by Melinda Gallo

Once the shops close

For the last Saturday evening before Natale (Christmas), I would normally avoid the busy streets in centro (in the downtown area). Every day this entire week when I found myself in centro, the streets have been packed with people. These past few weeks, I have enjoyed admiring the festive streets: Christmas trees lined up in large square planters in the middle of via Calzaiuoli and lights strung up high above a few of the side streets. I would normally stay home on such a busy evening, but when a girlfriend of mine invited me out for a drink at Rivoire, I didn't hesitate for one moment.

Living in Florence :: Once the shops close

The minute my friend mentioned Rivoire, all I could think about was their cioccolata calda con panna (hot chocolate with whipped cream) especially since the weather is quite chilly. On my way to Rivoire, I walked past the somewhat empty area in front of the Uffizi. A few people were bundled up sitting on the terrazza. Once inside, I made my way past the large crowd of people at the bar to get to the sala (dining room).

I immediately spotted my friend who was already sitting at a corner table with her head down writing in a notebook. As soon as I sat down, the cameriere (waiter) came by to take my order.

We chatted over our early evening snacks while people came in and out of the café. A lot of people stopped by to have a drink or snack. I notice that cioccolata calda con panna was the most popular choice among the patrons.

When we left Rivoire, we walked toward Piazza Repubblica where my friend wanted to grab a taxi. I helped her carry her bulky bags through the crowds down via Calzaiuoli and then to via Speziali toward Piazza Repubblica.

After I waved good-bye to my friend, I noticed that the shops were either closed or beginning to close. I was happy to walk through the city streets that were beginning to empty out.

On via Por Santa Maria, I watched two artists, who were hunched over a colorful Christmas painting with Santa Claus flying over the city, while they were working on it on the city street.

I turned down via Vacchereccia and admired the Palazzo Vecchio, which was illuminated. The piazza was virtually empty and my eye was quickly drawn to the sculptures in the Loggia dei Lanzi. Normally crowds of people are standing and sitting below the loggia while masses of people walk by. It was so serene to see the sculptures in the loggia with such an enticing light that almost brought them to life.

I was happy that not only did I get to see my friend before she left for her holiday trip to the States, enjoy a delicious cioccolata calda con panna, but also was able to see the sculptures in the loggia as if I were alone in a museum without any other distractions or people in the way. Moments like these are rare, and when they occur, I feel on top of the world.

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