There is something in the air. I think it is the feelings that come when the seasons change from summer to fall, and those first cold nights come as a nice, welcoming surprise, a long awaited relief from these oppressively hot and humid (and in the case of Florence – mosquito infested) summer nights. Then after a few weeks of progressively cooler days, one may start to realize that Oh My God, summer is almost over, since when are there back-to-school advertisements everywhere, ah I need a new pair of fall shoes (for some reason I always equate a new school year with buying new shoes – depending on which faze of my life, from elementary school Mary Janes to my confused, hormonal years where I relied on the latest Nikes and Pumas to kick (ha, kicks, get it?) off the fall season – new shoes meant new year, new me!)
ANYWAY, along with the gradual changes in weather and feelings of anticipation that September brings, it seems that the changing seasons may also induce a frantic affection for loved ones. At least in this town, as I stalk people behind my cheap sunglasses in piazzas, cafes, outside churches, through museums, love seems to be seeping out of everyone’s pores. I think it has something to do with everyone trying to desperately hold on to these last fleeting moments of summer that had encouraged a slower pace, longer days outdoors, more time spent lingering with loved ones over dinners maybe followed by an evening stroll to the gelateria. I feel like we all say this every July, how exciting it is to have the WHOLE SUMMER ahead of us! And then seriously, in the blink of an eye, here we are, it’s Labor Day and oh my God, did you see that advertisement for Halloween already?!?!
With fall comes a new energy of Back to School anticipation, excitement about new shoes (as I eye every shop window in town, once again, on the hunt for this season’s PERFECT FALL BOOT. *Just as a note this search will probably continue through January because I am a painfully slow decision maker when it comes to investing in such important – you’ll wear this for the rest of your life – leather accessories such as bags and shoes. Will keep you posted on any/all advances made on this crucial life investment).
With all the energy of September in full swing, I also find there is a sort of sweet sadness to this time of year. As I begin my mental transition to the fall, there is a small window of time to reminisce about the last summer months which for me included weekend trips to Montauk with family and friends, trying to soak up as much sun as possible, organizing all pre-departure details (from tedious bank issues and Visa paperwork to the multiple Costco runs for socks and underwear), finishing my work at the Neuberger Museum, basically just running around like a nut case because in times of transition, keeping realllllly busy is the best way NOT to deal with closing one chapter and opening the next.
THAT BEING SAID, I have been in Florence for a little over a month, and as you have read so far, this journey has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. Most downs lean toward the category of self-induced catastrophes while the ups have been so unbelievably rewarding I’m overwhelmed with giddy schoolgirl happiness at various points during the day. Like the other day for example, when I stopped in to check out what this cheese guy had to offer around the block. After sheepishly peering into the display cases, recognizing some names – parmagiano, fontina, mozzarella – I realized what I was really craving was some cheese alla goat! It was time to stop avoiding the guy (brief description of cheese guy: large in stature and width, full face, wearing stark white apron, smiling with dimples! perfect…). So basically we get into a charades routine of me trying to explain what I am looking for. I state that I do not want cheese from a cow (so I say “non mucca”) or cheese from a buffalo (my translation: “ non mucca grande), or cheese from a sheep (not having a clue how to say sheep I offer the guy, “non BAHHHHHH” and he got it!!! Maybe this wasn’t the first time he’s been bahhhhed at? I don’t know, he seemed completely unfazed) Alright, so we are knee deep in this situation and he goes, “Allora, varrai formaggio della capra?” He points to a cyclindrical shaped wrapped cheese that’s lounging in some water (probably to keep it moist, fresh, at the right temperature) YES, VICTORY, WE’VE DONE IT! I confirm that OH MY GOD, SI SI, E VERO! POSSO PROVARE QUESTO FORMAGGIO? So after a taste, a swoon, I’ve fallen in love with both the cheese man and Italian goat cheese. He advises that “il formaggio ha bisogno solamente un po di pepe nero e l’olio.” I like his style, offering that all I needed to do is add a little black pepper and olive oil. As always, I ask where it was produced and find out that it’s from an area in Northern Italy called Piedmont. I left the store with this glorious cheese, sundried tomatoes soaked in olive oil (called pomodoro secchi) and moved onward to the bread lady and the proscuitto guy. While I can’t always afford to eat like this, as I think it is similar in the states where heading to the local vendor sometimes costs almost double than what you can get at the grocery store in terms of price, when considering the quality of the product, the human interactions afforded from meeting people who run the small businesses near where you live, and supporting a family run operation, well sometimes, it just feels and tastes too good to settle for plastic wrapped mozzarella made in Albania, packaged in Turkey, sent to Italy. You know what I mean?
Well, to finish off this post I leave you with some sweet pictures of locals I’ve encountered (or stalked) in the last weeks. As I said at the beginning of this long, rambling post, not sure if it’s just a Florence thing, or a bigger seasons changing sort of feeling that I suggested, but whatever it is, it really is a beautiful thing to watch two people in love act in love.
Off to Sardinia for the weekend!