I again woke earlier than everyone else, so I got myself together and headed out. I again attended mass at the duomo. This time, one of the priests came up to me ahead of time to say hello. I guess I butchered say “Buon Giorno” and he asked me where I was from. He had been to New York several years ago, and also told me that the priest serving mass had been to Minnesota. From there, I headed to the Uffizi museum – it is on my bucket list of places to see. I stood in line for about 20 minutes until it opened. However, as soon as the doors opened, they put out a sign that said “approximated wait 45/60 min”! I hung around another 20 minutes and then realized that I really wouldn’t have time to see anything inside (I only had an hour) so I headed back to the B&B to pack up. I guess I will have to return to Florence one day to see the Uffizi museum and to climb the duomo steps. From the B&B, we grabbed a couple of taxis and headed to the airport rental car terminal to pick up the car. The gentleman at the desk kept telling up that it was a “really big car”…. and I suppose it was, to European standard. Although very comfortable for the four of us and our luggage, it definitely wasn’t an Excursion or Suburban! To be honest, I don’t know it a large SUV type of vehicle would make it through the streets. We made a couple of wrong turns trying to get out of the city, but with the help of the GPS, we were soon on our way. (Thank you to the kind person who honked at us to keep us from turning the wrong way on a one way street!) This, I think, would be a really good time to tell you about driving in Italy. In the city, it may seem chaotic. The larger streets seem to be marked out with 3 lanes, but there are often 4 or 5 lanes of travel. No one seems to mind crossing lines to get around things. The alleys are narrow and thus one way. The drivers will barrel down these alleys as fast as they can go. Even though they seem to not pay any attention to pedestrians, they are very adept at weaving around them and seem to stop for people in crosswalks…. if you are hearty enough to step out in front of them! Traffic lights are few and far between in the city, with roundabouts being the most common form of intersection. When you are driving, they can become quite confusing trying to figure out where you want to get out of the roundabout, and how to change lanes – but if you begin to merge, the other drivers let you. The traffic always seems to flow well. Out on the main highways, the speed limit is 130 kph (80 mph). If you are going slower than the traffic around you, and are in the left lane, they will just stay behind you (perhaps blowing their horn) until you move and they can go by – I never saw someone pass on the right. Along the highway, there are SOS boxes to call the police almost every half mile (or more often). You did not have to get off the highway and into the towns to find gas stations or places to eat – there were rest areas with all the amenities every 10 km or so. Another interesting thing about the highway is that it is a toll road. As you get onto the highway, you pick up your ticket. At the exits, you stop and pay your toll by the distance you have traveled. Once we got off the highway to head to our friends home, the roads became very narrow and curvy, and steep. John did some amazing driving! Before long, a couple missed turns, and a phone call, we arrived at Mike and Stefania’s Casa Petra. Casa Petra is up high on a hillside and the views are absolutely captivating! We had to just stand on the back porch and take it all in for several minutes. You can see this marvelous view from 2 sides of the house! We had a quick tour of the home before retiring back to the porch to sit in the sun, marvel at the view, chat with a good friend, and watch the sunset. This home used to be an old farm house that Mike and Stefania have renovated. The bedroom that Sondra and Randy are using, along with the living room area and kitchen used to be the stables. The sun room area with its beautiful arched doorway was the chicken coop. The upstairs area was where the family living quarters were. Along one side of the house are some olive trees. They are all black olives, but some of the trees had olives that were not as matured so they were still green instead of having turned black. The olives will be ready for harvesting in November, and Stefania was telling us that she will take her olives, with a neighbors, to a local press to have oil made from her harvest. The weather today was absolutely beautiful, with the sun being almost a little bit too warm as it shone down. As it was setting, the air temperature dropped several degrees quite quickly, so we moved inside. Stefania had made dinner for us – an amazing zucchini and leek soup (with fresh olive oil) and a meatloaf with potatoes and mushrooms. We had chocolate brownie cake for dessert with grapes from her neighbors garden. All the food we have had in Italy so far has been very fresh, made from whole ingredients – nothing processed or canned. The flavors have been amazing! It is inspiring me to think more and cook better when I get back home. Well, it must be all the good food and fresh air, because I am once again turning in early – it’s only 830pm and I am ready for bed!
- Day Four: Florence
- Day 6: Orvieto