5.30.09 Fascinating Florence

Florence Travel Blog

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5.30.09    Fascinating Florence

 

I’m sitting in Sugar- bells of a nearby church are ringing as they have likely rung for hundreds of years.  I can see down the hillside to Florence, glittering with lights as the remanants from sunset linger above the hills.  It is a lovely evening in fascinating Florence.

 

We arrived this Saturday after about a 4-hour drive today from Venice.  The roads were highway, but went through many mountain tunnels, drivers are fast and drive half in my lane, cutting over when passing so they practically hit my bumper, and traffic through Bologna was bad.  It was stressful.

 

Then, about 7 miles north of our Florence exit for the campground, the highway was barely moving at a crawl.  We hit detour on the GPS and took our chances.  We traversed the west side of town to the city centre of Firenze (which is usually a “no, no , NO!”), but the drive was easy compared to the challenging highway traffic!

 

Camping Michelangelo is the classic Florence campground and essentially is a must.  It is within walking distance of central Florence!  This is a huge benefit.  Also, the hillside view of Florence is gorgeous. I’d read much about this campground before our trip, so it is exciting to be here in person!

 

We only have 2 amp (4 U.S. amp) electric.  Apparently, they are the only campground in Italy that still has only 2 amp power!  They have apparently upgraded some plugs to 10 amp (20 amp U.S,), but returning campers (who know this) reserve those sites.  We cannot even run the electric kettle nor power the microwave without flipping the breaker fuse! 

 

We know this detailed electrical info because Jazy was indignant about paying 49E a night here and not even being able to run the microwave.  So she marched up to the office and nicely told them our power wasn’t working.  They sent a campground man over, whereupon he compassionately explained the situation.  She at least felt better for having tried to fix the situation.

 

Did you know that in Italy they take your passports upon check-in so they can register you with the police?  You can pick up your passports awhile later and leave your Camping Card International until you pay upon checkout.  Sounded to me like Russia, where your hotel or travel agency has to “register” you.  We were also told that when we go to an internet café in Italy, we also have to turn over our passport!  I try to use our new Passport Cards that we got for land crossings, rather than our actual passports.

 

The campground is just beside the Piazza Michelangelo, which seems to me to be a misnomer.  I think of a Piazza as a town square, surrounded by buildings with a church on one side.  This however, is more like a big parking lot alongside a curvy road through a park-like setting.  In the parking lot are some tourist item stalls and a replica statue of Michelangelo’s David.  Buses and cars fill up the rest.  There is a railing along the lot’s edge, which acts as an overlook to view the city from above.  Then there are pedestrian steps that cut down the switchback street as the hillside lowers to the city center and river.  This is how we walk 10 minutes into the city.  Very easy!  Coming up is a little harder.

 

We got to visit both the Duomo and the Uffuzi today!  We’d heard so many stories about the minimum 3 hour queues for the Uffuzi and I’d tried to reserve online, but the whole next week was blocked out.  But at 4:30 pm, we were shocked to walk right in!  Yahoo!  There were maybe 10 people in front of us.  We did have to pay for everyone (40E total) although in some museums, they are kind in giving us the EU deal of kids under 18 free, this was not one of them.  Given the U.S. does not reciprocate, I cannot blame them, but 10E each is a hefty price for kids.  What can you do?  We just coughed it up.  It’s part of their schooling.

 

Still we enjoyed the Uffuzi with great works and recognized many of the great artists from our previous museums in Europe.  I cannot say that the kids are thrilled to spend so many hours tromping through cavernous halls of museums, but they are typically good sports and do try to appreciate their opportunity.  I mainly bribe Lia to survive the last hour with a promise of gelato.

 

We stopped at a little grocery store in town and got lunch and dinner provisions (29)  After campground (49), Uffuzi (40), Gas (48), highway tolls from Venice to Florence (18), gelato (6), pizza for lunch (11), etc, etc, we thought it prudent to make a delicious spaghetti and eat in.  City touring and Italy are very expensive! 

 

I was talking this morning with our nice Venice camping neighbors, John and Elizabeth, who have the Italian camping aires book.  We sorely are missing that one and I regret not buying it from Vicarious Books (UK) prior to leaving.  Everyone raves about the French excellent camping situation with plentiful aires and helpful municipalities.  France is the most reasonably priced, wonderful country in which to camp.  If we had to come back and choose just one country in which to enjoy beautiful countryside, uncrowded roads, reasonable prices, and delightful people, it would be France in first place.

 

But Italy is great fun too and we appreciate the energy of this place.  It is likely full- there is a holiday on Tuesday (not sure which one) and so it’s a long weekend for those who take Monday off work.  There is a restaurant, bar, store, etc on site (no internet or pool though).  It is not fair to have gone to Camping Roma first because the standard is now set incredibly high.  I’m not sure any campground can surpass Camping Roma’s wonderful staff, facilities, entertainment and feeling.  But seeing the Duomo lit up in the night sky on my way to a shower a few minutes ago was quite incredible.

 

Charles and Lia want to go south 15 miles to Chianti Hills campground, one affilitated with Michelangelo and Camping Roma.  However, it also has waterslides, a pool, horseback riding, etc.  While I didn’t want to shuttle into Florence, I might give them a night or two stationed there just for fun.

 

They have met a few friends here though and Lia found a little kitten to play with, so they may change their tune as they become attached here.  We’ll see what charms tomorrow holds.

 

I also met some nice campers from The Netherlands, both Librarians, who love to travel.  I love their tent that is raised off the ground on a metal bar base.  That section, has cots in it, and then there’s an attached awning room.  Within the awning room is a kitchen unit that makes up the end section of the package.  All of this structure apparently folds down into some sort of pop-up unit that takes just a minute to unfold.  They’ve been using this Danish tent for twenty years and it still looked new to me.  I’ve not seen anything like it! 

 

I’m continually amazed by the creativity of some camping ideas and surprised that they have not more readily spread to our side of the world.  Like the front windshield roller screen in Sugar, or the screens/blackout shades that slide across within the opening (like in Sugar), etc.  There are so many good ideas and I would love to design different RV/camping solutions.

 

 

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photo by: monky