As hard as it is to believe, I am actually in Florence for a class, actually a global seminar called “Sustainable Food Systems of Italy” that’s 3 credits and fulfills two liberal education requirements. So this means I actually have homework to do and class to go to on regular weekdays (totally not complaining, since I get to walk by the Duomo everyday to get to the ACCENT center, where class discussions are held. Plus, I am in Italy, who can complain about that?). Today is our first official day of class, and the first thing we did was touring the two major markets in the city of Florence. These two markets are where the local Florentines buy their foods and where the tourists tour and don’t usually buy anything (they spend all their money outside the market building buying souvenirs).
Above is Mercato Centrale (Central Market), the bigger of the two markets we visited today. Around the market are stands and stands of vendors selling souvenirs, leather good, and other stuff to tourists. Inside the market are different vendors selling food items ranging from cheese and bread to vegetables and fruits to meat and seafood. It’s actually very similar to the traditional markets in Taiwan (one of my Taiwanese friends enthusiastically agrees), except that in Florence, the way of refrigeration is somewhat a little more modern than that of Taiwan’s.
We also visited the Sant’ Ambrogio Market, which is pretty similar to Mercato Centrale, but there are more vendors selling vegetables and fruits outside, and those all look really good. Tip in the future: don’t visit a market with not much food in your stomach. I was pretty hungry after all that walking and looking at fresh food.
After a brief break and lunch (actually a 2.5 hour one), we had our only survival Italian lesson, which hopefully will get me through these 3 weeks. I learned from Daniela that we should also buy food in season, which is not only cheaper and probably tastes better, but also is good for the environment and supporting local farmers. Afterwards, we headed for the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, which is located on the top of a hill, south of the Arno River that runs through Florence. Since it is one of the highest point in Florence, we had this perfect view of the city, and the church itself has a pretty amazing interior also.
As it was on the top of a pretty steep hill, all that hiking got me hungry again. Fortunately we did plan to go to aperitivo, which pretty much means happy hours, at a bar. Now, in Italy, bar is a place where you can get panini, pastry, coffee, or other ready-to-eat food items, instead of a place to get drunk (even though all of them sell alcoholic drinks). Most bars has this happy hour, during which you order any drink at a fixed price, and have access to a buffet of different dishes. It was a pretty good deal considering the amount of food I ate, and the food wasn’t bad at all. I finished my day with a cup of tiramisu and vanilla gelato. As Rachel Ray would say, Yum-O!