Osteria Pizzeria dei Cento Poveri

After getting back from Elba--a seven-hour marathon trip--we were starving, and Bruno hooked us up.

For five euro each, we had bread, water, wine, bean and faro soup, and (DRUMROLL) raw salad, with cherry tomatoes and onions! I forgot to mention in my last post that I forgot to bring my lactaid tabs to Elba with me, and consequently felt pretty sick after eating on Saturday: "toast" from Chef Express in Santa Maria Novella (grilled cheese with mozzarella and ham, cure for my hangover from Shots and Twice, and fuel since we were operating on three hours of sleep), a spinach and goat cheese panino in Piombino, and then fresh pecorino with bruschetta at dinner.

The salad was perfect, the soup was perfect, and in fact the restaurant, Pizzeria of the Hundred Beggars, was just perfect as well.


The Toremar ferry we took from Piombino to reach Portoferraio; below, the snacks Sarah and I shared in the ferry's bar.
Trying to describe Elba--with the same words I've used to describe gnocchi, buses, hunger, fatigue, and other trifles--is like trying to paint without pigment, cook without salt, wash without soap. A series of images: the sun, glinting off the water so sharply it burns my eyes; the swimming blues and greens of the ocean and the beige, yellow, pink reflections of the buildings in the water; the rocks, rising haphazardly from the water as if they were the boney elbows and knees of a goddess, languoring in her Tyrrhenian bathtub.

I could have died a happy death in Napoleon's gardens: the tended shrubs and statue, the shifting azules and turquoises of the seas, the wind ripping at my hair and clothes. But it wasn't so much the going but rather the coming back to Italy proper that really got to me.

Marciana Marina; our apartment was straight ahead

Seeing the Tuscan shore from the deck of our Moby ferry, smelling the sharp asphyxiating sulfur of the Piombino iron refineries, watching the smokestacks belch their reeking refuse in the thick, cold air—was like falling back down from heaven and hitting the earth with a shattering thump. It knocked something out of me, or rather into me.

Back in Firenze, I felt Elba's claws on my back everywhere I walked. Suddenly there were fewer things to bother me: the rain and clouds were not bad weather, I had merely been wearing bad shoes; the food was not so expensive, I had just been shopping at the wrong stores; my commute was not interminable. I hadn't before taken the time to observe the teenage boys cajoling the old ladies, the tiny dogs chafing in their tight muzzles, the men who stood for the whole ride and read their free newspapers.

Oh, Elba... ti voglio bene.

A Night Out

I don't usually bring my camera with me when we go out in Italy (for obvious reasons; note flaming shot) but I happened to chronicle the beginning of one last weekend... I met Sarah, Hattie, and Kelsey at their apartment, and then we headed to Shots Cafe, near the Duomo.

Going out in Italy is not so much an adventure as an undertaking. There is a strange phenomenon in Florenze: a system of complicated, subconscious decision-making which all Italians understand, that tells them where to go that evening. I have never walked so much, just to get to a club or a pub and realize that we've come to the wrong place. So we walk somewhere else.

And it seems to change weekly, nightly, or even hourly. Everyone knows that Tuesdays at Be-bop are going to be full of American students and prowling Italians, but are sundays at Noir or tuesdays at Cavalli Club so well-known? Is there always burlesque at Babylon on fridays, or were we just lucky? And why does the party seem to move from Twice to 21 at exactly 1 am on Saturday nights?

These are all mysteries to me, and unfortunately my wallet is too thin to invest in research. Still, once or twice a week, I learn a little bit more...

Trattoria Nella // Grom

Old, old photos from a lovely night my second week in Florence!

The Trattoria Nella is on Via della Terme. It's a cute little ristorante (kind of expensive) but as soon as you bite into the gnocchi al pomodoro, you know: it's worth it. Oh yes, oh god yes, it's worth it.

The little dumplings fall  apart as soon as they hit your tongue. The combination of tangy, sweet tomatoes, savory basil, and just the right amount of salt amounted to the best place I've had in Florence.

Except Gabriella's eggplant. Oh, the melanzane... I need to stop. I'm getting hungry.

Afterwards, we hit up Grom, a famous gelateria in Florence. I had the sortbetto alla mela (apple sorbet), which was freaking amazing. I will even hazard to say it was a revelation, because I would never have thought to use apples in sorbet. With some gorgonzola or some fresh cream, it would have been perfect.

But still, I don't think Grom deserves its reputation for eing the "best gelateria in Florence." I've certainly had gelato from a couple other spots, Carraia and Gelateria Neri to name a couple, that was just as good if not better than what I tasted of my friends' creamy gelato from Grom. But I'm not an expert, obviously.