When the weather is as hot as it has been, the fiorentini (Florentines) search for refuge either al mare (at the seaside) or nelle montagne (in the mountains). Today, Alessandro took me up to Poggio di Petto to have lunch and spend the day with his friends.
We all met up at Decathlon, a sporting goods store in Prato. It was crowded, but it felt nice to be in an air conditioned place with so much to see. We waited about an hour and a half for everyone to arrive and I was a bit annoyed because I had to get up early to arrive on time.
I was quickly introduced to everyone and I felt a bit disheartened. I had met a few of Alessandro's friends individually and we all got along quite well. But, now that I met an entire group of people who knew each other well and hadn't seen each other in a while, I felt like a true outsider.
They were kind enough to greet me and say, "Piacere." (Nice to meet you.), but I felt like they didn't see me at all. While they were talking in the group at the store, no one really even looked at me. I stood there feeling invisible. My heart sank as Alessandro told me earlier how important these friends were to him. He noticed that I physically distanced myself from the group and put his arm around me to reel me back in.
In the car, I told Alessandro how uncomfortable I felt and he said that if we could just go home. I, of course, didn't want that. He said, "Ma lo sai come sono i fiorentini." (But you know how the Florentines are.) I nodded and tried to be positive.
Alessandro followed his friends up a windy road that led us up about 1100 meters. The sun was quite strong, but the air was cool. It was still hot, but rather chilly in the shade up at the top of the hill. I looked out at the valley and stayed close to Alessandro.
Daniela and David I had already met previously so I didn't feel completely lost. Daniela is my new massaggiatrice (masseuse) and we have become quite good friends over the past few months, sharing our stories and lives. She brought her two daughters, Guia and Viola, who called out to me to play with them while everyone was talking.
It was nice to feel included, so I spent some time with the two girls. They seemed to like me, and I was quite pleased. The younger one, Viola, reminded me of my niece back in the US. They both held my hands and asked me for help while they climbed around a tree.
All 16 of us arrived at the table on the terrazza (terrace), and the two girls said they wanted me to sit between them, so I did. We were first served affettati (sliced meats), polenta con funghi (polenta with mushrooms), salamino piccante (spicy salami), and baskets upon baskets of coccoli (deep fried bread). Then, we were served two pastasciutte fatte in casa (home made pasta dishes). For the secondo (main dish) we were given patate arrosto (roasted potatoes), tagliata (sliced beef) and rosticciana (grilled pork ribs).
By the end of the meal, I thought I was going to scoppiare (burst). Some of the people pulled out the lawn chairs and lay down in the shade. I stayed at the table while talking with the two girls. Most of the adults spoke among themselves, but I did talk to them a little too.
After a few minutes, two large plates of fritelle di riso (rice fritters) were placed on the table. Everyone else was full, but I must have eaten at least six or eight of them. They were incredibly light and fluffy.
Alessandro and I walked around a little bit to talk and look out at the view. We missed the caffè (coffee), but we normally don't drink any so it wasn't a big deal.
After about an hour we took a small hike up the incline to a peak where I took the picture shown here. Because I liked to spend time with Viola, I asked her if she wanted me to give her a piggy back ride. I didn't know how steep at times the hike was going to be, but I managed to keep her on my back for the entire time.
We ended up being the first ones to arrive at the top and when the others arrived breathless, they asked me, "Cosa c'hai nel sangue?" (What do you have in your blood?) It's true that I was sleepy before the hike, but the extra effort woke me up.
Finally, I talked to a few of the people a bit more on the hilltop, but still I felt a bit excluded as most of them avoided me. I ran back down the hill with the two girls, and joined one of the couples who didn't do the hike. The husband asked me a lot of questions about myself, like where I'm from and what I'm doing in Florence. It was my first real conversation with an adult, excluding Alessandro, the entire day. I got to know them a bit better, and felt like I was a little accepted in the group.
As we said our goodbyes, people seemed to look into my eyes and sincerely tell me that it was a pleasure meeting me and how they hope we'll meet again. I know it takes time to befriend the fiorentini, but each time I always hope it'll be easier. It's easier only when they're singled out or not in their own group. Other than that, it can be a bit of a struggle, but I know it's worth it as I could tell that they were nice people and good friends of Alessandro.
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