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One week in Florence


Nishla
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I returned a few days ago from my first trip to Italy, and will be posting about our trip here. We spent most of the time in and around Florence, with one day further North (Pinzolo). Thanks to eG, we had a number of great meals, and found some wonderful gelato.

For the trip, our cast of characters was: me, my husband Keith, his parents, his brother and his sister. Keith's mom did pretty much all the planning of our tour schedule, including some very nice day-trips, but none of our evening meals were pre-planned.

Day 1

To start off, we spent one night in Pinzolo, a small ski resort town in the Dolomites (Keith's great-aunt lives nearby). The town is also known for it's knife sharpeners, many of whom emigrated to America. There's even a knife sharpener monument :wink:

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The region seems to have a fairly strong German influence--many signs are in Italian, German and English. For dinner, we went to a local restaurant/pizzeria:

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Tortelli stuffed with chicory, topped with speck ham and butter sauce. This was amazingly good. By the way, this region of Italy is also known for its speck, which I like better than proscuitto.

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Vegetable soup:

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More veggies:

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Gnochetti with tomato, ricotta and some pork product (either bacon or speck). The gnochetti were essentially spaetzle, and very tasty:

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There was also a lot of polenta on the menu. We had some with braised venison and one topped with cheese and porcini mushrooms. The polenta was made in a firm rather than creamy style, and both dishes were quite good.

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Pizza with ricotta and speck ham. Mmmmmmmmmm.

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Finally, for dessert, some almond cake we picked up earlier at a bakery. Keith's father had childhood memories of this dry, crumbly cake, which was very tasty:

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Up next...Florence!!!

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Great write-up! I'm excited to see the rest! The food looks excellent, I've never had speck, bud I'll have to get my hands on some, it sounds great (maybe I ate it in Florence or Venice this summer, but not that I remember, is it only popular in the north?)

Also, any chance you have a recipe for the gnochetti?

Speck is similar to prosciutto, but it's smoked and I find it to be less salty and a bit more nutty in flavor. Yum. We've found it in at least one place in the Boston area, so you might be able to find it where you are.

Unfortunately no recipe for the gnochetti, but I think the sauce was mainly tomato and ricotta, with some pork for extra flavor and maybe some cream. It would probably work with any spaetzle recipe or other fresh pasta.

Edited by Nishla (log)
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Day 2

We spent most of our second day traveling from Pinzolo to Florence. First, a 2-3 hour drive which was slowed down due to a big Italian bike race, Giro d'Italia (sort of like the Tour de France of Italy?). We managed to run into the beginning of the last leg, and got to see all the cyclists and the accompanying motorcade.

Here's a shot of some scenery from our pit stop:

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Then, a 3-4 hour train ride from Verona to Florence with only a snack on the way.

By the time we got to the hotel, we just wanted an easy dinner, so we went to the closest restaurant we could find. We ended up at Trattoria Ponte Vecchio, which had been recommended by the travel agent. The place seemed a bit touristy, especially when the waiter immediately came over and encouraged us to order their "Tuscan meal". When we said we wanted to order off the menu, he seemed a bit perturbed. Hmmmm.

However, despite the slightly odd reception, most of the pastas were quite delicious. Main courses were less exciting.

Orchiette with arugula pesto. Very nice sauce, and good pasta.

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Ravioli with walnuts, asparagus and cream, which was tasty.

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Fettucini with pea sauce and smoked salmon. This had a really good pea flavor.

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I forget the name of these, but they were basically little bundles of pasta filled with pear and ricotta in a robiola and truffle sauce. The sweet pear was great with the cheese sauce.

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Fairly standard lasagne

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Cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta. This was good, except the sauce had truffle oil for no apparent reason.

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Risotto with porcini (I think porcini were/are in season...they were on EVERY menu)

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Rabbit stuffed with spinach, olives and ground rabbit meat. This was a bit too salty, but the accompanying fried potatoes were good.

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Sea bream in tomato sauce with spinach. Again, just okay.

