After dreaming of a Caprese Salad with Pesto Sauce that made its way quite magically onto my kitchen table with a bottle of Chianti wine as company and then waking up to the fresh smell of pasta, I realised that Italy was calling. Feeling as if I have been summoned by Italy’s great spiritual giants, of gastronomy that is, I wasn’t much in the mood to decline. I thought of asking my new lady friend Elise to come with me, I’m rather fond of her as she is a lovely lady with a big smile. Plus for a change in the women I have met in the past, she prefers people over cats and prefers a beer to people, which has proven to be surprisingly conducive to our friendship. I booked ourselves tickets to Milan and the following week we were up in the air, waiting for the plane to make its descent over this old and glamorous city.
Truth be told it was difficult to decide between Milan and Florence, while the metropolitan city of Milan is a vibrant place full of events, exhibitions and festivals, Florence has a historic and romantic charm that I was looking forward to us losing ourselves in. Thus avoiding having to decide between them, we simply decided to do both. When in Italy, I believe the general rule is that one is obligated to rent a Ferrari, and being respectful guests and admirers of Italian culture that is exactly what we did. Elise had a preference for the Ferrari 488 GTB, whilst if left to my own devices, I may have chosen the Ferrari 458 Speciale. Yet, I couldn’t quite fault my lady’s sense of taste, after all this was the one and only Gran Turismo Berlinetta, a Ferrari supercar with impressive performance both on and off the racing-track.
We arrived in Milano, picked up the Ferrari from the Airport and headed out on the highway feeling like we were riding on cloud nine, yet this of course lasted until we had to park the darn thing. With your courteous permission may I please interrupt this article to make a public service announcement: If you decide to rent a Ferrari in Milan, make sure you have a valet service ready to sneak the machine into some off street cubby hole. Ok, now where was I? Oh yes before arriving at our accommodation, a little place called Vietnamonamour Bed & Breakfast, we had been attempting 10 or so different parking spaces until we finally obtained permission from the B&B owner to park our precious fabergé Ferrari in a nook that he had at the back of his property. And there, our precious baby rested peacefully throughout the course of the night.
The Vietnamonamour B&B was lovely with all the usual standard features of WIFI, air conditioning and LCD TV. But, It also contains a most surprising element, an oriental style mansion with a wood and bamboo garden and furniture made by Vietnamese artisans. It had an altogether wonderful artistic yet exotic feel. Our host, Stephan, was the kind of Italian gentleman that one would find in all walks of Italian culture, too well groomed by half. Still he was attentive and helpful, providing us with many interesting travel ideas, and even offering to drive Elise wherever she wished. I couldn’t quite determine whether it was Elise or our wonderful Ferrari that had preceded this generous offer, however, I quickly decided that the best place for Stephan in relation to either is getting smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror. In pleasant day dreams, I had plans schemed to reward his attentions with a special delivery from my Ferrari, a copious production of dust as my Ferrari speeds past him on the dusty road. At least it will provide him with a justification for one of his frequent visits to the mirror.
The next morning bursts upon us, and before long we are driving towards a beautiful rising sun perched on the far off horizon. As we were driving we decided to stop for a brunch date in the countryside, in the lovely village of Melegnano. Here, local custom dictates that morning is started with a fine red and a beautifully presented rabbit cacciatore. While Elise seemed to feel that was a heavy start to the day, I was rather quite eager to get a dig in. Thus my lovely companion politely declines and selects a slice of fruitcake, the Gubana with candied citrons along with a cappuccino. After our gratitude is paid to the masterful chef, he tells us the secret behind great Italian cooking, and that my friends is passionate love. How exactly one cooks with passionate love, I still remain rather on the hazy side. His details were not as instructive as I could have hoped for.
We continue back in the Ferrari and stop off at many points along the way; in Piacenza we saw the Galleria d'Arte Moderno Ricci Oddi which offered a thought provoking selection of pieces, that to be honest I couldn’t quite work out. Then later we stopped in Bologna to catch a show that took place in the eminent Bevilacqua Palace. Viewed through the many arch ways, it was all rather dramatic and otherworldly.
At last by nightfall we arrived in Florence where we stopped to eat at a Michelin star restaurant named Winter Garden by Caino, where we were seated on the beautiful deck outside in the warm summer night. We enjoyed delicious dishes from the Maremma created by the legendary Valeria Piccini in the luxurious surroundings of Florence's old town. Well fed and not yet ready for bed, we took our time walking along the banks of the Fume Arno. Elise and I wandered along the beautiful winding streets, that prompted reminisces of her time living in a little town as a young girl. She recounted stories of getting into a wee bit of mischief, the dear kitten she is!
The next day we were out bright and early, eager to start our day as there was much that awaited us in the grand city of Florence. On our list was the Church and cloisters of Santa Maria Novella, a stroll in the Boboli gardens and climb up to the heights of the Duomo. Of course none of it will be attempted without the gastronomic Italian highlight that is to be breakfast!