In America, fine dining is often disrupted by the hustle and bustle around us, especially in Manhattan. The servers can be impolite and pushy in order to get their tips. They most likely will rush you or make you feel slightly rushed so that they can seat more customers. In Firenze, fine dining is a completely different experience. The servers do not serve for tips. In fact, tips aren’t really existent in most parts of Europe. Servers give you plenty of time to enjoy your drinks and/or meal here. At first, my friends and I found it a little bizarre. It was quite an adjustment. Between an appetizer and entree, you could be waiting over an hour. And for the check? You have to personally ask. Even then, the server always seems surprised that you want the check so early!
I have never had a single server come out with a check before I asked after an hour wait. It simply is the norm here. My friends and I joke that we could leave restaurants after dinner and no one would notice that we never paid. The impatient New Yorker will often get ahold of me and be annoyed that I can’t quickly pay for dinner and go get my gelato. But dining has made up a new part of my European experience. It has taught me that I can relax and really value conversation. So much of my time is spent on the phone (whether texting, Instagram, Snapchat, FaceBook, etc.) Even snapping a picture means using my phone. But in Florence, people are patient and present. They sip wine, laugh and chat with friends over delicious meals. A visit to the local caffè for coffee might not be the standard hour or so, but longer if a neighbor comes in. The value of a conversation and companionship continually surprises me. In New York, we walk past each other through crowded streets with our heads down, continually getting from one place to the next.
Last night, while out with some friends at a small middle eastern restaurant, my friend sat on a table and the surface completely clattered down off of the table. Had this occurred in New York City, the restaurant owner most likely would have yelled at us and forced us to pay. In Florence, we got a much different reaction. He shrugged, laughed and came over to help us place it back together. It was as if it was no big deal. This subtle difference completely changed my perception of what it meant to be “Florentinian.” You don’t sweat the small stuff, that is for sure! The calm and slower pace of Florence is what makes it…Florence! It’s these little lessons that I will take back with me when I leave here. Remember to take your time, there is no rush. Treasure the long conversations in a world filled with cell phones and distractions. Don’t waste energy over the silly, little things. They won’t matter in the long run.
I’m sure that when I return in May, I may get pushed a few times on the Subway as I’m about to catch the 1 train. Perhaps someone will roll their eyes at me as I sit at a caffè too long to enjoy my coffee. But I’ll do things the relaxing and calm way, the Firenze way.