Our trip leader, Franco, starts this part of our day trip by first orienting us to shops and other amenities in the immediate area.
Then, some of the group takes off, while the rest of us are taken by Franco to a store called Peruzzi, which specializes in leather goods. He’s mentioned it’s the best place in Florence to find high-quality leather purses, jackets, and other accessories.
In an area near the store entrance, we’re introduced to a salesperson (I think named Roberto), who gives us a pitch about the quality of the goods, has an employee demonstrate how the company applies gold embossed patterns to some of the products, and even gets one of our American tour-mates to try on a leather jacket. It’s all a little bit dry.
We’re finally let loose to look around and see what we can find. Most of the tour group leaves shortly after.
But I’ve been waiting this moment for about four days, and I’m on a serious mission to leave Florence with something, anything, leather.
Mom and I head upstairs to the shoe section. Not much there. We move from room to room, floor to floor, not really finding anything truly affordable, never mind nice.
After going back and forth, I decide on a reasonably-sized (for me) black leather purse. It is, honestly, the most money I’ve ever dropped on a handbag of any kind. But considering all I’ve bought so far has been several pairs of earrings, I justify it as my prime splurge for this trip.
The salesperson we’ve been dealing with then tries to sell my mom on a leather jacket (including a really nice cream-coloured one), but she stands her ground and declines to buy it.
(Truth be told, the salesperson’s being kind of pushy, despite the store’s apparent “no obligation to buy” spiel from less than an hour ago.)
We wander back out into the square, running into yet another peddlar trying to sell us scarves for less than 5 Euros. We rebuff her offer … and I don’t remember what we say out loud, but it’s within earshot of a middle-aged man walking close by us.
I think he responds to our comment by first saying “Pardon?” to which I respond by voicing our annoyance at being harangued by street vendors. He says he hates them too, and asks where we’re from. When asked in return, he says he’s Italian, and a resident of Florence … and owner of a family-owned leather shop nearby.
Oh yes, of course. Trying to convince us to go into his shop. We try to worm our way out of it by saying maybe we’d drop by later, but right now, we’re going to eat lunch.
Of COURSE, we end up at the restaurant right next to his store. Which means he can check on the progress of our meal. Oh, well. **sighs**
Mom’s not hungry, but I am practically ready to chew my own arm off, so I order a pizza with tuna, olives and onions. (Don’t judge me.)
While tucking into that potentially stank delight, a really attractive young man (accompanied by an older man) passes by, doubles back, then sits on the restaurant patio – our restaurant patio – right across from us.
(Stellar meal choice, D. Cue the “wah-waah-waaaaah” brass section.)
We get to chatting with them, and it turns out this guy – and his dad – are from the States; from what I understand, they both used to be in the army. Son is now working here in Italy (just outside Venice, to be a bit more precise – for the government in some capacity, from the sounds of it), and Dad is finally visiting for the first time. They’re spending the day in Florence, and will be visiting a couple of other places.
It’s nice being able to have a full conversation with fellow travellers from our part of the world, and fellow travellers of colour, at that. It certainly doesn’t happen to me a whole lot.
The two men leave before us. Shortly after, I excuse myself to use the ladies’ room before we continue on. When I emerge from the restaurant, guess who’s chatting up my mother?
We basically have now been cornered. So, into the store we go.
I look at an assortment of purses which, frankly, don’t really tickle my fancy. I get the sales pitch on a grey clutch, which apparently is the same brand used by Pope Francis. Given the unholy ugliness of the big, plastic, gold-coloured logo slapped on the front flap, I’m very doubtful, but keep this opinion to myself.
Then our “friend” suggests I try on a leather jacket. No obligation. And he has just the one.
He passes me this fitted, eggplant-coloured number with a decorative belt that he ties in the back.
Ohhh, shit. It actually looks good. But I can’t. I JUST dropped some coin on a purse …
I want to protest, and I look over at my mom for an out. But she doesn’t help when she comments on how good this jacket looks on me.
It’s the death knell for my credit card. Some 300 Euros (or $430 CAD) later, I carry out that aubergine moto-styled jacket (I’m kidding myself) in a big, stapled paper bag. The total cost of my purchases today? $600 CAD. Damage: officially done.
Of course, she wants said shoes at Canadian-sale-plus-senior’s-discount prices. Not much luck.
We stop while my mom gets a fruit gelato. Which normally isn’t a big deal. EXCEPT that when go into this one place to order and the woman behind the counter says, “Cone?” and my mom says yes … the gelato lady decides my mom needs the biggest waffle cone known to humankind. By the time I catch the miscommunication, she’s already plopped it into the cone and has charged 10 Euros. NOT. Impressed.
I simultaneously feel badly and queasy, watching my mother attempting to eat that gelato and NOT waste her 10 Euros. After getting about three-quarters of the way through, she quits and tosses it.
We pass by a small market full of purses dangling from hooks, various belts and scarves we’ve seen at other stands, as well as other touristy knick-knacks. Not much luck.
We then realize it’s getting close to meeting time. Were we supposed to meet at 5:15? Or 5:30? Or maybe it’s 5:45?
And we’re both directionally-challenged. But it seems I’m marginally better at reading a map.
So it takes a few minutes more, but we find our way back to the church square.
The group eventually re-assembles and boards the bus down near the river. By the time we return to the hotel, a group of us decide to head out in search of dinner. I’m certainly game, but I’m not sure my mom is, since she’s still feeling a bit under the weather, and is also assuming we’d find something at the hotel (which I’m doubtful about).
In the end, Mom and I join Dallas and Randy from Winnipeg, Selene and Paul from Ireland, Jenna and her friend Andrea (from the U.S.) and another mother-daughter duo, Crystal and Louise, from Tasmania.
We have to navigate a couple of roadways (without getting run over) to get to the restaurant, which basically resembles like a box on sticks (for people in Toronto: it looks like OCAD’s Sharp Centre for Design, minus the fancy stippling). Thank goodness there were two elevators to the top!
We all have various dishes – a number of them pasta dishes – and leave very full.
One more day, one more hotel change. Final destination: Rome.