One Night in Florence and the Shoe that Made it Magic

Florence at night Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

My husband, Rex,  is a large man.  He is 6’6″ and has wide shoulders.  He also has big feet.  He is ok that I tell you that.  His theory is “you can’t build skyscrapers on small foundations.”

I never would have guessed as I was packing that it would be those big feet and one of his shoes that would make our trip to Italy so much better, because, when we were packing, they became a considerable problem.

You see, we were determined to pack light.  We had talked with each other.  We had read lots on packing for travel.  We would be walking down cobblestone roads, trying to carry or wheel our suitcases behind us . We would need to watch out for our luggage on trains and everywhere we went.  We did not want to bring more than one carry-on size suitcase, an empty duffel bag to bring things back home and a backpack. Total.

Suitcase with 2 pairs of shoes

As I packed though, I found that there was no way I was going to put the limited stuff we were taking and the extra pair of his giant boats in  one suitcase, even if I stuffed my shoes inside his as I often do.  I broke the news to him that we would have to take 2 suitcases, but he was a little more determined than me to take only one suitcase and decided he would only take the shoes he was wearing .

One morning we walked the beautiful, knobby, cobblestone roads to a small restaurant in Florence.  Just before we got there, the sole of Rex’s shoe caught on the road somehow and started to separate from the rest of his shoe! We knew we could make it to the restaurant, but there was no way we would make it for the rest of our trip.  We were in Italy though, with nice leather goods right?  We decided we would eat lunch and then get him some fine, new Italian shoes.

Florence Cobblestone 2012

The restaurant was cozy, filled with locals and the food was delicious.  It was just what we had dreamed about as we planned all the months before.  It was run by a father and daughter.  Our Italian was not so good and their English limited, but we managed to communicate.

While waiting for our food, Rex showed the owner his shoe and asked for recommendations of where to buy new shoes. The owner got very excited and spurted out a bunch of Italian words we had no chance of understanding to his daughter who ran up the stairs to an apartment above.

A few minutes later she brought down what we now refer to as “gloop”.  It was a big tube of white stuff that kind of looked like calk.  The owner had Rex squeeze some of it between the sole of his shoe and the shoe and then for the duration of our lunch Rex kept his foot squarely on the floor, hoping that it would dry enough to hold while we walked to the recommended shoe store.

The shoe store wasn’t very far, but unfortunately they didn’t have shoes that would fit Rex.  We had worried about this.  It isn’t always easy to find him shoes here in the states and there in Italy we noticed that on average the men were shorter.  We asked for another recommendation from the shoe store and set off for Geox shoes with a simple, hand drawn map.  Sadly, we needed a little more info than the map gave us.

Just a few steps out of the store and the goop started squishing it’s way out of the shoe.  It wasn’t content to just drip down on the road though –  it came alive and lunged its way up Rex’s pants.  Soon the the sole was barely hanging on to the rest of the shoe, making it difficult for him to walk.

Rex investigated the bottom of the shoe and he thought that it would be ok to take the sole off and just walk with the shoe for the short way.  There was a metal bar that ran under it (no wonder they set off metal detectors at the airport!) as well as some other shoe parts that would protect his foot – hopefully till we got to the store, so he ripped that bothersome sole right off.

And then the magic started to happen, for as Rex hobbled (with, now, one leg an inch shorter than the other) that hard metal bar made contact with the cobblestone street and it wasn’t quiet.

Step. Clank. Step. Clank.

I could not keep myself from laughing as I watched and listened to him make his way down the street by my side.

Step. Clank. Step Clank.

People stopped and looked around them, trying to figure out what it was.  It was easy to tell the sound was coming from him, but how?  From the top he had on two identical shoes so just what was causing it? The looks on their baffled and curious faces made us laugh even more.

Meanwhile, we were having a hard time following the map.  Twice we knew we were lost and asked for directions and then were sent in an almost opposite direction. Step. Clank. Step. Clank. And off we were headed that way instead.

A third time we had to stop for directions and wondered how we could miss it this time. Were we ever going to find this place?  We had listened closely and thought we were doing everything right, but found ourselves stopping one more time.    We stepped into the open door of a little cafe to ask a worker just inside if he could help.

“Dov’e Geox, per favore?” I asked in badly accented Italian.

The man rolled his eyes and made one of the deepest sighs I have ever heard.  Stomp. Stomp. Stomp out the door where he flung his arm to the right and revealed to us just around a slight corner the Geox shoe store.

Step. Clank. Step. Clank. Rex proceeded without the man ever noticing what had caught so many before us on our long and winding walk.

Geox had shoes for Rex.  One pair.  They fit, but ended up being more of a running pair than the handsome pair we had imagined.  We were disappointed, but at least he had shoes!  Seven years later he is still wearing them, literally, as he walks out the door right now.

Geox shoes bought in Florence

That adventure took hours away from our exploring time, but it didn’t matter.  No, it wasn’t really the shoe that made the difference.  It was the laughter about the shoe. Laughter can make goop covered, sole-less, clanking shoes magic. We will always remember that afternoon and night which gave us a story to share  and even started a second enchanted night that I may tell you about someday.

,How did laughter turn what could have been a bad experience into something wonderful for you?