FLORENCE: FOUR STOMACHS IN FIRENZE
There are not, I would imagine, too many people who receive an invitation to travel to Italy for less than twenty four hours just so they can have the chance to eat a sandwich made out of the fourth stomach of a cow. But, that’s what happens I guess when you announce to the world that you want to “Go everywhere, Eat Everything”
Back in May, while I was promoting Eat My Globe in the USA, I received an e-mail from a journalist at La Republica, one of Italy’s most prestigious newspapers. He wanted to interview me about the book and the article above was the result. That in itself was good fun, but a few weeks later I received an e-mail from a woman in Florence who was organising a food festival called Degustibooks. It was part of a wider “Festival of Creativity” and for some unknown reason after reading the article, they thought that an Englishman talking about eating fermented horse milk in Mongolia might just fit the bill.
Which is how I came to be standing on the platform of Pisa station at some ungodly hour on Sunday after a stupidly early start to get the first flight from Gatwick. The Italian train service is obviously as dreadful as ours as I stood there for two hours as train after train was announced cancelled. I began to wonder if I would actually make it to nearby Florence in time for the event. Eventually a train ambled into the station and an hour and a half later, I made it to my hotel with about thirty minutes to spare.
The event itself took part inside La Foretezza and to restore my good humours my lovely hosts fed me a large cannoli before taking me over to the auditorium where I was to speak. It was an unusual set up. My Italian is non existent and most of the crowd (yep, there were a few people who turned up to see who the hell I was) could not speak English. I was interviewed by a journalist whose questions were then translated for me into English, then I answered and my responses were translated back into Italian. I am not sure how it all worked, but people seemed interested in my stories and I got a few laughs.
By the time I had finished an hour later, I was exhausted and any thought of a big meal was out of the question. Fortunately, my chum Dan Woodford, who I met recently in Cambridge, has moved to Florence with his family and had turned up to give support. After my talk had finished, he took me for a stroll around the city so at least got to see some of Florence’s famous sights.
Best of all he introduced me to one of the great food specialities of the city, a Lampredotto. I had heard of it before, but this was the first time I had the chance to try another one of the world’s great sandwiches. A sibling to the Pani Ca Meusa of Sicily, the Lampredotto is made from the fourth stomach of the cow. The meat is cooked for over an hour in a broth containing tomatoes and vegetables and is then served in the middle of a scooped out soft roll with a hefty dollop of salsa verde on top. Key to the whole Lampredotto experience is the dipping of the top of the roll in the broth before serving. It’s messy, reminding me of the French dipped sandwiches of Los Angeles, but it was delicious enough to make the whole trip even more worthwhile and to make me forget I had to be up at 6am the next morning for my return journey.
Finally it was time for a spot of gelato at Grom, one of Dan’s favourite shops and I headed back to the hotel and to bed falling asleep almost before I had undressed. An exhausting trip, no doubt, but when I think that three years ago I would have been driving back from another tortuous Frankfurt Book Fair, I would not change my current life for the world.
Roll on the next adventure.