Ciao a tutti! I’ve been saving up little moments and stories for you guys all week, but we’ve been so much on the go that I haven’t posted them yet. Florence feels like a city that whispers “slow down” at every turn, so we’ve at least tried to move slowly between appointments on days filled with apartment visits (we haven’t found one yet!), residency permit meetings (we did get that!), markets (more on that in a moment), and school orientation requirements (School!).
So get ready for a rapid fire set of little bits that I’ve carried around the city in my pocket like a bag of biscotti.
Here’s the first — our food shopping experience. We’re being “real people” so we’re mostly cooking at home. On Sunday, right after arriving, we headed to a nearby “market” in Piazza Santo Spirito. I put “market” in quotations because it turned out to be mostly second hand clothing, eclectic art, and even a man who makes finely crafted solid metal creatures of every size (from full height herons to tiny frogs). There was a single table selling food — meats and cheeses — and as it turned out that was all we needed. We knew enough words (and he was patient enough) that he walked us through every meat and cheese, giving us samples and explaining them proudly. When we had nodded at a particular prosciutto and mortadella, he would shave off impossibly thin slices by hand, the meat hock clamped in an iron stand. It was beautiful. And our lunches have been even more beautiful since.
This is what we eat for lunch now… every day.
We supplemented this trip to our local grocery store, called CONAD CITY, which has to have been intentionally named to sound as non-Italian as possible. CONAD is actually great - it’s tidy and efficient, nicely lit, and has only the highest quality of everything for very low prices ($1 for a hefty focaccia slice with olives & tomatoes?).
The aisles are narrow enough that only one person can go through at a time. Paul and I found ourselves laughing in the “aisle of jars” (there are so many things that can come in jars with olive oil! Tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, eggplant!). We had translated a jar of carciofo and understood that the seasoning on it was called “housewife style.” A man with unruly hair tried to squeeze past us, and waved his hand at us in an amicable way, saying “Scuzi rigazzi!” Oh what an Italian moment! My heart melted and I think I finally realized we’d arrived at that moment. Our last two stops (yes, we went all these places for groceries) were our meat market and veggie market right on our block. The meat man hacked apart some chicken thighs for us brusquely, while I tried not to stare at the whole chickens with their heads and feet still on, their necks twisted back on themselves and their crests wobbling gelatinously.
On our walk home we find an old-school Photo Booth built into the stone wall on a corner. It has red velvet curtains and looks like it was in
stalled in the 1960s. I half expect it not to work, but we pop in our 2E coin and it flashes at odd intervals — we’re thrilled. What a little delight with no purpose other than to encourage stopping for joy.