Sunday, October 26, 2014

Italian American Expat in Florence

Italian American Rachel Vermiglio Smit Mason 
lives in Florence and is contributing to the Expat SeriesI met Rachel in Florence while doing interviews for a blog project last year.  She generously shared her favorite pizza restaurant with me,  Napoli pizzia.  

Her Italian American Story:

"I first fell in love with Italy when I was a little girl.  My grandfather, a winsome southern Italian man who  called every woman a 'broad', shared stories and tidbits of a magical country, a faraway from his typical American home.  As I grew up, sometime between dancing to the Tarantella and stealing my parents' wine, Italy became my Disneyland."

"To say I am (and was) obsessed with all things Italian is to put it mildly.  Then one day when signing up for my first college classes, I took my infatuation from childish enthusiasm to serious stalker status and declared my major as Italian language, literature and art history."

"Since 2005, I have lived on and off in this beautiful, mystifying, welcoming, harsh country.  It is a land of contradictions, both maddeningly frustrating and achingly gorgeous. "

How long have you been an Expat in Italy?
I first came to Italy for an extended period of time when I studied abroad in 2005.  I was here for 6 monthsand knew then that I would be returning to live here someday.  I did return as panned and was here from 2009-2010 and again for a part of 2011.

What made you decide to no longer be a visitor, but to be a resident in Italy?
 I have always loved Italy.  I loved it when I had never even seen it, from hearing about it from my family.   I loved it before I spoke the language or had friends here or a life here.  Now, I voe it even more for all of those things.  For me, at the state I am at now I really cant' imagine living anywhere else.

Any reason you wish  to share, for selecting the city/town you live in?
I studied abroad in Florence in basically a dice roll between here and Rome.  I think the fates chose correctly, because it was love at first Cupola.  I still remember seeing the Duomo for the first time and just being in awe of the sheer size of the place.  I had never seen a church so big or beautiful.

I was a die hard adopted Fiorentina from that moment on.  In the end , it has worked out great since I have a MA in art history with a focus on the Italian Renaissance but if I am honest, I fell in love with Renaissance as I fell in love with Florence.

Did you speak Italian before you moved to Italy?
I was an Italian major in college and my family spoke dialect, so not really.   I studied a lot in school but studying and speaking are two different things.

What is or was the most difficult part(s) of expat life?
A lot of tourist say, "I could live here"  when they visit Italy but they have no idea what living here is actually like.   In many ways it is a hard life.  People work all the time, for very little pay, for example I have 5 jobs and am constantly running all over the city.

Simple tasks, like going to the doctor, calling a plumber or going to the post office can turn into all day, confusing, frustrating affairs.  Nothing is easy' here, you have to work hard all the time- not just at your job, but at home.

I am lucky to live in a modern luxuries, but still everyday, I climb 84 steps just to return home.  I carry groceries for blocks and blocks, navigating tourists and motorini.

I wait in long, disorganized lines.  I hang my clothes out to dry, then do the wash again when a pigeon poops on them.  I deal with bureaucracy that would make any sane person want to cry and then do it again and again when they lose, misfile or "misplace" my inform.

People come here and see the beauty, the art, the food, and these are of course part of life here, but when you're in the trenches of the day to day, there is just so much more that goes into having a real life in Italy.

What is the most rewarding parts of expat life?
So despite my long list of difficulties, I actually enjoy working 5 jobs.  Unless I am exhausted, being on the top floor of a 15th century palazzo has it's perks, and while many of the other things I will never learn to love, I have learned to let go.  My life here is more honest and authentic than it was in the US.  Every day I do things that make me happy.

I feel like I live my life for me now, and no one else.  It's rewarding in a way I had never found in the US.

Do you have dual citizenship with Italy?
Yep.  Thank goodness- it makes my life a lot easier.

To stay long term in Italy, what documentation is needed?
Americans can stay up to 90 days in Italy in any 180 day period, without a visa.  This means, 90 day in 90 days out.  There are a lot of misconceptions and terrible information out there saying if you leave for a few days outside of the Schengen region your clock resets but it DOESN'T.

I cant't stress this enough, it is very clear, 90 days in, then 90 days out.

You can stay any combo of 90 days in any 180 day period, but that is it.  If you want to stay longer, you need to get a visa.

