FLORENCE, Italy — I strolled down a narrow, stone-laid path, mustering balance on the cobblestone sidewalk. Miniature vehicles disobeyed all rules of the road as they zipped around me, dodging other traffic. A constant rumble of Vespa engines, muffled conversations and a peaceful violin collaborated to form the background music to this city. There were street vendors forcing light-up fans and knock-off bags in my face, too, but undeterred, I was looking for authentic Florence. I found it at Enoteca Lombardi.
Inside this charming shop, deep burgundy salami hung from the ceiling and crowded shelving held packaged meats and cheeses organized into white wicker baskets. A full wall of red and white wine immediately caught my eye as I heard a thick Italian accent emerge from a corner, “Ciao, where are you from?” She greeted us in our native language and proceeded to ask about our academic studies as well each of our hometowns. As we continued our conversation over samples of meats and cheeses, it became clear how culturally savy this woman was. As each new customer entered, they received the same greeting, “Ciao, where are you from?” Without missing a beat she dove into their languages–including Greek, French, and German–creating a unique unification of multiple countries in the small rustic store.
And, as we all gathered around the square, wooden counter where cubed cheese and meats lay, the others customers and I were all unified once more. Unified in a mutual agreement that each sample left our hungry pallets eager for more.