Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 875: Family of Nine - Tales of a European Adventure
By b&j and the gang from Massachusetts, USA, Summer 2005
Page 12 of 18: Day 11 in Arezzo
View from Piazza Grande
We go to Arezzo to meet my husband’s colleague who is semi-retired there with his partner. Our friend Jack is an art history professor so we know we are in for a little education.
We see Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle of the Legend of the True Cross in the church of San Francesco. It is magnificent and the recent renovations are clearly evident. My kids begin their education about Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Later, in Rome, the tour guide will quiz the kids on this and they will remember.
My daughter and youngest son are not feeling great today. My daughter is hanging on me as we walk down the streets and lying on my lap during the entire sitting down events. I usually carry Advil and Tylenol with me but left my purse in our friend’s apartment.
My dad carries his high test Advil with him. My husband breaks the big tablet with his teeth, we buy a water and the two kids take their medicine. It is miraculous and they are back to their normal selves in 20 minutes, ready to enjoy the day. Quick thinking saves us, as it is hard to see too many sights with two kids who need to be dragged through the streets. When the medicine wears off the kids are fine so we think they are just overtired and vow to get a longer night sleep tonight.
We walk through the Piazza Grande and hear stories about its famous antiques market. We go into the Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici and see the Madonna relief by Bernardo Rossellino.
We stop for a wonderful lunch and are joined by Jack’s partner Norman. We enjoy wine and delicious food. The appetizers are bountiful and we pass the plates around. It is a long and relaxing lunch and our table is outside on the side of the street and the conversation is flowing.
The kids are really beginning to get comfortable with the idea of nice long lunches. I have wonderful ravioli with butternut squash filling with a sauce made from cream and vin santo. Heavenly! My daughter states that the pizza here is the best she has ever eaten.
After lunch we go to see the fresco of Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca in the church off the Piazza Grande.
We say goodbye to our friends and head to the garage to retrieve our two vehicles. Of course I am driving the car while my husband has inherited the van. I follow him and go up the very steep incline to pay our ticket. All of a sudden my husband is honking and motioning me to back up. I go all the way down the incline and look up. There is a little diesel fuel smoke and major tire squealing happening.
It turns out that the machine to pay one’s parking fee is located on the incline at the top, but not on the part that has flattened out at the very top. My husband stops and stalls a few times and then,with one valiant attempt, stalls, and begins to roll backwards and suddenly smashes into the right hand side of the garage with a crash. The side mirror comes off and there is some definite damage to the side of the car.
The attendant comes rushing up to my husband and thinks he is trying to start in second gear. Again, that darn clutch. Our friends hear the commotion and come and help us communicate with the attendant. My husband tries again. At this point there is a large crowd at the small opening to the garage. They are watching and enjoying the spectacle. Luckily this attempt is successful and the van lurches out of the garage.
I have a little flurry of fear in my stomach as I follow him up to pay at the ticket machine. I hope that the attendant will just leave the gate up and let me out without a problem but no such luck. I concentrate well and make it out of the garage without a similar problem. We wave goodbye to our friends and all the gawking spectators collected near the entrance to the garage.
All of us in the car are glad we are not driving with my husband as we make our way to our villa for our last night in Florence. As we near the hills that take us to our villa I remember that we have to settle up with our caretaker before we leave in the morning.
Cash is required, although at this point I don’t know how much because it all depends on how much the first night’s dinner will end up costing us. I haven’t worried about this until now and I honk and honk to stop the van in front of us. My dad takes over and drives the kids home and my husband and I begin the hunt for cash with everyone’s bankcards and pins in our hot little hands.
We are partly successful with the money situation. Some cards work, some do not. We have more than enough to pay for the dinner if the dinner is the lesser of the two prices but not quite enough for the more expensive price. Maybe we can hunt down enough change and stray euros at the villa and in everyone’s pockets but we are not sure.
We are out of options at the two bank machines in the small town and decide not to venture into Florence. I will try to negotiate about the price when we check out.
When we arrive back at the villa the kids and my parents are enjoying a swim in the pool. It is so amazingly beautiful up there that everyone is happy. My mom has brought out some appetizers (trying to use up all the food!) and some wine and juice.
Unfortunately, I am the only one that does not get to enjoy this scene. It takes me almost two hours to finish our check out papers with the villa’s caretaker.
First, while he waits for me outside the villa, I am holed up in our bedroom with my cell phone out the window for reception, talking to the agency in England. It takes a few phone calls back and forth for me to be ready to begin to “talk” to the caretaker.
It takes more than an hour to finish this business outside. I talk to the agency, he talks to his owner, we switch phones and he talks to the agency and I talk to the owner. At one point I make a joke and try to have the two cell phones talk to each other!
We are trying to be patient but it is hard; we can’t communicate with each other to fill the time when the owner and agency must talk and our phones are silent. The afternoon wears on and by the time I finish it is almost dark. I miss the swim and the appetizers but feel vindicated by the agency as our bill is reduced in front of me.
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