Firenze per Natale

In Italy with my mom and sister. At “Eataly”, a slow food restaurant


 in Bologne, had roasted duck served with pomegranates and radicchio, tagliatelle with cauliflower and sausage. We’ve been walking off the bottoms of our feet. For the end of the world, we climbed into an alcove on a leaning tower and told the moon our gratitudes. There was a wildly rambunctious man with a balding head and a high pitched, frantic voice who chastised us in Italian for not studying up on the end of the world. He said that Italy was going to be taken first because it is the most important country.

We stopped in a little fish market for an appetizer of anchovies with lemon, and spoke with a fellow who renovates old buildings. His daughter lives in New York. he eats at the fish store twice a day, raw salmon. There are fresh markets everywhere, selling giant wheels of ricotta and prosciutto seco, and little licorice twigs to suck on. We spent a while examining little monsters carved into a pink marble church. Chimera, capricorn goats, dragons, harpies.

I’m trying to speak only in Italian, e molte difficile. Stopped in a bookstore to buy a kid’s book (the only level I can understand).

I revisited all of my old Florence haunts, my old print-making studio, the little stone tower in the river where we used to build shrines to prosciutto and hazelnuts. Spotted two dirty blue herons in the mud. At the Ambrogio market, a little old chef bustled about serving his own gnocchi and eggplant. 

We went to an exhibit of ancient Alchemy artwork, lots of prints and sculptures of deer-men and narwals. A few old distilling tins and glass bottles for tinkering with the philosopher’s stone and trying to turn dirt into gold.

We discovered that our neighbor had put out a bunch of trays of biscotti on her stone window ledges. 

Liza and I found a nice little bar near our apartment, near the Santos Spiritos church, and ordered a Negroni. We asked some locals what type of fish we should get at the market. They gave us a long list, including squid and “guilt-fish”, and taught us a bunch of italian hand gestures. For Christmas Eve, we went to the big central market (il mercato central), and bought a big steak of swordfish (spada). Following the recipe from the men at the bar, I cooked it up with a little oil, garlic, caramelized onions, white wine, and parsley.

Took a long walk to San Miniato, a cemetery in the hills above the city, and did some grave rubbings: mustachioed men, dried poppies, harpies. On our way back into town we found an olive tree that had broken on the sidewalk, so we took it home and used it as our christmas tree. I hung a bunch of crocheted doilies on the tree in place of ornaments. For Christmas, liza and I gave each-other little Italian espresso machines (enough for a double-shot). 

Liza and I went running through a long park along the river, a bit muddy and lots of old gay men with little dogs in wool jackets. On one of the hill journeys, we discovered a sort of hidden restaurant and we all fell in love with the waiter, who is also the son of the chef/owner, so we decided to make reservations for dinner that evening. We trekked up the hill in the dark and quizzed eachother in Italian food vocabulary so that we wouldn’t make a fool of ourselves. Here’s what we ordered:

antipasti: olives, proscuttio, caperberries, peperoncini spicy pickled peppers, bread and basalmic, artichoke hearts.

primi piatti: tagliatelle alla bolognese (home-made delicious pasta!)

secondi piatti: agnello arrosto con le patates (roasted lamb with potatoes)

dolce: torta siciliano, sicilian ricotta cake

vino rosso: sangiovese 2008

digestif: limoncello, on the house!


Here are a few unique Italian  cultural aspects that we have noticed: 

little personal space
most people their necks lean way forward on their shoulders during conversation, resulting in lots of hunched backs
high heels everywhere, in any situation: biking, walking in rainy puddles, stepping in dogshit
every member of the family wears black all the time, everyday, everywhere, but with a few additions: fur, leather, fur, leather, and more fur. 


On a particularly rainy day, we spent most of our time dipping in and out of museums and cafes, mostly refusing to pay for anything, trying to sneak past the security guards, never successfully. However, our wanderings did bring us to find the best and cheapest paninis in town. And, a photo booth! 


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