Even as I write this post, I feel like I am breaking some sacred code. I want to share something with you, something I enjoy so much that by sharing it I am also lessening my enjoyment at the same time.
I did a semester abroad in Italy back in 1999, when they still had the lira, and we spent a lot of time discussing the coming impact of the Euro in my business classes, which was already being introduced to the public. This “introduction” was mostly by signs placed on cash registers reading, “1 Euro = 1,936 Lire.” Some places even went so far to list both prices on items.
I studied in Castiglion Fiorentino, a tiny town that was unfortunate enough to be the home to three groups of 100 American students throughout the year. We were the fortunate ones, and of course now I realize it more than ever. I remember looking through Texas A&M’s description in the big College Board book of ALL universities when I was a junior in high school. I saw the “Study Abroad Program in Italy” and I literally made my mind up then to do it, six years later.
At the time, this town had one internet point, in the library way at the top of the hill, and it charged you a scatto, a measurement which could be around 220 seconds and had you paranoid the whole time you were using their Windows 95 computer and modem. Of course, a long line of students were behind you. One pay phone inside our building meant no private conversations and again that same line. Now, I see people studying here walking around with cell phones, and there are internet cafes everywhere. There were no blogs (I saw over 100+ mentions of this town on Technorati today) in my day, no digital cameras, no camera phones. It’s only been 7 years but the experience they are having is completely different from mine.
I was voted “Most Likely to Return” by my fellow classmates, and it looks like they were right. I didn’t go back immediately after, like I had thought about at the time. I knew my MIS degree would have a half-life (I took a class in COBOL, folks) that would demand immediate usage of my skills or I would miss the boat completely.
Castiglion Fiorentino is quite close to Arezzo, but most of the time our university mindset made us search out Florence for more choice, more monuments, just more. We spent hours going through the San Lorenzo market, looking for the quintessential leather jacket and music we had been hearing in the discos. We usually went to an internet cafe (for above-mentioned reasons) and spent the day in the city before getting one of the last trains back to Arezzo and then Castiglion Fiorentino. Sometimes we even got a tattoo. (Guilty. She’s still there, and very good, btw)
We spent a lot of time eating bad food, as most tourists are forced to do, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tired and hungry, we just wanted a place to sit down, eat and recoup.
After striking out many times with stale sandwiches and reheated, limp pieces of pizza, I found this place. I found this place right under my nose! It’s probably my favorite place in all of Italy, I like it so much.
Note to the wise: They DO close for summer holidays, usually all of August. I made this embarassing discovery in 2002 when I tried to bring my family there for a quick lunch. Oops.
The inside of this place hasn’t changed in seven years, and there’s no need to. A row of tables lines each side of this narrow hole-in-the-wall, with the oven and workers in the very back. The tables are thick solid wood placed so close together that it often leaves you with your back up against another customer. But no one really notices, because they are concentrated on the food.