It was a beautiful last few hours that we had in Florence before our return trip to Rome.
We took the long way to return the motorcycle so that we could have a last look at our favorite city. Jeff was thrilled to be riding again. He was in his element, maneuvering the motorbike between lanes of traffic, across the bridges that span the Arno river, down the narrow alleys. Lane splitting is the norm here, which Jeff loves. Although there was one too-close-for-comfort moment when we narrowly missed nailing a nice Mercedes with the hard baggage on the left side of our bike. Jeff is sure he had it all under control. I’m not convinced.
When we ride through towns, I usually navigate while Jeff focuses on keeping us upright. “Shiny-side up, rubber-side down,” is what motorcycle aficionados grimly remind each other. I wish I wouldn’t have been so worried about getting lost and could have taken my eyes away from the map more and out to the lovely sites of the city. At one point, I lost track of where we were exactly on my map. We were close enough to the parts of town where Jeff was oriented and could navigate “by ear” so he was still cruising along happily. I was still fixed on the challenge of matching up the street signs at intersections with where I thought we were on the map. I told him I wasn’t sure where we were. Over the sound of the engine, he enthusiastically yelled back to me, “Don’t worry it, look at where we are!”
A very effective metaphor for how differently we operate.
He took us back past Santa Maria Novella, and dropped me off with our bags at the train station. He left to drop off the motorbike at the rental shop nearby, and returned on foot.
We rode the high speed train back to Rome, and made it back to our favorite bed and breakfast (where we stayed before). They had graciously allowed us to leave our suitcases there when we left for Florence. When we walked in, our bags were waiting for us in our new room just off the kitchen.
Hello, cake and milk. Remember me?
We made arrangements for a car to take us to the airport later, as there were no public transport options available that early in the morning. We had to be ready to leave at 3:30 AM, so we decided that we would take a small nap before heading out to explore more of Rome, and just stay awake until our car came.
There was no question that we’d be eating dinner again at Gli Amici’s. It was even better than before, even if we hadn’t each gotten our own dessert. And it was much more enjoyable since we weren’t cold and soaking wet like we were the first time. It’s one of our favorite places ever.
After dinner, we walked the winding cobbled streets of Trastevere until we made our way to the Tiber (Tevere) river.
Walking along the banks of the river was one of my favorite memories. The flavors of pecorino and pavlova still fresh in my mind. The glistening lights on the water. Hand in hand with my love.
We walked until we came to Castel Sant’Angelo. It was as if all my Roman Holiday fantasies had come to life. Thankfully I found someone even more wonderful and dashing than Gregory Peck.
Somewhere along the way, we crossed an invisible line into Vatican City. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Guards? A gate?
We spent a long time gazing at St. Peter’s Basilica. It was lovely to see it at night in the glow from the streetlights. As I looked around I was reminded of the pictures I’d seen of the lines of people waiting for hours in this square, and part of me was relieved we’d missed out on that.
It made for a quite a romantic night with only a few other couples out for a late stroll. Still, we were a little sad that we didn’t have the chance to go in, but in retrospect, I’m glad we will have lots to do the next time we go. And I have little doubt that there will be a next time.
As we walked back home, we had mixed feelings at the end of this part of our trip. Sad to leave Italy, but very excited to go to Greece.
We showered and packed for the last few hours.
When it was time, we took bags and backpacks down the tiny elevator to the street where our airport transfer was already waiting. I was expecting something much less luxurious. A well-groomed man in a dark suit stood beside a shiny black Mercedes, greeting us and helping with our bags. I felt like a foreign dignitary as I slid into the huge back seat of the luxury sedan. I very easily could have fit a small ottoman back there to rest my feet on.
Knowing the claustrophobic atmosphere that awaited us on board our RyanAir flight, we stretched out and took advantage of all the space.
Driving through the dark, vacant streets of Rome at that time of night was somber and special.
Taking all precautions to avoid a typical RyanAir disaster like we did in London, we were the first in line for check-in. We were even there before they opened the doors. We had spent hours strategically planning and weighing our bags, fully prepared for bad service and hassle. We were surprised when the experience was normal – even pleasant – when the friendly man at the check-in counter offered to check our carry-on bags for free as well.
It was short lived, as RyanAir employees quickly reminded us that we were cattle by starting the boarding process and making everyone stand out on the tarmac in the cold for nearly 40 minutes.
But they couldn’t dampen our spirits, because we were just a few, short hours away from what would become our new home for the next few months, Athens.
Stay tuned for our next update: Welcome to Athens
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