“Life is good, my friends. Nothing gets better than this.”
Those are the words of Franco, the waiter. Zack came to this restaurant with his parents once. But already, he and Franco seem like they have known each other forever. That Italian sense of instant camaraderie with strangers, I am going to miss that.
Zack, Lauren, and I just climbed the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio with our Renaissance history class. It is 11 a.m. on a Friday, but our stomachs growl. Running through the Florence streets filled with tour groups to get to Piazza Signoria by 9 a.m. will do that to you, Waking late and not having time for breakfast creates a bigger blunt.
Our professor dismissed the class once we returned to the bottom of Palazzo Vecchio. I promised myself that I would milkshake. I could not tell I was hungry yet. Perhap, my bladder screaming once I found out the tower had no bathroom at the top spoke louder. Serena was not hungry yet either. Yet somehow, we both agreed to accompany Zack and Lauren, thinking we would only get drink.
The four of us walked down Via Roma. The weather was beautiful and perfect in every way. Time felt nonexistent today. We reflected on our time here in Florence, how the semester passed so quickly, what we still had to do. Once we hit the Duomo, Serena parted though. To her, time came back, and it was way too early to eat lunch. Zack lead Lauren and me to the restaurant. Though at times, I questioned if he remembered where it stood.
Franco immediately recognizes Zack. They share inside jokes. The waiter points to an umbrella-covered table on the front patio. I sit and wait before asking for a restroom. Franco bring us complimentary white Prosecco. The wine tasted the best out of everything I have drank in Italy and in life. Lauren and I searched for the bathroom and left Zack guarding our belongings at the table. We passed a cute bartender and began a maze of restaurant decor, authentic architectural elements, and stairs to find the hidden restroom.
When we came back, bread decorated the table. Franco came to the table. Zack ordered risotto, Lauren and I asked for the penne salmone. We got red wine for the table.
My hand alternating between taking my glass of red, my glass of white, and a piece of fluffy bread. Franco floated around the table while our food was being prepared. In New York, it would be a slow day. In Florence, it is a chance to appreciate all that you have and all who you are with. Franco asks Zack about the Fiorentina game he went to. Then he tells us about his relative with a bar in Brooklyn called “AC Milan.” The bar serves pasta at 6 a.m. he says, the epitome of Italian, and plays football matches on huge flat screens. We promise to go when we come back to New York. We explain that we are planning to see a football match, hopefully with AC Milan playing.
Franco goes inside and brings out the penne salmone. Risotto takes longer, but Zack headed to the restroom could not take note of this. I cleaned my plate of the penne salmone and grabbed bread to swipe the extra sauce. The best dish I have ever eaten. I had no desire to take a picture of my dish for the memories. We sit forever with no sense of urgency. There are a million things I could be doing right now. But I will not budge. This is bliss.
We pay the bill and head back to my apartment to finalize football game plans. At my apartment, I concoct a random shot of juices and limoncello for my friends while the Wifi loads. In the course of an hour, we dumped our plans to see AC Milan in Turin. We had a flight to Spain and tickets to see Sevilla vs, Real Madrid, and ultimately the foundation towards my favorite experience while being abroad in Europe.