by Melinda Gallo

A busy Saturday

When I arrived in Piazza della Signoria after lunch, I saw crowds of people standing around and then heard cars driving by. I walked up to the barrier and found out that the Mille Miglia car race was on its final leg through Florence and back up to Brescia. The police temporarily closed off via Calzaiuoli to let the cars drive by, but I was able to take pictures from the other side of the barrier.

Living in Florence :: A busy Saturday

My friend Debora called me as I watched the cars go by on via Calzaiuoli. She said we were still on for dinner at 8:30 PM and they'd pick us up in Piazza Beccaria. I didn't know where we were going to eat, but I had faith that she'd pick a good place. She knows how picky I am. For one month after my mother had passed in September 2001, she let me live with her for a month. We used to cook dinner together almost every night. It was the first time I had ever slept over her house and we became even closer friends.

Since Dave and I have moved to Florence, Debora and I have drifted apart. I could blame her new boyfriend, but I know she has decided to spend every waking hour with him and not see me much any more. The last time we saw each other was at Christmas. I miss Debora a lot, but I have decided to let her live her life. So, when we can finally get together, I'm happy.

Debora and Paolo came to pick us up in their new car. The spot we chose wasn't that original in front of the cinema (movie theater). About six other people were waiting for people as well.

They drove us to Prato, which is a town just north of Florence. I'm embarrassed to say that I have never been to Prato. It's so close, but supposedly not as interesting as other towns in Tuscany. At least that's what all my Florentine friends tell me.

They invited an older couple, Carlo and Anna, who have a ten-year old son. Carlo had already been retired and Anna was forty-nine when she got pregnant. He is their first and only child. Carlo and Anna suggested a trattoria pratese (Pratesi restaurant/trattoria). Because we live in Tuscany, I didn't want to eat any dishes I can get in Florence, so I asked them what they suggested that was typical of Prato. We started with a antipasto (appetizer) sedano farcito (stuffed celery). I generally don't like sedano, but it was very tasty.

Then, I ordered pici al castrato, which is the thick home-made spaghetti-like pasta with a tomato-based sugo (sauce) with meat from a castrated ram. I didn't quite understand how the meat would be different, but I was trying to limit more details before the plate arrived in front of me. Sometimes fewer details are better. I ate all of my primo (first course/pasta dish), which was delicious. Dave had the pici with the beef sugo, which he preferred.

For my secondo, I had prime rib, which I had never had in Italy before. No one understood its name on the menu and all seemed to be surprised with the thick slice of rare beef that appeared. It probably wasn't typical of Prato, but I did enjoy it.

Carlo practiced his English with Dave throughout dinner. Carlo's vocabulary was quite impressive even though he had some difficulty speaking. I tried hard to listen to him and understand, but at times it wasn't easy. He told me that the British are not patient with him because he said that they pretend they don't understand him. He said the Americans were kind and always helpful when he tried to speak English.

He did tell me that learning English hasn't helped him that much to travel outside of Italy, but more to live in Italy. He said that now he understands the signs he sees in movies and TV shows. He said that he's even able to help the stray tourist he happens to bump into downtown.

We had a nice dinner and it was fun to meet new people as well. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to talk to Debora much at all, but maybe our relationship is now a couples-thing. She doesn't seem to want to see me without her boyfriend, so I believe that's just the way it will have to be.

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