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After dinner, we took a walk across the Ponte Vecchio and grabbed our first gelato.

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I ordered pistachio, which was fine, and Keith got the stracciatella, which was a bit too frozen. I don't remember the name of this place, but it wasn't our favorite. That'll be coming up later :biggrin:

Edited by Nishla (log)
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Great photos! Thanks for sharing them with us.

Ahhh....mountain food! We didn't get to the mountains this winter, so your photos were a welcome reminder of how good the food is.

BTW, fresh porcini are in season in the fall. But, there is never a season for dried porcini, thanks God! :biggrin:

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Day 3

On our third day, we had a day trip to Siena, Monteriggioni and San Gimignano. After spending the morning in Siena, our tour guide took us up to Monteriggioni, a medieval fortress, for lunch. We stopped in a small cafe with a nice patio.

Started with bruschetta

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I had gnocchi with pesto. It smelled wonderful, but was insanely salty.

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Keith's veggie lasagne

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Sandwich with prosciutto and pecorino. The cheese was really really good.

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Puttanesca

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Tagliatelle with ragu, which was quite tasty

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After lunch, we continued on to San Gimignano, another medieval town with a lot of towers

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Day 3, afternoon

San Gimignano was a really beautiful little town, and it's amazing what people could build back in the 13th century. In the town center, we found some great gelato (there was a sign claiming that they were in the 2006 gelato world championship). I think we managed to eat gelato about twice a day :wink: It was my first experience with the real thing, and now I know what the big deal is!

Throughout San Gimignano, there were numerous stores selling wild boar products

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Also some cheeses

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We decided to try some wild boar prosciutto, wild boar finocchiona and a mild pecorino

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The prosciutto was really pungent and gamey, but good. The finocchiona had a great flavor.

Scott (brother-in-law) took this photo...I guess the statue doesn't like the smell of wild boar :laugh:

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Edited by Nishla (log)
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Oh, delicious, I can smell the boar from here. of the many shops that sell boar related products, the one you have pictured here is the best (La Buca) - In particular the finocchiona was very memorable. Smuggled that one back in the luggage. Tell us about the wines that you tried- any favorites? I was surprised to find the local white (vernaccia di san giminiagno) stood up well to dishes with bold flavors.

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Oh, delicious, I can smell the boar from here. of the many shops that sell boar related products, the one you have pictured here is the best (La Buca) - In particular the finocchiona was very memorable. Smuggled that one back in the luggage. Tell us about the wines that you tried- any favorites? I was surprised to find the local white (vernaccia di san giminiagno) stood up well to dishes with bold flavors.

Ooh, I'm glad we happened to pick the best shop! We drank a lot of house wines at restaurants, so I can't really say we had a favorite. I do remember one very nice vermentino (from Antinori, I think) that was really good with light pastas and cream sauces. Also, on the last day we visited a winery in Chianti (Casa Emma), and we liked their wines quite a bit.

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Nishla the food so far looks unbelievable.  All the pasta...stuffed ones, rolled ones, long ones, short ones...it's my heaven.  :rolleyes:

I totally agree about the pasta...I :wub: it in all forms. Even though the Florence area is known for meat, I couldn't stop craving pastas!

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Day 3, dinner

Our tour driver for the day lives in Florence, and he gave us a few recommendations for dinner. He said his top pick would be Cammillo, so we went for it. I think it was one of my favorite meals of the entire trip.

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We could see into the kitchen from our table

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The wine list

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I started with pecorino and balsamic. The balsamic topping was bruleed and crunchy, and the cheese was soft, creamy and delicious underneath. Mmmmmmmmm

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Keith got the lardo with garlic toasts. Also incredibly good...doesn't hurt that it's made of fat :wink:

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Fresh peas with fresh fettuccini and butter. There must have been some sugar in the sauce too. I've never had anything like this, but it was very addictive...I wish I could have some right now :sad:

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Vegetable soup

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Arugula with parmesan and pine nuts

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Ricotta lasagne...so rich and creamy

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Fettuccini with mushrooms...really great flavor

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A side of fried zucchini flowers

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Tomato basil pasta

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Scott's steak...this was the "after" photo. I'd say this was the best steak I tasted the entire trip. Great char on the outside, perfectly medium rare inside. Keith and I lucked out because Scott didn't want the fatty edges :shock: And no, we're not ashamed to eat other people's scraps!

