Focus on Food

In Venice, we didn’t have a plan, just a list of things to see and do in any order, on any day. That worked out well, because anywhere you go in Venice is an adventure.

Our visit to Rome, on the other hand, is pretty well programmed. With so many things to see in the cradle of western civilization, a plan is a necessity; so I expect that visit will also work out well.

In Florence, our strategy was more like Venice’s: a list of things to see, but no specific plan. Like Rome, however, there’s a lot to see here, so a more structured plan might have served us better. Things were complicated by the weather—cold and windy, with Renaissance-sized narrow streets acting like wind tunnels—by hordes of people who seem to mostly be Italian youths on school trips, and by the fact that most of the major sights here charge for entry. As a result, our sightseeing (at least by my overly particular standards) has been a bit disorganized.

But don’t get me wrong: we had a great day, mostly focused around food. And though we’re surrounded by history, Italy is also well known for food, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with how the day unfolded.

We started out by trying to follow a Rick Steves audioguide tour through the historic center. But the cold, crowds and whims of a seven-year-old made it an extremely challenging endeavor.

Things turned around, though, when we popped into a lovely little restaurant called FrancescoVini near Piazza Santa Croce for lunch. We each tried a different pasta, and everything was delicious, including the house Chianti and dessert of vin santo and biscotti.

My post-lunch plan was to check out the Basilica of Santa Croce. I have a thing about churches—I’m not religious, but churches provide heaping servings of history, art and architecture, all in one place—and this particular church is the last resting place of famous Florentines like Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. But it turns out that Santa Croce is one of those many sights in Florence that charges a (hefty) fee to enter, so we gave it a pass. But here’s the beautiful facade!

The rest of our afternoon was covered by a plan we made just this morning, a pizza-making class. It was a fun activity for all ages, and a great way to make memories—and our dinner.

Molly and some other kids also got to help the chef make gelato, so Molly not only made her own dinner, she helped make her gelato of the day (chocolate, for those keeping score at home).

After class, we stopped at Mercato Centrale, Florence’s giant public market. The downstairs area—presumably the fresh market—was closed, but the upstairs level offered a wide range of food venues, much like the public markets that are (finally) taking off in the U.S. (Denver just opened its fourth).

Finally, we visited Eataly, a large store that was like a mini version of the public market: all manner of Italian groceries, prepared foods to eat there or on the go, and a bar/restaurant.

Back at our apartment, we finished the day with a bottle of prosecco, some pecorino we bought at Mercato Centrale and bread from Eataly—because apparently we didn’t get enough cheese and bread from pizza class.

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