Travel, like so many other pleasant things (marriage, for example) is all about compromise. Unless you go abroad with people who share your interests, unlike family who just share your life, you end up doing a lot of things because other people want to do them. So because John and his mom were very hot to do it, Avery and I climbed up with them to the top of the Duomo even though once we got up there, we were too terrified to move, much less take a photograph or pose for one! Avery bolted straight back down the 523 steps, I lingered for just long enough to realize I really felt ill, and followed her down. Here we are, very tiny and low.
Our hearts were pounding, from a combination of exertion and sheer fear, for about the next hour! During which, because Avery wanted to, we all trooped into Sephora, where if there is a limit to her attention span, we’ve never reached it. She can spend a mind-bendingly long time in there, perusing — no, actually touching — every single tube of lipstick, shade of blush, shimmery things and glossy things and by the end of an hour the entire back of her hand is covered with tiny samples of all the products.
Have I ever mentioned that Avery writes a makeup blog, in fact? She’d love for you to visit. She’ll tell you everything you need to know about any item you might want to apply to your face… and yet she herself always looks completely natural. How does she manage it?
And then, because my family are really very nice people, we went to… the Mercato Centrale, the Central Market, where I could easily have pitched a tent and lived for WEEKS, just going from stall to stall. It is HUGE! If you’ve ever been to Borough Market, here in London, it’s a similar atmosphere, only for some reason much better lit! Heavenly. Everyone so friendly and allowing me to speak my ragged Italian, only slipping into English when I was proved totally incompetent to distinguish between types of salami I wanted to buy! Of course I had a completely wonderful time buying dried porcini, truffle puree, Parmigiano in huge chunks, special seasoning mixes for all sorts of pasta dishes, and fresh produce…
The most exciting, and also challenging, thing to buy was the Holy Grail of my visit to the market… the wild boar that I’d been so eager to get a recipe for at the restaurant the night before. And buy it I did.
From there it was necessary to placate my troops, not linger at every stall, and finally just choose the mushrooms and fennel that would complete my shop. Why isn’t it this much fun to buy mushrooms in London? And melon! Don’t get me started. The proprietress gave me a sample and it was the juiciest, the most fragrant I had ever tasted. I bought more of everything than I really needed.
By this time I had completely spent my family’s patience with the market, and had to be content with the unwieldy and heavy bags containing all my plunder, including the wild boar which had come with instructions for “slow cooking,” as I already knew.
Off we were to a self-improving day at the Uffizi, although truth be told, Avery and I were slackers. We looked dutifully at paintings, noting that the thing we most wanted to see, Botticelli’s “Venus on the Half-Shell” as it’s known in the art history trade, had somehow disappeared. We consulted our guidebook, our guide to the museum itself, a little map I had secreted in my bag. “It’s got to be along that corridor we first visited,” John said optimistically, and thereupon another roundabout of the galleries in search of that one little jewel. And find it we did, but to me, the real jewel was the view from the gallery window.
We emerged, finally, having satisfied everyone’s wishes for the day: architecture, scary upwardly mobile views, the perfect eyelash, the perfect wild boar, Botticelli, and, our glorious restaurant of the night before, for dinner!
“We can cook the wild boar tomorrow night,” I assured everyone, “and remember, he’s closed tomorrow night, so we’d better go now.”
THIS night, however, we were treated even more royally than we had been the night before. The proprietor greeted me by name, we were seated in what we thought of as “the natives’ room” as everyone was speaking Italian around us, instead of English as they had the night before, not that we had minded. And the strozzapreti al spinaci, even more magnificent than the night before… a beautiful night.Print This Post