I left Tunis at 10:30 AM yesterday and had a picturesque flight. Unfortunately, Big Red got a rather large penalty fine for her weight. They only allow 20 kg on Alitalia so I have got to send another box, or two, home from here or I will have to pay again on the way to Argentina. No thanks. I opted to pay cash and use up the rest of my Tunis money (since one always loses at the currency exchange anyway), and some US dollars I brought “just in case”. I was feeling pretty stung about this, but then something strange happened. In the Roman airport, as I was waiting in the security line, someone handed me a $50 bill and said “this must be yours”. I was the only American anywhere in the line from the Tunisian plane. No one else had dropped anything or was looking around or had loose luggage. So I decided to take it. I know this may be bad of me. But its original owner was long gone. So there it is. The human brain is at its most active when rationalizing, and mine decided that the airport was finally giving back. There was a four hour wait for my Florence connection which I used for crisp Italian pizza, light reading and some strawberry sorbet, thank you very much. The flight to Florence wasn’t even long enough to run a drink service (less than 45 minutes, I think). When I got to Florence, I did something unusual: I took a cab into town. Everywhere else, I have taken a bus or arranged for the hotel to come and get me, but the busses were on strike in Florence and my little hotel doesn’t do transfers. It was 40 degrees C anyway, even at 6:45 PM, so hopping into an air conditioned cab was a treat.
After arrival in the beautiful double room that I am only getting charged as a single, with a replica of my favorite Bronzino painting (Rittratto de Lucrezia Pucci Panchitichi), I began the search for Café Americano. My husband and I had the most wonderful mozzarella cheese there on our honeymoon eight years ago and I wanted it again. But it was not to be – the Café appears to be out of business. Instead, I had a good salad, a porcini mushroom pasta and a glass of wine at a place my hotel recommended, outside in the warm night around 9 PM. They brought me a complimentary glass of limoncello at the end of the meal, which was very smooth, but got me a little drunk. I went on the hunt for some gelato, and found some not far away. Did you know you can be tipsy and have an ice cream headache at the same time at 11 pm on a summer night? You can in Italy! I love visiting this country. I slowly walked back to the hotel and fell into bed.
Yesterday was about transport, but today was about shopping. Saldi is in all the shop windows, and I gather it’s the Italian word for “Sale” – regardless of the literal meaning, it’s a irresistible call to action for me. Yeah, yeah, I know I am unemployed and living on severance. I know, I know. Today I spent the equivalent of three days’ lodging. I think it’ll be fine since I have a place to stay with my cousin in Torino (thank you so much, Eric!). In Italy, they only have clearance sales twice a year: winter clearance and summer clearance. That’s the second week in July and the second week in January, for those of you who might want to keep track. This is the best possible timing for my visit. I have lost a few pounds on this trip and my pants have gotten so loose that I have to hold them up when I walk anywhere or use safety pins to tighten them, and most of my shirts are stained. I left two of them at the Laundromat in Sweden, and I am still emailing to see if somehow I can get them by post. Their return is less important now, though. I got a terrific trench coat for $20 (down from $85), and a sharp blouse for $30 (down from $90). Most of the shoes in the shops are 50% off and I bought some suitable for a fashionable but business-casual work environment. I am proud of myself for sticking to the budget I set myself this morning, and in fact, I have spent only half of the money I calculated that I could spend, even buying four pairs of shoes. The only problem with this shopping is that I am not reducing my suitcase weight any. On my long walk, I managed to get some more sorbetto (limone & fragola mixed) at a gelateria of high repute across the Arno. Not only was it half the cost of last night’s, but it tasted even better. What can I say? It was on the way to the shoe store.
I had an 8:30 dinner reservation tonight and did a little casual photography before I ate. Metering is hard around here. Lots of tall buildings and narrow streets against a bright sky make for too many “zones” of exposure. The camera just cannot “see” it all. I’m going to have to meter manually if I want anything to come out, I think. Dinner was delicious but really rich. I had red wine, a liter of water, and the saltiest good pasta ever. The big fusilli pasta was tossed with a sharp sheep cheese and fried pig’s cheek (basically thin bacon/ham-like pork). The sauce was very tight, but as I said, very salty. Following that I had the salad. Salads are never first in an Italian meal, and are usually right before dessert or coffee (which, by the way, are not usually served together but sequentially). The salad was excellent fresh lettuce and arugula with avocado, pecorino cheese and many black truffle shavings. I thought it needed a little lemon, but I wouldn’t dare suggest that to the staff. It was very tasty but very rich, and I had a hard time finishing it. There was no room for dessert, but I suppose I have had enough of that today already!