Do you plan to remain in Italy long term?
Let's just say, I have no plans to leave.  My life here is just what i wanted it to be.
Sure I wish I only needed three job instead of five, or that electricity didn't cost more than some mortgages (add that to the dislike list) but my life is really beautiful in Italy and I don't plan on changing it anytime soon.

Most recently as of 014, I have been living permanently in my family's homeland and making a serious go of turning Italy into a real 'home'.
I have also started a new website, launching soon,

There are a ton of expat websites out there, but I find that they are often lacking in some of the harder, meatier aspects of life here.

It's great to know places to eat and how to do simple things, but what about the tough stuff?
I didn't find any resources in English when I moved here so I am hoping to create a space for that online plus share aspects of Italian culture and daily life as seen from a slightly different perspective of an Italian American Dual Citizen.

Contact Rachel at:

twitter:        theitalianista
instagram:  theitalianista
pinterest:    theitalianista

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Puglia: wine family


(Guests gather in the winery's courtyard)! !

Welcome.! !

The Cantele Winery is a family-run estate, founded roughly thirty-five years ago. But its

story begins much earlier than that.! !

Perhaps you know that Cantele is not a typical Pugliese surname. In fact, it's from the

Veneto, in Italy's northeast. ! !

Giovanni Battista Cantele was born and grew up in the town of Pra Maggiore, in the

province of Venice. Before the second world war, he moved to the city of Imola, in Emilia-

Romagna. That was where he met the woman who would become his wife, Teresa

Manara. And it was also where their two sons were born, Augusto and Domenico.! !

After the war, Giovanni Battista began working in the wine world, selling bulk wine that he

would buy in the Salento peninsula of Puglia (where we are now). Back then, it was

common for Pugliese wine to be sold in the north, especially in regions like the Veneto,

Tuscany, Piedmont and even France. Because it was high in alcohol and rich in structure,

body, and color, Pugliese wine was an ideal blending wine to "help" the wines from regions

with colder climates, especially in difficult vintages. His business began to thrive and he

found himself traveling frequently between Imola and the province of Lecce (where we are

now). On one such trip, he borught his wife Teresa Manara and she immediately fell in love

with Puglia. It didn't take long for her to convince her husband to move the family down to

Salento. And so, at a time when many southerners were migrating north in search of work

during the 1950s, Giovanni Battista and the Cantele family were "reverse" immigrants.! !

Giovanni Battista and Teresa's first born son Augusto Cantele was sixteen years old a the

time and he stayed behind (although he would later join them). Instead of heading south to

Salento, he remained in the north and enrolled in the enology program at the famous

institute for viticultural research in Conegliano. Upon completion of his studies, the young

enologist Giovanni Battista found work at wineries in Conegliano, where Prosecco and

other white wines are made. These years of experience would prove fundamental when,

later in his life, he became one of the first — if not the first — to make modern-style white

wines, in particular, Chardonnay. He was the first winemaker in Salento to barrel ferment

Chardonnay (the way it is made in France).! !

In the 1970s, Augusto decided to join his family in the Salento peninsula. Here, he

continued to work as a consulting enologist for wineries in the township of Guagnano

(where we are right now). And then in 1979, he and his brother Domenico and their father

Giovanni Battista decided to build the Cantele winery.! !

The third generation of the family has been working in the winery for roughly fifteen years

now: cousins Gianni, Paolo, Umberto, and Luisa.! !

Gianni is in charge of production. After working side-by-side with Augusto for many years,

he became the enologist and the winemaker behind all of our wines.! !

Paolo and Umberto are in charge of sales and marketing, including on- and offline

strategies, media, and social media. ! !

Luisa and Gabriella, Gianni's wife, work in the winery's administration department.! !

Domenico is in charge of accounting and finances.! !

You could say that it's a true family affair.! !

Currently, the Cantele winery produces nearly 2 million bottles of wine that are sold

exclusively through restaurants, wine shops, and specialized stores. None of our wines are

distributed through bulk distribution channels like supermarkets.! !

Roughly 70% of the wines are sold in foreign markets, especially Germany and the U.S.! !

Other markets include: central Europe, eastern Europe (Ukraine, Russia, and Poland),

Canada, China, Australia, and Costa Rica. The remaining 30% is sold to the Italian market

thanks to a roughly 40-person sales team who cover all of the important Italian cities.! !

The winery's architecture was inspired by the classic style of Salento's historic

farmhouses. Our offices are located in the central building on the ground floor. Gianni and

his wife live in an apartment on the first floor during harvest and our new project, iSensi, "a

synaesthetic laboratory," is also located on the first floor.! !

