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Eating In Florence

My Saturday in Florence was a whirlwind. I walked miles and miles and miles and tried to pack it all in. There’s food everywhere. It’s beyond awesome. At one point, I wandered to a random piazza, and there was an outdoor fruit and veggie market, along with a covered indoor market. The indoor market had many different vendors, meats, fish, bread, etc. It reminded me of Reading Terminal Market in Philly or The West Side Market in Cleveland.

Wandering the streets, you see all types of specialty food shops. This one was for fresh pasta. I didn’t stare too much, but there they were back there, actually making this stuff.

Check out the shrimp with their heads actually on. You’d be hard pressed to find that in a supermarket in the US. Even in seafood markets the heads are usually long gone.

In addition to flea market type of spots that seem to pop up in so many different neighborhoods, on Saturday, I saw one that had lots of food included. Look at these cool tomatoes and how strangely shaped they are.

Naturally, there were cured meats everywhere.
Breads are another ubiquitous treat.
At this one candy and sweet vendor, there were these bags of mysterious things. At first glance, it kind of looks like tortilla chips. But you know they’re not. They’re brigidini, which are tuscan style wafers. I’m thinking they probably taste like pizzelles.

Speaking of mysterious italian treats, I also saw these ladies making some kind of sweet. It seemed to be like a small type of crepe, more of the size of a small tortilla, which was slathered with cream or other sweets or ricotta and then rolled up like a little cone.

What did I eat this day? Oh, a bunch of random ass stuff. After breakfast, I wanted a sweet treat. So I got a waffle. I guess this is sort of belgian style, right? But I wanted it no muss, no fuss, so I just got it plain. Yep, I’m by the ginormous duomo. And yes, there were tons of people there. It’s like old and famous.

For my proper lunch, I stopped at I due Fratellini for some sandwiches. It’s a traditional fiaschetteria, and basically a literal hole in the wall. There’s no door to walk in, just a couple of guys behind a hole making up sandwiches. And tons of people waiting in line, but it goes quickly. The sandwiches are made with genuine tuscan ingredients, and everything is super fresh, it’s obvious. The bread is amazing and chewy. And they’re only 2 euro 50 for most of the sandwiches. So grab a few like I did and keep on roaming to see more old stuff! There’s just so much old ass stuff!

It is just like in the movies. There’s scooters absolutely everywhere in Italy. You have to watch out for them at all times! Also, later in the day when I needed more sweet, I got one of these fresh hot donuts. Nothing fancy here. It’s just a straight up sugar donut. It surely hit the spot.

At the end of the day, I was positively knackered. And then I did something somewhat blasphemous. I ate a doner kebab… while in italy. Which sounds like just about the most un-italian thing to do, but I really wanted one. I fell in love with doner kebabs on my first trip to Germany and it’s been way too many years since I’ve had one. And the last one I had like 5-6 years ago wasn’t even a good one. So after seeing these doner joints all over the place, I had to try one! So as you can see in the pic, they put french fries into it. Which was bizarre, but whatever. The bread was all wrong. It was much more like a soft hamburger bun type of bread instead of the normal pita-esque roll I remember from Germany. The ones from Germany weren’t on pitas, but the bread was more pita-like, but thicker and with more oomph. But in any case, this one in italy, the bread was just not right. The insides were pretty good though. They were way too skimpy on the veggies, but I liked the meat and the sauces and the general fixins. It wasn’t great, but it still satisfied my doner craving.

There are all types of food carts in Italy, but the strangest ones I saw were the trippa carts. Yes, they have tripe vendors. You can buy your offals uncooked so you can prepare them at home, or you can buy prepared tripe items. It’s things like tripe carts that really made me love Italy.

