I suppose the cluster-f!@# (hair-raising) events leading up to Florence, made the next series of events seem all the sweeter. Florence is where my old friend Tony (he’s not really THAT old, our friendship is. Ha!) and I decided to meet up. Amazingly we would be celebrating our 10 year anniversary of meeting, and this would mark the 7th country in which we would gather. I have not seen or talked to a friend or family member in months so I was excited to convene. However, I had one day in Florence before he would arrive. I packed up and departed the most interesting “House of Chaos” early, and found my way to the appropriately named Michealanelo Campground perched on a hill above the city. I felt utter relief as I set up my tent under an olive tree and grabbed a coffee in their cafe with a wonderful vista over Florence. Then I was off to do my usual –find a cafe and write, but in Florence that means cycling bumpedy bump over the narrow cobblestone streets with a seemingly endless slew of beautifully sculpted and adorned buildings around every corner. I had never been to Florence, and I must say, it lives up to its hype. It is a beautiful cool old city, and there’s pretty much a gelato joint with heaping tubs of bright colored flavors on every corner. What more could one want?
That night I wanted to dine out…ya know, at one of those sweet candle lit restaurants with white cloth awnings covering their patio seating. One after another, they hugged the edge of the mostly pedestrian-only streets that meander through Florence. How to choose though? I was patiently waiting for it to get dark so that city would unleash more of that Italian romantic ambiance. The first restaurant I choose was on a big outdoor square near what was going to be some live music striking up. But after sitting down, it just didn’t feel right. Meals were coming out on trays and I noticed bits of trash on the ground. I decided to leave and try again. I wandered around the corner to a lovely inviting restaurant which had outdoor seating that wrapped around two sides of a very old building. The tables were just inches from one another, and I was rather awkwardly seated at a table on the patio where I was then facing a man, who was sitting solo across from me at the next table. It was pretty much like being seated at the same table. Well, the man turned out to be the owner, and nice fellow at that. He told me about the restaurant which had been owned by his parents, and grandparents, and now him. He recommended the stuffed pasta dish with some sort of pear sauce, which he explained was a specialty of his grandma. Many years back, he actually spent six months in Cleveland (with a relative in little Italy- of course)! Not long into our conversation, he got up to give the table to a cute couple, and the place completely filled up.
While nibbling my awesome meal and enjoying a glass of wine, I happened to notice a rather attractive dark-haired, Italian-looking fellow, who was dinning by himself. He was facing me but on the opposite side of the patio. He seemed to notice me too, and some flirty smiles were exchanged. After we both finished our meals, he motioned for me to come join him. Ahhh…no flipping way was I going to ask the cute couple to move to let me out, and then cross the dining area in front of the owner to go over to the cute fellow! Instead, he eventually made his way to my table instead, and asked if he could join me. Wow…bold move! Well wouldn’t you know, he turned out not to be Italian. Rather, James was from LA on a little business trip detour…and a really nice guy to boot. Okay, buying me some roses from one of those “rose salesman” certainly helped elevate his nice guy status. It was like the sort of stuff that you wish to happen in Italy but really only happens in movies, right? Anyway, we carried on and had a fun evening wandering Florence’s beautiful streets and seemingly endless lit fountains with naked men sculptures, and checking out the nightlife scene –all firsts on this here trip. I am very thankful for my most memorable first evening in Florence.
Adding to that memory was the utter failure of my tent! A heavy rained ensued in the morning, and I basically ended up with a river meandered through it. Enough! Into the trash it went! I was meeting Tony that day and we were planning to share an AirB&B place anyway. Then next up was my flight to London -so one less thing to carry. I’d get a new one when I landed.
It was really great to hang with Tony! We both have been living rather alternative life styles for quite some time…so we get each other and what others might perceive as eccentricities. Tony, another LA fellow (by way of Florida), retired from the tech industry rather early and literally set sail in the Carribean right about the time I decided to hang up my shingle. Unfortunately at the time (but most fortunately later), his wife jumped ship and his pop’s passed. I met him about that time…the time where he was grieving but just becoming unleashed and starting to live life. The first thing I did after making my major life shift away was to crew for Tony from Guatemala to Honduras. He’s sort of semi-responsible for a lot of good stuff that happened thereafter (shhh…don’t tell him that – I don’t want to owe him more than I do). He sailed and then ran a sailing charter business down in Central and South America for many of the years that I’ve known him. Tony has flipping awesome stories…I’ll let you know when his book is out. It will be a best-seller, I’m quite sure. Unlike me, somehow Tony always seem to figure out a way to make money while living from his backpack. He keeps advising me…and well, I keep paying for school. Ha! Someday, perhaps I’ll learn.
England here I come!