FINDING A HOME
I was anxious to see the entire city to verify my exciting recollections from when I was there in 1971 with Bill Murphy. But first an important task ahead: I had to find a place to live. Thinking I would find a permanent place in Florence quickly, I had had my travel agent book hotel reservations for only three days. I looked in the telephone book for what I thought translated into a rental agent. Centrally located near the Duomo, he said he only sold places, but he recommended an agent way outside of town who might have some places to rent. After two bus rides, there was only ONE place available. I went to see it – at least it was in the center of town.
A Miss Zia, a very pleasant young woman, met me at the front of the building. I was thrilled right at first. although I thought it was on kind of a funny back street. Also, I wanted a roof garden overlooking Florence, but soon realized that that was too idealistic.
At first blush, I got anxious about whether or not it was just right. The place had no air-conditioning; there was a noisy restaurant on the ground floor; and the high cost bothered me. Also, I was concerned because it was so very adjacent to Miss Zia, since off the main hallway was a common foyer, leading to both apartments and I didn’t know what the relationship between us would be. Besides, I still wondered it there wasn’t that ‘roof garden’ place somewhere. After looking at several pensiones and also finding out that there were ostensibly no other places for rent, I decided to take it. Little did I know that this place was to become my home for nearly four months and I would come to love, honor and enjoy it for the rest of my life. I became excited about it; thinking, however, of how I could fill it with plants to cover up any problems I hadn’t noticed.
My excitement continued to grow – partly, I’m sure, from the ½ liter of Chianti I was enjoying in the Piazza at a funny but neat, little outdoor trattoria called Il David. While sitting at a table by myself, a young woman asked if she could sit with me and wait for ‘her husband’. I thought it was a come-on because she was very friendly. But I had forgotten about the European tradition of freely sharing tables. In exchanging pleasantries, I discovered that she was a Danish architect here to see the famed Florence. We talked in broken English about asymmetry, the Renaissance, Italians, the blooming of thought and progress in Florence, etc. How appropriate! Then her husband actually showed up! Afterward, I splurged on gelato (Italian ice cream). Gelato is one of God’s (or some Italian’s) gifts to mankind. If you’ve never tasted Gelato, it’s very rich in the main flavor ingredient, without being so milky or fat-laden. I had two large cups full of such delights as melone, banana, chocolate, anisette, panna, caramel, pistachio, peshe, hazelnut, raspberry, amarette, strawberry, and ziabolone. I had been so good on my diet up to then. But with the excitement of being in Florence, coupled with the realization that I had actually moved there to pursue my Italian adventure, I let myself go to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
Excited about the apartment, I awoke the next morning at five, unable to sleep. As soon as the agency opened, I called to say I would take the apartment. It was only then that the agent told me I’d first have to meet the approval of the landlady. ‘Madame’ Zia – as I would come to call her—is the mother of a very nice young woman who had shown me around the apartment the day before. Since her daughter lived off the common foyer in what, I came to find out, used to be all part of the same larger apartment, Madame Zia—‘Mama”—wanted to check out any young man who was going to live there! So, by the time of the meeting, I had had a haircut and was dressed in my nicest casual outfit. Madame Zia was dressed to the ‘nines’. The very picture of the matriarchal Italian woman: plump and dressed in a black dress, a veiled hat and gloves. She was difficult to impress and reluctant to come to terms but we finally agreed: It was cash only and in Italian Lira (1,500,000) for a three-month minimum stay. Whew!
In showing me around the apartment the next day, Madame Zia soon warmed up. Although she spoke no English and I spoke no Italian, we communicated through pointing and that unique brand of gesticulation that only Italians do so well. I had bought some Berlitz Italian tapes several months before, but I have a mental block when it comes to foreign languages. Money changed hands. Done! There was no paperwork! I suspect to avoid taxes, which are exorbitant in Italy
---I got it! It was Much Neater than I Thought. I Loved It!
Next, Mio Appartamento.