We’re still in Italy
WELL into the third week of our journey, the Princess and I settled into a travel routine. The Princess’ aching hip and food ‘sensitivities’ notwithstanding, we set a steady pace with the rest of the pious pilgrimage group forging on ahead.
In addition to Chatty, Sleepy, Tardy, Stinky, Smokey, and the ‘kids’, we have identified several other characters such as the Tippler, Miss Bossy, the Secretary, the Principal, the Quiet Achiever, Shop-
til-you-drop and the Doctor. The Princess calls me her ‘Handmaiden’ as I continue to hand wash her smalls.
FIGJAM, the tour director, has continued to regale us with epic stories of his lovelife, frequently reminding us of several potential paramours vying for his favours ‘back home’.
He even provided compelling evidence of their relative beauty and financial advantages by producing photos from Facebook. FIGJAM and his bulk (caused by his predilection for that extra cream bun or bowl of pasta) was undeniably useful as security guard particularly when the more diminutive members of the tour group were nervously withdrawing money from ATMs.
However, on one occasion as he bent down to lift a particularly heavy suitcase for one of the frailer member of the group, this put an almost impossible strain on his, albeit ample, clothing. Luckily modesty recovered on this occasion.
FIGJAM often provided assistance with suitcases, as the bus frequently dropped us off a few hundred metres from our hotel in the very busy ancient city centres, to avoid paying a possible penalty of several hundred euros. In most cases we had the task of wheeling our heavy suitcases across cobblestones and busy intersections for significant distances. His help was on a triage system particularly for the over 80s in our group.
This resulted in murmurings of dissention from the group, the Princess leading the fray. ‘The Principal’ also wondered how often we would have to act like refugees, acknowledging that at least we looked like ‘well-heeled’ refugees. The atmosphere became a bit strained and ‘the Secretary’ suggested that the Princess might like to keep her thoughts to herself.
Our journey continued with a side trip to the picturesque San Gimignano, a medieval walled town in Tuscany, famous for its many fine towers and La Porchetta, and also providing many shopping opportunities.
The tone of the group visibly thawed during a wine-tasting excursion to Tenuta Torciano nearby. Our hostess Ida helped us navigate our way through the tasting of exquisite wines, 30-year-old balsamic vinegar, white truffle-infused olive oil and selection of olives, salamis, cheeses, breads and salads, after a greeting at the bus by a handsome young Italian gentlemen eager to assist the lightening of our wallets.
Many of the group bought wines, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a promise of prompt delivery and we received a gift pack of wines due to the size of the order. The goods arrived as promised – together with a hefty tax bill that would be forwarded on arrival of the goods in Australia.
The following day was a free day and we had planned to visit Michelangelo’s David, however it was Monday, the day that many attractions are closed (including Galleria Dell’Academia which now houses the David). Our walk around Firenze was rewarded with the beautiful artworks, history and chapels of the Basilica Di Santa Croce.
We wended our way back past the Ponte Vecchio where we noticed the lovers’ padlocks on one of the monuments. The padlocks are etched with the lovers’ initials, attached to public attractions, locked, and the key thrown away demonstrating undying love. Unfortunately one of our group had his wallet stolen during the day due to one brief moment of distraction. This event had a very sobering effect on the group, even on ‘the Tippler’.
With Mavis Davis