Joe and I had decided after our trip to Paris last year that our next big destination was going to be Italy. I wanted to find a spot and do day trips out, but Joe was concerned about getting around in a country where the drivers all have a bit of Mario Andretti about them. After a little research of my own on how to get from point A to point B and repeatedly finding the descriptive phrase “road is not well marked,” I concluded that Joe was right and gave up my idea of an Italian farmhouse for a week. We booked a guided tour of Tuscany around January and anxiously awaited the departure of what we named our “grandpa tour.”
Finally our May 12 departure date arrived and we got to the airport, checked our bags and off we went! Some 18 hours later, after a brief stay in Chicago and Frankfort, we arrived in Florence tired but ready to power through the jet lag and check out this beautiful Italian city.
After checking in to our hotel, we wandered down a few avenues and over the Ponte Vecchio. The day was overcast and there was a slight drizzle coming down so we thought the interior of the Palazzo Pitti, former home to the powerful Medici family would be a good first stop.
We wandered through room after room filled with beautiful ceilings and some of the Medici family’s incredible art collection. Because of the weather, we decided to save the Palace’s Boboli Gardens for later and headed to the streets for our first taste of Italian fare.
There are charming little cafes and shops located all along these ancient avenues.
We strolled until we found Pino’s – a covered semi-open air cafe tucked between two shops. We were hungry and the tour welcome dinner was hours away. Time to order up!
Bruschetta with cannellini beans – we have had an Americanized version of this bruschetta before at Cafe Nonna in Nashville. Pino’s version was simple with beans thin-skinned and lightly flavored. Our first bite of true Italian yumminess!
Next, we shared a Tuscan tomato bread soup. This is a dish Joe, my “Giuseppe” as I called him in Italy, will work on reproducing. I thought I was ordering a simple tomato florentine soup because it was a little cold out and perhaps I did, but this soup was very different from what I expected. In Tuscany, bread crumbs are added to the bits of spinach, herbs and chunks of tomato. This soup was hearty and delicious and even though it is a dish that I would think would be great fall fare, the culinary inclined locals in Italy recommend serving it in the late spring and summer months when those beautiful tomatoes are at their tastiest. We are planning a little balsamic and olive oil tasting a little later, and I think this will be a perfect dish to serve to our friends!
Last, we shared Pino’s agnolotti filled with cheese and herbs in a simple brown butter and sage sauce. What can you say other than bellisimo!
Pino’s was a great first experience in Italy. After lunch, we continued our wandering of the streets of Firenze with happy tummies and excitement about what sort of culinary goodness the coming days would bring. Check back because there is much more to come as the Music City Diner and my handsome Giuseppe eat our way through Tuscany!