Bistecca – A Traditional Feed in Florence

by Amanda McInerney on 22/01/2014

Are you still out there, dear, gentle reader? I know I’ve been neglectful over the last couple of weeks, but typing has been very difficult for me. I have a  sad and sorry tale about that and I’ll tell all further down on the page, but first let me share a little of our time in gorgeous Florence with you.

Our Christmas in Florence was as wonderful as I’d hoped for and just about as different from our traditional Australian Christmas as we could get. As in Rome, we stayed in an apartment. This one was a three bedroom, two bathroom serviced apartment in the heart of the city. One of a group of apartments in a fourteenth century Florence residence, the Palazzo Belfiore is  just a two minute walk from the Pitti Palace and the Ponte Vecchio on one side and and the residential area around Santo Spirito on the other. The apartment was recently renovated and delightfully decorated, came well equipped with everything that a family could need and the manager of the property, Federico, is one of the most helpful and engaging hosts I have come across.

The weather was deliciously cold (although not snowy, which disappointed us just a little) and our Christmas began with a family dinner on Christmas eve, chocolate on Christmas morning (some things don’t change) and a slow start, lying in bed listening the the bells joyfully pealing out across the city. Once again, we enjoyed plenty of fabulous food and wine in Florence, but for Christmas dinner I kept things simple – mostly because I had no intention of working in the kitchen all day. I had bought a special bottle of prosecco and we picnicked on fresh, crusty bread, cheeses, cured meats, olives and more chocolate – which seemed to suit everyone.

Perhaps the most remarkable meal of this trip was the evening spent at Buca Lapi when The Bloke and our son enthusiastically indulged in the quintessential Florentine speciality and ultimate meat-lovers fantasy (vegans, now is probably a good time for you to go and rinse your beans sprouts or check to see if your cashew cheese is setting) – bistecca.

A classic dish that reflects the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine, bistecca is a huge slab of thickly cut T bone steak which is barely char-grilled to medium-rare, generally served with nothing more than salt, pepper and some good olive oil and not for the faint-hearted. It takes commitment to get through these big boys. Bistecca is generally sourced from the beautiful, snowy Chianina cattle which hale from a valley near Siena called val di Chiana and which are one of the largest and oldest cattle breeds in the world. Founded in 1880, Buca Lapi is the oldest restaurant in Florence, so they definitely know what they are doing with their bistecca, which sits proudly out on a marble slab in their open kitchen. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot of the cooked product before my boys dived in, knives slashing and flashing. The Bloke flagged a little towards the end, but his son was there to pick up the slack and that meal has been deemed the culinary high point for both of them in Florence.

On Boxing day we waved off our two elder kids as they headed for their own adventures and we caught the train to Pisa to check out that famous leaning tower before catching a flight to Spain – and this is where my story gets very sad. We taxied to the tower and in almost movie-star fashion (except, you know, plainer, fatter, older and with an astonishing lack of grace or co-ordination) I spectacularly exited the cab – face-first onto the slippery, rain slicked Pisa pavement.

The resultant broken and damaged face, teeth, arm and knee were not something I had factored into my carefully-laid holiday plans. Nor were the subsequent ambulance ride, seven hour hospital stay, x rays, heavy and cumbersome shoulder-to-finger plaster of Paris cast on my right arm, GP visits in Spain and London, costly London orthopaedic surgeon visit and the extensive schedule of doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and more orthopaedic surgeon visits I have now to fit into my diary when I get home. There is a salutory lesson for all potential tourists in this painful saga, contained in just two words – travel insurance. Don’t leave home without it.

And I never got to see that bloody tower.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen | Grab Your Fork January 22, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Oh no Amanda! I hope you’re ok! I’m sometimes a little lax with travel insurance but eep, will definitely have to more diligent in the future!

Kyrstie @ A Fresh Legacy January 23, 2014 at 6:54 am

Your photographs of Florence are lovely. Such a stunning city. You had such a beautiful start to your trip…how very disappointing! I hope that you were able to enjoy the rest of it and are now recovering well. Take care.

Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday January 23, 2014 at 7:45 am

I hope you had a wonderful time regardless! And yes, travel insurance is a definite necessity. A couple of years ago Troy and I planned a trip to the US. 2 weeks before the trip Troy fell off our very slanted driveway as he was putting the rubbish bins out and broke his foot. Thank god for travel insurance as I had to cancel the whole carefully planned trip.

I’m sure Troy would love the bistecca too!

Mel @ The cook's notebook January 23, 2014 at 8:08 am

oh Amanda, I did have to laugh, but I know your plight would not have been funny. I never travel overseas without travel insurance, and in the last couple of years have taken out a 12 month policy that also covers me for domestic travel. It’s well worth it, although thankfully I’ve never had to make a claim. I hope you mend quickly xxxx

Judy January 23, 2014 at 10:12 am

So sorry to hear of your accident Amanda, everyone I know who travels overseas lately has encountered one problem or another. I hope your family is doing everything for you that you can’t do for yourself. Your holiday sounds wonderful, what a pity this happened. Take care.

InTolerant Chef January 23, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Oh you poor thing you! I so hope you’re doing better now? Are things on the mend or do you need more treatment/surgery/therapy still? I know from experience how frustrating it is to lose your dominant arm for a while and how frustrating it can be. I certainly hope you get well soon Amanda- keep us posted sweetie xox

Maureen January 24, 2014 at 12:55 am

Oh No!!! That sucks big time to have it happen on a marvelous holiday like that. You are such a trouper that you had a good time in spite of all the plaster and pain.

Hotly Spiced January 24, 2014 at 9:08 am

This post was going so well and then it took a nose-dive – literally! How annoying and painful and disappointing. And then to end up not even sighting the ‘bloody tower’. Something to go back for to be sure. I hope you are recovering well; it does sound like it was a rather spectacular fall xx

Lizzy (Good Things) January 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Oh dear Amanda… hope you are on the mend, you sure took a big spill. Take things gently now you are back home… and welcome back. Loved following the good parts of your adventure via FB etc. xo

Trudy January 24, 2014 at 7:25 pm

So sorry to read about your fall Amanda. It’s bad enough when this happens at home but far worse when you are away on holidays!! Do look after yourself and try and enjoy what time you still have away.

The Food Sage January 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Well – you are on home turf now and hopefully fully on the mend. Love the sound of your Christmas day picnic with provisions from around and about. But the Bistecca sounds irresistible. We have Chianina in Australia – so it’s not out of reach for us locals. Lovely work, lady.

Anne Green January 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Wonderful pictures of Florence, what an amazing way to spend Christmas. Sorry about your mishap in Pisa and hope you’re on the mend now.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella January 28, 2014 at 9:41 am

What a wonderful way to spend Christmas Amanda! The photos look absolutely charmed-which is what I was when I visited Italy! :D

SIGMATE January 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Love the first photo!
The water is like a mirror.

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