Thirty minutes outside of Florence there is a mythical place called Space or also known as the Prada outlet. Safely tucked away in the city of Montevarchi, people from all over search for it in hopes of purchasing Prada, Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, and Miu Miu at a fraction of the cost.
One can only dream of such a place and on one of my first trips back to Italy I thought my dreams would come true with a visit to such a place, or would they? Not having a comfort level behind the wheel quite yet my only means of transportation were train or taxi. Enter Caleri, Albino Caleri that is, my personal taxi driver for the week.
We first meet when he picks me up at the airport. There he stands, a small elderly man with a contagious smile and sparkling blue eyes, speaking little to no English ready to embark on our journey together. He drops me off at the hotel we make a date for our shopping trip together the next day. First stop Montepulciano, my favorite shoe and handbag store, next Pienza, the most beautiful antique jewelry, and for the finale: SPACE, aka the Prada outlet.
The morning couldn’t come soon enough. Now what I haven’t mentioned is that this particular trip took place in November, definitely not tourist season. We arrive at our first stop Montepulciano, shoe and handbag heaven. I slowly approach Paresti with much anticipation and I see gates covering the doors. There is the sign in big bold letters, “Only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.” “Oh………Nooooo!!!” Standing there in shoe shock I must decide if I should cry or be a brave soldier and head on to the next stop. So it is off to Pienza only to experience another disappointment … ”CLOSED”, as my nose is pressed up against the glass admiring the beautiful pieces of jewelry from afar.
Well, we always have the Prada and Gucci outlets to look forward to. Albino and I stop to have lunch before heading to the last stop of the day. Over lunch, we speak at great lengths about the outlets. Our conversations consist of the same sentence formed in several different ways, “Albino what other stores are at the outlets? Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, to the right Prada to the left Gucci, to the right Dolce & Gabbana”, so on and so on. As we pull up to the pearly outlet gates something doesn’t seem right. We are passing such stores as Nike, Levis, and Puma. In all my years as a fashionista, I have never seen a Prada and a Nike live harmoniously in the same mall.”
“Albino, are we in the right place?” “Si, Si, to the left Prada to the right Dolce & Gabbana.” He goes from store to store asking for the exact location of these stores and all I see is a lot of head shaking and finger-pointing going on. Albino walks towards me with his head down looking as if someone punched him in the stomach mumbling something that seems to be, “No Prada, No Gucci.” We finally established eye contact and I was right, the words were, “No Prada, No Gucci.” Now my eyes start to well up with tears, “what about Dolce & Gabbana?”, “No Dolce & Gabbana, he replies.”
Sometimes in life, you are in the right place at the wrong time, however, this day proved to be filled with wrong times and wrong places. Out of an unsuccessful shopping mission, a relationship with the best-known taxi driver in Cortona was formed. If you are ever in the hillside town and need a taxi ask anyone around to call Albino for you. He is only known by his first name, like Cher or Madonna and everyone has his number.