Saturday, December 5, 2009

Italia...Day Six

Day six...I can't even fathom writing this one without sinking into the couch, laughing, but also feeling a little sad. You'll soon know why.

If you've missed out thus far and want to catch up, you can read about what led to the trip here, and about days one, two, three, four, and five.

On day six, in a nut shell, we saw the Baptistery, the Campanile, and Museum Opera del Duomo. We walked the streets and we made a large purchase.

After another "ho-hum" breakfast, we made our way back to the Baptistery, which was originally a pagan temple. Post Constantine, it was converted to a Baptistery. We stood in line to get in, and passed some professional beggars, complete with dirty, barefoot children. It nearly broke my heart.

On our way to the entrance we passed the Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti. Only catch, the ones on the Baptistery are fake...replicas of the orginals, which took 21 years to complete (the originals that is). Wow. (Even though they were "fake," I still thought they were amazing.)

Of course, everywhere you turn there is beauty...

The inside of the Baptistery literally glowed with a golden color. The ceiling was amazing. All. Mosaics. Unbelievable.

Antipope John XXIII is buried in the Baptistery. (No flash allowed.)

More of the mosaic ceiling...

After touring the Baptistery we made our way to the Museum Opera del Duomo that housed the original Gates of Paradise. We were shocked by the incredible detail found in the originals that was lost in the replicas. Several of the panels were out on tour, so we only saw a few of the originals. If you are ever in Florence these panels are worth the time to see. They are some of the most amazing pieces of art we have ever seen.

Also in the museum was a sculpture of Mary Magdalene by Donatello. I found this to be very moving.

Another incredible mosaic.

And, lest I forget, we also saw John the Baptist's index finger.

After time well spent at the museum, we climbed the stairs (all 414 of them!) to the top of the Campanile. The stairs were fairly narrow and seemed to narrow more and more as we climbed. There were times when we'd literally have to flatten ourselves against the wall so those coming down could scoot past us. (I also had to guard against "what-ifs." You know, like, what if the tower falls while we're in it!?)

The view from the top was worth every step!

Beautiful, beautiful Florence...

A side peak at the Baptistery. Until we were there, I didn't realize just how "on top" of each other the buildings are.

Post Campanile we made a quick stop at the hotel and then wandered the streets.

Before we left for Italy, I'd decided I wanted to keep my eyes open for a purse or pair of boots as a "memento."

That afternoon I saw a purse in a store window that peaked my interest. I stepped in to inquire about it and immediately knew we were out of our league.

(And how ironic that T would take this picture...)

Before I could step out, T joined me inside. And just writing about this, remembering it, makes me feel a little sick. And a little sad. But sometimes I can laugh about it. One day, it will be really funny. In fact, as T read this, he commented he hadn't realized I am still so sensitive about it.

On with the story.

The owner, we'll call him Mr. Leather, was 100% Italian. He sported a suit, an unbuttoned dress shirt, thick cologne, and his hair was perfectly placed. T describes him as "stereotypical Italian." I don't really know how to describe this interaction. Point is, he offered to "make a deal" with me on the purse I'd admired. I was straight up with him and said we were WAY out of our league and headed towards the door. So he turned the sales pitch on T. He made offer after offer, and a few purses were do-able price wise, but I just didn't like them. My gut was screaming RUN! But T insisted we stay.

The thing is, the guy was fascinating. He is the fourth or fifth in a long line of leather designers and the first in his family to make a go at his own label. He was nice. He also wanted to make a sale. And he had another store a few blocks over where he designed coats and custom tailored each one to fit perfectly. And truth be told, though my heart and gut were screaming RUN, RUN, RUN, there was an element, a part of me, that was enjoying our time with him...hearing family history and about his family's vineyard...about life in Italy...his take on marriage...

So...after exhausting the purse store without making a purchase, I figured we'd see the coats and hit the road. I mean, I certainly did NOT want a coat. So... with his glass of family label wine in hand, he insisted we tour his coat store. (Now, I'm certain any native, and probably several tourists, saw us and thought, "suckers...") Mr. Leather took us on a short detour to see his personal residence. He clicked the chandelier on and off with his remote clicker and told us all about his wife, son, and daughter. On to his coat store we went. He opened a bottle of his family's finest (his own label, from the family vineyard) and offered us each a glass. T accepted, while I declined. He had his assistant bring out every coat they had in my size.

At this point, I was sweating and wanted to cry. I dare say I literally felt nauseated. As soon as T agreed to a glass of wine, I knew we were committing to spend money with this guy. And. I. Didn't. Want. To. Not because the things he had were beautiful, heck, gorgeous, but because I never intended to spend that much money. It was a quantity thing.

