Small World, After All – Florence, Italy

Small World, After All
Florence, Italy

One reason why traveling is so invigorating is that you can never expect, or even imagine, the adventures you’re about to encounter. My day trip to Florence was a perfect example. Sure, I toured the sites, took countless photos, ate, shopped, watched people and absorbed the culture. But there was much more to my trip than that. The following is a story of coincidences and “it’s a small world” encounters.

After a week exploring Rome, I boarded a train at Termini station and took off for Florence. The history, the culture, the art, the food and the shopping in Florence can occupy any tourist for many days (but I only had one). I was told not to miss classic tourist spots like the Duomo, Boboli Gardens, Ponte Vecchio and San Lorenzo Basilica.

On the train, I started to plot my day. Fortuitously, I ended up sitting across from another American traveler, which was actually comforting since I was traveling alone, had a few hours to kill and wanted someone to chat with. Her enormous backpack was a sure giveaway that she was a fellow American making good use of her Euro-rail pass. Turned out she was from Pennsylvania and had just completed her junior year studying abroad in Vienna.

Laura was full of good stories and helpful tips. She was familiar with the ins and outs of Florence. She knew exactly where I should go to find my Italian leather jacket. Actually, she suggested precisely who to go to (not necessarily where his shop was). Her vague description was, “somewhere in the central marketplace.”

I figured I’d never find this place, but I listened to her story anyway. With a glimmer in her eye, she told me his name was Fatti Abdul – probably in his mid-twenties and very friendly. When I found him, she advised, I was supposed to tell him that Laura sent me. Her jacket was what I had in mind, so I knew I had to find this guy. It wasn’t your ordinary jacket – it had character. And it didn’t cost a fortune! I had no idea how I was going to find one guy in the middle of a busy marketplace in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. But I’d go to the marketplace and see what happened.

Stepping off the train, I knew I had to move fast if I wanted to see any sites and squeeze in some shopping. Luckily everything in Florence is within walking distance. It’s an idyllic city and the old section has a definite Renaissance feel. From the Santa Maria Novella train station, I walked to the Duomo. It’s pink, white and green marble façade is unique. Because shopping and locating this guy were my main priorities, I was glad to find a long line snaking around the entrance of the Duomo. This meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for not going inside and taking a tour. Now I could head straight to the central marketplace with a clean conscience.

Upon reaching the marketplace, I was so overwhelmed by all the different shops that I forgot to look for Fatti Abdul. Wandering through all the clothes, leather and art, I couldn’t decipher junk from gem. In a daze I heard a voice – a man asking me why wasn’t I wearing a leather jacket. No one else had plucked me from the crowd, so I appreciated the attention.

I went into his shop and tried on a few jackets. When I found the one I wanted, I jokingly said that I was on orders to buy my jacket from a guy named Fatti Abdul. The salesman turned white. His eyes bulged. His jaw dropped. “I am Fatti Abdul!” he exclaimed. He remembered Laura and was so shocked by the sheer coincidence that he gave me his email address and phone number. Amazed by our fateful connection, we said our farewells and promised to stay in touch.

Oh, and the jacket? Well, he gave it to me for a deal! Every time I put it on, it reminds me that one can never plan for all the amazing things that happen when one travels.