Irma had been two or three days in Florence before she had time to write the long letter to Tessie that for some time she had been planning.
“Dear Tessie,” she began.
“Though I have sent you messages and post cards, this is my first letter. I know you do not care to hear much about pictures and churches, of which I have seen almost too many, so I will tell you about other things.
I can’t say much about foreign children, only that they all seem shy, except the little girls who beg, and the little boys who wish to be our guides, and I am sorry to say that sometimes, just to get rid of them, we give them the penny that we know is not good for them. They want all the money they can get from forestieri, for we are forestieri here.
“The Italian children seem to have long school hours, and that is one reason we do not see many of them about. When we do see a group together it troubles Aunt Caroline that they are not playing, but simply standing about solemnly. Sometimes, when we pass a station in the middle of the day, we see a little boy with a loaf of bread under his arm, cutting off a slice with a jack-knife. That probably is all he has for breakfast, and perhaps his dinner will be nothing but a dish of macaroni.
“Well, all we have ourselves for breakfast is chocolate and some rolls and butter. Older people take coffee. If we ask for a boiled egg we can have it, but we are trying to live as the Italians do.
After breakfast we go sightseeing, and we are always half starved by one o’clock, when we have déjeuner. Everything then is served in courses, and if you are late you simply have to go without the things that were served before you sat down. In the middle of the day we rest, for it is as hot as our hottest summer from twelve to three.
After that we drive, or visit some church or museum, ending with afternoon tea. If you happen to have friends at some hotel, it is fun to drop in there.
But over all the pastry shops, that are almost like restaurants, you see the sign ‘afternoon tea.’ It is the one English expression most Italians seem to know.
“Dinner is served in courses like déjeuner. But whatever else they give us, we are sure of one thing, a course of chicken and salad. By the time the chicken comes to me, it is generally all wings, which I never eat. None of us ever eat salad, because we are suspicious of the water it is washed in.
“You have not had many railroad journeys, and so the little cars and engines might not seem as funny to you as they do to us. Each car is divided into little compartments, with room for five persons on each side, and there you have to sit and stare at the persons opposite. But we have generally been fortunate enough to have a carriage to ourselves.
“When we arrive at a station, we always find a row of men in blue cotton blouses and conductors’ caps lined up waiting to carry our bags. They are the facchini, or porters, and each one tries to carry several bags, for it is the law that he shall be paid ten centimes, or two cents, for each piece of luggage he carries.
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