by Melinda Gallo

A day off in the mountains

Since I've been working freelance for the past 6 years, I rarely take any days off without my computer. Any time I am at home is time that I could spend working on my client's projects. But, today I decided it'd be good to take a full day off from work since Alessandro wanted to go and visit his friends in Corno alle Scale.

His friend, Simone, picked us up at my place after parking at the Ponte alle Grazie. That small parcheggio (parking lot) is the closest point a car can get to my apartment without entering the ZTL-zona a trafficico limitato (limited traffic area), which is the main downtown area that only residents, buses, and taxis can enter.

Before leaving the city, we went to have colazione (breakfast) at a bar. Unfortunately my favorite one, which is near the stadio (stadium) was closed for ferie (vacation), so we went to one in Piazza Libertà. I was a little disappointed because they didn't have my favorite, bombolone con crema (raised donut with cream filling). I chose a sfoglia con crema (puff pastry with cream filling) instead, which was tasty especially with my hot capuccino.

Simone drove us north on the highway and then through a winding mountainous road up to the town where Alessandro's friends, Ilario and Monica, have a vacation house.

We had an aperitivo (appetizer) outside in the garden looking out at the mountains around us. For lunch, we ate inside as the air was quite cool even though the sun was out. During lunch, Alessandro's dad called and we found out that it was raining in Florence.

After a long and delicious lunch, we decided to go for a camminata (walk) up at the ski resort. We drove up a few more winding roads, parked the two cars, and walked around.

We had brought maglie (sweaters) and felpe (sweatshirts) because with the altitude, it was going to be colder. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my macchina fotografica (camera) so I couldn't take any pictures. We hiked up a little and arrived in front of a small rifugio (shelter) where they made cheese: pecorino and ricotta.

We saw the woman at the door of the other building and she opened the door to the small kitchen where cheeses of different types and ages were being made. The flies buzzing around the room didn't comfort me, but the cheeses were all covered. Besides, you don't eat the buccia (skin) of the cheese, so it's probably fine. I tasted the cheese and it was incredibly delicious. Alessandro bought half of a pecorino for his parents.

We stood outside and looked out at the valley. Alessandro told me that if we went up to the top, there is a laghetto (small lake) where on a clear day you can see out to the Mediterranean Sea. We didn't go up that high because the weather changed quickly: the temperature dropped a bit more as clouds covered the sky.

We stopped at a small bar before going back to the parcheggio to grab a hot drink to warm ourselves up. My maglia didn't keep me warm and so Ilario gave me his felpa to wear. I was happy when someone proposed that we get a caffè o tè (coffee or tea) before heading back to Florence because I couldn't warm up. I even tried jogging down the hill, but it didn't help.

We sat at the bar and sipped our hot drinks. There was a fire in the caminetto (fireplace) that made the entire bar fill up with the sweet smell of burning wood. I had a hard time believing that we were at the beginning of August and here we were in a bar bundled up, sipping .

We said goodbye to Alessandro's friends and got back in the car. Simone drove us back down the winding road to Florence. I had thought that where we were in the mountains was incredibly beautiful, but I had a sort of knot in my stomach most of the time. It wasn't until we reached Tuscany again and I could see the lush, rolling hills sprinkled with villas and churches that I felt some relief. When I saw Florence in the distance, my body relaxed. It's not just that Florence is beautiful to see, but for me it is also beautiful to feel.

Alessandro was surprised that my feelings for Florence are so strong, and sometimes I can't believe it myself. It's a feeling I had never experienced before in my life, but one that I now can't live without. I feel at times that a piece of Florence resides in me and when I am not here, I feel as if I have been separated from one of my greatest loves. I sense a deep sadness in the pit of my stomach that cannot be soothed until we are reunited.

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