Italian vacation, a bite sized snap shot


Central Market, Florence, Italy.

I have been absent, I know. Like I said I would be. But it truly does seem like forever since I have posted something new for you. I have been busy living life and sometimes life moves so fast that we choose not to slow down to record it. But, while in Italy for vacation/work I experienced so many foodie experiences that I couldn't help but want to share it. It was profound. Italian food, as I have known for a long time, is not all about pasta. In fact, it takes a backseat to the amazing fresh produce, hand crafted meats and cheeses and beautiful Italian wines. It is alot easier to be gluten free in Italy than you would think.

I had two particular meals which were so outstanding, I could barely contain myself. My favorite part of the meals were that they were amazing, fresh ingredients prepared simply. I love when good food is able to stand for itself. Another great thing about the two meals were that both restaurants were family owned and operated (one was actually on a farm) and the majority of ingredients were handmade by someone in the family. These experiences were not had in the touristy areas of Florence, but further afield in Fiesole and Chianti. We were very lucky to have some local contacts who put us on to the amazing experiences. The first meal (which happened 4 days into our trip) was at Trattoria Le Cave di Maiano in Fiesole. The second was at Ristoro L'Antica Scuderia as part of our private wine and food tour. Yes, we had a day where we had a driver/guide/foodie extraordinaire (who also looked like 007 & could have easily doubled as our body guard) took us around Chianti, where we did meat, cheese, olive oil, balsamic and of course, wine tastings. We also had lunch together at Ristoro L'Antica Scuderia as part of our day. Both meals provided us with profound food experiences. Zucchini blossoms and porcini mushrooms (fresh!!!) are in season, the produce is at its best (see market picture above) and these restaurants (and the country for that matter, since it is where Slow Food started) are heavily committed to the philosophies of Slow Food. Also, despite Florentinian food having some heavier dishes (fried foods and a good deal of meat), everything is served family style and you end up eating just a little bit of everything, in the end having pretty light meals. It is, in my opinion, the best way to experience food. I would rather have small bites on many different amazing dishes, than a lot of bites of just one.

There is no way that words can describe the experience completely, so instead I am inundating this post with pictures (from my new camera!!). It is easy to see how profound of an experience this was.

Trattoria Le Cave di Maiano

Via delle Cave 16, Fiesole. Telephone: 055/59133. Website:

[caption id="attachment_541" align="aligncenter" width="685" caption="Beautiful antipasto spread"]antipasto[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_542" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="The deck in the hills of Fiesole, my dad and sister."]deckat la cave[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_543" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="The chef/owner/waiter's father makes the prosciutto."]handcrafted meat[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_544" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="In the center is Coccole, my sister & I's favorite. Fried bread that is eaten with the soft cheese & prosciutto pictured above (not gf friendly)."]coccole[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_545" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Fried zucchini blossoms"]zucchini[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_547" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Gnocchi, handmade that morning by Francesco (our waiter/chef/owner). AMAZING! Unlike any you have ever tried."]gnocchi[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_548" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Filet wrapped around asparagus with fried polenta squares."]steak[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_549" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Free range (aka wild) chicken. Brick-smashed with herbs."]chicken[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_550" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Favorite dessert: Vin Santo with biscotti (holy wine)."]vin santo[/caption]

vin santo 2

[caption id="attachment_563" align="aligncenter" width="685" caption="After a 3 hour lunch with Francesco (owner/chef/waiter/etc) we were friends. He chased us down after we left to give us a bottle of his favorite wine. All that and lunch was only 150 Euros. Worth the trip just to meet him!"]After a 3 hour lunch with Francesco (owner/chef/waiter/etc) we were friends. He chased us down after we left to give us a bottle of his favorite wine. All that and lunch was only 150 Euros. Worth the trip just to meet him![/caption]

Chianti Day

[caption id="attachment_552" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="1,000 of the best Italian wines, you will never see stateside."]1,000 of the best Italian wines, you will never see stateside.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_553" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="peppered salami tasting at the butcher in Greve"]peppered salami tasting at the butcher in Greve[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_554" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Balsamic vinegar being aged"]Balsamic vinegar being aged[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_555" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Overlooking the hills of Chianti from Montefioralle"]Overlooking the hills of Chianti from Montefioralle[/caption]

Ristoro L'Antica Scuderia

Via Di Passignano 17- 50028 Tavarnelle Val Di Pesa. Telephone: 055/8071623. Website:

[caption id="attachment_556" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Starting the meal off right with a crisp, cool glass of Prosecco."]Starting the meal off right with a crisp, cool glass of Prosecco.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_557" align="aligncenter" width="685" caption="Antipasto spread."]Antipasto spread.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_558" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Fresh figs and handcrafted meats"]Fresh figs and handcrafted meats[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_559" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Pecorino and a type of fruit cake, surprisingly delicious!"]Pecorino and a type of fruit cake, surprisingly delicious![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_560" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Look but don't touch (in my case: allergic to eggs). Our special "surprise", fried egg with fresh shaved truffles."]Look but don't touch (in my case: allergic to eggs). Our special "surprise", fried egg with fresh shaved truffles.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_562" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Perfectly cooked steak with juniper berries"]Perfectly cooked steak with juniper berries[/caption]

Florence left me very satisfied as a foodie. It takes some work and a bit of insider help to get away from the touristy, americanized restaurants, especially if you are staying in city center like we were. I think it is a catch-22 for a lot of Americans: if you go to a place that is a local spot, you likely won't be able to read the menu and there may not be anyone there willing to translate for you. But if you go to a place that is tourist friendly, then the authenticity also goes down. My recommendation is first, go to the restaurants. Next, find a local who is willing to help you navigate. I had a few other great food experiences, one after my race (that I discuss here) with our running buddy/gracious host Lorenzo at the park where we raced called CowSheep. He also took us out the evening previous to a great restaurant called 4 Leoni. All in all, I returned stateside with a profound foodie experience.