Firenze June 1, 2013
I have one thing to say about Florence: Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, founded in
1612, with its essences, pomades, spirits, syrups, balms, smelling salts,
waters, liqueurs, eaux de cologne, face & body creams, potions, room
fragrances, & other pure herbal, flower, plant essence preparations.
I wander through carved gilt & marble rooms adorned like
a holy museum, stopping at each station to sample scents, elixirs, flower
waters & lotions, swooning in ecstasy over fragrances like nothing I ever
experienced. I want everything.
Sure, you can stand on endless lines and buy tickets to
enter the crowded Uffizzi, the Academia, Pitti Palace, Duomo -- majestic buildings that house the great art of
Florence, Da Vinci, Boticelli, Michaelangelo, best in the world. You can visit Italy’s high fashion houses of
Gucci, Pucci, Cavalli, Armani, Versace, buy the finest leather goods, acquire precious
jewels on the Ponte Veccio, & stroll through the magnificent Boboli
Gardens. We didn’t.
We walked through the crowds & looked, took shelter at the swanky Savoy
Hotel bar where we sipped cocktails served with delicious appetizers, ate a
great 3-course seafood dinner at the gorgeous Ristorante Fellini, gazed into small
crowded bars & cafes displaying sandwiches, pizza, panini di prosciutto
& formaggio, and the inevitable gelaterias, especially the one at the
corner of Santa Trinita bridge, with its pink-cushioned benches, where we did
more than look.
I don’t like Tuscan pizza – too heavy, bready, especially
after the thin crisp pastry-like crusts in Rome. And, Tuscan bread is made without salt. Impossible but true; beautiful to look at but
dull & tasteless.
It rained all the time we were in Florence; two days of cold
wind in our faces, teary eyes, fingers frozen to umbrella handles; we coughed
& sneezed our way down ancient cobble-stoned streets, looking in every shop
window, stopping for a creamy canolo, or delicate ricotta cheesecake with a
steamy cup of thick hot chocolate.
For a brief moment the sky cleared & we hopped onto the open
upper deck of the on-again-off-again bus that drove around the city, showing us
the sights of Florence & surrounding hills overlooking the gorgeous city, with
its domes & tiled roofs, playing the music of Vivaldi in the
background. At least we had that.
The manager of our hotel told me last year at this time the
temperature was 35 degrees – in the mid-nineties -- which would have made the
gorgeous, inlaid marble floors of our luxurious quarters much more enjoyable. Our bathroom, incidentally, was the size of
Grand Central Station.
Julie left at 4:30 am for her long flight home. We had a great time together, got along well,
were good to each other, cooked, ate, drank, shopped, explored, & enjoyed
everything we did. I’ll miss her. But loner that I am, i return to Montevarchi,
38 minutes away by train, excited to experience the place on my own.
First thing, I head to “Gastronomia Chef,” a tiny,
dimly-lit, take-out food shop with painted brick & wood-beamed arched walls,
chandeliers & antique decor, tucked into an ancient building on a small side
street of Montevarchi. Here, the brilliant
chef prepares a dozen different dishes each day, and his charming rotund wife takes
care of hungry customers. I buy small
portions of lasagna with pecorino sauce, light semolina gnocci with thin
shavings of black truffle, ravioli with ragu sauce, roast codfish with garlic
sauce, mixed grilled vegetables, steamed carrots & string beans, eggplant
parmigiana, tender osso bucco in red sauce, roasted rosemary potatoes, a fragrant
veal stew with little onions & mushrooms…
Well, it’s Saturday & the shop is closed Sunday & Monday. What else can a girl do?
|rain in the garden of casa il pino|
|Duomo of Florence|
|just us girls|
|owner & assistant of Gastronomia Chef in Montevarchi|