The part of my job I take the most seriously has got to be food recommendations.
Think about it. You’ve got a tour guide jumping about at the front of the bus, claiming she’s the go-to person in terms of European knowledge. Generally, people don’t blink if you recount the date of the Berlin Wall going up or the name of the dude who designed the dome of Florence’s Duomo (which I remembered mid-sentence yesterday). They do, however, pay attention when you recommend a place for them to eat.
More specifically, in Italy, we’re talking about gelato.
Gelato in Italy is a powerful thing. If consumed at the right times and in the right quantities and flavours, it can be a worthy food substitute. Last year, I had a passenger consume seventeen scoops of the stuff in a single day. It’s cheap, usually delicious and always hits the spot when the temperature gauge reads 35+ degrees.
You see, you can give general advice when it comes to gelato. Not to go to places with it scooped too high, and never to somewhere with banana that looks yellow. But passengers press harder. They want names.
My favourite gelato place in Italy has to be Perche No? Literally meaning ‘why not?’ this place has been going strong for more than seventy years and claims to have invented the modern way of displaying the wares, namely underneath glass.
I never, ever recommend food places without trying them first. Giving a passenger bad food advice is akin to tour guide suicide. You’ll have lost their respect forever and will never recover.
I tried Perche No? last year on my utterly perfect couple of days off in Florence. It was so good I caught myself humming away, wandering down the street with it, drunk on the sheer perfection of it all. So I went back today.
What makes Perche No? different from most other gelaterias is that they don’t just offer gelato. No, they’ve also got granitas and mousse-based concoctions which captured my heart last year.
The staff are lovely, giving me a ‘molto bene’ after ordering in Italian. There’s a little old lady who works there who looks as if she was there the day the place opened. Surrounded by muscly university students, she scoops out her stracciatella, limone and countless other flavours with a big Tuscan smile.
Me? I always take ages to decide on my flavours. Do I want refreshing ones – in Rome I had melon and lemon – or yummy chocolate-y favourites?
The old lady was beckoning me. I didn’t know what to do, so I blurted out ‘stracciatella, Sacher torte e tiramisu, per favore’ without even thinking.
It, of course, was delicious, hence the obligatory photo taken whilst in the middle of the road with a car right behind me, tooting. Terrible tourist, I know.
I wandered around for a couple more hours, until it was gelato time again. This time it was easy. Refreshing time.
‘Limone e fragola (strawberry), per favore.’
Only five scoops today, however. There’s more work to be done.