by Melinda Gallo

Our first night in Florence

One of my friends, Simone, has just opened up a new restaurant called "Il Canapone" near Santo Spirito and asked us if we'd like to rent his apartment for about a year. We found a few we liked, but his we just loved. It's so warm, cozy, and modern and has a beautiful little terrace with many plants and flowers (which I hope will survive our stay here since I don't have a green thumb). The kitchen is my favorite part, with stainless steel countertops and glass doors on the cabinets.

We arrived about 7PM. Simone's mother was here to welcome us because he was working at his restaurant. We lugged up all of our luggage (two suitcases and one carry-on each) two flights of stairs, which was a bit exhausting, but at least it all arrived with us. We always hear about other people's horror stories of losing luggage on international flights and we knew we were lucky.

All of the lights were on in the just-cleaned apartment. She gave us a quick tour, showed us a few things that they had left for us, like towels, sheets, as well as some pasta, flour, and sugar. Then, she handed us each a set of keys. We finally have a real home again! After living out of our suitcases on our one month trip back to the US where we traveled to three different states and took about eight flights. It felt like we just won a grand prize.

After she left, we went back out and headed to one of the only grocery stores in the downtown area (which is only a few blocks from our apartment…another reason I love this place), called "La Standa."

We got the essentials: milk, orange juice, coffee, more pasta, meat, cheese, salad, fruit, and water.

Once you make it to the checkout counter, they ask you one question "Una busta?" (Do you want a bag?) They don't ask you if you want paper or plastic and they don't help you bag your items. Self-serve all the way. I had to estimate how many we needed and responded "Sì, due per favore." (Yes, two please.) One for me and one for Dave.

We got everything in our apartment and decided that we were too exhausted to cook, so we went to a restaurant that's about 50 feet from our front door that our friends Mike and Leah told us about called "Baldovino." I went there before many years ago, but it was so close, we couldn't resist. OK, I was too tired to think of anything else.

As soon as we opened the door, a man asked us if we wanted "Fumatori o non fumatori?" (Smoking or non-smoking?) "Non fumatori, per favore." (Non-smoking, please.) It's the worst experience to take a bite of food and you get a whiff of smoke in your mouth at the same time. He led us to a table and asked us if it's OK as he put the menus on the table and walked away. Sure, why not? In the middle of the room, next to a man whose elbow was already on my place mat.

Another waiter came and stood at the front of the table scribbling on his note pad. "Non abbiamo deciso ancora," (We haven't decided yet) I told him; we needed a few more minutes to decide. A few long minutes pass and the waiter returns to our table. He stares at me, lifts his eyebrows and then his head. I rattle off everything we're going to have in Italian and he disappears.

The food arrives and I thank the waiter. After we finish, I signal to the waiter that I want the check by writing on my hand in the air. He nods his head.

Not until we were out the door did I hear the waiter say, "Ciao."

We got back home and unpacked. As exhausted as we were, I just wanted to put everything away so I wouldn't have to look at it in the morning. Dave set up the Internet, hooked up the wireless modem, and we were in business. Our new life in Florence has just begun.

Share your comments for this blog post on the Living in Florence's Facebook page. Grazie!