Under the Tuscan Sun... cloud...sun...cloud
Today started off bad, got worse then got good again.
It's Monday and most of the major museums are closed on Mondays. So the sensible thing to do when all the museums are closed is to hire a scooter and hit the Tuscan countryside. We had arranged the scooter hire with a shop around the corner from the hotel and we had planned the route. If we got a really early start we could cover Siena, Pisa and Ponterdera* in one day - a nice round trip through some mountain villages.
*Ponterdera is the home of Piaggio - the makers of Vespa, and they boast a very good museum dedicated to all things Vespa. This museum has been on my "must do" list since I first planned this trip.
So the day started badly with us sleeping in (we've been going to bed every night totally exhausted so I'm not surprised I've been sleeping past my usual 6 am). When we went to pick up the bike the guy said he had rented all of his two seaters and was most unhelpful about telling us where we might be able to get another scooter. The BOSS returned to the hotel to get the computer and then we went up the street to the hostel where the wireless connection is. We spent the next hour online locating and phoning around scooter shops until we found a suitable scooter.
*When one is visiting the Piaggio museum, one really should visit it on a Piaggio. Luckily enough the scooter we hired was indeed a Piaggio although it was not actually a Vespa.
We didn't leave Florence until midday and as the bike was only a 125cc, we were not allowed on the motorway, so it took us a further hour to find our way out of the suburbs. We followed the river through little villages, which turned out to be a much more interesting ride anyway. We made it to Ponterdera about 2pm and only had to stop and ask three times to find the Piaggio museum. As stated earlier, many larger museums are closed on Mondays and the Piaggio museum was no exception (although it did not bother to advertise that fact on its website!!). Total utter bummer!!!
My "must do" list just got shot to hell - and we do not have a spare day to revisit it later. [This simply means that I will need to plan a return trip to Italy in the near future.]
We moved on to Pisa which was only 22km's away however by the time we circum navigated the city three times we had covered double the distance. When we finally found the entrance, I carefully parked the bike in a parking bay among ten other bikes. We enjoyed our lunch at 3pm - cheese, crackers, pesto, ham and tomatoes - on the grassy lawn in front of the leaning tower. Since the authorities have stabilised the tower, people are now allowed to climb to the top. The BOSS was keen to do this, however even though willing to pay the extortionate 15 euro climbing fee; the next group would not be leaving till 5:20.
When we returned to the carefully parked bike, we discovered that the carefully parked bike had been carefully parked in a loading zone and that all ten bikes had been issued 55 euro tickets. I have been driving and riding for 24 years, and in all that time I think I have less than half a dozen parking tickets to my name. Now I have two in one month.
As it was now late in the afternoon and there was no way we were going to get to Siena, we decided to head to Ceralto, which is about half way. When exploring mountain villages it is a damn good idea to have a damn good map of the Tuscan mountains. We did not have a damn good map - we had a pathetic one which barely marked the major towns. Consequently, we spent the next two hours completely lost in the Tuscan mountain villages, which was not an unpleasant thing to be doing. When we finally found our way back to a town that was marked on the map, we abandoned the idea of Ceralto and decided to head back to Florence by the quickest route possible. This happened to be the motorway from which we were banned. By now it was six in the evening and both our rear ends had gone completely numb as we had spent far more time riding than I had anticipated.
Our luck changed and our quick trip back to Florence along the motorway yielded no carabineri (police) pulling us over and fining us. We once again fought our way through the one way streets of the Florence suburbs and climbed up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the stunning view of Florence at dusk. We then tackled the even more challenging one ways streets of the city centre to find the Odeon cinema and spent a very pleasant evening watching the Da Vinci Code in the most elaborately decorated cinema still in existence. Hoyts could learn a thing or two about decorating theatres.