Trip Report by: Mel & Karen Ray
FIRST SURPRISE ... we checked just before retiring last evening about availability of a 9 AM taxi from the Plaza to the Florence airport (pick up rental car). We learned no taxis will be allowed in the tourist area past 7:30 AM due to the World Championship bicycle races mentioned earlier. So, as tired as we were, we had to pack and prepare for a 6 AM awakening for a 7:25 AM taxi reservation.
SECOND SUPRISE ... WE OVERSLEPT ... that's right, we both set alarms, but set them for 6 PM !!! ... we woke up at 6:45 AM ... PANIC !!!!!!! ... we got ready as fast as possible (not very pretty) ... Mel made 4 trips down the 2 flights of long stairs to get all 4 of the 50 lbs. bags to the street (alley) level ... backpacks on and dragging 2 bags each, we moved through the narrow, long alley as fast as possible ... arriving at the small cul-de-sac, we saw our taxi beginning to pull away ... Karen ran as fast as possible to catch him and pounded on the back window ... he stopped ... turned out to be a big, strong, very nice guy ... good English ... he threw our bags in the taxi and mentioned the police are strict in enforcing the restrictions ... the streets will be blocked from 7:30 AM to 6 PM ... so, he rushed us to the car rental building near the airport ... arrived at 7:45 AM ... we sat outside until 8 AM awaiting the rental car offices to open ... by this time, Mel had forgotten most of his anxiety about driving in Italy.
EuroCar gave us a new Fiat 500-L (similar to a Mini-Cooper station wagon) diesel (stick shift of course) ... nice vehicle with all the creature-comforts.
So ... the 'Team' came to attention (Karen, Mel, Garmin NUVI GPS) and the ADVENTURE of driving "Italian style" began ... we were a bit relieved once we got to the AutoStrada ("Interstate") for the ~50 mile drive to Modena ... Mel only received the "Italian Salute" twice as recognition for his driving skills !!! (special note to Brad ... you can't hang in the left lane in Italy lest you get run over by fanatics driving mostly Mercedes & Audis !!!)
Once in the rural area near Modena, the search for our B&B began ... here is where Mel missed his long time pal (Mel "Pete" Peterson) that has served many years as his "NUVI" for National and International trips ... however with strict adherence to the GPS directions and Karen's coaching, Mel got us to this beautiful B&B, away from most everything except the aroma of nearby farms. (Oh, and this B&B had no elevator so it was back to carrying those damn heavy bags up two flights of stairs ... again!)
Unpacked and eager to get into Modena, we found the center square however little was happening that day ... no tourists ... very few folks that speak English ... no Americans to be found ... more pasta & wine for lunch at a sidewalk cafe ... finally gave up and returned to the B&B to enjoy a nice afternoon in the backyard, snoozing on chaise lounges.
Raffaele ... The B&B is owner is a handsome Italian (~45) ... an entrepreneur ... shared with us his expansion plan (including CAD architectural drawings) to include a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, live entertainment & dancing ... the B&B is like new ... 'squeakyclean' ... bottom line = he's going to make it a "Destination" for folks from the Modena area plus other tourists.
In the meantime, Raffaele made reservations for us at a bar/restaurant a few miles toward Modena ... we enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco and another delicious Italian meal (meat pasta, grilled chicken breasts, mushrooms, balsamic soaked onions).
Indeed a very different day ... it had it's challenges ... adventure ... fun ... good wine & food ... a peaceful end.