Tales of a wandering lesbian

Last pizza

My flight back to the US was an early one from the little Florence airport.  Florence is a couple of hours from Fornaci, and I had to be at the airport by about 5:30 AM, so I decided to spend the night in Florence.  Because the Florence airport is a small, regional one, there aren’t a lot of hotels that serve it.  We asked around, and found one that was about a 5-10 minute cab ride, and was safe and clean.

Deb and Tommy gave me a ride to the Fornaci train station, which I was pretty darn familiar with by now, and I hopped on a train to Florence.  I had a great moment at the Fornaci train station when a woman come up to me and ask me where to find the validation machine for the tickets.  It was a triumphant moment when I was able to understand the question and respond in Italian in a way that was actually helpful.

When I got to Florence – another train station I was pretty familiar with by now – I grabbed a cab to the hotel.  Once I confirmed that the cabbie knew where we were going, I settled in for the ride.  I prefer to sit up front in a cab when I’m alone.   Usually I’ll chat with the cabbie about the town, so I tried in Italian.  He was very nice, and we chatted back and forth, navigating my bad grammar together.  I recommended an art exhibit in town and he told me about growing up just outside Florence.

The hotel was in an industrial zone outside the tourist district of Florence.  When I walked in, I thought it might be deserted.  There was nobody to be seen.  Then a man appeared from an out-of-sight office to check me in.  I was pretty tired when I arrived, so I bid the front desk man “buona notte” and headed up to the room.  The room was Spartan, and I swear there was virtually nobody else staying in the big place.  It was a little creepy riding to the top floor in the teeny tiny elevator.  Fortunately the hotel attached its keys to huge, metal pieces that seemed perfect for use as a bludgeoning device.  This made me feel better.  Kind of.

Blunt instrument

After a long, hot shower, I found myself hungry and wandered back downstairs to seek out a little food.  The website and Rick Steves both showed almost nothing in the area.  I’d need a little help with this one.

The guy behind the desk pulled out a couple of business cards and pointed me down the road a little.  I’d have to walk, but there were a couple of pizza places about 5 minutes away.  “Just go right then left then down to the main street.  You’ll see the restaurants on the other side.”  Armed with my key fob, I headed out into a part of Florence that was different than the Florence I had seen before.

Florence street

I walked quickly, hoping the area was safe and wondering if I should head back and have another Cliff Bar for dinner.  Until I saw a sign for military surveillance.  I was in the neighborhood of a military facility.  Suddenly, everything felt very safe.  I slowed down a little and even talked to a guy in a car who wanted directions.  I wasn’t really that helpful, but I tried.

When I finally reached the main street I was wondering if I’d ever find the restaurants.  There were a couple of American-style strip malls across the way, but nothing that really looked like a restaurant.  I checked the business cards.  Bingo.  One of the restaurants was just across the street.  The sign looked a little like a video arcade.  I was a little skeptical about the location, but I was hungry enough to forgive the strip-mall atmosphere, so I walked inside.

It was brightly lit, and filled with people picking-up to-go orders and long tables of apparent locals having dinner.  I sat down at a table with a salt and pomegranate centerpiece, and considered the menu.


Most everyone was ordering pizza, so I followed suit.  There were margherita, verdure, funghi, and a new one:  parmagiana.  Eggplant parmesan pizza.  Yum.  I hoped it was as good as it sounded.

Eggplant parm pizza

It was.  The pizza was beautifully thin, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, thinly sliced, tender eggplant, and a healthy crust of parmesan on top.  The eggplant was juicy, so I ate most of this one with a knife and fork.  The crust was thin, but sturdy, making it possible for me to cut strips, fold them over and shove them in my mouth with the toppings inside like a little calzone.  I was perfectly content eating what I knew would be my last pizza of the trip (not counting the airplane pizza, which isn’t really in the same league).  I listened to the people around me and watched as the long table next to me ordered dessert.  It looked to be a birthday celebration or something similar.  The table was full of older couples, but the women sat at one end and the men at the other.

I got a preview of dessert as the men, who were closest to me, harassed the waitress over the dessert menu.  My entire trip I found it interesting the role that fruit played in almost every meal.  In people’s homes, a big basket of fruit would be placed on the table after a meal.  In restaurants, fruit was served, whether in a salad form or on its own, as dessert.  Pineapple, “annanas,” was commonly on the menu.  Cut lengthwise into thirds, the fruit would be sliced and served in the rind, sometimes drenched in a liqueur of some kind.  The men at tonight’s table ordered pineapple, except for one, who ordered an orange – which showed up by itself, rolling around a plain, white plate.

I like fruit, but it’s not what I had in mind for my last night in Italy.  I asked the waitress for the “dolce” and she started down a list.  Somewhere along the way I heard “pistachio torta.”  Yes, that one.  I’d had good luck with nut pies.  I hadn’t, however, experienced fluorescent green nut pies.

Pistachio torta

The minute it arrived I knew this wouldn’t be the best dessert of the trip, but, all things considered, it wasn’t bad.  There were even little pieces of pistachio in the unnaturally green gelatin.  Along with the caffe, it was a totally satisfactory dessert.

Last caffe

The pizza was excellent.  Probably ranks in the top 3 from the entire trip.  But the best part of dinner was the fact that I didn’t speak a word of English the whole time.  I don’t want to congratulate myself too much for making it through a few sentences, but it was nice.  My last night in Italy I was able to get myself to Florence, find a place to eat, and even get through a meal in Italian.  Like the rest of my trip, I had help from friends along the way (sometimes a lot of help), and in the end, I was able to do what I needed to on my own.  What more do I need than a place to sleep, a blunt instrument, and a really good pizza?

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