Traveling with a large group and doing the 'tour' thing is much different than the way I have always traveled and took some getting used to. On one hand it was nice to not be the one in charge of reservations and scheduling, but on the other hand it required me to give up control.
And that is something I am NOT okay with.
Especially if you're asking me to give up control over what I am going to eat.
Because the meals had to accomodate large numbers of people, several of whom were very picky, our meals were pretty blah. I don't want to sound ungrateful or snobby, please don't misunderstand me, I wouldn't trade this trip for the world. I'm just used to eating cheap, local, non-processed food when I travel and for the most part that's not what we got.
Thankfully there were a few bright spots sprinkled in those meals and for a couple of the lunches we were able to choose our own restaurants!
Finally, and on a healthier note, we saw gorgeous, fruit-bearing olive trees everywhere.
The Mercato Centrale (right next to the Medici Chapel) is the place to be at lunchtime. Why? Because that is where Nerbone is located. It's a fast-paced lunch counter with some of the most delicious food.
Everything is good there, but I'm a sucker for their roast beef. Specifically the roast beef sandwich.
There are no words to describe the tender, flavorful meat and then those heavenly juices that soak in to the crispy bread, softening it just enough to make it edible. I always enjoy mine with a small carafe of house red wine.
To avoid going in to a food-coma after lunch, a leisurely stroll around the market is a must. So many beautiful counters to check out and so many foods to sample.
There are meat counters,
fresh produce stands,
dried fruit stands,
and when it's time to let that wine or beer out, there are restrooms too. Available for a small fee, of course.
After a 460+ step climb to the top of Il Duomo (to burn off all of those lunch calories)
we were certainly ready for this decadent primi piatti - penne with cheese and peas. This wasn't a white sauce, simply several delicious types of cheese and a dash of cream tossed with the pasta and peas. Divine.
Oh, and remember all of those olives growing everywhere?
This is how they end up - delicious, salty gems just begging to be consumed.