Friday, September 18, 2009

Brief Encounters

A few of the memorable characters I met:
All the wonderful guides - Alessandra, Nicoletta and Annalisa - who led me through their cities (I also took a bus tour to Siena and to San Gimignano, a tiny mountaintop village straight from the middle ages).
The elderly beggar who said the equivalent of "bah!" when I initially said no to her plea and then, when I thought better of it, gave me a long, emotional lecture in Italian.
Cristiano, the very patient and helpful co-owner of the Internet cafe I visited.
The man making masks near the Palazzo Pitti who let me take his photo. And yes, I did buy a mask.
The street musicians, playing guitar and accordion, who hammed it up when I took their photos.
Lily, the bead shop owner. A Seattle transplant who's lived in Italy for eight and a half years, she had a cozy, beautiful shop stuffed full of merchandise and art. The evening before I left, I decided to take a different route from the Internet cafe to the Ponte Vecchio and my hotel, and plunged into the street where I happily stumbled on this shop. I had thought I'd probably make a quilt using photos of Florence, but now I definitely will - I bought beads and ribbons from Lily that I can incorporate into it.
The gentleman dressed in a white sheet, with his face painted white, and holding a bouquet of red flowers and standing like a statue, with a bowl for coins at his feet. When I dropped coins in his bowl, I heard him croak, "Grazie," as if all that standing still had damaged his vocal cords.
Mary and Tom, the Canadian couple I sat with in the Piazza della Repubblica after the rainy weather washed out our boat tour for the second time. After talking about the sad state of journalism these days (Mary is a former journalist who just got her master's in history), Tom suggested I investigate becoming a liaison for English-speaking tourists visiting Florence. Not sure I'd do that, but their encouragement was nice.
The guard at the Accademia (home to Michelangelo's David) who kept saying "beautiful, beautiful" about my camera and winked when he said I could probably take one photo. I've been too naughty in too many museums and galleries, so I've reformed. The guards at the Accademic just roam through the crowd, saying "No photos!" every time they see a flash.
The taxi driver who calmly screeched around a corner on the way to the Florence airport, narrowly missing a couple of elderly nuns. The nuns seemed pretty calm about it, too, but I guess that's part of the job description.
And last but not least: the several men standing outside their businesses who suddenly burst into beautiful song, just because their hearts were full.

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