Just like the old farm houses here in Salento, the winery is designed like a horseshoe, with

a wing on either side. ! !

On the right, our bottling facility and bottled wine storage.! !

On the left, our white wine fermentation facility, which also houses all of the pre-bottling

operations, like tartaric stabilization and filtration.! !

The pressing of the grapes takes place outside, where our press is located.! !

(at this point, guests are accompanied to the press)! !

Currently, the Cantele produces wine from grapes grown in roughly 200 hectares of

vineyards (roughly 500 acres), 50 of which are owned by the winery while the rest are

managed by Cantele. We buy the grapes from the vineyards not owned by the winery but

they are managed directly by winemaker Gianni Cantele and our agronomist Cataldo

Ferrari.! !

Havest generally begins mid-August with the picking of the Chardonnay. Primitivo comes

next, toward the end of August. Primitivo is the red grape that ripens before the rest. That's

the reason it's called primitivo or early. Around September 10th, we begin picking the other

grapes: Negroamaro (which represents roughly 50% of our entire production), our two

"international" grapes (Syrah and Merlot, which are used in our Varius line), Fiano, and

then at the end of September, our Verdeca and Aglianico.! !

White Wine Production! !

The grape bunches are destemmed and pressed.! !

Not all the white grapes are pressed. In the case of the Fiano and the Teresa Manara

Chardonnay, the grapes are de-stemmed and then macerated (with their skins) for twentyfour

hours at low temperatures.! !

Before the grapes are pressed, they are chilled to around 8-10° Celsius using a heat

exchanger. Then they are soft pressed.! !

What is a "soft press"? It's a cylinder that turns. Inside, a inflatable membrane gently

crushes the skins of the berries to extract their must. Depending on the amount of

pressure exerted by the membrane, different types of grape must can be obtained: ! !

With pressure of 0 to .2 bars, you get the "first pressing" (Fiano, Teresa Manara)!

From .2 to 1 bar you get the "second pressing" (which will be vinified separate because it

contains polyphenolic substances [tannins] and is richer in aroma).!

From 1 to 2 bars, you obtain the least valued must, which will be sent to a distillery.! !

Fermentation Vats! !

The wine must is transferred to a stainless-steel tank where it is stored at 10-12° C. as it

naturally decants itself, a natural separation of the solids from the liquid (overnight). The

next day the clear wine must is racked (i.e., removed) from the tank. The sediment is

filtered and the result must is added to the second pressing. It will ferment at around

14-16° C. for 12-15 days.! !

Once fermentation is completed, the wine is racked in order to remove its larger solids and

then it is aged on its lees. The natural cloudiness of the lees — the dead yeast cells —

lasts for 30 to 90 days, with frequent pumping over. By doing so, the sediment does not fall

to the bottom and instead remains suspended in the wine. This helps the winemaker to

avoid reduction, which can cause unwanted aromas.! !

This technique is very important for two reasons.! !

The first is that it helps to give the wine richer flavor thanks the properties that the dead

yeast cells can give to the wine itself, thus adding to its complexity.! !

Secondly, by working at low temperatures (around 8-10° C.), the winemaker can proceed

without the addition of sulfur (sulfites). During this phase, the cellular walls of the lees act

as a natural receptacle for oxygen, thus protecting the wine from oxidation.! !

After two or three months, preparation for bottling begins, including clarification, filtration,

and tartaric stabilization. The wine is then aged in stainless-steel tanks.! !

Red Wine Production! !

The grapes are de-stemmed and pressed. They are then cooled to around 15° C. using a

heat exchanger (just as for the whites). The pressed grapes are then transferred to

fermentation vats where fermentation and maceration begins.! !

Fermentation takes place between 20° and 26° C. using fermentation tanks with tank wrap

heat exchangers that regulate the temperature. This preserves the aromas and classic

flavors of the grape variety. Alcoholic fermentation lasts about 5-6 days. And maceration

time is based on the type of wine we wish to obtain.!

For the entry-tier wines, maceration lasts 6-7 days. 15-20 days for the more important

wines.! !

Once maceration is complete, the liquid is racked to separate it from the skins that end up

in the press. As for the white wines, there is a first pressing from which we obtain the top

wines and then a second pressing. ! !

The red wine is then transferred to tank in our underground cellar where it will undergo

malolactic fermentation and then barrique aging.! !

