It’s not hard to meet men in Italy. In Italy men ask women out as readily as consuming spaghetti.
Which is why we’re sitting on the steps of the Duomo in Florence at 10pm with a bottle of unopened Chianti waiting for two Italian policemen. This is due to my friend Olivia who went to the local station to report her stolen mobile and came out with a date. Well, there are worse ways to spend an evening than with a couple of suave, law abiding ‘polizia’. Or so I thought.
The Italian policemen
The tall one, Olivia tells me when they arrive, is Frederiano. He is rangy, around 6 foot and dressed in white t.shirt and jeans. He has a mischievous clean-shaven face, tanned skin and dark hair. His friend is shorter and a little pudgy round the middle but seems very amiable. I admit they have a certain ‘presence’ even in plain clothes.
My Italian is limited but during introductions I manage ‘Come si chiama?’ – what is your name? Frederiano answers, “John Luigi”. Strange how it is nothing, even remotely, like Frederiano. Olivia looks sheepish, I must’ve been distracted by the uniform, she mumbles.
Florence is expensive
We wander down the main street of Florence towards the Arno River. When we reach Piazza della Signoria John Luigi is given the honours of opening the Chianti.
To my way of thinking Italians come out of the womb instinctively knowing how to extract a cork. But whether it’s nerves or just bad technique, John Luigi makes a hash of it. The cork is so tightly wedged that only a dribble of wine is produced when the bottle is upended. He tries again but only manages to push it in completely and stain his white t.shirt.
Olivia and I look at each other, it’s murphy’s law if someone is going to wear a white t.shirt.
We take turns slugging from the bottle. Olivia is uncommonly quiet, ‘Do you think they’ll take us to a club?’ she murmurs. However when we suggest going to a bar the men look disinterested.
‘Drinks, they cost so much’, they say, ‘All these places, troppo caro!’
‘Even that place there’, one of them waves a hand towards a brightly lit inviting bar, ’20 euro for a coffee’. Olivia and I exchange glances, it seems we’re destined to be sitting here drinking wine with bits of cork in it all evening. Just then a street cleaner with a bad attitude decides to sweep his truck too close for comfort.
A restaurant in Florence or a burger?
This spurs everyone into action and a decision is made to get some food. Good, perhaps a nice restaurant? No, the men want a fast food joint, burgers and chips. I decline. We wander the streets again. Olivia looks grumpy and tired. John Luigi decides he wants to learn some Maori so we teach him ‘Kiora’, which interestingly enough sounds like ‘Che ora?’ – (What is the time? in Italian). Confusion ensues. We change it to ‘Kiora Bro’ which helps somewhat. Unfortunately he likes this so much he says it constantly for the next ten minutes.
After this I feel the evening is drawing to a close and we stand idly in Piazza della Repubblica. It is decided that John Luigi will take Olivia back to the camping ground on the back of his scooter as he lives close by.
Florence is a romantic city
Then I feel hands twisting my hair into a pony-tail and then a chignon. John Luigi blows softly on the back of my neck. “Do you want to come back to my apartment?” he whispers but I’m speechless, stunned by the impromptu invitation and his hair dressing skills.
“What’s he saying?” mouths Olivia. I tell her and she looks bemused, ‘Do you want to?’ Meanwhile John Luigi is looking slightly petulant, “Don’t you want to?”. I still can’t think of a thing to say, to either question.
Two Italian policemen make a run for it
Olivia and I start to wander across the piazza expecting the men to follow. However, halfway across we turn around and…they’ve vanished. Olivia is flabbergasted, “I don’t believe it!”. Yet after searching and waiting for a while eventually we have to face facts. They’ve scarpered without so much as a ‘ciao’ and left Olivia without a ride.
We muse about this abrupt disappearance over a lemoncello at an ‘expensive’ nearby bar and generously conclude that perhaps polizia don’t get paid that much. Which is why they drunk our wine, only took us to a hamburger joint and didn’t want to waste petrol on a detour.
The next day I spy a police car cruising near the duomo with two familiar figures. Without thinking I race over and stick my head in the window determined to find out the truth of the matter. Two strangers stare back at me bemused. ‘S-s-scusi!’ I stutter and let them drive away while somewhere out there our two tight-fisted romeos remain at large.