Savoring Florence

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Schiacciata,the Florentine version of focaccia

Schiacciata is the Florentine version of focaccia, and comes in a host of neighborhood variations. Oven-hot and wrapped in paper, this lightly salted and crispy bread is redolent of olive oil. Sometimes it’s flavored with rosemary or other herbs. It quickly became my go-to snack in Florence. But there were other summer-time treats in store.

Budino de riso is a Florentine tradition, and according to my guidebook, the place to try it is Robiglio’s. The rice-based pastry is bright yellow and coated with powdered sugar—more purely sweet than flavorful—but a fine foil for cappuccino.

When it’s time for a real meal, forget fiorentino, the kilo of T-Bone that is Florence’s signature meal.  I’m not much of a carnivore in any season, but especially in summer, other flavors beckon. Osteria de’ Benci is an easy stroll southwest of Santa Croce, with its efficient ticket office and vast interior (read: SC can handle the crowds). At de’ Benci, I enjoyed a one-dish luncheon of strawberry risotto.  Crushed strawberries sweetened the rice and gave it a soft, rosy hue; parmesan and slivers of fresh basil contributed a bit of tang. Topped with slightly cool fresh berries, the risotto was unexpectedly refreshing.
 

Oltrarno, a working class neighborhood, is a world away from the boutiques and high fashion across the Arno. The windows of its musty shops display antique furnishings, paintings and decorative and church arts from times past. Streets are long and narrow, paved with bricks; Vespas whizz by, bearing their owners home from work.

 

At Borgo Antico, facing the church of Santo Spirito, long, narrow dark brown olives came with unsalted Tuscan brown bread, peasanty and sturdy. My main course was a filet of sea bass cooked in foil with cherry tomatoes, tiny shrimp and basil leaves. The fish was served atop an edible garnish of mallow flowers, with a side of perfectly roasted potatoes. Sunset happened as I strolled home across the Ponte alla Trinita. Can it get better than this?

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