11 June 2011

Satisfying Heart, Soul, and Belly in Florence, Italy

You know that sharing my experience and knowledge of Italy in general and Florence in particular is something I love to do, if you have been reading my blog. Every now and then, though, I am embarrassed or disappointed when my sharing does not go off so swell.  You know those times when you take your friends or family to a favorite restaurant, but it turns out to be an off night and the service is less than usual and you know your guests are unhappy or even displeased.  Perhaps the waiter forgets to place the order of someone's pasta dish, or the food comes out one plate at a time and lukewarm. That type of thing happens, of course; so I become a bit reluctant to share my beloved favorite places.  We all do.

Sweet pleasures
For the love of cappuccino

The other evening I passed a woman on the street whom I overheard asking in English to her husband, "Should we just ask someone?" I spoke up, as I usually do, and offered my assistance.  The woman was delighted and receptive.  They wanted to have a good meal, and I sent them to one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Florence. And off they went. I hoped my recommendation would prove just the place they sought...

This morning while Mabel and I were on our morning walk, that woman was standing at the base of Ponte Vecchio on the Oltrarno side staring at me. I didn't recognize her. She spoke up, "You are the woman who sent us to the restaurant for dinner, aren't you?"

Uncertain whether her experience was good or bad, I responded with hesitation, "Most likely. Where did I send you, and how was the food?"

The girls at OSP

She replied that throughout their dinner, she told her family that she wanted to find me and kiss me.  The family loved their food, the service, the locale, and the piazza. And they loved that they were the only American family there, or so they believed.

Osteria Santo Spirito
Osteria Santo Spirito is one I happened upon in 2003, my first time in Italy.  I was attracted because of the energy and atmosphere, and, all these years later, I keep coming back because the food is that good.  It is simple, not fancy, elegant, nor expensive.  The food is authentic and, oh, so delicious, though many tourists now know about it. (I am certain the fact that I direct nearly every tourist there that asks me for a dinner recommendation and each friend I take there ends up adopting the trattoria as their own adds to the number of tourists that eat there.)

Amy with risotto zucchini

As we were talking, the rest of her clan showed up - they are a family of 8 from Minnesota - and she told her family, "I found her; I found her. This is the woman that told us where to have dinner two nights ago."


A young girl about 9 years old asked her mother if she had kissed me yet. And the little girl told me she loved her spaghettata (spaghetti meal).  I inquired which pasta dish she ordered and realized it was the chitarra (guitar).  I explained to her the reason that particular homemade spaghetti is called chitarra is because, when the fresh pasta is being made, it resembles the strings of a guitar as it comes out of the pasta machine.  She immediately grasped the connection, and her face lit up having that little bit of new information to take home with her. They all piped in, speaking at the same time, saying they needed me for other recommendations the last two days and wished they had had my phone number. 

Mango, fragola, lampone gelato?

Local gelato supporters

Today is their last day in Florence.  They asked me about gelato.  I volunteered a lesson on the real stuff (gelato, that is) and sent them in the direction of Cantina del Gelato.

Getting coned

The ultimate compliment for me is the genuine feedback I receive and happiness I witness in others as a result of sharing my passion and experience. It's so simple and pleasurable that it makes me want to sing.


  1. We enjoyed your recommendations almost as much as we enjoyed your company in Florence...

  2. Sweet, Mindi. It was fun visiting with you two.