Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Florence, Italy

Arriving in a somewhat soggy Florence, Case hefts his pack past the Duomo in search of our lodgings.

Eventually, still looking for the B&B, we arrived at the Piazza della Signoria, featuring an outdoor sculpture gallery, and where I had one of those not-so-reassuring experiences one gets when traveling ... and then wonder about.

Our lodgings were reportedly just down the street from Dante Alighieri's, on a street now named after him. That street, however, was eluding us, and trudging our luggage around in search of it was proving a less-than-divine comedy.

I offered to sit with our gear in the piazza while Case searched further. I arranged the backpacks next to me and put Case's laptop bag next to my feet. Minutes later, a man walked past me fumbling in his pocket. As he pulled his cell phone from his pocket, his keys fell to the ground next to my feet, apparently unnoticed. I leaned over and picked them up as he stopped 15 feet away to talk on a cell phone. Shouting to him and jingling his keys I tried to gain his attention from where I sat, I felt pulled between my desire to return his keys to him and the need to stay with our belongings. He remained unhearing, apparently engrossed in his phone conversation. Should I leave my bags and take his keys to him...it will only be 10 seconds, only 15 feet?

Then it crossed my mind -- this might be one of those distraction scams.

I turned my attention to my surroundings, looking for anyone who might be working with him. Yes... maybe those two -- a suspicious looking couple 10 feet away from me in the opposite direction, the man with his back to me and the woman glancing over his shoulder. I fixed my eyes on them and continued to jingle the keys, determined to stay with my bags. Shortly, I heard the footsteps of cell-phone-man approaching, I continued to stare down the couple, he took the keys from my hand, thanked me, and attempted to start a conversation. Ignoring him I kept a firm hand on my bags, and my eyes fixed staring on the couple. Eventually, cell-phone-man left me alone, walking off into the crowded square -- and as I continued watching the couple walked off, too, trailing 50 feet behind him. Relieved to still have our computer and backpacks, I sat waiting for Case and wondering: Had I just imagined the whole scenario? Or were they really thieves?

That evening, we climbed the hills overlooking the city to the church of St. Mark (???), where we heard the monks sing Mass in Gregorian chant. Case says they’re not ready to cut a CD and go on tour yet (how would he know?), but the experience was still worthwhile.

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