Rosé Wine Production! !

It's a long-standing tradition of the Salento peninsula to make rosé by macerating the wine

must with its skins for a short time before fermentation begins. Thanks to temperature

control, we can even macerate for as long as 24 hours. When we rack the must, we obtain

no more than 20% of the total volume of the grapes.! !

The wine must is chilled and then naturally filtered. Once alcoholic fermentation begins, it

lasts for around 10 days and is carried out at 15-16° C.! !

The remaining wine must (80%) continues to macerate with the skins (with a higher ratio of

skins per liquid and thus more concentrated). This will become our Teresa Manara

Negroamaro.! !

The process continues as for our white wine. The wine is racked in order to remove any

solids and then it ages on its lees, a very important phase for this wine.! !

After 2-3 months, we begin to prepare for bottling, meaning that the wine is clarified,

filtered, and undergoes tartaric stabilization.! !

The wine is then aged in stainless-steel vats.! !

(The group moves to the white wine fermenation room.)! !

These tanks are used for the fermentation and aging of the white wines and the rosé. As

you can see, these tanks (just like the fermentation vats outside) are insulated so that we

can regulate their temperature and keep them cool. All of the tanks can be monitored and

regulated using a simple control panel. ! !

(The group moves to the underground cellar.)! !

We expected that excavation for this underground cellar would have taken 20 days. But it

took much longer than expected because of a layer of hard rock, something that you rarely

see in the Salento peninsula, where the subsoil is generally soft, friable (crumbly) stone. It

took us much longer and cost more than we expected but our underground cellar allows to

keep our wines at a constant temperature all year round. This is the reason that the

underground cellar is used for the aging of our red wines. The greater consistency in

temperature also helps to keep the bacteria needed for malolactic fermentation active.! !

What is malolactic fermentaiton? It is the transformation of malic acidity into lactic acidity.

All of our red wines undergo malolactic fermentation and it helps to give them greater

softness.! !

Oak Cask Aging Room! !

We currently have about 700 barriques, small oak casks used for aging wine. Almost all of

them come from French coopers and are made with French wood. 10% of our barriques

are made from American wood and are used solely for the aging of our Primitivo.! !

A French barrique costs Euro 700. Why am I telling you this? So that you can get a sense

of the budget required for a winery that has roughly 700 barriques in its cellar. This is one

of the reasons that wines aged in wood casks cost more.! !

Many people believe, erroneously, that wood casks are used to give a certain flavor to the

wine. The truth is that the wine is conceived in the vineyard and that's the wine that we put

into the barriques. When we're making an important wine, with a lot of structure, the wine

has the muscle needed for cask aging.! !

Generally, we start with a wine that doesn't already have the balance needed for the

presence of tannins and other polyphenols. The barrique is the tool that we use to achieve

that balance. Thanks to the natural micro-oxygenation that wood permits, chemicalphysical

changes occur in the wine that transforms an imbalanced wine into a balanced

wine with structure.! !

Cask aging also helps to stabilize the color of the wine itself and to increase its longevity.

On its own, the anthocyanin molecule would wane. I need to make that molecule bind itself

to the tannin. And for this reason, I need an oxygen molecule that will permit it to bind itself

to the tannin. This is why micro-oxygenation in oak casks is so important.! !

It's wrong to think that wood casks are used to give different types of flavor to wine. It's

also true that when the wood is toasted, it can have an "aromatic impact." The important

thing is to make sure that the impact isn't excessive and that it respects the grape variety's

characteristics without overshadowing them.! !

We use our barriques for five years and then they are retired (we sell them for Euro 60

each to restaurants, wine shops, and wine bars that use them for decoration).! !

Our barriques are crafted by top coopers and as soon as we empty them, we wash them

with hot water and refill them immediately with wine.! !

Here's the aging regimen for our most important wines (Teresa Manara Negroamaro,

Amativo):! !

1/3 new barriques!

1/3 one-year-old barriques!

1/3 two-year-old barriques! !

For all the other red wines, we use barriques in their third, fourth, and fifth years.! !

The only white wine for which we use wood casks is our Teresa Manara Chardonnay. The

wine is racked into barrique while still fermenting (as for all of our white wines,

fermentation is initiated in stainless steel so that we can maintain a constant temperature

of 15° C.). Once the fermentation in barrique is completed, the wine ages on its lees in

barrique and we perform bâtonnage (a stirring of the lees) on a daily basis for two months.

