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Report 454: Florence On My Own: Three Weeks of Studying Italian and Very Slow Travel

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2004

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Page 20 of 21: L’ultimo giorno --- frantic shopping and relaxing with an ST friend

I have still not paid the rent for my apartment, although I offered to yesterday. Over the past two days, I have drawn enough cash to cover the rental, it is in my room safe. On my way out to do last-minute shopping, I see Miriam and tell her I will pay later that day.

I return to that wonderful emporium, the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, where I’ve already been once this visit. But now I have some serious gift shopping to do. I buy after-sun lotion for Adrienne, hand cream and foot cream for my sister-in-law, after-shave for my brother and for Adrienne’s fiancé, and body lotion for my mother. I also throw in a few soaps — why not!

Across the street, I spy one of those stores like Post Office Plus in the US. Of course! They are the ones who should have those styrofoam thingies for the wine. I buy three, at € 3 each; they are light but bulky to carry home. Now I will repack everything.

On the way home, as I approach the Ponte Alla Carraia, I see Caterina, Miriam’s daughter, out shopping with her grandmother. Somehow, I have enough Italian to have a nice conversation with them.

When I reach home, I undo the bubble wrap and place the wine in the styrofoam cases. They are huge! My luggage (one large soft-sided suitcase, one 22-inch roll-on, one backpack) will be all styrofoam, with clothes and toiletries squeezed in where available. I just manage to fit everything in.

I pay for the apartment, and have a nice conversation with the lovely Caterina. This talking Italian thing is fun, and I will miss it! Then I head out to lunch, to the Osteria Santo Spirito, where I have not yet been. The weather is lovely so I sit outdoors on the pleasant piazza, surrounded by a variety of types --- business people, local residents, and tourists of various nationalities. I order pasta and a salad (sorry! I’ve lost the card and receipt, folks) and have a generally pleasant time. Wish I had come here before, but of course there are only so many meals in one three-week period!

My plan is to head over to the Via Pisani, where Maureen (moderator) has a friend with a jewelry store. I have still not really bought anything for Karlie, my six-year old granddaughter. She is a bit too old for a toy, and clothes are not really a present for a six-year-old. Also, Maureen is arriving in Florence from Boston today and has e-mailed me about getting together. And she is staying near the Via Pisani. So I walk east toward the Porta San Frediano (my old friend) and continue to the Gioiellieria Parenti, but it is not yet re-opened for the afternoon.

When there I see the Bar Francesconi, which Maureen has mentioned in her Travel Notes. I stop in and have a coffee, glad to get out of the heat and off my feet. And I telephone Maureen who, as luck would have it, has just arrived in her apartment. In five minutes she is down to meet me. We chat a bit, connect immediately, and decide to meet for drinks at Caffè Ricchi in a couple of hours.

I head off to the jewelry store, where I chat with Lucia, her husband and her sister. I have fun buying a delicate gold bracelet with butterflies for Karlie, and also buy a narrow white gold bracelet for Adrienne (amazingly, she wears it everyday now)!

Now it’s time to head back. But not before stopping off for a gelato! Soon it is time to walk over to the piazza for drinks. Maureen has just arrived. She orders a prosecco and I order a mojito; this time the (same) waiter brings a bowl of snacks for us. We end up having a second drink each (with this drink, the waiter brings more serious snacks) and talking for two hours! What fun, to meet someone for the first time and be able to chat like old friends! Now Maureen’s long stay is beginning — she visits and helps out with her two nieces — as mine is ending.

But my day is not over! I have stopped by the Cavolo Nero and made a reservation for this evening. When I was leaving my apartment the other day, the owner was arriving on his motorscooter, and recognized me with a “buon giorno”. Why does this make me feel so good? So this evening I shower, dress and walk the few steps over to the restaurant.

The first time I was there, with Rosemarie, the outdoor garden was not yet opened. Now the garden has been opened, but last night the weather turned windy, and all the diners wanted to move inside. So tonight again I dine in the lovely indoor room. And the food is wonderful, with professional but uncomplicated service. As I have already had the two mojitos, I skip the prosecco and limit myself to one glass of wine. I have an antipasto, a pasta with tuna (canned rather than fresh, which is a bit of a disappointment) and, again, the wonderful apple tart (total € 32). I try to avoid the “last dinner mood” and instead walk a bit, then head back home. I finish packing, and to bed.

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