The last few times we’ve visited Italy have been during the off season, so this trip in May marks the first time coping with the usual spring surge, coupled with pent up travel demand from Covid. In other words, crowds.
In Firenze (Florence) there are crowds of crowds. As we always do, we booked ahead for the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (where Michelangelo’s statue of David resides) and the Uffizi Gallery, so that we could skip the lines. Nothing doing. Those advance purchases only mean you stand in a slightly shorter line. Once inside the museums it’s thick with bodies, which does tend to detract from the experience, although everyone was respectful of the art and each other.
But rather than complain too much, I’ll focus on the positive. On this trip our good luck has been concentrated in the dining realm. Typically when visiting a foreign city your first dining opportunities are the ones along the main streets—but those are usually the ones places cater to tourist tastes. I’m of the philosophy that I already know my taste, and I know I’m a tourist, so why reinforce it? When eating out Dona and I seek out the places where the locals go. That’s the only way to heighten the experience. Finding them is not always easy without a recommendation from someone who knows. In Firenze we passed probably two dozen restaurants that just didn’t look right for us. But we kept going around the corners, in the alleys (alleys are not such a bad thing in Europe), waiting for the place with the right look and feel—and even then we were not guaranteed to find one.
But on this day, jackpot! Osteria del Porcellino. As soon as we sat down we could tell we were among a local crowd. It’s not just that everyone else spoke Italian, but the way they spoke, especially in how many of the diners recognized other patrons and the staff. It helps, I think, to find places that have been around for a while. Osteria del Porcellino was established in 1969, long before the tourist business started booming here.
Our waiter, of course, knew we were Americans (there seems to be no hiding this fact, even if you manage to deliver a sentence or two in flawless Italian), and adopted the requisite sneer of disdain throughout the service—until, that is, Dona asked him where the bathroom was: “Dove il toilet? Did I say that right?” That cracked him up, and after that we were okay. Fabulous food, naturally. Gnocchi with pesto. I’ve tried this at home, and always thought my pesto was pretty good, but apparently I have a ways to go.