by Melinda Gallo

La nostra cena toscana con Marco

Tonight we had dinner with our friend Marco who is staying in Siena with his family for a few weeks. We haven't seen Marco since we went to Munich last November. He's been living there for almost a year now where he's learning German, which he said was quite complicated, and teaching Italian. We took him to a new restaurant, Osteria delle brache da Andrea, that one of my blog buddies, Rhonda, told me about during her visit here to Florence last month.

We briefly looked at the menu because Marco wanted to have a Tuscan meal after all these months in Germany. We discovered that the osteria serves both Tuscan and Sicilian specialties. We all picked from the Tuscan menu because we didn't think we could mix a Sicilian primo (first dish) with a Tuscan secondo (second dish).

After we sat down at our table in the restaurant, our downstairs neighbors, a young Italian couple, whom we've never really met arrived. I looked up at him and we recognized each other. We said hello to each other and then I tried not to look over at them during the rest of our meal. I ran into the guy at the front door of our building about five times since we've been living in our apartment these past 22 months and he has always been nice by saying hello each time. And I've seen his girlfriend only twice, but only from afar and we've never spoke before.

?At the end of our meal, we had to walk past them, so I walked up to their table. I asked them if they were moving because Simone had talked to me about them leaving and I saw them packing a car with boxes just the other day. It turns out that they are renting out their apartment and are moving to Montespertoli, which is in the country not too far from Florence. The girl told us that they had experienced city life these past few years and are now done; they want to go somewhere quieter.

After we left the restaurant, I realized that I didn't even know their names and they probably didn't know ours either. I didn't think to introduce myself because Simone had talked to me about them and it felt like I knew them. He had obviously discussed us to them as well because they asked us if we found a new apartment as Simone wants to move back into his place before the end of the year.

We headed across Ponte alle Grazie to San Niccolò to get a drink at Zoè. I hadn't been there in almost two years. I ordered a mojito non troppo forte (not too strong), which I had the last time I was there. We sat out on the terrazza (terrace) and talked. The bar is usually quite busy, but now that it's August, it was rather quiet with only a few other people having drinks.

Our conversations with Marco, once we get past all of our personal news, are usually around language. I love talking with Marco because he loves language as much as I do. I usually ask him a lot of questions about things that I say because sometimes I don't know if it's fiorentino (Florentine), toscano (Tuscan), or italiano. I can usually tell that an expression or word is not italiano by the simple fact that no one on TV says it, but between fiorentino and toscano, it's much more difficult.

As we crossed the lungarno before going over Ponte alle Grazie to go back to our place, we all stopped and looked over at the beautifully lit Santa Croce and Palazzo Vecchio. "Che bellezza!" (What a beauty!), Marco said and we both concurred. Not only was the temperature moderate, the air crisp, and the noise level quite low, but the city looked beautiful under such a clear sky and bright moon.

A few hours later, at around 3AM, I saw a few flashes of lightning, but didn't hear much thunder. I came downstairs because I couldn't sleep and the rain began to pelt down as I saw more flashes in the sky and heard the clamor of thunder. I turned on the terrace light and looked out from the glass double doors. I saw the rain become heavy as the sky went hazy and then, all of a sudden, it began to hail.

Luckily within about an hour the storm passed and the rain subsided with the lightning and thunder advancing to another area. What started out as such a pleasant and cool summer evening turned stormy and wet. I was happy that we got home rather early because anyone who stayed out late tonight must have gotten soaked.

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