We left Klagenfurt in the rain and drove through the Italian Alps and into Italian traffic. Epic Italian traffic. The highway we were on to Florence
was closed and traffic was diverted to another highway. We sat in a convoy of trucks for about an hour and then all of the sudden, the highway opened up and we were back on our way. It is pretty amazing in the Italian Alps, because you are in them, and then all of a sudden they end and its flat and you are near Venice. I put the fear of God into the students about pickpockets and the aggressiveness of Italians. Leaving Austria, where everything is German and orderly and into the chaos of Italy could put anyone into shock. We got into Florence around 4pm, but the bus has to make a stop at the office to get the permit to drive the bus into the city. It was crazy. I had to prove that the group were students, which I did with a letter from the Director of Study Abroad Programs to the Vatican, I believe -- it worked. Then I had to have proof of our hotel, fortunately I had the invoice. However, that was not acceptable. The office asked if I could call the hotel and have them fax the confirmation. Of course, I would need to use the phone -- Oh I am sorry, we can't let you use the phone, but you will need to have that faxed to us immediately. So I used my Austrian cell phone to make a local phone call, and the hotel faxed our confirmation, we paid our 300 euros and we were on the way, right into 5pm traffic. Florence traffic is a beast. A giant bus going through traffic circles with vespas and Smart cars, was a sight to see. We got to our hotel, and I have to say, this is my favorite so far. I have a balcony with a view of the Arno, a really comfortable bed and a great bathroom, I am glad we are here for 4 days. I went with the professors and Leslie to a little bar across the river, I got to have Jack Daniels and sardines and olives -- it is my new favorite place in Florence, I plan on going back every day.
We had our welcome dinner here, ravioli with spinach and then turkey and potatoes and ice cream for dessert. We are all very happy to be in Italy for the food. After dinner, Leslie, the professors and I went into town to find the museums we are visiting and to get cash to pay for the tickets. Leslie got a check from the Office of International Education last week to cover all the cash for the tickets, unfortunately, it hasn't cleared, and the fact it was memorial day and we needed cash was a problem. I cleared out my savings account for the good of the students, and today Leslie told me the check cleared, I am happy about that, as I have no money left. I heard a man singing Hotel California near the Uffizi. Its not a trip to Europe without hearing someone with a continental accent singing the Eagles to a group of folks, I think it means that all is right in the world, if you come to Europe and don't hear that, you are doing something wrong. I got to talk to Ann last night, she is in Zurich, and I cannot wait to see her next month in Oxford.
I slept in a bit this morning, as Leslie was taking care of stuff this morning. I got my first solid 8 hours of the trip, when I woke up, I sort of freaked out as I checked our Uffizi reservation and realized it is for tomorrow and not today. I found Professor Terrell, interrupted her class and she let me know what the new plan was. It was my job to meet the students at the Duomo at 10:45 to take them to the Medici Chapel to see Michaelangelos Medici tombs. Of course, it was pouring this morning and very cold (for Florence in late May). After the Medici Chapel, I went off to go leather shopping and then to see the David. I ate lunch at a little wine bar and then stood in line with some students for 3 hours to see the David. Its a long time, but interestingly, it is actually worth it and the David is one of the few pieces of art that actually meets and probably exceeds expectations. After that, the rain had cleared and the sun was out, so I did more shopping and then headed back to the hotel to do some laundry. I found the laundromat, and 17 euros later -- thats about 20 bucks, I had 2 loads done, and the rain had started back again. I ran home, but the rain was beautiful, there was a double rainbow, but it brought a really cold wind, its in the 40s tonight and will be chilly through the week -- this is a very different trip than last time. More from Florence soon.