(pictures of the meal to come when Ashley sticks them up on facebook. I gave my camera a rest so I could just enjoy my meal and not worry about f-stops).
I made my first big purchase of this trip. I have passed by Massimo Dutti and Gucci and Chanel each day I’ve been here, and nothing has tempted me to take off my sexy money belt and fork over my cash. But good company and great food on my last night was a must. And so, I spent €25 on dinner.
It’s not a shocking amount of money, but still about four times more than I spend on food each day. Truly. It’s like I’m in college again.
Ashley and I had spent the day up at the Piazzale, Mercato Centrale, the various bookstores, sitting in Piazza Repubblica, and eating cheap sandwiches. Our conversation bubbled along and we covered our similar obsessions with weddings, shoes, our experiences when we met when we studied abroad together. As a result, I wanted some company for dinner. I have a bit of a fantasy eating alone in a trattoria or at a café, but my last night in my beloved city just didn’t feel like the time to do it.
We arrived at the restaurant—Celestino’s, right by the Ponte Vecchio, and totally reasonably priced—at 8, and I had to check my watch. The place was nearly empty. It was a Wednesday night, and relatively early, so who knows.
The waiter was eager to please us, and I wish he had introduced himself or I had asked his name. Forgive me, as I’ll have to call him “the waiter.”
Ashley was a great sport and ordered what I usually order, the porcini risotto in a champagne sauce, so I could order veal cutlets with tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella on top. We picked a bottle of the house wine, a 2007 Chianti, and the owner came by and threw in a free salad. We had bread, sea-green olive oil, and candlelight. We were all set.
Ashley and I had an amazing time together. We talked and talked, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. I couldn’t believe that we had, by 9:30, the entire restaurant to ourselves.
I also couldn’t help but notice that our waiter was staring. Hardcore. I didn’t pay much attention, and Ashley and I continued to enjoy our wine.
When the bill came, the first thing I saw was a note, written in penmanship incredibly similar to Caparbio's, my ex-boyfriend (“the Italians start hammering the kids with cursive immediately,” Ashley said). It said, in Italian,
“I like you a lot. I would like to see you alone later. See ya, Beautiful!”
He had even drawn a little smiley-face sunrise for me.
I wanted to keep the note.
But instead, I borrowed Ashley’s pen, and thanked him for the compliment, but I was not only engaged (not true) but also leaving in the morning (very true). I felt warm with wine and flattery.
After our successful dinner, we wandered to the nearby Ponte Vecchio, and we ran into Fabrizio, the tech guy from our old school. 30 seconds later, we found ourselves accompanying Fabrizio and his friend to a party near the Uffizi.
We spoke English and Italian, listened to a great Turkish guitarist and singer, watched Turkish dancing, and met other teachers from our old school. Fabrizio “bopped” my nose a few times, playfully, and leaned on me. I met an Ezra, a Valaria…I was surrounded by a world. I was happy. I was with Ashley on the second floor of an apartment in Florence in Italy. I felt clever—it’s hard not to as a female American who can dish out slang curse words—and that my strangeness belonged.
I was also about three glasses of wine in. Pretty rare for me, but in good company, I don’t mind.
The night was beautiful and I returned to my hostel with five minutes to spare before being locked out.
This may have been an important turning point. It proved that although I was in a strange place, I found comfort in company and was open to doing something totally foreign and new. I’d never before gone to a Turkish/German/Italian party before and hung out with all sorts. The experience proved I could do it.
I was also ready to get out of dodge. Florence holds a lot of ancient pain for me, and also some wistful memories (God, what is this? A teen book from the 50s?). I was looking forward to something new—Perugia; Lugano, Switzerland. I wanted to throw off the cloak of sad and fog and loneliness and dive into what was totally new.
There’s no reason, however, that I shouldn’t go out with a bang. And so I did. It was worth every hard-earned dollar, that changed to Euro through my bank, but not before being converted to British Pounds at the best rate of the day, and finally made it into the black bill folder at Celestino’s. No reason at all.