You know, it wasn't easy looking at the nice customs inspector with a straight face and saying, "No, sir, I didn't bring back any food from Italy. I ate it all there."
Not when I had a bag bulging suspiciously with dried porcini, sundried tomatoes, jarred pesto, truffle paste, biscotti and random other items we didn't feel we could come home without. (I let him carry the wine!)
But starting at the beginning, on day 3, we woke up to . . . you guessed it, drizzle.
Breakfast and then out. We had another early-morning museum appointment. I'd seen the copy of the David in the Piazza, but I wanted to see the real deal.
The real deal is located in the Galleria Academia, which was in a section of Florence we hadn't explored yet. We set out bravely under our umbrellas, and by the time we got there it was hardly raining at all. Again.
And yes, seeing the real David blew the fake outdoor David out of the water. I don't precisely understand how, but you can see him above, and he is amazing. So amazing that I snapped a non-permitted picture and had a teeny-tiny little security lady come up to me and say, "No photos, signora!" Scusi.
Once we had walked around the whole museum - not anywhere near as large as the Uffizi, and with a ton more altar pieces and tortured and martyred saints (and a completely unexpected but fabulous exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe's photos) - we headed for the market area.
I love markets. Especially flea markets and food markets. The outdoor markets didn't have anything in the way of grubby old stuff, my absolute favorite kind, but they had tons more leather and all the gifts we needed to buy before we set off home.
Mario got his mom a beautiful ceramic bowl, and his mom and my aunt both got cashmere scarves. His sister, in addition to a few other random goodies, got a hot pink t-shirt that says "Ciao Bella!" in the same style as the CocaCola logo. She'll love it. She's a girly girl.
The guidebooks all talked about the Mercato Centrale, the big indoor food market, despite the purple prose, they didn't do it justice. It's a food market on steroids. They have everything. Buckets of dried porcini. Rack on rack of wine bottles. Fresh pasta, dried pasta, a very cool machine that not only made the pasta and pressed the pasta, but spit it out in sheets and folded little tortellini. I want a small version of that for my kitchen.
On the left, enough prosciutto to keep him happy for years. Literally.
We spent a long while wandering around the Mercato, until we'd made ourselves absolutely starving from grazing on samples. I grabbed a few items to bring home and we went off in search of lunch.
It had started to rain again, but we found a little trattoria with a covered outside area and those lovely outdoor heaters. More wine to warm us up, and a big dish of pasta. Mario got something with truffle cream sauce and I got asparagus and porcini. I think. I ate it so quickly I barely remember.
From there, we wandered to the other outdoor market - more of the same as the one outside Mercato Centrale, but that was where Mario bought my green bag that I had to have.
The sky actually cleared a little, so instead of going back to the hotel to drop off our bags, we kept walking. Eventually we ran across another candy-fied church, which the map told us was Santa Croce.
Santa Croce was extensively damaged in the big flood in 1966, and they're still doing restoration 40 years later. For a minimal charge, you get to see the church, all the side chapels, a ton of art, a separate little museum, the leather school, the leather school gift shop, the cloisters, the gardens and random other goodies. I could have stayed at the leather school for a while and been happy. And the stuff in their shop - basket-woven leather bags that cost more than my round trip plane fare, but delicious.
Drizzling again, so back to the hotel for pre-dinner nap, and then up again and across the river to Mama Gina's, a little restaurant we had noticed the night before.
Once fed, full of wine and warm, we walked back to the hotel, stopped for gelato, and planned out our last full day in Florence.