As I walked the streets of Florence in May deciding where to eat, through daily markets with bags, scarves and leather goods, there was a heady mix of cigarette smoke and perfume in the air.
As a lover of food, one of the best pieces of advice I was given about Florence was to visit Mercato Centrale (central market), not just during the day for the fresh produce, but also at night to sample the artisan food stalls upstairs.
I first went in the morning to visit the daytime market and take a look at local Tuscan produce. Such an amazing sight, bright beautiful colours and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
If Australian customs weren’t so strict I would have bought so many things (pomodoro! fungo!) but I was worried about the goods being binned at the airport.
At a large stand with lots of dried goods (with the help of my terrible Italian and much pointing and smiling) I bought dried fruit and nuts and put them all into one bag for a healthy snack mix of coconut chips, dried raspberries and pistachios.
When I found the sweets I couldn’t go past this treat – dense shortbread cookies on the outside with a generous filling of oozy Nutella.
At night I went back but this time headed upstairs to see all the food stalls. Wine, cheese, pasta, pizza, sweets – there were so many options with many dishes being made to order. The portions were more of a snackable size which was a bonus as that left room to try a few things from different vendors.
I enjoyed a lovely glass of pinot grigio (I can’t get enough of that at the moment), sampled a few cheeses and then watched two friendly Italian lads make me fresh pasta with tomato sauce, served with a sprinkling of parmesan.
Oh Florence, you dazzle me with your beautiful art, incredible architecture and wonderful food. Sadly it was time to move on. Next stop, Italy’s capital – Roma!