We had a lazy start to the day in Rome before we left to go to Florence. When it actually came time that we had to leave and get our butts in gear to get to the train station, there was a flurry of activity by everyone.  It was like we suddenly realized we had to leave Rome.

It must be the Italian culture of sauntering, strutting, and moving around like they are the only people in the world.  They are very nice, don’t get me wrong, it is just that Italians have a flow about them like they have had a glass of wine and nothing is wrong around them; there is no hurry for anything; everything is ok. It is like mindfulness on steroids.  However, if you piss someone off, watch out… Italian conversations might be romantic lovey-dovey speak, but it sounds like they are yelling at each other.

Anyways, after getting everything packed up, we took a taxi to the station which is as exciting as a roller coaster as Italian drivers , particularly the taxi drivers, are crazy.  We hopped on the train a hour and a half ride to Florence and got out of the train in the 36°C sweltering heat. No walking for us in this heat, only a cab ride to our apartment.

Everything in Italy, and probably Europe due to the compact nature of the towns which requires cramming in everything they can into the available space they have within the city walls, is tall and narrow.  Our climb to our new apartment was no exception.  We climbed up the narrow and twisting staircase for five floors and arrived at our apartment for the next three days in Florence (or Firenze as they call it). It was small but beautiful.  The apartment all is well furnished with overstuffed Victorian chairs, a piano, hardwood floors, and a nice sized bedroom at either end of the apartment to give the kids and us some space.

Wilson tinkling the ivories spontaneously…
The master bedroom

After acquainting ourselves, we headed out for a quick little tour of the town but mainly to find a playground where the kids could blow off some steam. We found a nice little spot and the kids found an abandoned soccer ball that they picked up which will prove useful at other playgrounds as we continue our travels.

We were also killing time until the restaurant we wanted to go to opened up for dinner (Il Pizzaiuolo).  The kids played soccer on an empty restaurant patio while we waited for them to open

Everyone eats late here, but their main meal is lunch so they don’t have a bit supper usually. Lunch to fuel up, and dinner to relax and socialize with family and friends.  This was a great little pizza place  that served up original Napoleon style pizza (which supposedly is hard to find here…something like they don’t really want to compete with Naples for pizza glory), which was simply delicious.

   

We had read reviews of this place and heard that it filled up quickly so we made sure that we are there at the opening of their dinner service at 7:30 so we could get a table. We sat at a table right beside the piazzolo and his side kick and watched them pump out pizza after pizza in the wood oven  that was about 700°C.

Margherita pizza with Burrata cheese

I had a pizza with Burrata cheese, which is like whipped mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato sauce and basil, which was incredible. Deb had a egg plant pizza which was equally as good. Interesting, the kids had no appetite for pizza tonight and Wilson ordered seafood linguini and Lauchlyn had fresh pasta with Ragu.  Here are some random local celebrities that we stumbled upon…

Off to home for a sleep before the big day of exploring ahead the next day!

I woke up early, and headed out for a run around town before the kids got up. It is so nice to get up in a tourist town early and do “speed sightseeing” while you run around the major sights (again, towns are small so nothing is far apart) and there are only a few tourists (usually elderly) looking at the sights. Not many of the “going-for-a-run-to-capture-some-international-Strava-segments-while-I-take-some-selfies” people like me. Plus it gives you an idea of the lay of the town so that you know where things are at for when you go out touring with the kids later.  I ran through a movie set that Michael Bay was filming something called “6 Underground” (he did the Terminator movies) starring Ryan Reynolds and some other folks. They didn’t need any extras hahahah!!  I guess I didn’t have that Hollywood look to me at the time.  Again, the Italian crew didn’t seem to be caring much about what was going on around them.All sweaty and hot, I hit up the market for some fresh fruit and baked goods and then went home to fuel up for the day.Once we got moving, we made our way down to the main museum (by Piazza de Vecchio) where they had a really cool free sightseeing package for the kids. They gave us a backpack with a map with a guided route and stopping points, information about each of the stops written in kid friendly language, activities (drawing, sculpting, puzzles, search and finds, etc) for the kids to do at each location.

