Mecato - Santa Coroce - The Rock - R and A's
Florence is known for its history and art. Supposedly Emperor Julius Caesar founded the city in 59BC. The Medici Family, who first acquired wealth as the Pope's bankers thus gaining rule, is stamped for bringing riches into its boundaries during the 15th and 16th centuries. Michelangelo's "David" resides in a museum down the road from the massive Duomo Cathedral, its famous facade covered in pastel colored marble facade.
My sister Dana spent a semester of study in Florence a few years ago. She tipped me off on what to seek out and what to avoid. The Mercato Centrale was one. On her recommendation I picked up some dried strawberries. Half hour of mingling and I've got wild boar sausage, another ball of mozz, fresh basil and homemade olive oil and pesto. Bonnie will have to make room. The place is two floors, meat and cheese on the first, fruit on the top...simple.
Among other targeted activities, is the Basilica di Santa Croce. Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Dante have their tombs inside although the rebellious poet Dante is actually buried in another town. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge is the smile on the face of the city (Duomo being the nose). It's a trademark, and deserved a late night hang out session. I was surrounded by a healthy mixture of young locals to young travelers to old travelers...6:3:1...all there to hang out and be classic.
Met a Brazilian guy in a laundry mat. Junior's been traveling for almost 10 years. He left home at 22 when he was still recovering from 40 meter fall off of a Rio De Janeiro cliff. He explains an airlift was involved so i don't have to question the severity of the incident. Today he's healthy as ever. To give you a visual his face resembles the wrestler turned movie star, The Rock. London, Amsterdam, Paris, St. Petersburg, South Africa are places he's spent chunks of his life. Rock's got a good head on his shoulders, has done everything with student visas as he studies the language of the country wherever he goes. Picks up odd jobs in each city and uses work time to practice the local language. He's been in Florence since November working in the market selling t-shirts and scarves. Mario is one of his coworkers, an Italian from Palermo, Sicily. Three out of our five minute conversation is about the women strolling around the market, one about the physical effects of drinking too much wine, one about how he makes his Martini.
A semi-local, Junior feeds me glimpses into Italian culture. Italians won't hesitate to splurge on anything edible. They take pride in their meals, typically three plates, in sequence; a pasta, meat, and salad or vegetable. He tells me they're lax with civil law. Now I notice it. Huge signs are spread around Florence's street forbid the selling of counterfeit items. But there,s guys lining the street selling fake Coach bags and Gucci glasses. What,s the point of the huge sign? I've seen few cops patrolling the motorways in Italy. When someone says Italian Cop I think of a congenial guy laid back in uniform downing espresso, smoking a cigarette chatting with friends.
The Rock takes me to his favorite restaurant - run by Roger the chef and Antonio the waiter. I visualize two of my buddies from Huntington running the same joint. First meal, Antonio walked over with the menu board, I tried to pronounce a dish that I thought sounded good in a questioning tone - I wanted to know more about it. Roger, cooking behind glass alongside our table, turned the ingrediental question into an order placed. He insists I'll like it, gesturing with his upwards turned curved hand to his lips. The Rock explains we'll get more pasta that usual. Because of him, I've achieved a quasi-"Regular" status. By the time Bonnie and I head out of Florence South into Tuscany, I have dined at R and A's pasta joint three times.