Finally making it to Italy can be described in one simple amazing word: food.
Before I can tell you about our amazing time in Florence, our scary experience with our overnight train from France to Italy must not be forgotten. First, when we found out we had a 5 hour layover in a random town in Italy, we were annoyed but figured it wouldn’t be too bad. We planned to lounge out in the waiting room and prepared by buying plenty of snacks. Boy, were we in for a rude awakening. Since we arrived at the station around 11, the waiting room was closed. All that was left was the entrance hallway, accompanied by cold marble floors and half opened doors…, which willingly let all of the cold air in. Not to mention all of our new homeless friends lying among us on top of cardboard box beds (which we later became pretty jealous of). Lets just say we were all in survival mode, and took turns drifting off against our suitcases while waiting for the train. Hey, at least it made us stronger travelers in the end!
Finally getting to Florence was like a a dream (maybe just because we were extremely exhausted). We stayed in Aleah’s friend’s adorable apartment right across from the Duomo – the main beautiful church in Florence. Once getting settled we didn’t waste any time and began to stuff our faces with pizza and gelato.
That night I was lucky enough to have dinner with one of my best friends from home, Emmie. It was so nice to be able to see a familiar face! She was nice enough to take Alana, Pete, and I out for a night on the town…. which ended up being a night that we would
never forget. We all had a blast together and I’m so glad Emmie, Alana, and Pete hit it off. I miss her already!
In true Albecpeta fashion, we decided to join the “Taste of Florence” food tour during our stay. Although it was a little bit of a splurge, our taste buds thanked us later. Not only did we taste amazing pastries, aged cheeses, meats, wines, melt in your mouth chocolates, handmade gelato, and aged balsamic vinegar…but we also learned so much information behind what makes food from Tuscany so amazing.
Some main takeaways from our food tour:
- you should always fry with sparkling water for a lighter and crispier golden taste
- grottino sardo cheese from sheep’s milk is delicious
- ricotta cheese can always be a last minute dessert when mixed with jam or nutella
- olive oil should be used for cooking (extra virgin olive oil for dipping)
- salami with venal seeds and pepper grains is yummy
- less fatty salami means lighter flavor
- salamoia olives, salt, rosemary, sage, and garlic are great for sautéing meat
- sweet soft ricotta cheese with lemon taste like cheesecake
- gnash means chocolate infused with flavors (basil and baileys were my favorite)
- cooking with white balsamic vinaigrette is better than cooking with white wine
- the iron in foods like steak numbs your taste buds, so strong red wine clears your palate and helps keep that flavor of steak for every bite!
- good gelato melts and is stored low, meaning you should avoid the tall pretty gelato displays with huge piles of non-melted colorful gelato
The fresh fried polenta with a warm cream like cheese on top was one of my favorites. We also tried wild boar, which was pretty good. Can’t say the same for trying cow stomach. Supposedly tripe is a delicacy in Italy, and Aleah and I were the only adventurous ones to try it. The flavor was ok, but the soft gooey texture was too much for me to handle. Aleah liked it though…
One of my favorite tastings was trying the same pecorino sheep milk cheese from various ages. The longer it ages the darker the cheese gets. The three day cheese was soft, while the 3 month cheese (my favorite) started to form skin, making it a little dryer and saltier. Since it’s milder, it creates a great balance with sweet flavors. The 6-month cheese was soft and strong in flavor, and the 1 year old cheese was almost too strong to handle. The “zingy” flavor was due to the fact that it was made with raw, pasteurized milk.
We also tried traditional Italian aged balsamic vinegar that was 25 years old, aka older than us. A 14-year-old bottle of balsamic can cost up to 70 euro. The older it gets, the sweeter and thicker the balsamic vinegar becomes. It was amazing!
So, is your mouth watering yet?
Wouldn’t be a complete blog post about Florence without mentioning the beautiful American couple we met on our tour, Bill and Patty. They met and fell in love in Florence, and were revisiting the magical city for their 30th wedding anniversary. It was so much fun sharing our food tour with them, and we all felt so lucky to get to know them. They told us that we were a good substitute for them since they missed their sons back at home. When we said our goodbyes, Patty told us how important it was for us to travel in order to understand, experience, and be excepting of all different cultures. They even surprised us with a gift of Euros for us to buy a bottle of wine on them for dinner. They were too sweet, and I hope they enjoyed the rest of their time in Florence. Cheers to Bill and Patty!