Chics and Tuna

One of my fondest memories is having lunch at the Buca del Orafo in Florence. My wife took me there the first time–in 1978.  We had a Fiorentina, the giant Italian t-bone steak, which was awesome.

In subsequent visits we’ve skipped the steak and enjoyed the shaved artichoke and pecorino antipasto, pasta with fresh peas, or ribolitta, finishing, if they are in season, with the fragoline, the mountain strawberries served with lemon juice and sugar, tiny flavor bombs that would put you over the top.

Every year we were greeted by the same waiter, Piero, who was quiet and genial and attentive. Maybe it was the third or fourth time we ate there, we had Tuscan beans and tuna for antipasto. He set the plate down and said, “Now you really should have some of excellent extra virgin olive oil,” and poured out that luscious green gold.

Shown above: an approximation of that heaven.  The dish is good any time of year. Fresh beans, canned beans (drained and rinsed). I used chickpeas today. Shown below: cannellini beans with diced campari tomato.

It’s a question of preference, tradition, and knowing what you like.  For a dish like this I want tomato to be peeled, seeded, and diced. It’s March. The campari tomatoes are in the grocery story and Costco. They are bursting with flavor. Peeling and extracting seeds takes a while. A job made less onerous if accompanied by a glass of wine.

At the Buca, I’m pretty sure there will no tomato.  And given the quality of the ingredients, the ambiance of the restaurant, and what’s just outside the door (the Arno and Ponte Vecchio) it won’t matter.


Three Days in Florence


Here are some recommendations for where to stay, daily itineraries, and where to eat. You will walk Florence for two and a half days, see a lot, and eat very well.  Also recommended, a half-day trip by local train to Lucca.  Most of the walking itineraries have the Duomo as the point of departure.

I have always stayed at Hotel Casci.  It’s reasonably priced, centrally located, and clean.

These itineraries are PDF’s.  Feel free to download:

  • Florence arrival, lunch, mercato: Walk from Hotel Casci to Pepo’, a cute little lunch spot; take a stroll around the Mercato Centrale.
  • Florence half day orientation walk:   Half-day orientation walk around Florence: Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Santo Spirito, Piazza della Repubblica.  Dinner at Osteria Fagioli (reservation required).
  • Florence, day two:  A full-day in Florence: Bargello Museum, Piazzalle Michelangelo, lunch at Fuori Porta, Accademia Museum (reservation required), Piazza Sant’Annunziata, Fiesole. Dinner at Trattoria Marione (reservation recommended).
  • Florence, Lucca, day three):  Half day in Florence, half day in Lucca.  Dinner in Florence at Buca dell’ Orafo.

If you have questions, let me know by email or by using the Contact link at the top of this page.


Italy 2016: Four nights in Florence, three nights in Venice


Small group makes a big difference: A walk around Italy with Rick Bailey

You come home struck by the warmth and generosity of people. Maybe it’s standing in front of astonishing sights like the Duomo in Florence or sharing the mind-blowing food at Fagioli or walking together in the rain knowing your feet will be soaked when you get back to the hotel, and not really caring.  Or the hand held out to steady you when you step into a gondola. A bond is formed. You join hands and hearts for a few minutes, a few days. Continue reading “Italy 2016: Four nights in Florence, three nights in Venice”