[caption id="attachment_514" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="This beautiful inlay and carving was on the floor of the Siena Duomo."][/caption]
I wish we could keep that newly-vacationed feeling for longer than a day after the trip is over (although, if you count jet lag, maybe a week). It already feels like our trip was ages ago, even though I'm still going through pictures and encouraging Matt to completely unpack his bags. The other way that our trip still feels fresh is that I'm still processing what Tuscany was for me. There was an afternoon in Florence that perfectly expressed Tuscan-ness to me. It was the day after Christmas and people were out and about, as they were every day. We went to the Bargello in the late morning to see amazing sculpture, and then Matt and I were off on our own to go to the Palazzo Pitti. Luckily, we decided to eat first or I would have fainted in one of the ornate palace rooms that stretched in long hallways for what seemed like a mile. After crossing the Ponte Vecchio, we walked down a narrow street, passing a few pizza and gelato shops. Then we came upon a tiny place with a chalkboard sign out front and the glass counters at the front brimming with cheeses and meats. It was a crowded little space that we had to squeeze ourselves into, awkwardly settling onto tiny stools at a small round table. People around us were eating off of circular wooden boards, piled high with cheeses and meats. Matt and I debated on what we would get if we used our extremely elementary Italian to ask for a plate of meat and one of cheese (piccolo, I added), but we ordered and hoped for the best. We got two of the most beautiful plates of thinly sliced meats and assorted cheeses that I'd seen. The meats included slivers of two kinds of prosciutto, lombo (which, when we asked the waiter about, he pointed to his side), and pancetta. The cheeses were all pecorinos of varying ages except for one cow's milk cheese. There was a truffle-infused(tartufo) pecorino, which was so lush with earthy truffle, and strangest of all, a chocolate-infused pecorino, which was an amazingly good match unless you bit into an actual piece of unsweetened chocolate, which was then too much. The bread that was served alongside was typically Tuscan, meaning lacking in salt, which made it perfect with the salty meats, especially the pancetta, and flavored cheeses. It was such a simple meal and so much what I was expecting to eat in Tuscany...but even more perfect than I imagined.