So after I finished my breakfast and looked over my information I decided to leave the hostel and start to do some sight seeing
. So I started to walk down the very narrow, small, cobble stone streets of the heart of old Florence to begin my tour. It was still fairly early, so there weren't that many people around and about, but people were starting to get out onto the streets. As I walked around I stumbled across some of the leather market as well as Florence's indoor food market. Florence is famous for its leather and during the weekends (I had arrived on a Saturday) there is a very large leather market that covers quite a bit of the old city; not all of it but it's a pretty big market. I looked at some of the stalls and admired the leather, but when I caught sight of the indoor market I had to check it out. For any of you that have been reading my blogs from the beginning or who know me, you've probably learned by now that I love to cook and that I adore food so seeing a market or having something to eat at a local restaurant is just as much of a priority as visiting the landmarks and the great museums for me.
So I go into the market-it's huge! The market is two stories and is filled with some of the most amazing meat, cheese, seafood and vegtable stalls that I have ever seen in my life! Also one sees a lot of sundried tomatoes and dried porcini mushrooms in large baskets, as well as rice, dried fruits, nuts, and spices and cured olives. I also remember seeing a wine stall (after all I was in Tuscony) as well as some tacky souvenir shops with Tuscan food and gifts
. During this first trip to the market I basically walked around the absorb the scene, went into the wine shop and bought some wine and also asked the clerk about the basics of Tucan wine and what to look for, and I tried my first real Italian cappuccino.
In this market there were a lot of restaurants, and among the restaurants was a cute little coffee bar. Like most Italian coffee bars, it had no seats you stand and it had a small case with Italian pastries like custard filled croissants etc. I was not going to leave Italy without trying a real cappuccino so I decided to go for the cappuccino which was very cheap-only 86 cense in euros. It was very good cappuccino-I believe it was the best cappuccino that I had during the trip. So I stood there and enjoyed my real capp. and listened to the proprietor and his wife gossip with their customers who were all regulars and friends of theirs. I had been in Italy for only 4 hours and here I was sipping a real cappuccino in a real Italian coffee bar owned by a husband/wife that seemed to fit the stereotypes of the typical Italian-the happy, loving, loud and vivacious Italian just loving life and what they do and they seemed to. For 86 cense, I had the best cappuccino of my life.
After enjoying my cappuccino I left the market and decided to explore the leather market more and I started to go into some of the leather shops
. In Florence one can find a leather shop on every corner, and the owner in the store normally makes his/her own jackets and handbags and will even go as far as to cure the leather his or herself. The first store I went into, Max's Leather Company I believe was it's name, was expensive and even when with bargining I couldn't get a decent price...but I talked with the propriertor for a long time and I tried on a few jackets and fantasized that I could own the jacket I was wearing (they looked really awesome on me by the way). Eventually I went to another store, but the jackets didn't fit me right and the owner was a pain in the butt. Eventually I found another leather jacket store where they just sold them and I was able to get a really nice chocolate brown one for around 110 euros..but I had to wait for my jacket because they were going to hem the sleeves to fit.
In the mean time, I decided to go back to the indoor food market to go get something to eat. I went to this one little restaurant in the market (like I stated earlier there are several) and I ordered a "bruscetta" with roasted eggplant and mozzerela-it was really more like what we'd Americans refer to as a French Bread Pizza than we think of to be bruscetta, but I really enjoyed it. With it, I had a glass of spumanti. After eatting my lunch I walked around the market some more, exploring more of the stalls and I got some capicolla and some pecorino toscano (capicolla is a type of Italian cured pork meat while percorino is a type of cheese and there are several regions that make it)
. After eatting my lunch and getting my dinner for later, I went outside to explore more of Florence and the leather market. As I walked around the leather market, I heard a voice call out to me in English: "Florida!" I turned around, it was the leather vendor from Max's Leather Company. He asked me how I was enjoying my day...before I could tell him that I had gotten another jacket though (he had asked me what my mom thought of the price for one of his leather jackets) he told me that he had some friends at another shop near by that would be willing to sell me a jacket at a cheaper price. So, since I couldn't say no (especially since the family made the jackets themselves by hand, even cured the leather themselves) I could resist. So I was directed over to the family's store which was very small and owned by a husband and wife team. The wife sold the jackets while her husband makes and cures the leather for the jackets-he had been making jackets for over 30 years and it showed. Lots of locals, not just tourists were coming by their shop, as well as others, to try on jackets. Everyone in Florence seems to have a leather jacket which makes sense, because this is Italy's leather capital of the world.
After trying on a few jackets, we found a very nice black leather one with a zipper that I was able to bargin down to about 110-not bad. Once again I had to wait for the sleeves to be adjusted because my arms are so short, but it was worth it
. As I waited, I talked with the owner's wife about Florence and the leather craze here. She was telling me that leather is very important here and that everyone, even the locals shop for it here. She was also telling me about some of her customers and was asking me about my time here in Italy, how I liked Florence, and about the US. Eventually her husband came back with my jacket and I tried it on one more time-looked fantastic. By the time my jacket was fitted it was time for me to go and get my other jacket at the other store, which sadly wasn't ready yet. In the meantime, I went into a media store that sold movies and CDs, and I got 3 cds by Italian artists. When I travel to other countries, I have made it a tradition to buy a number of cds that equal the number of destinations that I've been to in that one country, and Italy was no different. Since I was going to be in Italy for 10 days and travel to 3 different cities, I bought 3 CDs by 3 different, contrasting Italian artists...sadly I wouldn't be able to listen to these CDs till I got back to France but they were worth the wait.
After visiting the CD store and walking around some more down odd streets and in other shops, it was time to go in the leather store to check on my chocolate brown jacket. It was ready, so now I could take it and go back to the hostel. By now I was exausted and ready to crash in my dorm, at least for a while. But once I got back to the hostel, I realized that that wouldn't be for too long...
For breakfast, the three of us were eatting snacks that we had purchased in France beforehand for practical reasons I guess. My two new friends were eatting some small pain au chocolat while I was eatting some prepackaged low fat waffles (yes you can get low-fat, pre packaged diet food/snacks in France). As the three of us sat in the cafiteria of the hostel, we all looked at our maps and guide books to determine what we were going to do for the day. Originally I was going to go with my two new friends around Florence, but I didn't because they were girlfriend and boyfriend and her boyfriend didn't speak barly any English or French, so I would have been a "third wheel." Besides, he came all the way from Japan to see her, they really needed to spend the time together with each other rather than with each other and then me.