By Christine Jackson
FLORENCE, Italy — “Tutto e bene.” It means “everything is fine”. Sometimes that phrase is said despite anxiety, but today it’s just true.
After a full day of travel and varying levels of exhaustion, we turned our first afternoon in Florence into a fantastic day. Though we may have all been dozing throughout orientation, we got a second–third? maybe fourth?–wind from a walk around the city center and some much-needed sustenance. We conquered three big items on the Italian food bucket list today.
Our first food stop was L’Antico Noe for paninis. We mostly went because it was open and we were starving, but after a small amount of research (I Googled it to double-check the name) it turns out that the place has pretty phenomenal reviews. I can see why.
I went with a number 14: Salame piccante, pecorino and melanzana. English translation: spicy salami, pecorino cheese and eggplant. The goal on this trip is to try anything and everything, so I just picked a number and went with it. My original pick was a number nine, which was something to do with porchetta, but they were out. I’m not mad about it. My sandwich was something close to perfect.
I love salami, but I usually get the Genoa variation out of a vacuum-sealed package from the grocery store. L’Antico’s was hot as promised, but not overwhelming. More noticeable was the range of flavors in it. The heat, the pork and something with a tomato-like acidity worked perfectly together. I could have just eaten slices of that all day. I could have, but I didn’t.
Instead I had soft pecorino that added the right amount of salt without taking over like its cousin Parmesan. The salami and cheese with meaty eggplant dressed in some kind of vinegar was a punch in the face in the best kind of way. A phenomenal start to our Florentine food adventure.
After some time off our feet and a few shoe changes, we headed back out in search of gelato to “celebrate our arrival” (I’m sure we’ll come up with another three weeks worth of excuses). We walked down Via Faenza, which is our favorite street at least for today, in search of a well-reviewed shop that we (I) promptly forgot the name of. We settled on the third or fourth shop we came across because its gelato wasn’t in mountains (we were warned about this) and went inside.
We probably paid a little too much, but we chatted, ate out of pretty glass bowls and enjoyed the evening weather after an exhausting day. It was fantastic.
We went to Enrico for a glass of wine to end our evening, but we got a whole experience. He wouldn’t let us buy anything we hadn’t tried first. He cut a euro off the price for us. He brought us snacks when we were out enjoying the aforementioned wine at the table outide his shop. We twisted our arms (it didn’t take much) into trying the gelato that he makes on top of running the coffee and alcohol operations all by himself. He also used to dance ballet.