Chasing Trains Day 6: Florence, Land of Porchetta and Outlet Parks

Florence will always be remembered as the city of Porchetta.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Breakfast was the first order of the day, and after wandering about I found myself in Il Cernacchino, a nondescript shop that served sandwiches and soups, tucked neatly in one of Florence's narrow alleys . It is run by two sisters, one of whom warmly welcomed me in. As it was still early, I was the only customer in the room (dining area is upstairs), so I felt I had to order soon, as all eyes were on me. Panicking, I picked the first item in the menu that I felt I could pronounce: Porchetta.

I then watched, with eyes as wide as saucers, as she pulled out a gigantic slab of roasted pork from the oven and proceeded to carve it, the skin crackling as the knife sawed through that crispy, artery-clogging awesomeness. My goodness, what did I just order.

The heavenly pork slices are served inside a bun together with a healthy dose of mustard and (what I think are) pickled vegetables. I took one bite, sighed, and smiled. This trip is complete.

I'm pretty certain I polished everything off in a matter of seconds. There was nobody downstairs as I was about to leave, and for a good while I just stood there, toying with the idea of grabbing the giant glistening slab of pork from the counter and making a run for it. We would lock ourselves up in the hotel room, the Porchetta and I, with nothing but a good book and maybe some Coke for company, and stay there the entire day. Museums, schmuseums. As my eyes were starting to glaze over, one of the sisters suddenly appeared from the kitchen. Fantasy over. Time to get a move on.

I had several options for this day - there's the Museo Galileo, which has on display his middle finger, among other things; and there's the Gucci Museo, which is self-explanatory. I walked for a bit, pondering my options (Florence is a wonderful city to get lost in). And then this bus passed by.

Eureka. No one would be so haughty as to call a shopping center "The Mall" if it did not deliver, yes? I hurriedly made my way to the tourist assistance center to get instructions, and minutes later I am happily aboard the shuttle bus.

The Mall is actually a luxury outlet park, and as with most outlets it is located in the outskirts of the city, so I did get to enjoy a bit of Tuscan countryside along the way. When the bus finally came to a stop, I lazily stretched my limbs out, and as I was about to grab my winter coat I happened to glance out the window and saw people running (running!!!) away from the bus. Panic. I looked around to check for signs of danger. Was the bus on fire? For heaven's sake is it about to explode? Was I going to die *before* I get to do some shopping?!?

But the remaining people aboard the bus remain calm; if anything they were just as confused as I was. I looked outside again, and it dawned on me: They weren't running away from the bus; they were running towards the Prada outlet store. And apparently I was the only Asian who did not get the memo. By the time I reached the store these very same people have already scoured the stocks and have several bags dangling from their arms. Shopping is indeed a competitive sport.

There are only a handful of boutiques at The Mall, all of them luxury brands. Definitely not the place to buy pasalubong, unless you are flush enough to buy Prada pouches for everyone. The discounts, however, are insane. I consider it one of my greatest triumphs that I did not get anything for myself. For some reason, nothing made my heart skip, and I've been making an effort not to purchase things just because they were cheaper (I think this is what they refer to as "EQ").

Almost, but not quite: Tod's D-bags going for more than half the retail price
I ended up getting a wallet for my mom, and loads of Lindt chocolates in artisanal flavours (which she hated; "Who puts sea salt in chocolate?" she asks). Maybe, if I got to the Prada store before the others did (by "others" I mean the people who ran), I would've found something nice for myself too. A tip, if you're going to (literally) run off to the store as well:  bring your passport, as they require this for credit card payments. The last thing you want is to find the bag of your dreams going for 80% off and not be able to pay for it; I've seen more than one tourist rummage furiously inside their wallets for cash because they left their passports in the hotel.

By the time I got back to Florence it was getting dark, so I only had time for some last-minute shopping before I headed off to the train station. I did make one very important stop; guess what I had for dinner.

As luck would have it, my train was delayed. For two good hours. But I was too happy to care. I had a fully-loaded Kindle on one hand, a Porchetta on the other, and Coke inside my bag. Life was perfect. For now.

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