Picnicking. Is there any better way to meet people when backpacking through Europe? My friend Lindsay and I loved buying random items at the market; cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits, wine, and then heading over to one of the piazzas or parks to mingle and people watch.
Tonight was the perfect night in Florence, Italy. Not too hot, not too cold. A sleeveless dress was the perfect outfit. We made our way out of the hostel and into the streets, kind of just following the flow of the crowd, not having an exact plan but ready to experience a night out in Florence.
Carrying our bottles of 3 Euro wine, we noticed three guys our age sitting in a grassy public space sharing a pizza.
“I’ll trade you some wine for a slice,” I offered with a smile, making myself comfortable on the grass. It’s funny how I would never be this self-assured at home, but traveling seemed to bring out a confidence in me. I knew we were all backpackers in the same situation, just looking to meet people and make the most of our experiences abroad.
We formed a circle and began doling out perfectly cut slices of fresh baked bread and gooey mozzarella as the bottles of wine were passed around the circle. Other groups of people, both foreigners and locals, were also scattered about the lawn. Florence felt alive and exciting, historical architecture setting the background for a modern adventure.
It was then that I noticed two angry looking Italian guys stand up and begin shouting at each other. At first, it was simple arguing, and then it escalated into shoving and soon, it was a full on brawl, with the men rolling around on the grass wrestling. Something about the situation seemed off to me, however, and my instincts kicked in full force. Maybe it was the fact that they were wrestling and not really hitting each other, or that I could make out a smirk under their frowns, or that they kept getting closer to all of the tourists, but my body was on high alert.
“Hold your bag tight,” I warned the group. “I think they’re play fighting to distract everyone.”
We decided to leave the scene before anything got out of control, trading the open skies for discounted shots at a nearby bar. Later that night, I ran into a girl who had been sitting behind us in the courtyard where the fight had broken out.
“Did those guys who were fighting ever make up?” I asked her, curious.
She nodded, rolling her eyes at the same time. “Yea. In fact, they stole my credit card and my friend’s wallet.”
I couldn’t help but give myself a silent pat on the back for trusting my instincts. Rule #1 when traveling (and in life): always trust your instincts.