Doing study abroad means that we are students, and being students means that we have tight budgets. And Europe is very expensive. Luckily, my friends and I have done a great job operating within our budgets. So good, in fact, that we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner while during our time in Florence, Italy. You know; wine, appetizers, entree, and a dessert, the whole shebang!
This fateful night ended up being both far greater and far more scary/confusing than we could have ever imagined. This is a recounting of the night’s events and the people we met as clearly as I can remember them.
Here we go 🙂
Choosing a restaurant
Being the incredible travel planner that I am, I had no clue where we were going until we got there. My friend Maddie (same friend from the bicycle incedent) was behind the whole idea, and found an amazing place called il Latini that had slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling. You could just tell we were going to eat some incredible food here.
The normal part of the night
Our fancy dinner started off completely ordinary. We got a bottle of house wine straight from their very own wine cellar to share and all ordered crostini bread with different toppings. I got mine with olive tapenade (kind of an olive paste) and just about died with how rich it was!
While we enjoyed our appetizers, we decided on pasta dishes for the main course. Normally, I’m super nervous when it comes to spending lots of money, so it was difficult for me to order it, but I just kept reminding myself that this was a special occasion.
After ordering our mains, any semblance of normality ended.
A boy and his salt
The restaurant was small, but most of the tables were occupied, one of which hosted a family consisting of a husband, wife, and their 5ish-year old son. My friend Emma got our attention and pointed over to the family’s table, where we witnessed the boy shove an entire salt shaker into his mouth and started sucking on it like a baby bottle.
I thought for sure the parents would freak out once they realized what was happening (my mother would have dragged me out of the restaurant immediately), but no. The boy’s mom was looking at her terrible child with what I can only describe as pure maternal love in her eyes. I think the dad was consciously ignoring the situation.
We kept watching as the waiter walked up to the table, gave the salty boy a horrified look, and attempted to reason with the parents, urging: “Ma’am… the salt”.
She looked up from her child with a sunny smile. “He likes to play with it”, she replied, as her pride and joy sits on the floor and gargles around the salt shaker.
Our other neighbors
There were two other occupied tables in il Latini. The older couple across the room was having a date night. We could tell because Mrs. was sitting on Mr.’s lab and taking dozens of selfies, all while wearing a giant pair of shades. This went on for several minutes.
At the table next to us was a girl who was also studying abroad in Florence whose parents were visiting from the States. My social friends were chatting away with them, but by this time, I was too drunk off of the house wine to keep up properly, and so I interjected periodically with keywords like “Wow!” and “That’s so cool!” in attempt to appear normal. I learned the next morning that my response time wasn’t very great, and the ‘interjections’ I spouted were about 5 or 6 seconds too late to be perceived as sober. Oh well. The effort was there.
The study abroad family was incredibly generous. I think that they could tell we were budgeting because they would give us plates of bruschetta and bowls of pasta that they’d barely touched. We had so much heavenly Italian food that we were stuffed.
Eventually, the waiter came back and brought us a bowl of what looked like biscotti and a orb-shaped glass bottle of amber liquid, fancily corked at the top. Somehow, he read our minds because we’d been dying to try biscotti and vin santo, a tuscan treat of almond biscuits dipped in strong, sweet wine, since we got to Italy.
The child may have been hopping on chairs and crawling under tables, and the couple may have been selfie-ing, but as far as we were concerned, it was a perfect night in Florence.
But it wasn’t over yet…
We got our bill, and as expected, it was big. Our wine-addled brains were working at capacity to try and figure out how we were going to split the check when the dad of the study abroad family leans over and says: “Can I see that?”. My friend didn’t know what he meant, and handed him her phone, to which he clarified: “Oh no, the check!”. I think we all guessed what was about to happen, but we were all floored when he looked at it and told us: “Oh don’t worry about this, we’ve got it.”
We were shocked. Dumbfounded. We’d saved and planned for this as our big splurge and all of the sudden it was just… covered. The generosity was unprecedented! We thanked the family a million times, and then supposed we could just leave, so we did.
For a minute, we just kind of stood outside the restuarant, frozen and unsure of what to do or how to react. Then we all short circuted simulaniously. We didn’t speak, didn’t even look at eachother, but we all started sprinting down the street in perfect synchronization. There appeared to be no direction or destination in mind, we just kept running down the twisty-turney streets of Florence until we decided to stop. To this day, I don’t understand what caused such an extreme reaction.
As we caught our breath and attempted to navigate back to the hotel, we picked up on the sound of chanting in the distance. Even though we kept walking, the chanters got closer and closer, until the crowd was revealed- an army of 14 year-old German boys. As they approached, I was kind of able to understand what they were chanting, it sounded something like:
“Can you see a football fight!? *german words german words* *clap clap clap*”
We looked back upon the approaching army, then looked at each other, and then we started running again. Except for one, who’d realized that the frenzied running was maybe a dumb idea. Once we’d escaped the football fans, we were (somehow) able to make our way back to the hotel without any more drama.
Well there it is. Honestly, I can’t think of anything else to say about this night.
It was great. It was confusing. It was scary. It was funny. It was all
three four of those things.
I hoped you enjoyed it at least a little bit, and feel free to judge me how you will 😉