This morning we took a taxi to the Europcar office in Borgo Ognissanti to meet Maureen. She's a woman from Boston who comes to Florence because her sister lives here. She had offered us a ride to the Expats in Italy GTG (get together) in Chianti. I recognized Maureen because I saw her picture on the SlowTravel website where she's a moderator.
She talked to me about her sister, so I asked her why her sister didn't want to come to the GTG. She said that she's not into that kind of thing and I understood. I used to feel the same way.
When I first arrived, I didn't want to meet any expats in Italy. I hadn't met any Americans living in France or England and because this time I had a new language to learn, I definitely didn't want to fall back into English because it was easy. I did appreciate the camaraderie I felt when I did meet expats, but I didn't want to have only expats as friends. I thought it was an all or nothing choice. Now that Dave and I are here together and I don't have to force myself to speak only Italian, I'm definitely more open to meeting expats.
We drove through Galuzzo and into Greve in Chianti. We were trying to follow the directions to Monte San Michele, but became too enchanted by the Chianti region. The beautiful mix of green everywhere: vines, trees, plants, and grass. The skies were a little grey and the weather was quite cool, but the countryside was amazingly beautiful. We kept on driving and driving and arrived in Castellina in Chianti, which was far from our destination. We passed many motorcyclists on the road, which made Dave happy because he'd love to go for a ride sometime.
I saw a sign for a Shell gas station and told Maureen that we can go there and look at a map or ask directions. I went to the small shop at the gas station and saw a small table inside that had a variety of maps: one of only Chianti and the other of Tuscany.
I opened up the smaller map called "Le strade del Gallo Nero." It had the location of where we were and where we wanted to go. We were about twenty kilometers from where we wanted to be. The man who was pumping gas came into the shop. We said hello to each other and I said, "Siamo un po' persi" (We're a little lost). I was folding out the map again to show him where we needed to be.
The man told me which way he thought we should go to get there. I thought we should go back to Greve in Chianti, but he said that we should go the other way because, "la collina a Dudda non finisce mai" (the hill in Dudda doesn't ever end). I pulled out my purse to pay him and he said, "Vela regalo io" (I'll give it to you). I said, "Č molto gentile...grazie!" (You're very nice...thanks!) and walked outside with my new map of Chianti.
We made it to the location about an hour and a half late. It was located in a small park that was at the top of a hill about 900 meters high. Everyone else was already seated and eating lunch. There weren't any places left at the tables, so we sat down on chairs in the far corner of the room. Many people came up to us and introduced themselves.
We made a lot of acquaintances that we both hope will blossom into friendships.
We left Monte San Michele and made it back to Florence. Maureen dropped us off at Porta Romana and we were starving. They say that the country air makes you hungry. We went to a small Japanese restaurant that serves sushi, called "Domani." I had two plates of sushi, which was pretty good. The fish and rice were very fresh. The Agadashi Tofu was the best I had in a long time.
We walked back to our side of the river and stopped off at Gelateria dei Neri. We couldn't resist. We're not often outside after dinner. When I told the woman I wanted a small cup with sorbetto al limone (lemon sorbet), she said that was a boring choice and that I should get frutto della passione, mango e banana. I wasn't too keen on the frutto della passione, but she let me try it with some banana and it was delicious. I told her that I'll take it and I ate it all up.
As we walked through Piazza Santa Croce, I told Dave that when I go away from Florence for just an afternoon, I feel like I've been away for a lot longer. I felt almost nostalgic walking around Santa Croce. It's wonderful to visit Tuscany, but it's so nice to be back home in Florence.
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