by Melinda Gallo

Acts of generosity

On Sunday, I walked over to Vivoli for colazione (breakfast). It was only 10am when I arrived, but they had already sold out of bomboloni (cream-filled donuts). I reluctantly chose a cornetto (croissant) instead and my friend who works there placed it on the bar for me. I had been thinking about having a bombolone since I woke up because I ate one the other day and loved it. They remind me of when I first arrived in Florence. Every time I walked into the bar around the corner from my apartment, the guy would set it out for me on a plate and make my cappuccino.

While my friend was making my cappuccino, which she makes by adding cocoa on top of the coffee before adding the milk, she told me that she had put a bombolone aside for another customer. She gave me a peek at the lone bombolone sandwiched between two plates and my mouth watered.

When she handed me my cappuccino, an older gentleman walked in and my friend joked with him, “Sei sicuro che lo vuoi? (Are you sure you want it?)”. I blurted out, “Se non venivi, lo prendevo io. (If weren’t coming, I would’ve taken it.)” The man looked over at me and with a big smile said, “Prego, signora. (Please, madame).” I laughed and said, “Scherzavo. Non posso mica prenderlo. Č tuo. (I’m kidding. I couldn’t take it. It’s yours.)”

He stood on the other side of the bar with his wife, but insisted, “Se lo vuoi, mi fa piacere se lo prendessi. (If you want it, I’d be happy if you took it.) My friend handed me the bombolone. I smiled from ear to ear and said, “Grazie tante, signore. Sei molto gentile. (Thank you so much, sir. You are so kind.)” His wife winked at me while he picked out a different pasta (pastry) from the glass case.

I told my friend that I wanted to pay for his pasta and when the woman at the cassa (cash register) told him it was paid for, he was surprised. He thanked me and I said, “Figurati. Č il minimo. (Please, it’s the minimum [I could do].)“

When I finished my colazione and walked outside, I felt so fortunate. Not because I ate the bombolone I had wanted, but because a kind man offered his to me. A complete stranger, who probably had the same desire I did this morning when he called to reserve his bombolone.

This morning when I went to Vivoli, I was happy to arrive while the silver tray of bomboloni was filled. My friend smiled at me and just handed me one on a plate without asking. While I was sipping my cappuccino, the bombolone man came in and ordered his. We stood next to each other enjoying our colazione. We chatted briefly about the weather, but didn’t really engage in any deep conversation.

He arrived at the cassa in front of me and told me that he was treating me. I was surprised because there was really no reason for it. But, I have come to realize that many of the Florentines I encounter are generous like him. Many have treated me to coffees, drinks, and now colazioni (breakfasts). I personally love to treat people and it’s so nice to never have to keep track because most of the Florentines I know often think of treating others as well.

It’s so wonderful to live in a place where these acts of generosity are quite common. The Florentines have taught me that generosity is born from the heart and not the pocketbook. The gift can be a coffee or even a bombolone, but the simplest gesture of generosity is just as powerful as a great one.

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