I’ve done a lot of cool things in Florence, Italy and, well, frankly around the world but it’s hard in my opinion to top a low-key evening with friends. Last week I was lucky enough to hear Chris Dobson speak for the second time at a little wine shop called Vinoutlet on Borgo Ognissanti, one of my favorite streets in Florence, near the river and the French Institute and generally off the well-beaten tourist track. Vinoutlet is owned in part by Carmella, a friend who I met through another friend here in Florence who is in the same book club. We went for the first time together about a week after I had been to the store for the first time, when they were open during Taste Florence (see previous post here). Unfortunately I don’t live closer so they don’t get a ton of business out of me, but they have a great selection of wines in the 5-10 euro price zone and are really sweet to us every time we go. It’s a pretty small shop but like I said they have a good selection.
The wine is store on these trays and each has a sheet with information about the brand. They’re Italian wines, but range in location of origin. They can recommend a Tuscan wine for you if you are so inclined, and carry a small amount of other products, including the olive oil and wine from their own vineyard.
They also run really sweet events, including an upcoming beer voting event (just this month they expanded their inventory to include beers) and these monthly events with Chris Dobson. Now the name might not be familiar to you, but that’s okay. Chris Dobson was the Master Armourer for, in his own words, “Her Majesty the Queen of England.” (Gets me every time!) He has an art restoration background and that’s how he got his start in the royal armouries and eventually got promoted to the high position. He is thus extremely knowledgeable about art and art history and has a passion for Florence, so he’s extremely interesting to hear speak. He jets back and forth from England to Italy, and gives tours of the city. I don’t have much of a budget for tour guides, but if you do I can guarantee he’s worth every penny– in both talks I have learned things about the city of Florence that I never knew before. For example, in the last talk he gave, I learned that Via Martelli, a major street right off the Duomo used to be where the swordsmen would work and fence. How cool!
This month he talked about something which I personally find very interesting, which is the transition from tempura painting (a color tempered with another medium, usually egg, which I know from personal experience is a real pain to work with, and that’s putting it nicely) to oil painting in Florence and he used works by Michelangelo (known for his tempura and frescos) and Da Vinci (known for his oils) as examples. Fun fact: did you know that Da Vinci’s knowledge of working in oils and adaptation to them is why his frescos are cracking? He took too long painting them, whereas Michelangelo used tempura techniques to paint his frescos which explains why they not only have such vibrant colors but why they have lasted so long.
These events are so fun and you should definitely check them out if you are lucky enough to be in Florence (Vinoutlet has a Facebook page where they announce events and Chris Dobson announces his speaking engagements on his website), but it’s also a great example of how, as my Dad would term it, getting “plugged in” in a place really opens doors. If I hadn’t attended Taste, or followed Events postings online and in the papers, or made friends who knew other friends, I would have missed out on this great event. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! There are so many resources regardless of where you live. The event was free and included wine– you can’t go wrong there! Get out there and see what’s going on in your city–you never know what great thing you might experience.