Saturday, March 30, 1996 Florence, Italy
I was the last one to get up this morning. About 8:30 am we went to breakfast. Barbara made sandwiches from the breakfast meats & cheese and we put them inside of Jim’s camera bag to get them back to our room. That turned out to be our lunch on the road on the way to Florence. Barbara and I stood on the corner while Jim went to get the car from the garage. It took him forever because the garage was so secure that he had trouble getting in to get the car out! We were about ready to go check on him when he finally arrived. We put the luggage in the car and took off to find the Ferrari Museum in Maranello which is southwest of Modena.
I have permanently taken the front seat with Jim for the duration of Italy. Barbara has requested the back seat as she doesn’t trust Italian drivers! We spent most of our time on local roads as somehow we missed the turn to the Autostrassa. But we went through some wonderful small towns off the tourist path because of it. Finally found the Autostrassa and took that to the Modena area where we turned off to find Jim’s Museum.
We drove and drove through the industrial area looking for the Ferrari Museum when we arrived in the area according to our map. Stopped for directions at a Ford dealership. Then later we pulled up to a pharmacy and Jim wouldn’t go into it because there were only about six women….he spotted a man in a car and asked him. We drove quite a ways and decided we were wrong so we headed back in the same direction. Pulled into a gas station to get more directions and who was there but the man from in front of the pharmacy. He gave us very Italian directions a second time (lots of hand waving with a loud voice). This time we continued further and we did find the Museum.
Barbara and I took a WC break and visited the store while Jim did the tour of the Museum. It closed just as he finished at 1 pm. Back on the road, it was a long way back to the Autostrassa, which by the way is a toll road. We ate our sandwiches and then Barbara fell asleep. We drove through the mountains for several hours. It rained the last hour. Lots of work as it was a long, twisting road but fortunately two lanes in each direction. We were at the top of the mountain and you could look across the valley to the other side and see towns dotting the hillside for most of the trip. Fewer vineyards, more open green pastures. Saw some horses. Lots of wilderness areas. Finally came down the mountain through many tunnels into Florence.
Got off the Autostrassa for WC, to change money and get directions. Stopped at the Rest Stop. Prepared our suitcases for getting out in Florence, we didn’t want to open the trunk in town. Found a change machine and finally got some more lire; it would change American money, so we got some more lire…good thing because getting off the Autostrassa took the last of what we had. Got back into the car and finally found the information house. Jim and Barbara went in and came out with a city map. The lady had told them how to get into the city and then she said to ask a policeman where to park. This didn’t make any sense until we’d gone around the block several times and the policemen (there were several of them) would not let us get down the street that the hotel was on….finally we saw a car go through so Jim told Barbara to ask the policeman “where to park for the Continental Hotel”. He immediately opened up the gate and let us drive down the forbidden street to the hotel.
We unloaded everything at the hotel and then drove the car to an underground parking lot several blocks away. The Continental Hotel is located right on the corner of the most famous bridge in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio. It is the oldest because it was the only one not destroyed during WW II. The German in charge of destroying the bridges saved this one and only made it impassable by destroying the buildings at either end to block the road to the bridge. One of those was the hotel that we stayed in. They have all been rebuilt in the last fifty years.
The Ponte Vecchio has the most famous jewelry stores in Italy. Jim and I have a view down the bridge and the river from our room. We went walking and Barbara found a beautiful gold bracelet for her memento of the trip. I purchased leather gloves for my sister Betty in Indiana. Jim found a Wall Street Journal to read on the way to dinner. Walked all around and then back to the hotels to get coats before returning to the lovely restaurant that we found just on the other side of the bridge called La Sagrestin Ristorante . It had a fixed menu for 20,000 lire in English. It was very nice to know what we were ordering. It was also a quality restaurant with linen tablecloths and napkins along with flowers and a candle on the table. We had wine with (roast beef/roast chicken/omelet). There were four courses in all ending with dessert of ice cream. Only one problem when they had us move from our first table to a smaller one. They wanted to keep the larger one open for a party of five. There was a unisex bathroom.
After dinner we walked around until it started to rain…back to the hotel to get umbrellas. By the time we got back on the street, the rain had stopped so we walked until 10 pm all over the old part of the city. Barbara located several of the hotels that she has stayed at on prior trips. We saw the Savoy and the expensive shops in that area. Walked along the river on both sides of the Ponte Vecchio so that we saw it from all angles. Need to do it again tomorrow to take photos. After making plans for tomorrow we bid each other goodnight. Our rooms are right next to each other at the end of the hall so we can leave our doors open when we want to converse. Jim read up on the museums that he wants to see tomorrow. We’re going to church (Palm Sunday) at the cathedral. Finally Jim turned on CNN while I finished entering the information into the journal. About midnight Barbara remembered that we lose an hour tonight as the time springs forward. One week earlier than the USA. Will probably do evening mass due to time change. Jim put his water bottle on the ledge outside the window to cool….he actually put mine outside by mistake...glad it didn't fall during the night...I enjoyed the cold water the next morning!