Submitted Date 04/17/2021

Last week I introduced you to Eleanor and Sebastian from a novel I started while attaining my master's degree. Here is another scene from the novel, which I have tentatively titled A Taste of Nostalgia. This is scene was influenced by the trip to Italy my sister and I took. Like Eleanor, I fell in love with Florence. Enjoy!


The Scavenger Hunt

Eleanor stretched in the soft bed and looked around. The sun was streaming through the small crack in the curtains. She could smell the aroma of coffee drifting to her from somewhere in the room. She rolled over to find the bed empty. A single piece of paper laid on the pillow where Sebastian had rested his head the night before. It was folded in half with a single red rosebud laying across it, devoid of thorns.

She sat up and picked up the note, breathing in the scent of the rose as she flipped the note open with the thumb of her right hand. Sebastian's handwriting was neat and small, and she smiled a little at the simple signature at the bottom, G.S.R. She read the note.

Eleanor...I have enjoyed the past week with you, and I so want to show you the city of my birth. But I have learned that sometimes it is best for someone to discover it for themselves. I had errands to run this morning, but I have left you with a pot of coffee, some fresh pastries and fruit, and a treasure map. Call it more a caccia al tesoro. You must pick up the items I have listed and be at the small cafe on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio by 2 o'clock. We shall have a late lunch and I shall show you more of the place I hope one day you will call home. Ciao bambina. G.S.R.

The kitten jumped up onto the bed, purring loudly as it head-butted Eleanor. She scratched the little head and looked at the time on her watch. It was nine in the morning and she was thankful for the map that she could see laying on the table near the food Sebastian had left. She had no idea how she was going to find him without it. She picked up the kitten and cuddled it for a moment before setting it on her pillow.

Eleanor took a quick shower and pulled on her clothing. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table to look at Sebastian's map. It was complete with directions on how to get to the Ponte Vecchio and, along the side, he had left the list of things to get and where to get them. Most of the items were simple postcards or souvenirs the hawkers sold, but just the thought of a scavenger hunt excited her. She grabbed her camera, her wallet, the map, and the hotel key, kissed the kitten on the head where he had curled up on her pillow in a small fuzzy ball, and headed out.

She made her way up the street until she found herself standing in the L-shaped Piazza della Signoria. She looked around and found the small cafe Sebastian had listed on the sheet. "Get a coffee and bite of chocolate, your choice, at Rivoire. Sit at the Fontana de Nuttuno and enjoy the sights and sounds. Take pictures."

The coffee was strong, the chocolate sweet and creamy. Eleanor looked around the piazza as she made her way to the fountain and sat down. The water behind her was a soft backdrop to the laughter and conversation going on around her as people hurried by, on their way to work or play. She sat facing the Palazzo Vecchio and suddenly found a bag of rice thrust into her hand.

"Congratularsi con gli sposi," the young man told her as he continued along his way passing out the rice. Eleanor watched as a young couple came down the stairs, ducking the flying rice. She took a picture of them, smiling at their joy and happiness before throwing the rice on them as they passed.

"Grazi! Grazi!" the groom laughed as they passed.

She watched in wonder as people, strangers, friends, family, threw rice at the couple. She was falling in love with the city, the atmosphere. She sat down and finished her cup of coffee, watching the people come and go, the small shops opening, the shouted greetings and laughter. She couldn't stop smiling as she just took it all in.

Standing, she threw her cup away and looked at her map. "Continue to the Loggia del Lanzi and walk among the statues. Sit and contemplate the replica of David. Take in the exposition of the statue, the subtleties, and the shape. Notice his hands and feet. Have someone take your picture in front of it."

Eleanor made her way to the Loggio de Lanzi and the sight simply took her breath away. The magnificent replica of David notwithstanding, the statues that filled the area were simply gorgeous. From the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa to the infamous Rape of the Sabines to Neptune's Fountain, Eleanor walked among them, taking pictures that she knew would never capture the feel of wonder she was experiencing as she viewed them.

She sat on a stone bench across from the statue of David and simply drank in the example of the nude male body. She wasn't sure what Sebastian had wanted her to notice about the hands and feet until she realized that they were oversized, as was his head. She listened quietly as a tour group passed, the man leading it explaining that Michelangelo's David was made that way so that it would easily stand upright under the weight of the marble. She wasn't sure if she believed that. She asked a kind-faced motherly woman to take her picture in front of the statue, thanked her, and continued on.

"Cross the Via Lambertesca and wander through the gallery of the Uffizi. Take notice of the personalities that are depicted there. At the end of the corridor, there is a young woman selling scarves. Buy a red one, a pair of sunglasses and a postcard of the Uffizi. Put the scarf on around your head and the sunglasses on like you see women wear in 1950s movies."

Eleanor chuckled at the instructions as she made her way to the Uffizi. She stopped and read every sign at every statue, checking the time to make sure she wasn't going to be late. It was 12:30 already. Time had flown as she explored the places on Sebastian's map. She took some more photos, stopping for a moment to study the statue of Dante before moving on.

She found the young woman selling scarves and purchased a red one and sunglasses as well as the postcard. The woman held the mirror for her as she wrapped the scarf around her head like Grace Kelly in some movie, sliding on the sunglasses. She grinned and turned to the right to see the Ponte Vecchio not far ahead.

"Follow the Corridoio Vasariano to the Ponte Vecchio. Stop on the bridge and simply take in the Arno, looking in both directions. Know that you are standing on the oldest bridge in the city. Stop and buy a watercolor of the bridge and the Arno."

Eleanor walked along the river, her heart speeding up at the thought of meeting up with Sebastian at the end. She couldn't quell the excitement of exploring more of the city with him, of learning more about him. She thought of the last week, staying up until the sun rose to talk, getting to know one another, learning what they liked, what they didn't, and simply falling for one another. He had promised her a ride into the countryside that weekend and her hands itched at the thought of wrapping her arms around him on the back of his bike.

She turned onto the Ponte Vecchio and looked at her watch. She had plenty of time to slowly walk the bridge and take it all in. It was lined on both sides by shops, most of the jewelers selling beautiful gold and silver pieces that many still made by hand. She paused at a break in the shops and looked out over the Arno. To her right, three more bridges crossed the river, to the left, two. But from what she could tell, none of them were like the Ponte Vecchio.

Eleanor approached the man selling watercolor paintings and she watched him, amazed at the exactness of his work, the steadiness of his hand. She moved away to look over his art for sale, finding one that showed the Ponte Vecchio and the river. It was done in shades of reds and yellows as if the sun were rising or setting. She fell in love with it immediately and purchased it. She tucked it into her purse with the rest of her goodies.

"Follow the bridge and take a left. Walk about a quarter-mile. The cafe will be on your right. You will see me sitting there watching for you."

Eleanor's heart sped up and her pace quickened as she made her way off of the bridge. She took a left, walking along the Arno until she saw the cafe. Sebastian was sitting there reading the newspaper, his sunglasses propped on the top of his head, holding back his long brown hair from his face, his bike parked along the road. She raised her camera and took a picture of him sitting there, the last picture on the roll. She was glad she had another roll in her purse.

"Sebastian!" she called, waving as she hurried across the road.

Sebastian looked up and smiled as she neared. He stood up. "You found me, bambina," he said, grinning from ear to ear.

Eleanor found herself in his arms, his lips to hers. "Yes. Yes, I did. And I loved every minute of your scavenger hunt!"


Copyright 2021, Beth A. Freely


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