Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?
So here goes. The place to which I shall refer is the very small, rather strange apartment I occupied when I was in Florence last year. I have told you how I sold the house, packed my belongings, said goodbye to family and friends and embarked on an adventure to the other side of the world. To a city, I didn’t know, where I knew nobody and nor did I know the language. Well as Mother used to say “God looks after fools.”
I arrived in Florence on a Sunday night when all the taxi drivers were taking the night off. Well, that’s how it seemed to me for after finding the well-hidden taxi stand I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes for a cab to appear.
Having shown the taxi driver the address of the apartment we started on a long journey seemingly from one side of the city to the other. I had been told that the fare should be around 20 Euros and it was 21 so I was happy. So now I am outside the apartment building with not a soul in sight as the taxi driver takes his cab off into the night. It was a very quiet area, no tourists, no bars or cafes and the door at which the cab driver had deposited me was not the right one. So checking that I was in the right street, I quickly found the right apartment building.
I was met by Ornella the mother of the apartment owner. Unfortunately, she spoke little or no English but with my little or no Italian we managed to make ourselves understood to each other. She showed me around the apartment and then gave me a very quick tour of the neighbourhood and after introducing me to Guiliano my next door neighbour she took off carrying the basket containing her two chihuahuas, I was left to my own devices in a strange country and I was all alone.
The apartment was on the ground floor of a five storey building. There was no elevator and I could hear people running up and down the stairs, speaking and laughing and I just knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I couldn’t even have coffee because there was no electric jug to boil the water and the lighter for the gas stove had run out of gas. So after a glass of water, some grapes and a tomato I went to bed.
After a good nights sleep, I investigated the apartment. It was quite small and at the front of the building. The bedroom window was on the footpath and secured with shutters. Unfortunately, it didn’t obscure the noise from the busy street outside. The city had decided that this was the day to start repairing/resurfacing the road outside my bedroom window.
As well as the rather large bedroom (perhaps Christiane the owner has parties or dances there) there is a living room with kitchen and dining facilities, a bathroom with shower hand basin loo and bidet. Then in the corner of the living room, there is a staircase leading up to a mezzanine floor where there is a bed. But one would have to crawl on one’s knees to get to the bed – there certainly is no standing room unless one were a hobbit. The French doors opened onto a rather neglected courtyard. This was a suntrap and could have been a lovely place to sit and write my posts each day but..nowhere to sit.
I never did manage to use the washing machine nor did I have much success with cooking and most times the shower ran only tepid water, but I enjoyed the 3 weeks I spent in this quaint apartment. It was unlike any other that I had been in and added greatly to the experience of an elderly lady, living alone in a suburb in Florence where everybody spoke Italian and very few had a few words of English. But what an adventure.
I went back to the apartment in June with my partner.
We caught up with Guiliano and his family and with the girls at the pastiscerria where I had breakfast each day during my sojourn in Florence. My neighbour was overcome with joy at seeing me again and the girls in the pastiscerria remembered me too. So that was a great afternoon.
And while this was a very pleasant place to stay, now that I have been back I shall keep it in my memory store and bring it out from time to time over the coming years.