Fuso Aereo + Vino = Equilibro (or I *Heart* Firenze)

I should’ve taken the blue pill…

After a long, long day traveling–delays, canceled flights, and being stuck next to a very stinky fellow passenger for 11 hours–I decided to hit the town.

Apart from a few streets around the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio, Florence is refreshingly free of tourists these days. There are some advantages to winter travel, if you don’t mind the cold of course. But back to Florence. Man, this place is filled with memories! I studied here in college (at least I got credit for being here) and so every alleyway and vista brings up a flood of emotion and reflective thought. So with that in mind, I opted for memory-overload and climbed the 414 steps to the top of the Duomo’s campanile, or bell tower.

dscn1919.jpg

The massive dome on Florence’s cathedral was completed in 1436; designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, it’s one of the marvels of Renaissance Italy. It’s also huge, easily dwarfing all buildings in the area. Note the shadow of the campanile falling across the dome.

dscn1921.jpg

Looking southish over Florence, with the Bargello on the left and Palazzo Vecchio to the right. High in the background to the left is the Piazza Michelangelo, where I saw an epic Radiohead concert in 2003, the first time I’d been back to Florence since studying there in the late 90s.

dscn1922.jpg

That’s the church of San Lorenzo in the foreground and the big domed building tacked onto the end is the Medici family tomb. The large building you can see with the metal roof is Florence’s outstanding Mercato Centrale. A must stop on any visit!

dscn1923.jpg

A view of Palazzo Vecchio from inside the campanile.

dscn1924.jpg

Looking down the inside of the campanile from about half way up.

dscn1925.jpg

I grew up near Oxnard, California. How funny to find the city’s name graffitied on the campanile (I believe I took this exact photo while I was studying in Florence oh so long ago).

After climbing down from the tower and indulging an awesome gelato at Perché Non, I headed over to the Zanobini wine shop near the Mercato Centrale. Starting in the afternoon, well, anytime they want to I guess, Mario and Simone Zanobini receive customers directly at their small bar and pour glasses of their own Chianti Classico, as well as other Tuscan wines. Mario suggested that I stay for a few glasses to trying to dodge the fuso aereo (Italian for jet lag).

dscn1931.jpg

The small wine bar at Zanobini is filled nightly with regulars rasping away in their fiorentino accents (bascially drop the “c” from any word and you’ve got it; ‘Coca-Cola’ becomes ‘Oha-Ola’, etc.). This evening there was a lot of talk about the upcoming Italian elections in the spring, as well as a controversial proposal for a new tram line in the center of Florence.

dscn1926.jpg

Besides a lovely selection of wine, Zanobini has a wall of amari from Italy and beyond. Damn, I wish I’d brought a stryofoam wine shipper on this trip!

I *Heart* New York

dscn1888.jpg

(Above: The bloody mary list is ten deep during brunch at Prune, and each bloody is served with a beer chaser. Mine was made with aquavit rather than vodka, and served with fennel and white anchovies.)

A short post to explain my absence of late. Tasting duties for Wine & Spirits took me to New York this past week where I waded my way through a sea of Tuscan wines for our upcoming April 2008 issue. I won’t talk about those wines here (and now for a shameless plug to subscribe to W&S), but there were some really excellent wines that are worth checking out.

Also, I’m now digging on massaretta, a red grape variety indigenous to the region around the Apuani Alps in northwestern Tuscany just inland from Liguria–in other words, vermentino country. Massaretta evidently takes its name from the local town Massa, although beyond that the grape is sort of a DOC orphan, and pretty much relegated to IGT status. I don’t really know much more about it (yet), so if you feel like weighing in, please do.

Besides tasting, a visit to New York is always an excuse to eat! Some notable stops this trip included:

:: dinner (killer sweetbreads) and brunch (coddled egg) at one of my favorite haunts, Prune (sorry, no sleep overs)

:: an insane bowl of noodles and fatty pork at Ramen Setagaya (good write up here at Chowhound)

:: saffron pappardelle with an earthy mushroom ragù at Falai

:: gelato at Il Laboratorio del Gelato

:: weisswurst and spätzle at the Austrian Cafe Katja (NY Times review here). I also had an unusual-and good-cocktail called the Wood Nymph which they make from pine cone schnapps and triple sec, and then dust the glass with sugar and dried pine needles harvested from Central Park

:: a tapas feast at Tia Pol

:: bagels at Zabar’s

:: and a really good, fat hero from some all night deli in Williamsburg at 4.30 in the morning (which amazingly nuked my hangover for the next day–hooray!)

    All in all, a great trip. Plenty of long walks and a visit to the new New Museum too, to round things out. By which I mean to burn off one meal in anticipation of another. Of course, an invitation to the Barolo porn fest Eric Asimov wrote about in the NY Times would have been great (list of wines and tasting notes here), but I can’t complain.

    Oh, my friend and colleague, Peter Liem and I both had our blogs mentioned on Tyler Coleman’s Dr. Vino the other day. Thanks, Tyler! For those of you with an interest in learning more about the world we call wine, I suggest spending some time at Dr. Vino. Here you can learn about everything from wine’s carbon footprint to the wine lover’s guide to the presidential primaries.