Monday, March 29, 2010

Dove La Estazione? Part Tre

If you are new to the story check out Parts One and Two.

Where did we leave off? Oh yeah, the vomiting.  Apparently the delightful focaccia from the night before was laced with poison because I was sick the entire time we were in Monterrosso.  There are a few pictures of me by the ocean when I could actually bring myself to stand up, other than that I spent my time horizontal on the bed or praying to the porcelain gods.  (I highly recommend traveling with a portable DVD player and the entire series of Sex and The City DVDs, really helps the time fly.)  
We decided to stay an extra day in Monterrosso to help me recuperate and cut our time in Florence.  When it was time to leave we got all packed up in the car and headed inland toward the place the Italians call Firenze (not a single sign with Florence on it. Confusing, no?).  It was at this point that I was grateful to have our own car.  We could pull to the side of the road if I needed to throw up and the rest of the time I could push my seat back and sleep.
The ride to Florence is understandably fuzzy to me.  It was mostly on the AutoStrade (what the AutoRoute is called in Italy) and seemed to go smoothly enough.  We found our way to Florence relatively easily, but then all hell broke loose.  Florence takes Fascism to a whole new level.  There are entire areas of the city, like the center of the city where our hotel was, that you cannot drive into without permission.  A camera takes a picture of your license plate as you pass and sends it to some main police database.  You have to have special permission to enter these zones.  What a pain.  
This is where we incurred the fine mentioned in the first part of this story.  Our hotel called in our license plate number to the main police database, but it didn't get recorded.  And 22 months later, like an elephant gestating, we get our ticket.  
But let's get back to the story.  I was on navigation at this point and I have to mention that I am a turner.  A map turner.  When the car turns, my map turns.  I need the road on the map to be facing the same way as the road in front of me.  That map got a workout.  The directions were roughly "turn left at Piazza Giovanni, and then right on Giovanni St. Then swing around Giovanni roundabout...".  Everything was Giovanni.  That is not very helpful when you are flying through intersections trying to spot tiny street signs on the sides of buildings.  One thing we encountered in Florence that we had not encountered before on our trip was the insane Italian roundabout.  We think of a roundabout as a one lane slow circle.  The Italians have said "Fuck That" and make them four or five lanes wide.  There were moments when we were on the very innermost lane of the roundabout just circling around.  I have very fond memories of one specific roundabout.  We got to know each other very well.  After finally finding our way back onto a street near our hotel, we were immediately confronted with a dead end.  We could clearly see the street continue on the other side of the cement barriers, but couldn't get there.  We circled this neighborhood for a Very. Long. Time.  We were convinced that there was a way around this insanity.  On our twelfth or thirteenth time around the block what do we happen upon? A horse.  A HORSE. Because the vespas and roundabouts were not enough, let's throw in a horse!  Two or three hours later we finally made it to our hotel.  They immediately offered mom a glass of red wine while I found my way to the nearest squishy horizontal surface.  We told the man at the desk how long it had taken for us to find our way to him and he said, "oh yes, sometimes I go on vacation, and when I get back I cannot find my way to my house because of detours". Reassuring.  Your name wouldn't happen to be Giovanni would it? Because I have created a lovely bonfire out of my Rick Steves books and would love to roast your ass over it.
We were relieved to be at the hotel, but couldn't get comfortable yet because we still had to return the rental car.  Getting up the energy to head out into that insanity again was not easy, but we did it.  We hopped back into the car (well, I sort of shuffled) and were off.  After several wrong turns down one way streets and one unfortunate accident with a little old lady (she had a full life, it's okay) we were back into the craziness that we had left behind only moments earlier.  We circled and circled and and cursed and cursed but couldn't find the car rental office.  We found another car rental office and figured that they would know where ours was, even if they were the competition.  I should mention at this point that the floorboards of that small car were littered with highlighted maps of Provence, Avignon, Nice, "Nice", Genoa, Monterrosso and Florence.  It was not a pretty sight.  The girl behind the desk at "Not Our Car Rental Place" saw how flustered we were and I will never forget what she did.  She pulled out a map and highlighter and said "It is okay, a map of Florence, a highlighter, tranquility".  Listen sister, I have been throwing up for days and just ran over a Vespa driver, I don't want to hear about your tranquility.
Amazingly enough, we found our way to the correct office and handed that car over like it was a General Motors stock.  As we were walking out of the offices getting ready to hail a cab (hallelujah!) we ran into a couple from Texas who were renting a 12 passenger van.  All I could do was turn to them and say "Don't do it.  You don't understand."

And here are a few photos of our adventures

The elusive Rue Jean Vilar

The AutoStrade


Map Turning

1 comments to blog for:

Florida Remodel Gal said...

Sorry to see this little journey end! Thanks for the laughs. VERY well written. I can just picture you two and laugh!