Paolo Does Europe - Sept. 10

I am in Florence, and tonight I nearly died. The coroner's report would have read: "Cause of death: Overeating."

I hadn't eaten well since Cinque Terra, and I mean really well, so I decided tonight would be the night. As is the case with nearly every first night in a big city, I don't know anyone, but going out alone is the best time to dictate how much to spend on a meal.

I ventured out early for appertivi, which rocks here. A drink (I had Campari) and all you can eat muchies for just $6E? That's a deal.

For dinner I went to "Yellow Bar," a place recommended by "Lonely Planet" aka the travel Bible. I ordered a spicy marinara pasta. That him the spot. I was only disappointed because I felt I could have easily made the same dish. The accompanying Chianti wasn't great, but it was the only red wine served by the glass. I could have of course ordered and drank a bottle, but I didn't want to look like a total drunk -- not on a first night in a new city. Maybe night two. First impressions are important, after all.

After cleaning the plate with a couple slices of bread, it was onto dessert. The gelato I had an hour earlier just wasn't fulfilling my sweet tooth quota.

I ordered creme-filled crepes with dark chocolate topping. This dessert could kill. It was served hot and the chocolate nearly burned my mouth. But it was heavenly, and I'm not even a dark chocolate person. It was the kind of dessert that made you say "Whoa" at first taste and "Whoo" at last bite. Think "When Harry Met Sally," if Meg Ryan were being sincere. I topped off the meal with cafe and topped off a liter of water.

I got up and I did NOT feel good. I now understand why gluttony is a sin. I could barely walk, and I had a long walk back to the hotel. The last time I felt this way was when I visited Gramps and Grams in Palm Desert a few years back. We went out to dinner and I ordered jambalaya. The portion was huge, enough to feed Mardi Gras paraders for a day, but I was determined to complete the feast -- if only for the challenge. I succeeded, kind of. After dinner I sprawled over the back seat of the carand whimpered like a puppy getting its tail stepped on -- and that was us just leaving the parking lot.

So here I was again, stumbling back to the hotel, drunk on carbs, weaving through the streets of Florence. The only thing that kept me from passing out in a food coma was the sheer pain of my stomach.

I looked down at the street as I walked. Food lined the windowpanes of nearly every shop and the sight of more food added to my pain and nausea. Burping provided some, temporary relief. With each release of air I could literally see my swollen stomach recede by the quarter-inch.

I eventually made it back to my hotel. Of course, I am at the top floor. Somehow, between my belly and strained hamstring I recently developed, I made it to the top floor. I passed the common room where I see an Aussie girl eye me. Maybe it's my good looks, maybe it's my pregnant stomach. No time to to make a play for it. I need to get off my feet and sleep.

I am now in bed ending my chronicle for you, my dear friends, as my stomach slowly kills me.