We packed up camp today, relieved that today would bring only 25 miles into the artistic capital Florence (Firenze). As we were loading all of our possessions onto our overloaded bicycles, our camp-neighbor Edouard came over to talk to us. Eduoard, his wife, and his 2 children were spending some time in Italy when their van broke down at our campground, and thus they were stranded for one day before returning to their home in France. We are fairly used to attention as we break camp, but today was different. Edouard and his wife have graciously offered to let us stay with them if we make our way into their part of France. Maybe this will sway our decision of where to go next?
As should have been expected, the descent into Florence wasn’t really a descent at all. Rather, it was a sharp descent followed by more hills. Everywhere you go in Italy requires at least one hill. We made very slow time as we puttered along the tree and vineyard lined streets of Tuscany.
After a final ascent up another very steep version of a rolling hill, we saw it! Florence, with its hallmark duomo which can be seen from miles away, was right at the bottom of the hill.
We set up camp and made our way into the city via bus. Within a few minutes of arriving in the city center, our first real rainstorm hit. The rain began to come down in sheets as we huddled under an outcropping of a local shop with several other people, waiting out the storm. When the rain lulled for a minute, we made a break for McDonald’s, which was just around the corner.
McDonald’s has now become a serious resource as an internet source. Getting it set up in Italy, however, is somewhat painful. They require you first to register, and they will then send a text message with a password so that you can log in to their network. Having no phone, this was a trouble. Bree took this problem into her own hands, and starting by asking a group of woman at a nearby table if they spoke English. The answer was no, so she proceeded to the next table, which sat an Italian teenage couple that would intermittently make out in their corner booth. Of course they spoke English and had a phone, so the internet problem was solved. I seriously admire Bree for this – having the ability to talk to anybody and everybody if there is a cause. It is a trait that I would really like to have, but most importantly, we can get internet now! We were glad to connect for a few minutes while we ate an embarrassing number of french fries and milkshakes. Seems we’ve been a little bit deprived of salt since we’ve been here. It was so good!
With the internet at our disposal, the next step was to find a camp stove that is idiot proof. Our MSR whisperlite has proved less than awesome, with the requirement to prime and the covering of black soot after every use. After searching every possible combination of translated Italian words for camp stove, sporting goods, and camping gear, we finally found a shop that was along our bus route home. The problem was that it closed in less than an hour.
We made a mad dash out of McDonald’s in pursuit of a stove, jumping onto a crowded bus full of people returning home after the day’s work was done. Keeping our eyes peeled, we looked for any sign of the store. Bree saw tents out in a small lot, similar to that which the shop had on its website. The lights clicked, and she immediately pushed the stop request button. Walking briskly back along the busy street, we made it in time to the camping store, which had the stove we were looking for just before they closed. Success!
Between french fries, making it to Florence, and obtaining a usable stove, today was a success. Now, as we eat pesto noodles tossed with cherry tomatoes and olive topped focaccia, a whole world of food options are finally opening up to us.