Observing Florence: San Frediano

I once again found myself walking over the Ponte alla Carraia, but this time I cannot help but think on Mary McCarthy.

Taking us back to the year 1304 in Florence, McCarthy tells of a performance held on this very spot.

Below the bridge, a performance, which was a depiction of hell, was performed on a makeshift theatre floating on boats. The spectators, who came to view the performance, filled the bridge to capacity, and due to the overload of weight, the bridge collapsed, and the people ironically fell to their deaths.

 

As I walked along the bridge today, I for the first time, thought on a violent past instead of the beautiful, idealistic, and manipulated present of Florence.

Looking down at the water, I imagined what it must have looked like: the night sky being illuminated with fire, noise, and satanic dance, and the air being suffocated by shrikes, the sound of fire and the sudden collapse of everything falling into the water. And hundreds of years later, here I stand, walking over the Carraia, and think on their souls.

 

 

After crossing the bridge, I turned left and began walking on an unknown path, with a hopeful destination: un panino con lampredotto in Borgo San Frediano.

As I wondered a bit through the ‘most Florentine area in Florence’, I sudden knew I had arrived at my destination before I even saw it. The smell of food, pulled me around the corner, and brought me face to face with Piazza de’Nerli.

 

The piazza itself was not a particularly beautiful place. Used almost like a parking lot, and with no quaint or beautiful buildings, it was in every sense, nothing special. Yet immediately, I love it.

The piazza had clothing and jewelry stalls, filled with ugly things, but enchanting people. A cloud of old, short Italian women gossiped and shuffled around the small market.

And I could not help but smile.

 

As I reach the Lampredotto stand I approached slowly, instantly observing the fact that I was the only young woman in sight.

The stand, and its make shift dinning room was filled with only men (an intimidating factor to any woman who is trying something new).

I waited awkwardly, until I finally hear,

 

-Dimmi!

Replying, I calmly delivered my Elementary Italian,

-Posso avere un panino con lampredotto?

-Certo, con tutto?

-Si, Grazie.

 

Ffffuuuueeewwww… a successful order.

 

I watched as the man prepared my sandwich.

Slicing the bread roll in half, he piled on the lampredotto, the salsa verde and the salsa picante. Dipping the top bun in broth, he wrapped up my sandwich and presented me with my first panino con lampredotto, a seriously typical food of Florence.

I sat in the corner chair, as the best watch the men who came in and out of the stand, and commenced.

Unwrapping my sandwich, I felt like the nervous tourist looking down at her first ever bite of cow’s stomach, and I could almost feel all the Italian men around me staring in anticipation for my opinion and reaction.

 

Biting into the moist panino, it was surprising very good… something I had definitely not expected from this experience.

Funny thing was, this unidentifiable meat, its odd texture and the spicy sauce, oddly reminded me of home in Texas.

It reminded me of afternoon lunches in Mexican Taquerias, a place where you never knew exactly what you were going to get, but no matter what, you always knew it was going to be good!

 

-Questa e la mia prima volta provare un panino con lampredotto, è molto bene!

-Brava! Brava ragazza! The man pronounced to all.

-Buongiornata! Ciao ciao!

 

God my Italian is horrible! …Thank God I am in Italy where a pretty face and a smile can get you anywhere!

 

 

After a lunch of Tuscan fast food, I was in need of a café to wash down the idea and fact that cow stomach that was now sitting in my own stomach.

Walking towards the direction of Piazza Tasso, I entered the first bar I saw and order a café. The barista, a grumpy and prefect, old Italian man, made me a coffee with the most beautiful crema on top.

Looking around, and sipping my café, I enjoyed to visions of an old woman eating a sweet cake for lunch, Italian men gossiping at the bar, lottery tickets and slot machines adding cheap thrills to the atmosphere, a wall lined with colorful cigarettes and the smell of coffee drifting through the air.

For it is true, most everything I love about Italy, can and will be found in a cafe.

 

As the bells chimed 1’oclock, I started heading back to the main city center. And gratefully, I realized that sometimes only going one street, one piazza, one day, or one risk further, you can, and will eventually find yourself right where you want to be.

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