Crossroads Tour: Arrival in Florence – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marks the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To celebrate, I’m reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.  My Crossroads Tour series details my travels to Florence and Istanbul in May 2011.

Another rainy day in Seattle. Last minute chores. Last attentions paid to the household animals before securing the door behind me. A side trip to the post office to pay my rent. The 10:15 AM bus which I almost miss, to connect to the 10:45 Link Light Rail downtown. The train whizzes past the Franz “Slice of White Bread” sign in the SODO that cracks me up every time I go to the airport. My Crossroads Tour is officially underway.

I’m glad I followed the extreme-sounding recommendation of allowing three hours for an international flight at SeaTac Airport. I think I spent half that time walking from the Light Rail station to the Lufthansa terminal, which are at exact opposite ends of SeaTac Airport. The flight is fully booked and they are weighing bags for Economy passengers. Mine is too heavy for a carry on, so it gets checked. I am several gates away before I realize that the locks for my suitcase are still in my pocket…I am SO glad I repacked again last night, moving my train tickets and cash into my purse. I mentally inventory the contents of that checked bag and decide that a lost bag won’t be a calamity. I still have my netbook and can Google for replacements for everything else. Ever the pessimist, my mantra for today is: “what’s travel without a little stress…”

The in-flight movies are a better diversion than my book, so I watch “TRON” which is nice eye candy but not Jeff Bridges’ finest 1.5 hours. “The Tourist” was really great and I was pleasantly surprised to see two of my favorite actors – Rufus Sewell and Paul Bettany – in supporting roles. Bettany’s “Liechtenstein” line was a hilarious segue that you would only appreciate if you were familiar with his role as Chaucer in “Knight’s Tale.”

I catch about three hours of sleep on the Seattle to Frankfurt flight. I wake up at 3:30 AM to see a blue and purple pre-dawn sky above the rugged, icy expanse of the Arctic. 

We land in Frankfurt at about 9 AM on the same day I left Seattle (the magic of time zones). Oh Frankfurt, how I am learning to hate you. A full body frisk includes a visual down the front of my pants because a safety pin holding a button on, set off the alarm. Bin Ladin may be dead but his legacy lives on.

I cannot get through this airport without leaving something behind. Last time it was jewelry. This time it’s a water bottle, and I almost walked off without my camera and my hat. My future packing list now includes ‘a thing to intentionally leave in Frankfurt to appease the Teutonic Travel God.’

My flight to Florence is delayed, but neither the delay nor the change of gate is announced. I check the reader board and make a mad dash to the opposite end of the concourse to the new gate, happy that I had been forced to check my bag. It’s a short flight but there is significant turbulence. Nauseous and disoriented when we land, I can’t find my way out of the airport, which compels a plain clothes police officer to stop me and ask my nationality and purpose, but lets me pass without requesting my passport.

I find the bus that will take me to my B&B. “San Frediano?” I ask, and the driver nods, before taking off full speed on twisty roads that don’t seem to have any lanes, and which add to my queasiness. A fellow passenger points out my stop after the driver fails to respond to my slightly panicked query.

I debark and walk up and down the street several times, looking for a labeled doorbell. Finally I find one for S. Frediano, but its the wrong one. The S. Friediano I want is further down the street, obscured by scaffolding.

Travel tip: In Italy, the ground floor is Floor 0. When you are told that your room is on the 4th floor, add at least one flight to that number. In some buildings, a ‘flight’ has two landings, sometimes with a room on that landing. There isn’t always a lift (elevator), so you should only pack as much as you are willing to haul up several flights of stairs.

I’m surprised to find a lift here, just big enough for two people with a small suitcase each. Gigantic rolling American luggage will not do you any favors here. The lobby is exactly as shown on their website.

My room has no ambiance or view (the guest room below was not the one I stayed in) but is adequate and has a small safe and a private bath. Downstairs, at the back of the building, through two immense leaded glass doors, lies a garden with a grape arbor over a bench, where I am sitting as I write this. Calla lilies and iris are blooming already. The iron gate on the street side overlooks the Arno River.

I Love This City! It feels impossible get lost here. And unlike my last trip here where I stayed downtown, here I’m in the San Frediano neighborhood, surrounded by the churches of Santo Spirito, San Frediano and Santa Maria, and within a block of a pharmacy, two laundromats, a couple of convenience stores, and plenty of cheap eats. Tonight’s dinner at an osteria is lasagna, with a texture more like pudding than the heavy American version.

After dinner, I walk around until dusk, and then head back to my quiet room to review my itinerary for the next day, and let dreams come as I drift off to sleep.

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