Italy: Making Pizza and definitely not being a tourist

After Slovenia I moved on to Italy. Italy borders Slovenia, so it is quite an easy journey; I took a bus to Trieste and from there a train to Florence. It was all bookable online.

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A quick stop at Trieste, Northern Italy

A Slovenian man, wanting to help me avoid being mistaken for a tourist in Italy, gave me a lot of advice on the appropriate time for drinking different styles of coffee. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I don’t drink coffee anyway, but basically it involves only drinking Cappuccino with breakfast; even by ten AM you need to swap to Expresso.

Coffee in Italy, like Slovenia (where they favour the strong Turkish-style coffee) is taken very seriously. However even without any coffee-related faux-pas, I fear my tourist status may be easily identifiable. I have blonde/pink hair for a start and I only speak a few Italian words (most of them obscene; I first came to Italy as a teenager in the late 70s and men would follow me in the streets, touching me and whispering things, with their hot breath all over my face. I found the best cure for this was to throw out a few handy insults about their mothers. There was no #metoo in the 1970s).

Crucially, though, I don’t own any animal print clothes or accessories. It does seem as if every Italian woman beyond the age of 30 wears leopard print. I don’t think that leopard print is a particularly good look on anyone, except maybe the leopard, so didn’t feel like joining this trend in the hope of being accepted as a local.

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Florence

Florence itself was unbelievably busy. I had hoped that by September it would have calmed down, and certainly the stifling heat of August had gone, but the crowds were overwhelming.

This was my third trip to Florence: the first, the previously mentioned teenage trip, was in August, although in those days before budget airlines it wasn’t so much of a problem. Then I revisited many years later, in February. February is a much better time to see the artwork in Florence.

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David draws an admiring crowd

In September everything required advance booking and/or long queues. I gave up and vowed to return in winter.

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Duermo

Over Tourism

Having been away from Europe for a while, I’d forgotten how busy these cities get.  Over tourism is a big problem for anyone who lives in these places, and it’s not especially pleasant for travellers either.

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Nearby Siena

The solution here might be to visit the more popular places like Florence in winter (when I came before in February it was bitingly cold, but they say there’s no such thing as bad weather and just bad clothes, and I definitely had the wrong clothes with me).

Another solution is to get up early to appreciate the plazas; I planned to do this every night, but come morning I never quite managed it.  Good in theory though if you want a few people-free photos, but I’ve never been much of a get-up-and-get-moving-in-the-morning type person.

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Pizza

So, in place of joining the kilometre-long line for the Duermo, I decided to learn to cook pizza.

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Pizzas should really be baked in a wood-fire oven, which kills off any idea of making a really authentic pizza at home.  In fact, a pizzeria isn’t even legally a pizzeria if they don’t have a wood-fire oven

Pizza originated in Napoli (Naples) in the late 19th century, with tomatoes introduced by Christopher Columbus from the New World, chiefly Peru.

The original pizza was made with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil; the colours represented the red, white and green of the Italian flag. It became known as a Margherita, named after Queen Margherita, wife of king Umberto 1.

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Queen Margherita was a fussy eater (by today’s standards she would be labelled anorexic) and this pizza was the only thing she could be encouraged to eat. The pizza maker then labelled the pizza a Margherita, in celebration of making a food so delicious that even an anorexic would eat it.

Pizzas then spread over Italy as the Napolitanos move North (or overseas) in search of work.

The Chinese connection

The Chinese often claim to have invented pizza. Well, the Chinese often claim to have invented all kinds of things, often with only flimsy evidence. Marco Polo brought back scallion pancakes from China, which could be seen as a similar concept to pizza, and also some flat breads.

However the whole essence of pizza is the cheese and tomato, without those (or a non-dairy cheese substitute I suppose at a push) then it isn’t pizza.

So, no; pizza as we know it wasn’t invented in China.

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Sarah’s irrelevant pizza fact: my first full-time job was in Pizza Hut in Islington, London when I was 18.  I lasted there around three months; this turned out to be quite good by my subsequent standards.

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