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Trip Report Getting to Know the Carabinieri: An Overdue Italy Trip Report

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Getting to Know the Carabinieri: An Overdue Italy Trip Report

2-17 March 2008


I’ve had mixed feelings about writing a trip report because of some of the events of this trip. The title hints at my reservations, but also I knew that this trip was full of day-to-day humdrum life, as opposed to informative travel information. Recently I read a trip report from two Fodorites detailing their trip alomost year ago, and so I reconsidered. Then I reread the trip report I posted about a previous visit with R in 2004 and noted that some people seemed to enjoy the details of daily life. Here’s a link to that report:

If You Don't Like Reading About Food, Don't Read This Italy Trip Report

This report won’t be a report full of magnificent meals (we ate at home a lot) or descriptions of the well-known sights, since I’ve visited Florence a number of times and concentrated on lesser-known places this time. But it may have some descriptions of places and experiences you might like to try . . . or you might hope to avoid.


Prompted by Italian friend R, I planned a March 2008 trip to visit her in Florence, Italy. Though I’d been to Italy a few times since 2004, I hadn’t been able to visit with her. She was excited for me to come and see her new apartment. She’d moved back to Florence from Cesena since I’d last seen her. We would spend the entire time together, first in Florence and then traveling to some other part of Italy. We’d think about some possibilities and decide on our destination once I arrived and we saw how the weather and R’s responsibilities might affect our plans.

About six weeks before my intended departure, I went online at the Delta website to see if I could book a seat on the direct JFK-to-Pisa flight which goes four or five days a week. I was pleased to see that there were seats available for about $700. Then I thought, “I have enough FF mileage to get a free ticket,” and in the next thought, “I have enough FF mileage to get a free FIRST CLASS ticket.” I switched to the “Use Miles” function and discovered that I could use 90,000 miles to get free roundtrip first class/business elite tickets on any day that the flight was scheduled in March. Click click click and I had my first class tickets for taxes and fees of $39.54. It wasn’t until the next day that it occurred to me to check how much this ticket would be if I bought it. I returned to the website and would have been able to purchase the same roundtrip ticket for more than $7,000, an excellent use of 90,000 miles in my opinion.

So now, in my own mind, this trip became a game to see how cheaply it could be accomplished. I didn’t plan to skimp on anything or change my spending plans, but I would keep an accurate list of expenditures (something I don’t usually do) just for the fun of seeing the total at the end. I planned to add to my fun by taking public transportation from my home in NYC to the airport and was delighted to think that I would make it to Italy and back for less than $60.

Sunday, 2 March 2008
8:25PM flight from JFK to Pisa, an uneventful trip. Even with the wonderful reclining seats and noise-reduction headphones, I never really get all the way to sleep for any length of time, but do feel rested when we land.

DAY 1: Monday, 3 March 2008 -- Florence

Make New Friends But Keep the Old

We arrive at Pisa at about 10:30AM, about 35 minutes early. First class means first off the airplane and Pisa is a small airport. Five minutes after landing, I am through immigration and waiting at baggage claim. Ten minutes more and I’m waiting in the terminal for R. She insisted on meeting me in Pisa, even though I assured her I could find my way to Florence and her place. While I wait, the local soccer team arrives and gathered fans wave banners and cheer them for a victory the night before. When R arrives she is surprised to see me waiting. After a quick coffee we take the next Regionale train to Florence (dep 11:43 arr about 13:00).

R insists on a taxi to her apartment, even though I always pack light and am willing to take the bus. Her new apartment is on Via Sirtori in a residential neighborhood outside the center near Campo di Marte, a large sports complex. Her apartment building is on a corner with shops on the ground floor and six full-floor apartments above. I am surprised when she says that each apartment has only one resident. I am even more surprised when I see her apartment. Each room has a door that closes: large living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen, bathroom, and three bedrooms (one for R, one for guests, one as a “work” room). I live in NYC where space is a premium so this feels incredibly spacious. It is the typical apartment I've seen in Italy, with a hallway from which you access each room.

On other visits to R’s other apartments, I’d slept on the sofa, but now I have my own room furnished with her parent’s antiques. (I must admit I’m already eyeing the swaybacked antique bed and wondering if I’ll sleep at all on this visit.) From the living room at the corner of the building, there is a wrap-around terrace over the street. There’s also a terrace off R’s bedroom that overlooks the courtyard. The windows of the living room and dining room have views of the nearby hills in the direction of Fiesole. On this sunny afternoon the view is lovely and golden.

R is a good, unpretentious home cook and we have a delicious lunch of tortelloni in fresh tomato sauce, sautéed beef with mushrooms, salad, and raisin cake. After our long late lunch we catch the #17 bus that stops a block from the apartment. It takes about 15 minutes to reach the center of Florence. We spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the pleasant sunny day, walking the streets of the centro storico, stopping at favorite sights. We cross the Ponte Vecchio and visit the Pontormo frescoes, personal favorites, in Santa Felicita and recross the Arno and visit the small church of Santi Apostoli, a new one for me. It is a pleasure to walk these familiar streets, chatting continuously, sharing updates about where life has taken us in recent months. There are plenty of tourists, but Florence does not seem crowded, even near the Uffizi and Duomo.

Our bus ride back seems even quicker than into the center, so I know this ride will not seem troublesome after a few days. We have a light supper of finocchiona (Tuscan salami), cheese, and fruit while we discuss the possibilities for the rest of my visit. We pour over maps and guides, dreaming the dreams so many Fodorites dream, of trips to here and there, new place or familiar friend—where to go next?

TOMORROW: A Free Toilet (and Museum) in Florence

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