Frolicking in Florence

Some things in life don’t change. A Sausage EggMcMuffin in Rome tastes like the one from Lot 1 in Choa Chu Kang.

We arrive in Florence! Our accommodation requires us to climb a long flight of steep stairs. With all our backpacks and all, the gravity of the situation is clear to us.

We hit lunch and I order spinach and cheese ravioli. Served with spinach leaves and basil flakes, it tastes alright… The inside of the ravioli is dense and cheesy. It’s a decent meal but I think there’s a lot of better food out there! Pretty filling though. Gnocchi tastes a bit strange… I don’t think I’m going to eat any more concentrated pasta balls.

Now we’re in the shopping district and we have entered the Salvatore Ferragamo store. Not that I am ever going to buy anything from it but the way the place is set up, the way the goods put in places of honour, the way the doorways and arches are intentionally taller to convey an impression of grandeur… This place is a study in spectacle. Understated stylish spectacle, maybe, but spectacle none the less. Designed to wow and impress, and I dare say I am a victim. Even though a lot of it is for ladies.

The architecture in the heart of the Old Town, the preserved part of Florence, has awesome architecture. It is grand yet pleasing to the eye… Perhaps this is the essence of Renaissance architecture? Lots of strong lines with elaborate corners and decoration and what looks to be like crenellations. Statues in alcoves and elaborately wrought iron lamps dot the walls. The afternoon sun gives you two different layers of reality to appreciate – two different faces of the same building.

The Santa Maria del Fiore, the largest cathedral in Florence, is magnificent! White and green and shining, Time has dealt a blow to its gleaming facade but it is still monumental. Okay it’s not literally shiny but it’s white surfaces are bright in the light, like the walls of Minas Anor, Tower of the Sun… It is really beautiful! I find it entrancing. As we walk closer and more of it comes into view I am more and more impressed. It’s really a wow-inducing thing. Well tomorrow we shall look at the inside!

The Piazza della Signoria is populated with stone goliaths. Men of gargantuan proportions, muscles in high relief (ha-ha), immortalized into action. I particularly like Perseus carrying the head of the Gorgon. He looks down upon you (his head is tilted downwards) and his defiance of death and conviction of the heroic immortality of his youth emnates from him. The fact that Perseus is carved of a green-black material (should find out) also serves to accentuate the difference between him and the other white marble statues: perhaps he is made of darker, sterner stuff. Other statues tell stories, narratives you guess at and flesh out in your head, giving life to stone, the angle of their marble limbs telling you what’s going on, and the vast repository of human emotion informing your story.

The streets of Florence are quite charming. Very much so! I enjoy them very much.

Dinner is at a couple-run restaurant called Toto’s, on the Borgo SS. Apostoli. It’s been in business since 1968 and management has been handed down from their parents. The owner volunteers to chop a Florentine beefsteak up for us to show us what a 700 gram steak looks like… And we order it. I hope it’s good! On the dinner table, Calzone pizza, pork ribs, and tagliatelle are scheduled for touchdown.

The calzone appears and it’s huge. Oh om nom nom. The steak appears and the owner slices it to ask how cooked we want it to be. He slices it open and it’s nice and juicy! Browned edges and a pink inside and a tiny layer of dark red in the middle. A great beefy taste, chewy and springy and full of the essence of meat. Seasoned with salt and pepper and secret Florentine spices, it speaks to me a secret language of gastronomic pleasure. The Chianti must taken the same course in school because it says exactly the same thing, and our conversation is warmly enriched by its addition. Soon we burst into song, lyrical praise of the flavour of the meat joining seamlessly with the harmony of spices and grilling fat.

The mozzarella embedded in the calzone stretches all the way to my plate as I grab a chunk. Slices of ham are bundled together along with olives and artichokes. It’s salty and doughy and good. And I like how tagliatelle is wide and slippery and zips around the tongue. Whee! To think we only walked into this restaurant because it was the closest available shelter from the rain.

I like Florence!

The day ends with more gelato as usual. There’s this wonderful flavour called ambrosia: a delectable combination of yoghurt, honey, and cinnamon. Oooo. It tastes like what it sounds like. Heavenly indeed! Food of the gods.

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