We’re all a little jet-lagged but there’s been so much going on that we haven’t had time to, like, feel it. On the first day, we had orientation and then an olive oil tasting at noon. It was pretty weird. You had to take a sip and then sort of spray it around your mouth. You bit into an apple slice to cleanse your palate. We tried six different varieties, and it was really cool to notice differences in regional flavors. Tuscan olive oil has more of a bitterness and a bit to it than, say, Sicilian extra virgin olive oil.
After class, a bunch of us walked into town. We went near the Duomo, this huge cathedral. We had lunch at this tiny little shop where the guy made fresh-sliced sandwiches and plated a few pasta dishes. One girl had a mortadella and mozzarella sandwich, one had penne with truffle sauce, and a couple of us got this mixed roasted veggie plate that was to die for. There was also bread and olive oil and vinegar on the table. They don’t salt their bread in Tuscany. Traditionally, it was done because salt was so expensive, so the thinking was that what you put on the bread was supposed to be salty.
After lunch, we walked a couple blocks to this great gelato place. The dark chocolate gelato I got was so rich but not overpowering—the flavor was perfect. Apparently, there’s a place called Grom we really need to try, my instructor said. There’s one on the Upper West Side in New York the guy opened that’s constantly busy (for a good reason), and she says we need to try the original and save ourselves the wait on line in NYC.
After an afternoon of walking and shopping, we had a cocktail/appetizer party at our instuctor’s place, where she’d laid out lots of different breads, pecorrino cheeses (one spicy, one mild), a prosciutto and melon plate, giant tomato slices, candies and wine, of course. It was delicious, but I didn’t want to be weird and take lots of pictures. We all pretty much ate that for dinner and then headed to this rooftop bar at the Intercontinental Hotel a few blocks from the apartment. We went up in small groups so they wouldn’t bitch about letting in fifteen Americans at once. It was so nice. We stayed up there a while, just sipping our drinks and talking and stuff. It was so nice to relax and enjoy a drink and take in the view.
The second day was pretty similar to the first. We got out of class pretty early and wandered back into town. We ended up in the same neighborhood where we ate lunch and gelato (of course) and just sort of wandered. We got a drink at this bar called Rex (really bizarre decor…), and then walked a few blocks to this really nice restaurant one of the girls had been to before.
So perhaps I blew most of my Week One budget on this meal, but it was totally worth it. After the complimentary prosecco was poured, we passed around a giant antipasti plate. I helped myself to a few tomato crostinis and some zucchini-potato puff thing as well as a breaded eggplant thing and some roasted pepper and mushroom. I also tasted my friends’ buffalo mozzarella, which came with grapefruit slices and a fig-honey spread.
A few of the girls were splitting a bunch of things, including several pastas (I tried the brie-and-pear ravioli), steak and sea bass. I had grilled calamari with vegetables. I was pretty damn excited. I’m totally cool with pairing red wine with fish. No one gives you a hard time about red wine when they find out you study nutrition…
Afterwards, we all shared bites of a tiramisu, and after a few of them made friends with the waiter, he brought over this ice cream made of rice that was garnished with raspberries and a bottle of sambuca from which we were to pour ourselves an after-dinner beverage. Unfortunately, I had to opt out of that last bit, being four-foot-eleven and all, but it looked great. This was the first really filling meal I’d had in Florence, so I had plenty of energy for the long walk home.
Tomorrow we’re taking a group trip out to Tuscan wine country to tour a vineyard and check out a butcher shop in Greve on the way. It’s going to be an early day but an interesting one, for sure!