The first 3 days in Italy weren't exactly 3 days in Italy. The conference was an all-day affair, the language was English, and we could have been anywhere where the laws of solid-state electronics apply. In the evenings we did venture out for a walk around, and the first taste of good, Italian food.
The highlight of the conference was something we didn't want to go to – a reception – somewhere-or-other. Three of us had made up our minds that we were going to gorge at a seafood restaurant near our hotel, but the fourth (the boss) made up our minds that we were going to the reception. Though the boss is always right, this time the boss was right.
The reception, it turned out, was at a palace, two bridges down the Arno river. As we came in, there was a brass band in the front courtyard, people on stilts, clowns and other characters to welcome the guests. Each room had a different buffet (each one sumptuous) and many rooms had bands. There was a main ballroom with paintings, sculptures and a balcony overlooking it, and downstairs there was grotto with ornate sculptures, a fountain and a harpist. I suppose that people built these palaces in order to entertain like this. I also suppose they had help washing the dishes after all the guests went home.
After the conference ended on Friday, I took myself out for dinner to unwind from the week. I had been warned that if you don't get to dinner before 7:30 you're going to run into trouble. The reason is that in Italy, like many places, eating dinner is the evening's entertainment, and unless you have a reservation, you don't have a chance. I went to the seafood place, and they said they could serve me at 10. The restaurant next to the hotel, where they'd been wonderful the night before, threw me out! Two more places told me they were full.
I finally settled on one restaurant I had rejected in the first round. So had two Japanese guys who were reading the menu when I looked at it earlier. Why were tables so strangely available in this place? What was wrong with it? I'd soon find out. I ordered with trepidation, knowing that I was likely to be unsatisfied.
For some untold reason, the pasta course was really good. I had read that Florence specializes in tripe, and that was one of the specials on the menu. It was delicious. It had been cooked for a very long time, and came in a tomato and butter sauce. I think that the only thing that kept people away from this restaurant was that it was on a side street, and that was fine. There was another solitary diner at the next table, and no one was rushing either of us out. I drank my glass of wine slowly, and went back to my room when I was good and ready.