So...I tried on all these coats...they were putting them on me one by one... and I kept telling him I didn't need a coat and thanks, they were gorgeous, but no thanks.

Now, he did bring out a chinchilla fur coat. (Supposedly he sold one of these to Bill Gates for his wife...hmmm....) It was sweet. Had it not been THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of dollars, I might have agreed to it! (Maybe we should start a chinchilla farm? Just kidding.)

Oh the softness...

Anyway, so he kept bringing out these coats for me to of the last ones he had was black leather. It hit above the knee and was classic.

T fell in love with it. And. Insisted. We. Buy. It.

At this point the room was spinning. And I felt angry.

While Mr. Assistant measured me for the coat, Mr. Leather starts telling T that the purse I was currently carrying just would not suffice and what a great deal he would give him if he added a purse to the tally.

From this point on I think I felt such a mix of anger and nausea, not to mention panic, that I'm not totally sure what even happened. I mean, how would we eat for the rest of the trip??? How were we going to pay for this??? We spent YEARS eating beans and rice to pay off debt. I DID NOT want to go there again.

I numbly followed T, who was beaming, and Mr. Leather, back to the purse store.

Mr. Leather pulled a few bags from the shelf and began his pitch. I felt awful. T was still beaming and encouraging me to "pick one." But, I didn't like any of them. I mean, how could I? Finally we settled on one. I asked for a few words with T, in private.

We stepped aside, but there was nothing to be said. He said he wanted to buy me a nice coat and purse. This was important to him. I asked where the money would come from? How would we eat for the rest of the trip?

He informed me he'd moved some money from our emergency fund into our checking account, prior to leaving the country, so we'd just pay for it with that.

EXCUSE ME??? That money was for EMERGENCIES!!! This most certainly was NOT an emergency!!!

I remember standing there while I watched Mr. Leather take our card and run the transaction. He got our mailing info, to send the coat at a later time. He gave me a pair of black leather gloves as a thank you. (He asked T first...)

We left. I cried.

And cried.

And cried.

We walked around town more.

I cried.

We had pizza for dinner in a little hidden courtyard. Though the food was wonderful, I just picked at mine.

That was pretty much the tone for the remainder of the night.

I cried more when we turned the lights out that night. I wrote a lengthy excerpt about the day in my prayer journal. I should probably tear that portion out and burn it.

And I felt so guilty. The deal was done. My tears and anger upset T. Here we were in this amazing country, with the clock ticking, and I couldn't even enjoy it for the anger and tears.

We're (at least I am) still a little sensitive about the whole thing.

I refused to wear the coat until we'd fully paid back our emergency fund. I just couldn't enjoy it. Doing Dave Ramsey does that to you. It makes it hard to enjoy something when you don't have cash in hand to pay for it. Even when you have the cash...but it's coming from your emergency fund. Call me a tight wad. Tell me to loosen up. Whatever. Dave says a woman's face relaxes and she's much prettier when there's an emergency fund in place. He's right. At least in our case.

Anyway...while we walked around that afternoon we saw a lot of this:

In fact, we heard one street referred to as "Gucci, Lucci, Pucci Lane."

Florence is uptown. A, if not THE, design mecca! six was kind of rough. At least towards the end.

Last Sunday I wore the coat to church. A friend asked about it. I told her. She said, "aren't you glad he did that? Now you have a nice coat and purse and it's all paid for." I'm getting there...just not there yet. I will say, it's been really nice having a warm coat that fits perfectly. I know T doesn't regret it. Doing that for me gave him great pleasure. I just wish we'd had cash in hand, rather than coming home to pay ourselves back.

On that note, the BIGGEST blessing of this fabulous trip, was that T and I worked and saved for a LONG time and paid for the entire trip ahead of time. It's really wonderful to take a trip and not have it follow you home (you know, paying for it later...) Only, we didn't exactly budget for an up and coming (?) designer purse and coat. :)


  1. Husbands can certainly "love lavishly" and find great pleasure in it... this is a mystery to me as my practical sensibilities seem to hinder such action. This trip to NYC that we're taking (we leave tomorrow!) is a similar situation... my husband has delighted in planning a lavish 3 days for us to celebrate 10 years of marriage, now my challenge, my struggle is to relax and enjoy his gift, when, frankly, I'd be just as happy with a weekend at the gulf.

    We didn't visit Florence when we were in Italy; your photos make me want to go there. And, yes, I think I could handle a chinchilla coat!

  2. I would have been so with you on the coat thing. Thank you for sharing that. I would have cried even if we weren't doing the Dave Ramsey thing (which we are now and am loving it!)

    Beautiful pictures of a beautiful country!

  3. Wear that coat with love...just the way it was given! :)
    What memories!