The following contains content of a graphic meaty and carnivorous nature. Vegetarian and bovine discretion is advised.

26 03 2008

Florence 2

You ate what?



As a child, I was not a particularly intrepid eater. My list of dislikes included everything outside the categories of bland, safe or chocolate. On the rare occasions when I managed to hit all five food groups in a single sitting it was usually more due to luck and ketchup-flavoured potato chips than any concerted effort. Fortunately, my palate broadened before I began to travel and it’s been years since I felt compelled to pack my own supply of baked beans. 

Dining is one of the great pleasures of adventure travel. Sampling the local delicacies and never washing dishes are always among the highlights of my trips. I tend to be pretty adventurous as long as the dish is not twitching, writhing or squirming. For the latter, I usually think twice before saying “I’ll have two…and bring me another beer.” I have tried grubs and worms, crocodile and piranha, larvae and congealed blood and I can honestly say that none were as bad as I thought they’d be…except for the crocodile which was considerably worse.

If I find myself somewhere that has a particularly famous dish, I will generally give it a whirl even if I may later regret it. It was for this reason that I ordered the legendary bistecca a la fiorentina, or Steak Florentine.

Florence is generally not considered an adventure destination unless you choose to rappel from the top of the duomo, bungee from the campanile or drink the Arno, but partaking of the infamous steak is definitely the stuff of a true adventurer…or packs of hyenas.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what Steak Florentine was before I ordered it.  I knew it was steak and it was native to Tuscany and when in Rome, or Florence, well…

When the steak arrived I initially thought it was a wooden carving block. It was only when it was placed before me that I realised it was my steak. Approximately two inches thick and the size of a bedside table. it would have required its own seat on most airlines. It was devoid of all accompaniment except for the side-order of roast potatoes I had naively requested thinking that the meat itself would be insufficient.

Every head in the restaurant turned to stare at me. The Italians looked at me with a knowing respect. My fellow tourists looked aghast. Vegetarians glared with contempt. Someone at the next table turned his chair towards me and said he was going to stay until I finished the whole thing.

I picked up a steak knife worthy of Crocodile Dundee and plunged my fork into the mass. It quivered and rolled like a bowl of jelly before relenting. The knife sliced in to reveal an interior that was not so much rare as raw, not so much blue as pale plaid. I cut as small a piece as its girth would permit and put it in my mouth. Although barely seared let alone cooked, it just dissolved on my tongue. It was a rich flavour of olive oil, lemon juice and perfect Chianina beef. I would have been in heaven if I wasn’t facing another 23lbs or so.


After what felt like several hours, I waddled from the restaurant wondering if I would actually make it through Florence’s narrow cobbled streets without greasing my sides. I rolled once around the duomo to try and burn off some of my half-a-cow and by the following morning had managed to climb the stairs to my room…just in time to head back down for breakfast and a gigantic cornetto and frothing cappuccino


Post and photo by: Simon Vaughan © 2008 




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