I found a great travel discussion board, when planning my first trip to Europe back in 1999. On this board, I was very fortunate to meet Francesco. I was looking for information on Florence and he was interested in learning more English. We began to write back and forth and after a few months of corresponding, we decided to meet for dinner during my stay in Florence that summer. I remember my mom being nervous about me meeting a strange man that I had met over the internet. I assured her that after many months of corresponding and the fact that he was bringing his girlfriend, Irene with him, everything would be fine.
Everything did turn out fine. In fact this chance meeting on a discussion board turned into a wonderful friendship. We have kept in touch over the years and have continued to meet whenever it worked out. Both Francesco and Irene (who married in 2001 and now have two children, Sara and Gabriele) as well as both of their families have welcomed me whenever I have come for a visit.
Somehow, we lost contact last summer. The other night, while finding anything possible to do besides concentrate on trip organization and packing, I decided to try once more to contact them using every email I had for them…and it worked!!
My wonderful surprise is that we will be able to meet once again. I was already planning a possible daytrip to Florence after not having been there since 2001. Yes, I know, a daytrip is not long enough, but a walk around the beautiful city of Florence is always worth a visit. The train travel time is short and since all my photos of Florence are pre-digital, I thought it would be fun to spend some time there once more.
So, instead of lunch in Florence, I will hop on another train and have lunch in Empoli with my wonderful friends. I will also meet Gabriele for the first time. I am so excited and just know it will be a day I will treasure always.