by Melinda Gallo

Aperitivo con le mie amiche

I've been wanting to introduce a few of my expat amiche (girlfriends) with each other for a long time. Because of my work schedule, I have only been able to see one amica at a time for a caffè in the morning or on Saturdays at short notice. I finally decided to organize a small aperitivo (aperitif) with a few girlfriends. I had planned to do it with another amica, but she went away for the weekend with her fidanzato (boyfriend). We were supposed to be eleven, but in the end there were seven of us.

We had planned to meet early at Finisterrae in Piazza Santa Croce because the bar area is quiet and they serve many different Mediterranean dishes for the aperitivo. Because we had planned to meet at 7 p.m., the restaurant was not yet open. We stood outside in the cold and waited for the other girls and after about 20 minutes, we decided to change locali (places). We walked through Piazza Santa Croce to Oibò, which is at the corner of Borgo dei Greci and via dei Benci. I used to go there quite often for a caffè (coffee) in the morning because they have a quiet area upstairs.

We walked into the Oibò where the music was booming and the tables upstairs were already filled up. The people who were at the bar sitting on sgabelli (barstools) watched as we all walked in. We were fortunate enough to get a large u-shaped table in a corner where we could sit together and watch everyone pass by.

We sat down and ordered our drinks from the cameriera (waitress). We went in pairs to the long counter near the window where there were colorful plates and bowls filled with hot pasta (pasta), gnocchi, formaggio (cheese), and puff pastries filled with different sauces. The cameriere continued to fill up the dishes with more and more food as the plates emptied.

Each of the women talked about what she did here in Florence, where she was from, how long she's been here, and how she got here. We all love living in Florence even though at times things were not easy for us. Between the initial language barrier and the lack of connections, we've all hit our low points. At one point, we laughed at the thought of making T-shirts that said, "We survived!" No one dwelled on what has been difficult for us in moving to and living in Florence because we've all been thrown into those waters and in the end, we all chose Florence as our home and are happy with that decision.

What made me very content with this aperitivo was that all the girls got along so well: they exchanged telephone numbers and emails, and each one asked me if we could all do another one when I get back in April.

I had an amazing time with all of these women because we truly are survivors. The experience of living overseas can be quite treacherous, but it was so wonderful to be able to see these women smile and with love in their hearts declare that they feel at home in Florence. I enjoy sharing my beloved city with people who love and appreciate it as much as I do.

The next time we do an aperitivo, our group will be bigger because being the Saturday before Pasqua (Easter), some of my girlfriends weren't able to come. And, I'm thinking about inviting my Italian girlfriends to make it even more interesting. Maybe I'll start a group for Fiorentine di nascità e di adozione (Florentine girls from birth and from adoption, meaning that after living in Florence for a long time, the city and its people adopt us).

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