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Dr John Hawkins

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Saturday in Florence

Posted on 2014/06/24 23:09:56 (June 2014).

[Saturday 21st June 2014]
As predicted in advance, this was the best day of the trip - as interesting as it was to explore new parts of Italy, Florence is a fantastic city, and it's always more fun visiting a friend in a foreign country rather than trying to make do by ourselves.

We started by visiting the market at the Piazza delle Cuore to buy some provisions for breakfast. The main objective was to get fresh fruit to feed into Lorenzo's fancy juicer, but whilst there I couldn't resist also buying some fresh porcini, and on the way back we also picked up some pastries from Lorenzo's local pasticceria. So altogether that made for a very nice breakfast.

After breakfast (allowing Erika some more time first to play with the kittens) we headed out in the direction of the Boboli Gardens - mainly with the attention of visiting the fort there, which turned out to be closed. So we just had a general wander round the gardens, which offered some nice views out over Florence, and over the Tuscan countryside in the other direction. That was ll very picturesque.

For lunch we headed back to the centre, and dined very cheaply and cheerfully at Trattoria Bordino, where the set lunch was an almost embarrassingly frugal 8 euros.

The highlight of the day, for me at least, then commenced in the afternoon, when we embarked on a Negroni Crawl around some of Florence's grand historic cafes. We started at Caffe Rivoire, which now considered itself to be the spiritual home (if you'll pardon the pun) of the Negroni, having been owned by the same people at the time the Negroni was invented in Cafe Casoni, which no longer exists in its original form. The bartender noticed we were interested in Negroni history, and said she would make our Negronis with a couple of tweaks to be more consistent with the original - a squeeze of lime zest, and a splash of soda water. This made for a really fresh tasting zingy sort of a Negroni.

Next on the itinerary was Caffe Gilli. Although they weren't particularly involved, as far as I'm aware, in the creation of the Negroni, they were around at the time, and were likely one of the first places outside of Casoni to serve the drink. I think I possibly liked the interior here best of all out of the three.

Finally we went, with slight apprehension, to Caffe Giacosa. This is a modern fashionable cafe owned by Roberto Cavalli, which occupies the sight of what was Caffe Casoni, the birthplace of the Negroni. Before coming here I'd got the impression they'd rather turned their back on that history - the plaque about the Negroni which originally hung here is now hanging in Rivoire, for example - and I wasn't even sure whether they'd serve a Negroni in its new incarnation. However, those fears were unfounded, as in fact the glasses here had a picture of Count Negroni on, and they actually made a very respectable Negroni using Carpano Antica Formula - so in terms of ingredients this was probably the best of the three, although for technique I think I slightly preferred the one at Rivoire.

After all that excitement, the remainder of the day was fairly quiet by comparison. We gradually meandered back to Lorenzo's place after leaving Giacosa, and had dinner at a local pizzeria near where he lives, called Re Matto. I actually had quite possibly the best pizza of the trip here - with porcini and black truffles on. Very tasty, albeit perhaps a tad burnt round the edges.

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