During our trip to Italy, we were anxious to find shoes like the ones worn by the women of Rome. They were wearing gorgeous and comfortable heeled sandals. I don’t think I saw one woman wearing gym shoes. Renae and I were wearing flats for all of the walking we were doing. We both are shoe lovers, (What woman isn’t?) and wanted to pick up at least one pair of Italian shoes. We had previously found a mall in Rome to shop. It was not a total bust but it reminded me of the near-to-closing malls in the States. It wasn’t crowded and did not have too many stores worth visiting. We ran across a dog (one of those tiny rat-looking dogs) in pearls and dressed for shopping. I did manage to find a pair of shoes (I attempted to wear them once and they hurt my feet.) and two unique purses. Renae found a nice jacket. The sales were great! The highlight of the mall was KFC. We were so sick of eating pasta every day (I do love pasta!) that we gorged on the chicken. It was the best tasting chicken that I had ever eaten!
We decided to catch the train to Valmontone Fashion Outlet. It’s an outside mall like most outlet malls in the U.S. I was hoping that it would be worth the trip because the heat in Italy was on Las Vegas hot in August. While waiting around for our train, I took a trip to the bathroom. On my way out, I met an older gentleman, aka Papa Smurf, with a beard. He asked where I was going. I told him the outlet. Usually, I don’t EVER tell strangers about my plans. Papa Smurf told me the mall was closed. I looked him up and down and decided that he was joking because I had researched the mall. Papa Smurf said that the mall isn’t like American malls but is closed on weekends. Since my face is very expressive, I’m sure I looked at him as if he was insane (closer to BS). He was carrying a rolling suitcase and my imagination started to run wild. His next words were asking me to have a drink with him at the bar. That was not going to happen. I excused myself and walked quickly back to Renae. Papa Smurf sat on a stool watching us. Of course, I told her of our exchange. She didn’t believe him either.
While eating our lunch, a guy approached me. He started speaking in a foreign language that I was unfamiliar with. The confused look on my face and speaking in English caused him to begin conversing in English. He asked where I was from. I told him Chicago. He said, “No. Where are you originally from?” I said, “South Side of Chicago.” He asked my family’s origins. I told him Arkansas and Mississippi. He told me I looked Eritrean or Ethiopian. He thought I was from his country because of my skin tone, hair and eyes. We chatted for a few. I told him of the incidents of racism we had faced while in Rome. He wasn’t surprised and stated he also dealt with it. A few days before, a Cuban gentleman discussed it with us too. Anyway, he was a pleasant young man and I wished him peace.
We headed to our train and Papa Smurf followed. Shortly after seating, Renae noticed everyone running. We didn’t ask questions and started running too. Run first, ask questions later. After we got off the train, we were told the train was not leaving the station and we had to hurry and catch the train that was just about to leave. The idiot conductor made the announcement on only one train and everyone ran when they saw a crowd running. This is where we lost Papa Smurf.
We had to catch a taxi to the mall and luckily we shared a ride with a black Italian woman and her mother. The driver didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand him. She was the perfect translator because he had attempted to cheat all of us and was unaware that she spoke Italian. The outlet was decent but the heat was ridiculous. This time, the heat-o-meter was on HELL. I walked around with an umbrella to block the sun. Renae was totally comfortable in the heat. She found a few items. We headed back to Rome.
Since we were not very happy with our shopping excursions so far, because we both really wanted leather jackets and shoes, we decided to go to the San Lorenzo Market in Florence. It’s the renowned flea market in Italy. This trip is where we had the incident of meeting the crook. We were having a hard time figuring out where to purchase our train ticket at the station. The train attendant we approached did not speak English, impatient and rude. A woman walked up to us wearing what appeared to be an employee badge. Something was off but the badge seemed legit. She asked if she could help us. We were grateful she spoke English. She graciously instructed us on the correct ticket purchase and train location. We were relieved until her sneaky behind demanded money. The attitude we had! At first, we balked because of the deception but decided to give her something for helping us. Plus, we didn’t know if she had a crew to back her up.
All over Italy, we were warned about pickpockets. When I was researching for the trip, I read about pickpockets and scams (nothing mentioned the train scam). While on a bus, two women with a baby boarded with a stroller. Since I love babies, I watched them. I thought it was very odd that they took the baby out of the stroller, squeezed through the back of the bus carrying the infant, and then to the front. I tried to get Renae’s attention and tell her to watch her purse. However, the bus was too crowded. It was packed. They had to be up to no good and using the baby as a distraction. Most people would leave the baby in the stroller to keep it comfortable and out of the way of strangers. However, their actions were suspect. Sure enough, when we got off the bus, Renae realized that her purse had been tampered with. Luckily, nothing was taking.
We enjoyed the view on the speed train. The countryside looked beautiful! The trip was worth it! We found the softest leather that we had ever felt. Most stores had two shops, an inside store and stall outside. Most of the outside stalls carried the same items, belts, wallets, scarves, jackets, etc. as other stalls. I was able to pick up several souvenirs from the outside stalls. However, I found the best-looking deals inside the shops.
Many of the owners/sales people were pushy, too pushy! One ignorant fellow became upset because I didn’t purchase from him. I loved one of his jackets but it wasn’t my size. It was a little too tight. He tried his best to get me to buy it. He said that it was the Italian way to wear it tight. I told him that it wasn’t the American way. He continued to pull out jackets and insist that I try them on. I did not like them and finally headed out of his store. He said something that I could tell from his tone and mannerism was an insult. With that attitude, I left his store.
Renae and I both enjoyed our experience at the flea market. I was able to purchase two jackets and a purse to go with my other souvenirs. We were happy!
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