There was a supplementary book and app that had a guided audio tour that the adults could use while the kids were busy. We had three hours to complete it and it was very engaging for the kids while we were able to see the sights. They did search and finds, make a clay sculpture of a hero or god, find the hidden public spanking spot (haha, yes, for real… see the wheel looking thing on the floor), and rub the pig for good luck.

The kids figuring out the next clue

Making statues of your own hero

Their interpretation of how they would have designed the front of the Duomo cathedral. It lay blank for 200 years!

Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa. Wilson’s hero

Lulu’s anatomically correct hero. Not sure who it is though.

Anyways, it was a great idea that allowed us all to see the sites, Deb and I to learn some more about the history of the area, and something to keep the kids occupied and happy.  We don’t have thousands of years of history, but this is something that Huntsville certainly could do!

I forgot that on the way to the museum, we stumbled across a Pinocchio store that was incredible. Everything was hand carved and the deeper you went into the store you found the old workshop where the fabled Pinocchio has its roots. The wood carving shop has been in business since 1509, but the fable was written in 1881. It is the second most translated story in the world, after the bible. The characters are based (even the fox) on real people. Pretty cool find! I didn’t know that Pinocchio came from Florence! More interesting facts can be found here.

Giupetto’s workshop

This afternoon, Deb and Lulu went off to learn how to make gelato and pizza with Florencetown tours, and Wilson and I went to Mama Florence for a pasta making class (see Deb’s post about her cooking class…).  Making fresh pasta is something that I always have wanted to learn how to do, and what a better place to do it than in Italy.

We, well mainly I, decided that we would walk the 2km to the school (save money for the gelato fund), but at the end of it all, the GPS didn’t take us to where we needed to be, and we ended up calling the company trying to figure out where to go.  Ends up that we were off by a little bit, and ended up running about 1km to get to the cooking school.  Well, we arrived all hot and sweaty as we thought we were late.  We were, but we waited on three people that in the end didn’t show up.  Oh well, more pasta for us!

  

It seems so technical and finicky that I was daunted this culinary skill, despite the significant differences between boxed pasta and fresh pasta.   It was just egg and semolina flour, and you mixed it by hand (100g of flour for every egg) until the gluten was incorporated and the finger indents popped back when gently squeezed. You then wrap it up tightly and let it sit for 30min at room temperature.   If you want to freeze it, you can, just put it on a cookie sheet and freeze it then put it in a Tupperware container and it should keep for a couple of weeks. Just thaw it out before you use it.

 

Plus I finally figured out why you salt the water and then mix the pasta into the sauce and let it sit before serving…pasta itself has very little to no flavour. So the salt in the boiling water adds saltiness to the pasta and then you pull the al dente pasta out and put it in the sauce so that as the pasta absorbs some of the flavour of the water, and if it is salty, then the pasta is salty.

We made Tagliatelle, Tortelli, and Wilson made a couple of Ravioli (his favourite) with the leftover scrap cuttings from the pasta. The Tortelli was stuffed with potato, butter, garlic, parsley, and cheese. We made a sage butter sauce to go with this (simply butter, fresh sage cooked over low heat so you don’t brown the butter, rather you infuse the sage flavour into the butter…and you add some of the pasta water bubble foam skimmed off he top to thicken it up).

The Tagliatelle was served with a fresh pesto we made (made in a cold blender so it doesn’t turn brown, and we used almonds as it is cheaper but just as good as pine nuts.  Don’t forget to seal the pesto with olive oil so it doesn’t go bad or turn brown), and you can keep it in the fridge for weeks.

I almost forgot, we started off with cartelized goat cheese (super fresh from a local farm) over a ragu of fresh zucchini, garlic and cherry tomatoes. Mmmmm delish!

We had the fruits of our labour with some prosecco and red wine that was paired to the dishes.  I won’t lie, it was expensive, but well worth every penny.

We all had fun today together, and in pairs. We are more quickly adapting to changes in location, environments, available resources, and each other. This is how you learn and grow as a person.  Take risks.  Embrace experiences for what they are. Live in the moment. Learn from your mistakes.  Move on to the next adventure.