Friday, January 10, 2014

Florence 19.12.2013: No Matrimoniale! and Porcini Pizza

Duomo Doors, 19 December 2013

In Florence now. We took a train from Bolzano to Bologna yesterday, and then switched to a train to Florence, the latter very well-appointed and brisk-moving, so that we were in Florence in no time at all.

Nice taxi driver who brought us to our guesthouse, run by the Sisters of St. Philip Neri in Via Giuseppe Giusti. After we've rung several times at the door of the convent guesthouse, a nun, Sister Extern for the evening, appears. She's a young Indian woman. All smiles that quickly turn to frowns after she has offered her hand, shaken ours and asked our names, but hasn't offered her own name.

It appears we have a reservation for a room matrimoniale. This is news to us. We made (and confirmed) the reservations online through some service that handles bookings in guesthouses run by religious communities across Italy--something like "Monastery Bookings." Nothing in the forms we filled out to obtain the reservation ever said anything about matrimoniale. Nor does the printed receipt we've brought along with us.

"But two men? No matrimoniale!" Frown. Finger shake. "I must speak to monastery guest reservations. They shouldn't have done this." 

"But our reservation, which we made online and printed out, shows we reserved a double room," we say. "We understood that meant one room with two beds. The printed reservation says nothing about matrimony." 

"No double room! We have only the matrimoniale. But two men? No matrimoniale!" Finger shake. "Only single rooms."

"Okay, we'll take single rooms. Fine."

"That will cost more."

"Fine." Thinking to ourselves, "What choice do we have? It's after dark; we've just arrived in a large city we don't know; and we have luggage to shlep."

"So you pay more?" Frown turns to smile. Smiling young Sister Sub-Extern, also Indian, now sweeps into the room, grabs our passports, and disappears with them. 

We ask if meals (other than the light breakfast, which is part of the room fee) are available. "No. Here's a map. Here are cards for some nearby restaurants."

This all in German, to which Sister Extern has now inexplicably switched--she tells us she has spent time working with children with physical and mental challenges in Cloppenburg. Young Sister Sub-Extern now reappears, passports in hand. I smile and thank her. She frowns in response. 

This is receiving every guest as Christ?!

Baptistery Doors, 19 December 2013
And then we set out to find a restaurant, having met an older Italian nun who speaks no English or German, and who is quite nice. We walk and walk, stop in an Il Papiro to buy a new journal for me, ask about restaurants, go on a wild goose chase for one, don't find it, and end up at a pizza restaurant near the Duomo which Sister Extern had recommended, where we share a porcini pizza and an arugula salad, and have a glass of wine.

And so the evening went. Had one of my anxiety dreams about the dogs, which I notice I have always from the fourth night of a trip forward. In this one, I open the door to let them in on our return, sit on the floor to hug them, and can't recall their names. Inexplicably, they have a small black kitten with them.

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