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Florence: Places to stay

April 18, 2009

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Last week, we booked a small house overlooking San Gimignano, where we will spend a week with our friends on a well deserved 1st of May holidays, a very convenient leftover tradition from the good old Yugoslav days. Only this time things will be completely different than on my last visit to Tuscany.

During the long summer before I moved to Ljubljana to study journalism, I did a number of, well let’s simply call them dumb things for now. Like buying a car without knowing how to drive, possessing a driver’s licence or having money to go to driving school. Actually, I didn’t even have the money to pay for the car in the first place, nor at the beginning of the summer, any intentions of buying one. Than one of my pilot friends convinced me into buying a car he thought was extremely cool. He already had a more mainstream vehicle specimen so he did not buy it himself but he liked it so much that he wanted one of his friends to have it. Obviously he wanted that really badly since he not only offered to lend me the money but all the necessary support services, from driving to late-night raids on abandoned Citroens to supply the increasingly scarce spare parts and add-ons.

It really was the funniest car ever, the Citroen 2CV which in Slovenia went around by a non-flattering, but very convenient nickname “Freak” (Spaček). The uninitiated please click here for Wikipedia entry with photos since I currently have no pics of my own. Not only was it a car with its own character but was a vehicle that sooner or later started to vividly express the character of the owner. And it’s many fans.

That summer I would spend my careless hot days on the local airfield gliding and my equally careless, nicely cool nights drinking beer with my non-pilot friends. We had all just passed the entrance exams for university and were in that in-between time, awaiting the profound change in our lives that we could not imagine but had sensed it nevertheless. My best friend at the time was spending his careless summer working on a gas station, a summer job any of us would want but which you could not get unless you had someone pull some strings. At the time they mostly hired girls to clean the wind shields and stuff and they would make a fortune in tips in addition to their hourly wage. G was making way less on the tips but since the hour wage was good enough, he would very selflessly spend the tips to buy us drinks in a make shift bar of the local canoe club. In late July his girlfriend N. went to Florence for a three week course of Italian and before she left, we came up with this brilliant idea of making a surprise visit. It all started as a joke but soon turned into a few nights of careful planning. Sweet naivety, daring optimism and bubbling testosterone of 18 year old boys pretending to be men. A few beers. An map of Italy from early 1970’s. And of course, a freakish car. What can I say, we were sooo going to Florence.

The only thing that raised serious doubts, well at least to the rest of the gang, was the fact that we did not know where N. was staying in Florence. Hmm, just a minor setback.  A neglectable detail. For we had all the information we needed. What we had was a carelessly disclosed piece of information that the school was located in the historic centre on the left bank of river Arno, somewhere approximately between the Ponte Santa Trinita, Ponte Vechio and Ponte alle Grazie. Or “somewhere on this side of the river between these three bridges” as we called it.

“Well, I think it is between these three,” G said scrutinising the city map the size of two credit cards on the outdated road map of Italy that my father (who never had a car) probably bought a few years before I was born:“If not, then it’s these three”.
“It doesn’t really make that much difference” I mumbled, pondering on the intelligence accuracy that CIA would envy us a decade later.
So much for the careful planning. 

Intelligence envied by CIA and preciseness aspired by NASA.

Intelligence envied by CIA and preciseness aspired by NASA.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There was the issue of finding the right route – i.e. the local roads since we could not afford the pricey highways. And, of course, of preparing the car. G made a serious effort of making a poster that we would tape on the back of the car, clearly stating our intentions of going to Florence, complete with two smudgy grey hearts printed out on his state of the art needle printer. I made an equally serious effort to ensure that we would be able to listen to the music by “installing” a radio. This meant connecting the wires from the battery to one of those 80’s black radio cassette players which would dangle from the sun roof support beam above our heads. Ahhh, the sun roof.

G spent an afternoon mixing the songs and recording the tapes for the road while I was stacking the car with food and drinks. I still distinctively remember Mamas and Pappas singing against the setting sun splashed over the houses of a no-name town near Venice. We had planned to arrive to Florence by dawn.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2009 3:01 am

    The best things in life tend to be spontaneous. Unless of of course they land you in jail. I look forward to reading the rest of your story.

    It’s interesting for me to read stories about road trips from your part of the world. It’s such a different sense of scale. Here in Australia we think nothing of travelling hundreds of kilometers just to go to a party. People here would say, “oh there’s a party, it’s just down the road”. We probably feel this way because there is so little between destinations here, whereas Europe is so filled with interesting little towns that it would seem a shame to just blast through them.

  2. Gašper permalink
    April 20, 2009 7:56 am

    Very interesting and amusing read.
    But … who is Nadja?

  3. April 22, 2009 1:18 am

    Probably it’s not just about the interesting places in between but also the fact that you are crossing state/language/monetary borders every couple of hours. Admittedly, EU eliminated much of this but for generations that grew up in pre-Schengen times, the borders sort of linger in their (our) minds.

    When last year I drove to Munich for a party, people still found it a bit extravagant

    Scale has a lot to do with it. Both real and imagined…

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