Viva Florence! Long Live Clowns! Opera! Orchestra Toscana! Four Seasons!
November 24, 2023. By day two, our dream vacation to Italy felt more like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown than a romantic interlude in our favorite city.
After almost an hour of Dominique’s grand tour of his Tiny Tim apartment, the moment had arrived for the presentation of his gift arrangement: a bottle of wine (we drank the minute he was out the door), a loaf of white bread, and strawberry jam (ingredients for our dinner of jelly sandwiches) and an assortment of candies.
Jim and I didn’t anticipate Dominique’s unusual need to include a profile of his family for his VRBO guests.
I’m pleased you’re proud of your cracker box apartment and generous gift of white bread and strawberry jam, but must we conclude this presentation with your family history that began with a brief history of the Etruscan civilization?
“This is my daughter, Angelique,” he announced as he tapped his phone photos, “and here are my grandchildren.”
“You must be very pleased with such a handsome family,” Jim said.
“Yes, you must,” I parroted, hoping he wouldn’t take us on a tour of his aunts, uncles, great-aunts, and family dogs, cats, birds, and goldfish.
Finally, and with great relief, Dominque concluded his trip down memory lane.
“If you need anything, please know that I’m just a phone call away,” he said, in conclusion. Don’t worry, I thought. With that, our cheerful host bade us goodbye, good luck, and a pleasant reprieve. Jim and I opened the bottle of wine and then made strawberry jelly sandwiches,
The next day we headed to our favorite grocery store to stock up after receiving the news our luggage would arrive by mid-afternoon.
From the moment I picked up the plastic cart to the moment we checked out, what intrigued me most was the fifteen or twenty shoppers who patiently chit-chatted with the nonchalance and gaiety of barflies at the local bar.
This is what I love most about Italy: the people. They laugh from the belly. They sing, dance, and talk from morning till night. It’s a Country of Chatterboxes. The place seems quiet only in church.
Once the pantry was stocked, our stop was tickets. We secured tickets to The Santa Monaca Church for an Italian Opera event on New Year’s Eve, a concert at St. Stephen’s for “The Four Seasons,” Orchestra Toscana with Concerto di Natale featuring violinist Francesca Dego.
By nightfall, Jim and I decided to head to Santo Spirito and the local pizza place, where for a few Euros, a group of jolly chefs sing while they slide pizzas in and out of a flaming oven. The neighborhood scene was bursting with activity – kids raced. People walked their dogs. Laughter and conversation. No television, texting, or computers. People were outside, interacting, and living.
So much better than garage doors facing the street, and people planted in front of big-screen TVs. Perhaps that’s why we keep coming back. To participate in and feel that rich humanity.