Florence is as beautiful and romantic as you would expect an Italian city to be. But what about the locals?
Natalie de Winter, winner of the TNT Reader’s Choice Award 2010, found out…
Florence. It’s a place where beauty exists in all its forms, and where Florentine men pay particular attention to the one they hail as the greatest: the female form.
Fittingly for a city where the best things are hidden, our chosen restaurant for the evening, Trattoria Quattro Leoni, is found along meandering side streets, just over the Ponte Vecchio in the quiet Santo Spirito neighbourhood.
Its claim to fame is a pear, cheese and asparagus pasta, which sounds like it could be the culinary version of Russell Brand and Katy Perry; something that shouldn’t mix well, but makes sense once you’ve managed to chew on it for a while.
We dress for a Friday night out in sophisticated Florence. My travel companion could have doubled for Naomi Campbell. From a long distance, I might have doubled for Neve Campbell.
Unfortunately, for the Italian men, I am more Party Of Five than Wild Things.
Seated outside on the tiny Piazza della Passera, our waiter, Lorenzo, translates into English every dish on the menu.
Distracted by the lothario’s pretty brown eyes, I forget to order the Russell and Katy special, but am more than pleased with the beef stew surprise my twirling finger landed on when I randomly pointed.
After the meal, finished with a complimentary glass of the ubiquitous imoncello, my friend goes in search of the bathroom. As she weaves her way around the outdoor tables, a sea of heads swivels in her wake.
Inside, the staff behind the bar applauds as she shimmies past. A few minutes later, as she returns to our table, the stares continue.
Then it’s my turn to go to the bathroom. I brace myself for adulation, but alas there is none. Obviously Italy has never broadcast Party Of Five.
I return to my seat to find Lorenzo giving his phone number to my friend and inviting her to meet him later at 1am. To Italians, this is a perfectly respectable time at which to begin a date.
We leave the restaurant to go in search of the Florentine beautiful people.
Arriving at a bar called Nove, near the river Arno, we find one half of it full of wealthy-looking thirty-somethings while the other half is empty.
After observing the drunk Florentines’ suspect dance moves to Euro-pop, we head to our hotel.
We are about to cross the Ponte Santa Trinita when a man touches my friend on the shoulder. His name is Giancarlo and he’s well past tipsy. When my friend asks why he had stopped her, Giancarlo says he was walking behind her when inspiration suddenly hit. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that inspiration was wrapped in a tight-fitting skirt.
He offers his business card, which reads, “Giancarlo. DJ”, made for him by a friend who insists all girls love DJs.
Asked if it was successful, he replies: “Ah no. It’s never worked.” Giancarlo then offers a few hints for places to visit the next day and bids us farewell.
Crossing the bridge, we join the masses taking an evening stroll, savouring the warm night and their gelatos.
We were somewhere near Piazza San Marco when Mustafa appears and spends 15 minutes begging my friend to go out with him. Sadly, Mustafa hadn’t perfected the art of charm versus annoyance.
It was at this point I realise the old adage “beauty is a curse” may be true. Well, it is if you want to get back to your hotel in any kind of hurry. So that’s the secret to a hassle-free break in Florence: if you want to be invisible, stand next to a beautiful woman.