Saturday was our last full day in Florence and the first day in our entire vacation with any genuine threat of rainy weather. Things were a little drippy in the morning, so we lay low for a bit….reading, checking email, eating leftover bistecca for breakfast. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the forecast when you’re travelling over here. There are plenty of indoor activities (well, more so when you’re into art and churches and museums), certain outdoor activities that are better avoided during rainy days, and of course there is the laundry to think about. The Italian style clothes dryer is the line or the folding rack….all drip dry. We were fortunate to have a small terrace in this apartment, which sped up the drying process (What took about 36 hours in Rome, took about 18 here – a little drier air I think). It is a benefit of apartment renting, however. Pack three or four outfits and do laundry every few days.
We had other hometown friends visiting Florence who had just arrived and were able to meet up with them for lunch. They suggested Trattoria Georgio in Oltrarno, so I called to reserve a table. We dawdled a bit too long and only gave ourselves 20 minutes to reach the restaurant. For the record, it’s not easy – even at a fast clip – to get from Mercato Centrale area to Santo Spirito area in 20 minutes. The trattoria offered some lunch specials (Primi, Secondi, Contorni for a fixed price), but we went with individual items. It’s easy to be tempted by the multi-course options, and usually they are a better package price, but often it’s simply too much food and you’re better off picking a few items. Here’s what reached our table (I forgot to take pictures!)….
Risotto with Onions and Pancetta
Ravioli with Beef Ragu
Antipasti with Salumi, Olives, Pickled Onions, Crostini Toscana (chicken liver pate)
Pappardelle with Cingiale (wild boar) Ragu
Green Salad (just lettuce – very common here)
Tomato Salad (just real fresh tomatoes)
Water, Coke, a little Wine, Coffee, Bread
Everything was very good, it was wonderful to catch up with friends, and i think our total was 50-55 euro for the four of us. We saved just enough room for gelato by the river.
We walked towards one of our favorite gelato places by one of the bridges. As we walked in something didn’t seem quite the same as I remembered then I realized we were one bridge up from our usual spot. We left there and continued down to the Santo Spirito bridge, and the gelato spot I remembered. I can’t recall what everyone else chose, but I went with Mascarpone & Fig, and Frutti di Bosco Cheesecake. It was yummy. (Ironically later that evening I asked a chef-instructor where his favorite gelato place was in all of Florence and he said the one by the third bridge….the one we walked OUT of. Next time!!)
We meandered back towards our apartment through the ritzy part of town – Gucci, Prada, Dolce e Gabana, that sort of thing. I am entirely out of my element in places like that but it’s fun to look in the windows. Our friends were walking towards the main train station to get their bearings and see where they would be catching a bus to Siena on Monday morning.
Lunch and our walk were leisurely, and after a short stop in the apartment we were heading back out for our cooking class. As a cook/baker kind of professional, I’ve really never had much interest in taking a cooking class, I thought it might be a bit boring for me, but it seemed like a good activity for a teenager on a rainy day. He choose the ‘Pizza and Gelato’ class. Oh what fun.
We walked 15 minutes to a spot past the Duomo to meet the class at the Florencetown offices. We then all walked back to their kitchens, about a block from our apartment. There was a fun group – 18 of us I think – from all kinds of places. A couple of Aussies, I believe a French couple, some Cuban women from Brooklyn, a sweet couple from Minnesota, two college students from Germany, another student (of Russian descent) from New York….and the two of us. We washed up, grabbed aprons, signed wavers, and each took a spot at one of the marble-topped tables. One of the chefs guided us through making pizza dough by hand, making a well in the flour and adding a simple cup of water mixed with yeast and sugar. Nothing else. We mixed and kneaded the dough then left the dough balls to rise in the center of the tables while the second guide/chef demonstrated gelato making.
He discussed ingredients, the difference between gelato and ice-cream, how to spot the best gelato, and more, while mixing up the sugar and cream and cocoa for our chocolate base. When he put the mixture into the gelato machine, we all went back to work on our pizzas. We learned how to properly flatten and stretch the dough with our hands (alas, no throwing it up in the air!), we each made a customized identifiable pie, used the pizza peel to bring them in by the ovens, and the chefs loaded them up. WIth a 700+ degree oven, they cooked in about 5 minutes and were delish!
The instructors were entertaining, it was fun to mingle with other travelers, and at about 50 euro a person (less for students/kids) it was wonderful way to spend three hours. (Not to mention that it included dinner – pizza, wine and gelato!) The company (Florencetown) offers all kinds of tour outings – cooking, biking and more. We will definitely be using some of our new pizza skills at home!! (and keeping an eye out for a commercial gelato machine!)