Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Benvenuto a Firenze

Our view as we first set foot in Florence - note the tip of the Duomo in the background. I keep mentioning the Duomo, but I admit I don't really know what it is. Some sort of church at one point, I'm sure.

Our trip has had its first hang up, unfortunately. Despite our best efforts, our ATM cards have a somewhat low maximum daily limit (we were not aware of this) on international withdrawals. So we were unable to pay the full cost of the apartment.

Rather than pay a cabbie, we chose to walk (with luggage) to our apartment. This would be a beautiful walk if I didn't have about 70 lbs. of bags. But we made it easily enough, just a little drenched in sweat.

We had to sit for about 2 hours at the apartment (someone was here to let us in, but he spoke no English and promptly left) waiting for the landlord to show up to explain our problem, fearing that she may send us to a hostel until we had the money. Fortunately, they expected this, and they were prepared.

The landlord has an American associate who handled all the negotiating, etc. She brought us some apples, breakfast cookies, coffee, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. For some reason, she thought we were girls so she decked the place out in girly colors and left feminine products out for us. Whoops.

But, we have a home! I will get pictures at some point. It has been a little hectic since we arrived. We had a ridiculous ordeal with a not-quite-local while trying to find a place to eat dinner. A random girl on the street was offering advice to an American couple walking ahead of us in English, so we listened and then asked her for a good place to eat dinner for not too much money. She seemed a bit overly excited and took us around the corner, promising to introduce us to the owners of a small, non-touristy restaurant. We should have been a little on guard at this point, but our naive tourist minds are not quite attuned to the local customs.

The place was in the Piazza del Carmine, and I believe it was called Trattorio.

She strikes up a pretty flirty conversation with all of the Italian men working and they all seem to know her. She had claimed that she went to this place every day (in the first of many contradictions that came out of her mouth, she later claimed that she had eaten here only once, but that she often came down to open wine...no idea what that means). So we expect that the interaction is over and that she will be on her way. She says she has to go pack for Amsterdam and that she will come back and join us for a drink. We assumed she was being cordial with empty 'promises.' We were so wrong.

We order. I got Penne al Tonno Fresco (penne with fresh tuna) that was good, but not great. The tuna was a little fishy. Johnny tried to get (this will not be spelled right, but I have never heard of this kind of pasta) Tragglieteri (I think that's close) al Salmone. They were out of salmon, so he got it with the same fresh tuna. They brought us some bread but no oils or anything to dip it in. We also got a bottle of Antinori's Santa Cristina Merlot (cheapest bottle on the menu, but Antinori is pretty well respected in America at least, maybe not so much in Italy).

Just as we finish up, wouldn't you know it, Angela shows up. She gets a grappa and we sit and chat. I can't do justice to the conversations we were having, but she was clearly not entirely right in the head. She talked about her mother passing, the several properties she inherited around the world (in LA, San Diego, NYC, maybe in Florence and Amsterdam and Bulgaria), her two brothers both named Pete, her stint at NYU and subsequent graduate work at USD (San Diego, whom she thought were the Trojans--in fact, they are the Torros), her many worldly travels, and then repeat.

So, we finally pay the check. We aren't sure, but we think we got hosed a little on the check. It is very difficult to tell out here what is a valid charge, and what is what can best be considered an "American tax," or "scam." But we think we paid for her grappa. She argued that she should pay. We declined, trying to thank her for helping us find a good place. She insisted, we declined again. Then the server came over and said that it was on him anyhow. We were confused.

So she promised to buy the next round. A round we did not realize we would be sharing with her. We walked around the corner to a sort of club bar and she went up to order drinks. Johnny went to the bathroom. She asked if we would like Mojitos, which of course we would. Then she kept telling me to go look at the moon, almost ordering me to go. So if none of the other chatter had raised my red flags, this finally did it. I thought we were about to get rufied. So I walk a few steps away, pretend to look outside, then hover just outside of her sight range and watch her. She keeps yelling to the bartender in Italian to make the drinks extra strong for her American friends.

Johnny came back, and I tried to warn him of what was going on, but then she walked over and with a sheepish scowl, she said she only had 10 Euro for a 24 Euro check. Typical.

But we stayed and chatted through the drinks. It became more and more clear to us that she was on some sort of pharmaceuticals. We were trying to figure a way out of the bar when all of a sudden she up and left. And that was that.

The Mojitos were pretty good. No pictures yet from Florence. That was the end of our night, though. We walked over to the Piazza Santo Spirito to check it out, then went home.

The Following Morning
Without putting too much thought into it, we decided it would be a good idea to start going for morning jogs. As I'm sure you are doing as you read, we thought it would be a great way to see the city, get some exercise, maybe not so much fresh air with all the cars and cigarettes. What we failed to realize ahead of time, and what you may also have failed to realize thus far, is that these streets, they are narrow. We were dodging vespahs, bicycles, pedestrians, cars, cats, armed guards, garbage bins, and more.

I use 'dodging' lightly here, because we weren't always lucky enough to have time to dodge. As we were coming up a narrow sidewalk, there was a man sitting on a scooter talking apparently to someone in the doorway who we couldn't see. As luck would have it, right as Johnny got up to this man, he discovered that the gentleman he was talking to was a glass worker, and he was at that very moment, handing over a glass tile he had cut for the guy on the scooter. It shattered everywhere. Johnny got a little knicked up on his arm. Scooter guy at first seemed angry, then was apologetic and concerned for the cuts on Johnny's arm. We slowed the pace significantly after that, and tried to press on. We thought we would run in the Giardino di Boboli, as it would not have cars. Instead of cars, though, it has guards at the gate who don't appear until you have walked through illegally. Another failure.

We jogged around a little more before finally giving up in frustration and returning home.

We both unpacked and are now slowly getting around to heading in to Prato to explore, make sure we can find the campus, hopefully get a month long travel pass so that we don't have to pay 2 Euro every day for the train. Fingers crossed.



Jon said...

This trip gets more interesting by the day.

Julie said...

haha.... I hope you are enjoying the girly colors and feminine products at your new apartment!