The morning we left Florence (September 9), we paid one final visit to a cafe in the Central Market where I had bought caffe the previous two days. Always the same lady would greet us with a matronly smile and a gracious attitude toward my faltering Italian. This morning, however, we arrived to find my coffee lady in a bit of a huff, arguing with a boy over the counter. Unsure of what the fight was about, Laura and I waited hesitantly on the side until finally the lady threw up her arms, reached into a small fridge, grabbed a bottle of beer, and handed it to the boy. She then turned to us and rather aggressively asked, “Cosa mi faccio?”
Unnerved by her demeanor, I gave her a blank look, suddenly unable to translate her simple Italian. “What do you want?” She finally said in English, her irritation now directed toward us. Stammering a bit, I placed my order as the boy she was arguing with walked away. She moved to the espresso machine.
“Having a bad day?” I asked, in imperfect Italian. Her shoulders relaxed a bit and she turned back to us. “No,” she said. “He is a minor. He wants to buy birra, beer, but I can not legally sell him alcohol.” She emphasized her last words by waving her hands in disgust, as if shooing away the situation.
I exchanged a glance with Laura, knowing we were both thinking the same thing: Why did she demure in the end and give the boy a beer?
“I’m sorry,” I said. For the situation, for walking up at such a tense moment, for boys who take advantage of nice people. Then, in an effort to enliven the mood: “Today, we’re going to Chiusi.”
“Oh, beautiful,” she crooned, a wistful glint in her eye as she stared into the distance. “So beautiful. Have a good time.”
“I’ll miss you,” I wanted to say, but didn’t have the words. The caffe was good, the prices cheap, and the atmosphere friendly. I wasn’t sure if I would find a cafe as good in Rome. We left my coffee lady then and walked to the train station, destined for the Tuscan countryside and beyond.