Friday, March 14, 2008

Buses and shopping

Yesterday I decided to take a trip out to Barberino, the shopping outlet an hour out of Florence. I had bought my tickets the day before and asked for a return ticket - non problema.
Getting there was easy but I didn't realise that the return ticket was from a location 45 minutes on foot from the outlet...and that was the only bus that serviced the area. I was wearing my high heels so I had to then take a taxi to this spot and catch the bus back. It was a bit of a bummer to my otherwise good shopping experience but during my two hour wait at the bus stop (that is the only taxi I could get in a town with just two taxis) I happened to meet an older Italian lady walking her golden retriever. I instantly fell in love with this dog that looked like my Jess at home. The lady did not speak a word of English and I don't speak Italian (yet) but through our mutual love of dogs we understood each other.

After the bus debacle, I wished that I had the guts to take our car and drive out there myself. For now, my husband is the only one driving in a town that seems to have no regard for lanes, traffic lights and definetely not for pedestrian crossings. Being in Italy for just over a week, it still feels wrong to me to drive on the right hand side of the road...every day my husband drives our car to work I pray for his safety as the driving here is very intense compared to our home town Karratha which does not even have one set of traffic lights!

I have been away from Australia for five months now. The last three months were spent living in the UK while we waited for our work permit to come through. In that time and even now, I've had lots of lonely moments where I have felt very alone with no friends in a new city. Back home, I've always worked and for the first time, did not really have a purpose for getting out of my pyjamas every day. I got out of that habit and made myself go to my local coffee shop every morning and get out and about even if it was just walking around aimlessly enjoying the sunshine (yes even the UK has sunshine contrary to popular belief!) . It also took my mind off this nigling thought that I had now given up my career and my own independence. I have been jokingly threatening my husband for years that I was going to become a 'lady of leisure' - but here I was, and I felt lost and without purpose.

This week Tuesday was such a day and so I got dressed and decided to go to the bookshop Edison which has an English speaking section and a selection of delicious cakes. I ordered in my basic Italian (they answered in English, how am I ever going to learn this language!?) Sitting down with my pear torte I picked up a copy of the 'Lonely Planet' about Florence to find a destination for my husband and I to visit for the upcoming weekend. In it was a recommended blog about an American woman that moves to Florence. I read her very interesting blog, emailed her and today we met for a coffee in a museum coffee shop. There are some people that I find so interesting and I feel I can be myself with and Melinda was one of them. I had mixed feelings of missing my girlfriends at home but also a really happy feeling of meeting such a lovely person that shares the same passions as me reading and writing. I was so happy when she invited me for a lunch next week. For me, I could have all the riches in the world but a simple coffee with a friend means a whole lot more to me. I rang my husband all excited that I had spent a day with a 'real human being' and found someone I had clicked with. Sometimes I think he thinks I'm crazy but unless you spend all day by yourself trying to pass the day, it's hard to understand that it's VERY BIG NEWS to make a friend! Anyway he was really happy for me as he could hear the real happiness in my voice which has been missing for some time.

On the way home, I stopped to buy some beautiful produce at a market for a dinner that I'm making tonight for one of Jay's colleagues and a new friend of mine. I've always loved cooking and growing up with a father who is an excellent cook, I feel most at peace cooking for others. But I have had to change my habits. Living in a hotel apartment (until we find an apartment) means that I have a smaller kitchen and need to cook simpler things. This summarises Italian cooking in the best possible way: simple recipes with a couple of flavoursome ingredients. Whereas I would previously make some complicated sauce and spend hours on one dish, I now serve ravioli simply with butter and sage....and the taste is amazing. I would spend hours baking cakes at home but now for dessert I am so happy with fresh local fragola (strawberries) served with marscapone and drizzled with honey. At home, I used to eat butter like it was going out of fashion. Here I have been introduced to non salted bread with olive oil and my body feels healthier for it.
Mind you, I still have my daily gelati habit and my quest for the best tiramisu in Florence goes on. Some things never change...

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