We’re back in our Tuscan home. We arrived Tuesday and are settling in. Our flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam was wonderful – the plane was very sparsely populated and we each got our own row to spread out in. I got more sleep than I usually do when I’m sandwiched between Steve and whoever is sitting to my right. This time I could lay down, curled up with my thin synthetic airplane blanket and tiny little airplane pillow. I dozed on and off for about three hours. I don’t know why I can’t fall fast asleep on a plane. Is it the noise? The parade of people up and down the aisle? The fact that I’m in my clothes in a metal tube being propelled over the ocean at 500 mph? Not sure, but I just can’t do it. Dozing is the best I can hope for and I got some good dozing in on this trip. Plus, I was comfortable, which counts for a lot.
From Amsterdam, we flew to Florence. That flight was great, too, except that it was delayed about 45 minutes. Apparently they have all but one runway closed for maintenance. You would think they would take that into consideration when scheduling flights. So we sat there for 45 minutes and I got another little cap nap in. We arrived in Florence at about 5:00 pm and hit the road at about 5:30. We took a couple of minor wrong turns and made our way to our apartment at about 7:30. As hungry as we were, we had to take some time and reacquaint ourselves with the apartment. It felt so good to be back and to see all the little things we left here last time.
It’s a little tradition for us to have a pizza on our first night. So we walked down to the piazza and had dinner at the Pizzeria Baldaccio. It was packed inside so we sat out on the piazza in the cool but pleasant evening and had our first bite of Italian pizza. It was restorative. The paper thin crust, the gooey cheese, the subtle but flavorful sauce – things so simple, but so wonderful and unlike anything we have in the US. We knew we were home.
Wednesday is market day and we wanted to get some provisions. We slept really late for us and took our time getting ready, so by the time we got down to the market everyone was packing up. We managed to get some beautiful fruit and cheese and it made us feel good to come home and fill our fruit basket and have the thought of wonderful cheese waiting in our fridge. While we were walking through the market, we saw our friend Rosanno. We stopped and chatted and found out that today is his 50th birthday! He invited us to dinner with 15 of his closet friends. Of course we said yes. What a party that was!
He gave us the name of the restaurant and I mapped it on my phone. We were to meet there at 9:00. What google maps didn’t tell me was that this place was up on top of mountain. The drive was incredible – twists and turns and climbing up, up,up until we finally got there. I would love to go back in the daytime to see what must be a spectacular view. We brought Millie with us because she was still not settled into the apartment and we were afraid she would bark while we were gone and disturb the neighbors. I’ve never encountered a restaurant in Italy where dogs were not allowed, so I didn’t think twice about bringing her. Guess what? We may have found the only restaurant where dogs are prohibited. A big sign by the front door said so. One of women in the group that was waiting for Rosanno was an acquaintance of ours so she went in to verify. We all know that signs in Italy are sometimes just decoration. Alas, this one was for real. No dogs allowed. Here it was 9:00 pm on our first full day in Italy and we had driven up to this remote restaurant only to be turned away. We were hungry, still a little jet lagged, and in the middle of nowhere. We decided to leave Millie in the car and go in for a drink, maybe an appetizer, then leave. It was very cool up there, so we cracked the windows and locked her in the car. Steve went out to check on her a few times and miraculously, she was asleep in the back seat. So drinks and appetizers turned into a full meal, complete with birthday cake. We walked out of there at about 11:45 full and happy.
We were by far the oldest people at this party. Rosanno was turning 50, but the average age of the other party guests was about 30. Some of them we knew, some were familiar faces and some we’d never seen before. Our old Italian teacher, Antonio, was there. There was a big group at another table also celebrating a birthday and we competed with them on who could sing various Italian versions of Happy Birthday, For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and other party songs the loudest.
We had trays of appetizers – prosciutto, salami, three different kinds of bruschetta, and some kind of veggie sformata (kind of a baked quiche-like thing). Then the meat – trays of any kind of meat you could imagine. Rabbit, lamb, beef, pork, chicken – all roasted over this huge open fire. As we were gnawing on bones with hands to mouth, the young woman sitting across from us said that we owe it to the animal to eat everything we can. We should pick the bones clean because the animal gave its life for us. What a beautiful way to give us permission to eat with our hands and not try and be polite with our knife and fork. It was our duty.
After dinner and cake, we had some kind of amaro. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of amaro in Italy. Amaro means bitter and is a digestivo – meant to be drunk at the end of a meal to aid in digestion. This one was a secret recipe that was made at this restaurant and no one knew exactly what was in it. They wouldn’t even let you buy it to take home. It was served from big, beautiful ceramic pitchers and was semi-frozen, kind of slushy. It was quite good and I felt it aiding my digestion with each sip.
What a way to end our first day in Italy. A big Italian birthday celebration with some old friends and some new friends. We must be the luckiest people in the world.