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Report 524: Adventures in Incomparable Tuscany, August 2004

By suncoast from Naples, Florida USA, Summer 2004

Trip Description: Tuscany in August 2004 - Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Cinque Terra, Siena, Montalcino, Arezzo, and back to Florence

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Opera; Shopping; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 16: Friday, August 13th, Hurricane Charley

photo by suncoast

Hurricane Charley

When I planned our first ever trip to Italy in April of 2004, I did what I always do, and what I'm very good at - I shopped. I shopped for the best rate, sale, deal, steal on airfare, lodging, car rental, bike rental, luggage, hair appliances, a new digital camera, etc. And so, when the really low airfare of $550.00 per person flying from Ft. Myers, Florida, (not Miami, Ft. Myers, right in my own back yard) to Florence, Italy came up on Expedia, I can't say I felt even the slightest twinge of superstitious dread that the departure date fell on Friday, August 13th, 2004. (Okay MAYBE I did have a teeny, tiny twinge, but after searching the net for 2 months and having the lowest fare be $900.00 per person FROM MIAMI I told myself not to be ridiculous and just book the tickets. Also because the travel dates happened to coincide with my 25th wedding anniversary I figured it would cancel out the bad Karma).

As many of you know, I worried about my back, my nails, my clothes, my shoes, the suitcases, the locks, Alitalia going bankrupt before and/or during our trip and also whether Craig, my addict husband, would have a Nutra-Sweet meltdown without his Diet Pepsi. I had a serious attack of nerves after reading about an al-Quaida threat against Italy in our paper, but I NEVER thought I'd face a hurricane on the day we were to fly out. In fact I was so obsessed with getting ready to go to Italy during that week that I didn't even realize we had TWO hurricanes bearing down on us until about Wednesday, August 11th.

As it became more and more obvious that Charley was headed right for Naples and that it would arrive at exactly the same moment we were scheduled to fly out from Southwest Florida International Airport I started trying to make a Plan B.

Caught in the throes of vacation fever, my Plan B was to attempt to get an earlier flight out of Ft. Myers, however, as Craig ever so tactfully pointed out, even if we did fly out on Thursday, August 12th, we would be leaving our two daughters Harmony & Sonnet to face the wrath of Hurricane Charley, as well as it's aftermath, alone without us. (Not to mention the 3 cats.) Egads!!! What kind of Mother am I!!!! APPARENTLY (no pun intended) A BAD ONE!!!! After that reality check I moved on to Plan C.

Plan C was to try and get a flight out as soon as possible after the hurricane went through. I called Delta, as this was our carrier to Boston and explained about the hurricane. They said I had to call Alitalia because they were the booking airline, who said I had to call Delta because it was their flight, who put me on hold for an hour and then said I had to call Alitalia, who said that they didn't see any changes in the flight schedule and to call back tomorrow.

So I called Alitalia back on Friday morning around 6:30 a.m. and they weren't open yet. I called again at 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m. etc. all the way up until 9 a.m. and when I finally got through they STILL didn't see any flight schedule changes although SWFI had indeed officially grounded all aircraft. As a matter of fact the Italian lady I talked to scolded me for not being at the airport that very minute because my airplane was getting ready to taxi down the runway.

At this point I was ready to cry but my level headed husband suggested that I call Expedia because I had booked the tickets online and lo and behold I got a wonderful little agent who spent the next two hours on the phone with me and managed to secure reservations for us to fly out the following morning, Saturday, August 14th. This gal was terrific!

So there we sat packed, (We took one 21" carry-on each and one 27" each to check. This worked well and provided plenty of room to bring back the stuff we purchased) NOT boarded up, waiting for Charley to get it over with. Sonnet and I sat on the couch and read scary stories to each other as the wind blew and then howled and around 1 p.m. we lost electricity. Charley was still a category two at this point. (Craig slept through the entire blow over and Harmony opted to ride it out in her 2nd floor apartment with her own two kittys).

Around 5 p.m. the worst was over, the wind had died down and we were thankful not to have had any damage to our house. Outside was a mess, downed trees and tree limbs but no serious damage to anyone's home that we could see and no downed power lines. We were very surprised and pleased when our electricity was restored around 8 p.m. that evening, and that's when we found out just how lucky we really were.

The Weather Channel was reporting that Charley had accelerated from a category two to a category four in a matter of 45 minutes, then suddenly jogged right and smashed into Port Charlotte just 50 miles north of us!!! Even now it makes my knees shake thinking how cavalier we had been. Two years earlier we had boarded up for catagory two Hurricane George and when we went outside to check the weather there wasn't enough wind to even fly a kite, so we just assumed that this one would be the same. BIG MISTAKE!!!! Not ever to be repeated by us. (Even as I type this we are making preparations for Hurricane Ivan).

So we ended our day wondering if we really were going to get to fly out in the morning or if it would be a repeat of today with me stuck on the phone trying to keep my cool and lamenting about our lost vacation time.

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