By Nadav Soroker
FLORENCE, Italy – Tourists pack Florence streets in the summer, flowing through the city in waves, their mass ebbing and flowing around monuments, stores and shops, spinning off in eddies of free space. In one of the thoroughfares bordering the Piazza della Republica, at a small kitsch tourist store loaded down with masks and postcards and knick-knacks packed in so tight you can barely see the man running the joint, there is an ATM, and around the corner from that ATM is the mother lode—bright, electric-blue Fanta. This, after days of searching for the elusive elderberry flavored soda-pop, is a prize. The drink is refreshing, and the taste sublime, citrus-y with a mellowing, sweet taste from the elderberry.
It is the hunt that led up to this that makes the find even better since my first discovery of blue Fanta atop a hill in Cinque Terre. On the prowl I saw local markets with cardboard crates of vegetables stacked on folding tables picked over for the freshest ingredients, small cafe’s with a lonely stack of panini and a hissing espresso machine as the only patron paused to chat with the barista, bored shop owners reading a book in the tiny closet liquor store a door down from the university. But for days, no blue Fanta.
There are other quests here. Most wouldn’t think of a city like Florence, one of the most “civilized” in the world by any metric, as a center of a massive hunting tradition. But the tradition around wild boar that goes into pappardelle al cinghiale across the city is on a much bigger scale than a hunt to find a soda-pop. It is easy to tell that Florentines have never forgotten a tradition, and their pappardelle with wild boar sauce is one that no one would want them to forget.
Available in many of the trattoria and ristorante throughout the city, the wide pasta is covered in a thick ragu sauce with earthy, root vegetables and chunks of gamey boar meat. The best time to get it is during the hunting season in the winter, November through January, when the hunters are bringing in boar and across Tuscany. Off season it is still available to try in many of the cities restaurants because the boar population has exploded without any natural predators, and some licensed hunters and forest service members have to cull the population. Some boar are also raised on farms to accommodate the large demand.
In Florence, the city itself a thick Tuscan forest of a different kind— towering trees of cut stone, edged with leaves of red terracotta—is the perfect place to be on the hunt for something. Pause while hunting for that photo atop the Piazzale Michelangelo to turn around and see the rose garden you hike through on the way up. Don’t ignore your nose in the middle of the night when you are hunting your bed lest you stumble right past a bakery preparing the pastries for the small bars across the city. And definitely pause before going into the museums to look at the local artist before seeing the masterpiece—you never know where the next Michelangelo will appear.