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Report 864: Shakespeare in Florence

By Torile from Michigan, Summer 2002

Trip Description: Six weeks in Italy, Florence and Ischia, during one HOT season.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Campania, Florence

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Language Classes; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 8: A Midsummer Nights Dream

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About five years ago, in the middle of a particularly sweltering August slumber, I had what I like to call my MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM. The dream that would eventually alter a large portion of my life and leave me with immeasurable emotions - both positive and negative. Cause me to question my existence at home, re-evaluate what is important in life and start me on a journey towards...towards...towards...well, I’m not exactly sure where I am headed but one day I hope to get there, and with my sanity still intact.

Out of the blue I decided I would like to spend a month in Italy. I have no idea why I had this sudden urge to visit a foreign land. Other than hops across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada I was perfectly content to stay in America and see all that this country has to offer. The next morning over breakfast in the herb garden I approached my husband with this idea. “Honey we should go to Italy,“ I began. “I would like us to go for at least a month,” I continued. “I would hate to take an organized tour where we have to be at certain places at designated times only to come home exhausted and in need of a vacation.” “What do you think?”, I asked him.

“I really don’t have the time or the inclination to go,” he responded. “Why don’t you take a friend?” “AS YOU LIKE IT,” I thought to myself.

Well, as luck (good luck or bad luck I have not yet decided) would have it, an acquaintance of ours, Diane, was there that day to do some gardening work for us and overheard this conversation. “I’ll go with you!” she shouted from the herb garden. And thus our COMEDY OF ERRORS went from an idea and into the planning stage.

Now, bear in mind that my friend/gardener, Diane, is a middle-aged, widowed artist and rather eccentric, not to mention being dyslexic and suffering from at least a mild case of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, I’m certain. Her personality is such that she elicits laughs from all whom she encounters. Most laugh with her as she has the ability to find humor in virtually everything and yet I know there are others that laugh at her ---- more for her quirks and crazy antics I like to think. I will admit that I was more than embarrassed by her antics on many occasions during our vacation but, in spite of it all, I grew to have a great fondness for this crazy woman.

It is early September and we schedule our trip to Italy for six weeks beginning at the end of May the following year. I spend all of my free time over the next few months searching the internet for everything I can find about Italy and Florence in particular the food, culture, the people, history, sights, etc. as I’m sure most who read this have done in preparation for their trips.

What does Diane do to prepare for her European holiday? My professed computer illiterate friend hit’s the internet also but in search of amore. She has discovered the allure of chat rooms. Italian chat rooms to boot. This was the avenue she chose to learn about the culture of the land she planned to visit. I’m not sure what she was thinking or hoping to find from her newfound cyber flirtations but what she eventually got was to be the subject of adventure, intrigue, embarrassment and excitement.

Diane (who is in her mid 50’s by the way) began a “friendship” with Antonio, a young Italian man of 28 years that lived on the island of Ischia in the bay of Naples. When Diane would tell me about her “chats” with Antonio I tried to explain to her the unwritten rules of chat protocol - the main being to keep safe with honesty coming in a close second. She quickly forgot the rules and thus the online romance of Antonio and Diane, or as I like to cal them, ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA, began a 9 month journey that would culminate with a much needed lesson in honesty.

Many times Diane printed out her online conversations with Antonio and gave them to me to read. I was horrified. She mis-led Antonio not only about her photo but her age, availability, occupation, height, weight, eye color, etc.; you name it, she lied about it. She had this young man believing he had fallen in love with a young, sexy woman who was coming to Italy to meet him and bring their online love affair to fruition. I tried to explain to her that not only was this just plain wrong to lie to this young man and lead him on but there was absolutely nothing to gain from her “cyber-affair”. She would not/could not get it through her head that there was anything wrong with what she was doing. She felt as long as she were having fun everything was OK. I gave up trying to convince her as there was no TAMING OF THE SHREW. She just could not comprehend that on the other end of this virtual relationship was a REAL person with feelings. I will return to them later in this story because I think that fate teaches her the lesson she so well deserved.

I enrolled in a two week Italian language course at La Scuola Leondard DaVinci in Florence and began studying at home with the intention of being able to converse and communicate better while on vacation. Little did I realize that in the larger cities I would have no problems as most people I came in contact with spoke English fairly well being used to tourists. Still, I was excited at the prospect of using even a little Italian; if for no other reason than to show respect and to be able to say, "Hey! I did it."

Diane would put forth no other effort past a “Ciao” or “Grazie”, which she said with a Spanish “Gracias.” To her, communicating with those she came in contact with who did not speak English meant only that she must speak LOUDER!!! Somehow if she yelled loudly enough her intention would be made known. Couple this little piece of knowledge with the fact that she doesn’t know a stranger (talks to everyone she sees) and you can imagine the looks she drew.

Finally our departure date arrived. We arrived in Pisa and took the train to Florence. Thus began the adventures of THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, or more appropriately, THE TWO WOMEN OF FIRENZE. My heart was racing and my legs trembling as the train pulled away from the station. What WAS this feeling? As the train made it’s way through the countryside we passed groves of olive trees, old men working in the garden, lovely old villas perched majestically on hilltops. I was overcome with excitement and choked back tears. "I’ll never make six weeks of Italy if I can’t even get through a train ride," I thought to myself.

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