30 March 2012

Mabel Does Spring in Florence, Italy

In the spirit of spring, we tend to spring clean, shedding that which we no longer need in an attempt to make ourselves lighter.
Mabel's hair is not only on the floor but everywhere
Mabel goes to the parrucchiere (beauty shop) this morning.  I pay and leave a tip.  She, instead, leaves behind one heck of a mantello d'inverno (winter coat).

27 March 2012

Springtime in Florence, Italy

How do we know it is springtime in Florence, Italy?

The weekend of the spring equinox all the cafes and restaurants are busy re-assembling their terrazzas for dining alfresco.

Put away those heavy winter coats.  We won't be needing those again for many months to come.
The streets and piazzas are full again with tourists.

The lines at the gelaterie are out the door.

We spring forward (daylight savings time) and have plenty more sunlight and heat.
The gypsy music is once again a daily occurrence.
The zanzari (mosquitos) are born again and coming out in full force.
That is how we know it is springtime in Florence.  And this is just a preview of what summer will bring.

19 March 2012

Outlet Mall Shopping in Tuscany, Italy

My friend Anne and I made a field trip to the outlet mall last Friday.  

Though I have lots of experience shopping outlet malls in California and Nevada, this was my first time on such an adventure in Italy.  Whenever I return to California, a trip to the outlet mall is part of the package.  I used to joke that my car should have a bumper sticker that reads:  "My car stops at all Banana Republic Outlets."
Even coupon books are available at the office

Outside of Florence are two outlet malls:  The Mall and Barberino.  The Mall has few stores, and they are all high end; Barberino is a good choice with many "normal" stores, meaning for common folk like myself.  However, on my recent road trip to the south of Italy, I saw Valdichiana from the autostrada, the largest of the three outlet malls but also the farthest from Florence.  Located just outside Arezzo, a car is necessary to get to Valdichiana; whereas, the other two malls offer a bus shuttle service from Florence at 15 euros.  Unfortunately, I have yet to confirm whether that price is each way or round trip.
Traveling Italian autostrada A1 with expired VA plates

My friend has a comfortable car with expired Virginia license plates, which makes our outing to the outlet mall in Valdichiana feel even more like an American adventure but on Italian soil.  As we approach, still on the freeway, we each are excited to see Gap.  In Italy?  The Gap is one of the stores I frequent in the States for T-shirts and other basic items at a good price.  Since September 2011 we now have Gap in Italy.  It looks just like our Gap but is considerably smaller in size and choice.  I make friends (amicizia) with the Gap salesgirl Renata, who is sweet, helpful, and a lot of fun.
 Renata and me at Gap in Italy
"Do you have a few curves from the waist to the hips?"

We spent a long, exhausting but fun day doing our research when shopping at the outlet mall.  Good and bad for me.  The bad:  I had hopes to find some new spring and summer items to replace my old worn and tattered clothes. I didn't.  Even at the outlet mall, I continue to struggle to find clothes in Italy to fit my longer-and-larger-than-typical-in-Italy body.  Good for my finances, though, with only one purchase of a summer-weight coat.  
You can tell it was a long day since it was already getting dark outside when we left

At the outlet malls in the States, it is fun to hear so many diverse accents.  Our experience at Valdichiana was that there were few tourists, and we did not overhear any other native English speakers.  (Maybe I should spend even more time at the outlet mall improving my Italian.) Everyone was very friendly, even the man who reprimanded us for taking photographs. 

It was a fun day and a wonderful field trip, one I look forward to repeating.