by Melinda Gallo

Hot summer Sunday evening

In the summer, via Calzaiuoli seems almost busier in the evening than it does in the days when the shops are open. With temperatures still hovering the mid-80's at 11PM, the only thing left to do is to walk around outside, get a gelato (ice cream), and enjoy the atmosphere. That's exactly what we did with my brother, his wife, and two nieces after dinner this evening.

We had dinner at Antico Ristorante Paoli for the second time this week. The last time I was there our cameriere (waiter) pulled me aside and said, "Come mai parli italiano cosė bene?" (How is that you speak Italian so well?) I responded by telling him, "Abito qui a Firenze." (I live here in Florence). I told him that I had come here before for dinner, but he said, "Non ti ho mai vista prima." (I have never seen you before). I forgot to mention that I probably ate there about eight years ago when my mother came to visit me in Florence.

The cameriere is a man in his late fifties and looks quite grumpy when he's working, but when he talked to me, he was quite friendly.

Tonight we weren't sitting in his section, but I saw him working. He looked over at me a few times, but didn't recognize me. When I stood up to leave, he looked over at me and flashed me a smile. He quickly walked over to me and grabbed my right hand, shaking it at first and then holding on to it in both his hands.

"Che piacere di rivederti!" (What a pleasure to see you again!), he said, still holding on to my hand. I could feel other people's eyes on me, but I didn't look at them. "Pensavo che non mi avessi riconosciuta." (I thought you didn't recognize me.), I said. "Com'č possibile? Una bella donna come te." (How is that possible? A beautiful woman like you.) "Grazie, sei molto gentile," (Thanks, you're very nice), I said.

I finally slipped my hand out from between his and as I did so, he said, "Torna a ritrovarmi uno di questi giorni." (Come back to find me some day). "Sė, certo...mi farebbe molto piacere." (Yes, of course...I'd love to.), I said. I was quite flattered by his attention. It's always nice when people working in a place you go to recognize you and are friendly.

Afterwards, we walked to Grom to get a gelato. We stood outside so we could feel a slight breeze even though the air was still warm. My sister-in-law asked us if we always go out for gelato, but both Dave and I looked at each other and said, "Only when people come to visit us." We love gelato, but we rarely go out to get some after dinner. Maybe once in awhile, we'll take a walk and get a gelato.

We walked back up to via Calzaiuoli where there were still lots of people outside. There were also a lot of guys trying to sell fake Gucci and Prada bags off of white sheets and counterfeit glasses off of makeshift cardboard displays. Two vigili (policemen) would slowly drive by in a car with their blue light flashing and the guys would pick up their things and pretend to leave.

As soon as the police car went past, they would put out their things again for display. In about a half hour, about four cars of vigili went by. Most of the time, they had their windows up enjoying the air conditioning and were usually talking to each other while not really looking at the vendors.

I was surprised how the vigili didn't do anything about the more than thirty guys on via Calzaiuoli who were selling fake bags and sun glasses even though it's illegal for both the vendors and the buyers.

I've read a few reports of tourists getting fined about 10,000 Euros for buying things from these particular street vendors, but I've never seen anyone get caught by the polizia (police).

We walked home afterwards in the hot summer evening and finally felt relief when we arrived inside our air conditioned apartment. It has been hot in the evenings this past week and we're not expecting it to cool off anytime soon.

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