When our train pulled out of Venice we asked ourselves what could possibly compare to this fabulous city? Two hours later we found out.
The skyline of Florence is dominated to three massive structures:
The Basilica Santa Croce:
And, the the Palazzo Vecchio, former palace of the Medici:
And, snaking its way through the city is the Arno river:
Spanning that river, near the heart of Florence is the famous Ponte Vecchio and its many shops:
Yet another feast for the eyes! Speaking of which, Florence, of course, is also home to some of the greatest art ever created. Later we’ll take a look at some of it.
In addition to all of the above, Florence is also the gateway to the region of Tuscany. So, picture this, as I did many times: You spend a wonderful day looking at art and other stuff. Then, you hop in your car, head off into the Tuscan hills, pull up in front of a beautiful vineyard where you sample fine wines with your sweetie while gazing at the villa-dotted horizon. Well, to make that dream come true one thing in that picture was clearly missing: the car to hop into.
So, for the week we would be in Tuscany we decided to rent a car. Most of the car rental places in Florence are near the train station, which would normally be a good thing. However, comment after comment after comment on Trip Advisor and other places suggested two problems: 1) That area is reputed to be the craziest of all crazy places in a city that you have to be crazy to drive in, and, 2) if you find yourself somehow missing turns (my specialty) and all of a sudden driving the streets of the historic center, your fine will be several times the purchase price of The David.
For those two reasons we decided to rent with Hertz, which has an office on the other side of the Arno, far from the madding crowd. Another important consideration was that our hotel was on the other side of the Arno as well. We called a cab at the train station and soon we were off to meet our rental! It took only a few blocks to realize we had made a good choice. This was a driving experience like no other. Clearly, in Florence (and elsewhere in Italy we later discovered), you want a cab driver who is 1) aggressive and 2) has no fear of death. In no time we pulled up at the Hertz office. With shaky hands I tipped heavily.
Hertz did indeed have our rental. Only one problem. We had requested (no, demanded) a GPS and they didn’t have a car that had one. Well, I was beyond disappointed, but before I could launch into my customary string of profane words, gestures, and deeds, the clerk said, “But wait! I have something better!” What that turned out to be was a portable WiFi that we could plug into the lighter and then we could navigate with our cell phones. Well, after much discussion, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, and considering our bleak options, we decided to go for it. So armed with Google Maps and hand-puppet directions from the Hertz staff we were off for the Hotel David.
Thankfully, this was indeed a quieter part of town, but there was still plenty of traffic. And, as we anticipated from previous experience, street names changed about every other block. That said, only once did we find ourselves driving out into the Tuscan countryside instead of where our hotel was supposed to be. About an hour into what should have been a twenty minute trip we found ourselves to really, truly and actually be on Viale Michelangiolo, the location of our hotel.
Well, said viale winds through a pretty large part of the west bank of the Arno. We made the trip from one end to the other umpteen times in heavy traffic and could not find our hotel. We finally called the place and the clerk was very helpful, spoke excellent English, but could not describe any landmarks in our recent experience. Finally he said he would go out the side of the street and wave! While that was a very heroic gesture, if we were on the wrong end of the viale we couldn’t have seen him if he had grown to the size of Godzilla. Then, all of a sudden, there it was! Of course, by the time we saw it I had already driven past, but in no time, we were safely parked in the Hotel David parking lot, where parking is free. I handed the keys to the valet and did not touch them again for three days. Here is what we had been looking for all along. How could we have missed that sign?: