by Melinda Gallo

Introductions

I have been fortunate to meet many American expats here in Florence through friends of mine as well as through my blog. When I spoke to some of the women that I have recently met, I suddenly remembered how difficult it is to meet new people in the beginning. I remember when I first arrived and how sad and alone I felt in my new city. I loved Florence, but I felt that I had no one to share my new experiences with and no one who could help me to understand the culture and the city better.

It was even more difficult because I didn't speak Italian yet. I realized that quite a few people spoke English in Florence, but because I wanted to learn the language, I was reluctant to speak to anyone in English. That choice made me even more isolated. I was forced to learn Italian quicker, make more mistakes than I was comfortable with, and push myself to engage with other people.

I had planned on meeting one girl for a caffè (coffee) this morning and decided to invite a few others to introduce them to each other. Two of them already knew each other, but one girl who just arrived didn't know anyone and I thought they'd all get along well.

We walked to one of my favorite places in Florence, Caffè Giacosa in Palazzo Strozzi. I used to go to the one on via della Spada, but it is always busy and it's so difficult to find a seat because there are only about ten seats. The area is small and the bar is bustling, so it's not a great place to have a conversation with others.

We walked into the cortile (courtyard) of the Palazzo Strozzi and entered the large high-ceilinged room. There were only a few people inside, so it was rather quiet. We decided to sit at a low table near the door with small square seats.

We ordered our caffè and paste (pastries) at the bar and sat back down. They have servizio (service) to the tables, but it costs more. We had to get back up to pick up our caffè and paste as well as sparecchiare (clear off the table) afterwards, but it's worth the lower prices we had to pay when we went to the cassa (cash register) before leaving.

A few times, I watched the girls speaking among themselves and I felt so happy. It was gratifying for me to put people together who immediately got along. I don't think these girls feel so alone because they also came with their spouses, but it's always nice to meet new people and I was happy to make the introductions.

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