piccolo". These were the only days that Oldest Son did not have classes and we squeezed as much out of them as we could.
We were very fluid in our requirements about how long to rent a car but not flexible on price - it had to be cheap. All told, I think we spent more on gas and tolls then we did on the car.
Actually renting the car was adventure in it's self. The line wasn't bad when we got in it, there was one German guy in front of us that The Chancellor labelled "Prince Charming" because he looked, well, a lot like Prince Charming.
Prince Charming was taking foooooorevvvvver and we couldn't figure out why. The car rental agent was an older Italian guy who was all smiles and very little efficiency. Mr Italian Smiles was talking and writing numbers on paper then Prince Charming would ask questions in broken English and the Italian guy would answer them. More writing, more questions.
In the mean time a giant line formed behind us and pressure was building on Mr Italian smiles but it didn't bother him in the least. He just kept working with Prince Charming.
Finally Prince Charming rented his Mercedes and then we found out what takes so long. In order to get the advertised rate on the car, you had to hold thousands of Euros on your credit card as a deposit. APparently there was a lot of negotiating between smiley and Prince Charming.
The Chancellor did not like this and was very honest with Mr Italian Smiles. I asked for other options and we got a slightly high higher rate but lower deposit and after 20 minutes of paper shuffling, Mr Italian Smiles handed us the keys.
After a slight snafu getting out of the parking lot (Mr Italian Smiles neglected to tell us to get a parking ticket before getting the car) we were off with Oldest son navigating from the back seat of the piccolo. There were a few "look kids, it's Big Ben and Parliament" moments but for the most part we were headed to Florence for the day.
Nearly 300 Km later through ups and downs along the A1 Autostrata, the piccolo got us to Florence safely. There was a lot of shifting between 5th and 4th gear on the uphills but we were there (Not nearly as much as the next day though).
We visited the top of the Cupola at the Duomo of the Basilica of S Maria, shopped, ate a quick pizza (what else?) and we headed back to the car.
The Chancellor had wanted to drive through country side of Tuscany as one of her "must dos" and Oldest son and I thought this was a little vague. We thought a drive needed a destination, a direction, something and given our lack of sleep, the pace we had been going and the long car ride in the piccolo, this nearly caused an emotional breakdown. In the end we decided to take back roads on the way home, at least through parts of Tuscany.
We did not regret this. The sun was setting as we drove along the curvy mountain roads and the Chancellor attempted photographing every river view, sometimes hanging her camera out the window. I refused to let her do this with my new Camera.
We had dinner at a little local spot in the hills of Tuscany. It was like the only little family restaurant and since it was Saturday Night, all the locals started showing up as we ate. It was fascinating to see this part of Italian country life.
We got home late and after a pinball like drive through Rome to get to Prati, got some sleep and did the same thing the next day but headed out to Ascoli Piceno in the Marches region on Italy.
The piccolo struggled mightily through the Mountains of Abruzzi along the A24 but once again, got the job done.
Ascoli Piceno is not your typical tourist destination but instead is the area that my Father's family was from. My brother had gone in November and I wanted to see it too. It's a shame my Dad didn't get to see it before he passed in January and he would have been proud of Oldest Son as he spoke fluently with the locals but knowing Dad, he would have been anxious to get to what ever was next.
Here are pictures from both days with a personal best of 261 Pictures for Sunday (Day 5) with some help from The Chancellor and Oldest Son while driving.