Saw the Uffizzi this morning. Beautiful but exhausting. By the end of it, predictably, I was starving. So we beelined through the Michleangelo room, discussed the Visitation, walked through a maze of gift shops, and finally found our way out to street and sky.

We took a turn, walked about 50 meters, and passed a mob of people on our right. Or rather, a mob of people huddled around a tiny storefront – some sitting and eating panini on stools or the curb; some waiting in line to order; some standing at a tiny bar lined with miniature wine glasses and half-full (I’m an optimist, especially when it comes to vino) bottles of wine. It took about three seconds for me to stop in my tracks and redirect us back towards the crown and the wine and the sandwiches. If I’ve learned anything about finding food in a foreign place, it’s that a busy establishment is generally a good sign.

So, being the loving daughter that I am, I ordered mom to grab us two old wooden stools on the street (so perfect and Italian and dark and rustic, they were) and hand over the cash, prego. I finally figured out how to order for the two of us — almost seamless except for that one time that I used the word tomate and my new friend behind the counter explained that I could order in Italian OR English but that Spanish was a bit difficult. Pomodoro, right.

I grabbed our panini and two glasses of wine, and we sat. And we sipped. And we ate. Oh, the food was so good. Chewy and crusty foccaccia, strong and simple flavors, my daily dose of mozzarella, and a generous serving of vegetables. A cheap and delicious glass of chianti didn’t hurt either. Exactly what I wanted and the perfect environment in which to enjoy it. While the Uffizzi was amazing — a treat! — this is my favorite way to experience a city, I told my mom. It even made me think of the small shacks in Dharamsala where I’d grab chai and chapati to fuel my daily walks.

But of course we were in Italy, not India: the bread is leavened, the wine flows freely (and doesn’t taste like shit), and the bustling of the crowds is more exciting and vibrant than overwhelming and invasive. We sat and sipped, chatted and nibbled. I smiled at how perfect a way this was to enjoy our last day in Florence, my last day with my mother until we reunite in August. The perfect girly date, the perfect Italian food experience. How perfectly European to just pour jourself a glass of wine on the sidewalk, panino in hand, and people watch for an hour, all for the price of a drink at Starbucks.

After a morning spent worrying how to most efficiently and effectively visit one of the world’s gratest museums, it was a blessing and the perfect surprise to happen upon this little snippet of Italian culture, a respite from a day of sightseing, a stolen moment with my favorite woman in the world. And I even have room for gelato.

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