I feel that I have lost the habit of writing accounts that detail everything. Rewinding mentally to start at the beginning of the trip feels like too much. So it's going to have to be a tangled brain dump, which actually I suddenly suspect is the way I've been doing it all along.
First, food. Of course. We ate out in Paris, which was an experience it itself, but that's for another time. In Florence, the first evening we went to the place on Via Faenza, Trattoria Nero, that I remembered from last time I went (and in fact, had kept the card for as a bookmark all these years). Big, cavernous seeming place, made up of lots of heavily decorated rooms, where with morganaus
we had to share a big round table because it was so packed. This time around, it was totally different. The place hadn't changed, but because we were tired and Tolstoy was hungry, we went at about 7, not long after opening. It was empty, and without the crowds and the atmosphere, the decor seemed garish more than anything, the Italian equivalent of the crocodile and road signs on the wall. Food when it came was alright (starter I don't remember, pizzas for both of us, house red), and the chocolate cake I had for desert was possibly the same one I had last time, and was pretty good. But I left the place feeling that whatever had made it special that last time must have been due to the circumstances. Nice dinner, but nothing to recommend it over anything else.
Second night we went to a place off San Lorenzo that we'd passed a few times during the day (the way that in central Florence you quickly find that you are walking the same routes, over and over again). Again, eating far too early, and therefore stepping into an empty restaurant, which I always find a big off-putting. Called Cipolla Rossa (red onion), it seemed a little less aimed at tourists (no English menu outside), or at least a bit on the upmarket side (no pizzas on the menu). I had gnocchi in a sauce that was amazing (and was probably just mostly lard; where the menu said 'lard' I thought it was bacon because of the French word, and when I asked the waiter he corrected me and said something like 'white fat'). Tolstoy had ravioli (I think) in what was called 'carriage sauce' on the menu's translation (which doesn't google, and so which we will never know what it was... but how wrong I am, for we now live in an age where restaurants actually have websites, even if often crappy ones, and I can read the menu and see it's called alla carrettiera). We swapped plates halfway through so we could have some of each.
Thursday we ventured further out. Tolstoy had found a few places on the web that she thought warranted a try, and this one, Il Vinaino, turned out to be very good indeed. I had chicken in a balsamic vinegar sauce, and Tolstoy gnocchi (again!) with gorgonzola. Very friendly place, which had the feel of a local restaurant. Only about a ten minute walk from the centre, which felt on the way like we were heading into uncharted territory (bunch of guys hanging around on motorbikes at one point, for instance), but really wasn't that far at all. To prove that, once our mains had arrived, a troupe of about a dozen American students tramped in and took a big table behind us. Waiter reminded us of that at the erstwhile Mouton Noir: he gave the impression that it was his joint, that he was very much involved in it. I think we were too full for desert. Or rather, we figured we'd get gelato on the way back to the hotel.
The last evening we weren't sure where to go, and on our amblings around I kept an eye out for interesting places. One option was the restaurant just across the road from our hotel, which had a garden, and which would have been a good plan had we wanted to just come straight back and crash. On leaving the Palazzo Vecchio (it's open till midnight, so we went at about half 5), we looked at the menu of one place nearby where I'd spotted a wild boar stew on the menu, but decided to go to the place that had rabbit. Definitely was a good idea. I find rabbit rather fiddly, as unless you get it in little pieces in a salad (as I once did), you basically get half a carcass, with leg bones and ribs and allsorts. Eating it is a challenge in itself. Here it was a rewarding one, as it was in an amazing olive and rosemary sauce. Again, I think we skipped dessert for gelato.
The gelato round-up. I am going to be more vague here; I am not 100% certain of the flavours. First day, across the Ponte Santa Trinita, I had peach and melon (possibly). Second day we stopped off in a place off Via Calimala (the pedestrian street that runs south from the Duomo), where I thought I was ordering blackberry and something else, and ended up with those two flavours alright, but piled so high on a cone it was unreal. There were four (count them!) wafers just to hold it all up, and the whole thing came to 6 euro. I was flabbergasted, but unfortunately proceedings of insane amounts of gelato had already begun by the time I realized and I felt it was too late to say something. Oh well. Other flavours I tried included fig (pretty good) and dark chocolate (Tolstoy pointed out the existence of this: how had I never noticed?).
Lunches were not that memorable. Couple of days we got stuff from the market; last two days we just got pizza at places on the piazza around it.
On our stopover in Turin we just grabbed a slice of pizza and a toasted sandwich in two places side by side near the station. In Milan on the way back we had a not very interesting lunch outside at a table where my back was out of the shade of the parasol, so I didn't enjoy it regardless of the food. Then at the train station later on we got panini to eat on the train for our dinner.
Museums and sights and hotel another time!