by Melinda Gallo

Shopping at Il mercato di San Lorenzo

What can I say? The one place in all of Florence that I avoid almost more than a visit to the dentist's office. But, sometimes it's the only place that sells what I'm looking for. Today, I went to San Lorenzo with my new friend Ellen. It wasn't a planned trip, but we happened to be nearby browsing a few of the bookshops.

Ellen and I met today under the Dante statue in Piazza Santa Croce. We went from one English bookstore to the next and then had a pastry and drink at another bookstore in Via Cavour.

Time seemed to slip by quite quickly and we found ourselves finishing up our snacks at half past one. We went to a local Chinese restaurant and had lunch.

As we stood at the corner about to part ways, I decided I should go to the San Lorenzo market because I was so close and I'm too lazy to make a trip all the way up there again.

I saw exactly what I was searching for at one of the leather stands. I asked the man how much it was and he responded. "Vieni al negozio. Ti faccio vedere tutti gli altri colori." (Come to my shop. I'll show you all the other colors.) Luckily, I was with Ellen or else I would've said I'm not that interested and walked away.

I just don't like being taken to another location. Following a man into a shop, up the stairs into a back room, just sounds like trouble to me. Or at least, my mother warned me about such situations. Being there with Ellen I felt a bit more reassured.

I also figured that growing up with one brother who liked to "play-fight" with me and who quickly stopped because I got too violent in my reactions, I could probably fend for myself.

The guy asked me where I was from. Of course, I knew that wasn't a question I was going to appreciate answering. He asked to better figure me out. Being in an environment I don't like at all, I asked him where he was from. I knew he wasn't Italian by his accent and figured he was probably Middle Eastern. He told me he was Albanian although I knew he was lying. I let it go since I didn't really care what nationality he was, I just wanted to prove that I knew that he wasn't Italian.

I told him that I was going to buy a few of the items I selected and asked him if he'd give me a discount. Normally, I hate doing such things, but I figured they expect it and usually they rip people off right and left. He said he'd give me 1 Euro off each one. And I responded by telling him not to bother.

He, of course, showed me that the real price tag, which was on the hanger, was much higher than what he told me initially. I figured I'd let it go. I just wanted to get my stuff and get out. I'm happy with what I bought, but I'm sure I could've gotten a better price if I'd have been willing to walk away. I just didn't want to return to San Lorenzo.

At dinner, I told Marco about my shopping spree and he told me that when he went into one of the shops to buy a wallet, the guy told him that it was normally 20 Euros, but because he's Italian, it's only 10 Euros. My stomach turned over as I thought I probably did spend too much as well!

I had asked two of my other Italian girlfriends to come with me a few months ago, but no one wanted to come. My Florentine friend, Debora, hates that place more than me. My other friend, Marta, who is from Umbria, said they treat her just as badly.

So, I think next time I'll go with Marco. He seems to have much better luck than all of us put together!

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