Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beware the Italian Tourist

Well today is a rainy Monday morning, I was late for school because I had to dry my jeans in the oven again. I thought I had pulled them out of the wash early enough last night – even placed them on the heater, but things just don’t dry here as quick as good ol Alberta.
Yesterday I was one of the few people in Florence who looked kind of put of place. Imagine a BEAUTIFUL sunny 23C day, sun shining, birds singing, what would you be wearing? Maybe capris and a sleeveless shirt? Yes, in Canada we would be running through sprinklers but here Europeans were in their finest jackets and jeans, black jackets, leather, velvet – whatever as long as it was something hot, dark coloured and layered, they were wearing it. I thought this might be the case so I wore a scarf (and high heels) but that just didn’t cut it. Apparently May 1st, and no sooner, is the Italian wardrobe change where they finally don their sleeveless shirts and capris. I guess I wish I would have know that sooner. In the end, the Italians were the ones laughing as by late afternoon the sun was gone and the wind picked up. And we think the weather changes fast in Alberta? Imagine our weather fast forward triple max!!

I am finally settling in. I had a great reunion with my Italian friend, Marco, who brought some items I had left with him on the last trip. The wine and the humongous bottle of Spumante were both still in their bottles! That’s great but that means now I either have to carry them or host a party to drink them up. The party might be a fun idea as the lady (sister in law of my landlord) on the ground floor of the apartment makes pasta which she sells to the local restaurants. If anyone wants to come to my party I am sure the food will please you. Ok I promise I won’t do the cooking!
My phone charger was in the bag Marco brought so I could finally use my mobile phone as an alarm clock – meaning no more 4:30 am mornings because I was scared to sleep in!
School is going really well. I am soooooo glad to have both the Ukrainian and French languages behind me. Not only is some vocabulary similar but the general language structure and grammar follow some of the same ideas which is very different than English.

Yesterday I was able to practice my Italian language skills with an Italian ‘tourist’. I was walking home from the city centre and I stopped on one of the many bridges that cross the Arno River to take a photo. I started walking away when this young olive skinned man stopped to ask me, “Do you speak English? Where is this Piazzale Michelangelo? Maybe you can tell me in Italian?” So in English I described to him where this lookout point called Piazzale Michelangelo is; which was just down the street and a good climb up a hill from we were. You can see all of Florence including her grande copper coloured Duomo - it truly is a stunning view.
Immediately he strikes up conversation (in Italian) and starts walking towards the Piazzale and I walk along with him as he is explaining to me why he is Florence. He tells me he is here with his job, but normally works in Rome as an architect and is originally from Sicily. A –hah! That shuda been my sign right there! Sicily. STOP!!! But no I let him talk on and on. He tells me that since I am here for a while I can stay at his place if I come to visit Rome or if I want to go to Sicilia I am invited to stay at his parent’s place there. How generous! Of course Sicilians, being from the good ol’ friendly south, would offer such an invite.
Now, we are crossing the street so he grabs my hand. I think this might be a gesture of cavalry so I let it slide – the only thing is that he doesn’t let got when we arrive safely on the other side of the street…
The fact that I am working ‘for free’ at a restaurant and farm seems to astonish him and he thinks this is a very bad idea. He offers me a job at his dad’s restaurant in Sicilia and tells me that I can be his girlfriend and work there with his dad!
He then says, “I will take you to Sicily and tell my dad this is my girlfriend she will work with you and live here.” Well that doesn’t sound so bad now does it? A boyfriend, a job and place to stay all in the matter of 5 minutes! BINGO! And to think I had to join a dating club back in Canada when I just could have come to Italy and had my life set in a matter of minutes.
I tell him I already have a boyfriend. He says you can have a boyfriend in Canada, a boyfriend in Ukraine and an Italian boyfriend. Women don’t have just one child, they have 2, 3, 4 children! Hmmm... good point??? Ummm… no.
The climb up the hill amounted to a beautiful view and then he asked me if I would like a glass of wine from one of the mini bars atop the hill. I am not to pass up on wine or any other alcohol so I say sure. He walks out of the mini bar with a BOTTLE of Chianti and 2 plastic glasses hanging off of the top.
As he manoeuvres his way around the grounds of the Piazzale it seemed that maybe he has been here before. Oh well. The bottle of warm red Chianti was very good and after mindless chit chat we climbed up to the church on the hill above the Piazzale.
After a walk through the church we sat on the steps in front of the church watching the people strolling around and sitting in their spots gazing out at the panorama, when he plants a kiss on my cheek. “Whoa! No! Basta (enough)! ” I say.
“What?” He replies?
“I heard about you Sicilians” I say.
Just then a monk walks up to us and asks what language we speak.
“Italiano” Giovanni replies.
“No kissing on the church steps” said the monk.
I laughed. In the end Giovanni invited me to spend Sunday at the coast in Livorno, Viareggio (which I heard wonderful things about) and Pisa. As much as I wanted to spend the 23 C day at the coast I declined…trying to use the *wisdom* gained from the last time I was here. Instead of strolling on the sandy Italian coastline in the warm, yellow sunshine, I spent Sunday morning with the nuns in church at Instituto Sacro Cuore ( the convent I stayed at the last time I was in Florence). It was lovely to see the sisters again and to spend the afternoon with some fantastic school friends relaxing in one of the gorgeous public gardens.
Here’s to *wisdom*.

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