Thursday, July 22, 2010

Marvellous Florence

After the Chaucer congress I'm taking another two days' holiday, and have just returned to Rome from Florence. The first night, Jeffrey and I arrived around 5, checked in, then regrouped at 7.00. Our hotel was gorgeous; and I lucked out with an enormous and serene room on the third floor and my own little balcony looking down into the courtyard and its terracotta rooftiles.

Armed with a map, and about twenty recommendations for restaurants, we found our way to the Mozzarella bar I remembered from September, in the pillared courtyard of an old bank. We started with a glass of prosecco and a liberal serve of antipasti. Mozzarella was promised, but never appeared on the self-service bar, so we had another look at the menu and ordered up a degustazione of five different mozzarelle, on a huge platter of greens and cherry tomatoes. They ranged from delicate to smoked, and there was also a ricotta style. But the highlight was a bowl of creamy mozzarella burrata, which I have discovered is my favourite thing to eat in the whole world. I ate it in Siena (and am waiting for Tom's photo), and it is creamy, with a tendency to form slight threads — I've seen it described as stracciatella, too. It is so soft they pile it on the plate, where it looks like a meringue about to go into the oven, or into a bowl, or even twist a little knot into the top. Sigh. Such sweet creamy goodness.

This was supposed to be a pre-dinner treat, but we were unable to contemplate eating any more, so we just walked and walked, across the Arno, along its banks, then back across the Ponte Vecchio. During the day, it just looks like a bunch of jewelery shops: at night, it's clear that they are more like little market stands, though locked up with ancient wooden panels and heavy black metal clasps: an odd mix of transient and secure. The half-moon shone over the water, as we found our way to the Palazzo Vecchio. Curiously it was open, so we wandered through its vast hall and endless suites of rooms upstairs, out into upstairs loggias with wonderful views of the city and beautiful breezes. Many of the rooms had their windows open - perhaps to clear out the air after the day's heavy traffic - and there was hardly anyone there. We found the little studiolo where Machiavelli used to work; and marvelled at the choice of the rape of the Sabine women as decoration for the rooms for the Medici's waiting women.

Emerging into the piazza della signoria, it was time for a midnight gelati: I had amaretto and pink grapefruit.

Well, you know: we work pretty hard. It was good to have a holiday. And there was more to come the next day. But that's for another post.

11 comments:

Anthony said...

I've been vexed that twice in describing your Italian sojourn you've used the phrase "lucked out" to indicate a stroke of good fortune. I and my friends have always used the phrase to indicate a stroke of bad fortune. A quick trawl of the intertubes suggests that North Americans use it in the sense you do, but Australians tend to use it in the opposite sense (Being on the opposite side of the world - although I suspect the English use it in the misfortune sense as well). Annoyingly, the Macquarie online dictionary simply gives both definitions for the phrase, despite their being contradictory.

Anyhow, it sounds like you've been having a great time, regardless of hether that involves lucking in or lucking out.

Elsewhere007 said...

Wish I was there! I'm in a chilly desert at teh moment.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Oh that's fascinating, Anthony. I can remember distinctly the first time I heard that phrase, because it took me by surprise. I was on another long-haul flight home to Australia, and the plane was full, except for the two empty seats next to me. "You've lucked out", the flight attendant smiled at me. I didn't realise it could go both ways. And all of a sudden I don't know which makes more sense.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Such vivid writing; I felt like I was there.

You are the queen of lucking out, Stephanie! That's why I wanted to tour Florence with you. Thanks for a terrific day. I imagine that the only Australian I could like more than you is your dad, whom I now know is reading this very sentence.

Constantine said...

Stephanie, your pursuit of excellence has "come out" smelling of roses; I guess you "lucked out".

Kathleen said...

I think I am guaranteed to like any post that is titled "Marvellous Florence". And then am guaranteed to be jealous about any meal that involves burrata...

Karl Steel said...

I've seen it described as stracciatella, too
The wife and I were just discussing this morning how many foods we ate/saw in Italy that were called "stracciatella," that is, "little rags." We had a soup of this name (an egg drop soup, essentially, where the strands of the eggs were the rags) and I often had gelato with the same name, where the "rags" were chocolate marbling.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Yes, I've seen both of those in Australia, too. Now I'm on the hunt to see if anyone makes or imports the cheese here. I find I can hardly live without it.

Constantine said...

You have lucked in again Stephanie.
http://www.vannellacheesefactory.com/cow_cheese3.htm is the producer of quite good mazzarella burrata.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Wonderful! There's a mozzarella bar in Faraday St, in Carlton, I see. let me just catch up on email and meetings and deadlines, and I'll go check it out.

Bavardess said...

Okay, now I am jealous. So are all these wonderful mozzarellas made of cow's milk? Or do they use sheep/buffalo milk as well? I adore cheese, but find it hard to tear myself away from my beloved French blues long enough to dabble in these Italian pleasures. Such great good fortune to strike the Palazzo Vecchio when it's not over-run with tourists. I bet it was beautiful in the evening.