Which are the places a tourist must not miss when he comes to Florence? It depends. The Uffizi gallery will certainly satisfy visitors seeking beauty; the Santa Croce Basilica arouses enthusiasm in those passionate about history; the area of Oltrarno, headquarters of the famous Florentine workshops, will delight fashion freaks keen on high quality craftsmanship. Those who have come to learn something about the people of Florence and their way of living, or, better, what they intend with “living”, will meet their match in the Teatro del Sale (Salt Theatre) in Via Macchi, next to San Ambrogio market.
The cultural association hosts a shop, a café, a restaurant and a small theatre, each with its own excellence and originality. The structure is intriguing and multi-cultural: half English club and half Viennese café in Italian, or better Florentine, territory. With a touch of solid craftsmanship; furniture suitable for the ambience, warm and inviting
colors. Even a certain German rigor is evident: in fact, you are not allowed to go beyond the shop and enter the club without being a registered member, it is forbidden to take photos and one can’t choose the food from a menu. The owner Fabio Picchi, takes personal care of his guests and it is for him to decide what they are going to eat and in which sequence the food will be served. Whilst part is brought straight by the waiters, (who are also international), to the round and square tables distributed in the huge room, there are other servings which have to be collected by each guest from a
sturdy wooden table next to the kitchen. The chef is split between the dining room and the stoves introducing the dishes leaving the kitchen one after the other: crispy dried salt cod fried in the Livornese way, fragrant porcini mushroom cream, clam soup with loads of garlic and even more chilli. Mr. Picchi, in fact, advises caution: the course, maybe, is not for everybody’s palate. The food is excellent, the wine, too. The cheerful, loud, warm atmosphere, along with the chef’s quips and the informal way to present the dishes, transform the place into a medieval tavern. Nobody, in fact, would be surprised to find himself sitting next to Donatello, Brunelleschi, Masaccio or Leonardo da Vinci laughing, discussing and enjoying the banquet. Now chicken meat balls are served with a condensed tomato sauce, followed by nice, fresh lobsters (one per
person!), then cherries cooked in wine and finally delicate banana ice cream. The portions are small, but big enough to enjoy the food, definitely not like the invisible morsels of the nouvelle cuisine. As soon as the last spoonful of ice cream has been enjoyed, a voice informs the guests that the performance of the evening is about to begin. Everybody is invited to take the proper chair in front of the stage and aligned in a half moon. There, “hand picked” artists entertain full, happy and satisfied spectators with an amusing and refined show exactly like the previously served food. At the end of the evening, having said good-bye to Donatello, Brunelleschi, Masaccio and Leonardo it is time to return into the twenty-first century and Fabio Picchi is ready to discharge, one, by one, his guests. An unforgettable evening, a glance at the Italian way of life, unreachable for many. But (at least) we can return whenever we want to.
Anneliese Rabl …. finding a life in Tuscany