It’s 90 degrees, 463 steps, and hundreds of people – what could go wrong? On our last day in Italy, we planned to climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence. We left Anghiari Monday morning after having breakfast with Livio and Michelangelo. The Sport Bar is refinishing their outdoor patio deck and they have been working on it the entire time we’ve been there. It doesn’t look like a successful project – more like a DIY effort gone bad. Every day they’re sealing, sanding, mopping – doing something on it. Usually it’s with a couple of guys working on it and several others hanging over the railing watching and offering advice. Looks like a road crew in the US. So we had to have our breakfast inside the bar. We heard about Giovanni’s bout with asthma and how he was laid up in bed with a fever. We hated not seeing him before we left, but we told Livio and Michelangelo to relay our heartfelt thanks to him for his hospitality and graciousness.
Next we had to get to Arezzo to catch the train to Florence. Busatti’s longtime employee, Bibi, who does a little bit of everything for them, followed us to the car place and then drove us to Arezzo. It’s so very nice of them to do this for us – we were planning on taking the bus, but they insisted on taking us. I will say it was much easier being delivered to the front door of the train station than having to schlep our luggage to the bus stop and wrangle it around on and off the bus.
Once in Florence, we went to the line outside for cabs. It was ridiculously long and, of course, Steve didn’t want to wait in it. He left Hunter and me to wait in line while he went to find an alternative. The line moved really fast so it was not a problem. But while Steve was gone, the Americans behind us got into a discussion about Trump. Pretty loud so we could hear. I whispered to Hunter that it was a good thing Steve was not around to hear that or we would have been very embarrassed. They were extolling Trump and I can only imagine what Steve would have said about that.
Pensione Bencista – what can I say about this magical place? It’s high atop a hill above Florence with a killer view. It’s a 13th century castle that has been turned into an inn and we have been coming here for over 20 years. It’s owned by the most wonderful people, Beatrice and her family. Last time we were there in September we found out Beatrice had cancer and was undergoing treatments in Rome. This time we were so happy to see her (still undergoing treatments, but at least she was there) and hope so much that she makes a recovery. Dear, sweet people.
We dumped our bags and took the bus down to Florence for our Duomo climbing expedition. We had bought the tickets the week before when we were there so we were all set. I had the tickets and we walked up to the entrance to the Duomo climbing and waited in line with 200 hundred of our closest friends in the broiling heat. And waited. And waited. They only let so many people in at a time and we were stuck there. When we finally got up to the entrance they wouldn’t let us in. Apparently, I had the tickets, but not the receipt that showed what time we were supposed to be let in. We tried and tried to get the guy to let us in – telling him how we reserved the tickets and that we didn’t know we needed to bring the receipt. No go. He told us we would have to go to the ticket office. We trekked over there and were told, “Too bad”, there’s nothing they could do. Not to be turned away, Steve and I went to another ticket office at the museum behind the Duomo and there were met with a very sympathetic person who scanned our tickets and saw that we were indeed had reservations. He reprinted the receipt and that got us in. It was a little bit of an ordeal – OK, a big ordeal. It was hot and it was crowded. But we got in.
Then we had to climb the 463 steps to the top. 463 steps is a lot, but when you consider that these steps were constructed in the 15th century, it complicates things. Uneven, some going
around, some going straight up – it’s a stair maze and we were in it. It’s not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. It’s serious stair climbing, with an incredible insight into how the famous dome was constructed. It’s actually a dome within a dome and you can see that as you go up and then back down.
After that we went back to Bencista and sat out on the terrace for a snack and drinks. There were a couple of women sitting at nearby tables who had struck up a conversation. One asked the other where she was from and she said Atlanta. Then I got involved in the conversation and it turns out we live about a mile or so from each other. Small world.
For our last meal in Italy, we went to a little place near the hotel. Bencista usually serves dinner out on the terrace and in their dining room, but they’re not serving it this year because of Beatrice’s condition. So they offered a shuttle to nearby restaurants. We’d never been to the one they took us to and it turned out to be very good, but the service was really bad. Unusually bad for Italy. But it was our last meal in Italy and we savored it and had a nice time talking our trip and what we liked and what made us laugh.
We had to get up very early to get to the airport. It was unfortunate because we missed the great breakfast with the killer view of Florence. Oh, well. The Florence airport is very small and easy to get around. We got there in plenty of time and our flight was on time. We flew over Florence and out of Italy and into France. It’s Paris that’s the problem. Our flight from Paris to Atlanta was delayed three hours. We were all so sick of that airport. At least we were in a different terminal this time. But the delay was troublesome because of our dear, sweet dog, Millie. My wonderful friend Vee was to pick her up from where she was boarding and take her to our house so she’d be there when we got back. With this delay, I didn’t want her to be left in the house that long alone. So Vee (who should receive some kind of sainthood) picked her up and let her spend the night with her. That problem solved, I then concentrated on getting us home. Once we boarded the plane, the flight was fine. We got home about 10:30 and fell into bed soon after. Only to be wide awake at 3:30! Jet lag. Took a few days to get back to normal, but it was worth it.
This was a very special trip for us. Showing Hunter, our first grandson, the country that we love was so emotional for us. We wanted him to love it as much as we do, but knew he would see different things and love different parts. And he did, but the thing that made us look at each other and know this was going to be a great trip was on our first day in Anghiari. He said that he can see why we love it so much there. That was it for us. He got it. He understood the quirky thing that is Italy but loved it all the same. He saw the beautiful landscapes, the winding alleys, the ancient buildings, and the wonderful characters that we introduced him to and he loved it. I hope that this experience is one that he will remember forever. I know we will. Travel is life to us. We were so thrilled to share our love of travel with our firstborn grandchild. May he cherish this trip forever and may it inform his worldview for the better. And may we all meet again someday in the land that we all love.