Dinner In Florence

I arrived in Florence on friday night and there was still a little bit of daylight left so I started roaming. Whenever I go to new places, that’s just what I do. I’m a roamer. I didn’t even have any real maps. But I just started walking. I quickly realized how small Florence actually is and how amazingly walkable it is. Maps make it look big, but in reality, it’s quite small. You can walk everywhere and see everything. It’s hard to get lost because eventually, any street you walk down will end up somewhere familiar, like the train station, the river and any of its bridges, the duomo, this piazza or that piazza, so it’s hard to actually not know where you are, relatively.

I didn’t exactly know where I was going, but I had a couple of snippets of maps to get me to some major spots. I actually had a place picked out for dinner, but once I found it, it turned out to only be a lunch spot. Drat. So I had to just wing it as far as where to have dinner. This is how I ended up at Giannino. When you walk around in Florence, especially considering how touristy it is, all the restaurants have menus outside and sometimes, there are people who try to get you to come into their restaurant. I ended up here because really, it was a toss-up to me, and they didn’t have anyone out front.

When you first go in, the place isn’t that big. Or so you think. But then when you’re sitting, you see giant groups coming in. And you realize there’s a whole other dining room on the first floor, as well as seemingly giant rooms on the second floor. It turns out, this place is huge. Many of the restaurants have special menus that are a set number of euros and you get a few courses of specific dishes. The prices are quite reasonable too. I decided to just go a la carte. It’s a pretty big menu.

As opposed to where I was earlier this week, in Florence, they give you olive oil with your bread. I think this is fairly typical bread of Florence, but it was really bland. I didn’t care for its lack of flavor or its dry crumbly texture. And the olive oil, well it certainly looks green, and it tastes even greener than it is. It didn’t do it for me.

I went real italian and decided to get two dishes, a pasta and a meat. So for my pasta, the parpadelle with meat in a chianti sauce. I know it was friday, and it’s supposed to be fish on friday, but I ain’t catholic, so who cares. I picked it because on their menu, they have certain dishes marked as traditional florentine dishes. I wanted to try traditional, so I picked this one. This was super good! The pasta was nice and firm and the meat and sauce were highly flavorful and full of fresh herbs. Big thumbs up on this. And it was a really good sized portion. I was pretty much full.

Then came my chicken dish – chicken el diavlo (or something like that). It was the devil style chicken, devil, because it was supposed to be spicy. This was another dish that was traditional florentine. This chicken was cooked extremely well, tender, and juicy. But it was boring. So so so boring. It was just plain cooked chicken, and the skin had been brushed with some chili oil. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just too boring for me, and since I was fairly full, it wasn’t a big deal. I loved that it came with fries though, how traditional! But I ate them up because I really wanted a vegetable, even though I’m not sure how much a potato counts as a vegetable. I had some italian ketchup too, and it’s different than heinz or hunts, but I can’t exactly explain how it tastes different. It just does.

You’re in Florence, so all of the wait staff speaks english. So you don’t really have to worry. They’ll bring you an english menu by default. Service was quite fine. And the prices were reasonable too.

After dinner, I roamed around some more, and then ended my evening with some gelato. I mean, you can’t help yourself, because gelato spots are everywhere. There are multiple shops on every block. It’s like a requirement. I got some mixed berry and lemon, and it was a perfect way to end the night.

High Speeding It To Florence

When I was finally freed from work, I hopped a high speed train to Florence from Milan. It only takes an hour 45, which is like way faster than driving. The central station in Milan is beautiful and impressive. Before my train, I picked up a few bites to eat.¬†Fanta, in freakin blood orange flavor. Seriously people, I love this stuff. Why can’t I get anything I like at home? A ham and cheese sandwich. This tasted just fine, but it scared me a bit because it said it was good until May. That seems to be a crazy long time for a sandwich to stay fresh.

I also picked up some potato chips, paprika flavor. These were really good. I’m not sure if they actually taste like paprika. They just have flavor. It’s not a distinct flavor, it’s just more of a generic red powder flavor for potato chips. But I like them.

Yep, that’s me at the Santa Maria Novella with some gelati. This definitely does not suck!

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