By Ben |

On Tuesday, June 9, we needed to get wi-fi to plan our day, but doing so at the Ostello was a big production involving photocopying our passports. Checking out also involved an inspection of the room, which we had to clean ourselves. Then we went down the road and got breakfast before hitting the highway back to Florence. We arrived in town by 11:30 and found a parking garage for 21€ for 9 hours.

We had been talking about Caffe Duomo ever since leaving Florence before, so we walked there and had lunch. The tiramisù was every bit as good as we remembered. Then we bought some souvenirs and walked up the steep hill to Piazza le Michelangelo for a terrific view of the city and countryside. We hadn't even noticed the mountains before! The Piazza also features a copy of the David and the statues of Day, Night, Dawn & Dusk we had seen the originals of earlier.

Once back in town, we walked to Palazzo Vecchio and found it much more crowded than a few days before. We had the most expensive gelato of our trip, at 11€. At Piazza della Republica, I rested while Jessie found her colleague Paulo's apartment. We were early to visit her, so we went for a walk to kill time. We found a store that sold nothing but Bialetti's iconic moka pots in every size from teeny to gigantic. We stopped at a caffe for a snack including blood orange juice, one of our favorite Italian quirks.

When the time arrived, we took an elevator to Paulo Luzetta's spacious penthouse apartment to meet her and her husband. She is an Italian art therapist, instructor, and author. We discussed their upcoming trip to the US while waiting for one of her students to arrive. Once she did, Jessie gave a short seminar on US art therapy education and the use of art therapy with people with autism. Then we had a dinner of pasta, swordfish, salad, bread and dessert -- plus wine, though I didn't partake because I had a lot of driving ahead of me! We made plans for Paulo and her husband to visit Emporia in July [though that didn't wind up happening].

It was after 9 by the time we got onto the autostrada headed for the Rome airport. We had difficulty navigating out of Florence, and our outdated GPS was no help, so we ignored it. Google had estimated 3 hours, but it was more like 4.5 while speeding (keeping up with traffic). It was a nerve-wracking, white-knuckle drive, and we got to our hotel at 2am. It was a very nice suite, but we only had it for two hours! Jessie spent part of the time repacking the bags while I crashed.

On Wednesday the 10th, we woke at 4, had an unexpected breakfast at the hotel, and ignored the GPS following signs to the airport, where we returned the rental car and caught our flight. We were entertained by an American lady whose voice carried on our flight. Some things she said:

  • (to the steward) "Is there a Starbucks in Frankfurt?"
  • (45 minutes into the Lufthansa flight) "This isn't Lufthansa, is it?"
  • (to her young daughter) "The cheese is good, but I think it's fattening."
  • (regarding how long oxygen must be cut off before brain damage occurs) "I think it's 12 minutes."

We changed planes in Frankfurt, taking a bus across the tarmac to our connecting flight. In Dulles, we rode from the plane to customs on one of the "motor lounge" cars Dad helped design back in the '70s! We had to surrender the cured sausages we had bought due to concern of hoof & mouth disease, but they said we could taste them before we threw them away, so we did.

While eating lunch in the Dulles airport, we sat next to a group of middle aged ladies headed for a guided tour of Italy. We gave them lots of tips that didn't really apply since they would have no freedom to explore, but when we remarked on how people came up to us saying "Obama, Obama!" one remarked, "They better not say that to me!"

On the flight home, we made two lists, in no particular order:

what we missed about the US what we'll miss about Italy
toilet seats low-flow toilets
toilet paper bidets
drivers who follow the law trains
green space in cities window boxes and rooftop gardens
easy navigation in cities excellent signage between cities
spacious showers cappuccino everywhere
lack of counterfeit goods real sugar in soft drinks
waiters who bring the check without being asked slow food
not having to pay for public toilets easy Euro currency
highways with grassy medians and left shoulders excellent signage between cities
fluffy pillows credit card tollbooths
bathtubs in hotel rooms tiramisù
polarized, 110V outlets gelato