by Melinda Gallo

La vigilia di Natale

Earlier this afternoon I was walking around town to fare acquisti (shopping) and the shops were filled with scores of people. I walked up to the door of Universo Sport next to the Duomo to get one last gift, but when I saw the line of people waiting at the cassa (register), I didn't even enter the shop. To get home, I walked briskly down via Calzaiuoli where I had to zig-zag my way to get to the other end near Piazza della Signoria.

At around 7 pm, I walked in centro (in the downtown area) to a friend's apartment to fare gli auguri (give best wishes for Christmas). I was prepared for the crowds and clutched my handbag close to my body. When I arrived in via dei Neri, I noticed that the street was completely deserted. Many of the shops were still open, yet empty as well. A heavy fog had descended upon the city and it felt eerie to walk around in such silence. I could walk in the middle of via Proconsolo, which is the street that passes behind the Duomo, without needing to get out of the way for any cars.

I had never seen the city so deserted at such an early hour. Had I not checked the time, I would've thought it was 3 am.

I walked into an erboristeria (herbalist's shop) where I needed to buy something, and there was only one other couple and me. I completed my transactions in only a few minutes, and was back outside in the foggy evening almost alone on the street.

Upon leaving my friend's apartment, I decided to walk toward Santa Croce on my way home. Not a single car or bus drove by while I was walking down via Ghibellina. When I arrived in front of the chiesa (church), I could barely see the tower in the back because of the fog.

It was so shocking to see the city so empty, but when I talked to Alessandro, he told me that a lot of people were already home by 7 pm to prepare for the cenone (big dinner) they were having for la vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve). I just figured that most people would be fare acquisti up to the last minute, so at least they'd be out until 7:30 pm before heading home.

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