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Grilled veal chop with balsamic sauce and carmelized onions. This was very good, and I'm not even a huge fan of veal...it doesn't have as much flavor as real beef.

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Tripe. I LOVE tripe, and this was a great dish. Awesome flavor and soft, silky texture. Keith's mom even tried some, and was willing to have more than one piece!

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Finally, someone's cappuccino

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I finished off with some Amaro Montenegro, a slightly bitter, clovey, spicy digestif.

Edited by Nishla (log)
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that statue is sooo funny!

Your meal pictures are gorgerous!

Thanks Wendy...I was quite inspired by your own Italy report last year!

I remember seeing your photo of the small Florence buses. Our tour guide said because they run on electricity, they were too quiet and people were getting hit, so now they beep constantly. :huh:

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that statue is sooo funny!

Your meal pictures are gorgerous!

Thanks Wendy...I was quite inspired by your own Italy report last year!

I remember seeing your photo of the small Florence buses. Our tour guide said because they run on electricity, they were too quiet and people were getting hit, so now they beep constantly. :huh:

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

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Day 4

In the morning, we toured some of the famous sites around Florence, including the statue of David and Santa Croce (where a number of famous Florentines are buried). After our tour we were pretty hungry and tired, so we just stopped in the first place we saw. My photos of lunch didn't come out too well, but it wasn't a particularly memorable meal compared to the rest, so that's okay :smile:

For dinner, we went to Il Latini, which had been recommended to us by multiple sources. It turns out that our tour guide that morning used to work as a waiter there, so he made sure we got a reservation. The crowd outside was a zoo, as expected. It was actually pretty funny to see the mad rush for the door at 7:30, with everyone yelling "I've got a reservation!!!"

Most people don't order off the menu...you just get what they bring to you, but they'll ask if you have preferences. There's a bottle of house wine on the table, which you are to partake of freely.

The house wine, olive oil and bread:

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One additional note--we were a little worried because we had heard that this wasn't a particularly good place for vegetarians. However, Julia (sister-in-law) was fed quite well. In fact, there were only a few things on the table she couldn't eat, and they brought her extra servings of some of the non-meat dishes.

To start, our waiter asked if we'd like some antipasti...um, yes please!

First thing out was a plate of prosciutto per person:

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We also got some wonderful melon to go with the prosciutto:

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Tomato and mozzerella. The cheese was much more flavorful than the stuff I usually get in the US.

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Spelt salad with cucumber, onion, tomato. This was extremely tasty.

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Chicken liver crostini. Yeah, it looks like cat puke, but it was soooooo good. The bread had a generous pour of olive oil, and the chicken liver had a really good flavor.

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After the antipasti, our waiter says they typically have soup and/or pasta. Since we had a party of six, they just brought us two large servings of soup and two pastas (all vegetarian).

Cheese ravioli. So simple but very good

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Ribollita. I think this was the best soup I tasted the entire trip, complete with baby zucchini, kale, cabbage, bread and more. I'm also not sure why it's considered soup, since you could eat it with a fork :biggrin:

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Tomato spelt soup. Sorry for the blurry photo, but this was really good too.

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Gnocchi with pesto. What can I say, I'm a sucker for gnocchi. I ate too many of these

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So after we polish off the soup and pastas, the waiter comes back to say the next course is meat. They had beef, chicken, pork, veal, lamb and rabbit. We couldn't decide so we got a mixed platter. Unfortunately, we didn't get lamb or rabbit, which were the two I really wanted to try. It's probably for the best because I think I would have passed out from eating too much.

Platter o' meat:

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You can order individual meats...apparently Keith's dad saw someone with a T-bone steak that could have come from a dinosaur.

