Florence, Italy

My friend, Alessandro, met me at the station and saw that I got on the correct train to Florence. In a blink of an eye, or in Italian terms, one caprese sandwich and a small bottle of vino rosso, I was there. I went to the bus ticket window to get a city bus ticket. The man at the window shooed me away. I was confused. I went to the next window. A young women laden with a huge pack beside her was having an in depth conversation that I could see was not going to end soon. I stood a few minutes, watching other people get their tickets at the shoo man’s window. Determined to get one, I read the phrase book, marched up to him, and said louder than necessary, but that’s what you do when people dont’t understand, or try to ignore you.  “Un biglietti para la citta, por favor.”  He handed it to me, and replied in English. The bastard. “90 minutes.” Fine. With any luck I will be able to find the hostel in an hour and a half.

And then, because I didn’t read the directions correctly, I spent a frustrating 15 minutes asking where To catch the bus. (I especially love people who send you to the wron\g place rather than say they don’t know.)  One man rudely said, ” What makes you think I would know where the busses are?” Finally, I found the bus, and arrived at the hostel. It was a recently converted convent: cavernous, acoustically suited to mournful chants and prayers, but light and clean. Downstairs was a nice outside patio, and in the morning they put out a tasty breakfast. I witnessed my first automatic pancake machine. Imagine that: uniform pancakes, no burned edges, or mismatched sizes, no cause for arguing who got the best.

Florence, of course is gorgeous. It was worth it just to see the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Bottachelli. The David gave me goose bumps just looking at it. Do you know Michelangelo carved his eyes into hearts? Through the guides knowledge, I viewed the magnificient statue differently, more personally: his ready stance, his poised muscles, his erect, confident posture, his astounding, perfect  beauty.

And then on the way back to the hostel I got busted by a civic snark (much like a parking  ticket person) for not stamping my bus ticket. 50 Euros!! That’s quite a shake down, but according to all of my Italian sources, the place is corrupt, run by the mafia down to the smallest details. I would have stamped it, but I didn’t know that’s the way the system worked, because in Rome I never stamped anything, and Alessandro, remember, is the guy who said it doesn’t matter what side of the road you drive on.

The following weekend I took the train to Pisa to meet up with my friend, Rene, who I met in the Amazon two years ago. I reserved a Smart Car with full insurances just in case. Happy trails.