I can hardly describe how tired I was on the evening of my first day in Italy. So I fell asleep a lot earlier than usually and did actually feel OK when my alarm clock rang at 5.30 the next morning. The plan was simple – go back to Florence, do some cooking, be awesome, eat as much as I can manage and take a train back to Siena again.
Like many others, I really don’t feel comfortable hanging around railway stations in the early morning. So…this is exactly what I did on that cold and drizzly Sunday. No one around, a few potential drunks over there, OK, don’t be nervous, just get inside, grab a ticket and find a nice safe place in the train. But when I entered the tiny hall of Siena’s railway station, I kind of noticed that there are five weirdos well-distributed all over the place and apparently sleeping. OK, just stay quiet, don’t wake anybody, yeah, nobody wants any troubles here, everything’s gonna be fine. Somehow though, the situation encouraged my Indiana-Jonesy alter ego, so I started feeling the vibe of adventure and imagined the ticket I was about to acquire would be my Holy Grail. At least until I got to the ticket machine in a surprisingly stealthy way and put my finger on the union jack symbolizing English on the touch screen: “BEWAAARE OF PICKPOCKETSA!!!”, a woman’s heavily accented voice literally yells at me from the insides of the machine. Indiana Jones…yeah. Oh my God, woman, you’re not being helpful right now! If one of the sleeping weirdos works part-time as a pickpocket, you’ve just invited them for a payday. Luckily, I managed with my first attempt. But as I mentioned before, my face attracts other people to talk to me, so suddenly, there was a big black guy standing right next to me and staring at me. I swear I have no idea how he got there. “Scusa, I can’t buy my ticket, I have no credit card” he said. Oh my, that’s like the oldest trick I can think of…I thought first. But then I saw that he actually did have money in his hand, so I decided to help him and compensate a bit for me being stupid. The machine really didn’t cooperate a lot when I typed in his destination. So I tried again. And again…listening to “BEWAAARE OF PICKPOCKETSA!!!” pretty much constantly now. Finally, I managed, the guy thanked me, and I left very quickly and very unstealthy, feeling about five pairs of grumpy eyes on my back.
In Florence I took a fantastic cooking course organized by FlorenceTown. Since it was Sunday, we (a small group of 9) could not do the ingredient shopping tour as they normally do in the beginning (the market is closed on Sundays) but the walk to the kitchen was very nice anyway. It actually looked like a nice spring morning – the streets were still wet from the yesterday’s apocalyptical rain but the sun was shining and there was finally no wind whatsoever. The menu we were about to prepare was following – tagliatelle al ragú (that’s what’s incorrectly called “spaghetti Bolognese” by many people), ravioli con patate e pomodori (ravioli with potato filling in tomato sauce) and finally. Now, the greatest thing about the course, besides the beautiful location, was the simplicity of the recipes – it’s the simplest high-quality ingredients combined with lots of love and good technique that makes the Italian kitchen what it is. I like to believe that I can cook. But I’d never managed to make my own pasta. And to be honest, at first, it didn’t look very well during the class either. Yet miraculously, out of the blue, there they were – my very own tagliatelle and my own ravioli. And they looked great! What was the secret? Flour, egg, some love and lots of hard work with the rolling pin, nothing else. Roll, roll and roll. Add a little bit of flour and roll again. Anyway, the result was very good for everybody in the group, so we could enjoy a delicious lunch, taste a fantastic wine from the Chianti area and also try some unbelievably tasty types of aceto balsamico. Normally, I’m not a great fan of aceto balsamico, as I find it too aggressive. And although I usually do buy aceto balsamico di Modena (which is in the world of aceto balsamico something like iPad in the tablet world), those we tried were nothing like that! A very complex gentle taste, changing completely the character of anything you put it on. Delicious!
Eventually, I wasn’t very lucky with the weather. Despite the pretty morning, by the time we’ve finished the class, there were literally streams of water pouring down from the sky. First I thought “ha, I don’t care, I’m going to walk past the Uffizi gallery and see the Ponte Vecchio anyway, no matter what.”. But it didn’t take me very long to realize, that it really does not make any sense. I was soaking wet. Fortunately, I did manage to see shortly the massive Duomo and the wonderful Piazza della Signoria right before the cooking course, so saying goodbye to Florence now was not that painful.
When I got back (still raining heavily) I felt like it’s the right time for a little treatment. So I took a shower, put my best clothes on and went down to the bar at reception. There was nobody else, so I ordered a pot of tea, sat down on the comfy sofa they had there and read a book for about two hours. It felt a bit like in Jules Verne’s books – a lonely traveller facing so many adventures in the jungle during the day but being a perfect gentleman for a few moments in the evening. Oh, what a great day!