by Melinda Gallo

Our first girl's aperitivo night out

I had been wanting to go out for an aperitivo (appetizers) with friends for awhile. Dave and I have only been once with another couple last year to Angels. We ordered drinks and were able to nibble on many different pasta dishes and salads. It was a fun and inexpensive way to go out, try a new restaurant, and socialize with friends.

Danette, who is an American has been living in Florence for the last four years, had emailed me through my blog last year and we had wanted to meet up for quite some time. We finally had lunch last week and decided to go out for an aperitivo. I hadn't been in a long time and had been wanting to go again.

She wanted me to meet her friend Sheila and I wanted her to meet my friend Sara. We decided to go on Friday, but then changed plans last night via SMS to go tonight instead.

Danette suggested Finisterrae, which serves Mediterranean food, in Piazza Santa Croce for an aperitivo. For 8 Euros, we could have una consumazione (one drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and food from their small buffet table. Drinks are generally 5 Euros, so for a few extra Euros, we were able to eat fresh pizza, spicy roasted potatoes and fresh tomatoes, hummus, and pita bread. And after a few plates, we were full.

When we first arrived, Danette walked me to the bar and we sat down at a booth. One of the women who works there began talking to us in English. I didn't really hear her, so I said, "Cosa, scusa?" (What, excuse me?) She quickly switched to Italian and said, "Ah...siete italiane." (Oh...you're Italian). I didn't correct her, but just continued talking to her in Italian.

The bar was dimly lit and quite romantic. The style of the bar was North African and made me think of Casablanca . We were the only ones to arrive at 7:30PM. Danette and I thought there'd be other people since aperitivi are quite popular. But sometimes in Florence one place is "in" for a while and then it is "out."

Our cocktail waitress was a Japanese girl who gave us the drinks menu. I ordered a Berry Mojito, which was a non-alcoholic mojito with cranberry juice. Here in Florence, the only place to find cranberry juice is at ViviMarket (the Chinese market that sells international foods near San Lorenzo) and bars.

Danette and I decided to get some food since it was just put out. Sara arrived after we ordered our drinks and got herself a plate as well. We sat there and talked about life in Florence. Both Sara and I hadn't really gone out with other Americans before, so it was quite interesting to share our experiences together.

Sheila joined us after we had each had at least two plates full of food. Sheila has recently opened a school in Florence, The Learning Center of Tuscany , for native English speakers to learn how to teach English.

We talked about working in Italy, the dreaded Questura (police station where we have to get our permessi di soggiorno), and meeting people. We all concurred that the hardest people to talk to and get to know are Florentine women. Our ex-boyfriends, boyfriends, and male friends have friends who are girls, but those girls will not say more than hello or goodbye to us.

Our experiences of integrating were quite different, but our interaction, or lack thereof, with Florentine women was exactly the same.

We all have Florentine girl friends, but they are hard to come by for some reason especially if we are accompanied by a Florentine male.

Afterwards, Danette had to catch a bus to her house out in the country, while we three walked to Grom to have a gelato. Sheila didn't know this gelateria and it's one of Sara's and my favorite.

We talked some more and stood in via Calzaiuoli near the Duomo to feel a little bit of the cool summer breeze that was passing by. As we ate our gelato and talked, it seemed like the town was far from going to sleep. There were tourists walking around, guys with sheets and cardboard boxes trying to sell fake sunglasses and Gucci bags.

We said our goodbyes and each went our separate ways. I walked back home, enjoying the cool summer breeze. It's great at night to walk around in summer clothes and not need a sweater or jacket. Although during the day, it seems like the heat in Florence will never let up and then at times, usually late at night, we are fortunate to get some relief.

Our plan is to all get together again for another aperitivo at another bar/restaurant in centro. We had so much fun tonight, that it may be as soon as next week!

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