I only go to the market once a week- every Monday after class. In the Florence Central Market, there are a variety of different produce stands, but I always go to the same one. The bright green vines of the ripe tomatoes, and deep red strawberries sitting on the stand draw me in, but most of all it is the familiarity of a specific vendor that keeps me coming back each time. The language barrier between us is strong-- my Italian vocabulary is as limited as her English. However, with just a point and nod to the produce I am aiming to buy, she understands. She always takes the produce I point to, as well as any other food I was already carrying, and places it in a bag. I then always thank her and head home.
However, one afternoon, on my fifth time visiting her stand, I had a different interaction. After I point to the nectarines and tomatoes I want from her stand, the vendor tells me a price much lower than listed on the stand. I have just received a discount. After I pay, and while she is packing my bag, the vendor places a small basil plant inside. I felt such gratitude at the small gesture, I told her “gracie” many times and smiled. She smiled back.
It’s easy to feel like an ignorant American walking around places such as this market, which is the center of authentic Italian culture. It also may seem odd that I am choosing to write this entire blog entry about such a small moment. However, although the gesture was small, it was actually one of my favorite memories from my time abroad. I am not sure if the vendor placed the gift inside because she remembered me, or if she was just being kind. Either way, her act of kindness made me feel accepted and a bit more part of the Italian community.