I’m back – Joyce is staying for one more week. She is meeting 4 women from her Italian language class – for a one week intensive language study class in Rome.
We had a great time. Our daughter Susan is spending a semester abroad studying in Firenze. We planned our vacation to be able to do things with her. Since Joyce and I have visited Firenze before, I figured it would be fun to stay outside of town. We had a villa in the country and a rented car from the airport in Roma.
Let me start by saying driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart. I drove in three distinctly different types of environments. One was the Autostrada. You’ve got all these little cars flying along a two lane highway. Drivers have NO patience for anyone blocking them in the fast lane. If you pass someone – you better be sure that there is no one near you in back for a long way – pass – then get back over to the right lane quickly. The two directions of traffic are separated by a guard rail and there is no berm to speak of on the right. Environment number two was driving in the city in Firenze. In the big city streets are often 3 or 4 lanes each direction. In some bends in the road all the lines disappear suddenly. All drivers change lanes at will – seemingly without looking. Drivers being cut off seem to cede to the cutters and amazingly no cars appear to have dented fenders. THEN, if this weren’t enough – there are the scooters. The lanes are not used by the scooters. You can be driving along in a center lane with cars very close on your right and left – and then have scooters shooting past you on your left and right. The third driving environment was touring through the countryside (really hillsides) in Toscana and Chianti. Our car, like almost all cars there, was a stick shift (5 speeds). These lanes are windy, up and down and change from rural to small towns where the buildings may be so close to the road that you can stick your hand out the window and touch them. Some places when you come upon these ‘towns’ the road is so narrow that two cars cannot pass.
We rented the Villa Cafaggiolo – a wonderful place 7 miles (30 minutes) outside of Firenze. It is situated on a hillside with beautiful views of the valley and surrounding hills. On the warmer days we could eat outside in our garden. We ate some of our meals here and Susan slept over a couple nights when she didn’t have an early class the next day. We visited Orvieto on our way from Roma, did a day trip to Pisa one day, drove through the hills of Chiante to Grieve, did some walking sight-seeing in Firenze and finished the week by spending a night in Roma so I could take the train to the Airport for my return trip.
On driving home from the Cincinnati airport, I went to downshift the Jeep to slow but being that the Jeep is automatic – stepping on the ‘clutch’ with my left foot really stopped the car abruptly since it was really the brake. Reentry to technology.
Speaking of technology – technology was really useful to Joyce and me on this trip. We were both using BB worldphones so we had our US telephone numbers following us and were able to use the free, international BB messaging service. We were able to easily keep up with email on these mobile devices. A HUGE benefit was my GPS that we brought. Being able to navigate in these high tension driving environments was really made easier by our navigation system. When we finally found the supermarket in the town near our villa, I marked its GPS location so I was able to actually get back to it later. Also, on the mobile phones – Google Maps and their search function are very useful too.
It was fun seeing Susan. She is doing great in Firenze and was a great tour guide.
Here are some pictures from the trip – http://bit.ly/exJ8I