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.