Then the lees are stirred once or twice a week for the remaining months before bottling.! !

Bottling Facility! !

A completely automatic bottling line that can process roughly 4,000 bottles per hour.! !

Rinser:! !

The rinser uses micro-filtered water so as to ensure the absence of external matter.! !!

Filler:! !

The bottle appears empty but it's actually full of air. The filler completes the so-called "preevacuation"

by removing the air and then filling the bottle with nitrogen. And then it begins

filling it with wine.! !

Corking machine:! !

It removes air from the neck of the bottle and then inserts the cork.! !

During this phase, the presence of oxygen needs to be a minimum in order to not

accelerate oxidation. Oxygenation needs to happen over time, by means of a seal made of

cork.! !

For ready-to-drink wines, we also use synthetic corks. These wines are meant to be drunk

in their youth.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Desert Italian Style in Sorrento, Italy

 From Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue:   Let them eat cake!

The first thing most people think of when they think of desserts in Italy is gelato. Who wouldn’t? It has the cool, creamy sweet taste we all know and love in ice cream, but somehow it’s just better in Sorrento. Maybe it’s the scoop they use to place the delicious creation in a simple sugar cone or mini paper cup and how it looks nothing like the ice cream cones in the U.S. It could be that not only do you not feel strange asking for two flavors but in fact, they encourage it.   Pineapple and coconut? Delicious.   My personal favorite, mint and milk chocolate. It’s like a Junior Mint in ice cream form.    What could be better?

Or maybe what makes gelato so much better than ice cream is the fact that you can get gelato in Sorrento whenever you want. Eleven A.M? Sure. Two in the afternoon? Absolutely. Midnight? Why not? Whenever you have a hankering for it, there’s always somewhere right around the corner to grab a few scoops. Other delicious desserts in Sorrento include Tiramisu, cannolis, lemon cake and the delicious waffles served at David’s Gelateria. Nutella and whipped cream on a giant homemade waffle, what could be better? 

Autumn has fallen here in Sorrento. The wind has picked up, temperatures have dropped, and the humidity has finally broken. Though the leaves on the trees haven’t drastically changed color, there are only four short weeks left in the month of October. Starting in November and lasting throughout the winter months in Sorrento Torroncini is a popular dessert for natives and passersby.   Made with pure fresh ingredients:  honey, sugar egg whites and nuts, torroncini is made in two ways, hard and crunchy or soft and chewy. Some toroncini   is even covered in chocolate.  This treat is so popular it can be purchased online and delivered to your door!

With the holidays fast approaching tourists and locals alike are starting to think of how they will be celebrating in true Italian fashion, with food!
Being in the heart of historic Sorrento makes the options endless. If you’re in the mood for a light flaky pastry with a bit of chocolate added for some extra decadence, mustacciuoli is the way to go.

If you are looking for something with more of a salty, nutty taste, rococo would be a fabulous option as it is a pastry with almonds. It still gives that light texture of a traditional Italian pastry while giving just the right amount of salt and nutty taste with a little extra crunch!  For something a bit more adventurous try sapienza a dessert featuring biscuits, nuts, and oversized citrus fruits such as lemons.     Of course lemons, this is Sorrento after all!

Some Italian candy and dessert companies have recently made their way across the pond to grace to red white and blue with their scrumptious treats. Bindi is a dessert and pastry company that distributes their products from a plant in Italy as well as one in the United States. The company began in Milan in 1946 when founder Attilo Bindi opened his first location, a small storefront. Now more than sixty years later, Bindi is a worldwide distributor of some of the best sweet treats Italy has to offer.

Sometimes the easiest go-to gift after going on an exotic trip is a gift basket. It embodies the essence of your experience in the simplest yet elegant way. Walking the streets of Sorrento it is clear that gift baskets are just as popular here as they are around the world. As a town with an influx of tourists from June until the end of October shopkeepers know what their clients look for when shopping for souvenirs. They create gift baskets filled with cheese, wine, limoncello and sometimes dried fruit, pastries, crackers or breads.

Traveling to Sorrento is a magical experience filled with some of the most delicious desserts you’ll ever try, especially during the fall and winter months. Bringing gifts home can be the perfect way to remember the magic of your Italian adventure while bringing it home to share with others. Hopefully, once you share the food and stories with loved ones back home, they’ll want to come with you on your next trip!

by Shannon Devaney 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sorrento: The grape festival


  The festival of Grapes is a cultural event that takes place in the early fall just a thirty-minute shuttle ride from Piazza Laro in Sorrento. A completely outdoor festival complete with wine tasting,
Italian festival foods and of course, live music make it a season staple for locals as well as tourists.