Sides with the meat were baby zucchini, fried potatoes and spinach:

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After you're completely stuffed, they bring out a plate of biscotti and glasses of vin santo:

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And don't worry, they don't forget dessert either :shock:

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I managed a small taste of each one, and they were all very good. My favorite was the flan.

Just when you finally think you're done, they bust out some moscato :wacko:

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Scott somehow had room for a macchiato

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Overall, this meal was just ridiculous (in a good way). I think we were charged something like 40 or 45 Euros per person. Keith's dad summed it up pretty well..."I think that was the most amazing meal we've had so far...well...at least in terms of...amazing" :laugh:

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Hathor..

porcini grow on a hot day after it rains... under chestnut or oak trees..

and now is seaon too!!!

at least here in Tuscany!!!

come on up!

I'm sure you are right...I've just never seen them around in the summer. Maybe smaller yields leads to less porcini-madness?

Have you had any rain?? We just have oppressive mugginess....

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Great write-up! I'm excited to see the rest! The food looks excellent, I've never had speck, bud I'll have to get my hands on some, it sounds great (maybe I ate it in Florence or Venice this summer, but not that I remember, is it only popular in the north?)

Also, any chance you have a recipe for the gnochetti?

Speck is similar to prosciutto, but it's smoked and I find it to be less salty and a bit more nutty in flavor. Yum. We've found it in at least one place in the Boston area, so you might be able to find it where you are.

Unfortunately no recipe for the gnochetti, but I think the sauce was mainly tomato and ricotta, with some pork for extra flavor and maybe some cream. It would probably work with any spaetzle recipe or other fresh pasta.

Again, thanks so much for posting this! Its so fun to read... your pasta photos look sooo delicious. I was in Florence last summer and noticed that your meal at Il Latini was almost identical to ours... they must not change their dishes much.

I actually live in the Boston area, where have you found Speck here? (Formaggio?)

Thanks.

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Great write-up! I'm excited to see the rest! The food looks excellent, I've never had speck, bud I'll have to get my hands on some, it sounds great (maybe I ate it in Florence or Venice this summer, but not that I remember, is it only popular in the north?)

Also, any chance you have a recipe for the gnochetti?

Speck is similar to prosciutto, but it's smoked and I find it to be less salty and a bit more nutty in flavor. Yum. We've found it in at least one place in the Boston area, so you might be able to find it where you are.

Unfortunately no recipe for the gnochetti, but I think the sauce was mainly tomato and ricotta, with some pork for extra flavor and maybe some cream. It would probably work with any spaetzle recipe or other fresh pasta.

Again, thanks so much for posting this! Its so fun to read... your pasta photos look sooo delicious. I was in Florence last summer and noticed that your meal at Il Latini was almost identical to ours... they must not change their dishes much.

I actually live in the Boston area, where have you found Speck here? (Formaggio?)

Thanks.

We've gotten speck at Russo's in Watertown (near Newton). They also have a very tasty finocchiona.

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Day 5

So I'm back with some more photos. Work was a little crazy this week so I didn't have much time to post.

Day 5 started with a walking tour of some artisans' shops around Florence. Our tour guide suggested Giovanni's for lunch. This is around the corner from Il Latini, run by one of the Latini brothers.

Before we even ordered, they brought out some fried bread dough. So yummy.

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Some of us got first courses:

Eggplant, goat cheese, warm marinated tomatoes, and flatbread:

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Spelt soup:

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Pappa al pomodoro:

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The service was quite nice...they brought out small dishes of soup for the people at the table who hadn't ordered a first course.

Cute cheese dish:

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Picci with sausage, olives and broccoli rabe. The picci were like buccatini but not hollow.

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Braised rabbit with olives. Really good flavor but a bit too salty for me.

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Ravioli with porcini and truffles :wub:

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Spaghetti with tomatoes and basil:

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Squid ink pasta with clams. The clams were amazingly sweet and tender.

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When the meal was over, they brought out some vin santo and biscotti, and also sent us home with a few extra bags of biscotti. Yum.

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