Italy retro-diary: day 7

There comes a time in everyone’s vacation when one must put down the camera and go shopping. My breakfast supplemented with chocolate milk had given me great strength for my first quest: power adaptors. While most hotels in Rome had had euro-style power outlets, we were now in real Italy, where they use Italian sockets; and we were running pretty low on camera and phone juice. Sara had to sort out some sheet music with Amazon, so I ventured out through the streets of Florence.

The mobile phone store was pretty busy, but didn’t have as much as the Termini store. (And all the really neat Samsung phone were only tri-band: not great here.) I also wondered down to the Mercato to see what they had. Answer: lots, but not what I was looking for. Eventually I found a health-food-and-hardware store tucked down a tiny alley, and picked up a few adaptors.

But I had to show Sara the Mercato, so after midday we strolled the mile or so down to the market. Unfortunately, the food court had closed for the day, but the whole of the district’s streets were lined with hundreds of stalls. They sold ties, scarves, leather jackets, little leather things, and not a lot else. This lack of selection made for excellent pricing competition though, and I picked up 3 (very good quality) ties for €10, and some local scarves for gifts. Sara also picked up a smart scarf which she wore a lot; and then lead me back to the vinegar store. We spent so much money there that we had to buy a little more so that we could get the VAT tax form. It took a long time to fill in (apparently each vinegar and trinket has its own tax rate, depending on how luxurious it is) but that also gave us the opportunity to find out that the storekeeper was another ex-pat English woman (like our hotel manager). Florence seems to be a popular career destination. In the end we never used the tax form because:

  • The tax refund office in the gigantic Amsterdam Airport on the way back was tiny, with a long line.
  • You have to present the merchandise you purchased in sealed condition to the officer.
  • All liquids (i.e., vinegar) must be in checked luggage.
  • You cannot quickly uncheck checked luggage amd recheck it.
  • We had to remove the packaging to fit the stuff in our bags anyway.

So much for that. But the balsamic was excellent.

Anyway, we were tired, loaded with goodies and Sara was coming down with something, so we went back to the hotel and read. Later on I went for take out, finding a Greek hole-in-the-wall with some excellent donner kebabs (for me) and chicken & potatoes (for Sara). I’ve been in the US so long I’d almost forgotten what real donner tastes like (we only have gyros here). Mmm.

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