Two new stories from Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue 
by Shannon Devaney

Grape Festival in Sorrento

           The light display which I realized seems to be used at all local festivals lit the way from the drop off point up the path to the festival entrance. It was there that long tables filled with candy, cheese, meat and other festival goodies were laid out for sale. A small table distributed samples of red wine from a plastic jug, and a small group of young Italian children stomped on piles of grapes that would later be used for making white wine, giggling the whole time.

            Food was also available. Up above the hustle and bustle of the festival grounds a catering staff prepared one of two Panini’s for festival goers who bought a meal ticket for 4 euros. Sandwich options included either a pork or sausage sandwich with sauteed broccoli on top all on a think Italian roll. Though the line was long, it was well worth it for the warm sandwich on such a chilly October night.

            Neapolitan folk music was the highlight of the night for most guests. The excitement from the band emanated through the audience as they played. The upbeat songs and interactive band members who went into the audience brought a personal lively twist to the show. 

           Fall is certainly overtaking Sorrento and everyone in town is loving it. Free festivals, delicious food, great music, what else could you ask for? Fall in Sorrento truly is wonderful!

I’ve been told more than once that late summer/early autumn in Sorrento is the height of tourist season. The small side streets as well as the main street are constantly cluttered with tourists and the occasional local. When spending the day shopping in Sorrento there was one very important thing I realized. No one knows exactly where he or she is going or exactly what he or she or she is looking for. Everyone is content to wander the small side streets looking at scarves, oils, toys, fruits and vegetables and so on, spending their morning/afternoon going into tiny shops, try free samples of food and drink, and really living in the southern Italian culture.

Shops are filled with souvenirs such as paintings, wine, ceramics, clothing, Italian leather bags and other accessories. Most shops are packed with these items and therefore can keep you busy all afternoon going from one to the next. Prices also vary depending on where you buy things and how much of something you buy. 

My personal favorite thing that is sold in many small shops on the small side streets of Sorrento are the oils. Olive oil, balsamic oil, lemon or citrus oil, garlic oil, the list goes on and on. 

One small shop I found on my shopping adventure yesterday was soaps and candles. Lemon scented ones seemed to be the most popular while there were other citrus scents available. These candles and soaps would be the perfect take home gift. They are solid (no need to worry about the liquid constrictions when flying back home, they are light so they won’t weigh down your suitcase very much, and they are small, so they won’t take up much space in your bag. 

All of these are positive aspects of bringing home candles, soaps or other body care products sold and made in Sorrento that can truly embody the essence of being here and experiencing the lively atmosphere of life in Sorrento.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Florence Co Op serves lunch, sells handcrafts

Maestri di Fabbrica 
Borgo degli Albizi 68R    50122 Florence, Italy                                                        
  • Phone number +39 055 242321       website             

                  I found this unusual store on a street behind the Duomo (cathedral) while doing my usual traveler activity of walking all the streets in a town or as many as possible in the time I have, last year.  .

    After searching 4 long streets during my recent trip, I returned to  Maestri di Fabbrica a co op with a twist.

    Housed on the street floor, there is a pleasant warren of rooms displaying glassware, leather items, art pieces, natural soaps and creams, a good section of books and even a wine store.

    One of the rooms this year now sells high fashion footwear.

    More than a Store
    In addition to a wide selection of items crafted by local artisans, the shop has a self service lunch and dinner menu in the wine section of the store.    What a GREAT place for a solo diner.  Since it had taken me an hour and 1 gelato to find the store, I was too late for lunch.   But I shall try again to sample their offerings.

    For a flat fee you choose from cold salads, a soup and other vegetable or meat offerings.  The meal includes a beverage. There were several tables set for 4 and a few suitable for solo travelers.    Lunch was busy but not as crowded as most restaurants.    I have not visited during dinner hour yet.

     The first person I met when I entered was a delightful staff member who had shared lots of store information with me last year.   .   This year she has longer hair but is just as kind as last year.  AND SHE REMEMBERED ME!   I must be the most annoying tourist that ever visits Florence to be remembered year to year!..........feels like visiting friends.