Firenze for the First Time

Our arrival in Roma was quick and smooth, other than our initial encounter with a rude shuttle operator who fought with our first taxi driver, led us back to the airport’s shuttle counter and seemed to want to force us to take a shuttle.  We found another taxi.  Since my husband ended up getting sick and having to stop the car during the taxi, that was an excellent decision on our part, and we negotiated down to 50 euro for the ride.

One arrived we lugged our luggage up two flights of stairs to the hidden doorway of the B&B Best Pantheon where our children had spent the night.  It is quite a find (from — very well located, well-priced, and, according to our kids, with amazing croissants for breakfast, along with a plateful of fruits and other goodies.

With a 10 a.m. checkout time we had no time for R&R, so it was on to the taxi stand near Largo Argentina — the only ancient Roman site I had time to visit before heading to the Termini station for our trip to Firenze.

Purchasing our tickets to Florence using the machines was easier than I feared.  Finding our train’s track was slightly confusing because Florence was only a stop, and Milano showed up on the boards.  But through the kindness of strangers and a more thorough examination of our ticket to find the train number we found it and were soon on our way.  Our seating companion, an Italian businessman, helped me hook up to the wi-fi on the train (you need an Italian phone number to get the passcode, but the wi-fi is free), so I checked emails during the trip, and the ride was smooth and painless.

It was a 10-minute taxi from the Firenze train station to our B&B, Le Stanze di Santa Croce.  The B&B is on a tiny road well-located for sightseeing.  Our kids shared the beautiful bedroom pictured here.

Our bedroom had a small balcony, though we never used it.  And although it was in the middle of the City, just off the Piazza di Santa Croce in one of the most happening parts of the centro storico, it was quiet at night.

We walked to Ponte Vecchio, where jewelry stores line the bridge with an enclosed hallway on the very top designed so the d’medici family didn’t have to mingle with the general masses, or risk assassination.  It is so beautiful that it was the only one of the bridges not bombed by the Germans … rumor has it that someone high up in the German army loved to watercolor, and didn’t want such a perfect watercolor of a bridge destroyed.

On the way to Ponte Vecchio we admired a boat race on the Arno River,

then stopped at the Galileo Museum for a quick tour (which wasn’t very interesting, probably because I had no guidebook to lead me through or explain what I was seeing).

After a long walk on the bridge, and a long day given that we hadn’t slept since our night in Atlanta, many hours before, my feet in pain, we headed for dinner at Baldovino, just a few steps from our B&B.  It was excellent — great pizza, good house wine, and a nice atmosphere.

Then to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s adventures!


A Missed Flight = Atlanta, Not Rome

The backpack with my passport stood forlornly on the asphalt driveway of my North Poway home as we, oblivious to its cries, sped to the airport for our flight to Rome.  So while my kids went through security to wait at the gate, my husband rushed home to rescue the forgotten passport and I waited anxiously at the gate, fingers crossed.  Our late start left us enough time to make it through had we remembered everything, but cut it dangerously close given that we had not.

My backpack ... the one holding my passport, wallet, money... just a few things I might need in Italy

Along with my passport, computer, ipad and kindle, my wallet, money and iphone also were in the forgotten bag, and I had no watch, could find no clock, and had no means of communicating with either my kids at the gate, my husband rushing home, or the airlines or travel agents.  I’m not good at waiting, and I worry, a lot.  It was not a great 45 minutes but, showing more maturity than I knew was in me, I did quite well.  I stayed calm, and kept my eyes on the escalator that, hopefully soon, would bring my husband up from the car, backpack in hand.

At some point the check-in agent paged me to let me know my stepdaughter and son were boarding the plane.  A few minutes later, she paged to inform me that the flight was boarding.  I didn’t realize at the time that meant — “We have given away your seats, and you are now without hope.”  Nope, I still held out hope that we could make it.  A few minutes later my husband appeared, clutching the bag to his chest, running, anxiously, to me and the check-in counter.  And that’s when the agent said our  flight had left.  But we knew it hadn’t left, because our daughter, on the flight, was on the cell phone with my husband and telling us they hadn’t yet taken off.  That pissed off my husband because he felt they were lying to us — they were saying it had left when he knew it was still on the ground.  But eventually we learned it didn’t matter, since they had given away our seats.  But that wasn’t the worst news.  No, that came when they told us that the LAX-Rome flight they had mentioned earlier, that would put us in town only two hours later, was not available because we were flying on frequent flier miles, so we could only get on it by paying $7,000.

My husband had AMEX on the line, I was pleading with the agents, trying to tell him what I thought he should tell AMEX, shouting out every option that came to mind — other airlines, other flights to Atlanta to meet our connecting flight.  It was only 7:45 in the morning, surely there were other flights that day leaving for Rome?  Ultimately, it was all to no avail.  Had we taken the next flight to Atlanta — the one that gave us only 15 minutes to get across the Atlanta airport and to our flight — we might have made it given that it turned out they sat on that flight from Atlanta to Rome for 3 hours on the tarmac due to weather.  But it’s likely we would not have made it, anyway, as they boarded on time, and so our seats, again, would have been gone before we could have made it on.

It’s times like this that you wish you were Someone Important.  Someone they might hold a plane for, even though they insisted We Do Not Hold Planes For Anyone.  You know they do.  Just not for us.  And since it was our fault, we had only ourselves, ultimately, to blame.  Why did I not check that all the bags were in the car?  Why had we not left home  20 minutes earlier, so we’d have had time to go back home and get back and still make the flight?  Why, with all the flights on all the airlines crisscrossing the planet, was there not one that could get us from San Diego to Rome at any point that day?

Ultimately there was nothing to do except book the same flight, the next day, and more miles out of our account.  So my stepson drove us back home — after having woken up before dawn for the first airport trip, then rushed back home and back to the airport with the missing backpack, now driving us back to Poway again… and he didn’t even complain.

We’d been awake since at least 4 a.m. in our last-minute rush to make it for our 7:30 a.m. flight, and now, tired, depressed, and anxious about our kids unexpectedly ending up in Rome by themselves for a day.  Since we had assumed we’d be with them we hadn’t set up their ATMs for international withdrawals, given them spending money, or shared our maps or plans for Rome.  And the vouchers for our Underground Colosseum were in the binder with me, though given our new flight they would be the only ones who could take it.  And it was non-refundable, non-changeable.

Ultimately after we’d been home only an hour we realized we were better off flying to Atlanta later that day even though we couldn’t make it all the way to Rome– at least that way we wouldn’t have another early wake-up call.  So my poor stepson had to make yet another trip from Poway to the airport, to drop us off for what was now a 1:30 p.m. flight to Atlanta.  The good news was my daughter was at the airport by now, as my ex-husband had dropped her off there for her 2:00 flight to London with her school group.  I thought at least maybe I could see her while we both waited on our flights.  But she was at the end of a long security line and didn’t make it through in time before my Atlanta flight boarded.

We made the best of the situation, telling ourselves it would be a good bonding experience for the kids and a good break in the long flights for ourselves.  The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast, caught up on some work, and flew out, finally, on our long-delayed flight to Roma.  Italy, here we come!

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