In all my years of visiting Florence, I never realized there was an actual mall (or centro commerciale as they refer to it) about 45 minutes outside Florence’s city center – I Gigli.
As I walked towards the meeting point for the coach bus, already running behind thanks to my “reliable” Google maps (roll my eyes), I kept wondering to myself: “how could I leave home with so much time and still manage to be running late; why did I listen to Google maps when it told me to go left? I should have just gone with what I know, even if it contradicted Google.” (Ya’ll ever have those moments?)
When I arrived at the meeting point (might I add, just 1 minute after our scheduled departure time and after many attempts by my friend asking the driver to wait, re-assuring him that I was literally around the corner), I saw the bus getting ready to pull off and thought for sure he was going to stop as he drove towards me.
I couldn’t believe what happened next, I really couldn’t believe it! It was such an awkward moment – I raised my hand and began to flag him down, and then, wait for it… he extended his arm and waved his index finger in a back-and-forth motion. I always joke that I am the worst at charades, but there was very little guesswork needed here; I knew that if I planned on going to I Gigli anytime soon, it certainly wouldn’t be courtesy of this coach bus!
After some quick thinking, I remembered my teacher sharing directions to I Gigli during my Italian class a few weeks earlier. As I breathed a sigh of relief and took a moment to review the directions that were haphazardly jotted down on my phone, we strategized our next move. My friend and I called a taxi, and 5 minutes later, we began our second attempt to I Gigli.
In our broken Italian, we told the taxi driver (let’s just refer to him as Lorenzo) where we needed to catch the city bus, and when we arrived there, it was just as my teacher described – confusing!
Lorenzo asked us which side of the piazza he should drop us off. I pointed, but there was one minor problem – where were we buying tickets for the bus; there was no tabbacheria (tobacco shop) or edicola (newsstand) in sight that was open! He made it his personal “Good Samaritan” mission to help us figure this out (as the meter kept running, of course). We drove once more around the piazza, across the street, over the bridge, and turned into another parking lot – this time pulling up next to a parked bus (clearly labeled Fuori Servizio – Out of Service) – Lorenzo had one more opportunity to help us out (and he succeeded)! Once we got our answers, he collected the taxi fair and drove away as we walked toward the ticket machine.
After much deliberation (and pressing a few wrong buttons on the screen), we were grateful when two gentlemen offered to help us out and pointed to the bus route we should choose. Admittedly we were also a bit skeptical, but in a split second, we recognized one of the stops listed on the route and confidently made our purchase. With our bus tickets in hand, we still had an entire hour before the next city bus departed and were in desperate need of nourishment. So, we did what anyone in our position would do – off to the bar we went (no, not that type of bar, although after a day like ours, I don’t think anyone would look at us sideways if we changed our plans and went for drinks instead).
In Italy, a bar is a place where you usually grab a caffè, cappuccino, caffè latte, macchiato (I think you get the picture) and a pastry of some sort to start your morning (or in our case a mid-day snack). Not sure what we expected when we walked into this particular bar, but we certainly didn’t expect a mini-arcade in the corner (which after a few minutes of observing the only person in that corner, we realized the arcade machines were actually slot machines – who would have thought?!) After refueling on a well-needed cappuccino paired with a pastry che ovviamente non era fatta in casa (that was obviously not homemade), we headed back to the piazza to board the local city bus to I Gigli, and two hours after the coach bus departed without us, we were finally on our way.
Was the mall worth the journey there – let’s just say I’ve visited it once, and I’m not exactly in a hurry to return. If I go shopping outside the city center, I would much rather venture to Barberino Designer outlets (located outdoors) or The Mall Firenze (luxury outdoor outlet), which are approximately the same distance from Florence’s city center as I Gigli.
(Just in case you’re wondering, we took the coach bus back from I Gigli to the city center, and it turns out we had the same bus driver who left us earlier in the day. Believe me when I tell you it took everything in me not to give the bus driver the side eye as I boarded the bus, knowing full well that he recognized me from earlier in the day…LOL!)