My friends, Stefano and Grazia Conti, have a terrific store in Florence's Mercato Centrale called, simply, Conti. They sell such wonderful goodies, everything from local olive oils to 100-year old balsamico (not to confused with balsamic vinegar as this is straight grape juice!), delectable jams, pasta, incredible sun-dried tomatoes from Sicily as well as other produce, and the list goes on. One of the things that makes the Conti store so special (beyond their fabulous products) is the warm hospitality they give to everyone who stops by. They offer tastings of their products with no "hard sell" and make you feel like one of the family.
A few years back while visiting the store, I had the pleasure of meeting Charlotte, a vivacious and entertaining American girl, who too had become a dear friend on the Contis. In fact, she was there working in the store. I came to find out she already had a successful business back in San Francisco, but she so loved the products of Conti, she came over twice a year for about a month to help out. Eventually this friendship turned into a business venture as well. And now Charlotte has opened the Tuscany Flavors Online Store which carries exclusively Conti products making them much more accessible to the American market.
It may be last minute, but if you are looking for something special for that "foodie" in the family for Christmas, this just might be the place!
P.S. A big GRAZIE to the Diva for introducing me to the Contis. She is the most "in the know" person on Florentine food in my books!