathedral towers is either longer than you thought or mined with wonderful little side streets that you just have to check out.

The upshot is that it was a nice walk, but we returned home pooped. But we had time to rest up for our anniversary dinner out. Our reservations were for 8 p.m., but that was still early by Italian standards. The restaurants here go in high gear from about 9 p.m. to midnight.
After 42 years, we are at the garden gate 

Our landlady, Dafi, told us about a great restaurant within walking distance -- but on the condition we would not tell others of our find. So you don't know about Beppe Ristorante down the hill from Piazza Michelangelo

Oh, but if you did... Traditionally in Italy, you have three courses plus desert. The antipasto is what the British call "starters," and can range from salami and cheese to soup to the chef's latest creation. The primo is the course best loved in Italy -- the pasta, polenta, soup or rice. Then there is the secundo, or main course. A favorite here is Florentine steak -- a T-bone that looks like it comes from an elephant. But you can also choose seafood (frutos do mar) or culinary creations of veal, rabbit, beef or vegetables.  You can also get a vegetable course (contormo) if you don't care about leaving room for a sweet ending (dolce).

And this is at 10 or 11 at night.

We made it through the antipasto -- a 2-foot cutting board piled with cheeses, salami, proscuitto, and a large bowl of pâté. I could (should) have stopped there. But Cecile had a risotto while I had a rabbit pasta. And wine -- the size of bottle of which was as deceptive as a Florentine short-cut.

But no steak. I simply couldn't make it to a secundo. But dolce? Si! I had a ball of lemon gelato wrapped around a frozen ball of limoncello. A cannolli for Cecile. A very big and very rich cannolli.

And then, about 11 p.m., we waddled home. And at 2 a.m., I was looking at the ceiling wondering if my belly would go down before dawn.  I don't know how the Italians do it.

But ... I'm game to do it again.

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