Florence market and cooking class

Wednesday we traveled again to Florence. This time for our cooking class. We decided to try the train to avoid driving into the city center. Allesandra got a train schedule for us for trains from Calle Val D’Elsa (hills of the valley of the river Elsa).

This town was about 20 kilometers from Radicondoli. We had some trouble finding the town. The navigator (the electronic one) kept trying to send us in circles. The Nuvi kept saying turn on street such-and-such, but there are no street signs. All the signs are town names. This way to Siena, that way to Firenza…  We found it worked best to use the Nuvi for the “last few miles” navigation. Anyway, we got to the train station and tried to figure out where we should park. I found a garage that was 90 minutes free, and 3 euros for all-hours after that. Which I thought meant 3 euros for all day. Oh well.

Once in the station, we tried to use the machine to get tickets. It didn’t seem to be working right. We finally asked someone and turns out you buy the tickets from the folks at the café counter. OK then! Tickets in hand we wait at track 1. The train is on-time and we board. Comfortable seats. We arrive in the main train station in Florence at 9:05. We are supposed to meet our group at “the Piazza Della Stazione OR the Piazza Unita D’Italia”. It seemed curious to us, that they would have two “either/or” meeting places, but the two squares were next to each other. We exited the station and could NOT find the tour group. We decide to have Kathy wait in the station square and I would run over to the other piazza. I found the tour group rep holding up the yellow sign as promised, told her we were here, ran back to get Kathy. We wound up being only about 5 minutes late.

The cooking group (about a dozen of us) walked together to the Mercato Centrale meeting our guide&chef Roberto on the way. We had a great tour of the market. We saw organ meat I hope to never encounter on a plate. We tasted a melon that was so delicious. We bought a few fruits including a ripe fig and wonderful white-fleshed peaches. There was a fabulous cured ham/cheese/oil/vinegar stand that we REALLY wanted to get back to but never got the chance as the market closes at 2pm each day.

Then another walk to the cooking school on the south side of the river. We made bruschett, and pasta with a tomato & roasted eggplant & roasted pepper sauce, and meatballs with caramelized red onions and balsamic vinegar. The cooking was fun but the market was definitely the best part of this tour.

We got to the train station 10 minutes before a return train. We got the tickets out of a machine 5 minutes before our train. We got to the track (running) and made it aboard. The conductor came by and fined us 5 euros because we hadn’t “validated” our tickets in a machine in the station. OK. So another lesson learned…

When we got back to Poggio Bianco, we got a message from Allesandra through the housekeeper Bozana. She had made us a dinner reservation at Ristorante Boscaglia.  I had asked her on our first day where we could enjoy seafood and she said this place would have seafood Thursday night. What a cool adventure. We drove up this small back road and found this very cool small restaurant. They spoke NO English, and as we were trying to negotiate the menu they called over their friend who spoke English. Only he didn’t really speak any English either. So, the chef is trying to ask us if we would like crawfish, but no one knows the word… and the friend has a breakthrough… he tells the chef to bring them out for us to see. Ah! OK!

Then they are trying to say fillet. And he says you “make a board of fish” from which we guess fillet. Yes! OK! A Swedish couple walked by and they are trying to help translate octopus. The wife says to the husband “you’re French, you must know the Italian word for octopus” and he says “yes but… it’s not a word you use every day! Hey look! There’s an octopus”.

We finished the meal with our first glass of Grapa. Yumm.