The morning was cool and crisp, and we actually had to return to the same meeting spot we ventured to the previous day for our bike tour. As if we had already turned into local townies, our young cycling guide greeted us like we were old friends before we joined our new culinary crew for the day. Once organized, our current guide brought us to our first stop, a typical Italian market, where we would learn about the local produce, customs, haggling, and fetch our ingredients for the day. Coming from the United States where, unless raised on a farm, our generation grew up amidst ever more lavish and luxurious supermarkets, it is always fascinating to see the product of fresh markets. Even in Paris now, it is easy to embrace the burgeoning supermarché's and skip the local produce all together if you desire. Here in Florence, it seems many of the age old traditions still prevail, however. Fresh beef, poultry, fish, dried fruits and pungent cheeses of all varieties were blooming everywhere around us. When we finally made it to the little culinary academy we were going to learn our new arts in, I was absolutely impatient to begin.
Over the course of the next several hours, we were taught how to make tiramisu, bruschetta, pasta and ravioli. As a class, we all got to mix and knead, chop and stir in turn. My favorite was actually creating and rolling our own pasta, a surprisingly easy, though sometimes physically demanding task. Once we had all the essentials, the real chefs brought our work to the kitchen where they put it into the pots to boil. We assisted in making the sauces, but not individually. However, I was surprised and delighted at how easy and fresh it all was. We made the tiramisu first so that it could set while we created the rest of our homemade fare. And of course, all throughout, our glasses were literally overflowing with wine. Compared to the actual winery tour the day before, I felt that this class was a much better deal. Not to mention that I now feel like a much more marriageable lady. (We just won't share my lack of dowry on the trading floor.)
At long last, we were finally able to sit down to our succulent savories and I was incredibly pleased with the result. First, some bruschetta with various spreads, followed by our pasta with a deliciously light and tasty meat sauce. Our ravioli was stuffed with ricotta cheese and topped with a delightful buttery sage sauce. By the time we picked up our desserts, it was hard to imagine fitting anything else into our stuffed stomachs, but we certainly made the effort. Our fellow students were all pretty social and friendly and the teachers themselves couldn't have been more helpful and fun in their instruction.
Of course cousin and I were amongst the last to finally leave, very well satiated with food and wine. We actually ended up taking a young American lad from the class with us for the rest of the afternoon. We stopped back at the market because I wanted to buy some dried strawberries (yum!) and then it was off to see that perfect specimen of a male, the David! The sun was shining brightly by the afternoon, it was actually hot under the rays of the sun, and it took us over an hour to finally get into the museum. In line we were also chatting with another American girl, so we all stuck together once finally inside. Despite the wait, it really is worth seeing such a beautiful and historic work of art. Interestingly enough, our new friends decided to go off together when we left (budding romance?) as Cousin and I strolled the streets of Florence for just a bit longer before jumping on our train to Venice.