Welcome to Florence! Just a Few House Rules – Chapter Three
November 24, 2022. Jim and I finally got to the front of the taxi line at the airport and climbed in with no luggage But so what? We were in Florence!
“We did it!” we cheered, relieved to be on our way to the apartment we’d selected after careful scrutiny. We looked forward to meeting Dominique, our host, who’d greet us at the front door, give us a mini-tour, hand us keys and let us begin our vacation. Our driver sped the narrow-cobbled streets like it was the Indianapolis 500, but we were too busy being in the city we loved.
Suddenly there we were – curbside with Dominique waiting. His greeting was exuberant. His manner was gracious. His appearance was pure Italian: big grin, chatterbox greeting, effusive. He seemed to understand the three-hour lost luggage debacle had left us bone-tired and ready for a glass of wine. Our first look inside the doorway was Surprise Number One.
No! That staircase looks like the ascent to the Eiffel tower! When I booked the apartment, I asked if there were any stairs because Jim has back issues. He said only a few. Can that man count?
“Please mind the steps,” Dominique told us. “The last few are a bit steep.” Like in treacherous?
While our nimble host raced to the top, I walked cautiously beside Jim, who struggled to get to the first flight, and we hadn’t rounded the corner. Finally, we made it to the front door.
“Welcome!” our refreshed host exclaimed, “to our humble home!” When he opened the door, I nearly fainted. His “humble home” was smaller than our kitchen. There wasn’t room for a plant.
He pointed to our shoes, reached into a basket, and produced a handful of thin slippers.
“Please wear these at all times to protect the wood floors,” he said. I put down my purse, put on the slippery slippers, and looked at a floor that had seen better days. Jim’s expression told the story. We’re off to a bumpy start, and it’s only been one minute.
“Let’s start the tour!” Dominique announced with the flourish of a conductor waving a baton.
What’s to tour? I can see the whole apartment from the front door.
Our methodical host began his tour by explaining every spoon in the silverware drawer, every dish towel in the linen drawer, every pot and pan in the pantry, and every cup, saucer, and glass in the cupboard. The growling in my stomach only matched the growling in my brain.
This man must think I’ve never been in a kitchen before. Why doesn’t he just leave us alone?
Next came the bathroom. “Here is some special soap. This is how the shower works. This is how the sink works. This is where you put the towels. This is the detergent. My first belief is in safety, so there are no sharp knives or scissors.” How do you expect us to cut a piece of cheese? With my nail file? He smiled and said, “Let’s spend some time getting to know each other.”
I’d had enough of his staircase from hell, his insane tour, and him. “I appreciate your gesture, Dominique,” I said. “But Jim and I are…well…it’s been a long day and night…and…”
He ignored what I’d said, pulled a wallet out of his back pocket, and began, “Here’s my family. How about yours?” I looked at my watch. The “tour” had already lasted an hour. Holy hell.
I wondered what it would take to get him out of our apartment. I wanted to cry.