A caffeinated return to Florence
But no one took my order. No one even looked at me, save for one barista who gave me a quick smile (which may or may not have been related to the fact that I was the idiot who had just set off an alarm loud enough to disrupt any and all conversation). They were all busy making coffee. These baristas were not apathetic students trying to earn beer money; these were true professionals. Only after they were done making their espressos and cappuccinos did they stop to turn off the alarm and take my order. Good thing nobody had actually had a serious accident in the bathroom.
Of course, it wasn’t until after ordering that I realised I had broken multiple unspoken rules of Italian coffee drinking. I didn’t need to wait until the barista was finished with the current cup – shouting your order to a barista with her back turned is perfectly acceptable, expected even. Oh, and you don’t call it an espresso. You call it un caffé. But my Italian was beyond rusty and my confidence gone.
Thankfully, coffee in Italy is always served at a temperature cool enough to drink immediately. So I quickly loaded a map on my phone, downed my coffee in one smooth motion and – fully embarrassed at this point – made my way back out into the city for a fresh start.
I used to know which narrow streets to take to get shelter from the sun, which alleys to walk to take advantage of cool breezes. I could still taste the flavours of my favourite gelato shop and was dying for my first bite of a panini from Salumeria Verdi after six years of it haunting my dreams. But now I found myself looking at a map, standing on a wide road, baking in the sun like the rest of the tourists. My favourite gelateria, La Carraia now had a second location; and Salumeria Verdi now had a full English menu and even a second, English name.
After lunch, I popped into another of the countless bars and ordered an afternoon cappuccino – a faux pas in Italy, where you’re not supposed to drink anything with milk after your afternoon meal. I was tired and disenchanted from reliving cherished memories with the ghosts of old friends. I was in the mood for a cappuccino and I broke the rule knowingly. I was a tourist here, anyway; it’s not like I was returning home.